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I Have Forgiven Jesus

Chapter Text

The Mississippi heat is oppressive, the humidity almost palpable, a physical weight that presses down on the inhabitants of Tupelo. Father Patrick Stump runs a finger between his damp neck and thick, starched collar, doing nothing more than granting passage to the beads of sweat gathering below his hairline to his already drenched back.

His suit is thick and heavy, unpleasant enough in the Chicago summer heat but close to unbearable under thick cloud cover in the bustling crush of the train station. His small, leather case sits squat and sure at his feet — he doesn’t own much, his bible, another suit, a couple of battered notebooks and a handful of pencils for scratching out sermons, his underwear, pajamas, toothbrush and razor. Next to it stands a much larger case — matching by some miracle — filled with his vestments of varying functions and purposes, all of them placed inside with gentle reverence, each of them handled with absolute care. It’s not a lot to show for twenty-eight years of existence but it suits him well enough.

As a man of God, his priorities aren’t earthly possessions but rather frugality, humility, and compassion.

As a sinner, his priorities aren’t clothes or wealth but rather remorse, atonement, begging for God’s mercy.

This is his penance, Patrick reminds himself as he watches the faces pass by him, a blur of young and old, male and female but overpoweringly, noticeably white.

The train that brought him here whistles on the track, onward and down into Alabama where it terminates before returning back to Chicago. Back home. It would be simple enough to slip back on board, back into the carriage he so recently vacated, remove his collar and pretend he’s someone else. Someone less weighted by the crushing sense of guilt and shame that’s hovered over him since he realized what a sinful little beast he was at eleven years old, feelings that have only grown heavier and thicker around him — crushing and oppressive as any physical bonds — as the years have continued, as names have been given to his feelings.

Faggot. Fairy. Queer. Sodomite. Sinner.

Humans aren’t born with inherited guilt, but Patrick knows that everyone, including himself, is born prone to sinning. When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden fruit, they caused human nature to become weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin. Words from the catechism Patrick knows by heart, just like he knows what it’s like to long for forbidden fruits and wicked, dangerous knowledge. It is God’s way of testing him, and until recently, Patrick has always grit his teeth and managed to deny, abstain, resist. Like a good Catholic boy, like a proper priest.

Patrick absentmindedly tugs at his collar again, a nervous habit, before lowering his arms and clutching his hands into tight fists, nails biting into the soft flesh of his palms with burning precision. Years of learning how to be a moral, rightful person, years of studying God’s word, all that time spent praying and begging the Lord for guidance and strength to resist temptation... All for nothing, because in the end, Patrick was just too weak.

It should have been so simple. All Patrick had to do was to stay strong, and stay away from sinning. Patrick was armed with God’s word and the church’s blessing. His wrongful desires were hidden under black robes, tucked away between the battered pages of his bible, prayed away each and every night when silence and solitude made it so much harder to resist all those dark desires infecting his immortal soul.

God had given him every opportunity to be a good man, and he had thrown it all away. God’s mercy and guidance, his colleagues and church community, he failed them all. Patrick’s weak flesh was stronger than his faith’s resolve.

And now Patrick is standing in this unfamiliar city, surrounded by strangers, facing the unknown. Away from home, away from everyone and everything he has ever known. It’s my rightful punishment, he reminds himself, wiping away more sweat from his forehead. It’s the only way to atone for my sins.

He already misses Chicago fiercely with a dull ache in his chest that seems to throb in time with his pulse. He misses kindly Father Iero with his gentle guidance and encouraging words for young priests, misses St Joseph’s with its towering twin belfries and gleaming bells, its ornately carved woodwork and shimmering stained glass. He misses warm brown eyes that always smiled for him until the last time, the time they glowed with rage and hatred. No. No, he won’t think about that. He mustn’t think about sins that felt like prayers, about bodies pressed close and urgent or of lips that tasted of need and immoral desire.

“Father Stump?” A richly accented voice, thick and sweet as molasses, curls into his ear from just behind his left shoulder. He pivots sharply, smooths his expression from anguished guilt to welcoming smile as he takes in immaculately slicked auburn hair and twinkling eyes, extends his hands to clasp the offered palm in a firm, warm handshake. He’s been doing this for a decade, deacon and then priest, it’s a gesture borne of familiarity and muscle memory. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Father. I’m Andrew Hurley, your new deacon.”

“Wonderful to meet you, Father Hurley,” he begins, pausing as the deacon cuts him off with a wave of his hand.

“Please, outside of church just Andy would be fine.” A worried frown creases Patrick’s forehead — that isn’t right, isn’t proper. He can’t atone if the rules aren’t followed, if everything isn’t just so. Panic blooms bright and burning in the centre of his chest, points of heat sparking across his skin as his lungs constrict, his windpipe narrowing. He forces himself to breathe deeply, he won’t embarrass himself, won’t drag his belongings across the station floor in front of eyes that blaze with judgement whilst he hunts for his bulky nebulizer, he needs to breathe. “Hey, it’s okay, you can still be Father Stump.”

God bless the man for realising the issue without Patrick needing to explain, without needing to recount half stories and semi truths. He presumes no one has told Father Hurley the real reason he’s been sent here from so far away, the reason he’s in disgrace. No, surely His Eminence Bishop Way is more discrete than that, after all, this isn’t just Patrick’s shame. Oh no, this is shame for Father Urie — not Brendon, he reminds himself, Father Urie, a messenger of the Lord — for Father Iero as their mentor, for the diocese of Chicago and the whole Catholic faith. Oh, but a shame so great is a heavy burden to bear.

“Father Stump, yes,” he wheezes slightly, feels his pulse slow from a thundering gallop to a buzzing thrum, relaxes as the tightness in his chest recedes slightly. He feels ridiculous, burns with embarrassment but… It's important. It needs to be proper. Andy claps his shoulder comfortingly, brown eyes alight with understanding behind his glasses as he gestures to the cases at Patrick’s feet.

“I can take those.”

“No,” Patrick stoops and fumbles for the handles, hauling them up against himself. “No, that’s okay. I can do it. Thank you, though.”

He follows behind as Andy leads the way through the station, struggling to match his pace weighed down with the suitcases. Everything is wrong, the low, wooden buildings and wide, sweeping boulevard. He misses the way the city always seemed to close in around him, rising up and over him like a beautiful cathedral, like the pictures he’s seen of the Vatican, domed and splendorous. There’s nowhere to take cover here, nothing but endless streets and towering grey skies. It’s so quiet compared to the always busy streets back home in Chicago.

Well, my former home, Patrick reminds himself. This is where he belongs now. It’s a chance for a fresh start, a chance to redeem himself, to be forgiven.

It's a long drive along quiet highways, the grey ribbon of road winding its way between lush green fields, towering forests and, smudged against the skyline to their east, the blue grey bruise of the Appalachian mountains. It's beautiful, breathtaking and completely at odds with the endless flatness of the Midwest. He can be at peace here, he's sure of it. Andy makes conversation as he drives, points out landmarks with the reverence of someone that truly loves the area where he's grown up. Patrick smiles and pretends to take it in, nodding with enthusiasm when the pauses seem appropriate. It's not that he's not interested it's just… he doesn't trust the hard knot in his chest to hold back the tears if he tries to speak.

A simple sign greets them on their way into the modestly sized town that he's sure — in time — he will come to think of as home. Welcome to Clark. Well. It's always nice to be welcomed.

“I was… surprised, to be sent here,” Patrick admits softly as he looks out of the window, the lump in his throat large enough to choke him. In truth, “surprise” was probably one of the last emotions he felt but it'll suffice for descriptive purposes. “Is there… Much call for Catholicism in the south?”

“Oh, we don't have the draw of the Baptists,” Andy smiles in a way that makes Patrick suspect that he really rather enjoys being part of a minority. “But Clark has a huge population that just… Came for work. First it was farm work, then things got a shade more industrial.”

It's then that Patrick notices it. On the outskirts of town, its presence huge and looming, stands the most enormous factory Patrick has ever seen and he gestures to it with a frown, “What's that?”

“The reason Clark didn't die with the war,” Andy grins. “It was a munitions factory back during the Great War — my daddy was a foreman — but the Government repurposed it, it makes parts for Army vehicles now. Quite a draw. Everyone sort of rubs along but sometimes… Well. It doesn't matter.”

He trails off with a deep sigh and Patrick is about to question him further, to ascertain just what he means but he's interrupted as Andy points to the small, red brick church ahead of them with an affectionate smile, “And this, Father Stump, is what you've been waiting for, Saint Sebastian’s. I'll take you up to the rectory and get you settled in before we go any place else.”

The rectory looks small and modest but comfortable enough, a neat wooden building with a low porch to the rear that, Patrick is sure, will offer beautiful views over the surrounding countryside. This time, Patrick doesn’t decline when Andy offers to help him with his suitcases. Hauling them through town in the sweltering heat has exhausted him already, and the heavy breathing from his weak lungs sounds even more pathetic in the silence of the rectory. Thankfully, the deacon is kind enough to ignore it.

Patrick follows him to what he assumes is now his bed chamber. He takes a quick look around – its furnished simply, as he expected. A bed, a desk and a wardrobe made of matching dark wood, a small crucifix on the wall above the bed being the only nod to any kind of decoration. He hasn’t had much chance to look at the rest of the house, but Patrick suspects the rest of it isn’t lavishly furnished either.

“I can unpack myself, thanks,” Patrick declines when Andy offers further help. He prefers to have a bit of privacy, and desperately doesn’t want to come off as dependent and weak.

“Would you like to take a look at the church now, Father? I can show you around. Or would you prefer some rest first?” Andy tilts his head to the side, and Patrick considers both options. He still feels exhausted, but the prospect of being alone with his thoughts again leaves him unnerved and disquieted. Silence is so impenetrable, so easy for thoughts to turn down dark paths fraught with dangerous things that he shouldn't dwell on. So, Patrick forces a smile, and shakes his head. “I have plenty of time to rest later. Let me take you up on your offer.”

Saint Sebastian is much smaller than the churches in Chicago. Patrick steps inside, his right hand automatically reaching for the holy water font next to the entrance. His fingertips dip into the lukewarm liquid inside, before Patrick makes the sign of the cross. The familiar gesture helps him calm down, and the holy water on his skin grants him some momentary relief.

Patrick straightens his back, and takes a closer look at his surroundings. The interior is modest, almost sad compared to the opulent decorations of St Joseph’s. Everything is much smaller in scale, less elaborate, the colors look duller, and everything just feels so strange and unfamiliar. Another wave of homesickness makes Patrick’s heart ache, before he forces himself to push that feeling aside. He scolds himself for allowing these thoughts in the first place. This is how he is thanking God for giving a sinner like him a second chance? He should be on his knees praising the Lord for having been granted a chance for redemption.

With a small sigh, Patrick tries to calm his thoughts, and focus on something else. It’s quiet in here too, but it has the familiar peaceful atmosphere he is used to in God’s house. It’s also cooler than outside, a nice change of climate that Patrick is more than glad of. He takes a deep breath, then walks towards the altar. It’s three steps, then Patrick feels cold stone under his hands. The altar isn’t as beautiful and imposing as the one in his former church, yet standing in front of it, where he belongs, makes Patrick forget his doubts, all other sorts of emotions like the pesky homesickness, the always-present guilt, and resurfacing shame. He closes his eyes, momentarily forgetting that Andy is still there watching him. The smooth surface of the hard stone, the cool air surrounding him, and the dignified silence – yes, this can be his new home. He can be a good man again, serve God the way he promised Him, rescue his immortal soul from the fiery pits of hell as long as he resists heated breath, hot flesh, warm eyes –

A small cough brings Patrick back to reality. He opens his eyes, uncomfortably aware of the heat crawling up from his collar and across his cheeks, no doubt an embarrassing shade of red. The first day, and he keeps making a fool of himself.

“Is everything to your liking, Father Stump?” Andy inquires.

Patrick tries to regain his composure as he forces himself to turn around. Andy looks at him curiously, and Patrick takes another look around. Upon second glance, he can’t deny the tiny little flaws everywhere: Wilted flowers in front of the altar, dusty windows and candles being the only source of light, and some of the benches look as if they are about to collapse as soon as someone dares to sit on them. Patrick looks up to the ceiling, and before he can ask, Andy speaks up with a gusting sigh. “The lights don’t work,” he says apologetically. “Forgive us, Father. Our simple little church can't possibly match the standards you're used to.”

“No need to ask for forgiveness,” Patrick says with a gentle smile. The last thing he needs is to leave a bad impression. Sure, his former church was bigger and brighter and more beautiful, but this is still God’s house, and Patrick is determined to restore the church to its former glory. Well, maybe not glory, but the place could look more appropriate for a house of worship. “I'm sure this can be fixed.” Patrick hesitates, a thoughtful look on his face. He is an educated man, but ultimately, he is a priest, not a handyman. And while the deacon looks young and healthy, he also doesn’t seem to have much experience with worldly work. Some help might be needed here.

“I’m afraid the lights aren't the only thing that needs repairing. We also have some troubles with the roof, the guttering, woodworm as well as other things,” Andy says with a small sigh. “Your predecessor – may God rest his soul – was very ill in his last months on earth, and… well, he couldn't care appropriately for our poor old church.”

Patrick furrows his brow. The deacon’s face reveals nothing, but Patrick can sense that this isn’t the whole truth, not even close to it. Judging by his first impression, this place has been neglected for a lot longer. Years, maybe. And while Andy’s words express proper respect, there’s something in his voice that makes Patrick suspect that the deacon may have had his disagreements with the preceding priest. Whatever happened, it’s none of my business, Patrick decides. He’s here for a fresh start, and neither interested in his predecessor’s mistakes, nor dragging the wrongdoings from his own past into the light.

“Doesn't the congregation employ a sacristan?” Patrick asks; it doesn’t come as a surprise when the deacon shakes his head. Even a superficial glance at the state of the building makes it more than obvious that the answer is no.

“We could use, at the very least, a helping hand for repairs. A handyman, perhaps.” He muses as he brushes his fingertips against the cool stone of the altar once more.

Andy seems surprised at these words. He looks like he came prepared for a lengthy discussion — perhaps even an argument — and didn’t expect Patrick to give in so easily or even make the proposal himself. It further underlines Patrick’s suspicions that the deacon and the old priest had their differences. He’s glad to see though that he and Andy are on the same page regarding the church’s state and its obvious need for maintenance.

With newfound confidence, Patrick continues: “I’m afraid we can’t offer a decent salary, but the rectory is big enough to offer accommodation. I’ll write an ad as soon as I’ve unpacked.” Andy nods, visibly pleased with that idea.

“Would you be so kind as to set everything up? Forgive me for demanding something that may be out of your usual responsibilities, but I believe a local such as yourself might have some ideas about where to advertise.”

“Of course, Father Stump,” Andy says with another nod. “I may even already know someone who might be interested. I’ll make sure to let him know about the job offering.”

“Thank you, Andy.” For the first time, a genuine smile spreads over Patrick’s face. This is going better than expected. God has had mercy with him. Patrick may be a sinner, but salvation is still possible. This time, Patrick will do everything right. He will serve the Lord, serve the people of the congregation he has been entrusted with, and find solace in his devotions to God. One day, his prayers will be full of hope and joy again, and not the tearful begging to be granted strength to resist sinning. His weak flesh will not overpower his spirit again.

Patrick will be a good man.

Chapter Text

It starts, for Pete at least, innocuously enough. A neatly printed card on the noticeboard of the general store in careful, balanced handwriting.

Handyman wanted - please speak to Father Stump at St Sebastian’s on Main Street. Bed and board provided.

Pete lingers by it for a moment, the card pristine and white, surrounded by other pristine, white cards in a variety of different handwriting. A Ford truck for sale, Verity-Ann offering a dependable babysitting service, a reminder that the Baptist church is having it’s annual picnic on June 14th. And a job. He bites his lip, jobs are particularly hard to come by in this part of the country for a man like him. Of course, there are no guarantees that Father Patrick isn’t just like them, won’t judge him a liar, a thief, lazy, less than.

It’s worth a try, has to be worth a try.

“Best not be thinking about it, boy,” the man behind the counter spits. Pete flinches then fires, anger burning in his gut as he snaps to face him. “The good Father won’t be troubled by niggers like you. Now, you buying anything? Or just looking for what you can steal?”

Pete is raging with the injustice of it, with the sheer, blazing fury at being spoken to like a criminal, at the use of that fucking word. It makes him want to act like a criminal, to scream and break things, sweep down the carefully laid out shelves until everything is bent and broken. A mess of destruction, just like him. Instead he scowls, tugs the peak of his cap down and turns on his heel, almost slamming directly into someone clad entirely in black as he does so.

“Let him be, Stan,” Andy squares his shoulders and moves Pete gently to one side. “He didn’t do anything.”

“What of it?” There’s challenge in the words, a hand drifting below the counter and panic bright and hot turning Pete’s vision white at the edges. Andy means well, but he’s a goddamn fool and he’s going to get the both of them shot.

“You want the church to keep its contract here?” Andy smiles pleasantly. “There’s a new priest and he’s got big plans. Be a shame if I had to shift our spending to the store over in Hope, don’t you think? You reckon your daddy would approve?”

Stan thinks about this for a moment, a growl of a threat on his lips as his hand returns to the countertop. Pete’s sigh of relief is audible, chased by the burning rage that he has to worry about this shit anyway, that he needs Andy to defend him.

“You were looking at the job?” He continues, hands in his pockets, for all the world as though the altercation didn’t happen. “I was going to come along and talk to you about it. It’s not much but… the new priest? He seems… Nice. I think the two of you could get along swell.”

“Even though-”

“Yes, Pete,” Andy cuts him off with a smile. “Even though. Please, go talk to him, he’s at the church now, just done confession, if you hurry you’ll catch him.” All Pete can do is nod, pulling down the peak of his cap and slipping out of the store, leaving Andy to go about his day.

The town of Clark, Mississippi has not proved to be a welcoming one for what remains of the Wentz family. But there are bills to pay and work is work so Pete turns and heads down the street to St Sebastian’s, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his jeans. It’s too hot for the denim, truth be told, but fancy linen suits aren’t for people like him so he tolerates it, along with the thick, rough flannel shirt. The cap is a different matter and entirely non-negotiable for meeting someone new. It hides his hair, which although he keeps it cut as short as he can still curls in that tell-tale way that screams of his heritage. If they can’t see his hair and they don’t know his family, Pete can pass — just about — for white. And passing for white can make a big difference when it comes to obtaining employment.

St Sebastian’s is a short walk but it’s far enough for more hostile stares, a couple more insults. He clenches his jaw, keeps his eyes fixed on the sidewalk and refuses to acknowledge them, refuses to open the floodgates that groan under the strain of holding back. He misses Chicago with a fierceness that hurts sometimes. It wasn’t perfect but it was better than this, better than the constant reminders of segregation, the permanent sense that he doesn’t belong to either side of the divide.

Still, if Father Patrick — elderly, Pete imagines, a doddering Irishman with grey hair and papery skin — is willing to overlook the obvious, perhaps he can start putting some money into the family coffers.

The door stands ajar, inviting lost souls to seek their redemption. Pete has no such requests, his immortal soul is fine just the way it is thank you, but an open door is an open door and he slips through it and into the cool, quiet serenity of the church. It smells of dust, of books and beeswax candles, and for a moment he squints in the gloom, waiting for his eyes to adjust. Someone is leaning over the lectern, their back to the door, their thick, black suit as poor a choice for the mid-summer heat as Pete’s jeans and shirt. Pete is offered a glimpse of honey blonde hair, a suggestion of youth in the posture and build as he clears his throat softly.

“Oh!” The man jumps dramatically, pivoting to face the door. “Oh my goodness! I… I wasn’t expecting… Oh my…”

The good Father, it transpires, is beautiful. Pete isn’t given to flights of fancy, his feet are firmly planted on the ground — difficult for them to be anything but when he grew up as a mixed race kid with passion that stirred for the football players rather than the cheerleaders — but Father Stump is… Beautiful. Soft blonde hair falls onto his brow, hair that he sweeps irritably to one side as he hurries between the pews to join Pete by the door. His eyes are a very clear aquamarine, Pete notices as he draws close, the pupil rimmed with yellow and magnified by the heavy-framed glasses balanced on the bridge of his nose. But his lips, oh fuck, his lips, lush and plump, quirked up at the corners in a permanent half-smile. Pete could have thoughts about those lips.

“I’m so sorry,” Father Stump continues, gesturing vaguely somewhere behind him. “I was just looking at the… It wobbles, you see? The lectern? I was wondering if I could fix… Anyway! How rude of me! I’m Father Patrick Stump, can I help you with something?”

“The job,” Pete begins. He clears his throat weakly before continuing. “You had a card in the window of the store? I was wondering…”

“Yes!” Father Stump, it would seem, speaks almost exclusively in disjointed exclamations as he reaches across and shakes Pete’s hand, his own is cool and dry and sends delighted shivers up and down Pete’s spine, fuck, how long has it been? “Yes of course! The job… I’m Father Stump, by the… Sorry, I don’t think I caught your name?”

“Peter… Pete,” he needs to stop staring. “Pete Wentz.”

“Well, Pete,” Pete likes the way his name sounds rolling from the good Father’s lips, can imagine how it might sound in other circumstances, gasped and desperate. “Do you have any experience?”

A lot, Pete thinks with a sly grin to himself, enough to make Father Stump scream his name and forget every Holy order he’s ever taken.

“I was in the army for five years, an engineer,” he shrugs, all modesty and self-deprecation. “I’m… Pretty good with my hands.”

And his mouth, and his cock.

“Oh! You… You served?” Father Stump’s blue eyes widen behind his glasses. “I wanted to. Couldn’t though… I… Asthma? Medical exemption.”

Pete nods with feigned sympathy although he feels a small curl of disdain - asthma. Pathetic.

He hasn’t failed to notice the way the priest’s eyes keep drifting down his body before snapping back to his face, hasn’t missed the way they flicker to his lips time and again as a flash of a soft, pink tongue flutters over soft, pink lips. It’s subtle and perhaps if Pete weren’t already bound in the closeted world of homosexuality, he might miss it. Subtle shifts, tiny cues that he picks up on immediately because it’s not like any Tom, Dick or Harry is going to come strolling over and ask him out on a date. Or for a fuck in the backseat of a Buick. No, Pete doesn’t sense it, he knows it — Father Stump is attracted to him.

“That’s rough,” he nods sympathetically before continuing. “But any of the heavy work — you just pass that along to me. I can fix most things, haven’t found something I can’t. I even do a little electrical work, mechanics, I can get this place up and running in no time at all.”

“Well that sounds wonderful,” Father Stump smiles at him widely, straight, white teeth and twinkling eyes. “You seem like a nice… Yes! The job’s yours… If you… Do you want the job? I mean… I guess a fella like… You must have other opportunities.”

“You caught me in a quiet spell, Father,” Pete grins his brightest, most charming grin. “When can I start?”

Father Stump falters for a moment, a shadow of doubt clouding his features like the sudden darkness of a summer storm. Pete keeps smiling, wide and bright. Slowly, hesitantly, the smile returns to the priest’s face and he extends his hands, palms flat, heels brought together, a low murmur slipping over his lips, “No time like the present. Why don’t I take you up to the rectory? Show you your room?”

It’s the longest, least disjointed sentence he’s spoken since Pete arrived.

The rectory is a square, whitewashed building to the rear of the church, set over a single storey with a raised porch, Pete follows Patrick as he gestures and apologises, “I’m sorry, it’s… quite small. But we’re pretty small ourselves, I’m sure we’ll manage…”

Pete doesn’t point out that the rectory is twice the size of his mom’s house across town, just swipes the sweat from his upper lip and wipes the dust from his boots on the mat at the front door. Patrick bustles ahead, points out the rooms with a note of surprise himself — as though he’s seeing them for the first time — pausing at a doorway towards the back of the building, “I should probably mention, there isn’t… I don’t have a large budget. You’ll be a handyman first and foremost but I’m afraid… Housekeeping duties will fall to you, too.”

Pete tenses automatically, barbed words sharp on the tip of his tongue - does he look like Aunt fucking Jemima? - but he swallows them down with a forced, sickly smile, sarcasm bright in his tone but high above the head of the priest, “Of course, Father. I can cook and clean for you real nice.” Father Stump nods with a beaming smile as he pushes open the final door.

“And this,” Patrick peers around the door and nods to himself, “yes, this is your room. Right next to mine.”

Those four words hang between them for a moment until Patrick’s gaze slides to the floor, his cheeks colouring a delicate pink. Pete grins, this is all very gratifying. It’s been so long since eyes have lingered on him like that, undressing him with a heated gaze and the unconscious flash of a damp, pink tongue against soft, full lips.

“I hope it suits,” Patrick murmurs softly, words a caress on Pete’s skin, a physical touch that he all but leans in to with desperate, burning gratitude. Perhaps the good Father isn’t quite so high and mighty as he first appeared. Maybe there are secrets to be shared, tales told in whispered words and heated touches, in salt-tinged skin and hard, aching flesh.

“Oh yes, Father,” Pete grins widely. “This suits me just fine.”

*

Pete decides, alarm clock ringing loud enough to rouse their neighbours in the graveyard, that if it isn’t a sin to be awake at five in the morning then it damn well should be. Slowly, he hauls himself upright in the narrow bed and blinks around the room in the predawn gloom. It’s simple, just his iron bedstead, a nightstand and a mahogany dresser against the far wall but it’s his. There’s no Andrew snoring softly in the corner, he can’t hear his mom moving around in the next room through paper thin walls. For the first time in thirty-three years he feels something close to normal, to how he imagines a man should feel. His time in the Army taught him all he needed to know about the solitude of his own company, but he was never truly alone for his five years of service, always surrounded by bodies and sweat and noise.

Of course, leaving the forces had brought new challenges, returning home to a house without his father, to a place where his mom cried and his siblings looked at him — the eldest — with wide, confused eyes. Everything he’d promised himself, that he’d move out to New York with the one true friend he’d made in the Army — a fellow Chicagoan by the name of Joe Trohman, a Jewish boy with serious, deep blue eyes — that he’d make his name some place it didn’t matter that he was gay, didn’t matter about his mixed heritage, all of it flushed away. How could he leave when his family needed him? But work was so hard to come by in post-war Chicago for a man like him and so when his mom had sat him down and explained she thought it would be for the best if they moved to be with her family in Clark, that he could get work at the military factory, he’d nodded like it made sense. His job at the factory had lasted all of six months before his raging temper got the better of him. He was lucky not to get lynched, he knows that but he just wasn’t willing to take the shit doled out by the assholes working there for a moment longer. He’s struggled by since then, taking whatever labouring work comes with the changing seasons from cotton picking — no, the irony did not escape him — to vegetable picking to helping out on the fishing boats on the river. None of it permanent, none of it bringing in any real cash.

He isn’t sure what kind of life he can carve here at the rectory with the strangely conflicted Father Stump, but he’s willing to try, to crush down the anger that runs through him as freely as the blood in his veins, if it means he can feel like a man. With that in mind he swings from the bed and pads from the bedroom towards the little bathroom down the hall. Father Stump leaves his room at exactly the second Pete crosses the hallway, engrossed in the notebook in his hand and scuffing to a stop with a startled cry just in time to stop them crashing together. The notebook spins to the floor in a flurry of pages and stuttered apologies, “Oh! My goodness… I-I’m so sorry… I should… I’m sorry…”

The flush that creeps across the priest’s cheeks is highlighted beautifully by the lamp glowing in his room, blush pink dusting the crests of his cheekbones as he blinks at Pete from behind his glasses. Pete laughs softly and stoops to pick up the book, pressing it back into Patrick’s hand with a wide grin, “Don’t worry about it.” It would be impossible not to notice the way Patrick’s eyes flicker hungrily over his body, the way they rake over his chest, linger for just a fraction of a second on his crotch before snapping back up to his eyes with a nervous smile, “I should be more careful. I apologise.”

Pete just smiles a little wider as he slips into the bathroom, feels the weight of Father Stump’s gaze against his back until the door clicks closed between them.

He spends the next few days working his way around the church and rectory with a sheet of paper and the stub of a pencil, jotting down the ever-expanding list of issues, arranging and rearranging them by seriousness — he sincerely hopes the Father has a decent budget because both buildings have issues he’s not sure can be ignored. The cupboards are also dangerously low on anything he could conceivably scrape into a meal — Father Stump seemed less than inspired by the lunch of spam and string beans, his face falling further when he’s served a dinner of creamed corn and hot dogs.

“Interesting choice,” he murmurs, gamely taking a mouthful. “Powerful… combination of flavours.”

Their eyes meet across the table for a moment, Pete’s face sullen and Father Stump’s the very image of forced politeness. There’s a second of awkward silence until it breaks, Pete’s lips twitching into a smirk as a rich chuckle trickles from the priest. WIthin moments they’re laughing riotously, streaming eyes and aching stomachs and it’s… Nice. Their laughter calms and they continue eating in companionable silence until the priest breaks it with a small, curious frown, “I’ve been meaning to ask, I recognise your accent. Are you… From Chicago?”

“You know Chicago?” Pete asks curiously, Patrick’s accent is indeterminable, almost completely neutral, but he nods enthusiastically, “I’m from Glenview, near-”

“No! I’m from Wilmette,” Pete leans forward, as Patrick’s eyes light up with recognition and he nods with animated enthusiasm, “we grew up a few miles apart. That’s… Wow. So, how’d you wind up in Clark?”

Patrick’s eyes darken and he seems to withdraw back into himself, pushing a chunk of hot dog around his plate with his fork as his brows knit in concentration. After a moment or two he speaks softly, addressing the tablecloth rather than Pete, “The Bishop felt I was better suited to Clark than Chicago. It’s not for me to question His Eminence.”

“So, I made a list of repairs that need carrying out in the church,” Pete begins after a beat of uncomfortable silence. “The good news is that the structure is sound. The bad news is I need to repair the roof before I can even think about rewiring the lights or they’re just gonna blow up again the next time it rains.”

“I see,” Patrick murmurs softly, brow creasing into a frown as he thinks, “I have a small budget… Nothing extravagant.”

“I can probably patch a repair,” Pete chews his lip as he thinks, doesn’t miss the way Patrick’s eyes linger on his lips with immoral intent. “But I’d still need some basic supplies. It won’t last forever but it should see the church through the winter…” Patrick nods slowly, takes a sip of his water, his lips left slick and shining in the glow of the overhead light.

“Where can we get what you need?” He asks quietly. Pete wants to point out that everything he needs is contained under the neatly pressed, immaculately cut suit that Patrick's currently wearing, but he suspects that wouldn’t be proper. Instead he grits his teeth as he scrapes back his chair and gathers their plates, clearing them into the trash as he stares out across the fields behind the house through the kitchen window.

“The general store should have everything we need.”

“Excellent,” Patrick beams brightly, clearly missing Pete’s tone. Pete almost envies him his wholesome naivety. “We’ll go there first thing, straight after Mass.”

Pete barely sleeps. He’s struggled with troubled sleep since he was a boy, staring into the darkness as the lonely hours tick by isn’t unfamiliar to him but tonight his thoughts are alight with Patrick. Each lingering glance, each smile recounted, analysed and turned over in his mind until he’s dizzy with aquamarine eyes and lush pink lips, until he’s convinced he can hear the priest’s gentle breathing echoing around his room. His cock is hard under the sheets and his hands ache to touch, to bring himself some relief but he resists, imagines it can only be a matter of time until soft, pale hands wrap around him and how much better it’ll feel if he just shows some restraint and waits. His alarm is almost welcome relief, an excuse to roll from the torturous confines of his sheets and start the day afresh.

Father Stump leaves for private prayer well in advance of Mass, invites Pete along with him and smiles with understanding when the offer is refused, offering nothing more than a farewell and an assurance that he’ll be back in a few hours. Pete spends the time cleaning and pretending it doesn’t irritate him, doesn’t leave him feeling emasculated as he makes beds, cleans dishes and sweeps the floors. It’s honest work, he reminds himself, it’s money for his mom.

“Are you ready to leave?” Patrick's soft voice is still uncomfortably loud in the suffocating quiet of the rectory and Pete jumps a little, flushes with embarrassment at the gesture then fires with anger that Patrick was able to startle him in the first place. His eyes are wide behind his glasses, his face splotched with the summer heat and damp with sweat. It can't be comfortable in his cassock. Pete imagines he would be a lot more comfortable out of it, perhaps sprawled back across his sheets while Pete works his cock…

“Yes,” he nods with a predatory grin. “Wouldn't you rather wear something a little more comfortable, Father?”

Patrick flushes red, the confusion on his face written bright for all to see, “Maybe I could just… if you'd excuse me for a minute…” When Patrick returns, he’s back in his suit, black wool is just as inappropriate for the heat but he looks slightly less conspicuous but for his collar and - as well Pete knows - inconspicuous is definitely the order of the day in Clark.

They pause at the church for Patrick to collect a few things and, Pete has to admit, it’s nice to stand inside the cool, silent building and enjoy the atmosphere, peaceful and quiet. It’s comforting, feels as though terrible things couldn’t possibly breach the threshold. He’s stood in enough wrecked churches in the towns of a country thousands of miles away to know that isn’t strictly true, but it’s a comforting thought. His eyes fall to a statue by the altar. A beautiful, well-muscled boy with flowing hair, ropes wound around his barely covered body, arrow tips embedded in his flesh - oh, the delicious fucking symbolism of it - a beatific expression on his finely chiseled features. He senses Patrick watching him, meets the priest’s eyes with a grin, “Ah, Saint Sebastian.”

“I didn’t realise you’re Catholic,” Patrick positively beams at him, approval radiating from him in palpable waves. Pete waves a hand dismissively.

“Lapsed. Very lapsed,” he nods to the statue once more with a wolfish smile and quirked eyebrows. “So much… Metaphor in those arrows, don’t you think? The saint of my people.”

“Army veterans?” Patrick nods eagerly.

“Yeah…” Pete chuckles darkly. “Let’s… Go with that.” The confusion on the priest’s face is a delight that keeps Pete grinning to himself as they walk into town. It doesn’t take long for his smile to falter as the usual whispering and muttering and radiating hostility rolls from the usual faces. Just keep your head down, keep walking, it doesn’t matter…

It’s a mantra he’s lived by for the past couple of years, the fights weren’t worth it, the fear on his mom’s face when he’d stagger through the door a mess of bruises and blood, another morning where she’d be summoned to collect him from the police station. Another incident where she’d fall quiet for days, staring at him with far away eyes. So he pushes it down, lets them talk, lets them sneer, doesn’t react. It’s not that the residents of Clark foster outright hostility to every black resident - though plenty of them certainly do - but Pete has fought enough men, enough uncles and husbands and brothers and sons, for there to be bad blood with most people.

The store offers no relief, he can feel the gaze of the clerk as heavy as lead on his shoulders, waiting for him to steal, waiting for him to lash out, waiting for him to behave like the animal the man clearly thinks he is. He stands quietly behind Patrick, hands crossed in front of his belt buckle, eyes down, cap low, the very picture of supplication and obedience. He fucking burns with it.

“Pete?” Patrick’s voice is soft and jolts him out of his slowly descending spiral of fury, his eyes jerking up to meet a sea green gaze tinged with utter confusion. “Could you… Explain what we need? I… I have no idea.” Pete nods and steps forward, Patrick continues with his bright, innocent smile, “This is my handyman, Peter,” the man behind the counter nods with a little too much enthusiasm, smiles at Pete with sarcasm that Patrick just doesn’t seem to register, “he’ll explain what we need.”

With that Patrick steps away to admire a stand of tableware and Pete adjusts his weight, moves to lean against the countertop so he can talk through the list but two hands are placed very deliberately right where his forearms would touch the worn wood, “I don’t think so, coon,” the man spits, oh so quietly, under his breath, eyes blazing with hatred, “just keep those filthy ape arms to yourself.”

Pete reels, physically sways on his heels and takes half a staggered step backwards, his face suddenly hot and his stomach filled with ice as he stares down at the paper on the counter through a blur of ridiculous tears. This is his reality, no matter how normal he’d felt for a brief moment in the rectory it can never be true, not here in Clark, never in Clark, “I just need what’s on the list.”

The paper is snatched away from him, appraising eyes raking over it, the next words spoken addressed over his head and to Patrick, as though Pete is a mere ghost, a smudge on the fabric of the clerk’s existence that shouldn’t be there, “You got a truck, Father? Or should I get my daddy to deliver them?”

“Oh…” Patrick starts, that charming flush bright on his cheeks. “Yes. Delivery… That would… Yes, delivery, please.”

“No problem,” the young man smiles, all bright white teeth against peach pale skin. Pete’s seen that skin bare, seen it stretched out beneath him in the backseat of a beaten up Dodge truck, the very truck that’s going to deliver the supplies he needs up to the church. Most people are a lot less uptight with their cock in his mouth, Pete muses, the pain of it bright in his chest. “And Father? I just wanted to say, it’s real swell of you to give a flit like that,” he jerks a thumb at Pete with undisguised disgust, “a chance. Real christian of you.”

“Pete’s more than qualified for the job,” Patrick smiles politely and Pete relaxes with glowing realisation - of course the sheltered and pampered priest doesn’t know what flit means. “You have a wonderful day and God bless you.”

That evening Pete makes his excuses after dinner - Patrick seems far more impressed with his offering of meatloaf and mashed potatoes now that there’s food in the refrigerator - and retires to his bedroom. He’s tired, the toil of an honest day’s work aching down into his bones in the most delicious way as he drops to his knees and fumbles under the bed until his fingertips brush against worn, warm leather and he drags the case across the floorboards. He unlatches it with reverence, propping open the lid and reaching for the stack of cardboard sleeves next to his dresser. He takes his time leafing through them - B.B. King, Fats Domino, Johnny Otis, Charles Brown and a whole host more. He selects carefully, places the record onto the turntable, cranks the handle and, with careful precision, lowers the needle to the surface, closing his eyes as the music drifts from the speakers, smokey and soothing, the tension caught in tight muscles loosening slowly.

He breathes deep, lets each note, each beat wash through him like he’s part of it, like he’s contained in saxophones and guitars and snappily beaten drums. He hums along - knows he doesn’t have the voice for it but what does it matter when the music’s so pretty. He can recall the dance halls of Chicago, of twining with strangers in smoky, sweaty heat like it didn’t matter, like the dawn would never break and they’d never have to return to normal life.

The knock at the door startles him but he calls out a sharp, “Come in,” as he fumbles to silence the music. Patrick stands at the door with wide eyes and parted lips, an expression on his face something close to rapture. It’s the face Pete’s seen smeared across features right before he feels the stutter of hips, the whispered moans in his ear, the split second before disappointment sets in. It’s delicious, quite frankly, even if it is aimed squarely at his record player. “Did you want me to turn it off?”

“No!” Patrick is across the room in a couple of strides, stooping to set the record playing once more. “What… What is that?”

“Rhythm and blues,” Pete grins widely and pats the mattress next to him enthusiastically. “Sit down, come on, listen!”

Patrick does, all widened blue eyes and lips that purse softly in concentration, the delicious petal soft flush of his mouth the most captivating thing Pete’s ever seen. It’s a delight to watch him, to observe him take in each note, each beat, each lyric. It’s even more fun to put on the racier songs, the ones with lyrics faintly laced with promise and have Patrick listen, completely oblivious.

It’s during a particularly soulful rendition of My Last Affair that it happens, Pete sits, legs crossed, hands braced against the mattress as Patrick mirrors his position, leaning forward slightly towards the record player, eyes alight, lips stuttering out an observation that Pete doesn’t hear because, in a split second, a warm, pale hand is pressed to his knee and soft, pink lips are close enough to kiss, even if they’re drawn into an earnest line as he waits for Pete to respond. They fall silent for a moment, two pairs of eyes flicking down to that hand before rising slowly to meet, the air between them crackling with promise and need.

Pete knows this is the moment. It’s all or nothing, and he’s hoping for everything.

He leans forward, and catches a hint of surprise in the Father’s expression. He doesn’t back away though, giving Pete the perfect opportunity to finally, finally let their lips meet for a kiss. It’s been so long, too long since Pete has kissed someone, too long since someone else’s lips have given him something other than a frown, bitter rejection, or ugly, hurtful words. This is everything he hoped for, Patrick’s lips are soft and warm and what’s best, they’re kissing him back. Patrick seems as surprised about this as Pete is, blue eyes widened behind his glasses, his hand digging a little too harshly into Pete’s leg, but Pete doesn’t care. He pulls away and lays his hand against Patrick’s chest, pushing him down. Again, Patrick doesn’t protest, just lets himself get pressed back into the mattress and when Pete leans forward, he spreads his legs a little wider to let him slide in between. Fuck, this is almost too easy.

He takes a moment to look at Patrick laying underneath him; just like with the kiss, it’s everything he hoped for. Flushed cheeks, bright eyes looking at him and him alone, longing for more. He’s briefly tempted to draw this out a little longer, but it’s been too fucking long since he had another man’s body so close to his, and he wants, wants, wants so badly.

The song has reached it’s end, the record has stopped playing, there’s nothing but the hum of the plate still spinning slowly. The silence allows for all manner of delicious little noises to be heard: Hitched breathing escaping the Father’s parted lips, as well as the almost inaudible but still salacious little moans from the back of his throat when their lips meet again.

Patrick is so responsive to every little gesture, touch, kiss that Pete gives him, squirming and panting and continuing to moan just like in every debauched daydream he’s had about him. It makes him wonder briefly if he’s the first to ever touch the good Father like that. But he’s seen the priest’s less than subtle glances at his body, the way Patrick licks his lips, how desperately he leaned into the kiss. Patrick must have grown up almost exclusively surrounded by men, and Pete knows exactly the sort of situations that can lead to. Surely, he can’t be the only one who’s noticed the Father’s pretty face and those goddamn lips. Surely, Patrick must have had some opportunities to use his mouth for something sinful in between prayers and sermons. Well, if Father Stump can forget his moral conscience and God’s watchful eye, so can Pete.

With that in mind, Pete pushes away any further concerns. There’s no room for anything but lust and want and PatrickPatrickPatrick.

He’s still pressed between Patrick’s legs, and it doesn’t take long until he can feel the hard outline of Patrick’s dick pressing against him. He can’t help but smirk; this really is too easy.

In no time, Pete has managed to unbuckle the belt – he’s had his fair share of experience with that – and impatiently shoves his hand into Patrick’s pants. He isn’t sure when he last had someone else’s cock in his hand, and he can’t recall a time when his touches were more than merely tolerated at best. He also can’t recall the last time he’s dealt with an uncut cock, but he won’t complain. Patrick is hard and hot under his fingers, and his eyes are still gazing at Pete, pleading with him to do something, anything. It’s a silent request for more that Pete is eager to oblige. He gives Patrick’s dick a teasing stroke, which is enough to elicit a loud gasp, those honey-sweet lips parting as his eyes drift closed and his hips arch up like pure, aching need. Another smirk tugs at Pete’s lips; seeing the otherwise oh so virtuous and uptight priest come undone so easily is so damn… satisfying.

Little ohs and ahs are all that escapes Patrick’s mouth; it’s no surprise that a man of God’s word doesn’t have any appropriate words for a situation like this. What they’re doing is anything but proper, even a nonbeliever like Pete knows that. It doesn’t have a place in the holy house of Jesus and his pretentious priest. It’s forbidden fruit, it’s sin, it’s a thousand other things that Pete couldn’t care less about. He wants to spite God and his righteous followers, wants to show Him that he’s above the church’s stupid rules. He wants the priest to forget about that and every other Holy Order that binds him.

“Say my name, Patrick,” Pete whispers, feels Patrick shudder beneath him, pulled taught with searing desire, “it’s the only prayer you’ll need.”

He’s not quite sure the priest has fully registered how blasphemous these words are, but when Patrick opens his mouth, there’s Pete’s name falling from his lips just like he asked for. Oh God, it sounds even better than Pete imagined it; Patrick’s voice is soft and warm, yet desperate and shaking, making his name sound like the most sinful proclamation he’s ever heard.

Patrick doesn’t last long. It’s just a few more broad strokes, a few more stuttered syllables resembling Pete’s name, and a loud moan as he comes. Pete strokes him through his orgasm, catches some of the cum between his fingers, not caring that the rest of it lands on Patrick’s crisp white shirt. Patrick looks goddamn beautiful - glasses askew, lips flushed and plump and hair a glorious mess - and Pete can’t help but lean forward, impatient for another kiss and silently hoping for more.

What Pete doesn’t expect is being pushed back.

“No, no, no,” he hears Patrick gasp as he scrambles from underneath him, up and up until he’s sitting on the edge of the mattress — pale-faced and shaking — and the look the priest gives him isn’t anything like before. Suddenly, all kinds of all-too familiar emotions seep into the Father’s expression. There’s panic, guilt, disdain. There’s regret and sorrow and everything else Pete doesn’t want to see etched across those pretty features. “Why,” Patrick whispers, “this isn’t… Oh, why are you doing this to me, Pete, why?”

“Excuse me?” Pete is baffled, but he can feel anger creeping into his mind, thick and bitter as blood. “You seemed to be enjoying yourself a lot, Father Stump.”

The mention of his clerical title makes Father Stump flinch and look away. More anger floods Pete, rage burning in his guts. This goddamn coward who was begging for more mere moments ago now suddenly wants to play all high and mighty? Now that this stupid priest has had his orgasm, he wants to shift the blame on him, as if all of this was just Pete’s fault?

“This… this isn’t right,” Patrick stutters, “you shouldn’t have…”

“Oh, really now?” Pete interrupts him, with poorly concealed anger in his voice. “I shouldn’t have? That’s rich, coming from someone who was more than happy to have their dick stroked by the dirty sodomite not a minute ago.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have.” Patrick’s voice is quiet, and he looks defeated. Somehow, this is even more enraging than if he were to scream at Pete. He stands up, fumbling with his belt, still avoiding Pete’s eyes. Fucking coward. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Pete repeats, the sudden lump in his throat making it hard talk. This is what he is – just another mistake to be regretted? Just another sin to be forgiven? A stain on the priest’s white collar?

“I’m sorry,” Patrick repeats, and it takes all of Pete’s self-restraint not to smash his fist into the wall, or into the priest’s face. “I… I’ll go now.”

The good Father can go to hell for all Pete cares right now, but what little sense he has left stops him from saying that out loud. As always, all Pete can do is grit his teeth and stay silent, take the humiliation that everyone keeps unloading onto him without having any real chance to defend himself. Father Stump is just like everyone else, and no better than the rest of his kind. Pete feels like a fucking fool for hoping for something different in the first place.

The door falls shut behind the priest as he leaves the room, and Pete is left behind with nothing but quiet fury and disappointment.

Chapter Text

“Peter, I-”

“Pete,” he doesn’t glance up from his work, a fine mist of sweat damp on his skin as he leans down into the plane, pressing his weight against it so the muscles draw tense and taut under his skin.

Patrick aches to touch, to press his fingers lightly to the eagle that spreads its wings in proud defiance across Pete’s back, to let his lips follow their meandering path across bright, beautiful lines of ink. He knows he’s flushed but he also knows that he can blame it on the heat as he swipes at his brow with the cuff of his jacket. Would it be inappropriate to insist Pete wears a shirt whilst he works?

It absolutely would be inappropriate to make such a request, he decides with a gusting sigh. Pete isn’t doing anything wrong, he’s just doing his job, and no one can blame him for wanting to claim some tiny relief from this sweltering heat. No, it’s Patrick who’s in the wrong. He’s the one who has all these dirty thoughts, he’s the one who gets tempted by something as profane as the human flesh, who thinks of sin just looking at another man’s skin. This shouldn’t mean anything to him, it's not what God intended for him to want. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. The words to prove it are right there in his bible, Patrick knows it, he’s read them countless times after all, moments of weakness and temptation averted by throwing himself into familiar words and actions - read and pray and beg for forgiveness.

No, Patrick is here to be good, for once. He may have been caught in the maelstrom of sin, but Pete can still be saved. There’s absolution, there’s forgiveness, there’s a chance. If he can’t save himself, he at least wants Pete to escape this torturous hell of wrongful desire, he wants to give him a chance to reconcile. A chance to be a good man, not suffering the vengeance of eternal fire like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Pete,” he tries again, voice soft and conciliatory. “I was wondering if you might… If you wanted to take confession.”

Pete doesn’t answer for a long moment, continues to work on the bench he’s dragged outside, skin bronzing further in the heat. Patrick’s heart is a messy thrum against his ribs, beats a staccato that pounds behind his eyes until Pete replies, his voice low, his eyes never leaving his work, “Oh? And what do I have to confess, Father?”

Patrick takes a deep breath and tries to calm his tattered nerves that scrape, raw and agonized, with each shuddering inhalation. He removes his glasses and stares off across the fields as he buffs the lenses on his handkerchief, mopping at his face before replacing them on the bridge of his nose. Is Pete testing him? Or does he truly not know wrong from right? Has no one taught the poor man God’s word? More guilt rises in Patrick, squeezes his throat tight. He knows right from wrong, spent all those years studying the narrow moral path to heaven; he should have known better. Leviticus and Timothy, Genesis and its gruesome tale of sinful cities, Patrick knows these words by heart; they dance behind closed eyes, bright with accusation, each time he’s on his knees to pray. Words that burn like eternal torment, words to remind him of the sinfulness of these thoughts of wicked temptation, and that he needs to fight his immoral desires.

But, apparently, Pete knows nothing of that. A wave of protectiveness washes over Patrick that he passes off as just regular concern for a lost sheep of God. It’s his duty as a priest, as his shepherd, to bring him back to the flock. And maybe, his chance of redemption as a sinner. Patrick has to help him, that much is clear.

He squares his shoulders, plants his feet as firmly as he can and forces himself to say the words aloud.

“Confession will clear your mind, Pete. About what… What happened. In your… At the rectory. What we did... It wasn’t right. Please, let me help you.”

Pete just snorts, a mocking noise at the back of his throat and Patrick wishes he didn’t look so beautiful, all lithe muscle and tanned skin and jeans that hang low on his hips, held up only by a pair of worn suspenders. It’s so hard to think, so hard to concentrate on anything else but he must, he can’t just allow these things to go unchecked. The guilt is overwhelming, all consuming, he’d been here barely a week and he sinned in the worst possible way. He’s disgusting, redemption may be beyond his reach forever no matter how merciful God may be, but Pete… Pete can still be saved and Patrick has to perform his sacred duties no matter how humiliated he might feel. No matter how tight the guilt twists in his gut and tears him apart, burns him with an intensity that seems only appropriate given where he knows he’s doomed to end up.

“Pete,” he tries again, moves into Pete’s line of vision and refuses to move until dark eyes meet his own with sullen objection. “If you’re going to be part of the church this… It’s important. I can explain everything to you as we go along. It won’t take long. It’s for your own good, believe me.”

Each second that Pete stays quiet feels like eternity to Patrick. The air in his lungs seems to get hotter and hotter with every breath, the same liquid fire that’s rushing through his veins. A hundred years in purgatory can’t be worse than this.

“Okay then, Father,” Pete’s lips thin into a vicious smirk, amber eyes alight with fire as he straightens and rolls his shoulders. “Absolve me.”

Patrick nods - cheeks still uncomfortably hot, heart still pounding, mouth suddenly dry - and leads the way back into the cool quiet of the church. He pauses at the font, crossing himself before leading the way to the confessional. It’s a reasonable size for a church so small, two connected booths of ornately carved wood, separated by a small panel of intricate wrought iron latticework. He gestures to the booth on the right with a thin smile, “If you would?”

Pete nods, a sweet smile on his lips as he slips inside and closes the door behind him. Patrick isn’t supposed to know who is about to confess their deepest sins to him, maintain at least an illusion of anonymity. But he‘s already broken so many rules with Pete, what does it matter? All that’s important is that Pete gets a chance of reconciling with both God and His church.

Patrick pauses and takes a deep breath, fumbling to raise his crucifix to his lips, the heated metal reassuring against his skin, before slipping into the booth next to Pete. The confessional is small, the bench beneath him hard and solid, the smell of warm, aged wood almost overpowering. It’s familiar and grants Patrick some comfort as he closes his eyes and begins to speak, “Now, you begin by repeating after me, “I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father, that I have sinned,” can you do that?”

“I don’t understand, Father,” there’s a creak of the bench beneath him as Pete shifts in his seat. “Why am I confessing?”

“You need to, for your own good,” Patrick doesn’t miss the low scoff from the booth next to him but pretends he didn’t hear it. “To learn right from wrong. Please, Pete, if you could-”

“I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father, that I have sinned,” Pete cuts him off smoothly. The words do little to calm Patrick’s disquiet. “Now what?”

For a moment, he wants to tell Pete that he needs to state when he last went to confession, but he already knows that the frightening, terrifying answer to that is never. Ah, no wonder Pete is prone to sinning, if no one’s told him the lawful path of God. How many sins went by without absolution? How many years will Pete’s immortal soul atone for his wrongdoings in purgatory? Will Jesus have mercy on him, when doomsday separates good from evil for all eternity? If only Patrick had been stronger…

Patrick shakes his head. He has to stay focused. This is his duty, he’s here to lead Pete back to that narrow path of leading a good, Christian life. He’s here to savePete.

“Now you… You need to tell me your sins. So I can absolve you of them,” Patrick knows he sounds pathetic, instructing Pete to beg for forgiveness when it was him, his cock wrapped in Pete’s rough hand, his head tipped back, raw and wanting, as he held Pete’s lips to his own. No, Pete hadn’t done a thing, this is wrong, this is so wrong, he needs to-

“Well, gee, Father, I’m just a simple guy so maybe you can explain it to me… Was it a sin to enjoy hearing you moan for me?” Pete laughs darkly, a groan of his own tangled in the sound. “Wait, I know, it was a sin to taste those lips of yours, is that it? You didn’t seem to think it was a sin while it was happening, what’s changed your mind?”

“Pete, I-”

“Golly, Father,” he’s hamming it up now, exaggerating a ridiculous approximation of a Southern accent. “Maybe I’m just a dumb nigger,” Patrick flinches from the word, bites his lip to stop himself from interrupting, “but you seemed to like getting your dick stroked. Was that a sin? Is that what I’m confessing to?”

“Pete, please-”

“Or maybe it was a sin for me to think about how fucking pretty your cock looked in my hand?” Pete’s voice drops once more, low and sultry, the electric shock tingles of arousal stirring low in Patrick’s groin. “Because it did, you know, so fucking hard just for me, Father. All that cum over your nice, white shirt. You’ve got a pretty dick, the kind of dick I’d like to suck — has anyone told you that before? Have you shown other boys? Yeah, I bet I’m not the first one to compliment you on that, I know you must have committed some naughty sins all of your own before I came along. Acting all innocent, but I’ve seen the looks you give me, Father. Is that how you want to play this game? Pretend you wouldn’t want me on my knees unless it’s pray-”

“Stop it!” Patrick roars, slamming his fist into the wooden wall between them. Anger and shame rocket through him, buzz in his ears until his skull rings with it. He’s panting, lungs tight and restricted, body tense with unspent frustration. Pete’s words conjure up all kinds of dangerous memories – oh, he knows exactly how the things feel that Pete describes. He knows because Pete’s not the first one that Patrick’s tempted into sin, Pete’s not the first soul corrupted by him. It can’t happen again. It won’t happen again.

“These thoughts, son…” He selects his words carefully, wants to inject some distance between the two of them. If he calls him “son” that adds weight to the title of “Father”, it adds respect, it demands decency and proper behaviour. “They aren’t to be taken lightly. You mustn’t give in to these desires. No matter how tempting they may seem, they’re a sin. It’s the devil speaking, trying to twist you into something ugly and abominable. You have to recognize your wrongdoings.”

In the silence between them he hears Pete’s mocking laugh, feels it curl around him, dark and knowing.

“My wrongdoings? Okay then, I confess to…” Pete pauses, seems to want to choose his words carefully. “Lust. Is that good enough, Father?”

It’s not enough, nowhere close to enough to encompass what they did, it’s not enough to chase away the thoughts of work-roughened hands against his aching, needy cock, hands that were nothing like Father Urie’s, as soft with lack of physical labour as Patrick’s own. It isn’t quieting the voices in his head that scream of gentle lips and the urgent press of a hard cock against his thigh. It’s not working but it’s as much as he can tolerate, his voice cracked and breaking as he speaks.

“Yes,” he rasps roughly, “yes, that’s okay. That’s the first step, son. Keep in mind that laying with a man as you would lay with a woman goes against God’s law. Fight these thoughts, stay away from temptation, find solace and help in prayer. The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Atone for your sins.”

Patrick stops talking. He isn’t even sure if the words are meant for Pete or for himself.

“Oh no, Father, these big, fancy words scare me!” Pete’s voice is too theatrical to possibly be genuine. “Tell me, how can I be good? Give me guidance, anything you ask, I swear I’ll do it…” The demure words are belied by the sarcastic undertone, stained by Patrick’s corrupted mind because there are so many wicked commands he wants to whisper to Pete, so many places he wants to guide Pete’s lips and hands and cock, why, oh why is there nothing but sin on his mind?

He tugs at his collar, the familiar feel of the stiff white fabric helping him to remind him what he’s here for; To help Pete, to show him the right path, and to give the holy sacrament so that at least Pete can be saved. Pete can’t go through the same hell that he is going through.

“You need to kneel-” he breaks off for a steadying breath as Pete chuckles in dark delight, as the confessional fills with the creak of wood and the thump of Pete dropping to his knees. Patrick won’t think about it, he won’t, “if you could just repeat after me — My God, I am sorry for my sins with all of my heart.”

“My God,” somehow Pete loads the words with blasphemy and sinful intent, “I am sorry for my sins, with all my heart…”

“In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things,” Patrick continues, well-known words falling easily from his lips. Pete repeats the words with the same twisted intonation, the same mocking lilt. Patrick grits his teeth in impotent fury, but doesn’t interrupt the prayer. He’s teaching Pete something important here, he’s sure Pete will realize soon enough.

“I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.” The nails of Patrick’s fingers dig deeper into his soft palm as he hears Pete repeating his words. He’s the one leading Pete into sin. The next sentence comes out thick and burning with desperation, with an aching need not to feel this way, to be normal, please God, why can’t he just be normal?

“Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us; in his name, my God, have mercy.” Patrick is almost begging, praying to the omnipresent God to spare his soul from these torturous thoughts. Make me normal, please, just make me good, let me be good.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us; in his name, my God, have mercy.” Pete repeats it with scorn, and a hint of anger creeps up on Patrick, a cold hand that slithers down his spine. He’s trying to help. He’s trying to be a decent man and those are sacred words. This is a holy sacrament. Why can’t Pete be a little respectful for the help offered to him? Would it really be so hard?

“Amen,” Patrick concludes the prayer with a hard edge to his voice.

“Amen,” Pete repeats lightly, amusement heavy in his tone. Clearly, he’s not sorry, oh, why isn’t he sorry? Doesn’t he understand the seriousness of the situation? Patrick clenches his hands into fists. Pete needs to be sorry. He needs to realize that what he’s doing is harmful, that his thoughts are dangerous, that God’s mercy can only be granted if he truly apologizes and asks the Lord for forgiveness. He needs to realise what he’s doing to Patrick, needs to know there’s only so much he can take before he crumbles, resolve washed away and both of them doomed.
But even if this task may prove more difficult than anticipated, Patrick is sure that it’s the first seed of faith, the first step to believing and to see the error in his ways. Pete can be saved. Patrick won’t give up.

“I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Relief floods Patrick – yes, the first step for Pete to become a better man. He did good today.

“Is that all, Father? Am I forgiven?” Pete shuffles closer to the latticework separating them, voice dropping to a heated whisper that burns straight between Patrick’s legs. “Or do you need me on my knees again anytime soon?”

“Only if you sin,” Patrick says quietly, pushing away the mental images and depraved promises a vicious voice whispers in his ear.

“I’m a weak soul, good Father,” Pete says with a chuckle. “Oh, believe me, you’ll see me on my knees again. You like the sound of that?”

Patrick stays quiet. He hears Pete stand, knows he’s probably smirking to himself as he leaves the confession booth. Only then does he unclench his fists, fingers stiff and cramping from the effort of it. His blunt nails have left red half-moons on his palms, shameful reminders of the shameful thoughts in his head. It’s not enough, it’s not even close to enough, he needs to be better. He needs God’s forgiveness, Jesus’ blessing, the Holy Spirit delighting his own soul again. Patrick stands up to leave the confession booth and drags himself over to one of the less wobbly looking benches. He’s in absolutely no hurry to get home anyway, his time is better spent here with his hands clasped together and his head bowed down, whispering one desperate prayer and plea for mercy after another.

The next few days are overshadowed by the awkward tension between him and Pete. Patrick spends an increasing amount of time at church or in his room, busying himself with everything, anything that comes to mind, anything that takes his thoughts off sin. As it turns out though, it’s much harder to avoid them than he’d hoped. Pete always seems to linger somewhere around him in the background; be it at church doing repairs - always shirtless to spite the sweltering heat, and to spite Patrick’s good intentions of not having lustful thoughts over him - or at the rectory - more dressed, usually, but still so damn tempting. In the evenings, Patrick can hear the muffled sounds of music coming from Pete’s room, making his heart ache with the memories and regret.

It’s one of those evenings where Patrick tosses and turns, unable to sleep. It’s silent in the rectory, has been for a while. Pete must be asleep, curled up in his bed; the heat of the day still lingers even at night, and Patrick bets that Pete sleeps without a shirt, too. Maybe even naked. All warm golden skin, muscles relaxed, eyes closed, quiet breaths falling from his pretty lips. Maybe he kicks the sheets away in the heat, so much tawny skin traced brightly with ink laid out on display. The mental image is taunting Patrick, and he hates himself for thinking these thoughts, for lusting over Pete without his knowledge, for wanting to do everything he knows he shouldn’t.

Those who are in flesh cannot please God, and Matthews says that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. How much worse must it be to look at a man with lust?

The words are buzzing through his brain, worn-out warnings he’s told himself over and over. He could find the passages in his bible on the nightstand blindfolded, shaking fingers sifting through the pages just by muscle memory.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Asks Jeremiah, and Patrick wants to cry, because he understands, oh, he does. His rotten heart and soiled flesh doesn’t care about his objections though. Patrick can feel his hard cock against the loose fabric of his nightshirt, aching with the want for all the things Patrick shouldn’t be wanting in the first place.

He shouldn’t give in, he reminds himself, he is a man of God, of the Spirit, not the flesh. But if he doesn’t take care of this particular situation, his flesh might lead him to even greater sins. It would be so easy to just go over to Pete’s room, bang on his door until he’s awake, drag him down to the still warm bed and –

No, no, please, no. Patrick whimpers, lust and guilt pulsing through his veins like warring factions, a battle raging deep inside of him with no clear winner. No, he can’t corrupt Pete like that ever again. He mustn’t allow himself to err so horribly. It’s better if only one of them has to suffer God’s wrath. Patrick lets his hand wander under the hem of his nightshirt. It’s for the best. For me and Pete, both.

His fingers grip tight around his shaft, greedy and sinful. He sinks his teeth into his lip, hard, sharp pain blooming bright, swallowing down the moan that lingers, sour on his tongue. Pete may be sleeping, but the walls are thin, and God’s ears shouldn't have to endure even more despicable sounds coming from his mouth. Patrick thinks back to the last time a hand had been on his dick – Pete’s hand, rough and warm; he longs for them to be back on him, wants them, eager and willing, stroking every part of his body. How could something so wrong feel so good? Why must the devil tempt his mortal flesh so horribly? Why did God give him such a burden?

It’s nothing like the cross that Jesus had to bear, Patrick tries to scold himself, but soon enough, all thoughts of the Lord drift away. More images of tan skin and talented fingers flood his mind. Calloused pads tracing over pale skin, soft lips kissing Patrick’s own, Pete’s half-lidded eyes gazing at him again with debauchery and want. Patrick gives his cock a few more strokes as he bites back another moan. He’s so hard, the first drops of precum staining his fingers already, everything in him just screams for relief.

With a pleasant shudder that cramps his gut, Patrick recalls Pete’s words from confession. It’s their secret what happened there, protected by the church’s own laws. No one will ever have to know, and that gives him a delicious little thrill as he continues to stroke his cock. Pete’s sinful, dirty thoughts belong to him alone, he’s the only one Pete entrusted with his secret desire. A desire for him, Patrick, and no one else.

He’s fast and rough now, impatient and burning with the desperate desire for release, to make everything stop.

Pete’s a sinner, he’s a dirty, filthy sinner, and all the things he would be willing to do to Patrick make him shudder. Oh, Pete would be on his knees in no time if Patrick wanted him to, just like Father Urie once. But this time, it would be Pete’s mouth on his dick, Pete’s sinful tongue doing sinful things to him, licking and sucking, leaving a hot, wet mess all over his cock. Desperate kisses pressed against pale flesh; ah, a rotten disbeliever like Pete would beg, beg, beg for it, he would pray for Patrick.

Patrick finally comes, biting his lip until he can taste blood, preferring the tang of copper and salt over foul moans escaping his mouth. He can faintly hear his ragged breathing over the sound of his own heartbeat, the blood rushing through his veins like desperate prayers. He can feel the slick of his cum on his fingers, wet like the tears that fall from his eyes. Patrick adjusts the hem of his nightshirt with shaking hands. He’s still panting, breathing hard as involuntary, silly tears stream down his face, and he hopes that his occasional sniffles are inaudible through the wall separating him from Pete.

Letting out a quiet sigh, Patrick rolls over, and soon falls into a troubled sleep.

He's confused the next day when a small, neat Chrysler bumps it’s way down the potholed lane toward the rectory. He pauses, startled, and wipes quickly at his mouth, swiping away any remnants of his lunch as he pushes to his feet and peers out of the window with a frown.

“Oh, yeah,” Pete chirps into the icy silence that hangs between them almost constantly. They break it only to discuss the repair work at the church or for Patrick to mutter a quiet thank you for his meals. Pete’s voice drips with insincere apology, a spiteful smirk curling his lips. “Some fella called for you yesterday. Father Beckett? Said he might drop by.”

Patrick's heart beats an uncomfortable march against his ribs, crashing so desperately his ears ring with it. He can't face a fellow priest right now, not when he gave in to the temptation to ease his needs just a few short hours ago. What had seemed so logical the night before, hard cock aching with unrealized desire, seems, in the cold light of day, disgusting, filthy and utterly abhorrent.

“You should go and welcome your guest of honor,” Pete voice crashes into his thoughts like rolling thunder, his intonation making it perfectly clear that he already has little regard for the unknown priest. “Don’t worry, Father, I’ll make sure everything’s clean when you come back inside.”

The sarcastic grin on Pete’s face sparks bright curls of anger in Patrick. What he did last night was also Pete's fault. Pete with his knowing amber eyes and soft, inquisitive lips. Pete with his shirt on for once, but with the three first buttons undone, revealing a glimpse of his tawny, ink stained skin pulled taut over hard, wiry muscle that flows like whispered promises. Pete with his sinful mouth that muttered filth into Patrick's ear, with his hard cock that had pressed so temptingly against his thigh as he stretched out on top of him, kissing him, touching him, rough, talented hands against his body like lust-fueled daydreams. Pete.

Pete who knows exactly what he's doing. Pete made entirely of sin and sent solely to offer temptation to a weak man who should know better. Well, Patrick does know better, but why did God have to tempt him with such a sinner? As if Patrick’s burden wasn’t heavy enough, now he has to be responsible for Pete as well, to deal with two people experiencing all these sinful desires? The Lord is asking too much of him, the drag of it as oppressive and overbearing as the heat outside.

Patrick takes a deep, steadying breath as he stands up and squares his shoulders. Pete will not beat him. Patrick might be a sinner, but he has God on his side, he knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and he’ll show Pete one day, make him understand the error of his ways. Pete will pay, he’ll beg to be absolved, he’ll pray to Patrick to be granted an absolution.

As soon as Patrick opens the door, he’s greeted by the hot, humid air, hitting him like a brick wall. It weighs him down, seems to be a physical weight on his chest and shoulders just like the ever-present guilt. He closes the door hurriedly behind him in a vain attempt to keep out the heat from the rectory, and then marches towards his unexpected guest.

Upon closer inspection, the man turns out to be quite young, probably around Patrick’s age. Despite the heat, he’s wearing a hat, the brown hair under it neatly combed and framing an elegant face as pale as Patrick’s. The good Father doesn’t seem to spend much time outdoors, either. He’s attractive, Patrick notes absently, beautiful almost, but he pushes those thoughts aside with a sick panic low in his gut - what is wrong with him? Father Beckett eyes the rectory with its neglected, faded paint job, and the wobbly porch, then eyes Patrick. He seems to be rather unimpressed with both.

“Father Beckett,” Patrick greets the visitor with a nod and a polite smile, “Welcome to Clark. Forgive me, but I wasn’t expecting your visit.”

Father Beckett takes the outstretched hand, but stays silent.

“I’m Father Stump, the newly assigned priest to Saint Sebastian’s,” Patrick says nervously, wishing the newcomer would speak. Just a few words, anything, he’s not good with silences, never has been, they unsettle him.

“So I heard,” Beckett finally answers with a curl of disdain. Patrick almost immediately wishes for silence again. “I’m Father William Beckett, from Tupelo.” He eyes Patrick again, still not impressed. Patrick tries his best not to wince under the judgmental stare of his fellow man of God. Can the other priest see the ugliness in his rotten heart? Has Patrick been branded as a sinner for everyone to see? Is the shame written on his depraved flesh, the sign of the Beast carved into his skin?

God clearly has mercy, because the visiting priest doesn’t back away in horror or disgust. No, thankfully, he doesn’t seem to realize exactly what kind of sinner he’s standing in front of.

Patrick relaxes a little, reminds himself that he has to be a good host, whether the visit is unexpected or not. “Please, be my guest, Father Beckett.” He follows his visitor back inside, glad to escape the unbearable heat of the Clark afternoon.

True to his word, Pete has been cleaning the kitchen. He seems to be almost done by the time Patrick and his guest enter, only a few dirty dishes left in the sink. Beckett cocks his brow when he sees him, and Patrick hurriedly speaks up: “This is Pete, our handyman. The church of Saint Sebastian, well… It needs a bit of restoration work.” Patrick laughs nervously. Pete gives a short nod, clearly not interested in conversation. Patrick notices that his shirt is still unbuttoned, which seems horribly inappropriate in the presence of their guest, as though that inch or two of tanned skin can reveal everything that happened, everything Patrick’s thought about since.

William makes his way to one of the chairs, and Patrick uses the opportunity to send Pete a warning glare as he tugs at his own collar, stiff against his fingers, with loaded intent. Pete rolls his eyes, but he complies with a long-suffering sigh and buttons his shirt before he starts scrubbing the plates. Patrick sits down as well, but it’s Pete who William watches with interest. “Don’t you have a housekeeper? Or, rather, why does your handyman have housekeeping duties?”

Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Patrick replies softly: “Well, we can’t afford both. The repairs are going to be expensive.” It’s not a lie, so why does he feel like William doesn’t quite approve of this arrangement? On top of that, the way the other priest eyes Pete makes Patrick nervous. Why is he staring like that? Can he see what crimes against God he’s committed with Pete?

And why does Patrick feel a pang of jealousy?

“May I offer you a drink, Father Beckett?” Patrick gives a polite smile, glad that his guest’s attention is back on him, and away from Pete.

“Tea, please,” William answers. Patrick really wants to object, isn’t it already hot enough in here? He doesn’t need the heat of the stove, the boiling tea kettle, and a hot cup of tea to make it worse. But the Father is still his guest, and Patrick’s manners force him to stay silent. Just as he begins to stand up, William leans forward, and turns his head towards Pete again. “It was Peter, right? Would you be so kind as to serve Father Stump and I some tea, son?”

Pete stops dead. He grabs a towel to slowly dry off his hands, and judging by the way his hands grip tightly into the fabric, Patrick suspects Pete would rather twist his fingers into Father Beckett’s neatly starched collar. The priest’s words sounded polite, but there’s something underneath them, some dark current pulling dangerously below the surface that he can’t quite place but that makes him cringe.

“Sure, Father,” Pete says slowly, voice laced with venom. Patrick wonders why he agreed – Pete looks like he’d rather storm off. Instead, he turns his back to the two priests, but follows the request, filling the tea kettle at the sink with careful, precise movements.

Before Patrick can interfere, William demands his attention again. “How kind of you to take him in, Father,” he says sweetly, gesturing towards Pete. “I appreciate the Christian values you’re upholding. I didn’t expect that, Clark can be a little… backwards.”

“Pete is the best man for the job,” Patrick answers cautiously. Pete stays silent, back turned pointedly to them while he stares at the kettle on the stove, but judging from the tension in his shoulders, he’s less than happy about Father Beckett’s remark. Patrick isn’t quite sure why, but something about it seems off. He remembers the store clerk saying something similar, and in hindsight, his words seemed to have a hidden layer of meaning to them. Before he can ponder it too deeply, Father Beckett changes the subject sharply.

“Tell me about yourself, Father Stump. I heard you’re from Chicago, is that true?” Patrick nods; the homesickness still plagues him, he’d rather avoid thinking about the city he misses so much.

“Yes… Born and raised there,” he answers, politeness forcing him to say something, anything, the first thing that comes to mind for a discussion between two priests. “I attended the seminary at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.”

“Really?” William cocks his head with a smile. There’s something there, something similar to the looks he’s given Pete. “Terribly generous of them to offer even the lesser privileged the chance of an education, isn’t it? Forgive me, but how did such an educated man land in this little town?” He sounds condescending, and a wave of resentment overcomes Patrick. Father Beckett reminds him of the less friendly faces at college, of hushed words and snide remarks about the lowly Irish peasant snatching a scholarship away from someone more worthy of it, the accusations of being a liar, a deceiver and a thief like the rest of the Micks.

“It was His Eminence’s decision, and it’s not for me to question his authority or wisdom,” he tells his guest, just like he’d told Pete not long ago. Patrick is bright with gratitude when Pete interrupts the discussion by placing the requested tea in front of them, a frown on his face, but maintaining a dignified silence nonetheless. Patrick notices it’s a different cup from the usual chipped and stained mugs they drink from; it’s pretty, delicate as glass and ornately patterned. He didn’t even know they had fine china in the cabinets, how was there money for luxuries like handpainted china and not enough for the church roof? Patrick begins to understand Andy’s quiet resentment of the old priest.

“I do declare, this is a fine cup of tea! You seem quite skilled at running a household, son.” William sends Pete a friendly smile, and seems startled when it isn’t reciprocated. He obviously isn’t used to people treating him with anything but deference, respect, or servitude. Unfortunately, Pete isn’t good at acting with deference, respect of servitude. Pete’s much better at petulance, irritation and general ill-temper. “Well, I assume someone like you has prior experience? Worked for some of the local families as an attendant, perhaps?”

William isn’t outright rude, but the way he talks to Pete, the way he automatically assumes all Pete could be was some sort of lowly footman makes Patrick clench his hands into fists.

“I was in the army for five years,” is Pete’s response. It’s obvious he’s angry, the way he narrows his eyes and his ice-cold voice being dead giveaways. “Worked as an engineer.”

“Ah, I see, you served our country, son. You should be proud,” William takes a sip of his tea, then clasps his hands together, the friendly smile still on his face. He must think that Pete is too stupid to see through the act. “My mother says your kind is the most hard-working and honest people she’s ever had in her service. My family’s ever-expanding property is large enough that we’re always looking for another helping hand. When Father Stump doesn’t require your… services any longer, why not come to us for a job? Colored boys are welcome to work for us, too.”

There’s a deafening silence, and the look in Pete’s eyes makes it clear that he’s one step away from having to confide murder at the next confession.

“He’s not a servant,” Patrick says through gritted teeth, anger and protectiveness flaring in his chest. “And you shouldn’t judge his character or his abilities by his skin color. We’re all God’s children, and all equal in his eyes.”

He hadn’t known that Pete’s skin color would be a source of such contention. If Patrick was to be honest, he’d never thought about it much in the first place – after all, he’s spent his life up until this point within the narrow confines of his church, the seminary, of studying God’s word and looking down from the ivory tower on a community that was as white as he is. When Father Hurley had recommended Pete as a handyman in an instant, with no objections or even so much as a comment on Pete’s race, Patrick had assumed no one else must pay much mind to it, either.

Shame overcomes Patrick – he’s been so preoccupied with his own problems, so caught up with his own troubles that he’s shut his eyes on his surroundings. It dawns on him that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that maybe, he’s been a little too ignorant.

“I said no such thing,” Father Beckett replies, wide-eyed and hurt and with no hint of apology in his attitude. He takes another sip of his tea, and it takes a surprisingly large amount of self-restraint for Patrick not to slap the thing out of William’s dainty hands. One brief glance at Pete tells Patrick that they share this urge. “No need to be upset, good Father,” William continues, “all I did was make him a friendly offer. He should be glad, I bet the townspeople of Clark are still pretty narrow minded when it comes to colored boys like him. I know what some of them think about negros mingling with white people, and their mixed children.”

There’s a bit of a slip-up in Father Beckett’s politeness, indicating he’s less and less willing to be friendly. It feels like a punch to the stomach hearing him talk like that, and makes Patrick wonder what exactly the people of Clark are saying to Pete each and every day. He’s not sure he wants to know. Is this why Pete boils with barely suppressed rage? Is this why he tenses each time he has to speak to someone from the town?

“I’m sure you know all about that, Father,” Pete hisses. “You seem to have a lot of time on your hands, I guess there’s nothing better to do than gossip . Forgive my ignorance, but is that a Christian thing to do?”

“You don’t need to be concerned about my morals, son,” William responds irritated. “I answer to God, and I follow the Lord’s rules, which I’m sure I know better than you do.”

“Oh, the good Father is teaching me all about God’s words,” Pete remarks with a loaded grin, jerking his head in Patrick’s direction.

“I teach everyone willing to listen, and willing to open their heart to welcome Jesus into their life,” Patrick says cautiously. The tension in the room is still high, and it won’t take much to let the situation escalate.

“I’m sure educating your handyman keeps you quite busy, Father Stump,” William says with a huff. He takes one last sip from his tea, then places the now empty cup on the plate with a little too much force. He stands up, and the polite smile is back on his face. “Well, I didn’t mean to interrupt you for too long, Father Stump. Getting the church back to its old glory and keeping an eye on your troublesome sheep must take up enough time already.” He pauses, then adds: “Oh, before I forget – I’d like to ask that you read a mass for Saint Sebastian’s old priest. Father Francis was a good friend to our family, and he’s dearly missed. May God rest his heart.”

“I believe An- Father Hurley already did that,” Patrick answers, but William just waves his hand. “I want a proper priest to pay respect to him, not just a deacon. Would you please be so kind, Father Stump?”

It’s not like he has much choice. “Of course,” Patrick says with a nod, and a slight spike of resentment. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Father Beckett doesn’t seem too fond of Andy either.

William moves towards the door, which Pete takes as a sign to take the tea cups - Patrick’s still full, he can’t bring himself to drink hot tea in this sweltering heat, politeness or not - away from the table. It earns him another condescending look from William, who turns to Patrick again. “Tell me, does your handyman perform all the duties of a woman, Father Stump?”

“I do the honest work I’m getting paid for,” Pete interjects, despite not being the one who was addressed. “But please, feel free to educate a simple man like me what other services your housekeeper performs on you, good Father! Or do you make the altar boys serve your needs, like our old priest at Saint Sebastian’s did?”

William huffs indignantly, and this time, the look he sends Pete is free of any of the former false friendliness. “Keep the blasphemy to yourself. That mouth of yours is going to get you into deep trouble one day, son.”

“Enough,” Patrick speaks up, before Pete can give a reply that’s going to get them all in trouble. “Pete just speaks his heart, but you should pay him the respect you pay everyone else, Father.”

The scathing words are lost on William, who glares at him with sharp intent, fire and ice from keen brown eyes. “Oh, I meant you, too, Father Stump. You better keep him on a tight leash, or you’ll be the one paying for his impertinence.” William gives a short nod. “I can see myself out, thank you. May God be with you.”

With that, the priest leaves, and soon the sound of the engine indicates he’s driving away, no doubt straight back to Tupelo to deliver the fresh gossip to anyone willing to listen. Patrick sighs, and wipes away the ever-present sweat from his forehead. Great, just great. As if he needed any more trouble in his life right now.

“Who gives a shit what the good Father thinks? I don’t care. That asshole can go straight back to his mommy and cry about the colored boy being mean to him,” Pete spits out, as if he read Patrick’s thoughts. “What a fucking pretentious jerk.”

Patrick doesn’t reply, he has to at least try to maintain a little bit of a respectable façade, but he allows himself a small grin, and he doesn’t object to Pete’s inappropriate comment. He watches Pete finishing the dishes, but before Pete can leave, Patrick decides to speak up. “I’m sorry for what Father Beckett said,” he says with a sigh.

“Oh, do you expect me to thank you for that?” Pete narrows his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell Father Beckett he was behaving like a despicable sinner? Why didn’t you drag his ass to confession and tell him to beg for forgiveness, to have his sins absolved? Why didn’t you preach to that priest that he should be ashamed of what he is, like you always tell me to be?”

The accusing words burn like the fire of hell, sharp daggers piercing right into Patrick’s heart. His head, and his heart, sink in shame. There are all kinds of objections on Patrick’s lips, lessons about manners and formality and respect, but he can’t deny Pete has a point.

“No answer, Father?” Pete lets out a short, vicious laugh, turning around one last time before he leaves the kitchen. “Pray harder, and maybe God will answer that for you.”

That night, Patrick prays like he always does, intense and desperate. But he finds no relief, and he gets no response.

Chapter Text

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“Enjoy your dinner,” Pete places the plate down in front of Patrick just a little too hard, just enough to make the tableware rattle slightly and blue eyes widen behind the lenses of his glasses. He turns on his heel, every muscle sharp with barely suppressed rage, and heads towards the front door.

“Aren’t…” His shoulders tense as Patrick speaks hesitantly, all fake naiveté and fraudulent hurt. “Aren’t you going to eat with me?”

“I already ate,” Pete’s voice is tight with irritation. “I’m gonna go work on the roof a little before it gets dark.”

“You need to rest,” Patrick is all gentle, fatherly reproach, the tone at odds with the hungry way his eyes trace the lines of Pete’s hips, his tongue darting out to slick against his lips as he forces his gaze up. With the way he stares, Pete imagines that the good Father is imagining him stretched out on his bed, Patrick on top of him, sleep traded for more tiring activities first. Fucking hypocrite. A nervous smile flickers across Patrick’s face.“Please. Sit.”

For a beat or two, Pete considers it. He considers slipping into the chair opposite Patrick and holding a conversation with him - they could talk about music, perhaps, or current affairs - he imagines how the pretty priest’s eyes might sparkle as he laughs. They could pretend there isn’t any awkward tension between them, they could pretend everything’s just fine when Patrick drags him to the bedroom, hungry lips on Pete’s skin, searching hands finding his cock, desperate fingers wrapping around it – and then, afterwards, they could pretend it never happened, that Patrick is still the moral, rightful priest and Pete a lowly sinner. How often has that happened to him before? Oh, people love to pretend with Pete – press a kiss on his lips to keep him from talking, look away to avoid facing the reality of too dark skin and too improper intentions, close their eyes to everything he is, because it was the picture-perfect image of themselves they didn’t want to acknowledge. Faggot. Sodomite. Sinner.

Why are you doing this to me, Pete? He sneers, an ugly twist of his lips though Patrick can’t see it, and carries on walking, shutting the front door behind him with a sharp thump. He is very much done with pretending.

Pete burns with fury. It’s nothing new, he’s felt this way since he was ten years old, since Timmy Michaels told him that he wasn’t allowed to play kickball with the rest of the - acceptably white - neighbourhood kids. It sits, a constant, hard ball lodged in his chest that fires with injustice each time there’s a comment, each time he’s judged and found lacking. Timmy was only the first in the never-ending parade of pale faces telling him variations of what Pete had instinctively picked up on that fateful day. That he was too different, too dark, too much of an intruder and an outsider. That he didn’t belong with them.

The worst thing, he’s decided, the absolute rage-inducing truth about Father goddamn Stump is that he’s a fucking hypocrite. Does he imagine that Pete doesn’t sense those storm wave eyes raking over him as he works, like a master admiring a farm animal? Does he honestly think Pete can’t hear him at night, when those blue eyes are shut, but the images of Pete dance behind the Father’s closed eyes? Oh, Pete hears him, every sigh and moan, every creak of his bed springs, the good Father seems quite eager to partake in self-abuse.

Father Beckett’s visit, as fraught with tension as it was, has proven to be something of a blessing in disguise - Patrick hasn’t tried to force him to confession since then, preferring to leave a distance between the two of them. He wants to say that suits him just fine but he can’t shake the memories of eyes that gazed at him as though he wasn’t something to be ashamed of, hands that gripped at him like raw hunger. That little bit of hope, sweeter and brighter than anything else.

And his lips, fuck those lips, soft and yielding, eager and tasting, the way they’d framed hungry little moans, the way they’d whispered his name like a desperate prayer as he fell apart. Lips dedicated to spreading the Lord’s word, to deliver hope and just truth, yet they hadn’t hesitated to lie to Pete. His name was never a prayer, never will be, it’s a muttered curse. It’s nothing positive, it’s loaded with regret and resentment for everyone including Pete.

He won’t be a guilty secret, he won’t martyr himself for some self-righteous priest’s lust and he won’t take responsibility for Patrick’s actions. The church is quiet, late evening sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows and casting kaleidoscope patterns against the floor. It’s cooler in there - always is - a welcome relief from the heat and humidity outside and Pete takes a moment to run the tips of his fingers over the ornate carving of the confessional. It’s, seemingly, the only piece of wood in the whole place that isn’t riddled with woodworm or dry rot and Pete wonders, briefly, if there’s some significance in that. Maybe God is trying to send them a sign, or perhaps Jesus is playing a trick on his obedient followers. Pete would bet - no matter how much the Lord frowns upon gambling - that someone as laughably gullible as Father Stump would declare it a clear sign from God. A sign of what, Pete isn’t sure, but he knows the good Father would twist it into something befitting his needs.

He shoves the thought aside as roughly as Patrick had shoved him, rummages in the vestry for his tool belt and makes his way back into the thick, stifling evening air.

He works hard, mind mercifully devoid of thought as he secures roof boards into place. It’s hot out on the roof and his shirt is soon discarded, tucked into the back of his jeans as he works. Sweat drenches his skin, his hair, thick on his brow and upper lip and stinging his eyes.

“Peter?” The voice behind him is soft and wholly unexpected, he jumps, slips, nearly loses his footing as he spins with a hissed “fuck!” and lands on his ass, eyes wide with shock.

Patrick is gripping the ladder so hard his knuckles shine white through the skin, his pupils blown with fear and his mouth a hard, grim line. In one trembling hand, he holds a glass of water, the surface slick with condensation as he holds it out, the contents slopping over his fingers like waves.

“Pete,” he corrects sharply, panic burning white at the edges because holy fucking shit it must be forty feet to the ground. “Get off that goddamn ladder, you goofball, before you kill yourself.”

“I thought you might like a drink,” Patrick is still holding out the glass, still shaking violently, his eyes squeezed shut. “Could you? I just… I don’t really… I’m not a great fan of heights…”

Pete grabs the glass, and reaches for Patrick’s hand, hauling him up the last few rungs and onto the relative safety of the roof. “Who climbs onto a goddamn roof when they’re afraid of heights?” He demands, furious at Patrick for being such a fucking idiot and at himself for feeling sick with the thought of what could have happened. Not only did he climb the ladder despite his fear, Father Stump did it all with one hand occupied with a glass. If the situation weren’t so serious, Pete would laugh. Instead, he sighs, and waits for Patrick to regain some of his composure. Miraculously, a good amount of water survived the shaky climbing, so Pete takes a sip whilst watching the priest trying to calm down. It’s nice to feel the cool liquid running down his throat, a welcome refreshment from the steady heat around him.

Patrick hasn’t moved up from the roof, eyes still closed, sitting hunched over with his hands gripping into his legs. That seems to be a habit of his, Pete thinks spitefully, recalling how those pale fingers gripped into his own legs just a few days ago.

“I… I suppose I didn’t really think…” The words give way to a sharp gasp as he finally opens his eyes and takes in the town and rolling fields laid out below them. “Oh! Oh my goodness, we’re… We’re awfully high, aren’t we? I… This can’t be safe. No. No, you’re not to work up here any more. It’s too-”

Pete doesn’t let him finish. Work is his last bastion of sanity. It’s the sanctuary that Patrick hasn’t spoiled with his Catholic nonsense. He’s not about to let his work get ruined or belittled by this priest who looks like he’s never lifted a finger in his whole life for more than a prayer.

“Let’s get your back on solid ground, Father,” Pete snaps, all brittle irritation and sharp reproach. He moves to the ladder, begins to descend as Patrick remains, frozen, on his spot on the roof. “Whenever you’re ready, princess, I’m not standing here for fun.”

Patrick lets out a strangled yelp and rolls to his hands and knees, shuffling back until, with a groping foot, he finds the first rung of the ladder. Pete slides his hands to the Father’s hips and eases him flush against him, the soft fabric of Patrick’s suit light against his bare skin and he’s absolutely not thinking about how close his hands are to the needing heat of Patrick’s cock, “I’ve got you, come on, one step down at a time…”

To his credit, Father Stump is braver than Pete assumed. He manages to get down the ladder without any accident, and without any improper swearing or other words escaping his clenched jaw. A pity, really; it would have been fun to see him lose some of that strict self-control, hear him misuse the name of the Lord, hear him choke back a sob, or just make any of his other delicious noises.

There’s a moment, the briefest beat of time, when solid work boots and well made leather shoes are side by side on the ground, when hands linger against hips for just a second too long, when a body clad in well-cut wool sags back into a bare chest, that Pete can imagine doing more. It would be so easy to get those much-desired sounds he misses so much out of the priest. He can imagine turning Patrick in his arms and pressing him back to the sun-warmed wall of the church, plundering his mouth with a willing tongue, falling to his knees and raking at his belt…

“Thank you,” Patrick whispers weakly, face drained pale and bloodless under the flush of heat and sweat as he offers a sweet half smile. “I feel a little foolish-”

“You should,” Pete snarls, shoving him away with barely repressed disgust - what we did… It wasn’t right - and swinging back onto the ladder. How could he even allow himself these foolish thoughts when Patrick has made it very clear how much the Lord disapproves of such dirty activities.

Patrick’s eyes flood with hurt. Fuck him, fuck that self-righteous asshole with his superiority complex, with his unerring belief that he’s somehow better than Pete, better than the faggot. “You are a fucking fool. Go back inside, Father, prepare your sermons.”

Patrick pauses, a hushed intake of breath sharp between them as he prepares to speak but the venom in Pete’s eyes seems to quiet him, his mouth snapping shut with a sharp nod as he turns back to the rectory and walks away with nothing more than a quiet, “I’m sorry.”

Oh, he’s sorry? Yeah, the good Father is all about being sorry. How about not making mistakes in the first place? How about not being a piece of shit instead? Maybe the priest’s much-praised God likes this obsequious attitude, but Pete can’t stand it. He doesn’t want to hear any more I’m sorrys, he doesn’t want to be a regret. Fuck, he’s not just some mistake to be made, only to be prayed away.

Pete watches him leave, watches him climb the steps and disappear inside the house without a backward glance. With a snarl, he pulls back his fist, feels the muscles tense and bunch then snap forward as he drives a punch into the wall, watches blood burst bright on his knuckles and spatter the paintwork with fury and resentment.

Fuck Father Stump.

*

Pete knows Father Stump’s morning routine by rote. He knows how many rings of his alarm clock will sound out before the priest will silence it with a gusting sigh. He knows the exact tone of the squeak from the bedsprings as he climbs from his bed. He knows it takes four steps for him to cross to his closet and collect his clothing for the day and that it’s three steps, a soft creak of the door and two steps across the hallway for him to enter the bathroom.

What this means to Pete, the real lesson he takes away from this, is that the walls are like fucking paper in the rectory. He’s quiet, always has been, used to moving around the house in silence so he doesn’t disturb his family. Patrick… Well, Patrick isn’t. Pete sees him, holier than thou in front of his parishioners, in front of the townspeople, that priestly handshake and polite smile. But Pete hears him at night, hears the moans bitten off desperately, as though he’s biting his lip or his fist to keep from crying out, he hears the bed groan with frantic movement and, if he presses his ear to the wall - which he absolutely does - he can hear the frantic gasp of ecstasy as Patrick comes.

Pete has been waiting, considering, turning an idea around in his head to teach that pompous, righteous, virtuous asshole a lesson. Father Stump wants to be sorry? Oh, Pete will make him feel sorry, really sorry, for everything.

So, tonight, Pete sits, his back to their shared wall, feet drawn up and planted square on the floor, the button fly of his jeans undone and his half-hard cock in his hand. He didn’t head straight to his room after dinner, instead he lingered over the various chores he needed to complete before standing out on the porch, cigarette in his hand as he stared up at the stars. Patrick made his excuses to retire to his room fifteen minutes ago, he’s heard the footsteps, the creak of the bedsprings and knows the good Father will be safely ensconced under his sheets in his very proper nightgown.

Pete has caught a glimpse of that a few times now when Patrick makes his way to the bathroom in the morning, usually bumping into Pete (not so accidentally – Pete knows Patrick doesn’t see well without his glasses, but Pete, despite his good eyesight, never makes the effort to avoid running into him, relishes in that few seconds of seemingly innocent body contact). The nightgown looks surprisingly dignified on the Father, but Pete has spent his fair share of time imagining pulling the stupid thing over Patrick’s head and throwing it to the floor, revealing nothing but flushed, naked skin aching to be touched. Or maybe, Pete would just slide his hand underneath, ah, it would be so easy to access the underlying body without undressing, even...

With these thoughts in mind, Pete waits in perfect silence, head half cocked so his ear is close to the wall, each sense drawn taut with anticipation. He gives his cock a teasing stroke - the same as he did to Patrick sprawled across the bed on the other side of the room - and feels a slow shiver of desire run down his spine.

His shoulders tense as he hears Patrick’s bed shift, a low creak. Pete wonders - is he hearing him roll over and make himself more comfortable? Or is he hearing him arch his hips to drag up his nightgown? Is he hearing him kick down his covers because he’s too hot? Or is it so he can slide a hand around his cock? His answer is delivered in the form of a low groan, a murmured whisper of sound that spikes through the wall to jolt electric shock pulses in Pete’s blood. No more flimsy, false excuses, no – there are much more sinful sounds coming from those priestly lips right now.

Pete didn’t lie during confession, Patrick really does have a pretty cock, thick and heavy, satin soft against the roughened skin of his palm. The memory sends a surge of blood to his dick, stiff and flushed dark against his hand. He wonders how it would look wrapped in Patrick’s hand, all pale and soft, how it might look framed by the lush, pink sweep of his lips. He tips his head back against the wall and begins to stroke himself, slow and light, teasing with fingertips as he listens to Patrick through the wall. They’re inches apart, separated only by a few breaths of shuddering need and want and a thin panel of drywall, yet there’s a whole world built from God’s word and Patrick’s narrow-mindedness keeping them apart.

But that doesn’t mean Pete won’t listen; eyes closed and lips parted like kisses, like he can taste Patrick’s cock if he just leans a little closer - his body is alight with the memory of slick pearls against his palm as he stroked and touched, the shudders of desire that had wracked Patrick’s body and thrummed through his. Pete hates him - oh yes, he’s fairly sure he can’t stand the pompous asshole - but his cock still throbs with desire for him, he still aches with the need to tear that bastard down, to drag him to his most basic level, to the place where he’s nothing but a mess of begging, writhing need. Pete will make him forget every Holy Order he’s ever taken, he’ll wipe the Lord’s venomous words from his mind along with all the righteous attitude in the priest. He’ll show the good Father he’s nothing but a weak human, as dirty as the sinner he condemns.

He’s pretty sure Patrick’s getting close, there’s a stutter to his breathing, those heady little whimpers are coming faster and louder as he loses control. Pete rolls to his knees - silent and graceful - and rests his forehead, his lips, against the wall between them. The plaster is cool against his skin, his breath fogging against the paint in a thin film of condensation as he gives his cock a slow stroke.

The noise that slips from his lips to thrum like cacophonous lust between them is pure, debauched filth.

Bed springs fall immediately silent in the room through the wall, the only sound a sharp intake of breath so loud it’s like Patrick is in the room with him. Pete presses his hips forward so his knuckles graze against the wall as soft as a lover’s touch and, once he’s sure he has nothing but rapt attention from his audience, he begins to rub himself slowly. Each stroke is another drag of his knuckles against the paint, the noise the perfect steady beat as his moans layer over it, prettier to Patrick than any song, of that much Pete’s sure.

There’s a perfect chasm of silence in Patrick’s room and Pete can picture him, wide eyed and flushed, lips parted as he listens. Has he let go of his cock? Is it standing, stiff and leaking, aching with the almost-there Pete knows he must thrum with? Or is his hand still wrapped around his dick, hating himself a little more with each touch, with each sinful little reminder that he’s no fucking better than Pete, that he’s not a good man in the eyes of his ridiculous church? Oh yeah, Pete hopes he feels disgusting, hopes he feels wicked for every dirty thought about him that’s crossed that good little Catholic mind.

Pete lets out another tantalizing moan, knowing perfectly well that his audience can do nothing but listen to it. Truth is, he’s exaggerating it a bit; he could do this much quieter, could probably jerk off without the oblivious priest ever noticing – Pete always had to share his living space with his family or fellow soldiers back in his army days, and he’s learned a lesson or two about staying silent. His brothers in arms understood the need for some relief, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to hear it happen.

Now though, Pete is sure he’s found an audience that appreciates his little private show. Patrick is very eager to listen, he must be, Pete hasn’t heard any objections from him so far.

“Patrick,” he groans, lips still light as gentle kisses against the wall and yes, the silence breaks next door with a gasp of breath so loud it ricochets through Pete like a gunshot. Pete decides he likes that noise, wants to hear it again but louder, fuck Father Stump, fuck his holier than thou bullshit. All that praying, all those holy words and hurtful rejection, but in the end, the good Father makes the same sounds as everyone else.

“Fuck… Patrick…”

He’s close. He thought he’d be able to draw this out, to make it last longer, but the thought of the good Father, cock hard and aching for him, just for him, is too potent a drug, too powerful an aphrodisiac for him to resist. His knuckles scrape hard and raw against the wall as he tugs at himself frantically, his free hand pressed to the wall as his nails bite - hard and brilliantly painful - into the paintwork. Another groan slips from his lips, thick with lust and temptation, “Shit… I’m gonna come…”

The noise from the other side of the wall is indescribable, part wanton moan, part frustrated growl and laced beautifully with a guilty, panicked little sob. It’s nothing like the noises Patrick made when Pete actually touched him, it’s darker and desperate, shameful and unfulfilled. Well, if Patrick wants to play the part of righteous, pretentious priest, if he doesn’t want to admit he too is nothing but a faggot himself, Pete will show him what he’s missing out on.

Pete loses it, jerking himself hard, hips pressed forward, muscles drawn tight in his stomach and thighs. He falls apart with a long, loud cry, each throb of his cock, each spill of white heat over his hand, over the wall, over his stomach echoed like a thundering drum beat through his body. He’s a mess of moans and come and desperate, aching need for Patrick, fucking Patrick, soft, warm lips and thick, hard cock and fuck Pete needs, craves, desires, wants.

The desperation recedes with the tingling aftershocks that course through his blood like oxygen. He comes down with panted breaths and a hammering heart, both steadying in sync until he’s still against the wall, palm still pressed flat just about level with where Patrick’s chest will be, lips brushing the plaster as he calms. The aching desire for Patrick still hums through Pete, but his rational side starts to take control over his thoughts again. What does it matter if the priest is pretty, if his lips are warm and inviting, if he has a nice cock? It’s all wasted on Patrick, locked away behind thick layers of linen and the Lord’s rules.

Once he’s recovered, once he’s sure of everything around him once more, he laughs, dark and teasing and whispers just loud enough for the priest to hear, “Sleep well, Patrick. Sweet dreams.”

*

Patrick won’t look at him over breakfast the next morning, accepting his oatmeal with a barely audible thank you, his face aflame with embarrassment. Always following proper Catholic table manners, Patrick does the sign of the cross before he starts eating; Pete would very much like to remind the good Father what kind of unchristian things his hand was doing mere hours ago.
But - and Pete has to admit some grudging admiration for the guy - he sits and eats his breakfast with quiet dignity, he didn’t bolt from the rectory to seek the solace and solitude of his church. That’s taken balls, if Pete’s use of the expression can be pardoned.

That doesn’t mean Pete is going to accept the silence between them. Patrick can’t pretend forever. “Did you sleep well, Father?” He asks sweetly, spooning a generous slug of honey over his oatmeal. Patrick eats his plain with just a dash of salt and Pete wants to sneer - not even the simplest pleasures are allowed outside of the confines of a bedroom, it would be appear. Oh, the Father is ever so proper and modest when he has an audience he can show off his virtuousness to. “I thought I heard you tossing and turning…”

“Yes,” Patrick replies faintly, nodding weakly at his water glass. “Great, thank you,” he pauses for a moment, manners clearly warring with common sense, a tiny cough at the back of his throat before he continues reluctantly, foolish politeness winning out, “and you?”

“Oh, you know,” Pete allows a teasing, flirtatious note to creep into the edges of his voice. “I was a little restless myself. I really hope I didn’t…” He pauses to select his last few words with exacting care and precision. Patrick glances up in the silence, eyes rimmed with dark shadows, cheeks still blazing as Pete continues; “Get you up.”

Patrick half chokes on his oatmeal, slugging back a mouthful of water, returning the glass to the table just a little too hard, just enough that Pete knows he’s rattled.

“Well,” Pete continues, all coy innocence and wide, amber eyes. “As long as I didn’t disturb you. You know, the walls in here are like paper,” he pauses to laugh lightly, “and you’re such an agitated sleeper. I swear, some nights I hear you huffing and puffing for hours until you get comfortable.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Patrick mumbles. All Pete can see is his halo of honey blonde hair, so bowed is his head in utter shame and mortification. Pete knows, and oh how he relishes it, that he’s just robbed the priest of the one shred of relief he held on to. It’s Patrick’s own fault, really. That’s what the priest gets for playing the morally impeccable man of God during daylight, sinning at night when he thinks no one’s listening. Yeah, it’s all modest prayers at mass and stolen hungry glances lingering on Pete’s body during the daytime, but at night, all rules go out the window? Fuck Father Stump.

Pete grins, alight with the victory of it, and scrapes the last of his oatmeal onto his spoon, shoving it into his mouth with a satisfied sigh. Patrick pushes away his barely touched bowl and Pete stands, scooping both up and heading to the sink.

“Not hungry, Father?” He asks, all delicate concern. “That’s a shame. Maybe you’ll have your appetite back by lunch.”

“Maybe,” Patrick all but whispers as he rises to his feet. “Thank you. For breakfast. I need… I have to get along to church. Early mass.”

Pete nods as he fills the sink with hot water, waiting until he hears the front door handle creak - another task for his list - to call back carelessly over his shoulder, “Oh, Father Stump?”

“Yes?” Patrick's voice is tight and guarded.

“You don't mind me going into your room, do you?” He asks sweetly. “I was gonna oil your bed springs. They squeak something fierce…”

The only response he receives is the tap of the priest’s shoes against the floorboards, the soft click of the front door closing behind him and Pete's own dark chuckle.

The one thing Pete won't do from pure spite is neglect his job. He won't lend weight to the rumours about men like him, tales of laziness and snoozing the day away, fuck that. Pete is getting paid so he'll work, he'll work his goddamn ass off to get every task assigned to him complete. The housekeeping, the thing he sneered at, takes him no time at all, a quick sweep and polish, beds remade neatly - just like being in the army, really, he reasons.

Patrick doesn't come back to the house after Mass and Pete can imagine him, golden head bowed, hands clasped and lips moving in furious prayer after he’s preached to his congregation, knowing perfectly well that he’s a hypocrite, yet still acting as if he’s something better.

Pete spends his morning working on repairing the sagging porch, replacing rotten boards and tightening loose railings. Patrick doesn't return for lunch either, Pete eats his casserole alone, places Patrick's untouched plate into the refrigerator and returns to his work. At dinnertime there’s still no sign of his wayward priest. It would be easy for a more sensitive man to assume he's being avoided. That will never do.

He makes his way down the dirt track from the rectory to the arched doorway of Saint Sebastian's, the heavy oak door sun-warmed under his hand as he steps inside. It is - as always - dim, cool and pleasantly quiet. For a moment, Pete can't see Patrick at all and wonders if the priest has taken a walk into town to perform some priestly duty or other but then a shaft of light from the stained glass behind the altar catches a flash of dirty blonde hair.

Patrick is on his knees in front of the steps that rise to the altar, head bowed so low it rests of his clasped hands that brace against the highest step. Pete doesn't need to imagine what it is that has the Father so keen for forgiveness, he can imagine each and every dirty little thought that he's recounting to his ridiculous God. He looks so supplicant, so utterly and intolerably pathetic that Pete wants to laugh. Does he really think the Holy Trinity is listening to him? That - even if they existed - they would have the time for some snivelling, closeted priest and his pathetic whining for redemption? Does he really think that the Lord wants to hear endless apologies over and over? Does Jesus have nothing better to do than to care for every silly little escapade one lonely sheep of his herd keeps committing? Would a loving God really approve of - fuck, encourage - his creations being so hateful to each other?

Pete knows that what he’s watching is private, a hopeless moment between a desperate man and his God, but he swiftly decides he doesn’t give much of a fuck as he makes his way down the aisle, heavy work boots thumping against the floor like a march. If the God that Patrick prays to really requires all this frantic devotion, and if He really demands His sheep to follow all these ridiculous rules and look down upon everyone who’s different, all the more reason to spite Him.

“There you are, Father,” he calls cheerfully, running his hand along the benches as he passes, for all the world as though he’s assessing which repair to carry out next. “Missed you at lunchtime. And dinner.”

Patrick jumps violently, jerking upright on his knees, his rosary wound tight between his fingers and biting hard into the skin. There’s a brief second, fleeting and ephemeral, where Pete thinks the Father’s face is wet with tears but his hands shoot up, wiping quickly at his cheeks and swiping through his hair, his voice a little unsteady as he speaks, “Oh, Pete! Yes… I… I lost track of the time. S-sorry about that. I hope you didn’t… I hope you hadn’t gone to any trouble. With lunch… Or dinner.”

“Not at all,” Pete grins wolfishly, feels a perverse thrill of satisfaction as Patrick shifts uncomfortably. With the priest on his knees in front of him, Pete can only imagine the thoughts that are tormenting him. Well, he’d like to make some of those daydreams a reality. Carefully, he arranges his face into a conciliatory smile, his best choir boy impersonation, soft lips, wide, apologetic eyes, voice gentle and pacifying, “Father, can I talk to you about something?”

“Of course,” Patrick begins warily, rising to his feet and dusting down the legs of his pants.

“I feel terrible about… last night, I think maybe… You possibly overheard something...” he drops his voice to a whisper for the last two words, leaning in as though he’s ashamed at the thought of the nearby statue of the Virgin Mary overhearing them. “It’s all I can think about,” that’s not a lie, “and I wondered if… Maybe I could take confession?”

Patrick’s face glows with a beaming smile and Pete decides it’s almost pathetic, how pitifully thrilled he is, how naïvely charmed he is by the very suggestion of a lost sheep making its way back to the fold. “Of course, Peter!” He says, and Pete has to remind himself to keep up the act, and not brashly correct the Father on his name. It’s been long enough, why does the priest insist on using his full name every now and then?

He’s so proud, the town’s diligent shepherd, approval radiating from him as he hurries ahead to the confessional, slipping into his booth first to maintain the ridiculous notion of anonymity. With a predatory grin, Pete steps into the booth next door, pulling the door closed behind him and taking a seat on the bench. He can just make out Patrick’s profile in the dim light, the arched sweep of his nose, the plush plumpness of his lips, the line of his jaw - Pete may dislike almost everything about him, but he’s still a pretty son of a bitch. Too bad the priest is keeping all of that to himself, unwilling to let Pete’s hands explore the shape of his face with his own fingers, mouth, tongue, just like the rest of his pretty body. One day, one day the good Father will learn his lesson. Pete will break him down into neat little pieces, and put him back together into the ugly shape of the sinner that he really is.

“I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father, that I have sinned,” Pete’s been practising. He knew it would come in handy at some point.

“When was your last confession, son?” Patrick asks, his voice low and soothing. Pete wants to laugh at him, is it actually possible for someone to be this naive? Why follow his stupid protocol? They both know exactly when the last confession took place.

“A week ago,” Pete murmurs, voice thick with contrition.

“And what sins have you committed?” Patrick sounds so encouraging, so proud. That trusting asshole.

“I’ve had… impure thoughts, Father,” he knows his voice has changed tone, sultry and provocative. Patrick’s breathing slightly faster, struggling already, so desperate to keep up the neat façade of the proper priest, but Pete isn’t having any of that. “I can’t seem to stop them, disgusting, dirty thoughts.”

“Yes, I see, well-”

“Why, Father, don’t you want me to finish?” Pete cuts him off, voice gentle with faked lack of comprehension, holding up a hand to silence Patrick. There’s a hitch to the priest’s breathing, a panicked little scrabble of breath against the back of his throat as he realises what he’s walked into, Pete can just about make out the way his eyes widen with something awfully close to fear, how he pulls at the collar around his neck and crosses himself quickly. “I have so much to confess…”

Patrick doesn’t reply, his breathing heavy and sharp, that fair head bent low. If Pete could see his hands, he’s pretty sure they’d be rolling the beads of his rosary desperately between his fingers in a frantic attempt to stop himself from jamming them over his ears. Well, he was the one who offered to hear about Pete’s darkest inner thoughts, right? “As I understand it, I’m supposed to tell you all of the terrible things I’ve done, right, Father?”

There’s still nothing but silence from the priest, unending quiet as he sits perfectly frozen, each line of his face visible in the dim gloom pulled tense and tight. It’s laughable, really, to pretend that Patrick doesn’t know about the terrible things Pete has done. He’s heard Pete, and not too long ago, the priest himself had played quite an active role in doing these terrible things with him. It’s time to remind the good Father of his own sins, and it’s time to remind him that behind the holy façade and underneath the modest clothes, he too is nothing but a sinner. One that he's sure must fantasize about the exact same things that Pete dreams about.

“I’ve been thinking about laying with a man,” Pete breathes, voice loaded with temptation and sin. “Isn’t that just the most disgusting thing you ever heard? But I can’t seem to help it, can’t seem to stop thinking about his hands, his mouth, his cock. Oh, Father, the things I’d do to him, have him to do me, can you imagine?” Patrick makes a noise that suggests he absolutely can imagine it, Pete’s lips quirk into a wide grin. He knew it, oh, that damn priest is no better than him. “And do you want to know the worst thing, Father? He thinks the same thoughts about me…”

“Peter, please…” Patrick implores quietly, a shake in his voice that could be frustration, could be tears, could be searing arousal. Is he getting hard? Pete would like to bet he absolutely is. The good Father had been so excitable with just a few touches, so no doubt some dirty words and debauched fantasies will be enough to get him hard. “Why are you doing this to me…”

Those words again - why are you doing this - like Pete is Lucifer himself and Patrick is just some innocent bystander, some poor boy caught up in a web of temptation and sin. Well, fuck that, it’s time the priest took some responsibility for his thoughts and his goddamn cock.

“Are you… Is this turning you on, Father?” Pete’s voice drips with scandal and shock, he glances through the screen between them and meets the Father’s miserable gaze with dark eyes widened with exaggerated surprise. He continues quietly - it wouldn’t do to be overheard if anyone were to walk in, oh no - his voice low and teasing. “Oh, gee, this makes things awkward, doesn’t it? How can I tell you that I’ve been thinking about getting on my knees for him, pulling down his pants and sucking his cock until he begs me to let him come? How can I tell you that I want to bend over the bed for him and let him fuck me exactly how he wants to?”

“Please,” Patrick begs, he fucking begs, it’s pathetic, like a fucking child claiming he shouldn’t be responsible for his actions. As if he wasn’t having the self same thoughts whenever his brain isn’t occupied by hypocritical sermons or useless prayers. “Don’t do this, I-”

“Is that what you think about when you touch yourself, Father?” There’s venom in Pete’s voice now, bitter and sharp as he reaches down and slowly caresses his cock through the rough denim of his jeans, a low moan catching at the back of his throat. Pete may not believe in Patrick’s religious charades, but nevertheless, he can feel the perverse, exciting thrill of doing something forbidden in a holy place. Patrick stares straight ahead though he twitches, a hand reaching up to wipe at his brow. He’s so silent today, where are all his high and mighty words now? Is the Lord not sending him any signs of how to handle the sinning sheep? “Are those pretty little moans all for me? Do you think about my dick? You didn’t get the chance to look before you ran off,” Pete pauses, slowly unbuttons his fly and slides a hand into his jeans, pulling his cock free and stroking himself lightly, allows a groan to accompany the soft sound of skin against skin. The silence hangs between them, heavy and loaded, “You could look now? If you wanted… Go ahead, Father, take a look, I won’t tell, I swear. This is what you want, isn’t it?”

“No,” Patrick insists, voice brittle and close to breaking. “It’s… It’s not what I want, and you shouldn’t want it either, son. These thoughts, they’re… They’re so wrong, so…” He’s rambling, Pete can hear that, he’s clearly struggling to concentrate.

“Oh, Father,” Pete sighs, stroking himself lightly, runs his thumb gently over the head, he’s not trying to get off, just aiming to tease and torment. “I know it’s wrong but… If you were to get on your knees for me now, if you just pressed those pretty lips to my cock… Oh, you’d be able to taste exactly how much I want you…”

“You’re not confessing any more,” Patrick interrupts sharply. “This is just… Filth. I don’t have to listen to this.”

“And yet you are, Father,” Pete laughs, all dark mischief. “But since you don’t feel like carrying on, I’ll leave it there. I’m confessing to thinking about him… about you… in ways that you say I shouldn’t.”

“You shouldn’t, no,” Patrick repeats, more to himself than to Pete. He’s trying so hard to convince himself that his words are right, Pete can tell. Too bad that Pete has every intention of continuing to show him they aren’t. One day, soon enough, Patrick will see how pathetic they are.

“What should I do then, Father?” Pete asks sweetly. “Please, guide me, command me, use me as you wish…”

“You need to,” Patrick pauses and sucks in a sharp breath, Pete watches him brace for his reaction, “You need to kneel. For prayer. Nothing else.”

Pete laughs, low and teasing, but he complies, sliding to his knees and facing the screen with a mocking grin. Patrick still isn’t looking at him, still staring straight ahead as he opens his mouth to prompt the prayer. Pete cuts in smoothly, “My God, I am sorry for my sins with all of my heart, in choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us; in his name, my God, have mercy, amen.”

Patrick clears his throat weakly before taking over, if he’s surprised that Pete’s memorised the prayer he refuses to show it, “Amen. I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

“You know, Father,” Pete whispers, lips very close to the screen. “I was on my knees like this just last night. It wasn’t for prayer though. Did you enjoy my little show? Maybe I’ll reprise it for you tonight… Then you can have me back on my knees like this for you again.”

Patrick doesn’t answer, just tugs at his collar and raises his crucifix to his lips. Pete laughs, dark and devilish and stands slowly, taking his time to press his half hard cock back into his pants, aware that Patrick is mere inches away, the wants and needs rolling off him in palpable waves. Patrick could have it all, if only he wasn’t such a stubborn little shit who thinks he’s too good to admit he’s just like the sodomite he looks down upon.

“All this sin in such a small town,” Pete observes casually, as he slides his belt back into place. “How many sheep do you suppose you can save before it sweeps you away?”

Patrick stays silent, of course – he never has an answer to any of Pete’s important questions. His battered black bible doesn’t hold a perfect phrase to counter Pete’s accusing undertone, and his prayers can do no more than beg a cruel God for a reply he’ll never get.

But one day, Pete swears, he’ll make him answer.

Chapter Text

Full III

The last rays of sunlight filter through the stained glass windows of Saint Sebastian’s, a cascade of colors in the dying embers of the day.

Patrick sits in the confession booth, quiet and alone. He’s been sitting here for a while now, and has listened to the sins of his herd of sheep all afternoon. Large and small sins, embarrassed or annoyed sinners, Patrick has listened to them all carefully and with great attention. He’s heard the same prayers over and over again, has granted absolution to at least a dozen people, he’s done God’s work exactly as he’s supposed to do.

Time is almost over, his parishioners have made their way back home to prepare dinner, having done their religious duties for the day. But Patrick isn’t done yet, he has to wait until the very last minute to make sure he doesn’t miss anyone. He’s sure no one else will come, no one has been here for a while and he heard the last stray sinner who prayed in silence after his confession leave a while ago. That doesn’t mean he can leave. Patrick closes his eyes, rests his fingers on the well-known beads of his rosary without really praying. Just a few more minutes…

He can hear the door of the church opening, the sound of footsteps approaching as the heavy wooden door falls shut. It doesn’t creak anymore, doesn’t get stuck like it used to sometimes, Pete has made sure of that already.

Speaking of the devil, it’s a very familiar voice that greets Patrick now, flooding the empty silence of the booth and causing Patrick to jolt forward.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” Pete’s voice is low and soft.

For a moment, anger steals through Patrick like bitter, whispered accusations. What is Pete doing here? Mocking him again? But then he realizes that Pete must have gone out of his way to find out when the official confessions take place, he put the time and effort into getting here on time despite his duties. Patrick can appreciate that, he can respect that. Maybe, it’s a first step.

“Go on,” Patrick rests his head back against the wooden wall behind him, eyes closed lightly in the stifling heat of the confessional. He should ask when Pete’s last confession was, but refrains. They both know exactly when it took place.

“I’ve been having impure thoughts,” Pete murmurs.

“I understand those are quite common these days.” Patrick can’t keep the wariness out of his voice. He already knows more than enough about having impure thoughts without Pete’s assistance. Patrick’s own mind is hard to keep under control, and Pete’s poisonous words only infect it further with all these wicked, disgusting thoughts. Pete has a real way with words, an ability to conjure up the most vivid images with careless sentences and weighted looks.

“About another man.” Pete’s voice is a low rasp and hangs as heavy in the air between them as the thick scent of sweat. He says another man as if they both don’t know who that unnamed person is. It’s like he wants to challenge Patrick, pour more salt into the wound while holding up the pretence of modesty.

“I… Oh, I see,” Patrick swallows heavily. There's a lump in his throat, lodged hard and dry, as his cock — his wicked, traitorous cock — twitches with interest between his legs. Patrick knows exactly what’s coming, he’s heard it before, and the anticipation of the dirty confession of equally dirty thoughts makes his weak flesh rejoice. His cheeks burn with shame as he bows his head and stares down at his shoes, anything to avoid catching sight of Pete’s profile through the latticework between them. “Perhaps you could-”

“I’m not finished,” Pete cuts him off roughly, voice sharp and demanding. Patrick falls silent, grips at the bench beneath him until his knuckles glow through the skin and breathes deep to calm the swirl of overpowering guilt in his chest warring with pure, wanton desire in his groin. There’s nothing he can do but listen. “He’s got these lips, you see, fucking incredible lips. You want me to tell you the things I think about those lips?”

Yes, oh yes, Patrick wants that very much, too much. And not for professional reasons, not to rationally judge the sins of his sheep and guide Pete to a better life. No, there are dark and twisted intentions behind it, nothing to do with God’s will, but with what his cock wants.

Distraction, Patrick needs distraction. Last time he tried to find refuge in prayer, in rosary beads pressed against his trembling fingers. That wasn’t enough. If prayer doesn’t help, the only other answer Patrick can think of is pain and punishment.

Patrick folds his hands into his lap, tries to focus his mind on nothing more than the rough scratch of his cassock against his skin, pressing his right thumbnail hard into the soft flesh between the two tendons in his left wrist. The pain is sharp but not enough to focus his mind. He drags his nail up and across his palm, pushes it deep into the very centre, gouges bluntly into tendon and bone and bites his lip hard to stop himself crying out at the pain. Countless lashes of an unforgiving rod have taught a younger version of Patrick – much younger, back when he was still a small boy, attending elementary school – that undignified cries and sobs are not what God’s ears want to hear.

Pete takes his silence as acquiescence — in truth Patrick can’t argue that it’s not — and continues in that same soft, dangerous tone.

“I think about kissing those lips,” Patrick wants to clamp his hands over his ears, to tell Pete to shut his fucking filthy, sinful mouth, to just stand up and leave. But he can’t, he can’t, it’s confession, he’s bound by his vows to hear it in full. These ridiculous words shouldn’t have any effect on him, Pete’s blasphemous thoughts shouldn’t hold so much power over Patrick’s mind. It’s infuriating, humiliating, it’s frightening. How is he supposed to help Pete this way? “Here’s the thing though, he thinks he’s better than me, he doesn’t think he’s a nancy like I am, oh no. He’s not a queer or a fairy or a faggot. He’s a good man-” Pete’s voice turns sarcastically pompous, “-a man of the cloth, no less. No, he’s not like me. He doesn’t think about what I might look like under my overalls.”

That’s a lie, yet Patrick lets it slip, doesn’t bother to correct him. They aren’t here to hear a priest’s confessions of sin. Instead, Patrick grinds his thumbnail into his palm harder than before, feels the skin give and tear and watches a thick glob of blood well up under his nail. It’s like communion wine, it’s like stigmata. The pain is exquisite but it’s not enough, nowhere near enough to calm the thoughts raging through him.

He hears Pete stand next to him and for a moment there’s relief. Pete’s proved his point, he’s done enough damage and now he’s leaving. No, Patrick scolds himself, disgusted by that thought. He shouldn’t be relieved that Pete might leave – he hasn’t granted Pete absolution yet, he hasn’t helped Pete so far, please, all Patrick wants is to spare Pete the eternal pain and damnation that awaits sinners like them. Desperation floods him, and Patrick considers breaking the façade of distant dignity to hold Pete back, remind him they aren’t done yet, beg him to stay.

Instead he hears the click of metal against metal, the rasp of denim against skin and the soft thump of Pete’s overalls hitting the wooden floor of the confessional.

“You could look,” Pete offers in a voice so laden with promise it’s almost physically palpable. Patrick bites off a sob, panicked, guilty tears welling behind his glasses at how much he wants to look, wants to turn his head admire the planes of Pete’s body. Oh, how much he wants to tempt Pete into sin, wants to forget that Pete is here to learn a lesson, if Patrick just turned his head a little he could –

No, that’s not what they are here for. Patrick needs to be strong, but his weak flesh is so hard, the weight of his cassock almost painful against his cock. His mind is a mess of humiliation and shame, of soft, pale hands against soft, pale skin, of a mouth that explored and tasted and brown eyes locked on his as pink lips slipped down over his cock.

Pete’s voice, loaded with scorn and sinful intention, strikes its way into Patrick’s hazy thoughts. “You ever had these kind of thoughts, Father? Don’t suppose it matters. You’re having them now, aren’t you?”

Patrick closes his eyes, tries to focus on what is important. Tries to remember that this is a sin, and that Pete is a lost soul in need of his help. Pete needs him to be strong — a moral guidance — not weak and willing to give in to temptations of flesh, delicious flesh, warm and tan from working too long in the sun, and so close to me – no. No.

Patrick can’t disappoint again. He wishes he could say a prayer, have God’s words override the sinful ones coming out of Pete’s mouth, the shameful memories in Patrick’s own mind. Fleeing into the endless repetition of those familiar words has always calmed him down. When he’s praying, there’s no space for any impure thoughts in his mind.

Alas, he can’t, he knows it’s no use. Prayers aren’t enough for sinners like Patrick, no, he needs more. Pain and punishment, nails still digging into his skin as the blood starts to dry already.

Pete needs his help. Pete needs to stop, and Patrick will make him do so.

“I am not,” he finally answers, realizing with panic that his answer is coming a little too late. “I’m not having those thoughts,” Patrick repeats, the lump in his throat — and his traitorous, hard cock still pressing against his robes — making it hard to talk smoothly. “And neither should you, son, because they’re… they’re wrong. You must ask the Lord to help guide you away from these temptations. These sinful thoughts are endangering your mortal soul, and you should try to abstain from them in the future.”

“Are they, Father?” Pete’s voice is low, with a hint of amusement. He doesn’t seem remotely concerned about the immediate dangers of hell. How can Patrick make him understand? When, when will Pete finally see that sinning will only get him hurt? “Tell me then, Father, how can I… relieve myself?”

“Pray,” Patrick answers, knowing it isn’t very eloquent. He scrambles his mind for more to say, but there’s just chaos. He can hear Pete chuckle darkly as he kneels down, naked skin against wood, and Patrick inhales sharply. The impure memories are back, of someone else on his knees, attending Patrick’s aching cock and relieving him with those impure pink lips.

“My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart,” Pete starts, the insincerity in his voice belying his redemption. “In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”

Patrick digs his fingers deeper and deeper into the palm of his hand. It’s not enough, oh God, please, it’s not enough.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us; in his name, my God, have mercy.”

Yes, mercy, please

“Amen,” Pete concludes the prayer.

The familiar word anchors Patrick back to reality, and reminds him of what to do next.

Forgiveness, absolution, everything that Patrick craves so much, too. It’s the least that he can give Pete. He clears his throat. "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

“Thank you, but I’m afraid I will come again, Father,” he hears Pete say. “I intend to sin again.”

Patrick keeps his head turned to the side. He doesn’t comment, just follows the protocol of what to say next. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

“Oh, believe me Father,” Pete whispers, “I won’t, and He isn’t.”

Patrick stays silent. He has said his part, followed the necessary script, and his mind is devoid of any answer. Instead, he can hear how Pete pulls up his overalls, can practically see it in his mind’s eye how the rough denim sides over his skin, hiding the toned legs, but still giving away enough to invoke all kinds of debauched daydreams –

Pete leaves, and Patrick is left behind, guilt and shame weighting him down heavily. His cock is still hard, aching for all the wrong things, and Patrick hates himself for being such a weak, pathetic creature.

He pulls at his collar, that nervous habit, the blood on his hand leaving scarlet stains on the formerly stark white fabric.

*

In the following days, Patrick tries his best to avoid Pete again. It’s getting a little ridiculous, not to mention annoying, but Patrick can’t see another solution. He can’t tell anyone about what happened during confessions – those are secrets entrusted to him under a holy oath, thoughts that no matter what they entail are never meant to be shared with anyone. Besides, it would mean Patrick would have to admit his own errors, how he committed the terrible crime of offering Pete his own body for sinning, let those roughened hands wrap around his cock, those soft lips press against his own without hesitation. If anyone finds out, Patrick doesn’t want to think about the consequences that a second misstep would bring with it. He’s been lucky the first time, he was granted mercy and a new start, but surely, his Eminence will not tolerate another shameful mistake.

Today, Andy is coming over, a much-welcome distraction. The organizational matters of the church – planning next week’s mass, a funeral to be held on Sunday, costs and budget for this month, would Father Stump be so kind to visit someone sick? – are hardly interesting, but Patrick is looking forward to having an excuse to flee Pete’s presence.

Apparently, Pete has other plans.

Patrick is in his room when Andy arrives, occupied with writing the sermon for Sunday mass, and Pete uses this as invitation to open the door and welcome Andy in, as if Father Hurley were his guest. Patrick only becomes aware that Andy has entered the house because he can hear the faint sound of their voices through the paper-thin walls. Irritated, he closes his notebook, and leaves his room.

Father Hurley and Pete are still standing in the hallway, exchanging amicable small talk. Pete is smiling, and for once, it’s just a simple smile without any scornful intention. It’s not that pernicious, knowing smirk he has reserved for Patrick, and Patrick can’t help but feel jealous. When was the last time he’d seen Pete smile like that, hold a conversation that wasn’t full of awkward shame or confessions of lust? He thinks back sadly on the night in Pete’s room, the sound of music and easy conversation and laughter. Oh, if only he hadn’t ruined any chance of friendship with Pete by tempting him into awful sin…

The two seem to become aware of his presence as one, and Andy gives him a friendly nod. “Father Stump! Always a pleasure to see you.”

“Oh, Patrick,” Pete says nonchalantly, always making sure to forget about manners and respect, “forgive me, I was just about to fetch you from your chamber.” The friendly smile is traded for a cocky smirk, and his perfectly polite words are belied by the underlying defiance.

“It’s okay,” Patrick says nervously as he glances at Andy. Father Hurley doesn’t seem to mind the slip up in politeness, and doesn’t seem to insist on hierarchy like Father Beckett did. “Follow me to the living room, please.”

That is Pete’s cue to leave them alone. Except, Pete pretends he hasn’t noticed, and just follows them to the kitchen as though the invitation included him. Patrick grits his teeth, but before he can make up an excuse to send Pete away, Pete speaks up. “Well, Father, would you like me to serve you and your guest some refreshments?” His words are polite, but the look in his eyes makes it clear his intentions aren’t. It’s a callback to Father Beckett’s visit, and it’s clearly intended to mock Patrick.

“Thank you, but that’s not necessary,” Patrick answers slowly.

Thankfully, unlike William, Andy doesn’t seem interested in tea or anything else, as he turns around and shakes his head as well. “Don’t bother, Pete,” he says, with a hint of surprise in his voice.

“Just asking,” Pete says sweetly, “I know the Father likes it when I’m obedient. He loves it when I lend him a helping hand.”

Patrick’s eyes widen with anger, he feels a small blush creeping up his face. “I never… I simply expect you to do the job you’re paid for. But you’re not employed as my maid.” It’s another painfully obvious silent plea for Pete to leave the kitchen, and of course, it goes ignored.

“I just want to be of service, Father! Grant you a little… Relief whenever you’re tense after all those hours of hard work.” The politeness in Pete’s attitude makes it impossible to call him out.

He isn’t saying anything improper, yet all of his words are jarring. Patrick grits his teeth, and clenches his hands into fists. He can still feel the faint pink remains of the wound on his palm, feels the pain that digging his nails into it causes. Patrick has never wanted to swing a punch more than he does right now.

It’s Andy who breaks the awkward silence. “That’s nice, Pete, but we haven’t even started yet. I’m sure we can manage without your help.” Andy sends Pete a look that Patrick can’t quite place, and suddenly, panic floods Patrick. He remembers Father William’s snide remarks, how he’d obviously picked up on something, enough to surely instigate tons of unnecessary hurtful gossip. Father Beckett is in the next town, all the way in Tupelo, but Father Hurley is Patrick’s deacon, responsible for Saint Sebastian’s, he’s not going anywhere. What if Andy notices something is amiss? What it he gets curious enough to wring the despicable truth out of Pete’s grinning mouth? What if Andy finds out?

“Really? Because I would love to give back some of the help that Father Stump has been giving me,” Pete hums, all wide eyes and fake innocence. Andy sends him a questioning look, while Patrick silently begs him to stop – to no avail. “The good father is always so concerned with my well-being. He’s helping me to take care of myself… And my immortal soul,” Pete goes on, and Patrick winces, he knows exactly what Pete is talking about, “those confessions he takes really help me to get rid of all my impure thoughts. The Father has been guiding my hands, teaching me to go on my knees, open my mouth for prayer and –“

“That’s enough, Pete,” Patrick interrupts him sharply. “Confessions are confidential.” Well, they are for Patrick, at least, but Pete doesn’t need to know the finer details, he just needs to shut up.

“I didn’t know you had an interest in religion,” Andy says, curiosity on his lips and in his eyes, and Patrick still can’t figure out why he looks at Pete with caution and surprise and a hint of distrust. Oh, please God, no, has he noticed? Has he picked up on Pete’s ridiculous innuendo? Will he too soon look at his fellow clergyman with nothing but disgust and anger, like everyone back in Chicago did?

“Father Stump knows exactly how to get my attention,” Pete replies with a grin, each word only furthering Patrick’s panic and anger. “He knows just what I need–“

“Yes, I do,” Patrick interrupts him again, voice loaded with anger. His fear of being found out, his fear that he’ll be sent away from Clark in disgrace, the torturous thought what would happen to Pete if he was marked as a sinner like Patrick, would have to endure the same pain as Patrick has, lets him forget manners and the pretence of politeness. “And right now, I think you need to leave. Father Hurley and I are working. You’re not needed. You’re free to do whatever you want.”

“Oh, there are a lot of things I want to do, Patrick. You know all about them–“

“Just go!” Patrick hisses, barely able to keep himself from screaming. He’s embarrassed and ashamed that he lost control, but the anger boiling inside of him gives him no choice. Why does Pete have to humiliate him this much in front of Father Hurley? Why does Pete need to keep pouring salt into Patrick’s wounds? Can’t he see he’s endangering them all? If their secret is found out, the church won’t be merciful again, and the townspeople of Clark won’t endure Pete’s attitude like Patrick does.

“As you wish, Father Stump,” Pete says with a nod and obvious mockery in his tone. But finally, he leaves, and Patrick takes a deep breath. He slowly unclenches his hands as he sends Andy a shaky smile. “I’m sorry, Father Hurley,” Patrick starts, desperate to keep his voice even and dignified. “Pete is just… He tries his best, but sometimes…” He makes a helpless gesture with his hand, instantly regretting it when Andy’s eyes widen upon the sight of the half-healed wound on his palm.

Patrick bites his lip, and prays silently that Andy won’t ask questions. That Andy hasn’t noticed anything. That Andy won’t hate him like everyone else always does eventually, from Father Iero’s disappointed eyes to Father Urie’s heartbreaking rage and scornful look, all because Patrick was an unnatural, immoral burden to them.

The silence weighs heavily; Patrick can see the unsaid words and questions on Andy’s lips. Eventually, Andy sighs, shakes his head slightly, and forces a polite smile. “Ah, yes, Pete can be a bit… He’s had it rough, Father. But as Jesus said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Forgive him his temper.” Andy’s still smiling, but there’s something else in his eyes now; a warning? A plea? “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone, that’s what Jesus taught us, right? And who of us is without sin?”

“No one,” Patrick answers breathlessly, and forces himself to smile back. “No one is – we’re all sinners… Now, the budget…”

Andy nods, leans over the ledger with interest and begins making notes, apparently distracted from talk about Pete. Patrick takes a deep breath; it’s all going to be fine for another day at least.

The next day, Patrick sits in his confession booth again, can feel the tension inside of him rising with every passing minute. He struggles to stay focused, afraid that each new sinner that gets into the booth next to him is the one he dreads so much. As time goes by and everyone but Pete has shown up, Patrick slowly relaxes. He doesn’t know how long he can take Pete’s mockery anymore, how long he can stand the constant snide remarks, the humiliation, the stubborn ignorance.

When the time is up, and no Pete has appeared, Patrick feels relieved followed swiftly by guilt that he feels relieved. He should be eager to show Pete the right path, but none of his methods have worked so far.

Just as he is about to exit the booth, he can hear the door open. Patrick blinks; it takes a few seconds to adjust to the colorful light outside of the booth, then he sees who has entered the church.

Of all people, it has to be Pete, of course.

Patrick’s heart skips a beat as he sees Pete approaching, a faint, mocking smirk on his face already.

“Wait, Father,” Pete says sweetly, and puts a hand on Patrick’s chest to hold him back, it sears and burns through his cassock like hellfire. “Please, you haven’t taken my confession yet – and I have a lot to confess… Don’t you want to help me, absolve me while I’m on my knees for you?”

Patrick brushes Pete’s hand away with anger. He wants to deny him, he wants Pete to beg for the forgiveness, wants to show Pete he can’t keep pushing him around like that. But the bigger part reminds him that it’s his duty to care for the people that the Lord put in his trust. He can’t deny Pete a chance to reconcile with his God. He can’t deny Pete the help he needs.

With a short nod, Patrick gestures towards the confession booth, before slipping back into his part of it. He hears Pete kneel down, the creak of wood, and the familiar voice loaded with insincerity.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” Pete starts, “it hasn’t been long since my last confession, but here I am, having to confess again…”

“And what do you have to confess, son?” Patrick asks, stern voice and a stern grip on his rosary. He won’t fall for Pete’s charade again.

“Oh Father, all these impure thoughts, they’re only getting worse!” Pete lets out a theatrical sigh, his dishonesty causing Patrick’s heart to ache. Why does he keep failing to show Pete the right path? Why does Pete keep refusing to learn his lesson?

“I’ve been thinking,” Pete continues, voice low and loaded with predatory intent. “About this man’s cock. I’ve held it in my hands already, hard and thick and beautiful, but that isn’t enough, Father. Do you want to know what I want to do with that man’s cock? Oh, you do, Father, don’t you?”

Anger floods Patrick as he bites his lip. No, he doesn’t want to know, he mustn’t want Pete to go on, tell him everything, pour more poisonous thoughts into his mind. But there’s nothing he can do, he has to listen, they both know it, and Pete revels in Patrick’s helplessness.

“I’d like to taste it,” Pete purrs, and Patrick can basically hear the grin, he knows Pete has no shame and no regrets over these impure thoughts, when will he understand? “I want to lick a stripe over the head, wanna taste salt and sweat and pre-come before I wrap my lips around it. I’m pretty good with my hands, you know that already, but I’m very good with my mouth as well. I can suck cock real good.” He doesn’t even try to be subtle anymore, and Patrick winces at these shameless obscene words carelessly thrown around on holy property. Does Pete have no respect? Isn’t he afraid of the Lord’s wrath? Hasn’t he been listening to a single word that Patrick has been saying so far?

“What do you say, Father?” Pete inquires, nothing but mockery and false concern. “Tell me, what do I need to do to absolve my sins?”

“Come here,” Patrick snarls, he can’t take this, can’t take a single moment more of this constant and unrelenting torment. He’ll teach Pete a lesson, oh yes, he’ll show that arrogant bastard just what it means to incite the wrath of the Lord. Pete is here to confess for his sins? Oh, Patrick will make him pay for every single one of them. Pete wants redemption? Ah, yes, Patrick will grant him that, will punish him and punish him until everything stops. God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap, Galatians says, and it is time that Pete receives the foul fruit of his immoral actions.

“Here?” Pete queries lightly, leering grin glowing in the gloom of the confessional.

“Get in here,” Patrick repeats, the threat of the words bitter on his tongue. He knows he’s flushed, knows he’s damp with sweat, knows his cock is hard and throbbing. Pete wants to be a sinner? Yes, yes, Patrick will let him sin all he wants. “Now!”

Pete chuckles softly as he rises to his feet, all lithe muscle and tanned skin. Patrick barely hears the muted click of the latch lifting through the deafening roar of blood pounding in his ears. He’s furious, a mess of rage and frustration as Pete slides into the booth with him, closing the door behind him and grinning, a picture of cocky arrogance and self-assured sexuality. He hasn’t closed his zipper, the heavy swell of his cock level with Patrick’s lips, close enough to taste. It’s pure mockery, it’s simple temptation, but Patrick won’t fall for it. He’s stronger than that. It’s Pete who just doesn’t want to listen. Patrick has given him every chance, he’s tried to teach him right from wrong, he’s given Pete every opportunity to avoid future mistakes. If Pete hadn’t refused to see the error of his ways, then Patrick wouldn’t have to punish him.

It needs to be done. It’s the last way to save Pete.

Punishment, yes, that’s always helped Patrick get his attention back to the Lord, and his feet back on the path of God. Patrick thinks back to when he was a child, pictures the cane in the teacher’s fist and the trails of red, the burning skin and blood they left on soft little hands. Punishment, there has to be punishment, Pete deserves it, he needs to be disciplined. Patrick remembers all the years of scolding words and desperate prayers, pain and tears and frantic begging. The white noise in his head whenever the beads of his rosary slide through his fingers, his nails digging too deep into the palm of his hands. He remembers the quiet shame and disappointed eyes of the bishop when he was sent away to this damned town, penalty for not obeying the Lord’s laws.

No, all of this won’t do for Pete. There needs to be more. He needs a special kind of lesson.

“Get on your knees,” Patrick hisses through clenched teeth, grabbing at Pete’s hips and dragging him down when he doesn’t obey immediately.

Pete drops to his knees, in exactly the position he’s supposed to be, the same position Patrick has been so many times whenever he’s begged the Lord for guidance. This time, Patrick will be the one providing guidance.

“My God, I am sorry-”

“No,” it’s Patrick’s turn to chuckle darkly as he snatches at a handful of Pete’s coarse, black hair at the nape of his neck. There’s not enough, his nails scraping uselessly against Pete’s scalp so he grasps at his jaw with both hands, fingers flexing along his throat as his thumbs dig hard into stubbled cheeks, dragging his head back so that their eyes meet. “Prayer isn’t enough for you, is it? You keep doing it you… you pervert. Keep coming in here and… and saying these… awful things to me like you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Pete is still grinning at him, still smirking like he knows a secret that he won’t share, like he’s in charge.

“No,” Patrick continues, a new wave of anger flooding him, “no wait, Pete, that’s not true, is it? You think you know exactly what you’re doing, don’t you? Well, if so…”

Patrick’s fingers dig harder into Pete’s jaw but that pesky grin is still on those - soft, smooth, kissable - lips. His mouth is pure sin, loaded with blasphemous intent and terrible temptation, always spilling unholy words. Oh, how Patrick will punish him for that. Those lips will beg to be absolved once they’ve tasted hell.

“Do it,” Patrick growls. Pete quirks an eyebrow in apparent confusion. “Go ahead. You keep saying it’s all you can think about so let’s get it out of your head. Or is it just talk? That it? You’re afraid? Do it.”

There’s the slightest hint of hesitation on Pete’s face now. He seems surprised, that cocky self-righteous seducer, where is his confidence now? Is he finally afraid of the consequences of his constant immoral suggestions? Triumph floods Patrick, and reassures him of his actions though somewhere deep and dark whispers to him - is that what he wants? Does he really want Pete to repent? To climb to his feet and walk away when he could stay on his knees between Patrick’s thighs?

No. He wants repentance and finally, finally, Pete is starting to get it.

“You tried to tempt me, but I’m gonna tempt you now.” Patrick can feel a small smile tugging at his lips, he can hear his accent slipping, the polished cadence of St Mary’s giving way to something rougher, thicker. “So, what’re you gonna do, Pete? Are you gonna keep your promise and be a sinner?”

Silence lingers between them, and for a moment, Patrick thinks Pete will back off, that he’s a coward after all, that maybe, just maybe, Pete isn’t as stupid as he thought.

Of course, that foolish thought is proven wrong when Pete stretches out his hand to reach for Patrick’s cock, outlined against the fabric of his cassock. He’s still hard, so hard, aching to feel the familiar hands back on him with nothing in between them.

The cassock is a nuisance. It’s too long and getting in the way, fabric bunching up awkwardly as Patrick shoves it up to pull his pants down, but he’s too busy with the prospect of Pete’s mouth on his dick to care much. Once the clothes are out of his way, Pete grabs his cock again, causing Patrick to let out a small hiss. Memories of the last time flash through his head. No, this time, he’s the one in control. This time, Pete is the one giving into sin. This time, Patrick will make Pete regret everything.

“Go ahead, Pete. Take what your rotten flesh wants so bad,” Patrick says in a low voice, almost surprised at how vicious he sounds. His own voice, reserved to be a voice for Jesus, to carry out the Lord’s word, usually calm and gentle, now is anything but that. It sounds weird, twisted into something ugly. It’s less hallowed halls and more rough, dark places, the bars his father used to drink in, the men that would stagger out. It’s vulgar and unrefined, stripped down by a pair of mocking amber eyes and rough hands on his hard cock.

Pete licks his lips, sinful tongue darting out a little between two pearly rows of teeth. Then, he leans forward, wood creaking beneath his knees, and licks a stripe over the head of Patrick’s cock.

Patrick gasps, and reflexively, he grabs Pete’s chin again to pull him closer, closer, closer, aching for more, oh, he won’t let Pete get away so easily. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent, the words in his bible read, and yes, Patrick will discipline.

“That all?” He groans, fingers pressed against Pete’s jaw.

He feels Pete trying to shake his head, but stops the movement by digging his fingers sharply into soft skin. His lips are pressed against Patrick’s cock now, and paired with the surprised look on Pete’s face at the rough gesture, he makes for a pretty pathetic sight.

“So weak,” Patrick hisses, as he tries to convince himself that these words are meant for Pete, not for him. No, Patrick isn’t doing anything wrong – Pete is the one who is sinning here. Patrick is merely teaching him a lesson. This is what you get for wanting to disobey the Lord. This is the rightful retribution. This is the price to pay, the penalty that Pete deserves, no, needs, if he wants a chance for salvation. “Already giving up, Pete?”

Defiance oozes from every inch of Pete’s body as his narrowed eyes glare up at Patrick. Of course, the fool isn’t going to stop. Instead, he parts his lips, and finally, takes Patrick in.

It’s everything Patrick imagined and more. Wet spit, a hot mouth, and a tongue swirling over the ridge of his cock, eliciting yet another hiss from Patrick. This is nothing like his misstep with Father Urie. There’s no tender looks exchanged, no gentle gestures given, no awkward shyness. It’s punishment, it’s penalty, it’s the dawn of regrets when Patrick impatiently drags Pete closer, forcing him to take in more of his dick. Patrick considers being even rougher, shoving his full length down Pete’s throat, just out of spite. Just to show Pete what happens if you want to sin – there’s nothing but pain and misery waiting for someone like him. It needs to hurt, or he won’t learn his lesson.

He refrains, though. Pete is already struggling a little, and the gagging noise he made wasn’t very appealing. “You can’t lead a modest life, and now you can’t even sin? You good for anything, Peter?” Patrick scoffs at him, relishing in the knowledge that Pete’s mouth is too occupied with his dick to give him any of the inappropriate answers no doubt buzzing through his brain right now.

Pete tightens the grip around his cock as he looks up to Patrick, his pretty eyes watering a little. Yes, Patrick will break him, he’ll make him cry those tears just like Patrick cried before, trembling hands clutched together for a prayer. Now, those hands are clutching into Pete’s skin, and Patrick doesn’t intend to pray. Neither does Pete, who starts to move his head, pathetic, weak, what a weakling, and Patrick can’t help but let out a moan.

This is different from Father Urie in every way, which also extends to Pete having much more experience, as far as Patrick’s misfiring brain can tell. There’s no awkward lapping at his dick, no coughing and spitting and mumbled apologies as teeth drag over sensitive skin, and now that Pete’s throat has adjusted to the cock pressing against it, there’s no more hesitation. His sinful lips meet his sinning hand on Patrick’s shaft, making for an obscene sight. It’s wrong, it’s oh so wrong, and what’s even more wrong is that Pete doesn’t realize that at all. He just keeps going, head bobbing up and down, fingers caressing Patrick’s cock, and there’s not a single bit of regret in his eyes. There’s just scorn and derision and some of that unbearable smug attitude shining through. He isn’t afraid of hell, oh, why isn’t he afraid? Why, just why wouldn’t he let Patrick save him? Why did it have to end this way?

All regrets soon vanish. Pete’s mouth is hot and slick, all suction and friction, tender flesh and a talented tongue, spit and the tightness of his throat. His hand still holds Patrick’s cock in a tight grip, and Patrick faintly registers how Pete shoves his other hand into his own pants, working his own cock. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, those are the words of the Lord, and Patrick has been told exactly how sinners like Pete will suffer. All he wants is to protect Pete from that, shield his immortal soul from immoral thoughts. Why, why hasn’t Pete learned anything? Why doesn’t he stop? Why isn’t he backing off? What else does Patrick have to do to show him this is sick, unnatural, wrong, a direct ticket to hell? Why isn’t he praying, why doesn’t he understand?!

With newfound anger, Patrick tightens his grip on Pete’s jaw. He holds him in place for a moment, then starts to guide his head to a pace matching his needs. Finally, it’s him who controls Pete’s movements, harder and faster and rougher because this is punishment, it needs to be done, it’s begging for absolution. For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives, says Hebrew. Patrick is just doing his duty, for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Penalty and fear is all Patrick knows. It’s what has been taught to him since childhood – pray harder, beg more, endure the painful lash of the rod, that’s what God wants, how else will He ever love you? That’s what a sinner like you needs to do. And now, he’s sure that this is what Pete needs – the Lord’s love, even in a twisted form.

And oh, how good Pete’s sinful tongue feels now that it’s occupied with Patrick’s cock, and how marvelous his mouth is now that it’s silent, devoid of spiteful remarks! An overwhelming wave of pleasure runs through Patrick and a groan escapes his mouth. That doesn’t go unnoticed by Pete, who sends him a challenging gaze as he moans around his dick, which drags another groan from Patrick. Too good, it’s too good, he doesn’t even have a sharp comment about Pete’s obvious prior experience with sinning anymore.

Patrick can feel the dawn of his orgasm low in his gut, the promise of pleasure oh so close. He still has a tight grip on Pete’s jawline, but doesn’t even need to guide his head much anymore. Pete obeys, for once, he knows he needs to be punished, he’s finally begging for that absolution, oh, he knows the pain of sinning now! He’ll learn his lesson, any moment, any moment now…

With a choked—back sob, Patrick comes. Pete doesn’t let go of his cock, instead, he continues to suck until Patrick’s trembling hands push his head away from sensitive flesh. There’s spit staining Pete’s lips, chin, the tip of his nose, but he’s swallowed every last bit of Patrick’s come as if it was a perverted version of the sacramental wine.

Patrick’s head is spinning, he’s trembling slightly, and he barely registers when Pete stands up and leans over him, hand braced to the wall behind Patrick’s head. There’s still so much lust in his eyes, mixed with desperation, and his pleading voice sends a shiver down Patrick’s spine when Pete reaches for his hand, and guides it to his cock. “Patrick, please, I’m – ah, fuck, just a little -!”

Without much thought, Patrick tightens his grip around Pete’s dick. It’s hard, hot and satin smooth, aching to be touched, rotten flesh craving sin. Patrick’s movements are a little clumsy, his face pressed awkwardly into Pete’s chest, senses assaulted by the scent of sweat and primal lust, but it takes no more than three strokes until Pete comes undone, moaning and panting as his come streaks over Patrick’s hand and cassock. The hot, wet slick of it runs down Patrick’s hand, which is now guided away from Pete’s dick. Before he can object, he feels Pete’s tongue licking over his palm. That blasphemous, dirty little tongue that had just been on his cock now licks over Patrick’s fingers, palm, and wrist, erasing every trace of Pete’s come and staining it with spit instead, painting sin over Patrick’s flesh.

That’s the moment reality hits Patrick full force.

By God, what has he done?

“Pete, stop – no!” Patrick yanks his hand away as panic floods him. Pete stares at him, his parted lips still glistening from salvia, marked by the sin, the atrocious crime, the horrible, unforgivable act Patrick just made him do. Tears flood Patrick’s eyes as he pushes Pete away – oh, how could he ever let Pete near him? He should’ve warned Pete, he should’ve sent Pete away from a wicked creature like him long ago, what has he done to him?

“What the hell, Patrick?” Pete snaps as he stumbles backwards. His words barely penetrate the swirling maelstrom of bitter accusation clouding Patrick’s mind.

All Patrick had wanted to do was help. He wanted Pete to lead a good life, loved by God, accepted by Jesus, protected by the Holy Spirit. A life not tainted by regrets like Patrick’s. He’d wanted to save Pete, yet all he’s actually done is doom him even further. Patrick stands up, pulls up his pants and rearranges his stained cassock with shaking hands. Pete reaches out for him as more angry words form on his lips, and Patrick jolts away from the touch, the relief of watching Pete’s hand drop back to his side not enough to calm the panic burning in his chest.

“Don’t touch me, Pete, I’m – oh God, please don’t,” Patrick mumbles as he bites back a sob. “All I do is tempt you into sin… I’ll spoil your soul even further if you touch my spoiled flesh. Please, Pete, forgive me…”

“Forgive you?” Pete asks mockingly, that doomed little booth now thick with the smell of sweat and come. “Isn’t that your part, Father? Don’t I need to beg for your absolution?”

All Patrick can do is shake his head. No, he can’t help Pete anymore, that much Patrick is sure of. He reaches for his rosary, but even the familiar feeling of the beads against his fingertips doesn’t bring any relief. “Only God can help us. I was weak, Pete, I shouldn’t have given in, I’m sorry–“

“You can shove that sorry right up your uptight ass, you prick!” Pete hisses, anger clearly overtaking him and making him forget whatever pretence of civility he’s been using with Patrick. “I don’t want to hear any more of this utter fucking bullshit. You enjoyed it, don’t fucking lie to me and play the virtuous priest again!”

“Pete, don’t you understand?!” Patrick retorts, forgetting himself and allowing his voice to be louder than necessary. “It was sin! You’re not meant to enjoy it! It’s blasphemy, it’s sickness, it’s inciting the Lord’s wrath upon you! Feeling sorry is the only emotion you should have! Regret is the only acceptable reaction! Redemption is the only thing you should ask for! Why won’t you understand?” The last words come out as a roar, and with each sentence, Patrick further tightens his grip around his rosary. “We did what you wanted, Pete, and I never should have, because now we’re both going to hell – We’re both nothing but sinners when I was the one supposed to help you, and I failed you, I failed God, I failed-!”

Patrick feels the chain of the rosary in his hand snap, and the beads fall down to the floor like a cascade of tears.

A good man would wash his hands in innocence, yet Patrick’s were licked clean by Pete’s sinful tongue, still drenched in debauchery and blasphemy. The angels must be weeping, and God’s fury manifests in the destruction of this holy item that Patrick is no longer worthy of holding in his unholy hands.

All anger vanishes from Patrick as he lets the remains of his rosary slide out of his hands. It falls to the floor, spilling more beads over the wood.

For a heartbeat of two, there’s just deafening silence. Tears are streaming down Patrick’s face, but no more words come from his trembling lips. Pete stares at him, but his expression is devoid of any former mockery or smugness, softened with lack of comprehension and something alarmingly close to pity. He leans forward, reaches out like he’ll brush his hand against Patrick’s cheek. “Patrick, I–“

“No!” Patrick interrupts him, jerking back away from his touch, “No, no more Pete, please… I can’t – I can’t risk dooming you any further. Stay away from me, please, and one day, I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me…”

With that said, Patrick goes for the door, and fumbles with the latch. He can hear Pete saying something in reply, but the words don’t make any sense anymore. There’s nothing but white noise and heavy guilt on Patrick’s mind, and he flees Saint Sebastian’s without daring to look back, afraid that like Lot’s wife, he too will turn into a pillar of salt to crumble away completely, just like his soul.

Chapter Text

There are fifty-nine beads on a rosary. Five decades, with one larger bead between each. Hail Mary on each decade and the Lord’s Prayer between them. This, Pete remembers from confirmation classes as a boy at Saint Francis Xavier back in Wilmette.

Fifty-nine beads to collect from the floor of the confessional. He's stuck at fifty-six and it's growing dark outside, he's squinting by the light of a taper candle borrowed from behind the altar for those last three fucking beads.

He shouldn't care. None of this should matter to him with the taste of Patrick's cock, Patrick’s come, still sharp on his tongue. He's got what he wants, he brought that asshole to his knees by falling to his own. He owns those moans now, those hard thrusts that forced the priest’s prick hard down his throat belong to him and no one else.

No more sacred words. No more pretending to be something better than the lowly sinner kneeling in front of him. No more accusations or instructions for absolutions.

He’s broken him. He’s shown Patrick exactly what he is, held the mirror up and let him stare himself in the face in the image of a greedy mouth wrapped around an equally greedy cock.

So, why doesn't it feel good?

He’s not sure what he expected to happen, Patrick’s hand tight around his cock as Pete shuddered out his orgasm across the priest’s palm and cassock. Maybe he imagined this whole ridiculous charade could draw to a close, that Patrick would push aside the self-aggrandizing bullshit. That the priest would finally see who and what he truly was.

If Pete’s honest, he’d harboured a secret hope that they could become lovers, their professional relationship maintained during the day and the nights their own in the rectory to fill with sweat and skin. There were blurry dreams and fantasies about them laughing it off together, the priest pushing aside his nonsensical prejudices, and everything just effortlessly falling into place.

He knows what he didn’t expect was Patrick’s tears, his recrimination, the overwhelming sense of sheer, blinding panic that had radiated from what - Pete recognises now - was a broken man.
He finds another bead, wedged down between the bench and the wall, slides it into his pocket to join the rest and continues searching.

He’d tried to call him back, though he has no idea what he intended to say to soothe him, wanted to find some way to comfort him and reassure him that everything is going to be fine. One thing he’s absolutely sure of now is Patrick has never been faking or exaggerating his devotion - the man is terrified of inciting God’s wrath and it’s… It’s not what Pete had been expecting. To him, the words had always been old-fashioned and outdated, and he had never been one to be bound by strict rules or a tight moral codex no matter who was trying to enforce those on him. He’s met some priests before, most notably old Father Francis who had his fair share of fights with Andy, and showed Pete that proper faith surely was the last thing a priest needed to get a job. Not to mention that Andy himself isn’t exactly the pinnacle of the perfect priest.

Well, but now Pete starts to understand – a little too late, he thinks with slight guilt, where does this guilt come from? – that Patrick really means what he is preaching.

It’s actually sort of touching how much he cares about Pete’s soul too. Not that Pete believes. But it’s still sweet. Pete’s not sure anyone aside from his mom has ever really given that much of a shit about him. Most people would be happy to see him burn in hell. Enough people would be happy to see him burn on a stake right here on earth.

His eye is caught by another bead, on the verge of rolling down a crack in the floor, it’s snatched up between trembling fingertips and dropped into his pocket.

The candle wax rolls down the taper, sharp pain blooming as it kisses his hand, the same hand he’d used to get himself off whilst he sucked Patrick’s cock. Patrick would no doubt take that as a ridiculous sign of punishment from his ridiculous God. For some reason he can’t quite make himself smirk at Father Stump’s devotion, not when all he can see is the haunted agony in wide, blue eyes. Patrick truly believes this, and it suddenly doesn’t look so harmless and silly anymore. Pete has no problems shrugging these thoughts off, he’s sure his immortal soul – if such a thing exists – is fine, but what if that isn’t the case for everyone? Pete may have made fun of it, but now that he stops to actually think about it, it must be horrible to be trapped in these religious worldviews.

Why the fuck does he feel guilty? He didn’t force anything, didn’t shove Patrick down onto the bench and wrestle that ridiculous fucking cassock from him, didn’t pin him there and suck down his cock whilst Patrick kicked and fought against him. No, Patrick did it all. Patrick summoned him into the booth. Patrick undressed himself. Patrick’s nails were the ones digging into his jaw and guiding his mouth up and down the heated pillar of his prick. It was all Patrick. Pete merely facilitated, provided the outlet, gave that pompous asshole exactly what his eyes have been begging for from the moment they regarded him across the church.

The guilt isn’t easing, it’s gnawing a hole directly through the centre of his chest, aching and raw. He just needs to find the last bead and leave, he still has no idea why he’s even looking, scrunched up and uncomfortable by the light of a flickering candle, when the owner of the godforsaken thing has turned tail and ran. There’s a voice, soft and tremulous, murmuring from the recesses of his subconscious that asks don’t you think you should apologise? But there’s another, louder voice that demands why the fuck should I?

Pete’s never been good with apologies. He’s never been great at backing down and admitting he was the one in the wrong because that’s always been the assumption from the start anyway. Pete is always the offender, the one whose soccer ball sailed through the neighbour’s window even if it wasn’t propelled by his foot, the one to blame when the star football player didn’t want to admit he liked cock - Pete’s cock - a whole lot more than he liked tits, the one in the centre of the bar brawls, the fights in the barracks. Always Pete expected to have an apology - and a smile - on his lips, most of them unjustified, unfair, not his fault.

But this time, he suspects, maybe it actually is.

The wax is coating his fingers now, hot and constant, the church around him now almost entirely consumed by the darkness of twilight. He hasn’t made dinner, he thinks with an absent pang, Patrick can’t cook and surely he’ll be hungry. Maybe he could make them both a grilled cheese…
The final bead catches his eye, tucked towards the back of the bench. He gathers it up with a sigh and blows out the candle, closing the church door behind him as he makes his way back to the dark silence of the rectory.

There’s no sign of Patrick in the living room or kitchen but his bedroom door is closed and a thin sliver of light shines beneath. Pete presses his ear to the wood, let’s his fingertips trail over the grain as he listens to Patrick’s hitching sobs, feels them twist his gut. He wants to open the door, his hand moves to the handle on instinct, wants to gather his strange little priest up into his arms and hold him close. He pulls his hand back with a sigh, he’s being thoroughly fucking ridiculous.

“Patrick?” he calls through the door, soft and conciliatory. There’s nothing but silence from the other side. “Patrick, I was going to make grilled cheese… You hungry?”

It’s the closest he can let himself get to saying I’m sorry. There’s a long silence from the other room, just uneven breathing and quiet choking sobs before Patrick speaks, voice low and tremulous, “No. No, thank you.”

Pete thinks about trying to persuade him but what would be the point? He should let Patrick retire to his room to find solace in the solitude if that’s what he thinks will help, he’ll realise soon enough that he can’t hide from what they did, can’t pretend it didn’t happen by refusing to look Pete in the eye. The confrontation is inevitable, and much to Pete’s dismay, it’s not going to be as easy as he had thought. There won’t be lighthearted laughs and kisses and immediate forgiveness, no Patrick inviting him with open arms, parted lips and spread legs for some dirty night-time sinning. There will be a whole lot more difficulties, and there’s a whole lot more between them that requires more effort than Pete’s sexual fantasies made it seem.

But still, he finds himself making two sandwiches, sliding one onto a plate and, carefully, opening Patrick’s door just a crack, just enough that he can push the plate inside with a soft murmur of, “Just in case you change your mind,” pulling the door closed once more before Patrick can object.

He eats his sandwich in silence on the porch, staring up at the night sky as he chews. The beads still feel solid and heavy in his pocket. He’d intended to dump them out onto Patrick’s bedroom floor for him to deal with but now… That broken voice haunts him and he wants to apologise, wants to make the gesture even if he can’t say the words. So he moves to his room and sits cross legged on his bed, the beads spread out in front of him as he painstakingly rethreads each one in the correct order onto their delicate chain. He frowns and squints as he removes the tiny snapped link, fetching the smallest pair of pliers from his tool belt and using them to open the link down, delicately hooking it to the next link before carefully pressing it closed.

Good as new, he decides, examining it closely.

It’s a tiny gesture, he realises that, fixing a stupid, glorified trinket for a ridiculous priest. But it feels like an apology and it seems like the right thing to do. Patrick obviously cares about these things, and as much as Pete wants to ridicule him for that, he can’t find it in him anymore. He glances across at the wall between their bedrooms, imagines Patrick curled up on his bed - still in his vestments no doubt - tears staining his skin and eyes red rimmed and swollen. Again, his stomach twists sharply and again he wonders why the hell he cares. But still, he’s gentle as he places the rosary down on top of his dresser with a resolution to give it back to him tomorrow.

He heads to the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth and finds he can’t quite meet his own eyes in the little mirror over the sink - just large enough to facilitate shaving, nothing more, no priest would be so vain as to devote any time to admiring his appearance. Although Pete would like to bet Father Beckett has a much grander mirror hanging in his own bathroom.

He strips out of his clothes once he’s back in his bedroom, stretches out on top of his covers and stares up at the ceiling. As he drifts into an uneasy sleep his last conscious thought it that he hopes Patrick ate the sandwich.

*

He barely sleeps, wakes frequently to stare at the wall that separates him from Patrick as though it’s to blame for whatever the fuck just happened. He didn’t mean to hurt him, he swears he didn’t, he just wanted to teach him a lesson, to bring him down a peg or two, to have him finally admit what he is. He’d thought that’s what he was getting, the booth hard under his knees and Patrick hard in his mouth. It had seemed so easy to Pete. He lies and watches the sky lighten from ink black to velvet blue, the stars receding to spend the day in hiding and he envies them their ability to disappear in plain sight.

The sharp burst of Patrick’s alarm clock makes him start. The bell is silenced but so is the priest for the longest time, not the usual progression of footsteps across the floor to the armoire to the door to the bathroom. He’s avoiding him, Pete realises, he’s scared he’s going to play his usual game of darting from his room as Patrick leaves his, colliding their bodies in the hallway just to watch the Father blush and stammer. It’s a fun game for Pete, but he realizes it’s not fun for Patrick anymore. Someone probably told him he’s going to hell for body contact with another man, or maybe his silly little bible has a paragraph about eternal damnation for enjoying that brief moment of warm skin against warm skin a little too long.

“Patrick?” He calls softly, knowing he can be heard perfectly well on the other side of the wall. Patrick pretends he can’t hear him, stays silent. “Patrick, you can use the bathroom first. I’m… I’m just gonna head to get the milk, okay?”

“Th-thank you, Peter- Pete,” Patrick sounds surprised, though humiliation and fear still thread through his voice. Jesus fucking Christ, does he really think Pete’s going to run to tell everyone the good Father got his dick sucked in the church? That Pete’s going to track down the fucking Bishop in Chicago to tell on Patrick, tell the dusty old fart that one of his priests gave in to temptation. Fuck, this is the Catholic church, they’d presumably just be grateful the priest chose to shove his cock down a throat belonging to someone that’s been through puberty.

Pete dresses quickly, the wary, waiting silence from the room next door ringing in his ears fit to deafen him. He makes a big show of stomping down the hallway in his heavy boots, opening and closing the door loudly but in a way that suggests natural noisiness, not anger. The morning air is cool on his skin and the rosary he scooped from his dresser a solid weight in his pocket as he makes his way down the narrow dirt lane to the mailbox, collecting the milk from its spot beneath and heading back up the driveway. He can hear Patrick in the bathroom when he returns, focuses entirely on making their morning oatmeal as the taps run loudly, but not quite loud enough to drown out the sound of low sobbing.

There’s a quick tap of footsteps against the hallway floorboards, hurried steps that all but break into a run for the front door until Pete calls out, the words torn from his desperate throat, “Patrick! Wait!”

Somehow he’s in the hallway, somehow he’s passed the priest and blocking the front door, somehow he’s clutching a handful of black lapel in each hand as Patrick struggles briefly against him. He stops fighting after a moment or two, his eyes wide behind his glasses and his breathing rough and ragged as he stares at Pete with naked fear painted across his features and Pete’s chest aches — Patrick’s scared, Patrick’s terrified of him. This isn’t what he wanted, it’s not what he was trying to achieve at all.

“What do you want, Pete?” Patrick sounds weary, resigned, the tremor of panic still bright in his voice as he stares at a spot somewhere over Pete’s left shoulder. “You can let go of me, by the way, I’m not going to… I won’t run or anything foolish like that.”

What does Pete want? If someone had asked him the day before he would’ve told them he wanted Father Stump stretched out on his bed, all flushed pink and pretty, cock hard and leaking just for him. But right now, Patrick’s panic so palpable Pete can practically smell it radiating from him, he’s not so sure. He gropes in his pocket as he releases his grip on Patrick’s jacket, watches the priest flinch as he, presumably, thinks Pete’s reaching for his zipper. Those ridiculous fucking games don’t seem so funny now, they just seem juvenile and kind of cruel.

He gathers the rosary from his pocket, scooping it up with the kind of gentle care he hopes Patrick approves of. He reaches for Patrick’s hand, intent only on turning it palm up so he can press the rosary there but Patrick jolts back, thumping into the wall in an effort to put distance between them and Pete feels fucking stupid, stupid, stupid, the rosary clutched uselessly in his half-extended hand. “I… Fixed this for you,” he can feel ridiculous heat in his cheeks as he holds it out like an unspoken apology. “I found all the beads, don’t worry, it’s complete. And I didn’t do anything weird with it… I… Know it means a lot to you.”

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, fuck, I’m so fucking sorry.

“Pete,” Patrick begins after a second of rasping breaths, his eyes fixed on the rosary as though he thinks it might burst into flames at any moment. “I can’t take that from you.”

Anger explodes in Pete’s chest once again, he’s trying to be nice. Trying to apologise. Trying to do all of the things Andy warned him to do after his visit to the rectory. Be kind to him, he’d warned Pete over a beer in Andy’s tiny, cluttered little kitchen, the tabletop buried under piles of posters and flyers for an upcoming Civil Rights march in Jackson, his battered copy of Salute to Spring moved aside to make way for Pete’s beer bottle. I’m worried about you, he’d declared, this temper of yours, it’s out of control, we don’t know Patrick, don’t know how far you can push him - you’re gonna get yourself fired or… I’m worried you’ll get yourself killed.

But it’s not good enough, he’s not good enough, Patrick won’t even touch the godforsaken rosary now Pete’s held it? How pathetic is he?

“Do you think I’ve put some kind of fucking voodoo curse on it?” Pete hisses, eyes narrowed and fist clenched tight. “That’s what us niggers do, right? I’m trying to be fucking nice to you, asshole, I’m trying to say-”

“No!” Patrick cuts him off desperately, a hand on Pete’s shoulder, a squeeze of his fingers against Pete’s skin and the anger dissipates, melts from him as he meets Patrick’s dull, dejected stare. “It… It snapped. It was kind of you to fix it and… Really, I appreciate it but… After what I made you do, I-”

“Made me do?” Pete repeats incredulously. “You didn’t make me do anything! I su-” he bites the words off as Patrick winces, as though the thought of Pete saying the act out loud would cause him physical pain, “I did what I did because I wanted to. Easy as that. The bishop isn’t going to find out, I won’t tell Andy, would you just relax?”

Patrick looks as though he wants to shake him, his fingers tightening into a clutch of cotton at his shoulder, his lips flattening and a scowl darkening his features, “You don’t understand,” he grits through clenched teeth, “Why don’t you understand? We’re going to hell, Pete, you and I, we’re going to burn for what we did and I should have known better, I should have kept you safe from me if nothing else. The rosary snapped because God is angry with me, with what I’ve done and what I think and what I still want to do, He… He used the bishop to give me a second chance and I messed it up again because I’m disgusting, I’m dirty and I’m rotten and I’m going to hell and you don’t understand…”

The tears are flowing fast as Pete reels with every word, as they strike him like hammer blows and the guilt that had previously nibbled lightly at his edges tears him open with shredding teeth and ravening claws. Patrick was never faking it, his devotion, his fervour, his belief is completely unshakeable and grounded in fucking Catholicism of all things, the branch of Christianity that mourns its faith rather than celebrating it.

“You…” He trails off as Patrick hiccups and sobs into his hands, his voice gentle as he continues. “You really believe, don’t you?”

“I’m a fucking priest, Pete!” Patrick snarls, his eyes widening in shock as he claps a hand over his mouth, clearly desperate to recall the curse. Pete feels his eyebrows raise - he’s never heard him swear before, when he continues his voice is low, shaking slightly. “I’m a priest. Of course I believe. Why… Why would you think I wouldn’t?”

“It’s not exactly a prerequisite of the job,” Pete mutters darkly as Patrick’s face washes with endearing confusion. There’s something stirring in Pete, some nudging thought that perhaps, just maybe, Patrick really isn’t like all of the others that used him in the past. That maybe Patrick is fighting his own battles behind closed doors and lost in prayers and begging for forgiveness for… What? For craving some contact? Wanting some warmth, some human compassion? Wanting what everyone wants, needs, even? Pete can’t deny him that and, impulsively, he steps forward and wraps his arms around Patrick, pulls him in against his chest and holds him tight as he stiffens and tenses back instinctively.

“Pete,” he gasps - a whole conversation without Peter, perhaps things are looking up - hands still stiffly at his sides. “You shouldn’t touch me. I’m… I’ll corrupt you, I’ll make you dirty.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” Pete murmurs into soft blonde hair as Patrick sags against him. “And I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry that I did that to you, I should never have… I just thought you were like the others… I thought you were laughing at me and…”

“I took a vow of celibacy,” Patrick is mumbling absently against Pete’s shoulder. “That means all sex, Pete. What we did would be bad enough anyway but… But you’re a man and…”

Pete’s chest is tight with regret for all of the things he shouldn’t have done, all of the cues he should have picked up on, each terrified glance, each flinching twitch that Patrick made to get away from him. Patrick thinks he’s an aberration, the physical manifestation of sin made flesh, his every - perfectly natural, as far as Pete’s concerned - less than wholesome thought something to castigate himself with.

“I don’t have a lot of faith, Patrick,” Pete murmurs gently. “But I know that I don’t think any decent, loving God would give much of a shit about what two consenting adults do together. He gave you those urges, Patrick, if that’s what you believe, why do you think He’d be so cruel?”

“It’s right there,” Patrick whispers, voice dangerously close to breaking off, “it’s right in the bible, Pete, it’s God’s word, how can I deny that?” He tenses up, and for a moment, Pete is afraid that Patrick will pull away, or will drag them both over to his bedroom, trembling fingers searching the well-known phrases in the bible he keeps on his nightstand. He doesn’t, which Pete takes as a good sign.

“What about forgiveness? What about a loving, caring God?” Pete stammers as he tries to recollect what little he remembers from his Bible lessons, what little he remembers from Andy’s occasional lectures. How can he argue against a priest, really? Patrick probably knows the whole damn book by heart, forwards and backwards. That doesn’t mean Pete won’t try though, he’s had enough of someone else’s words getting in between them, he’s sick and tired of old, backwards institutions controlling his and Patrick’s life. “Patrick, do you really believe that the God you serve is that merciless? Do you really believe He would hate you for longing for love? Didn’t Jesus teach the spirit of charity? So, is that what Jesus would want, hate, shame, and fear?”

That’s as much as Pete has to offer; it doesn’t sound half-bad, he’s almost proud of himself. Patrick doesn’t give a reply, but this time, Pete won’t accept that. There’s been enough silence between them, and it never made for a satisfying answer.

“You’re the priest,” Pete says softly, “answer me, Patrick. Is pain and misery what your God would want you to feel?”

“But, Father Iero… The bishop…” Patrick is sobbing again, tears burning and damp against Pete’s shirt as he pulls him fractionally closer. Patrick’s arms are still by his sides but at least he’s not rigid and tense, pulling away as though he fears Pete is the very devil himself.

“What happened to you in Chicago?” There’s anger now, glowing like embers in Pete’s chest. Who the fuck do those pompous assholes think they are to tell the poor kid he’s the fucking devil incarnate? “What… What did they tell you? Why are you here?”

Patrick presses fractionally closer for a moment, warm breath skittering across Pete’s skin like trailing fingertips. He’s close enough to kiss, if Pete just tilts that smooth chin a little under the gentle pressure of teasing fingertips, if he just cups his cheek and draws him close…

“Perhaps another time,” Patrick steps back, unwinds Pete’s arms from around him with - Pete imagines - the faintest hint of regret. Regret for allowing the contact, or for bringing it to a close he’s just not sure. “But right now, I really have to go and take mass…”

 

“No,” Pete grabs Patrick’s wrist with a grin and for once, he doesn’t load it with knowing intent and for once, when Patrick smiles back it’s not sharp with fear. It’s still hesitant, still unsure, there’s an air to him of a man awaiting the next blow to fall and Pete hates that he’s contributed to that. “Not until you’ve eaten breakfast. Come on.”

They complete their duties for the day around one another in a delicate dance. Patrick still won’t look him in the eye and Pete can understand that, can sense the shame and guilt that bubble over inside the priest every time their eyes meet. But the undertone of sharp dislike has lifted like stormclouds and Pete begins to wonder if, perhaps, they can be friends. After dinner, Patrick doesn’t rush off to his room, to lose himself in his bible or whatever it is he does in there, instead, he stands and makes an awkward, formal gesture towards the living room.

“Would you… We could…” He doesn’t know how to make the offer to just sit and talk, that much is clear. Pete saves him from further embarrassment with a slow nod, pushing back his chair and following Patrick into the room, taking the offered seat on the couch as Patrick paces nervously for a moment or two before pausing against the wall. “You can smoke. If you like.”

Pete shakes his head but accepts the measure of whisky Patrick pours from the decanter on the dresser, watches silently as the priest throws back a large measure of his own with a grimace. Aside from the sacramental wine, he doesn’t seem to be much of a drinker. The silence rings between them as loudly as the bells calling parishioners to prayer, discomfit radiating from Patrick, settling over him like his cassock as he pours another. For a moment Pete thinks he’ll toss it back but he doesn’t, takes a measured sip and a deep breath, his voice soft with uncertainty as he speaks, “You asked me earlier why I’m here. I think… I think I owe you an explanation.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Pete assures him, taking a mouthful of his drink and savouring the burn of it. It’s good. Better than anything he’s been able to afford in years. He’s pretty damn sure it’s not Patrick who bought the whiskey, it must have been a leftover from Father Francis’ days in the rectory. At least that fucker left one good thing behind.

“No, I…” Patrick trails off, lost in thought for a moment as he leans against the fireplace, sweeps a hand through his hair and pulls off his glasses with a sigh. “There was… Another man. A priest, too.”

He stops abruptly, as though the words are causing him physical pain, as though the agony of it is too much of a burden to bear.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Pete asks quietly. Patrick’s breath is a sharp burst of noise in the otherwise silent room, the pain held in that one gesture so overpowering, so utterly absolute that Pete is sure it must come close to choking him. Pete aches for him as he watches him pass a hand through his hair. “Patrick?”

“His name was Brendon,” Patrick begins softly pauses for a deep breath, continues in a low voice wracked with agony. “Well, Father Urie, I suppose. We… We were seminaries together at St Mary’s. We were always good friends, from the first day we met, he had this wonderful laugh…”
Pete nods encouragingly, even though it kind of hurts to hear Patrick talk about another man like that. There’s a faint hint of jealousy for that unknown priest, a tiny spark of insecurity as Pete recalls his own braying laugh which hasn’t exactly earned him a lot of compliments, but he pushes the feelings aside. That’s not what’s important now. He watches as Patrick closes his eyes lightly, as though he can’t bear to look anyone in the eye as he speaks.

“Once we were ordained we were placed in the same church under another priest, Frank Iero,” he continues, smiling fondly to himself. “Wonderful man. So patient with two silly young boys in his house. Brendon and I grew closer, we would spend a lot of time in one another’s quarters talking about so many things. You have to understand, we had so much in common and we were just… We were so very confused.”

Patrick’s voice begins to thicken with raw emotion and tears, his head dropping into his hands as he continues, shame colouring his words. Pete wants to touch him, wants to drag him against his chest but he resists, no good could come of that, he’s pushed him far enough for one day.

“The first time it happened I don’t think either of us really acknowledged it,” he whispers. “I… I kissed him. It wasn’t him, I did it and there was just so… So much. I touched him. He did the same to me and… I hadn’t given into a temptation so… base since I was a boy. Not with anyone else, you understand, just… Obviously, I just touched… Myself. We swore we wouldn’t sin like that again, we prayed to God for forgiveness we knew He couldn’t give, we avoided one another. I think… I think in other circumstances I would say I loved him, but I know now that was just part of the temptation, I know men can’t love one another like that. But it happened again and again and we sinned more and more until…”

“You had sex with him?” Pete prompts.

“What?” Patrick looks stricken, horrified and bright with burning shame. “No! No, we never… There was no sodomy. But we did other things. Things just as wrong, and just as sinful. I told him it had to stop, that we needed to confess and he… He told me if I confessed to Father Iero he would never forgive me. But I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t confess - God couldn’t forgive me. And how could I be a good priest if I didn’t have the blessings of the God I serve? I decided Brendon would understand, that he’d appreciate what I’d done for him and that my intentions were always good, We… We were separated immediately. The last time I saw him he was leaving the rectory. He looked at me and he… He told me he hated me. Looked me right in the eyes and told me he didn’t care if I burned in Hell for what I’d done to him.”

“What happened to him?” Pete asks quietly as Patrick, poor, miserable Patrick, glances up with a sigh that seems to shudder down to his bones.

“I don’t know,” he admits with a shrug. “No one told me and… It would’ve been inappropriate for me to ask. I assume something similar to my penance, some far flung little town somewhere, as far from me as possible which, to be honest, seems as though it would’ve pleased him immensely.”

Pete takes another drink as he watches Patrick over the rim of his glass, the image of a man with no more tears left to shed, a man with a heart so shattered repair seems almost impossible. But Pete can fix most things, that’s why he’s here after all, to gather together the broken things and make them whole once again. It wasn’t exactly part of the job description but it’s close enough.

“What did you want, Patrick?” He asks as the priest takes another gulp from his own glass, draining the whisky and pouring another. Getting hammered has never provided a decent resolution to any of Pete’s problems in the past, it’s always ended in a fight, but the worst he’ll allow to happen to Patrick is a terrible headache in the morning. “With Brendon?”

“I don’t…” Patrick frowns as he collapses onto an armchair with a gusting sigh. “I don’t think I know what you mean.”

“Let’s pretend - just for a second - that the Catholic church isn’t a bigoted piece of shit,” Pete begins, ignoring Patrick’s pained wince, drowned such as it is with another mouthful of whisky. “If you could’ve - I don’t know - if you you could’ve married that other priest, or one of the boys you used to stare at in high school-”

“How did you…?” Patrick’s head jerks up in sharp reproving question and Pete hides his smile behind his glass.

“You were a gay teenage boy, Patrick,” he points out with an eyeroll. “Don’t tell me you didn’t stare at the captain of the football team.”

“I’m… I’m not,” Patrick casts a desperate glance around the room, as though Jesus on his crucifix above the fireplace might be listening, his voice dropping to a furious whisper, “I’m not gay!”

“Homosexual, then,” Pete laughs, a teasing chuckle as Patrick colours a delicate pink, as his eyes narrow in mock-reproach. “A fairy? A faggot? Queer?”

“Alright, I get it,” he mumbles into his glass, the flush staining his cheeks glowing just a little brighter. “Dallon Weekes.”

“What?” Pete frowns in confusion. “Who?”

“The captain of the football team,” Patrick buries his face in his hands, peeping at Pete from between his fingers as he bites off a muffled laugh. He has a wonderful laugh, Pete notes with a smile, rich and melodious, a laugh Pete isn’t sure he’s heard before. “Maybe… Okay, maybe I stared a little.”

“I’ll bet you did,” Pete grins widely. “You and the cheerleaders, just lining up to watch Dallon…”

Patrick looks as though he might combust at any second, face crimson with embarrassment right to the tips of his ears but for once, Pete doesn’t feel as though his teasing is being taken too seriously. Patrick paints his face into the sternest of glares, the one he no doubt reserves for misbehaving altar boys, he even manages to hold it for a second or two before dissolving into giggles.

“Yes, well,” he sighs as he wipes the tears of mirth from the corner of his eyes several minutes later, suddenly sombre but slurring slightly as the whisky takes hold. “Unfortunately, God is rather… sure in his views. So the could have beens aren’t something I concern myself with.”

“God is an ass,” Pete mutters, ignoring the sharp look of reproach levelled at him from across the room.

“No,” Patrick murmurs, staring at the empty fireplace as though it might just have the answers. “I’m… I’m sure that’s… He isn’t.”

An easy silence lapses over them, broken only by the cicadas outside the open window and the occasional yip of foxes out in the woodland.

“I should get to bed,” Patrick rises to his feet, stumbles slightly as the alcohol rushes straight to his head but Pete is quick, darting to catch him just before he falls, pulling him upright with a small, tight smile. “I-I’m sorry… I…”

“Let’s get you to bed, Father,” Pete slings the priest’s arm over his shoulders, feels him stiffen and tense for a moment. “Alone. Don’t worry.”

Somehow he hauls the solid, mostly limp weight of Patrick to his room, pausing at the doorway as Patrick pats him gently on the chest and whispers into the darkness of the room, “Do you… hate me, Pete? For what… I deserve it… But…”

Pete doesn’t answer as he guides the drunken priest to his bed, lowers him down onto his mattress and helps him ease off his shoes. He pauses before he turns to leave, brushes a hand gently over Patrick’s hair - he can barely see him in the gloom, just the faintest tracing of his features, wide blue eyes hazy and plump, pretty lips - and murmurs with affection, “I don’t hate you, Patrick. It’s gonna be alright, I swear. Try and get some sleep and… prepare for the hangover.”

“Hangover?” Patrick mumbles, already close to sleep, a smile creasing the corners of his lips.

“Oh,” Pete chuckles, right as he pulls the door to a close. “You’ll see.”

Chapter Text

The next day, Patrick wakes up with a headache that almost causes a very inappropriate and distinctly unpriestly curse to come over his lips. The sound of the alarm clock seems twice as loud as usual, and Patrick jolts up at the first ring – he really doesn’t want to, but the thought of hearing that awful, shrill sound ever again is enough to force him upright. His mouth is dry, his eyelids feel heavy, just like the rest of his body, as he stumbles out of bed with an ungraceful lack of coordination. The first hint of sunlight filtering through the curtains feels like a sharp dagger stabbing into his skull. In the back of his mind, Pete’s words rise to the surface of his consciousness – prepare for the hangover.

Patrick lets out a groan, and decides to sit down on the bed for a minute, just until the dizziness passes.

Still, despite the dull throb in his head, there’s a warm, pleasant feeling in his chest.

He feels relieved that he and Pete had a fruitful conversation. He’s owed Pete that much at least, but fear as held him back before. The fear that Pete would go spread the word to everyone else, that Patrick would be found out and publicly shamed. The fear of what would happen to Pete if people were to find out their secret. The fear that Pete would judge him, hate him even, think he’s a disgusting hypocrite who deserves nothing but scorn. Patrick remembers the hatred and hurt in Father Urie’s eyes, and it’s not something he ever wanted to see again.

Now, Patrick knows there’s no need to be afraid of this anymore. Sure, Pete is still a little difficult to understand, a lot of what he said last night went against everything Patrick has been taught… But there’s a thin layer of trust in Pete, and the beginnings of a nagging feeling of doubt for some of his own long-held views.

From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise? Is what the bible says, and while Pete isn’t a child anymore, he seems to have retained the same sense of innocence in his beliefs. A loving, merciful God who just forgives and wants to see His creations be happy and in love? Patrick can’t deny that Pete, no matter how simple his arguments, has raised a strong point.

And was it not Saint Peter himself – oh, the irony! – who wrote “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”?

It’s right there in the bible, how can Patrick deny it?

All kinds of confusing thoughts swirl through his head as Patrick gets dressed and ready for the day. Again, Pete has indicated his absence by loudly stomping his boots and making more noise in the kitchen then necessary. It’s a little silly, but Patrick is glad that their cruel games have stopped.

There’s a friendly smile from Pete when he enters the kitchen, which Patrick eagerly reciprocates – to his surprise, without the usual pang of guilt.

“How are you feeling today, Father?” Pete’s smile widens in amusement, but with no cruelty behind it as Patrick winces slightly at the spike of pain in the base of his skull Pete’s voice sparks. He places the bowl of oatmeal on the table, careful to not make too much noise, for which Patrick is very, very thankful. The sunlight in the kitchen is awful enough.

“Uh,” Patrick starts, very intelligible, “well, I guess… God sent me a clear sign that I shouldn’t drink so much.”

Pete rolls his eyes, Patrick can basically see the objection on his lips, but he bites back his comment. Instead, he tilts his head and looks at Patrick with – nervousness? That’s new. “You… You remember what I said last night, right? You don’t have a complete blackout or something?”

Patrick isn’t quite sure what a blackout is, but if what he’s experiencing right now is just a hangover, he would rather not know what the next step on the ladder of drunkenness is. And thankfully, his memories haven’t been lost among too much liquor. “I remember,” Patrick says with a small smile. “I’m sorry for my inappropriate behavior, but… Thanks, Pete. Both for your care, and – and for what you said.”

There’s another gentle smile and a reassuring nod from Pete. Patrick is glad he stays silent, because these two semi-coherent sentences were enough mental gymnastics for now.

Patrick rubs his temples, before he starts to poke his spoon into the oatmeal. His stomach growls, but Patrick isn’t quite sure how to interpret that. Pete pours his usual generous amount of honey over his, and the mere thought of the overwhelming sickly sweetness causes Patrick to scrunch his face in disgust. He sticks with a bit of salt for his bowl, and eventually manages to force down most of his food. The rest of breakfast is mostly silent; the words have not yet formed on Patrick’s tongue, but he can feel them heavy and ready to be said soon in the back of his mind.

Patrick manages to make it through morning mass without embarrassing himself. Thankfully, he knows his routine inside and out, and while his head still hurts, his heart has some newfound faith. For the first time in forever, Patrick doesn’t silently beg God for forgiveness, but finds a wholehearted feeling of gratitude. Not the kind he had felt when the bishop had oh so mercifully spared him public shame and excommunication, but something lighthearted and relieving. For the first time ever since he set foot into Clark, Patrick feels like things might be looking up again – this time, for real.

The dull throbbing in his head is almost gone by the time mass is over. Patrick manages to dutifully smile at everyone and hold a bit of small talk as they leave church, and he even manages to successfully settle a conflict between two of his altar boys as they squabble over sharing out a stash of candy. Patrick gives his best impression of sternness as he tells them about the value of sharing and the wrongness of greed and gluttony as he tries to ignore the nauseating reaction of his upset stomach at the mere sight of the sweets. The two boys soon forget their differences, and Patrick pats them both on the shoulder and sends them off on their way. As Patrick turns around to head towards the rectory, he catches sight of Andy, face drawn into a tight frown. But Father Hurley says nothing; Patrick just silently prays Andy doesn’t judge him too harshly for being a little hypocritical here, given the way he indulged in alcohol yesterday.

The rest of the morning is spent in his room, where Patrick tries his best to come up with the sermon for Sunday’s mass, and go over a few boring organizational issues. He’s torn out of his thoughts when he hears the doorbell ring.

Patrick stands up, and leaves his room to answer the door. Pete is at work, and besides, he has a key. Patrick isn’t expecting any visitors. He’s confused, who would come over unannounced at such an early hour?

To Patrick’s surprise, it’s Andy who stands in front of the door. “Father Hurley, I –“ Patrick starts, and desperately tries to recall if he had given any instructions for Andy to come over. He can’t remember. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

“God bless you, Father Stump,” Andy starts, “I came over to ask if you’re okay? You seemed a little… Unwell today at mass.”

“Oh, just a little harmless indisposition,” Patrick says. “I feel much better now, thanks. Nothing to worry about.”

Andy nods, but he doesn’t move. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk about with you,” he says, soft-spoken and polite as always. “I’m real sorry for showing up unannounced, but it’s kinda urgent. I’m not interrupting anything, am I now, Father?”

That’s strange, Andy had been here just a few days ago, and they’ve seen each other at mass several times, just earlier today even. Patrick feels nervous, he can’t think of a single urgent matter aside from – well, aside from Pete. Fear pours into his stomach, but he can’t send Andy away. Not only is there not a single good reason to do so, it would also be impolite and even more suspicious. “Of course,” Patrick mumbles as he tries to force a polite smile on his face. “Come in, Father Hurley.”

With another nod, Andy enters, and heads for the living room, followed by his host.

He can’t run from Andy, the confrontation is inevitable, but now that it’s about to happen Patrick feels very helpless. It doesn’t help that Pete isn’t here, he’s still out working, and won’t be back for a while. His absence seems very convenient, and Andy’s visit seems more and more calculated.

Is that a sign from God? Should Patrick have refused the rosary that Pete fixed for him, should he have shoved Pete aside and never let any of their conversation happen? Is his fellow clergyman here on a mission to make Patrick repent, remind him that he mustn’t go against God’s word?

It would only be appropriate, but deep down, Patrick feels a certain resistance that was never there before. What he did with Pete yesterday doesn’t feel wrong, no matter how much a part of him screams that it’s the fresh start for all-new kinds of sin.

Patrick tugs at his collar, and tries to calm himself down. He will hear Andy out first before making any judgements. They both take a seat, and Andy politely refuses the offer of tea, whiskey or anything else.

“So,” Patrick says nervously as he forces himself to look into Father Hurley’s eyes. Don’t raise any more suspicions. Act normal. “What pressing matter brought you here, Father?”

Andy leans forward. “I’m here to talk about Pete.”

Well, at least Andy isn’t losing any time with polite chit-chat or condescending remarks like Father Beckett did. That doesn’t mean the nervous feeling in Patrick’s chest lessens to any extent.

Patrick lets out a chuckle that comes out more like a nervous cough than anything else. “You’re here to talk about Peter? What is there to discuss? He’s doing his job, quite excellent if an amateur like me may say so –“

“His performance as a handyman is the least of my concerns,” Andy interrupts him. It comes as a surprise, Patrick has never seen him be anything but respectful and polite. Right now, though, there’s a certain strain in Andy’s voice, a promise of quiet anger and determination, the same one that’s there in his tense posture and the grim look he sends Patrick’s way. Patrick nervously tugs at his collar again, and stays silent, waiting for Andy to continue.

“It’s – it’s his behavior I feel the need to address.” A moment of uncomfortable silence passes, filled with panic-inducing thoughts from Patrick: Has Andy noticed anything? Does Andy know about his missteps with Pete? Will Andy hate him? –

“There’s – there’s nothing worth discussing,” Patrick stammers, heart pounding in his chest, nervousness manifesting in a slight blush, furrowed brows, hands clenched into fists. “Pete is… He can be a little… You know. But we’re managing.”

Andy seems to ponder that thought as another awkward silence lingers between them.

“Pete… Has had a rough time in Clark. People aren’t exactly very welcoming to anyone who doesn’t conform to their narrow standards.” A tight-lipped smile on Andy’s face sparks the thought in Patrick that maybe Andy doesn’t quite fit in here either. He’s white, sure, just like Patrick, but Patrick isn’t here because he’s normal either. There’s a story behind the statement that Patrick wants to hear one day. But for now, the focus is on Pete.

“I noticed,” Patrick replies, holding back just how long it had taken him to realize Pete’s struggles.

“It’s made Pete a little… Angry sometimes, lashing out at everyone even if it might cause him trouble.” Yes, Patrick can imagine that if Pete shows even a fraction of the scornful attitude he had shown Patrick, that there was quite a lot of conflict instigated by his temper. He remembers the condescending looks and words from Father Beckett, someone who should have shown compassion and kindness. If a fellow priest treats Pete like that, what do the regular townsfolk do to him?

“And I’m afraid he may have given you a hard time too.” Andy sends Patrick a cautious look as he waits for an answer. There’s no doubt that he’s picked up on something last time, no doubt he’s noticed the hostility in their interactions. “I just wanted to make sure you understand, Father Stump… Pete isn’t malicious. He just – the world hasn’t been kind to him, and in order to cope with that, he’s developed some defense mechanisms that don’t always reflect well on him. But as the bible says, Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

“There’s honestly nothing to forgive,” Patrick replies with a small smile. “Pete and I have been talking a lot lately. And whatever differences there may have been in the past have been settled. Or at least – we’re working on that.” Patrick pauses for a moment, glancing at Andy to assess if there’s any sign that Andy is taking this the wrong way. But Andy just nods, silently waiting for Patrick to continue.

“Pete can be a little difficult, but I didn’t always make things easy for him either.” Patrick sighs as he remembers some of his failed attempts of interacting with Pete – the forced confessions, the stubbornness with which he insisted on parading his beliefs in front of Pete, but never really trying to explain any of them, or pausing to rethink his methods and values. Well, that definitely hadn’t worked in their favor.

“Pete is my friend, and I want to see him happy, no matter what it takes. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s what John says, you remember, Father Stump, don’t you?” Andy’s words are carefully selected, and Patrick can’t help but wonder if he’s the first one to have this conversation with Andy, and a heavy feeling settles in his chest when he realizes that there may have been countless times in which the deacon’s words fell onto deaf ears.

“Of course.” Patrick nods. The determined look on Andy’s face makes it clear that he really means those words, that he really would go to great lengths to protect his friend. It’s heartwarming and reassuring that amidst all of the questionable people inhabiting this town, Pete has one friend he can count on.

Two friends, Patrick corrects himself. Now, he has two.

There’s an unspoken promise in Andy’s eyes, that he wouldn’t forgive Patrick for hurting Pete, that he won’t stand for the values so many people in Clark seem to hold up – ignorance, prejudice, hate and everything else that goes against the Christian values of love thy neighbor. Andy embodies something different than the other clergymen Patrick has met in his life – there’s acceptance and forgiveness, there’s a certain tenderness yet stern determination, a strong will with a gentle smile, and an unconditional love for everyone, no matter how heavy their sins weigh. There’s an understanding of the world that’s different from what Patrick has been taught – there isn’t judgement or hate, there isn’t shame or scorn. And despite how different that may be, Patrick finds himself starting to believe that Andy might have a better understanding of God than he ever had.

“I’m glad to hear that you’re actually taking the time to hear him out.” Andy lets out a small sigh as well, and his wary tone only further strengthens Patrick’s theory that there aren’t many people who are willing to listen to Pete.

Patrick is ashamed that he hadn’t done so earlier, that it all had to escalate and come crashing down before they came to their senses. But he’s determined not to repeat those mistakes of the past again. He came to Clark for a fresh start, and while it may have been a difficult one at first, there’s still a chance to begin a better life. Maybe one where he can be friends with Pete, maybe one where his existence isn’t a stain and a shameful burden.

“Well, Father, since you’re this willing to hear Pete out, go ask for his side of the story. It might give you a better understanding of who he is. Don’t let the town’s gossip distract you. And whatever Pete decides to tell you about, I hope you accept him as he is.”

“Pete accepts me the way I am,” Patrick says simply. “I don’t see any reason not to show him the same kind of compassion.”

For the first time, Andy’s smile is friendly and relaxed, and the tension in his posture vanishes. “Very good, Father. You can’t imagine how relieved I am to hear that. Forgive me my doubts, but I didn’t always have the best experiences with fellow members of the church. But that’s for another time, I’ve already held you up enough.”

Although Patrick can’t deny he’s curious to hear Andy’s story, he decides not to press the matter. One day, he hopes, he will manage to win Andy’s full trust, too.

*

The rest of the day goes by without any special occurrences. Patrick doesn’t see much of Pete, who only comes home to prepare a quick meal. He enquiries playfully about Patrick’s well-being between two hasty bites, and judging from his broad smile, Pete seems happy that Patrick is doing better. It’s nice, to just have a friendly conversation, where the teasing is simply a harmless, playful first sign of the possibility of friendship, and where each word isn’t a well-placed sharp dagger meant to hurt the other, but instead full of underlying affection and care. After Pete has cleaned the table, he’s out of the door again, determined to make use of the last bit of daylight.

It’s not before evening that Pete returns, sweaty and still panting a little, looking disheveled and undone in the best kind of way. If God hadn’t want Patrick to look, then why did he make Pete so beautiful? If Patrick’s heart wasn’t meant to flutter, then why had He given Pete such a warm smile and silly but endearing laugh?

Dinner passes mostly in silence. Pete looks exhausted, and Patrick is too busy working up the courage to ask Pete for yet another round of intimate questions. Sure, Andy advised it, but that doesn’t mean Pete is fine with it.

Patrick lets out a little sigh, then straightens his shoulders. “Pete, would you… Would you mind if we… Had another talk?” He gestures vaguely towards the living room as he speaks. Pete seems surprised, but nods his head. “Sure. Why not?”

This time, Patrick decides to skip the alcohol, and Pete declines the offer as well. Patrick sits down on the sofa, gesturing Pete to join him there. After everything that has happened, everything they’ve already revealed to each other, keeping a formal distance is kind of redundant. Pete takes a seat on the other end of the sofa, and sends Patrick a cautious look. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Father Hurley stopped by today, and… He suggested we have a talk.”

“Andy was here?” Pete repeats surprised. “And what did he suggest we talk about?”

Patrick tugs at his collar, that nervous habit he can’t quite seem to shake off, as he searches for the right words. “Well, about you, Pete.”

Pete doesn’t say anything, just keeps looking at Patrick with a mixture of curiosity, surprise, and something like… fear? Patrick realizes that this must mean something bad for Pete.

“I’ve told you something about me, and my past,” Patrick starts nervously, “but… What about you, Pete? How did you end up here in Clark?” Patrick thinks back to the store clerk’s frown, to Father Beckett’s condescending comments, to all the other things he hasn’t witnessed, but seen manifested in Andy’s underlying anger. “And why… Why didn’t you ever leave?”

There’s a long stretch of silence, the questions hanging heavily between them. Eventually, Pete lets out a long-drawn breath and runs his hand through his short hair, before he leans forward.

“So, you know I’m from Chicago, right? Born and raised there, just like you.” Patrick nods, and Pete continues: “The decision to leave Chicago… Wasn’t really mine. Well, it was, at first – when war came around, I signed up for the army right away.” He lets out a short, joyless laugh. “Young impressionable me had big dreams, you know? I was going to help. I was going to make a difference. I was going to support our country – my country, or so I thought.”

“Of course, it wasn’t anything like those war ads made it seem like. War isn’t pretty, Patrick. I’ve… I’ve seen some ugly things, despite being a mechanic first, not a frontline soldier. But I saw blood and gore and death, I saw pointless destruction and needles suffering… I saw things that would make you question your faith in both God and humanity, believe me.”

Patrick stays quiet, decides to just listen. Now is not the time for deeper discussions on morals, ethics, and free will.

“While I served my time in the army, my dad suffered a fatal heart attack. I was on another continent when news reached me so of course, by the time I came back home when the war was done, they’d already buried him. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye, just a couple lines in a telegram.” Pete looks down to his hands in his lap, heavy sadness tainting his voice. “I had plans for what to do after my return. I made good friends with a fellow soldier in the army, a fella by the name of Joe Trohman. We always said if we made it out alive, we wanted to try our luck in New York. But when I came home, my mom was alone with my two younger siblings, with no money and no support. They needed me, Patrick. I couldn’t just leave.” Pete lets out a sigh, before he continues: “My mom has family here in Clark, and we needed all the support we could get. So, we moved. I found work in the military factory here but… That didn’t last long. Just like every other job. You may have noticed that Clark isn’t exactly open to people who aren’t white.”

Patrick nods again, an absent pang of guilt flashing through his mind. He has noticed, but it had taken him a shameful amount of time.

“It’s funny, really – when I hide my hair, I can often pass for white. That’s how I got by for a while, but of course, once they found out who my mom is, and how my hair looks under my cap, well. You can imagine they didn’t like that a half-breed had been hiding among them.” There’s venom in Pete’s voice that makes Patrick flinch. He’s had his fair share of people pointing at him, whispering about the dirty Irish immigrant from a poor family, accusing him of being dumb and lazy, of stealing the place at college from someone worthier of it. But that’s nothing compared to what Pete must have gone through. “I’m not ashamed though,” he insists with a vicious kind of vehemence burning in his eyes, “don’t ever think I tried to hide her or my family. I love my mom, love all of them. I just… If they made assumptions, I didn’t correct them, you know?”

Patrick nods quickly; he’d never have assumed such a thing at all. Who could blame Pete for wanting to make life a little easier on himself?

“But I can’t just leave,” Pete says quietly. “My family needs me. And it’s not like I have any money to spare for building a new life someplace else.”

The way Pete says that, all quiet desperation and resignation, hurts. Patrick never had to worry much, while he doesn’t lead a life of luxury, he knew the church would always provide him with food, shelter, and a welcoming community. Well, the last part might have been proven wrong, but ever since Patrick had entered college, he never had to worry about money. “I’m sorry,” Patrick mumbles as he tugs his collar. “I wish I could pay you more.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry. Can’t deny that having my own room for once is a very nice experience.” Pete lets out a soft chuckle, and a small grin forms on his pretty lips. “Plus, the job came with a very cute guy living with me as a bonus.” It’s the first time in a while that Patrick has heard him say anything that blatantly close to flirting, and for a moment, Pete seems unsure whether his remark is appropriate or not. That is until Patrick burst into a laugh, soon joined by Pete. It feels good, laughing together.

“Tell me, Pete, do these terrible lines ever work on someone?” Patrick asks with the last hint of laughter in his voice.

“Yeah, sure, they work all the time! Why would you doubt me, Patrick?” Pete says with a fake pout. “Also, I just can’t resist giving such a cute guy a well-deserved compliment.”

“Vanity is a sin,” Patrick remarks in the sternest voice he can muster, before he breaks into another giggle. Vanity might be a sin, but well, wouldn’t it be impolite to refuse the compliment?

“I think we’re a little past that,” Pete says after a while, now with a thoughtful look. “Tell me, Patrick, do you still believe everything we did is just sin?” Pete raises his eyebrows. Patrick tries not to shiver at how much he loves the sound of his name rolling from those lips. “That vow of celibacy, is that anywhere in your neat little bible?”

“It’s –“ Patrick stutters as he combs his mind for a well-thought out quote. There’s nothing, “well, technically, no, it’s not.”

“Other branches of Christianity seem to do quite well despite their clergymen being married, and fulfilling their marital duties in bed,” Pete says nonchalantly, all while Patrick blushes. “Reverend James up at the gospel church is married - three gorgeous daughters and don’t think my mom hasn’t pointed them out to me more than once. Won’t he use the same bible as you? Doesn’t he believe in the same God? Why should fallible humans dictate how you worship your God, Patrick?”

Patrick stares blankly at him. He’s never thought about it much – the vow of celibacy that came with priesthood had just been a convenient excuse for why he never expressed any interest in getting married to a nice girl back home. It was a shield to hide behind, to cover himself and his presumably sinful urges from the eyes of the public. Pete’s right, it’s not something that the bible demands from him, it’s not even a rule that’s been implemented from the very beginning.

As Patrick chews on his lower lip, other questions cross his mind. “Pete, tell me, how… How come you just – are there other men who, well, just give in to their…” Deep breath, he can say it, “Homosexual urges?”

“I wouldn’t call it that,” Pete says with a sneer, before he sighs. “Look, Patrick, from my experience, there are quite a few of us homosexuals, all over the world. And not all of us have such a problem with who we are, and who we love.” Pete raises an eyebrow as he sends Patrick a curious glance, as if he expects Patrick to protest, to deny that he’s part of the us homosexuals as Pete just phrased it. It’s tempting to deny, but this time, Patrick doesn’t. It would only be a lie, and Patrick is done with lies. The consequences might be scary, it’s unknown territory, and Patrick isn’t sure what the future - what God - holds for him if he accepts the truth he’s always tried to reject. But maybe, it’s not going to be as bad as he’s always been taught.

“Of course, I could never be open about it,” Pete continues with a frown, “because while some people tolerate it, they don’t accept it. The army sure didn’t, no matter if my officers in command liked to suck my dick or if a fellow sergeant liked to share a bed with me in less than brotherly ways. And everyone else…” Pete just sighs, and waves his hand. “Well. I guess I don’t need to tell you that being a faggot isn’t exactly socially acceptable. You know all the other nice words they have for us, don’t you?”

Patrick just nods. He knows the words all too well, even if he’s avoided being branded with them publicly for most of his life.

“Where is all of this going, Patrick?” Pete looks serious, and his voice sounds a little wary. He slides closer, and places his hand on Patrick’s knee. “Look, I respect whatever decision you make. I’m fine with just being your friend. Whatever you want, just… Be open about it. I’m tired of secrets, and I don’t want to fall back into our stupid games.”

Silence settles between them, and Patrick looks away.

What does he want from Pete? It’s more than just the primitive lust that pulls him towards Pete. There’s more that Patrick desires, things he hadn’t dared to allow himself to admit. Friendship, tenderness, love – affectionate gestures, soft kisses, shared stories told in a shared bed, making Pete smile and laugh and feel accepted. Is it wrong that he wants to make Pete happy? Is it wrong that he longs for love?

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love, that’s what John says.

Maybe, God never answered the heavy-hearted questions in his prayers because the answer was there all along, and Patrick just refused to see it. Maybe God never granted him relief or absolution, because neither was needed. Maybe God never stopped his hand, never crushed him or unleashed the flames of hell because what Patrick was doing wasn’t wrong.

Patrick believes in a God that is good, he really does, he hadn’t lied to Pete when he defended his faith. And if his God is good and merciful, why would he discourage his creations to love each other just like the Lord loves each of them? It might have been fate that he and Pete met, a true second chance the Lord granted him, an opportunity to see the real errors in his way. A sign that Patrick is supposed to spread love, like Jesus wanted him to, instead of hiding behind fear and old institutions.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, it’s right there in his bible, Patrick can’t deny these words. He won’t be blind anymore, he won’t accept the punishment that had always been pushed upon him, and he won’t accept the fear he has felt for so long anymore.

John advises that Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth, and Patrick is eager to follow these words. They have exchanged their truth, now, it’s time to let his words be followed by actions.

Pete’s hand is still on his knee, feeling warm and rough when Patrick covers it with his own palms, before lacing their fingers together. Pete’s eyes widen in surprise, but he doesn’t back away, he isn’t burned by the touch, no heavenly choir of angels descends down to punish them. It feels right, so right, so, Patrick leans forward until there’s nothing in between them anymore.

Lips connect for a slightly awkward kiss – it takes Pete a moment to react, but then, he kisses back.

Patrick waits for the guilt to hit, for shame to overcome him. He waits for the Lord to furiously speak up in his mind, promising eternal damnation.

God stays silent though.

Finally, Patrick pulls away, laughing nervously. “Ah, Pete, I – sorry, should I have asked before? I just – I didn’t mean to upset you, just…”

“You’re so sweet,” Pete laughs, and shakes his head. Patrick frowns, unsure of whether the word sweet is flattering for a fully-grown man, unsure of what to say back – he hasn’t ever openly paid someone such compliments, not even Father Urie, and Brendon was missing the right words as well. Pete doesn’t give him much time to overthink this, as he leans his forehead against Patrick’s, an amused undertone in his voice. “May I continue to kiss you now, Patrick? Believe me, I’d like that a lot. Unless you want that in writing first?”

Patrick mumbles a “not funny, Pete” under his breath, before he leans in for another kiss. Pete’s lips feel wonderful pressed against his own, warm and inviting, when was the last time he kissed someone like this? Sure, there were kisses during that dreadful day in Pete’s room where everything had started to go wrong, but those were hasty and impatient. This is slow and sensual, without the urgency behind it. It resembles more the kisses he had shared with Brendon once, but this time, with Pete, it feels so much better. There isn’t guilt or shame, there isn’t quiet resentment and the underlying disappointing knowledge that neither of them can really treasure the moment. There isn’t fear that Pete will pull away in disgust, that Father Iero might come in any second and interrupt them, that Satan will come to collect their souls any second now.

What Patrick feels instead is – it’s overwhelming, to say the least, all the feelings he had previously tried to suppress now flooding back. Joy and happiness and relief, longing and lust and want, the distant surprise at his own boldness, the last hint of doubt, everything blurs together.

Pete winds his fingers into Patrick’s hair, the velvet press of his tongue against Patrick’s a revelation, the hard angles of his body crushed up close a delight that Patrick’s never dared to dwell upon too much. He tastes faintly of cigarettes - though Patrick knows he only smokes a single roll-up at night, leaning up against the porch as he watches the stars - of heady masculinity and visceral want. He’s panting hard, doesn’t know how to express what he wants, if he wants, what to do, where to move, what Pete wants...

When Pete breaks the kiss, Patrick is a little disappointed, and a tiny bit anxious. He doesn’t really know what to do next, or if Pete even expects him to do anything further. Patrick sends him a questioning look, unsure of what to do.

“As much as I want to go on and believe me, I really do,” Pete begins with a gentle smile, fingers still laced with Patrick’s, “I think – I think we should take our time. Rushing into things… Hasn’t exactly worked out for us, has it? I know I want to take this further, but do you, Patrick?”

“I…” Patrick hesitates. Thinking about it - wishing for it - is easy. Wanting to forget almost three decades of wrongful beliefs about everything he is is one thing, but actively going against it is still an entirely different ordeal altogether. He searches for an answer, desperately, he doesn’t want to be a coward in front of Pete anymore.

Luckily, a small laugh from Pete breaks the silence between them as he cups Patrick’s chin in his hand for one last, almost chaste kiss, before he leans back. “It’s fine, Patrick,” Pete says, “ I’ll wait. I want to wait. I’m not going anywhere, obviously. This time, I… I want to do this right, okay?”

“Okay,” Patrick mumbles, slightly embarrassed. He’s torn between the burning need to drag Pete in for another kiss, to do all the forbidden things he had only dared to dream of and complying with Pete’s much more sensible suggestion. He feels a little like a kid let loose in a candy store; all these previously forbidden things now within his reach, all so close, all so tempting – Pete’s eyes, his lips, his hands, his body, the potential of friendship and love and everything together is just so, so overwhelming. Yes, Pete is probably right, it’s best if he sorts out his feelings first before everything ends in yet another disaster.

With a heavy sigh, Patrick stands up, absent-mindedly brushing his hands over his pants. If it weren’t for his nervousness and distress, he’d probably have his dick pressing against them in a very immodest and obvious way. He silently thanks the Lord he’s been spared at least that embarrassment.

Pete stands up as well, then adds: “And whatever you end up deciding – I won’t tell anyone anything, okay? Sure as hell won’t let these assholes from the church hurt you again.”

“Please don’t tell Andy either,” Patrick says quietly. “I mean, just not the – not the part about me being… You know.”

“You don’t need to worry. Andy’s a cool guy, but I won’t tell him, I swear,” Pete shrugs and Patrick gusts a sigh in relief. “I mean… Obviously, he’s cool because otherwise, he wouldn’t be my only friend in this damn town. ”

Patrick firmly shakes his head. “Andy isn’t your only friend in town anymore.”

A surprised smile curls Pete’s lips. He sends Patrick a grin and a wink. “Hey, wait, before you go… I just wanted to say – Thank you, for being not as bad as I thought.”

“I’m sorry it took me so long,” Patrick mumbles, but Pete only shakes his head.

“None of us are perfect. I’m sure Jesus said so somewhere, right?”

“Kind of,” Patrick answers with a chuckle. “And thank you too, Pete, for, you know. Accepting me despite my flaws.”

“Always,” Pete says with a grin. “I quite like some of those supposed flaws of yours.”

Patrick can’t suppress a smile, and can’t deny the warm feeling blooming in his chest. There’s so much else he wants to say, so many missed words he needs to make up for, all the words and gestures and emotions Patrick had to hold back until now. He promises himself that he will say and do all of it to Pete, no more lies, and no more hiding, no matter how much time or courage it takes.

They leave the living room together, though this time, a sober Patrick manages to get to his room without the need of any assistance. He pauses in front of his door, before he turns around.

“Goodnight then, Pete,” Patrick says, still smiling.

“Sweet dreams, Patrick,” Pete answers with chuckle, before he disappears into his room.

Tomorrow will be a new day, one that Patrick looks forward to. God doesn’t loom over him ready to punish his sheep, Patrick’s faith doesn’t seem like an oppressive omnipresent guilt that’s choking him. There’s hopes and dreams and the promise of friendship, of love, of a better life.

With a smile, Patrick reaches for the bible on his nightstand, skilled fingers trailing over the pages until he finds the quote he’s looking for. He carefully re-reads the words as though he’s seeing them for the first time, and they are the last thing he sees dancing behind closed eyelids when he finally falls asleep, palm pressed flush to the wall, the only thing that separates him from Pete.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Chapter Text

It’s been three days since Patrick kissed him in the living room.

Three days where they’ve laughed and smiled together, sprawled on the couch after dinner to listen to music and talk. Pete likes the times Patrick’s hand sneaks into his, their fingers laced across the stretch of dralon couch cushion, loves the way the priest will touch his collar with a soft frown before squeezing fractionally tighter. Sometimes, Patrick will shift close on the couch and it seems the most natural thing in the world to slide his arm along the breadth of his shoulders, to pull him imperceptibly closer and breathe in the tang of his shaving soap as it mingles with the scent of his hair.

But nothing has gone any further. He’s seen the want in Patrick’s eyes, felt the twitch of hands that long to touch against his own, watched eyes as tempestuous as storm waves flicker to forbidden places as the tip of a soft, pink tongue has flashed over the petal plush of his lips. Patrick wants him, he’s sure of that, but he needs to make some sort of peace with those nagging voices before things can go any further. Pete won’t have a repeat of the confession, he swears he won’t. Next time Patrick’s comes to him, it’s going to be with a smile.

Unfortunately, all of this physical contact is having something of an effect on Pete, hard and aching in his bed each night as he tosses and turns. He won’t give in to touching himself, not yet, he can sense that Patrick’s standing at the edge and can only imagine how much more blissful everything will feel if he’s got that desperate edge of passion glowing bright in his belly. But it’s hard - pun absolutely intended - to resist sliding a hand around himself in the darkness, to stop himself when he’s in the bathroom alone.

He’s spent the day finalising the repairs to the roof and he's slick with sweat and gritty with dust, his very bones aching from the physical strain of it. “I’ve run you a bath,” Patrick proclaims gleefully, ushering him straight to the bathroom as he steps through the door. “I went to the store earlier and got you some bath salts,” Pete appreciates the sentiment so bites off the comment that he isn’t Patrick’s eighty year old grandma, “And I’m taking care of dinner. You’ve worked so hard today, just… Relax, okay?”

He strips down and steps in with a yelp, lowering himself cautiously into water so hot he immediately turns a lovely shade of lobster red - how hot does Patrick take his baths? Is he made of asbestos? - with a half-hard cock just beneath the pine-tree scented water. It is soothing the aches though, he can’t deny that. Well, some of them at least.

He dries and dresses, follows the sound of clattering to find Patrick - thoroughly mystified - staring at the pan on the stove, resplendent with two raw eggs at the centre that look for all the world as though they’re staring right back at him with morose accusation.

“It’s… It doesn’t seem to be working,” Patrick frowns thoughtfully, prodding at the edge of an egg with the spatula. “They’ve been in there for ten minutes…”

“Patrick,” Pete begins softly, resting a hand against his shoulder. “Did you light the stove?”

“Did I… Light…” Patrick trails off, blinking at Pete from behind his glasses. “It doesn’t just…?”

“Know when you’ve put a pan down?” Pete can feel the smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “No, Patrick. It does not.”

“I… Ah…” He’s turning rather pink, a delightful flush that creeps up from under his collar, that stains his cheeks and the tips of his ears with a blush of endearing embarrassment. “I didn’t realise… So the stove is still…?”

Pete lifts the pan and rests his hand against it with a grin, “Icy cold, my friend.”

Patrick stammers apologies in that way that Pete’s growing to find endearing rather than irritating, the temptation to press a kiss to his brow too much to resist although it makes him blush brighter, makes him stutter a little more. Pete thinks he could be forgiven for the thought that wanders unbidden into his mind, the thought of pushing Patrick back against the wall, of claiming those stammering lips in a kiss, dropping to his knees and working open Patrick’s belt buckle… He’s being driven to distraction by lust and desire.

They eat their dinner and he wonders if there’s something purposeful about the way Patrick’s leg bumps up against his under the table or if it’s entirely innocent. Patrick catches his hand across the table, rubs the soft pad of his thumb across the callouses of Pete’s skin like he’s memorising them, drinking in each one and carefully committing it to memory. For a moment, he thinks Patrick might lean across, might close the distance between their lips and brush their mouths together in a kiss. Pete will deepen it, he decides, he’ll sink his fingers into soft blonde hair and pull those soft lips closer. He’ll press him back over the table and push the hard throb of his cock up tight against Patrick’s, he’ll demand an answer in the form of hands on his skin and a mouth between his legs and-

“I got you something,” Patrick interrupts his thoughts with an apprehensive smile, pushing back his chair and disappearing into the living room. “I know it’s not much but… I wanted to say thank you, for everything you’ve done around the place and fixing my rosary and… Well. Everything, really.”

He holds out a paper bag all shy hope shining in blue eyes, lip bitten softly as he watches, eager with hungry anticipation for Pete’s reaction. Pete takes the bag cautiously - no one’s bought him a gift since he was a kid - he can tell it’s a record from the size and the shape, lifts it from the bag and feels a wide grin splitting his face. It’s the G.I.Jive, one he remembers from every dance on the military base in England before they were shipped out to the battlefields of France. Patrick shuffles nervously as Pete smiles down at the record in silence, “If you don’t like it I can take it back, I just thought…”

“I love it,” Pete interrupts softly. A naughty little thought crosses his mind as he inclines his head towards his room. “Want to come listen to it with me?”

He’s a wicked man. He could just as easily take his turntable into the living room or right out into the kitchen, there’s no reason to invite the priest into his room. But things can happen in bedrooms that just don’t seem appropriate anywhere else and - if Patrick isn’t ready - Pete wouldn’t be opposed to stretching out on the bed with him and just holding him close, listening to the rhythm of his breathing and feeling the warmth radiating from him. But Patrick isn’t as dirty as Pete, doesn’t hesitate as his lips curve and his eyes twinkle and he follows, eager nods and hurried feet, into the solitude of Pete’s bedroom.

With the record playing, Pete can’t help but sway along to the music. He loves to dance. He isn’t great at it but there’s something about casting off inhibitions to move with another body. Patrick takes a seat on the bed and watches, all smiles and pride radiating from him that he did well; he chose a decent gift.

“Dance with me?” Pete asks, extended hand like an invitation. Panic masks Patrick’s face as he shakes his head frantically. Has he ever danced? Do they do that at strict Catholic schools? He’s sure there won’t have been many dances during his college days in the dusty building stuffed full of stuffy clergymen. What about Brendon? Did he dance with Patrick? Pete suspects not.

“I… I don’t…” Patrick blushes and stammers and squirms further back on the bed.

“Okay, stand up,” Pete grins, smoothing down his shirt and kicking his boots to one side. “I’m gonna teach you.”

“Teach me?” Patrick’s eyes are wide with terror behind his glasses, for all the world as though Pete’s offering to teach him how to wrestle mountain lions. “No! Oh, it’s very kind of you but-”

“Take off your shoes,” Pete is brooking no argument as he resets the needle to the start of the record. Music fills the room, bright and fast and colourful and he holds out a hand to Patrick, still mumbling excuses into his collar, face flushed like sunrise over the mountains. “Patrick…”

He gives in - good, obedient Catholic boy that he is - kicking off his shoes with a sigh and taking Pete’s hand, “Just… move with the music, see?”

Patrick looks unconvinced, his lips drawn into a tight line, blush deepening as he shuffles awkwardly from foot to foot. Pete can’t help but laugh as he steps in close, hands on the priest’s hips, swinging him along like he would a woman, “Well one thing’s for sure, you sure do dance like a white guy.”

“I’m not sure why that would come as a shock,” Patrick raises an eyebrow, ducking awkwardly under Pete’s arm as he tries to twirl him, missing a step and staggering backwards. His hand tightens on Pete’s hip, yanking him with him as they both trip until Patrick slams to a jarring halt, a winded grunt filling the air between them as Pete thumps into him, crushing him between his body and the wall. “Ow. Can I sit down now?”

“No,” Pete laughs, pulling him back into the middle of the room. “Come on, Patrick, like you mean it!”

Patrick, for his part, narrows his eyes and opens his mouth with - Pete doesn’t doubt for a moment - an objection sharp on his tongue. Instead, he treads heavily on Pete’s foot, barrelling into him with a trip and a stumble and, oh, Pete could correct it, could steady the both of them relatively easily. But the bed is right there and it’s just as simple to follow the stumble, to slide his arms under Patrick’s and drag him back, to hit the mattress with a thump and a groan as Patrick lands on top of him.

His hands still rest lightly against Patrick’s sides, the priest’s eyes large behind his glasses, glittering blue and green and gold like seaglass. He won’t close the gap between their lips, not again, instead he waits, still and sure as Patrick reaches up and brushes a hand uncertainly through his hair, electric pulses radiating from gentle fingertips against his scalp.

“So,” Pete begins softly, Patrick’s lips a suggestion of heat, his hips squirming between Pete’s spread thighs. “I guess I can’t teach you how to dance.”

“No,” Patrick whispers. “I suppose you can’t.”

“I could… Teach you something else?” He breathes. There’s nothing between their lips but a hair’s width, nothing but a few shuddering breaths of heated oxygen and need but Pete won’t lean in, not after last time.

“Oh?” Patrick is breathless, rutting slowly against him with a half hard cock. “I think… Maybe I could surprise you with what I already know.”

“I’m always open to being surprised,” Pete murmurs in the brief second before their lips touch, words lost to Patrick’s hungry, questing mouth. He kisses like he’ll never get the chance again, licking and sucking, biting at Pete’s lips with more need than finesse. Oh, but it’s glorious, it’s want and burning desire and fistfuls of cotton as they drag at one another until Pete pulls back, panting and grinning like filthy promises. “Just so we’re clear, you’re gonna suck my dick, right?”

Patrick doesn’t reply, continues shredding at buttons until Pete’s shirtless and gasping under the attention of a hot, wet mouth, of a tongue that seems determined to trace every line of each tattoo that peppers his stomach and chest, starting with the swallow tucked below his ear. He works the buttons of Patrick’s shirt loose, can’t figure out the collar but grasps at exposed skin with greedy hands. Ah, finally, naked flesh he’s wanted to see for so long, the heat of Patrick’s body he’s yearned to feel, pale skin clashing with the tan shade of Pete’s hand. Patrick has seen him shirtless countless times before (oh, Pete made sure of that!), but Patrick’s own body had always been hidden under the modest cut of his cassock, under perfectly pressed shirts and pants, prim and proper even in the unforgiving heat of Clark. He’s only ever gotten a blurry, hasty glimpse of Patrick’s cock, just a preview of Patrick’s thighs in a dark confession booth, and Pete is aching to discover more.

Patrick moans at each brush of work-roughened fingertips against tender skin, bucks back into the touch as Pete slides his hands down the back of his pants and grasps the taut, smooth muscle of his ass. More, Pete wants more, brings his hands to the belt on Patrick’s pants, only to be pushed away.

“No, wait, Pete,” Patrick gasps, and it’s clear that it costs him all his mental strength to stay focused, to not give in. “I want you to, but first, I want… Want to give something to you, remember?”

“I think you wanted to suck my dick, yeah,” Pete says with a grin, adoring the blush on Patrick’s face that follows his words. “Go ahead, Patrick, surprise me.”

While Patrick struggles to undo his belt, then traces over the rough denim of Pete’s pants so unknown to his hands, Pete wonders briefly what other experiences the priest had so far. Was it something rushed and hidden? Was he the first one to give in and lean forward, press the other priest down on his bed, unable to resist?

These questions go out of the window the moment Patrick has finally managed to drag off Pete’s pants, and shuffles between his legs. He’s lost his collar and his shirt at some point, how and when, Pete isn’t sure. It doesn’t matter now that there’s even more exposed skin, looking so pretty and inviting. A wave of protectiveness rolls over Pete when he traces over the golden hair scattered across Patrick’s chest, runs his fingers over pink nipples – how often must the priest have been told his (perfectly fine) flesh is nothing but sin? No, Pete will teach Patrick he’s everything but that.

Patrick reaches for Pete’s dick, keeps a firm grip on the base. He looks up to Pete, then back to the cock in his hand, as if he isn’t quite sure what to do.

“You can start, Patrick,” Pete groans, does Patrick need more reassurance? Because Pete’s ready, he has been fucking ready for it for ages now, he’s not above begging if that’s what’s needed to finally get the message across.

Determined, Patrick leans forward, finally, parted lips so close, blue eyes fixed on Pete’s dick. Patrick licks his lips, hesitates, then hastily licks over the head of Pete’s dick; once, twice, then Patrick hesitates again.

“’s good, Patrick,” Pete groans; it’s not good, not yet, Patrick hasn’t even really started, but he seems to need all the approval he can get. Pete props himself up on his elbows, and tries to send the priest a tender, reassuring look. “Just… just go on, okay?”

“Uhm, could you maybe not… Not stare at me?” Patrick whispers, a hint of desperation shining through his voice.

Pete sighs, but he complies. Patrick is nervous enough as it is, and Pete is so aroused, he’d let himself get blindfolded if that meant Patrick would finally suck his dick.

Staring up at the wall isn’t an exciting view, so Pete closes his eyes, tries to imagine what Patrick’s mouth must look like, tongue darting out between shiny pink lips, mouth about to be stretched over his cock… Yeah, he can work with that.

Patrick laps at his dick again, his tongue warm and wet, but giving only frustratingly light strokes. It’s not bad, but it’s not very satisfying. Thankfully, Patrick’s lips now press against Pete’s dick, slowly parting to take in just the tip, sliding over the head, down the shaft and, yeah, fuck, that’s more like it. Pete moans loudly – mostly to encourage Patrick – and keeps himself from bucking his hips. Patrick’s mouth is hot and slick, it’s what Pete has dreamt of for so long, pretty lips parted for sin; it takes all his self-restraint to not thrust his dick down the tight heat of Patrick’s throat.

For a moment, Patrick just stays still. He doesn’t move his hand – still tight around Pete’s cock, which is nice, but not enough – doesn’t move his head, and his tongue is just awkwardly resting against Pete’s dick. Then, he withdraws his mouth with a smacking sound, wipes over his lips, and takes Pete in again.

It’s – it’s awkward, to say the least. Patrick still doesn’t do much, seemingly unsure of how to handle Pete’s dick, but what he does is drool a lot, and the wet, clammy feeling of the cold spit that gathers between his legs is starting to get a little uncomfortable.

“Patrick,” Pete hisses eventually as he runs his fingers through fine blond hair, “Patrick, could you – can you move your head a little for me, please?”

The request is followed by immediate regret when Patrick all too eagerly bobs his head up and down, which causes his teeth to graze over Pete’s dick agonisingly. Pete yelps, tugs at Patrick’s hair as he lets out a small curse. “Fuck, Patrick, careful with your teeth, dammit!”

Pete didn’t mean to swear so much, he really didn’t, but self-control is very difficult when sharp teeth drag over his cock – again, dammit, it fucking hurts – as Patrick withdraws his mouth again to murmur an apology.

“’s fine,” Pete gives as a reply, well, it’s not really fine, but it would be nice if Patrick could just go back to sucking his cock without an intermission of guilt. “Just try to avoid that for the future, okay? It really hurts.”

“I’m sorry,” Patrick apologizes again, clearly embarrassed. Whatever, everyone can make a mistake, and who knows when was the last time Patrick gave a blowjob? Pete’s not willing to overthink this. He tugs at Patrick’s hair again, a silent sign he wants him to go on, but it’s only rewarded with a pained whine.

“Ouch, don’t – that hurts, Pete,” Patrick scowls as he bats away Pete’s hand.

“Sorry. I’ll just…” With regret, Pete rests his hand on Patrick’s shoulder instead. “Could you… Maybe get on with it?” Pete hears himself say, hopes it doesn’t sound annoyed or condescending.

Patrick gives a small nod, then leans forward. His mouth is finally back on Pete’s cock, takes in the head, then more, then a little more and just when Pete inhales sharply as the head of his cock presses against a tight throat, Patrick jolts up, gagging and coughing miserably. He tries to disguise it by slapping a hand over his mouth, but it takes him a moment to compose himself. His other hand tightens around Pete’s cock to a point where it’s painful, and while Pete holds back a very profane cuss that’s on the tip of his tongue, he can’t help but let out a yelp. “Patrick, your hand – not so tight! You don’t need so much force, you wanna get me off, not strangle my cock, right?”

“Look, Pete, I appreciate the effort, but can you – can you maybe shut up? You’re not helping here!” Patrick looks angry, and for a moment, Pete feels angry too, wants to scold Patrick and point out that he’s trying to be nice here. “I’m trying, okay?” Patrick continues, still angry, but there’s something else in his voice now, “I’m giving it my best, I want to – I just… Didn’t know it was that difficult, and…”

It finally hits Pete now, the realization of what’s going on crystal-clear when Patrick swipes away a tear that’s borne from anger and embarrassment at himself, before he slumps over and just buries his face in his hands.

“You’ve never done this before,” Pete states, it’s not even a question. “Patrick, why didn’t you just tell me so?”

Patrick makes an incoherent noise and just shakes his head. Pete sighs, and tries to gather his thoughts as he sits up. He’s not prepared for this talk, he had always just assumed – well, always just assumed that Patrick was this devious horny priest who had all kinds of sexual adventures with his fellow unruly priests. Priest, singular, Pete reminds himself, recalls how Patrick had vaguely hinted that while there was no sodomy as he called it, that he had done other wrongful things. Pete sighs again; seems like Patrick has way less experience than he thought.

“Hey, hey. It’s fine, Patrick. Please, look at me.” Pete gently strokes over Patrick’s shoulder, waits until the priest finally lowers his hands. He’s red-faced and startled, anger, embarrassment and shame twisting his angelic face. He doesn’t meet Pete’s eyes, but lets himself get pulled into a hug.

“You could have just told me you never blew someone before,” Pete reiterates as he carefully cards his hand through Patrick’s hair. It’s not batted away this time, which he counts as a win.

“Well, you didn’t ask,” Patrick mumbles, “and I – I didn’t want to look like a fool. You’re experienced, Pete, you’ve had other lovers who pleased you and I… I didn’t want to fall behind.”

“None of those people matter, Patrick,” Pete says gently as he pulls the priest a little closer. “You’re the only one I care about. And not just because of, y’know, this.”

“You already gave me so much, and… And you’re so good at this, Pete,” Patrick continues, almost accusingly, “you made it look so easy. If God…” Patrick, clearly frustrated with himself, takes a deep breath. “If God made me a homosexual, why didn’t he at least make me a functional one?”

Pete can’t help but chuckle. “Patrick, no one is born a love god,” he says amused, “even us dirty sodomites need to figure out how to sin properly.”

Patrick huffs, shakes off Pete’s arms and sends him the sternest look he can muster. “You know, there’s so much blasphemy in what you just said – if you were a boy in Sunday school, I’d have no choice but to spank you.”

The stern look lingers a little longer on his face, then Patrick breaks into a small laugh. Pete joins in, relieved that the tension has vanished. It seems natural to slide his fingers under Patrick’s chin, to tilt up his face and brush a tender kiss to his lips, to sigh in gratitude as Patrick lets his mouth fall open, lets Pete’s tongue tease against his own. There’s something endearing about the rough edges to his technique now Pete knows the truth, a promise that he can teach him, show him all of the delights his body is capable of. It’s a thought that urges his hand lower, flicking open the belt and button of Patrick’s pants like a magic trick, urging him back onto the bed as he tugs down pants and underwear - neat, white, high-waisted briefs that make him smile at just how sensible they are - as he gathers it all and dumps it on the floor with his own tangle of clothes.

Finally, he sits back against his heels and admires Patrick, the glow of late evening light blush bright against his skin. He’s shining, pale and perfect, slightly damp with sweat and shivering against the sheets, eyes lowered as though embarrassed and Pete murmurs, words tripping truth from his tongue, “You’re beautiful, fuck, you’re just… look at you.”

With that he reaches for Patrick’s half-hard cock, offers a light stroke that has him moaning softly. It’s wordless sound, never articulate, he doesn’t have the fuck yes or the oh God, more that would roll so easily from Pete’s lips. He only has soft sighs, low moans and the occasional oh, Pete that falls like spring blossom as Pete bites a bruise to his collarbone - a hidden place, no one will see - as he slides his tongue against the tightness of a hard nipple. The prick wrapped in his palm isn’t getting any harder but that’s okay, Pete’s got a talented mouth and inquisitive fingers, he can coax every word Patrick didn’t know he needed from the fuck flush of his lips.

He grazes his teeth over the line of Patrick’s hipbone, nips a kiss to the cream pale perfection of his inner thigh and then, eyes bright and locked on Patrick’s, he sinks his mouth slowly down over his semi. Patrick whimpers, eyes falling closed as his head rolls back and, for a moment, Pete considers stopping, demanding that he opens his eyes and watches but decides not to push it. He uses every trick he knows, every suck and swirl of his tongue, cupping a hand around Patrick’s balls and squeezing lightly in time with the smooth slide of his mouth. He sucks like a fucking pro but all he can feel is the softening fall of Patrick’s cock as he growls in frustrated fury above him.

“Stop, Pete,” he snaps, shoving him back a little more roughly than Pete thinks is strictly necessary. “Just… Stop it, would you? It’s… It’s not working… I… Don’t know what’s wrong with me. I want this. I want this!”

Patrick rolls on his side, back to Pete in defensive retreat as he draws his knees up to his chest and, voice trembling with unshed tears, mutters under his breath, “I’m sorry, I’m just… I’m sorry.”

“Hey,” Pete stretches out behind him, sliding the angles of his chest to the planes of Patrick’s back, grabbing his hip and hauling him flush to the stretch of him. “Don’t apologise, c’mon, this isn’t your fault just… Relax okay? We’re not in a rush, right?” Pete’s cock twitches an objection to that sentiment, neglected against the tempting curve of Patrick’s ass, “We’re just… taking our time, right?”

Patrick sniffles his agreement into his pillow and, by degrees, relaxes back into Pete, calms under gentle kisses brushed to his shoulders, his throat, the delicate shell of his ear. And finally, inch by inch, Pete manages to persuade him to turn in his arms, to face him with bloodshot eyes and a quivering lip as he heaves a breath and buries his face in Pete’s neck, hot with shame. And Pete senses his misery, his utter humiliation at the abject failure of an evening he must have spent all day working himself into a frenzy over. And yes, a small part of Pete wants to chuckle - purely affectionately of course - at the poor priest’s fervent belief that sucking dick was some kind of inherent skill he must possess purely because he’s queer.

“Patrick?” He murmurs after a pause that rings with uncertainty. “Maybe… Could we talk about what you’re comfortable with? If I’d known you’d never… Look, I feel really bad about this, can we just… I want you to enjoy this, you know? It’s supposed to be fun.”

He doesn’t point out that the concept is as foreign to him as it is to Patrick. Oh, sure, Pete’s fucked plenty of guys, he could do things to Patrick that he couldn’t even dream of, he knows that, but it’s never really been about fun. Pete’s wanted it to be, he’s wanted it so desperately, to have someone to laugh with at the failed attempts at something ridiculous, to have someone that holds him afterward and presses delicate little kisses to his throat as the afterglow warms them both. But that’s never happened, the lust has washed away and been immediately replaced with shame and disgust, he’s been shoved away and expected to pull up his pants and leave. He can share his skill as a lover with Patrick, but they’ll need to learn the love part together.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Patrick mutters desperately. “I’m trying but I don’t…”

“Okay, shh,” Pete soothes, hands warm against Patrick’s back as he rests his lips lightly against his ear, delighting in the shiver that scores through him as he whispers softly. “When you imagined us together, when you laid in your bed at night, what did you think about us doing?”

Patrick stays silent, hands tight against Pete’s hips as he keeps his face tucked into the crook of Pete’s neck, his breath hitching.

“Alright,” Pete murmurs, voice a teasing promise. “Did you think about kissing me?” Patrick nods his agreement, “Good, excellent, did you like imagining it? Did you think about me kissing your lips or somewhere else?”

Patrick doesn’t answer but Pete needs him to, this can’t be entirely one sided so he stays quiet, waits patiently as he rubs soothing circles into Patrick’s damp skin. Patrick shudders and shivers against him, a tangle of vibrating limbs and stuttered breath and a voice that shakes as he speaks softly.

“My… My neck,” he whispers, all hesitant hush that cramps Pete’s gut. “You did it once, that first night, and… Yes, I liked that.”

“Like this?” Pete pauses with a promise, mouth light against Patrick’s throat, teasing for just a moment with the feather of his pulse flickering soft under his lips. There’s a soft whimper in his ear as Patrick arches his back and Pete takes pity, planting a line of deliberate, open mouthed kisses from his ear to his collarbone and back again. “Is that what you thought about?”

“Yes,” Patrick breathes, slack in Pete’s arms, head dropped back against the pillow and lips a soft pout. His eyes are closed, throat contracting as he swallows softly. “Oh, yes.”

“What else?” Pete murmurs, hand tracing lightly along Patrick’s side, dancing along the stretch of his ribcage and back to his hip. “Where did you think about me touching?”

“My…” Patrick trails off, a frown flickering shadows across his features as he bites his lip, heaves a breath and stammers out words that tie his tongue. “My manhood, I… I wanted you to touch… that.”

Manhood. Pete hides a smile in the crown of Patrick’s soft, blonde hair and swears to himself that one day, eventually, suck my fucking cock will growl from Patrick’s parted lips. For now though, well, for now he can feel the tell-tale stir of Patrick’s prick against his thigh, the rising swell of hard heat as he continues, voice a low breath into Patrick’s ear.

“How did you imagine me touching your dick?” He pauses to bite at Patrick’s earlobe, tasting the tang of salt and luxuriating in the low gasp. “Hard and fast?”

“No,” Patrick shakes his head, nails biting pale crescents into the gold of Pete’s hip. “Slowly… I suppose.. I imagined it being slow.”

Alight with cautious optimism, Pete slides a hand between Patrick’s legs, wrapping his hand around the solid heat of his cock, the slick pull of velvet under his palm. This time, it’s only his moan that falters, his prick hard and heavy in Pete’s hand as he continues to press kisses to his throat, sucking on the bob of his adam’s apple as he strokes slow and smooth. Patrick whines, high and needy in the back of his throat, hands sliding to grasp at Pete’s shoulders as ecstasy paints his face a glorious flush of pink. Pete is jealous, wants some of that for himself so continues to whisper filth into Patrick’s ear.

“Would you like to know what I thought about?” He’s breathy and soft, heated desire dropped like pearls of promise. Patrick nods, eyes screwed closed, lip snagged between his teeth. “I thought about you touching my cock just like I’m touching yours, did you think about that, Patrick,” there’s another nod, short and staccato, “Yeah, I bet you did, bet you thought about getting me off like that, just like I did to you, hmm? Come on baby, that’s a good boy, just slide your hand down,” Patricks hand inches down over Pete’s chest, fingertips grazing his stomach, drifting down to the aching heat of his cock, flushed dark with blood and crowned with a slick of precome, “Go ahead, touch me, just like I’m touching you, oh fuck, that’s it, you’re so good, Patrick, so fucking good…”

And this time he means it as Patrick, clumsy but careful, unsure but willing, starts to stroke, shakily mimicking Pete’s actions on him. Oh, there’s no finesse, no flair or little tricks, he can teach him all of those another time, all of the other times that hang ahead with tantalising promise, but for now it’s good. It’s a warm hand tugging at the sensitive, needing throb of his cock, speeding against him in perfect time with the flick of his own wrist against Patrick. Pete’s moaning for real now, not just to encourage him but because he can’t help it, because it’s been so long since someone touched him like this. He’s crying out curses all caught up with Patrick because when was the last time someone stared at him like he was enchanting?

Patrick comes first - though Pete isn’t surprised - the slick of wet warmth against their stomachs as he strokes him through the shudders, squirms his hips because he’s so fucking close, just a little more… He tightens his hand over Patrick’s and starts to stroke, the slippery warmth of Patrick’s come easing the slide and shooting sparks of fire through his chest at the sheer fucking illicitness of it. He falls apart with a hoarse shout, a plea for something he can’t articulate as he drags Patrick close and grinds the aftershocks into his hip.

They’re both a mess of sweat, damp hair and come streaked everywhere and Pete’s eyes widen in shocked surprise as Patrick cautiously raises his hand, touches his fingers to his lips and, with a quiet little moan, licks a fleck of Pete’s come from the tips. He senses the gaze and blushes a pretty sort of pink, lowering his eyes as he stammers, “I’m sorry that was… I don’t know, I just… Wondered.”

“No,” Pete assures him, grasping his wrist and guiding his fingers back to his lips, watching enraptured as he licks them clean in a way he can’t possibly know is so beautifully sinful. “Fuck, you’re incredible.”

“I think we’ve seen that I’m not,” Patrick blushes brighter, arm slung over Pete’s waist as he buries his face in his neck. “That was… Amazing. Did… Did I do okay?”

“Shit, Patrick,” Pete huffs out a breath and slings his thigh over Patrick’s hip. “You were fantastic.”

Patrick smiles, proud and sated and suddenly pale with exhaustion, a yawn splitting him apart as he presses in close and nudges a kiss to Pete’s jaw, “I should let you sleep, go back to my room.”

“Stay,” Pete whispers though he knows it’s ridiculous. The bed is narrow and already too hot in the summer fug. And yet… “Just stay. I’ve never had this part. They always leave.”

Patrick looks at him with undisguised sadness, runs his knuckles lightly over Pete’s cheek and kisses him with gentle tenderness, “Then they were fools. You’re… You’re wonderful.”

Pete just smiles and drags him fractionally closer, breathes in the smell of sweat and sex that lingers on his skin and kisses him, sweet and slow, the feather of tongues and the click of teeth. He closes his eyes, the tick of his alarm clock and the steady rise and fall of Patrick’s breathing the lullaby that soothes him into sleep more sound than anything he’s experienced since arriving in Clark.

Chapter Text

When Patrick wakes, he feels a little disoriented. His half-asleep brain wants to sink back into slumber, doesn’t want to wake up before the alarm clock demands it. But something is off.

It’s too warm, even for Clark’s temperatures, it’s so hot, why is there so much sweat and all that stickiness on his stomach, and the unfamiliar smell and –

Realization hits Patrick when the arm that’s slung around him pulls him closer, when the mouth pressed close to his neck mumbles soothing words and plants a kiss to his sweaty skin. Pete is lying next to him, chest pressed flush to Patrick’s back, and the memories of yesterday’s events flood Patrick’s mind.

A bright blush blooms on his face – thank God Pete can’t see that right now – when Patrick recalls what happened between them. The hot bath he prepared, the humiliating attempt at cooking, the sparkle of joy in Pete’s eye when he played the record Patrick had so carefully chosen. The attempt at dancing, ungraciously ended by them tumbling down on the bed, two bodies grinding wantonly against one another… The failed blowjobs, the frustration, the fear that he had disappointed Pete, all proven wrong when there was nothing but love and acceptance in Pete’s eyes.

Patrick shivers when he replays the memories of what happened after that. Pete’s calloused hand on his body, Pete’s soft lips kissing him, Pete’s words hushed into his ear. Pete’s hand on his cock, Patrick’s hand on Pete’s cock – ah, Patrick has to bite back a moan just thinking about it. His dick doesn’t hold back though, already rising at the thought of more, aching with the want for repetition, longing for Pete.

 

Just as Patrick hopes that Pete’s still asleep, doesn’t notice his embarrassing boner, Pete’s teeth gently tug his ear lobe. “Stop squirming so much,” Pete rasps, voice still raw from sleep, but he’s clearly awake. “Jus’ wanna… Cuddle you a little longer. Please, don’t go yet…”

Please. Now that is a word Patrick is not used to hearing from Pete. While he’s all for politeness and respectful manners, hearing the desperation and the underlying fear expressed in it just saddens him. Patrick decides he will never be one of those people, will never make Pete think he needs to beg for Patrick’s love.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves, that’s what the Romans say, and Patrick won’t be one of those selfish others that preceded him, won’t hurt or humiliate Pete, he’ll give Pete everything he has to offer.

Patrick turns around to face Pete. He’s met with a pair of half-veiled amber eyes squinting at him, a mouth drawn into a tight line that dissolves into a small smile when Patrick runs his hand over Pete’s cheek. “I’m not going anywhere,” Patrick reassures him, and his heart aches a little when Pete sighs in relief, hurts at the thought of all the men before him who didn’t stay, melts when Pete leans closer, connects their lip for a sweet good morning kiss.

“Never had one of those,” Pete mumbles, running his thumb over Patrick’s lower lip.

“You can have another one,” Patrick replies; he doesn’t need to say that he never had someone do this to him either, that Brendon was too trapped in the same wrong beliefs that held back Patrick not too long ago. Instead, he leans in for another kiss, tender and gentle.

“You’re beautiful,” Pete says with a smile while he brushes Patrick’s hair out of his face, “the best sight I ever woke up to.”

Patrick blushes a little, doesn’t know what to say. He’s not used to compliments, he isn’t supposed to be vain or take pride in something as shallow as looks. But Pete’s words sound so sincere, they don’t sound like sinful lies. Patrick would love to have an answer, he wants to express that he feels the same way about Pete, but he doesn’t know how. Another thing he hopes to learn one day; oh, he wants to see Pete’s smile when he’s paid a compliment, wants to know he made Pete feel good with his words instead of hurting him like he used to. One day, soon, Patrick hopes.

For now, his answer is another gentle kiss, which Pete seems to be content with.

 

They stay silent for a while, and Patrick just takes in the feeling of someone else next to him, of Pete’s arm slung around his waist, of warm brown eyes and soft lips smiling at him. The dawn of the beginning day casts a soft light over them, makes Pete’s sun-kissed skin with all its tattoos look like a golden canvas, a piece of art. Patrick runs his finger over Pete’s chest, relishes in the content hum it evokes.

There’s still a bit of guilt left, churning in his stomach, just a tiny hint of a bad conscience that Patrick can’t deny. When everything is quiet, a nasty voice whispers into his ear sometimes, plants doubts and insecurities into his mind. It’s hard to fathom how almost three decades of his life Patrick’s been deceived and lied to, how he had been taught all of these wrong beliefs, how people hindered him from truly understanding God’s word and the love He had given him.

Because Patrick cannot, will never be able to think that what he and Pete have is wrong. It’s not, how can it be when they can make each other so happy? Why would He have created their bodies in His liking if not to marvel at the beauty of His creation? How could God object to the beautiful broad smile on Pete’s face, how could God be against a kiss as a sign of affection, how could God deny them the very love He himself planted into their hearts? Why would Jesus judge Patrick for making Pete happy, why would a just and fair God send Pete to hell for teaching Patrick to be accepting and caring? And God didn’t want his creations to go through life alone; Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: that’s how it reads in Ecclesiastes, If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Patrick can’t help but smile when he remembers the rest of the quote, very befitting for his current situation: Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

 

The philosophical thoughts are interrupted when Pete pulls him closer, and with embarrassment, Patrick notices how his still half-hard cock now rests against Pete’s stomach. Pete laughs a little, before a dirty grin manifests on his lips. “Do you want me to wake you up properly, Patrick? I promise I’ll do a much better job than your alarm clock…”

Patrick wants, oh, he wants, but first, he wants to redeem himself a little. It’s always Pete who initiates everything, always Pete who gives so much, and Patrick finally wants a little victory here as well. The successful handjob isn’t sufficient.

“Wait, Pete,” he says, grabs Pete’s hands which are already sliding down towards his crotch. Once they’re on his dick, Patrick knows that coherent thoughts will be infinitely harder to grasps, and he needs to focus right now.

Communication, that’s what made everything work yesterday. Ah, the words weigh heavy on Patrick’s tongue, loaded with sin and insecurity, and he shuts his eyes as he tries to stutter them out. “Pete, I want to… Tell me, how to do that – do the thing with your mouth?”

It’s awkward, but thankfully, Pete grasps the meaning behind it anyway. “You mean a blowjob, right? Wanna learn the art of sucking cock?” He inquires, dirty words effortlessly rolling from his lips. Patrick just nods, no way can he bring himself to repeat that.

Pete’s grins, then he lays two fingers on Patrick’s lip. “Okay, first off, teeth,” he starts, hushing the I’m sorry that Patrick wants to instinctively blurt out, “you just need to make sure they’re not digging into my cock, okay? Try shielding them with your lips, and don’t bite down or anything.”

Patrick nods, Pete’s fingers still on his lips, sparking an idea. Maybe that’s a safer option than a sensitive dick. “Can I…?” Patrick asks quietly. He can feel embarrassment creeping up on him again, impending failure looming over him, the fear that Pete isn’t satisfied, will never be satisfied – no. Pete said it was okay, that no one was born knowing any of this, queer or not. Patrick inhales deeply, finishes the sentence. “Try? With your fingers, I mean?”

 

The grin on Pete’s face widens. “Sure,” he whispers, and Patrick opens his mouth, takes in the two fingers resting against his lips. It’s nothing like Pete’s dick, but Patrick tries to follow Pete’s advice, keeps his teeth away from the calloused skin.

“Tongue,” Pete says, “your tongue, Patrick – a little more pressure, maybe, because that part of your mouth won’t hurt me. And I know it’s called a blowjob, but… You actually need to suck, I guess.”

That sounds way more complicated than Patrick had been prepared for. He has definitely not appreciated how much effort it must have taken Pete. He tries his best, tries to swirl his tongue around Pete’s fingers, tries to suck a little, all while coordinating teeth, lips, and his breathing.

“And you don’t need to… Don’t need to deepthroat me or whatever,” Pete adds. He’s panting a little, cheeks flushed, staring at Patrick in awe. Patrick isn’t sure why, he feels a little ridiculous here, but there must be something worth staring at. “Don’t force my cock down your throat,” Pete continues, a low moan escaping his lips before he continues. “We’ll… we’ll keep that for another time, okay? Just… as much as you feel comfortable with.”

Truth is, Patrick’s throat isn’t comfortable with a lot, even when it’s just Pete’s fingers. Maybe I’ll get used to it over time? Patrick tells himself, works his lips and tongue as well as he can, and is rewarded with another moan from Pete. A bit of drool is running down his palm, which Pete doesn’t seem bothered by.

“Fuck, Patrick, would you… Would you like to try that out on my actual cock?” Pete grinds a little closer, his erection pressing against Patrick’s hip. Patrick pulls away from Pete’s fingers, slowly slides his hand down, fingers winding around Pete’s hard dick. “You’re already…?” He mumbles, and is rewarded with a small, dirty laugh.

“The preview was just too good,” Pete purrs, arches into the touch. “You don’t have to, Patrick,” he says softly, “I’m fine with just this, I want you to be ready.”

 

Oh, this time, Patrick is ready. He wants – he wants this so much, wants to have the salty taste of flesh and pre-cum in his mouth, wants the velvet-smooth head of Pete’s cock against his lips, wants Pete’s dick to fill up his mouth. He wants Pete to moan for real like he did yesterday, wants to finally give back a little, relish in pleasing Pete on his own for once.

Wordlessly, Patrick motions Pete to lay on his back. He shuffles in between Pete’s spread legs, feels a little awkward – he’s still so naked. Pete doesn’t seem to mind that at all, judging from the hungry eyes staring at him. Patrick takes a deep breath, then takes Pete’s cock into his hand, bows down. He stops just inches above the head, looks up to Pete again. “You can put your hand on my head,” Patrick mumbles, “just don’t… Don’t pull my hair, okay? I don’t… Don’t like that.”

“Of course,” Pete replies, cards his fingers gently through Patrick’s hair. “Like that?”

Patrick makes an affirmative noise, hesitates one last time. “Uh, Pete? My other hand, the one that’s not, you know –“ he runs his thumb over Pete’s shaft, “what… Am I supposed to do with it?”

“Uh, well. I don’t know, maybe you wanna jerk yourself off?” Pete suggests, but Patrick shakes his head. It’s a tempting thought, but he doubts he can focus on both at the same time. “Well,” Pete continues, “there are things I could think of, but… Let’s keep that for another time. Just… Put it on my thigh, or wherever else you want. It’s no big deal.”

“And what do I do when you… Finish?” Patrick bites his lips, embarrassment burning on his cheeks. He hopes that Pete actually gets to do that this time.

“Whatever you want, Patrick,” Pete says, seems to realize that’s not very helpful, then adds: “I’ll make sure to warn you, and you can do whatever feels comfortable. You don’t need to let me come in your mouth, or swallow. You can pull away if you want. Decide for yourself, I’m – fuck, I’m happy with everything.”

With a nod, Patrick rests his hand on Pete’s thigh. There’s coarse black hair and hard muscles working under the tan skin, and Patrick takes a moment to admire it, makes a note to carefully explore every inch of Pete’s body one day.

 

Now though, the focus is on the hard cock in his hand. Patrick licks his lips, lets his tongue flicker over the head of Pete’s cock. He does it again, more pressure this time just as Pete suggested, a broad stroke, then another, met with an appreciative hum from Pete. Then, after a deep breath, Patrick takes him in.

It’s a weird feeling, and it’s still a little difficult to handle Pete’s dick in his mouth. Patrick moves his head, just like Pete had done yesterday, tries to imitate the way his tongue worked over his shaft. He’s not sure he’s succeeding, but he must be doing something right, because Pete lets out a small moan, keeps staring at him with hungry eyes. Patrick looks away; he feels awkward with his lips stretched around Pete’s dick, but he can’t deny that the attention Pete gives him is very enjoyable.

After a while, Patrick thinks he’s starting to get it. So far, no teeth have scraped against the delicate skin of Pete’s dick, and he knows how far he can take Pete in without having his gag reflex interfere. Patrick gets a little bolder, moves a little faster, excitement and satisfaction flooding him when his efforts earn him more of Pete’s sweet moans, and some of his salty pre-cum on Patrick’s tongue already.

“Your hand,” Pete gasps, “Patrick, could you… move your hand a little?”

Patrick does, tries to work his hand around Pete’s dick in a pace matching his mouth. It’s wet with drool, which is a little gross, but at least it lets his movements be a little smoother. It’s difficult to pay attention to everything at once – keep his teeth in check, move his head and hand, try to work out a pattern – but this time, it seems to work far better than yesterday. Pete murmurs praise in between his moans, squirms a little to keep himself from bucking his hips and disrupting Patrick’s pace. He doesn’t tug at Patrick’s hair, just aimlessly cards his fingers through it, and that feels much nicer.

“So fucking good, Patrick, fuck,” Pete stutters, swearing as if his life depended on it. “Oh God, your mouth is fucking made for this, fuck!”

Patrick does have one or two objections in the back of his head over using the Lord’s name in such blasphemous ways, but that may be a topic for later.

“I’m – damn, I’m close,” Pete groans as he arches his back a little. “I don’t care how you wanna finish me off but please, do it, anything…!”

Another loud moan follows these words. Patrick contemplates the thought, though the truth is, he has already decided long before he started how he wanted to end it. And he wants to taste Pete, wants every last drop of him to himself, filthy and sinful and yet so, so right.

With that in mind, Patrick keeps going, and it doesn’t take long until Pete cries out as he comes, all shaky voice and trembling thighs under Patrick’s hand. To his immense relief, Patrick manages to not choke, manages to just swallow most of it and hopes Pete doesn’t mind some of his cum drizzling down on his groin.

 

Luckily, it seems to be the furthest from Pete’s mind right now. Patrick sits up, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, which really doesn’t help much. His jaw aches, and he feels sweaty and sticky, and a bath – or at least a washcloth – would be nice sometime soon. So would a toothbrush.

Pete has no such concerns, just flops over on his side, drags Patrick down to lay next to him. He looks blissful, still panting a little, lips split into a satisfied grin as he slings his arm around Patrick’s waist. “That was wonderful,” Pete hums, “fucking perfect way to start the day.”

“I did good?” Patrick inquires shyly, “I know it wasn’t as – as advanced as what you do.”

Pete laughs, cups Patrick’s chin in his hand. “You did fantastic, Patrick,” he says amused, “and we have all the time in the world to teach you new techniques.” He leans forward, and plants a kiss to Patrick’s lips. Patrick kisses back, opens his mouth a little, until he remembers what he just did with it.

“Pete, I – I’m gross, don’t,” Patrick mumbles as he pulls away. “I just had your… Had you in my mouth.”

“I don’t mind,” Pete simply replies, “I’d still love to kiss you, if you’ll let me?” He doesn’t have to ask twice. It’s a little weird, but Patrick soon forgets his concerns when Pete pulls him closer, lets his hand roam over his chest, waist, down towards Patrick’s cock. He stops before he gets there, pulls away from the kiss, sends Patrick a questioning look. “Can I?”

“Yes,” Patrick says without a second thought, “yes, Pete, I… I want...”

 

Now there’s Pete’s fingers trailing over his cock, featherlight teasing strokes. “What do you want, Patrick?” Pete whispers, and Patrick groans in frustration. More, he wants more of this, he wants things he’s not sure how to ask for, wants things he can’t even really imagine.

“Want me to kiss you?” Pete asks, because by now, he seems to have realized that answering questions is easier for Patrick than outright demanding anything. Patrick nods, swallows, brings himself to speak up: “Everywhere…. Everywhere you want, please.”

That gets another small laugh out of Pete. He kisses Patrick’s neck again, whispers into his ear. “Want me to blow you as well? Want my mouth on your cock, that what you want, Patrick?”

It’s very much what Patrick wants right now, so he nods again. Pete continues to kiss him while he maneuvers Patrick on his back, motions him to part his legs a little wider. Patrick does so, tries to relax when Pete sits between them. He’s so exposed again, no one has ever seen him so naked as an adult. But when Pete follows Patrick’s request to kiss him, murmurs a you’re beautiful and a such a pretty boy, look at you into Patrick’s ear, lets his mouth wander over every inch of pale skin he can find, Patrick feels his doubts melt away.

His cock is getting harder though, growing under Pete’s gentle touches, aching to have Pete’s mouth attend it with the same care. Patrick can’t hold back a sigh when Pete’s lips finally brush over his dick, can’t hold back a moan when Pete finally takes him in. He’s not going to last long, that much he already knows.

Pete works his cock with careful finesse, calculated swirls and sucking, a skillful hand pumping his cock. Patrick rests his hands on Pete’s shoulders, feels the muscles work under the soft skin. Pete pulls away, ignoring the frustrated groan from Patrick.

“You can be rough,” Pete says cautiously, “I don’t mind, Patrick. Don’t hold back, I can take it.”

“I don’t… Don’t want to,” Patrick mumbles, and it’s true, he doesn’t. He didn’t pay any attention to that back in the confession booth, and sure, he knows Pete can take it. But that’s not what Patrick wants right now, he doesn’t want to treat Pete like that. He needs to explore a different side of this, needs to make peace with himself before he can experiment with something rougher again.

Pete shakes his head, a small smile on his lips. “You’re too precious,” he remarks amused, “but fine. Just wanted to offer.”

Patrick makes a noise that’s hopefully appreciative, because words escape him when Pete’s mouth is back on his cock. It’s so good, too fucking good, hot and slick and then Pete bows down even further, takes him in all the way, all tight heat and a sinful, sinful view. Patrick can hear himself stutter Pete’s name, hears a high-pitched whimper from the back of his own throat, can’t help but buck his hips just a little. It doesn’t take long until he comes undone in Pete’s mouth, Pete’s name on his lips while his orgasm washes over him and leaves him shaking and panting.

 

By the time Patrick’s brain registers his surroundings again, Pete has straddled his hips, and bows down for a sloppy kiss against Patrick’s cheek. He hesitates, but Patrick – almost surprised at his own boldness – drags him in for a proper kiss on the lips. It’s still weird, with a hint of delightful forbiddenness.

Pete sits up again, a soft smile on his lips, warm amber eyes looking at Patrick with delight, and just when Patrick thinks this moment could last forever, his alarm clock starts ringing.

The sound is slightly dulled out by the wall separating their rooms. Nevertheless, the message is clear. With a sigh, Pete sits up, and Patrick smiles apologetically. “I’m afraid it’s time to get up,” he says, and he can’t deny the sadness over reality creeping back between them. Patrick doesn’t want this to be over, and judging by Pete’s expression, neither does he.

“You want to do this again sometime?” Pete asks as Patrick stands up.

“I would be a fool not to,” Patrick answers while he collects his clothes. When he’s done, he turns around to Pete – still naked, and obviously enjoying the view Patrick just gave him – and allows himself one last kiss to Pete’s grinning lips.

“You can use the bathroom first,” Pete offers generously, “but only after you shut off that goddamn alarm clock.”

“You should not be using the Lord’s name in vain,” Patrick scolds while he leaves the room, “seriously, Pete, there are still some rules to be followed.”

He can hear Pete’s braying laugh while he hurries to finally shut off his alarm clock. Patrick grabs new underwear, and makes his way to the bathroom. He definitely wants a washcloth and a toothbrush.

 

There’s a glow to him, he’s sure of it, as he dresses in his bedroom, scrubbed clean and pink. Pete is whistling tunelessly in the bathroom, the scrape of his razor against the thick grate of his stubble a soothing sort of backdrop. It does strike a small spark of pain in Patrick’s chest to think he can’t walk out of the front door with his hand in Pete’s, that he can’t find him in the afternoon heat with a cold drink and a soft kiss. But that’s okay, he forces himself to remember that it would be the same if Pete were a woman, he’s a priest, he took certain vows and a certain kind of behaviour is expected of him.

It’s not that he’s ashamed of Pete. No, he would tell everyone that would listen if he could. It’s not that he’s embarrassed by what they did - although the memories playing vivid as motion pictures in the dark recesses of his mind do light a certain glow to his cheeks - he’d be proud to declare it to the world. But they can’t. There must be a vow of secrecy and silence, of nights to themselves but days presenting the facade. Patrick can only hope Pete will think it’s worth it.

He pauses as they’re leaving the rectory, hand on the door and an awkward smile on his lips as he looks at Pete with hope he doesn’t know how to voice. Pete knows, just as he always seems to know, slides a hand into Patrick’s neatly combed hair and draws him in for a kiss. It’s bliss, it’s surrender to them and denial of reality for just a moment more. It’s a soft, warm tongue curling inquisitively against his own as a hard body presses him lightly to the wall. It’s perfect.

Pete is perfect.

Just twelve hours until they can retreat to the privacy of one another again.

 

They walk the lane together, a respectful distance apart of course, no chance of brushing hands or lingering looks as Pete, in an animated babble, explains his plans to start work on the wiring once Mass is over but first, he just needs to straighten up a few fence posts real quick and-

They both slam to a halt, a jarring, agonising sort of a stillness as they see it. As it looms like a spectre, like a glaring accusation that someone knows.

It’s painted, cherry red against the pale brickwork, the full length of the side of the church. It glows the way Patrick’s cheeks did just minutes earlier in the morning sunlight. It stands, defiant and foul and called from the very bowels of hell to mock them and the brief moments of happiness they stole together.

 

NIGGERS OUT KKK.

 

Three words, if that representation of that most hideous of organisations could ever be referred to as a word. Three words in letters taller than Patrick. Three words slapped in paint against bricks and mortar to sink and stain the surface and make it impure. This is God’s house, Patrick wants to rage, how dare they bring their disgusting hatred here? How dare they hurt Pete - shaking, pale, eyes flicking with madness painted in them over and over the letters - who never hurt them, who takes and takes everything dished out by them with a lowered head and submissive shoulders.

How dare they?

Patrick doesn’t know who they are, only knows that in his life he’s never wanted to physically hurt someone until right now. His fists itch with it, coiled tight against his sides. His throat stings and his vision blurs with sudden, ridiculous tears because this robs them of something, this takes the sparkle away from their morning because instead of remembering the date on the calendar as the day Patrick - fumbling, awkward, but with so much love and willing - sucked his cock, instead Pete will remember it as the day those heathens painted that word where all the town could see it.

 

“Pete,” he begins, throat raw with it, “Tell me what to use, what’s going to get it off the walls, I’ll clean it, just go do your thing with the fence and-”

“I’ll do it,” Pete’s voice is dull, devoid of any emotion as he slumps on his heel and heads back to the workshed. Patrick follows feeling foolish and useless as he watches Pete mix things from this bottle and that, watches him grab rags and scrubbing brushes and a bucket of water. He watches him stare down at the cascade from the faucet and watches his flick his wrist briefly over his eyes. He watches and feels his heart break and shatter - how dare they?

He hurries after Pete as he heads back down to the church, grabs a rag and begins to scrub, drags at the brick until the fabric gives and tears and his knuckles scrape raw. The paint lifts and yields and stains his hands, stains the water in the bucket like blood. It also stains the wall, the mark set deep in the old bricks, seeped into the mortar that binds them and mocks them with a ghostly shadow of the words marked out. He’s crying, hot stinging tears that slide silently down his cheeks but Pete is stoic and silent, eyes on the paint but not the words as he scrubs with knuckles white against the brush.

“W-what happened?” Andy’s voice is soft behind them, eyes hard with fury when Patrick turns, scrubbing his eyes against his shirt sleeve. His suit is splashed with red, ruined no doubt, it doesn’t matter.

“You know what happened,” Pete replies quietly, still scrubbing, the faint glow of the stain mocking him as the sun climbs higher.

“Andy, uh, F-Father Hurley, I need you to take Mass,” Patrick stammers through tears. “I need… I want to help Pete, we can’t… can’t let them desecrate the church like this. This is… it’s holy property, that has to mean something and-”

Andy cuts him off with a slow, sad sort of smile and a hand on his shoulder, “Go and take Mass, Father, Pete and I will finish up here.”

“But…” The objection fades as Andy gently works the rag free from his bloodied, scraped-raw hand, hissing his sympathy with a wince.

“Dress your hand first,” he advises. “Clean it, you don’t want that to get infected. Hurry now, they’ll be here soon.”

So Patrick hurries, like a child, into the rectory to wash his hands and clean the cuts and scrapes, to apply antiseptic powder that makes him hiss at the sting and press on adhesive bandages. He returns to the church and the ugly scar of vile words against pretty, worn brickwork and he feels something that he imagines must be hatred burning bitter in his gut. Pete doesn’t turn to look back, eyes fixed on the inches of paint directly in front of his face. It’s like if he doesn’t step back, doesn’t take it all in, then they’re not words, just streaks of chemicals plastered against the wall. All Patrick wants to do is hold him, to pull him into an embrace and assure him that he’s wonderful, that he’s beautiful, that he’s everything and more but he can’t.

 

Instead he shares a worried look with Andy, mouths a silent take care of him and slips into the church to shrug on his vestments with moments to spare before the first parishioner steps through the door with wide eyes and a worried frown. His hand is stained red when he holds it out for a friendly handshake and a smile he doesn’t feel.

“Good morning,” he greets the woman - Ms Johnson, if he’s remembering correctly, elderly grandmother currently suffering with gout. “And how’s your grandmother doing?”

“Oh, she’s getting by, Father,” Ms Johnson replies, clearly working up to something.

“I could make a visit,” Patrick offers. “Come and take prayer with her at home?”

“That would be simply wonderful, Father,” she pauses, takes a breath. “Father? Have you thought about firing that handyman?” All Patrick can do is stare, eyes wide and tongue thick and useless in his mouth as she continues, “I mean, I like the darkies, really I do, got a nice boy that mows the lawn and whatnot but… If he’s bringing them to the church? I just… Maybe I’ll need to think about travelling over to Tupelo.”

“God bless you,” Patrick mutters, because he has nothing else to say that could be deemed appropriate, there’s another parishioner arriving, an altar boy trailing sleepily up the steps so he turns his attention elsewhere.

He’s distracted and fumbling during Mass, making silly mistakes and barely paying attention but once it’s over, once the last sheep has been herded out to pasture, he shrugs out of his vestments and dumps them without care onto the floor, hurrying outside to join Andy and Pete at the wall.

 

Pete still doesn’t look at him but Andy - jacket discarded and shirtsleeves rolled up, stoops, picks up a scrubbing brush and hands it over wordlessly. They scrub until their hands are stained red, sore and cracking from the chemicals. They scrub until the afternoon heat forces them to take refuge in the rectory. They scrub in silence because there’s nothing to say. They scrub and they scrub but it’s useless, the paint is gone but the words remain shadowed in stains that may never wash out.

How dare they?

 

 

Chapter Text

Ashamed.

 

That’s how he’d felt as he stood in front of the church, scrubbing brush in hand, and attempted to scrape that word from the side of the church. Ashamed that he’d been forced to stand in front of the whole town, cast against the backdrop of what they truly thought of him, and scrub their disgusting hate from the building. Whoever it was that had done it would have watched - he’s not fucking stupid, he knows what these assholes are about - they would have leaned against a doorway somewhere on Main Street with a smile and watched him humiliate himself. He’s not ashamed of who he is, not ashamed of his heritage or his family, so why do they insist on trying to make him? He won’t apologise for who he is - couldn’t change it even if he cared enough to try - but they seem determined to drag him down to nothing.

 

He hasn’t spoken much all afternoon, preferring to keep his own thoughts as he fixed the fence posts, back turned with determination to the silhouetted glow of the letters on the wall. He won’t call them words. They don’t deserve it. He speaks only when spoken to over dinner - prepared by Patrick and almost as badly as it was the day before but at least he’s turned the stove on this time - and attempts to slip into his room once he’s eaten a few mouthfuls. Patrick however, has other ideas, stepping between him and the door with a sad, soft smile.

 

“Talk to me?” He implores quietly, hands light against Pete’s shoulders. “Or don’t. I mean, just… Lay with me? You don’t have to talk, if you don’t want to.”

 

He wants to object, he aches with the need to lash out and retreat into solitude, to fall back on all of the protections he’s always used. It’s instinct now, almost as automatic as breathing. Shove away and retreat, never show weakness, never let them see they’ve damaged him. He’s been doing it since he was a kid and… It hasn’t worked. It still hurts, doesn’t it? He’s still alone, isn’t he?

 

“Let me hold you?” Patrick murmurs, hand soft against Pete’s cheek.

 

Alone? Right?

 

“Please?” Patrick whispers, lips soft and eyes wide.

 

Okay. Maybe, just this once, it might be nice not to run, not to fight then flight. Maybe there’s a another option. Maybe…

 

Patrick slips his arms around Pete’s neck, draws him in slowly, gathers him gently against his chest and mutters soothing nonsense into his ear. He gives in, the fight gone from him as Patrick guides him carefully back to the bed, as he maneuvers them both down onto the mattress and cradles Pete gently against his chest. There, with the soft scrape of Patrick’s fingernails against his scalp, with the steady rise and fall of his chest under Pete’s cheek, he finally lets go.

 

Pete sobs.

 

He doesn’t mean to, tries to stop it for a moment or two as his eyes well and his chest shudders but the dam breaks and he pours his humiliation in the form of burning salt into the crisp cotton of Patrick’s shirt. Patrick doesn’t shush him, he doesn’t tell him to stop or shame him any further, just rubs soft patterns into his back and makes gently encouraging noises, murmurs things like “that’s it,” and “it’s okay, just let it out,” and “they’ll burn for it, Pete, I know they will.”

 

So, he cries, He cries for every time someone has thrown an insult - or a punch - based on the colour of his skin. He cries for every time he’s felt less than a man, when he’s been overlooked or cast aside because he’s not a pretty shade of pale. He cries for the little boy that sat on a porch back in Wilmette and watched the other kids play because he wasn’t good enough to join in. He cries because the sting in his palms - cracked from the mixture of chemicals and the scrape of brickwork against them - will serve as a painful reminder for days of what they did. He cries because the shadow of the words will linger for months, if not longer, right there where everyone in the town can see it.

 

He cries until there’s nothing left, until his eyes are as dry as his throat and Patrick’s shirt is soaked under the twisted grasp of his fingers knotted into the cotton. He shudders and shivers to a stop, sniffing desperately and apologising with a voice that’s rough and husked, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t-”

 

“Don’t apologise, my darling,” something warm trickles through Pete with that word, something hopeful and sweet. “Never apologise to me for anything that wasn’t meant to hurt me, that’s what my mom used to say.”

 

“Used to?” Pete traces a fingertip lightly across the arch of Patrick’s nose.

 

“She passed away,” Patrick shrugs delicately with just the suggestion of pain behind his glasses, just the slightest tension in his jaw as he speaks. “She… She never did recover when my dad was killed in service and, well, there’s a reason I don’t really drink.”

 

“I’m sorry-” He swallows the words at Patrick’s glance, tries again. “That’s awful.”

 

“It’s okay, we all have our demons, hers don’t plague her anymore,” he falls silent for a moment, a few seconds in which Pete tries to imagine losing both parents, the thought of being completely alone. Patrick sighs quietly, leans down and presses a kiss to Pete’s brow then continues softly. “What happened today wasn’t right, I- I wish you’d let me clean it.”

 

“Cleaning’s my job, right?” Pete shudders a sigh into Patrick’s chest. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful I met you but… Fuck,” Patrick tenses as he curses, eyes flicking to the crucifix above the door in silent apology, “This isn’t how I saw my life playing out, you know?”

 

“Tell me,” Patrick encourages him softly and, in a moment, Pete decides he needs contact with warm, bare skin. Patrick doesn’t object, seems to know this isn’t about sex as Pete carefully works open his shirt buttons, as he struggles out of his own and they’re chest to chest. It’s easier to talk with soft, warm skin, all barriers removed as they shuffle out of their pants and underwear and tangle together. “Please, tell me what you wanted - what you want?”

 

Pete thinks, ear pressed to the solid warmth of Patrick’s chest, the rhythmic thump of his heart the beat that scores his thoughts. No one’s ever really asked about his aspirations, not even his mom - though he suspects that’s because she feels too guilty at the thought of denying him them - is it too much to hope that Patrick really cares? He glances up, meets a blue gaze that’s soft with encouragement, presses his lips to Patrick’s in a gentle kiss.

 

“I told you about my army buddy, Joe?” Pete begins cautiously, Patrick nods his encouragement. “He has… He opened this bar up in New York. We write to one another, he’s sent me pictures and, God, Patrick, it looks incredible. They have bands and dances and… That’s what I want, you know? I wanted to move there, help him run the place and just live.”

 

Silence falls between them, Patrick’s eyes troubled and far away as he cards his fingers absently through Pete’s hair. He wonders idly how it might be to let it grow a little, to feel the snag and tug of Patrick’s fingers against the curls.

 

“He wants you to go?” Patrick asks softly. Pete nods. “You should.Go, I mean, I- I don’t want you to think I wouldn’t miss you, I would, but you need to be happy.”

 

Go? Just… leave. He pauses to consider it; his mom has always been his reason for staying but with his sister grown and married and back in Chicago, his brother set to do the same, he often wonders if he’s the one holding everyone back. He’s the troublemaker, he’s the one with his card marked by the friendly neighbourhood Klan members. Perhaps his mom’s life would be more peaceful if he were thousands of miles away. Perhaps he’d be more useful sending back a share of a fancy New York paycheck rather than the meagre scrapings he gets at the moment. Maybe it is time to move on? But…

 

“Come with me?” He mutters it quietly into Patrick’s chest, eyes fixed on the soft fuzz of honey blonde chest hair smattered across soft, pale skin.

 

“Hmm,” Patrick hums a hollow sort of chuckle into the crown of Pete’s head. “I don’t think the church would agree.”

 

“Fuck the church,” Patrick winces but Pete has wind in his sails and fire in his belly as he shuffles onto an elbow and gazes down at Patrick with a hopeful smile bright on his lips. “Seriously, we could… We could just run away? Together? Wouldn’t that be a goddamn gas? Can you imagine their faces?”

 

“Right,” Patrick smiles his encouragement, shines it bright into Pete as he gathers him close once again and, with a deep, gusting sigh, demands his fairy tale. “Tell me what we’d do.”

 

“Would you go?” Pete asks doubtfully, he’s being dismissed, that much is obvious.

 

“Pete, I’m a priest,” Patrick reminds him; Pete hates those words, curses them with a cold bitterness that stings him raw. “I can’t… I’d be ex-communicated. This is all I know how to do, I’m not- You’ve seen how useless I am, I’d just hold you back and-”

 

“Okay,” Pete cuts him off, hauls Patrick over onto his side so he can watch him as they talk, so he can stroke the smooth curve of his cheek, feather his thumb over the velvet plush of his lower lip as he paints him a pretty picture. “So, we get to New York - you ever been? - right, well, we arrive at Grand Central with our cases and you’re looking just… fucking swell, you know, in like, jeans and a regular sweater or something?”

 

“You don’t like my suit?” Patrick objects lazily.

 

“I prefer you like this,” Pete runs his knuckles over Patrick’s jaw, he doesn’t blush, just smiles softly. “Anyway, we get there and we take the subway to Joe’s bar, get settled into our apartment just above it - he’s told me there’s a couple rooms up there I can use while I settle in. And I work the bar, and you, well, you’re a smart guy. Maybe you get a teaching job? And we live. We spend our days off in the park or at bars or just in bed, like this, and one day, when we’ve got enough dough, we buy a little place out in the suburbs, just for us. Wouldn’t that be a goddamn blast?”

 

“Yes,” Patrick agrees, pressing a soft kiss to Pete’s throat. “That sounds simply wonderful.”

 

He pulls Patrick in close, envelops him in his arms and sighs, content, as he tucks his soft, blonde head under Pete’s chin. They kiss and talk and hold one another close as the room dims and darkens around them. The crickets outside play their summer symphony, the noise drifting through the open window on a warm, sticky breeze that brings little relief. They talk in the darkness, lips finding one another now and again, fingers laced and squeezing reassurance into one another’s palms as they lean into one another and pay no mind the sweat that slicks between them. They twine together and Pete feels his eyes grow heavy, hears his speech thicken and slur with exhaustion as Patrick sounds half-drunk with slurred semi-sentences and burbled mumbling against his skin.

 

He strokes Patrick’s hair and swears that he’ll make himself remember today for the good things. He promises he’ll mark it in his diary for the right reasons - for Patrick’s eager, fumbling mouth on his body, for his gentle encouragement as they laid together and talked. He makes a pact with himself that the shitty things don’t matter, not in the long run. Those assholes won’t break him. Maybe they could’ve, maybe they had a chance at one point but now, now he has Patrick.

 

He has Patrick and nothing can take that away from him.

 

*

 

He’s shifted when he wakes, rolled onto his stomach and crushed between the wall and so much soft, warm skin. He blinks, confused and still unused to waking next to the solid press of another body, his nose pushed up against the paint as soft, snuffling sort of snores punctuate the room like a heartbeat. Patrick is sprawled over his back, cheek against his shoulder and, unless he’s very much mistaken, there’s a damp puddle of drool forming under those snoring lips. He smiles, warmed at the thought of how adorable Patrick must look right now, craning his neck in an attempt to steal a glance.

 

There’s an arm wrapped tight around him, hand tucked against his ribs, fingers twitching slightly as he dreams - Pete hopes dearly that they’re sweet imaginings - and his morning semi tucked against the curve of Pete’s ass. Neck twisted painfully, he can make out the line of Patrick’s cheek against the ink-and-gold of his back, eyelashes - darker than his hair - fluttered across his cheekbones. His mouth is open, lips slightly dry but still eminently kissable. He stirs, possibly from the scrutiny or maybe it’s the way the muscles of Pete’s back flex and shift under his cheek, either way, stormwave eyes flicker open, blink softly through a haze of sleep and, slowly, flood with comprehension and warmth.

 

“Good morning,” he whispers, without moving, fingers pressing lightly to Pete’s bare ribs.

 

“And to you,” Pete smiles devilishly before continuing brightly. “Did you drool on my back?”

 

“Hmm?” Patrick blinks again, realisation creeping in at his edges as he swipes a hand over his mouth, eyes wide with apology. “Oh! Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, here, let me just-”

 

Pete is laughing, singing with it even if it’s not the prettiest sound in the world. He laughs and grins and rolls onto his back, dragging Patrick - protesting weakly between half-mumbled apologies - between his legs. He grins up at his pretty little priest, pauses to run his fingers through the tufted, slightly fluffy mess of Patrick’s hair, a little damp with sweat around his ears and brow. He’s delicious, a flush of sleep along the crests of his cheekbones, lips damp and shining as he licks them absently. He’s braced above Pete wearing nothing but an indulgent smile, weight on his knees and hands and just a little pressed down to where their hips meet.

 

There was no night time wash at the sink in the bathroom the night before, no warm washcloth after the heat of the day and the scent of sweat is sticky between them. Pete ducks his head a little, rests his nose lightly against the dark blonde hair under Patrick’s arm, the smell of him sending a rush of blood to his cock, “That’s fairly disgusting, Pete.”

 

“But you smell so good,” Pete objects with a grin, pulling him down for a kiss. Patrick is an eager student, the flow of his lips and tongue against Pete’s already developing finesse, the delivery less sloppy and more refined. “Mmm, you feel, pretty good, too. Want to try something?”

 

Patrick nods eagerly, eyes fluttering closed as Pete kisses softly at his throat, trailing kisses along sensitive places until he reaches his ear, dipping his tongue inside briefly before whispering, low and breathy, “Just rock your hips a little against mine, like this,” he reaches down, hands cupping the plush curve of Patrick’s ass and guiding him in slow, lazy thrusts, Patrick whimpers quietly as the delicate, sensitive underside of his cock is rubbed and chafed against Pete’s, “Yeah, that’s it, just like that… Does that feel good, hmm?”

 

“Wonderful,” Patrick breathes, chest hitching as he moans low in his throat.

 

Liquid heat is pooling in Pete’s belly, the rock of hips to hips, the sweat-slick slide of a thick, hard cock against his own almost too much to bear. This was popular in the barracks, the men that would slip into his cot liked this the best because there was no touching, no kissing, no male hands on their bodies or lips framed by stubble wrapped around their cocks. They could bury their faces in Pete’s shoulder and pretend. They could look away and he could be anyone - nothing but warm skin to facilitate an orgasm. This is different, Patrick gazes at him from adoring eyes, thrusts his hips a little faster and, stammering shy, whispers softly, “You’re- you’re so beautiful. And this… It feels… so nice.”

 

Patrick is abysmal at dirty talk, that much is sure, he’s glowing crimson from the effort but shining with the sweetest, shyest smile Pete’s ever seen. He glows with the words, means them down to his core even if he doesn’t really know how to express them properly, it shines from his eyes that this is the only place he wants to be, the only them he wants to experience. He grinds down a little harder, rocks his hips a little faster with a desperate little moan and yes, this is what Pete wants. He digs his fingernails into the plump cheeks of Patrick’s ass, urges him along as they press together. The pre-dawn light casts a glow like roses to Patrick’s skin, flushed pink and pretty as the world sleeps on around them for just a few minutes more. In the next room, the alarm clock begins to ring but neither pay it any mind as they thrust against one another.

 

Patrick’s hips grow steadily more frantic, Pete is alight with energy as they pull and push at one another, as they strive to find the perfect angle, to sate the hunger that echoes around the room. Pete is so close, so incredibly fucking close, the relief of it taunting him, brushing tingling shivers up his spine as he bucks up into Patrick as he begs silently for more, for everything he can give him and then something after that. As Patrick keens his name, a pretty little whimper of the word, he feels his thin hold on reality fray and snap and he’s hurtling through starlight, vision narrowing to Patrick. The ring of blood in his ears is the only soundtrack above his own stuttered cry as he comes, hot and endless, ribbons of pearl that slick their skin as he twitches his hips with a whine.

 

Patrick doesn’t stop, continues to thrust the hard, satin smooth length of his prick against the sensitive flush of Pete’s, his musical little grunts scoring the room as he thrusts hard and fast and - with a melodious little moan - he comes in a burst of hot white between them. His hips work weakly against Pete’s as he comes down, as the pleasant aftershocks ripple over them and their lips can meet in a tender kiss. The alarm rings on but they can ignore it for a minute or two longer, Pete decides, the plump flush of Patrick’s ass under his hands too good to lift himself away from.

 

“How did I do?” Patrick asks eagerly, eyes bright with his release and hope. “Good? I felt like that was good.”

 

“Amazing,” Pete laughs with a weak groan. “Mm, you should get Andy to take mass one morning, we can just stay in bed and… Wouldn’t that be swell?”

 

Patrick laughs, low and easy and clearly not taking him seriously as he struggles to sit with a groan, nose wrinkling slightly at the cooling mess slicked to their stomachs, “I need a bath.”

 

“Better hurry, Father Stump,” Pete teases, reaching for yesterday’s shirt to wipe them both off. “Can’t keep your flock waiting!”

 

He knows when he leaves the bed, leaves the rectory, that he’s going to be faced with those words, glowing ghostly against faded brickwork on the side of the church. He knows it’s going to hurt - though hopefully not as much as yesterday - but he knows there’s nothing he can do to avoid it. Instead he reaches for Patrick’s fingers, raising the hand to his lips and kissing each knuckle in turn, “I… care about you, you know. A lot.”

 

“I care about you, too,” Patrick repeats with a sad smile. “Stay in bed. You look exhausted, get some more sleep. I’m technically your boss and I’m giving you the morning off.”

 

“Your breakfast,” Pete objects weakly as Patrick slips to his feet and pauses to brush a kiss to his lips.

 

“I’m almost thirty,” he grins. “Even I can apply butter to bread without too much going wrong. Sleep.”

 

Pete smiles and nods, watches the retreating view of Patrick’s bare ass as he leaves the room with a yawn and a stretch. Maybe he’ll just rest his eyes for a moment or two…

 

When Pete opens his eyes again, it’s because there’s voices chattering in the distance, words dulled out just enough to be incomprehensible, but loud enough to wake him up. Pete yawns, it must be Patrick who is back. He considers just turning around and going back to sleep, before a sudden realization lets him jolt up.

 

There’s someone speaking to Patrick, he’s not alone. They must have guests over. Someone who came to visit Father Stump? Pete can’t remember the priest mentioning anything about a visitor. Pete sits up, tries to focus on the two voices. One is definitely the familiar voice of Patrick, and the other – wait, what?

 

Pete frowns, shakes his head, but there’s no mistaking the second speaker, soft yet firm, gentle but determined, a little strained in its forced politeness. It’s no one else but Dale Wentz, Pete’s mother.

 

Just as Pete stands up and begins to move to the door, he remembers the state he’s in – still naked, last bit of sweat on his skin, definitely unpresentable. He lets out a curse that Patrick would not approve of, before he grabs his clothes and hastily dresses himself.

 

Pete has no idea what his mom is doing here, combs his mind for any mention of a visit, wonders if he forgot something. He comes up with nothing, this is definitely as a surprise, why is she here? Did something bad happen? Did she hear about those awful letters smeared across the church wall? Is there any more bad news, is she worrying about him, or –

 

A sharp knock on the door interrupts his thoughts. “Peter?” Patrick inquires, the presence of Pete’s mom must have made him slip back into calling him by his full name just like she does. “Are you awake?”

 

“I am,” Pete answers as he searches for a clean shirt – yesterday’s is ruined with cum stains, no way he can wear that again. “Can you – can you give me a second? I’ll get dressed and cleaned.”

 

“Your mother came for a visit,” Patrick says, as if the paper-thin walls of the rectory hadn’t already announced her presence. His voice sounds a little wary, nervous even, like he wasn’t exactly prepared for this either. “We’re waiting in the kitchen for you.”

 

Pete mumbles something he hopes sounds affirmative, doesn’t bother to button up his shirt, then runs to the bathroom to make himself at least somewhat presentable.

 

When Pete comes into the kitchen, he doesn’t even have time for a proper hello. Before he can say a single word, his mother greets him with an excited exclamation of his name, and before Pete can do much, she’s already hurrying over to him, pulling him into a quick hug before she starts to button his shirt as she sends her son a frown. “Peter, look at you, you’re a mess, you can’t walk around like that,” she mumbles, half scolding, half fear, because to her, the situation must look very different. She doesn’t know that Patrick doesn’t mind his buttons being undone, that Patrick is very eager to see that shirt being shrugged off to reveal all of the skin beneath, that Patrick isn’t one of those people. To her, Patrick is just the priest of the church that still has the faded shadows of hateful letters smeared on its wall; he’s just Father Stump, a stranger, someone potentially dangerous, someone that can’t be trusted.

 

“Mom, please, I’m fine.” Pete holds up his hand, fumbles with the last button, and tucks in his shirt before his mother has the chance to do so. Seemingly pleased with her son’s appearance, Dale takes a step back, but not before giving him a slightly embarrassing pat on the head. It’s a leftover gesture from his childhood, one he never outgrew given he’s barely grown taller than her.

 

Awkward silence lingers for a moment. Pete wants to say everything and doesn’t know where to start, his mother seems still unsure of what to do in the presence of this unknown priest, so it’s actually Patrick who saves them. He clears his throat, and the smile on his face, while a little shaky, is gentle and sincere. “I’m pleased to meet you, Mrs. Wentz,” he says, so that means they’ve already had time to introduce themselves. Patrick turns to Pete. “Your mother came to me after Mass, and asked me when you were free to see her. And, well,” Patrick tugs his collar, gives another smile, “I thought no time like the present.” He tugs at his collar again, then straightens his back, the good Catholic boy and the friendly priest in him taking over. “You must excuse me, Mrs. Wentz, I’m afraid I don’t make for a good host right now. There’s not much I have to offer, but is there anything you want? Food, or a drink, perhaps?”

 

“That really is too kind of you,” she answers, it’s an empty phrase for anyone but her because no one has much friendliness to offer to the Wentz family. “But no, I’m fine. Thank you very much, Father.”

 

“I’m sure you want to talk to your son alone. Please, have the living room,” Patrick says as he gestures towards it, “it’s much more comfortable there.”

 

Pete can see another spark of doubt on his mother’s face – Dale Wentz isn’t invited into people’s homes, and she doesn’t get invited into the living room, a place reserved for the real guests, not her. Aside from her family, not many people in Clark are willing to be nice and welcoming.

 

“I’ll be in my room if you need me,” Patrick concludes, sends Pete a questioning look. Pete nods, it might be best to talk to his mom alone for now. He guides her to the living room, and once they hear the door of the priest’s room fall shut, she pulls her son into a tight embrace. Now, there are no witnesses, no more reasons to hold back, so Pete just lets her. His mother is worried beyond belief, Pete knows, and now that they’re alone, her calm façade is trembling as she pulls him even closer, protective as always.

 

She takes a step back, and takes a deep breath. “How are you doing, Peter? I miss my little boy so much…”

 

“I’m still here, mom, and I don’t think I qualify as a little boy anymore,” Pete answers, but his voice is warm, and free of accusation. He knows his mom is used to having him home, close to her, somewhere where she can always keep an eye on him and make sure he is okay. Ever since Pete left for the army, and ever since he came back to a family now devoid of a father, Dale had even been more nervous about the remaining family. It’s already hard for her that her daughter is married and back in Chicago, so having yet another child leaving the house understandably unsettles her.

 

“I’m fine,” Pete continues, tries to keep his voice even and reassuring. “I’m doing pretty good, actually. Work is demanding, but not too difficult, I can manage it. And Pa- and Father Stump is very nice to me. You don’t need to worry,” he says, because he knows his mother does so, “he’s a good man. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have given me work, and wouldn’t have let me stay.” He bites his tongue; there’s no reason to tell his mom about the escapades between them, the gloomy period where all they did was to hurt each other. It’s done and over.

 

Dale reaches out to softly stroke over his cheek. “You should’ve shaved, young man,” she scolds, “you can’t run around looking like a mess.” Pete mumbles something about being an adult capable of grooming himself, but keeps silent about how the priest has seen him in much more messy states. It’s best if his mom doesn’t know, it’s best if he doesn’t burden her with more problems and dangerous knowledge.

 

“Peter, I know what they did to the church,” she says, and it breaks Pete’s heart to see that she doesn’t even flinch, that her eyes are just empty, because she’s seen these words too many times, she’s heard them more than enough, it’s not even close to the worst insults thrown at her and her family. “I wanted to make sure you’re okay, I wanted to make sure no one – no one hurt you, or got you into trouble.”

 

Of course, Pete is hurt by the bright red shameful paint, but he knows what his mother means – she means angry fists and steel-toed boots finding soft flesh, she means broken bones, bloody noses, colorful bruises, terrifying physical injuries. All things she’s seen him left with before. It enrages Pete, he knows that the hateful bastards writing on the church wall think he and his mom should be grateful they didn’t do anything worse, as if these fucking abominable letters were just a harmless, rightful warning.

 

“I know I probably shouldn’t be here after what happened,” his mother says, and her voice is shaking, “I don’t want to get you in trouble, and I wasn’t sure if the Father would even let me in, but… I needed to see you, Peter.”

 

It takes all of Pete’s self-control to not smash his fist into the nearby wall, let his anger, frustration and humiliation manifest in pointless destruction. How dare they make his own mother feel too afraid to visit her own son? How dare they, how fucking dare they.

 

“You’re always welcome here, mom. Don’t ever – don’t let these fucking bastards win like that.” Those are bold words, and they both know it’s as heroic as it is dangerous.

 

“Watch your language,” Dale says softly; she doesn’t say that as much as they wish it were that easy, it isn’t. “You can’t be that foul-mouthed around a priest, that’s indecent.”

 

Pete bites back that he has whispered filthy words into Patrick’s ears countless times, and despite the priest’s reluctance to join him, he never outright forbid Pete from swearing. Well, aside from that whole “don’t use the Lord’s name in vain” rule that Patrick thankfully forgets about when Pete works his cock…

 

He shakes his head, and pushes those thoughts away for later. “Father Stump is a priest. And because of his Christian generosity, he forgives me the occasional cuss.”

 

“Is he good to you?” His mother inquires, now with something darker in her voice. “Does he treat you right, Peter? Because if not…” She doesn’t finish the sentence, because really, the discrepancy of what she wants to do and the things she actually could do without endangering herself and all her loved ones is depressingly huge.

 

“We’ve had a bit of a difficult start,” Pete admits, “Father Stump, well… It was hard to relate to each other at first, given the different circumstances we grew up in.” That’s as neutral and polite as he can phrase it. “But we got ourselves together, yeah, he’s a good man. He doesn’t treat me differently because of who I am. He’s not one of these gossipy townspeople, and he isn’t a giant horrible hypocrite like Father Francis used to be.”

 

“Language, son,” Dale scolds him, but her voice is gentle. “The Father might be generous, but I’m your mother, and you won’t sweet talk me into forgiveness that easy.”

 

While he mutters another phrase about being an adult, Pete still allows his mother to stroke over his cheek again. It’s nice that she doesn’t do it out of serious concerns for once. She takes his hands into hers, frowns when she notices their pitiful state. She knows exactly why they look like that, she’s seen it before, on both Pete’s and her own hands, when they scrubbed off vile, hateful letters from their own house more than once.

 

“You don’t need to worry, mom,” Pete says, and he feels like this time, he actually means those words for once. “I can deal with it. These bas –“ He cuts himself off at the stern look from his mother, “these people won’t drag me down. I have Andy on my side,” Pete pauses, he can’t help but smile a little when he thinks about Patrick, about gentle blue eyes and plush lips curled into a matching smile, about calming words and soothing strokes over naked skin, tears that for once, brought relief instead of more pain. “And I have Father Stump on my side as well. I trust him. Patrick’s my friend and I know he won’t stand for this kind of behavior.”

 

Dale smiles, for the first time since she has been here. She doesn’t call out her son’s slip-up in proper manners by calling the priest by his first name.

 

“I’m glad you made a friend,” she says instead; no need to point out that this is a rarity in Clark. Aside from Andy, there wasn’t anyone else Pete had considered his friend in this damn town. “And it’s good to see you smile, Peter.”

 

Pete shrugs, but doesn’t conceal the smile that still lingers on his face. He doesn’t mention that previously, there just wasn’t much reason to do so. He wishes he could tell his mother everything, list off all the reasons why exactly Patrick makes him smile, could explain the love that is between them and share his cause for happiness with her. But Pete doesn’t, knows he shouldn’t, that his mother has enough to worry about already. One day, maybe, oh, one day he hopes he can send her a picture of Patrick and him in Joe’s bar up in New York, all smiles and sunshine, all carelessness, joy, and a love that doesn’t deserve to be treated like a secret…

 

These wishful thoughts are interrupted when his mother takes him into another hug again, gives him a kiss on his cheek. “I’ve held you up enough,” she says, “I’m sorry it’s so spontaneous, I just… I couldn’t wait, and since Father Stump invited me…”

 

“It’s fine, mom,” Pete laughs, “don’t worry, we can manage. It was good to see you. I’ll drop by next week, how about that?”

 

Dale nods, then takes a step back. “Would you mind getting the good Father? I want to say a proper goodbye. If – if he wants.”

 

“I’m sure he does,” Pete says as he’s halfway out the room already. He knocks on Patrick’s door, but doesn’t bother to wait for an invitation.

 

Patrick sits at his desk, and while there are several papers strewn across it, it doesn’t look like he got much done. When Pete enters the room, Patrick stands up, sends him a glance loaded with worry and concern. “Are you okay?” He asks shyly, and sighs in relief when he gets an affirmative nod. Pete takes Patrick’s hand into his own, pale skin still rough and reddened from the scrubbing and the chemicals.

 

“My mom wants to say goodbye,” Pete whispers, “would you come to the living room?”

 

“Sure.” Patrick squeezes his hand, then lets go of it with a wistful hint of regret. It would be nice to be able to walk up to his mother with their fingers entwined, but that is foolish wishful thinking in their situation. Pete tries not to be sad, reminds himself that Patrick is a Catholic priest, so even if he was a woman, they couldn’t openly display any signs of affection.

 

True to his upbringing and true to the supposed virtues of a priest, Patrick is all politeness and hospitality. He exchanges a bit of amicable small talk, and insists on shaking Dale’s hand. Pete is sure that Father Francis would have had quite a few objections to his successor’s behavior, he knows that a disturbingly large amount of the townsfolk wouldn’t like the priest to be so friendly to her. There’s a brief moment of hesitation, then she takes the hand offered to her, and Pete knows that his mother must notice their pitiful state, must know why they’re raw and red just like his.

 

“It was nice to meet you,” Patrick finally says, “I’m sorry it was so short, and forgive me for not having much to offer. I’m afraid we barely had a chance to introduce ourselves, and I’m sure a mother must want to see her son. Please, Mrs. Wentz, would you accept an invitation for a proper dinner on Sunday?”

 

“Dinner?” Dale repeats, unsure of what to answer. Pete knows that no one in town invites his family for dinner on Sundays - no one white anyway.

 

“Oh, nothing formal,” Patrick reassures her, “I’m afraid as a priest, I’m ill-equipped to offer anything too glamorous. Just a modest gathering, if that’s okay with you.”

 

There’s a moment of silence, then a small nod. “Of course, Father.” Pete can see there’s still caution in his mother’s behavior, but there’s a small smile, and maybe, a small bit of trust. “Would you like me to bring the food?”

 

Pete wants to say yes, because his mom is a damn good cook, and he misses her home-made specialties. But before he can say so, Patrick holds up both hands, shakes his head. “I can’t invite you, and then offer you food you had to make yourself, that’s just rude. I’m sure Peter can do a fine job cooking.” Patrick smiles so politely, and he’s so eager to be friendly and nice to his mom, and damnit. No way Pete can object now. He got used to doing the household chores, so his pride as a man is only a little bit hurt. Thankfully, Patrick doesn’t really have much of a concept of what regular society outside of the ivory towers of priesthood considers as manly, he’s not ill-intentioned in his request. Pete’s mother looks a bit surprised, but she’s not going to object the host’s rules.

 

“At least let me bring dessert, Father? I don’t want to come empty-handed,” she asks, and thankfully, Patrick accepts.

 

Some more polite chit-chat follows as Pete guides his mother to the door, followed by Patrick. A last handshake with the priest, a last mildly embarrassing display of motherly affection by giving her son another hug, a kiss on his cheek (“shave, Peter, I didn’t raise a slacker!”), then she’s out the door.

 

Once the door falls shut behind her, Patrick lets out a long-drawn sigh, tugs his collar again. “Did I do okay?” He asks nervously, “I – I wasn’t really prepared for visitors, I’m sorry if I wasn’t a good host to her.”

 

Pete just takes his hands again, gives a small kiss to Patrick’s cheek like he’s wanted to do the whole time but couldn’t. He doesn’t say that this was probably the friendliest that an outsider has treated her in a long time, that Father Francis probably wouldn’t even have let her into the house, that it’s sad that a nice, casual invitation to dinner isn’t a norm, but an exception for his mother.

 

“Don’t worry, you did fine,” Pete says instead, lets his head rest on Patrick’s shoulder, closes his eyes while Patrick runs his hand over his hair. They stay silent, the heavy words unsaid between them, but the comforting gesture lets Pete’s anger melt away.

 

Sooner or later, he has to go outside again, face the shadow of the letters still clinging to the wall of the church, knowing that people look at him with hate and disgust. But with Patrick at his side, it doesn’t seem so hard anymore because now, there’s a glimmer of hope, the idea of a better future, the dawn of a plan that promises a better life for both of them.

 

No, Pete won’t be defeated.

Chapter Text

The graffiti on the church causes a stir in more ways than Patrick could even have begun to anticipate. There are comments like Ms Johnson’s that hurt him, ones that he wants to shield Pete from, people that he wants to condemn and tell them they’re not welcome in his church. Of course, he can’t, his hands are tied and he can only imagine the pleasure some of the other local priests would take if he were to give in to such urges. But those are the expected ones, those are the ones he realises lurk in every dark corner of Clark, the ones that fake concern to hide their racism, the ones that mutter, “it’s just because we’re worried about the church, Father,” right before they spit hateful words.

 

Then there are the others, the ones that creep to him in quiet moments, the ones he would least suspect. There’s the old army vet, a grizzled man that’s spent his whole seventy-two years in Clark aside from the time he spent on the Western front of the first world war. He’s the one lingering in a pew after confession one stifling summer evening, the one that lays a hand on Patrick’s shoulder and mutters kind reassurance.

 

“It ain’t right, Father, it ain’t what we fought fer. I fought with fellas just like him,” and Patrick waits for the hateful words with a wince, for darkies or niggers or something else that dehumanises Pete, that makes him less than. It doesn’t come. “Good men, men fightin’ fer their country and they come home to this… It ain’t right, no sir. If I were younger I’d show ‘em but what use is an old coot like me?”

 

“You’re more use than you could ever know,” Patrick assures him, squeezing the hand as gnarled as old tree roots in his own. Because it means something, to hear kindness directed to Pete, to hear someone speak of him with the respect he deserves. It’s a shame there seem to be so few voices in the chorus.

 

But they increase, day by day, the odd word here, the occasional parishioner going out of their way to find Pete after Mass to say good morning. Pete hates it, thinks it’s pity dressed up in guilt but Patrick has to have some faith, has to believe that there are still good people out there, kind, decent people that don’t see the world through a narrow kaleidoscope of skin tone. Because if he doesn’t believe that there’s goodness amongst his flock, then what is the point of their shepherd?

 

That’s just his parishioners though, there still seem to be very few words of kindness for Pete on the lips of the others around the town in Clark. They walk into town together once a week to collect their groceries from the store – it’s too much for Pete to carry alone and Patrick certainly can’t afford to run a car – and the trip is always accompanied by black looks and muttered words behind gossiping hands. It’s when they return from one of these trips that Pete loses it, hurling the bags across the hallway floor the instant the door closes behind them.

 

“Fuck them all,” he roars, hurling a can of green beans against the wall hard enough to leave behind a gaping wound of a hole in the plaster. “Fuck. Them. All! Fucking assholes! They’re- they’re not fucking better than me!”

 

His fist follows the can, buried into the plaster next to it and, for the first time, Patrick is thankful for the paper-thin walls, for the way it gives easily under Pete’s knuckles and just leaves a bloom of purple bruising, doesn’t split the skin and leave blood and bone. He reaches for Pete, drags him close as he mumbles pointless platitudes into his ear. Pete struggles but not hard and only for a second until he relaxes with a snarled sob. He controls his tears quickly, a skill he’s unsurprisingly adept at, and Patrick wonders not for the first time how many times he’s bitten off the need to cry, how many times he’s hidden tears that needed to fall. Pete buries his face into the crook of Patrick’s neck, breathing slow and deep as he calms, as his heart rate lowers from the frantic tattoo Patrick could feel through the front of his shirt to something softer, more natural.

 

“I’m here,” Patrick reassures him softly, because it’s okay wouldn’t be the truth, it’s not okay. “I’m right here, I’ve got you.”

 

That’s as much assurance as he can offer; that he’s got him, that he’s here, that he won’t let go no matter what they might say about him. Pete has shown him the letters from the Joe, the words etched into his mind.

 

You should come up here, it’s swell, we’d have a gas together I just know it. I could take a different girl home every night – there’s even fairies just for you! Please say you’ll think about it? You’re too young to waste your life in a one-horse town that lost its horse with the confederacy.

 

Patrick knows Joe is right, he’s never met the man but he already likes him for the easy friendship he seems to share with Pete, bright and obvious even in ink on paper, for the way he wants what’s best for him. Patrick shares that wish and although it breaks his heart to imagine losing the only person he’s ever felt safe around, it seems a small sacrifice to pay for Pete’s happiness. For Pete’s safety.

 

Oh yes, of course, Pete makes comments about them moving up to New York together but how could that ever be a reality? Patrick has broken so many of his vows already, gone against so much that his church has spent a lifetime telling him is wrong, ex-communication on top of that would just be too much. It’s a pretty story, a fairy tale that Pete murmurs into his ear in the sticky darkness of their night-time trysts. It can never become a reality, for Patrick at least, but oh how he wants Pete to take the chance, to seize it and run from Clark and never look back. Perhaps to remember his silly, fumbling little priest now and again with a tender smile.

 

But right now, right at this moment, he has somewhere else he needs to be as he pulls back from Pete with regret, as he smooths a hand over close-cropped hair with a reassuring smile and whispers softly, “I have to go back into town, Ms Johnson’s grandmother has asked me to visit. Are you going to be okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Pete nods sadly, he doesn’t need to point out that it wouldn’t matter if he thought otherwise, Patrick would still have his job and he’d still have to leave. “I’m fine.”

 

He’s not, but Patrick can’t argue with him, can just press a kiss to soft lips, a kiss loaded with as much affection as he can express. It’s sweetly tender, heavy with longing and accompanied by the briefest press of Pete’s tongue against his own then he’s ushering him towards the door, cuffing at eyes rimmed red and muttering something about tidying up and getting dinner started. Bluster and bluff to pretend he’s okay and Patrick doesn’t have the words, knowledge or experience to make him acknowledge otherwise so instead, with a final worried glance back over his shoulder, he slips back out of the rectory and into town.

 

Ms Johnson and her grandmother are as insufferable as Patrick imagined they would be, less interested in prayer than they are about gossiping about the vandalism of the church. He wants to throw things, just like Pete did, to hurl one of the many delicate, pointless little somethings displayed on cabinets and bookcases straight through the nearest window. But he can’t, he has to smile politely as they speculate about culprits and keep a gentle note to his voice when the opinion is voiced again that he should just fire Pete and send him back to the black part of town where he belongs. It’s cotton season, they opine, it’s not like he’ll struggle for work.

 

“I don’t think that’s the opinion Jesus would have had,” he forces out through gritted teeth, too furious with boiling, impotent rage to conjure up an appropriate passage from his bible. “Perhaps a little Christian charity wouldn’t go amiss? Peter is a good man, kind and hard-working, he deserves our sympathy not to be thrown to the wolves, don’t you think?”

 

There are mumblings and mutterings, comments about Father Beckett over in Tupelo and his still half-full teacup is whisked away from him with the clear implication that his visit is over. He’s still fighting the urge to throw something as he makes his way briskly down Main Street and back towards the reassuring enclosure of Saint Sebastian’s, so focused on his feet against the sidewalk that initially, he doesn’t really hear the voice calling his name.

 

“Father Stump? Over here, Father!” He stops, shoulders tense, and waits for yet more bullshit – funny how he thinks in curses he could never bring himself to say out loud. When he turns it’s to a face he recognises instantly – Mrs Harvey, influential, well-to-do and wealthy – his face contorting into a grim spectre of his priestly smile. “Oh, thank goodness I caught you.”

 

Her voice is loud and carries across the street, a woman used to commanding attention, as he holds out his hands to grasp hers in a friendly gesture of greeting, “God bless you, Mrs Harvey, I’m afraid I was just- “

 

“Oh nonsense, Father Stump, I don’t intend to steal much of your time,” she declares in ringing tones. “I wanted to speak to you about that young man you employ over at the church.”

 

Patrick’s heart sinks; they’ve already attracted attention, people are already looking to see what, exactly, she’s booming about. He can’t take another unpleasant comment about a man so dear to him, he swears he can’t, “What about him?”

 

“Well, I was looking at what a marvellous job he’s done of your roof over at Saint Sebastian’s and I was wondering if he’d like to earn a little extra cash on his days off,” her eyes are warm and genuine as Patrick feels a little of the mistrust melting. “I’ve got this fella in at the moment – his daddy owns the store – but he’s a menace, Father Stump, a true menace. I wanted someone reliable, someone trustworthy,” the stares might be starting to grow a little more hostile but Patrick’s smile is widening, “So I thought, what about that lovely young man from the church. Pete, wasn’t it?”

 

“Yes, Pete,” Patrick agrees, nodding with fervour. “I… That’s very kind of you- “

 

“Nonsense,” she interrupts. “I’m not asking out of kindness, I need a job doing by an honest man. There are so few of those these days, wouldn’t you agree, Father Stump? Well, I’ve taken enough of your time, you be sure to ask him, you hear? Tell him I’ll pay him just as much as I was paying that layabout from the store.”

 

He says his goodbyes with a smile so wide it aches, a slight spring in his steps as he makes his way back towards the rectory, faith restored that there are still a few good people out there. His happiness is, at least temporarily, deflated by Pete’s scowl as he steps through the door.

 

“Father Beckett called,” he snarls from the kitchen. “Said he’d spoken to a few of your parishioners and he has some concerns about Saint Sebastian’s. He said he’s coming over tomorrow afternoon.”

 

“Father Beckett is a pompous fuddy-duddy,” he mutters, frowning when Pete collapses into giggles. “Who died and made him Bishop?”

 

*

 

Father Beckett is, sadly, true to his word, his little Chrysler bumping down the uneven track from the road to the rectory that Patrick can’t bring himself to aggrandise with the term “driveway”. Patrick meets him at the porch steps with a smile far more welcoming than he actually feels and a handshake he doesn’t really wish to partake in. The mutual dislike seems to hang palpably in the air as they make their way to the front door, sharp and sour between them.

 

Once they’re seated in the living room with a pot of tea and the nice teacups, Father Beckett turns to Pete with a sickly-sweet smile, “Only two cups? Why, aren’t you going to join us, son?”

 

“Who, me?” Pete keeps his head down, Patrick longs to stroke the smooth curve of his cheek – he shaved specifically so Father Beckett couldn’t look down on him – to reassure him. “What would a coloured boy like me do with two fine gentlemen like the two of you? No, I’ve work to do elsewhere.”

 

“Oh, Father Stump, you work the man too hard,” Father Beckett declares, pouring himself a cup of tea from the teapot. “Come now, I’m sure you can take a break, have a cup of tea with us.”

 

“I have work to do,” Pete responds, voice clipped and short. “But thank you.”

 

Father Beckett sends a glance that’s pure expectation at Patrick, eyes narrowed and lips drawn thin. It goes against every instinct to protect Pete that Patrick possesses, every urge and certainty and yet… He can’t have anyone in the church asking awkward questions.

 

“Pete, you can stay,” he mutters softly. “Take my cup, I’m not thirsty.”

 

Pete pauses, unsure, that same war of wanting to put distance between himself and Father Beckett and not wanting to give him the satisfaction play across his handsome features. With a defeated sigh, he sinks onto the couch, a respectable distance between him and Patrick, waving away the offer of tea.

 

“So, Peter,” Father Beckett eyes Pete speculatively over his teacup. “I hear you’ve been making things rather… exciting around here.”

 

“I didn’t write the graffiti,” Pete mutters, a flush springing across his cheeks as he glowers down at his boots. “Nothing to do with me.”

 

“Oh, but it was sort of to do with you, now wasn’t it, son?” Father Beckett continues to taunt him softly. “It wasn’t about Father Stump here, was it? No, he’s as white as the driven snow but you… Well, you’re the only, er, coloured gentleman associated with the church, now aren’t you?”

 

There’s a long, heated moment of silence, a few tense seconds of a muscle ticking in Pete’s jaw, of his fists balling against his knees. Patrick wants to intervene, but how, how to defend Pete without making their relationship obvious?

 

“Surely,” he begins, careful to keep his voice lightly shocked. “Surely, you’re not suggesting Pete invited those hateful words, are you, Father Beckett?”

 

“Of course not,” Father Beckett laughs, light and airy. “I’m just saying that church property probably wouldn’t have been defaced if Pete didn’t work here.”

 

“So, what you’re saying,” Pete is wide, innocent eyes and slow blinks, voice a slow drawl. “Is that I should seek employment away from the nice, white church? Is that it?”

 

“Well it is cotton-growing season,” William smiles sweetly and Patrick flinches at hearing that suggestion again. “I’m sure you could find... appropriate work.”

 

Pete bites his lip, head bowed as he studiously pours himself a cup of tea.

 

“Pete won’t be going anywhere,” Patrick tries to keep his voice light and level. “He’ll be working here for as long as he wants to.”

 

There’s silence, tense and awkward as Pete sips his tea and Father Beckett smiles coldly at Patrick from across the room. His dark eyes flick between his fellow priest and Pete, slow and calculating and Patrick begins to shift uncomfortably. Does he know? Is he looking at them on the couch and seeing the things they’ve done there? The kisses exchanged, the way Pete’s brought his head to rest in Patrick’s lap and purred, content, as Patrick traced the blunt pull of his fingernails over Pete’s scalp. Can he tell that Pete was on his knees in front of the couch the night before, mouth around Patrick’s cock as he moaned and whimpered for him?

 

No. No, he’s being ridiculous, there’s no way that Father Beckett, that anyone, could possibly know those things. Patrick hasn’t told anyone and Pete swore he wouldn’t, not even Andy. No, Patrick is being completely insane and he needs to calm down, to settle the blush that’s raging across his skin as he stares at the pattern on the carpet beneath his feet. It’s fine.

 

“As much as I’m pleased to see you,” Patrick starts awkwardly, determined to break the silence. “Was there a reason you came by my humble little church? Something I could help you with?”

 

“I’m concerned,” Father Beckett places his cup down with purpose, steeples his fingers under his chin and regards Patrick with cool consideration. “I wasn’t sure about you in the first place, being shipped in from Chicago, fancy college education, why were you moved here, Father Stump?”

 

“I already told you,” Patrick won’t stammer, he forces himself to breathe deeply, to calm his nerves as he speaks, it’s an easy lie, one that he’s rehearsed so many times. “His Eminence made the decision to send me to tend the flock here in Clark. I didn’t question him, it’s not my place, not the place of any priest to question a bishop.”

 

He prays silently that will be sufficient, reminding Father Beckett where they sit in the ranks – side by side – below a hierarchy that doesn’t lend itself to questioning. It would seem the erstwhile priest is a little less constrained by convention than his Chicagoan counterparts, however.

 

“I’m not sure I believe you, Father Stump,” William continues softly, threat heavy in his words. “I will find out, you know. Your parishioners deserve someone decent, someone wholesome, someone – “

 

“Someone like Father Francis?” Pete cuts in sharp as a knife but smooth as butter. “Someone that… enjoys the company of the altar boys?” Patrick is confused at the spots of colour that spring out on Father Beckett’s cheeks. What, exactly, is wrong with enjoying the company of the altar boys? Patrick rather enjoys their boisterous banter and silly games, himself. “Someone that spends the church’s money on that fancy china you’re drinking from while the roof caves in? Someone like that?”

 

“You would know all about unnatural relationships,” Father Beckett adjusts his collar carefully as Pete grimaces into his teacup. “Oh, yes. I’ve heard a lot about you, Peter. I’ve heard what they whisper about you. Is it true?”

 

“You want to find out?” Pete tosses him a lascivious wink and Patrick wants to shake him; why encourage the rumours? Why make things harder than they already are?

 

“Well you already carry out the household duties of a woman for the good Father here,” William pauses to take a sip of his tea. “Are you dealing with the marital duties of a woman, also?”

 

It’s a throwaway comment, of that much Patrick is sure, bitter and unpleasant in its delivery but with no real weight or meaning behind it. But it’s too close, much too close, to the truth. It’s lingering at the edges of their reality, a judgemental pair of eyes ready to peer in, to intrude and Patrick won’t have it, he won’t.

 

“Come now, Father Beckett, that’s an amusing joke for sure, but there are no more marital duties in this rectory than there are for any priest. Are you suggesting you could persuade the bishop to give me an extra allowance for a housekeeper?” Patrick asks casually, wishing her had a cup to give his hands something to do. “It’s really very kind of you to use your influence in such a way but if I’m mistaken, then as I’ve already explained to you before, I can only afford one member of staff and as it wouldn’t be appropriate to send a woman up a ladder to fix the roof, then I have to have a man deal with my laundry for me. You know how useless we priests are, can’t do a thing for ourselves. Pete’s really very good about the amount of work I have to pass along to him, I don’t pay him nearly enough. And let’s have no more talk of unkind untruths spread by people with no time for anything but silly rumours, no good ever came of anyone that partook in idle gossip, I’m sure.”

 

It’s a desperate attempt to pour oil onto troubled water and for a moment Patrick thinks it won’t work. There’s too much fire in Pete’s eyes, too much reptilian coldness in Father Beckett’s, they’re going to keep hurling insults until something strikes home and one of them ends up spilling more than they should in a moment of passion. But somehow it works, Pete settles back into his seat with his slow grin and Father Beckett drains the last of his tea.

 

“Well, Father Stump, once again I fear I’ve taken far too much of your time,” he intones easily, rising gracefully to his feet. “Very interesting visit though, very interesting indeed, I’ll have so much to discuss with the bishop next time I see him.”

 

Father Beckett and the bishop can go hang, Patrick thinks with a vicious lack of charity in his heart. But whilst his mind is occupied with venom, his lips relax into the easy, Sunday service smile he knows so well, his hand clasping Father Beckett’s as he shows him to the door.

 

“Oh, how wonderful,” he smiles blandly. “I do hope you’ll tell him what a wonderful job we’re doing of fixing up the wreck of a church we were left with. We’re really quite proud of our efforts, aren’t we, Pete?”

 

“Oh, yes,” Pete grins, wide and sarcastic. “Just super proud!”

 

And, as Father Beckett’s car bumps and lurches out of sight, Patrick jumps a little as Pete lands a hard smack to his ass, murmuring softly on the sultry summer air.

 

“Mmm, you’re delicious when you’re angry.”

 

“Nonsense,” Patrick mumbles as he closes the door, torn between his anger at Father Beckett, and the relief to have finally escaped the awkward situation. “And what was that slap for?” He doesn’t admit that it felt rather nice, the last tickle of where Pete’s palm landed still a delicious sense of pain.

 

“Do I need an excuse to touch your butt?” Pete asks with wide eyes.

 

“Don’t test my patience,” Patrick says with no bite behind it, words even further betrayed by the small smile on his lips.

 

Pete grins back with a spark of mischief in his eyes. “Or what? Will the good Father spank me? I certainly wouldn’t mind…”

 

“That’s weird, Pete.” Patrick shakes his head, takes Pete’s hands into his own and pulls him closer. Screw Father Beckett, screw the old-fashioned bishop. How dare they judge? How could they say that what is between him and Pete is wrong, if all they strive for is some simple happiness? Pete’s relaxed smile, the way his calloused fingers rub over the back of Patrick’s hand, the little sigh as he leans into the kiss – no, Patrick can’t find anything sinful in what they’re doing. Just two humans with the desire to love – a desire that the Lord himself planted into their aching hearts.

 

“Sleep in my room today?” Patrick proposes between two kisses. “I’m tired of getting up to shut off the alarm clock. And I… I want you with me.” They’ve always ended up in Pete’s room so far, and he’s enjoyed it immensely. But Patrick wants Pete in his own room, all to himself, wants to hold him close while they lay together in his own bed.

 

Another kiss, then Pete rests his forehead against Patrick’s. “Sure,” he answers, “I’d love to.”

 

That’s definitely something to look forward to, it’s what keeps Patrick going through the rest of the day after Father Beckett’s visit leaves a sour taste in his mouth. Pete uses the remaining daylight to catch up on the repair work William prevented him from doing, and Patrick has to take the evening Mass.

 

Afterwards, as everyone is leaving and Patrick stands next to the door, always an open ear for polite small talk, requests, or unfortunate snide remarks, Father Hurley approaches him. “I heard you had a visitor today,” he murmurs, soft voice and soft smile not giving away his feelings on the matter either way.

 

“Indeed. Father Beckett from Tupelo came to inspect the progress on the church.” Patrick tries to sound neutral, he won’t be a badmouthing gossip like William no matter how tempting it may be. “We had tea, and a short talk, nothing more.” Patrick hesitates as he realizes that both times William came for a visit, the other priest came for him, never even mentioned the deacon. It seems rather rude, and definitely an intended slight; not that it comes as a surprise that the uptight priest from Tupelo doesn’t like Andy. “I hope you’re not cross with me for not inviting you, Father Hurley,” Patrick says anyway, but Andy just shakes his head, the smile on his lips now more of a badly concealed smirk.

 

“With all due respect, Father Stump, if anything, I’m glad to be spared an invitation.”

 

Patrick nods, that’s quite understandable and if he were to be honest, he too would love to be spared from another agonizing visit.

 

“Father Beckett and I… Had our disagreements in the past,” Andy says, which doesn’t come as a surprise either. It’s not the right time or place to talk about it in-depth, so Patrick makes a mental note to address this another time.

 

“So it’s true?” He hears someone say, “Father Beckett visited? Ah, I knew it was his ridiculous little car I saw today!” It’s Mister Davidson, with his wife in tow, both approaching them. “That man should stay back in Tupelo, we don’t want him here. Those snobs from the city, always sneering at us… Clark is a damn fine town, even if we aren’t as fancy as them. Isn’t that true, honey?” He turns to his wife, who cocks her head, seemingly not quite agreeing with her husband.

 

“Well, at least the church in Tupelo doesn’t get vandalized,” she says with clear accusation, then lowers her voice. “And the deacon isn’t a red menace,” she mutters almost inaudibly.

 

“Oh, they’d love to vandalize the church, but the darn Becketts have too much money and influence. They’d get those people thrown out of town, or beaten up in a dark alleyway.”

 

“I’m afraid I can’t offer that,” Patrick interjects with a forced smile. He really should say something about forgiveness, or love thy enemy, but neither does it seem appropriate, nor does anyone seem to mind. Andy stays silent, his smile just a little off, and thankfully, the Davidsons bid their farewell and vanish.

 

Patrick can’t help but let out a small sigh. The only other notable incident is when Mrs Parker approaches them with a basket in her hand, and hands both Patrick and Andy a jar of homemade apple butter. It’s not the first time people have handed them food, and Patrick never declines anything (except the home-brewed alcohol – it brings back bad memories, but thankfully, priesthood provides a good excuse to refuse the generous gift), but after what happened in the past few days, it’s especially welcome. There’s just a nod and a smile and a few polite words, nothing outstanding, but when she’s gone, Patrick notices his jar is bigger than Andy’s, clearly intended to last long enough for two people instead of one.

 

“Not everyone here is a bad person, right?” Patrick asks softly when everyone aside from Andy is gone. The promise of autumn is in the air, the sunset bringing the first crispness of a cool breeze. Silence lingers between them for a moment, as they both watch the spectacle of color pouring over the rooftops.

 

“No,” Andy finally says with a sigh, “but the ones who aren’t… They’re not leading an easy life here in Clark.” There’s a certain kind of resignation etched into his face, a telling sign that the deacon doesn’t have it easy in this town either.

 

Another question sparks in Patrick as he recalls the conversation with William. “Tell me, is there something wrong with enjoying the altar boys’ company? Father Beckett, he – reacted so strangely?” Patrick inquires with curiosity. “Of course, they’re just children, but they’re… they’re rather sweet and so amusing. And didn’t Jesus say Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven?” He shakes his head, William truly is a miserable man if he can’t stand children, the Lord’s most blessed creatures.

 

There’s a moment of stunned silence as Andy looks at him with something Patrick can’t really place. “Sure, Father,” he says cautiously, “and all of our precious children need to be protected.”

 

Now that is an odd answer. Pete, William, and even Andy, what’s their deal? Is there some sort of in-joke I just don’t get? Patrick wonders, but there has been enough talking for today. So, he says nothing, just says his goodbye to Father Hurley and makes his way to the rectory. He is beaming with excitement as the weight on his shoulders seems to get lighter and lighter with each step that carries him closer to Pete. All evening and all night it’s going to be just for the two of them, that’s enough to make Patrick forget his worries for now.

 

Dinner is ready when Patrick finally enters the kitchen, and when he sees Pete turning around, sees the sparkle in his eyes when Pete catches sight of him and breaks into a big grin, everything else ceases to matter. Patrick pecks a kiss to Pete’s cheek, before he places the jar on the counter. “A gift from one of my parishioners,” he explains as Pete examines the jar.

 

“Looks good,” Pete declares as he tries to open it. After a short struggle, he succeeds, then, sticks his finger inside and licks it off. “Tastes good too,” he says with a grin, unbothered by Patrick’s scolding look.

 

“Gross, Pete, you’re not a little school boy anymore. Stop that.”

 

Pete makes sure to suggestively lick over his finger again as he sends Patrick a wink, before he places the jar in the cupboard. “You’re impossible,” Patrick mumbles, but doesn’t object when Pete drags him into a hug, and presses their lips together. It’s slow and sweet, the saccharine taste of the apple butter still lingering in Pete’s mouth.

 

“C’mon, let’s eat,” Pete whispers after a while, “did my marital duties of cooking today. Oh, and I could think of a few other marital duties I’d like to perform on you…”

 

Patrick laughs, blushes only a little as he sits down for dinner. He stays mostly silent, just listens as Pete tells him all about the electrical work he has done (none of which Patrick understands, but it’s just nice to hear him talk), and hears out the suggestions of food Pete could prepare for his mother’s visit on Sunday. Patrick frankly doesn’t mind much, he’s been raised in poverty and taught the value of frugality, he’ll eat whatever is put in front of him. Therefore, he just tells Pete to cook whatever he wants, and tries not to worry too much about the judgmental eyes of Mrs. Wentz that will be on him during dinner.

 

When their plates are empty, Pete washes them in the sink, while Patrick puts the leftovers away. All duties of the day are done, they’re free to spend the evening as they wish, a thought that makes Patrick’s heart beat faster. Sometimes, they spend the time in the living room, listening to Pete’s records as they lay on the couch together. Today, there’s a certain hunger in Pete’s eyes, an urgency in his kisses as he drags Patrick to his room instead.

 

Clothes are discarded on the floor, and they find themselves naked in Patrick’s bed, laughing and giggling as they lay down next to each other, hungry hands on warm skin and legs entangled. It’s not something sexual yet - although the possibility of delicious sin is there - it’s simply nice to be close to Pete, with as little in between them as possible. Patrick enjoys the intimacy they have, the trust they’ve built up, how natural it feels to trace the ink on Pete’s tan skin.

 

“Hey, Patrick. Can I ask you something?”

 

“Sure,” Patrick replies without much thought as he continues to run his hand over Pete’s body.

 

“So,” Pete starts, curiosity in his voice, “have you ever thought about sex?”

 

Patrick turns bright red. The unexpectedness of the question renders him speechless, and he doesn’t know what to say.

 

“Wait, but you do know how sex between two men works, do you?” Pete inquires, and Patrick is sure his face must be burning at this point.

 

“I know… I mean, I never, but – the concept. I know where… where to put what.”

 

“So, you know that someone puts his dick in the other guy’s ass, right?” Pete phrases it bluntly, and Patrick has to hide his face behind his hands. Never has someone talked so nonchalantly about this to him. Patrick just nods weakly, prays that this conversation will be over soon. God has no mercy with him, because Pete is far from done.

 

“Well, and do you know what’s required in advance?”

 

“In advance?” Patrick asks incredulously, peeking through his fingers. “I don’t understand. Don’t you just… You know? Do it?”

 

“You can’t just put a dick in an ass, silly. You need preparation, and something to lube it up, make everything be a bit smoother. Preferably, not just spit.”

 

“Uh,” Patrick says very intelligibly as he searches for an answer. “I never – well, never thought about the finer details.” He scrunches his face. “And who would want spit on their – in their – ew, no.”

 

Pete laughs, with just a hint of sadness tainting his eyes. “Well, there are times you might not mind getting spit on your ass but we’ll talk about that another time. But yeah, just spit is not a nice thing,” he mumbles, “and it usually hurts, that much I can tell you.”

 

“I would prefer if neither of us got hurt,” Patrick says weakly. Wasn’t sex supposed to be… Pleasurable? Why is this so difficult? Animals mate, too, and they do just fine without endless talking. Why do humans have to be so complicated? God wants his creations to spread love, but why did He put so many obstacles in the path?

 

“Well, don’t worry, there may be a solution…” Pete sends him a wink as he sits up. “Do you have Vaseline?”

 

“What?” Patrick sits up as well, and furrows his brows as he inspects Pete’s lips. They aren’t chapped, so why would he need Vaseline? Why the sudden change in topic?

 

“Do you have Vaseline?” Pete repeats with urgency. “C’mon, I know you used some for the hurt skin on your hands after scrubbing the church. There must be some left.”

 

Still not getting it, Patrick just nods. “I think there might be some in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.”

 

“Excellent. Be a good boy and get it for me, will you?” Pete bats his lashes. “I’ll show you something nice as a reward…”

 

Patrick sighs, but complies. He finds the Vaseline container in the cabinet, just as expected, and walks back to his bedroom to hand it to Pete. He gets a quick kiss, then Pete puts the jar on the nightstand, and pulls Patrick down on the bed. “So, what do you need this for?” Patrick asks a little reluctantly because he’s getting a little tired of talking.

 

“Have you ever fingered yourself?” Pete asks instead of answering, and Patrick swears his heart almost stops. His expression of utter shock causes Pete to chuckle, and he runs his hand over Patrick’s cheek as he continues: “Just tell me. No need to be shy, baby.”

 

The pet name sounds like music to Patrick’s ears, and takes away some of the tension. It soothes the embarrassment a little when Patrick eventually manages to shake his head.

 

“I never…” he stutters, “Pete, please, touching myself was bad enough. M-masturbation, well… I was taught that’s a sin. You could go to hell for it in the afterlife… And be put in an asylum while you’re still on earth.” Patrick takes a deep breath. He doesn’t want to, but he knows that he needs to talk. “I mean, I still did it, but… Never… Anything advanced. It was just a way to give in to my urges without hurting anyone but myself.” That’s as much as Patrick can bring himself to say.

 

Pete doesn’t press the issue, just plants a small kiss to Patrick’s forehead, and whispers: “What you feel isn’t wrong, Patrick. What you want isn’t sinful. There’s no need to be ashamed.”

 

“I wish I could be a better lover,” Patrick mumbles, which earns him another kiss, as Pete just shakes his head.

 

“Stop with that,” Pete says as he runs his hand over Patrick’s cheek again, cups his chin and tilts it up so their eyes meet, “I couldn’t wish for anyone better than you.”

 

Patrick takes a deep breath, finds himself smiling along with Pete as they stay silent for a moment, caught up in each other’s eyes.

 

“We’re doing this together, remember? And we’re both learning here,” Pete says after a while, “so… about that Vaseline. Well, it does what I described. Lubes up fingers and dicks, helps to make everything go smooth and pleasant.”

 

“Why would you put it on your fi-“ Patrick’s eyes widen, as a realization his him. “Oh. Oh, I remember, Pete! When I… put my mouth on you that one morning, you told me there were other things I could do with my hands, and – is that what you mean? You wanted me to put my finger… Inside of you?”

 

It sounds terrible said out loud, ridiculous and crude. Pete doesn’t mind it, as always, he seems to be rather enjoying this.

 

“You’re learning fast,” Pete says amused. “Yes, exactly. Your finger, or fingers, plural, inside of me… Ever thought about that before? When you touched yourself, how did you imagine it? Like that, or the other way around? You thought about fucking me through the mattress, or about riding my cock, or being on all fours for me…?”

 

“I don’t –“ Patrick stutters as he searches for an answer. “I don’t know, Pete,” he mumbles after a while, because it’s true. “I never thought that far, this is all so abstract for me. I can’t imagine… I’m not sure. I don’t even know what half the things you talk about really are!”

 

“Ah, I can show you some of the things I’m talking about…” Pete says with a grin and a spark of mischief in his eyes as he reaches for the Vaseline. “We’ll start with something easy, hm?”

 

“I don’t know how to use this,” Patrick mutters, embarrassed about his lack of knowledge.

 

“But I do. Told ya, I’m gonna show you. All you need to do is watch…” Pete leans back into the pillows, but the shadow of a doubt lingers on his face when Patrick stays silent.

 

“I mean, if you want to.” Pete hesitates, props himself up on his elbows as he glances at Patrick with silent questions burning in amber eyes. “I know that I… Kind of forced this on you in the past. I always just made you listen or watch no matter what you thought of it.” The cocky confidence Pete had throughout the conversation is suddenly gone, replaced with an insecurity Pete rarely shows. He sits up again, crosses his arms in front of his chest, Vaseline forgotten for now. “That was a pretty shitty thing to do, wasn’t it,” Pete says softly, but it’s less of a question, and more of a statement. “I’m sorry for that. And I – I don’t ever want to make you uncomfortable again, so, if you don’t want this…”

 

A moment of silence lingers between them, before Patrick leans forward and reaches for Pete’s hand, gently motioning him to uncross his arms. “We both forced our beliefs onto each other, didn’t we?” He laces their fingers together, sends Pete a shy smile as he continues: “Actually, I… I think I kind of liked what you did. Is that weird?”

 

Pete shakes his head, squeezes Patrick’s hand as his confidence returns. “Not weird at all.”

 

“I’d like to do it again, but – you know, in a positive way. Make a good memory out of it.”

 

That earns him a chuckle and a kiss, soft and sweet at first, but turning dirty quickly. Patrick puts his worries aside, and just lets his tongue explore Pete’s mouth, lets his hands roam over warm inked skin until they find their way between Pete’s legs. He loves the way he can catch Pete’s moans with his own mouth, how he can almost taste the desire radiating from Pete’s body, relishes in the hitched breath and the teeth that dig into his lips just enough to give a pleasant sensation of pain.

 

They just go on like this for a while, Pete’s dick growing harder and harder in Patrick’s hand until he pulls away, then leans back into the pillows with a grin on his lips. “Don’t you worry, it’ll be a very good memory,” he says with a wink as he reaches for the Vaseline again.

 

Not quite sure of what to do, Patrick just slings his arms around his legs, rests his chin on his knees while he watches Pete apply a generous amount of the slick to his fingers.

 

It feels weird to just watch, yet Patrick can’t bring himself to tear his eyes away as Pete spreads his legs. His flushed cock rests on his stomach, lazily stroked by one hand, while the other wanders in between his legs, tracing circles over the puckered skin of his entrance. It evokes a small moan from him, while Patrick’s sure he’s going to choke on his breath any second now.

 

The tip of Pete’s first finger breaches the tight ring of muscles, slowly sinks into him, accompanied by more moans. He pauses, takes a moment to look at Patrick who can’t help but ask: “This… Doesn’t hurt, right?”

 

“It doesn’t,” Pete says with a low laugh, “and it’s gonna feel even better when I find a… certain spot inside of me.”

 

That sounds rather ominous, but before Patrick can ask, Pete adds a second finger, breathes shallowly as he does so. It must feel good, judging from the flushed cheeks, the way his lower lip is caught between his teeth, preventing any more whimpers from falling from his mouth. Patrick can see the way his slicked-up hole stretches around his fingers, and no matter how obscene the view, he can’t help but feel his own dick twitching at the sight, aching for something Patrick can’t quite place.

 

After a moment, Pete starts to work them in and out of himself, slow at first, then steadily increasing speed. There’s a look of concentration on his face, brows furrowed, lower lip still caught between his teeth, until suddenly, his eyes widen, and a hoarse cry escapes his mouth.

 

“Oh God, fuck,” Pete hisses, “there it is. Fuck, Patrick, it feels amazing…” As if to underline his words, Pete moans again, thrusts his fingers harder into himself, legs trembling slightly. There are more moans, more reassuring words which meaning Patrick’s brain doesn’t even register anymore. Patrick’s own hard cock is caught between his thighs and stomach, but his attention is solely focused on Pete for now.

 

Pete arches his back a little, and Patrick just can’t stop staring, and he wonders, just wonders what it’s like, what it feels like to do this, he wonders –

 

“Do you want to lend me a hand?” It’s as if Pete can read his mind. Or, rather, rightfully interpret the greedy look that must be on Patrick’s face right now.

 

“Yeah,” Patrick blurts out, “I want to.”

 

Patrick reaches for the Vaseline jar. He feels weird as he spreads some of it over two of his fingers. “Enough?” He asks, and Pete nods.

 

Patrick shuffles in between Pete’s legs, leans forward a little and rests his fingers against the slick skin between Pete’s cheeks. It feels strange, so very unfamiliar, and Patrick hesitates, waits for permission to proceed.

 

“Put them in,” Pete begs, “c’mon, I’m ready, Patrick.”

 

There’s still a little resistance at first, taut muscle pushed open by two slick fingers, and then, Patrick just slides in. He goes slowly, anxiously looking at Pete’s face. He’s never done this before, and fear pours, cold and ominous, into his stomach, what is he supposed to do? Can he hurt Pete like that? Is there any danger, could he somehow hurt Pete’s intestines? No one ever bothered to tell him this.

 

“Pete, I don’t… I don’t know what to do,” Patrick confesses, angry at the underlying panic in his voice. “I’m afraid I’ll do this wrong, and I don’t know, break something inside of you.”

 

Pete laughs, which makes the whole situation even weirder because Patrick could swear he feels the laugh traveling through Pete’s body, feels him tighten a little around his fingers. “I’m not gonna fall apart, silly,” Pete says amused, “but okay, I see, we need to do this differently. Hold on, I got an idea. Let me sit up.”

 

Patrick withdraws his hands, frowns a little at the sticky feeling of too much Vaseline covering his fingers. Pete sits up, then puts his hands on Patrick’s shoulder, maneuvers him to sit with his back resting against the headboard. Pete straddles his thighs, leans forward for a reassuring kiss, before he mumbles: “You trust me, Patrick, right?”

 

“I do,” Patrick answers honestly.

 

“I trust you as well,” Pete whispers. “Okay, so, you’ll trust me when I say you’re not hurting me, and I’ll trust you with your fingers inside of me. Sounds like a plan?”

 

Patrick nods, and Pete sits up on his knees, reaches for Patrick’s right wrist. “Your hand, baby, just twist it a little and – yes, there we go. So, what about this: All you need to do is hold your hand in place, and I’ll fuck myself on your fingers, hm? You don’t need to do anything if you don’t want to, but if you feel confident enough, you’re more than welcome to work out a rhythm with me.”

 

All Patrick can do is nod again, how can Pete just say these things without even blushing?! “Yes,” he eventually whispers, “yes, I… I would like to do that.”

 

“Excellent,” Pete says with a grin, “okay, I’m gonna…” He sinks down on Patrick’s fingers, slowly, with a dreamy expression clouding his eyes. He squirms a little, adjusts his position, then finally, starts to move.

 

At first, Patrick doesn’t dare to move much, afraid he’s going to break the rhythm, afraid he ends up hurting Pete. He watches Pete with hungry eyes, drinks in the sight of flushed cheeks and glowing amber eyes, of sheer lust on Pete’s face.

 

But the doubts fade the more Pete whispers reassuring words and whimpers into his ear, the harder he pushes back on Patrick’s fingers, the more desperate they both get. After a while, Patrick slowly starts to move his hand, crooks his fingers a little, and soon enough, Pete lets out another deep groan, more filthy words begging Patrick to continue. Pete reaches for his cock, but Patrick’s hand is there first; he wants to be the one to make Pete come. It’s not easy to coordinate both hands, but according to Pete’s increased moans and the way he tightens around Patrick’s fingers, the way his pre-cum glistens on Patrick’s other hand is a tell-tale sign he must be doing something right here.

 

And soon enough, Pete comes, thick ribbons of cum landing on Patrick’s hand and chest as Pete presses closer to him. Patrick can hear the groan from low in Pete’s throat, he can feel Pete’s orgasm as Pete squirms, clenches down around Patrick’s fingers inside of him, all tight wet heat and pure pleasure. It sends shivers down Patrick’s spine, awakens a hunger and a deep primal lust that Patrick has never felt before. He wants more, isn’t sure what, just more.

 

A whimper from Pete brings him back to reality. “Enough,” he whispers, and Patrick realizes he still has his fingers buried deep inside of him. He pulls them out, which causes another whimper from Pete who shudders at the sensation. He slumps forward, buries his head in Patrick’s neck as he catches his breath. Patrick is still painfully hard, but he doesn’t say anything, just slings his arms around Pete, pats his back until he stops shaking.

 

“That,” Pete mumbles after a while, “that was goddamn amazing. Fuck, Patrick, I needed this so bad…” He sits up and pecks a kiss to Patrick’s lips, who can’t help but moan when he feels Pete’s hand on his cock now. Pete’s mouth travels over Patrick’s throat, his chest, his stomach, until his lips rest against the head of his dick.

 

There’s no need for any kind of foreplay – Patrick is aching, his mind still full of delirious thoughts and vague wishes for more, for everything, for Pete. A warm, wet tongue flicks over his slit, gives a broad stroke over his shaft, before Pete takes him in.

 

As always, Pete’s mouth feels marvelous, the warm insides of his cheek and the lips sealed around Patrick’s cock a delicious similarity to what Patrick’s fingers just felt. It’s the promise of something more, things Patrick hasn’t experienced yet, things he’s never dared to ask for, but that he wishes for with a burning passion now.

 

Patrick fists his hands into the sheets, moans and squirms as a skilled mouth attends his aching hard-on, half-finished nonsensical pleas falling from his lips. It doesn’t take long until he comes, Pete’s name on his lips like a prayer promising the sweetest salvation.

 

Patrick is sure reality skips a few beats for him, because next thing he knows is that he’s lying next to Pete, limbs entangled, and Pete looks at him with a lazy smile. “Exactly what I needed,” Pete repeats, and Patrick nods. “I didn’t know I needed this, but… It was fantastic, Pete. I – I would like to do that again sometime.”

 

The grin on Pete’s face widens. “Of course,” he says, “so would I.”

 

They lay together for a while, just hitched breathing and soft looks as their hands trace over sweaty skin. Eventually though, Patrick sits up, frowns at the remains of sweat, slick and cum on both of them. It’s too late for a bath, but a washcloth would be nice.

 

“We’re dirty,” Patrick announces, frowns even more at the laugh the remark gets him. “That’s not funny,” he says indignantly, which unsurprisingly doesn’t evoke the least bit of a bad conscience in Pete. “I’ll go wash my hands,” Patrick announces, motions Pete to stay where he is, “I’ll get you a washcloth, just wait a minute.”

 

After he hurriedly scrubbed himself clean as good as he can, Patrick grabs a fresh washcloth and a towel, and heads back to his room. It’s not like Pete’s presence comes as a surprise, but his heart still skips a beat when he sees him stretched out in his bed, relaxed and with a content smile on his face. He practically purrs as Patrick cleans and dries him up, and drags Patrick back into a tight embrace once he’s done.

 

“’m tired,” Pete announces with a yawn, “what do you think of sleep for now? We can wake up early, have another round before you need to take morning Mass…”

 

“You’re insatiable,” Patrick says with no bite behind his words. He doesn’t object, Pete is a troubled sleeper, so Patrick won’t take his well-deserved rest away from him. And it’s not like Patrick isn’t looking forward to a morning in his bed, with his Pete.

 

When the lights are out and the silence of the night settles between them, Patrick wonders how long they can go on like this. He says a silent prayer, thanks God for having Pete in his life, begs that the man he loves can find a little bit of peace, happiness and safety, even if that means Pete has to leave him.

 

He’s sure God is listening, and he has faith in the Lord’s greatness; but Patrick’s faith in the humans around him becomes more and more fragile with each passing day.

Chapter Text

The tension in Clark is rising.

Pete is in town, this time, with Andy at his side, because Andy owns a car. He can’t always afford gas, but today, he’s offered Pete to help run his errands, and Pete doesn’t decline.

It’s never been an easy trip, there’s always been snide remarks and glances cast in his direction loaded with disdain, sometimes outright disgust. The underlying promise of danger has always been in the air, sometimes manifesting in varying rude to painful gestures, in hateful words and in the worst cases, in vicious fists.

But today, there’s something different. The atmosphere around them is loaded, and it’s not just about Pete; he knows that the Klan and the Catholics never liked each other much, but never had there been such outright violence against the priest’s sheep. People aren’t too happy about it, and it has transcended just simple racist bullying and abuse of the local mixed-race trouble maker. It’s about something bigger, involving more and more groups of people who previously kept their heads down, turned a blind eye to everything, or whose ignorance finally got shattered.

There’s a gap between the townspeople – between the faithful Catholics and the Klan members, between the racists who approve of the graffiti, think the Father and his flock are fools, think that the red letters should’ve been written in Pete’s blood, and people offended but too afraid to speak up, families who just want to spend their days in peace without having to acknowledge the racial tensions, and people afraid to be the next target in a town that doesn’t tolerate the slightest deviation from the norm.

There’s a gap, one that threatens to become an abyss, and one that threatens to have much more impact on everyone’s life in town than the previous tension.  

And Pete doesn’t like it one bit.

No use in pondering these deep thoughts for now; he has no choice but to grit his teeth, ignore the faces around him, and just get the shopping done. They’ve picked up groceries already – a timely procedure because Pete’s mom will be over for dinner tomorrow, and Pete absolutely cannot afford to disappoint her. Pete has visited her this week just as promised, even if just briefly, and cleverly tried to get help without asking for help. Knowing her son’s pride, his mother was merciful enough to pretend she didn’t notice his obvious intentions as she patiently explained everything Pete wanted to know.

The budget for groceries is slim, but not as tight as back home; and Pete decides he can splurge just a little. It’s for Sunday, and he’s sure Jesus will approve that the day of the Lord is honored with a nice roast beef. He receives a funny look for ordering such expensive meat, but he keeps his head down, smiles innocently, pretends he’s just the simple errand runner for the local priest, just doing his duties as he has been told. It spares him a snide comment from the butcher, and thankfully, Andy had offered to get the vegetables in the meantime.

Last comes the dreaded trip to the general store. Pete hates it, Andy knows that too, but there’s no way around it. This shitty little town offers no alternative, and the next town is too costly and too far away.

As always, the store clerk makes little effort to hide his disdain. Pete just hands Stan the list, keeps his head down, balls his hands into useless fists. Tells himself he can just ignore the hateful glare, he’s above all of this, he’s not the one who is wrong, that fucking asshole is. Just this one store, then they can go home, he can go back to Patrick and forget about all of these people.

It’s crowded today, and Pete’s thankful for that, because that means less attention on him, and less time for condescending conversation. The list is taken with a frown like it was something dirty, then Stan sends both Pete and his companion a disgusted glance. “You here with your car?” He asks Andy, conveniently forgetting any formalities, then points to Pete. “Or is that mule here carrying everything on his back?”

“I’m here with my car,” Andy says calmly, while Pete bites back his reply. He can’t afford to cause a scene. “Just get us everything on there, we can help ourselves.”

They’re not worth wasting a reply on, judging from the silence they’re rewarded with. Andy may be white, but he’s the Catholic deacon, and he’s rumored to be more liberal and red-stained than his black clothes would make him out to be. The friendship with Pete is just the tip of the iceberg, there’s so much more Andy does – or is rumored to do – that isn’t approved by Clark’s narrow standards.

It takes several trips to the car to load everything up – of course, Stan doesn’t offer his help – but it’s going surprisingly well so far, and they’re done now, just heading back to pay for everything. Pete keeps his head down, while Stan counts the money (slowly, and not before muttering a threat about what he’s going to do if Pete intends to rip him off), just a few more minutes and then they’ll be back in the car, on their way home, back to Patrick, back to shared solitude and shared body heat while they exchange a welcome kiss –

“Are you deaf?” It’s Stan’s voice that brings Pete back to the unpleasant reality. “I said we’re done. Get your dirty ass out of my store.”

Andy’s hand lands on Pete’s shoulder, a firm grip that keeps him from jolting forward and doing something regrettable. “Is there a problem?” He asks, “We paid for everything, didn’t we?”

“I sure hope so,” Stan says. “You can never be too sure with someone like him, can you?” He sends Pete a scornful glare, before he looks back to Andy with the same disapproving look. “But I guess fools like you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oi, son, you can’t talk like that to Father Hurley,” someone chimes in. It must be one of Patrick’s parishioners, Pete recognizes him and his wife as two of the people who occasionally greet him at work. “Show some respect, boy.”

Stan turns bright red with anger and embarrassment upon these patronizing words, and while Pete keeps his head low and his face even, he can’t deny the smug satisfaction that gives him.

“The good Father should show some pride and respect for our race first,” Stan declares way louder than necessary, “hanging out with the darkies, immigrants and other lowlifes? That’s not the way God intended it to be.”

There’s suddenly a small crowed gathered, attracted by the spectacle. “Ah, we all know you and your daddy don’t like us Catholics,” someone else chimes in; “But you still like taking our money, don’t you?”

“Got a problem with that? Don’t like that we’re honest businessmen? What, you’re one of the commies now?” Stan jerks his head towards Andy. “Too good for the everyman’s struggles? All these niggers and jews conspiring with the communists, just look at them, does your stupid Saint Sebastian protect you from the red menace and –“

Pete doesn’t hear the rest of the sentence, doesn’t hear the guy’s response, lost between the blur of angry voices. All he registers is Andy’s hand snaking around his wrist in a tight grip, and then he’s dragged out of the store. No one pays attention, everyone is too caught up in the heated argument that has transcended the two of them, turned into a matter of principle and the promise of a fight fought with fists rather than words.

Thankfully, everything they bought is loaded into the car already, and Pete just tosses the last bag onto the backseat, before he sits down next to Andy. They stay silent for a moment, pure, red anger flashing before Pete’s eyes as he curls and uncurls his fists. He wants to slam them into something, into someone, but there’s no one there but Andy, who also doesn’t deserve to have his poor excuse of a car demolished even more.   

“I didn’t do anything,” Pete blurts out instead, because he’s panicking, and because he’s always, always expected to apologize. “I didn’t do anything, you saw that, right? I didn’t – “

Andy places his hand on Pete’s shoulder, gentle and reassuring. “You didn’t do anything,” he says, soft-spoken and irritatingly calm as always. “It’s not your fault,” Andy continues, and now there’s an edge in his voice, a strain, tiredness and the same anger that Pete feels pulsing through his veins. “It’s their fault, the despicable people who wrote that atrocity on the wall. They’ll burn in hell for that.”

“That’s nice,” Pete scoffs, sarcasm dripping from his voice, “but at this rate, people like us will be the only ones burning anytime soon.”

Andy just shakes his head, not in the mood to discuss this matter again. He’s the eternal optimist, and yeah, Andy is a good guy, he’s a fucking saint in Pete’s eyes, but his never-ending belief in the potential goodness of other people will provide a lifelong disappointment for him.

They drive back in silence, unload the car without a word. Patrick comes to help them, and Pete winces when he sees the priest’s smile falter at their gloomy faces. By now he has learned his lesson; Patrick doesn’t even need to ask, he can imagine exactly what happened, he knows the ugly side of Clark. Pete hates it, grits his teeth as he keeps his eyes on the floor, wishing he didn’t have to bring worries and troubles to the man he loves.

Patrick and Andy exchange small talk, some organizational stuff that Pete doesn’t pay attention to. He just mumbles a thanks to Andy before heading to his room, knows that the deacon won’t be cross with him; Andy knows when to give him space.

A few minutes later, he hears the door fall shut, and then hears a soft knock on his own door, followed by a gentle voice. “Can I come in?”

Pete’s first instinct is to deny. To hiss and snarl and yell get the hell away from me. Keeping his distance to others has kept him alive so far, and he hates feeling this pathetic, hates that he needs to be comforted, hates feeling this goddamn weak.

But then Patrick says “It’s okay, I’ll go then,” and Pete jolts up from his bed, can’t keep a terrified “no, don’t!” to himself.

It’s pathetic, it’s so pathetic, but then Patrick opens the door, shyly and with caution, steps in and opens his arms, and Pete can’t help but accept the gesture. Patrick mutters soothing words as he pats Pete’s back, stutters and stammers, because he doesn’t know what to say either. Pete can sense Patrick’s helplessness and desperation, and he burns with the anger at the injustice. This town is killing them both, quite literally if they run out of luck.

Much later that day, after Patrick has taken evening Mass and returned with a sad smile on his lips, after Patrick’s soothing words were followed by soothing kisses and a sinful, sinful blowjob, after Patrick has fallen asleep next to him, the feeling of anger still persists. Pete can’t sleep, it’s one of those well-known nights he will spend mostly awake, the rage in him not helping. It’s no longer just about him, it’s about the man next to him, too. He feels angry on Patrick’s behalf, hates that Clark has dragged the poor guy down so much already, he deserves better.

No, we both deserve better, Pete thinks to himself as he lets his fingers trail over Patrick’s cheek. Patrick makes a small noise in his sleep, before he shuffles closer. It has taken a while for them to get used to having someone sleep next to them, but they’re pretty good at managing two bodies in a small bed now. There’s an arm thrown over Pete’s waist, a leg over his thigh, soft blond hair against his chest as Patrick buries his face in it, still sleeping peacefully.

And it’s then that Pete decides to let the fairytale he told Patrick become the truth. Oh, it won’t be an easy path to walk, and it won’t be an easy task to convince a priest of all people to abandon his faith.

 

But Pete will leave this godforsaken town, and by God, he’ll make Patrick come with him, no matter what it takes.

Next day, these thoughts are put aside for now as a much more urgent matter doesn’t let Pete rest. It’s Sunday, that means his mother is coming over for dinner, and thanks to Patrick, it’s Pete’s job now to cook a nice Sunday dinner of all things. That is not what he signed up for, he never signed up for cooking at all, especially not cooking for his mom. Sure, Patrick never complains, but Patrick doesn’t have standards for food, and he’s too polite to complain anyway. But that’s his mother who is coming over today, she will never let him forget it if he fails today.

So, he’s standing in the kitchen now, half-heartedly praying to a God he doesn’t really believe in to let everything turn out fine. If he’s banging a priest, he may as well try the good Father’s way to success. Jesus has to appreciate Pete’s many efforts.

Said good Father enters the kitchen now, dressed and ready to leave for Sunday Mass. “Are you still cooking?” Patrick inquires surprised, because his skills in the kitchen still pretty much end at putting butter on bread. Pete sighs, holds back a lecture – well, his mom’s lecture – about the time and effort that roast beef requires, and instead uses the opportunity to steal a kiss from Patrick’s pretty lips. He won’t have much chance to do so once his mom his here.

Patrick leans into the kiss, licks over his lips once they’re done. “Whatever you’re doing there, tastes good so far,” he remarks with a smile.

“Well, it better tastes amazing when it’s done,” Pete scoffs, “and you owe me, I don’t know. A lot. This shit takes way too much time and effort.”

“Technically, I’m paying you for this,” Patrick points out, the smile somewhat taking away from the seriousness of his words.

“I know exactly how you can pay me for this…” Pete says with a wink, laughs at the almost believable stern face Patrick puts on as he shakes his head and leans in for a goodbye kiss.

When Patrick returns from Mass, Pete is finally almost done with everything. He’s tidied everything up, set the table, he’s almost done with cooking and nothing has caught fire yet. He has shaved and wears a clean shirt – tucked into his pants and buttoned up, to spare himself yet another embarrassment.

Dale Wentz is on time, in her best Sunday attire and with a delicious-smelling apple pie in her hands. Patrick welcomes her in, and tactfully pretends to be busy in the living room to give her enough time and space to greet her son appropriately. There’s a stern hug and an appreciative nod as she strokes over her son’s smooth cheek. “You’re looking good, Peter,” she says with a small smile, “oh, don’t roll your eyes at me, young man. You need some help with the food?”

To Pete’s infinite relief, dinner goes over smoothly. Patrick isn’t the most extroverted people-person, but he’s calm and friendly, open and trustworthy, and his job as a priest has taught him how to handle social situations. He’s giving the politest summary on his experiences in Clark so far, holds small talk about their hometown, smiles reassuringly whenever he isn’t speaking. Conversation is kept light, as if this was just a regular Sunday dinner, as if there weren’t the shadow of hateful words still clinging to the church’s wall, as if yesterday’s trip to town hadn’t almost ended in disaster. But it’s nice to pretend for a while, it’s a relief that they can focus on something positive for once. Pete can see his mother’s initial doubts melt away, which he is very glad for.

That is until it is time for dessert. Pete has received a scolding look from his mom for allowing himself a huge serving of whipped cream with his pie, but that is far from the worst thing yet. Just as he deems himself safe, Dale turns to Patrick. “I’m glad to see that you and Peter made friends, Father,” she says softly, “and I thought maybe… You’d like to get to know more about him?”

“The Father already knows plenty about me, mom,” Pete can’t help but remark, which earns him a subtle but painful kick under the table from the priest, as Patrick tries to maintain the polite smile.

“Well, Mrs. Wentz, I would love to get to know more about Peter,” Patrick answers, still smiling politely.

“I brought a photo album,” Dale says, caution in her voice, seemingly unsure of whether this goes too far or not. “I don’t want to bore you, Father, but if you want -?”

Before Pete can intervene and yell a very impolite “no!” Patrick has already nodded. “I would love to, Mrs. Wentz!” He exclaims, “it would be my pleasure.”

When his mom isn’t looking, Pete makes a very unsubtle gesture of disdain, but Patrick just shrugs, apparently not the slightest bit bothered by the objection.

Pete knows exactly the kinds of embarrassing pictures that are inside the album, and he’d much prefer if maybe, he could be spared the pain of having those revealed. He considers voicing that desire, but then he sees the spark of joy in his mother’s eye, sees her beaming with pride. That doesn’t happen too often, and when was the least time she had the opportunity to talk about Pete in a positive manner? He can’t remember. He can’t take this moment from her.

An hour later, the torture hasn’t ended. They’ve gone through almost the whole album, each picture accompanied with a story, and Patrick seemed genuinely interested. Which would be flattering, if Pete wasn’t dying of embarrassment. His mother has spared no details, and Patrick revels in it. Pete has stayed silent, and indulged in pie and self-pity instead.

“He was fifteen when he showed up with his first tattoo! Fifteen!” His mom says as she points to a certain photograph, and the anger still swings in her voice. It’s been almost two decades, but here they are, and worst of all, she adds: “I was so mad with Peter when I found out… He got a good spanking with the big wooden spoon for that.”

“Really?” Patrick asks amused, it’s clear he’s having a blast here. His polite smile is a little too big, and he can barely contain his laughter.

“Mom, please,” Pete interjects desperately, “I’m sure Father Stump isn’t interested in that.” He doesn’t say that Patrick is very much interested in his tattoos, just in a very different way.

“You’re not eating a fourth piece of pie, young man,” his mom orders him instead, “you’ll get a stomach ache.”

“Gluttony is a sin, Peter,” Patrick says sweetly, and it takes Pete a remarkable amount of self-control to not flip him off. Pete just scowls at him, like the mature adult he is. He will so eat a fourth piece of pie, his mom won’t be here forever, she can’t stop him. And maybe he will just pour the remaining whipped cream over Patrick’s naked pale skin, lick him clean until he’s squirming and begging for more. Now that would be a worthwhile sinning pastime.

Pete keeps himself entertained with these kinds of thoughts until finally, his mother shuts the album, and declares she’s taken up enough of the good Father’s time. Pete is glad that they bonded so well, he’s happy, okay? But he could really do without the embarrassing stories, and he could really do without the shift that somehow happened – his mom has some trust in Patrick now, which is nice, yet somehow also means she instructs the Father to care for him as if Pete wasn’t a full-grown adult. There’s the friendly request to make sure Pete eats enough and doesn’t skip meals and also eats the vegetables, not just the dessert, the concern that Pete doesn’t overwork himself, and her pinching Pete’s cheek while muttering something about looking presentable.

No amount of poorly disguised pleading can stop her, so Pete just endures another pinch to his cheek, scowls at Patrick again – who’s still upholding the gentle and polite smile, damn him – and promises his mom that yes, he will take good care of himself and yes, he will give his best at this job and yes, next time, he will marinate the roast beef even longer, just like she told him to.

“The good Father agrees with me, right?” She concludes, and of course, Patrick nods.

“The bible says: Listen to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching,” he quotes, holding up one finger, “they are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

“You’re kidding me, right?” Pete groans while his mom pats his head (again, for the third time in the past five minutes, it doesn’t become any less humiliating), but Patrick just pushes up his glasses, and adds: “It’s the word of the Lord, Peter. He also says: Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

There’s a very unchristian swear on the tip of Pete’s tongue, swallowed for now as his mom hugs him goodbye with a small laugh. “Father Stump has the right idea,” she says with a smile, “I like it. Maybe he’ll be a good influence on you.”

“Yeah, the Father’s just the best example,” Pete mutters, but there’s no bite behind his words. He’s going to be generous and forgive Patrick for these horrible quotes from his stupid bible, because he made his mom laugh, and it’s been too long since someone did that.

She bids her farewell to Patrick, who takes her hand and assures her that yes, she’s welcome any time, yes, he is totally interested in seeing the other family albums, and yes, he will make sure Pete doesn’t eat a fourth piece of pie.

The door falls shut, and Patrick sighs. He’s tense and nervous now as he turns to Pete. “Did I do good?” He asks shyly, “I – I tried my best to be a good host.”

“You were wonderful,” Pete replies, because it’s true, and no matter how much Pete sulked, he would have gladly traded all his pride for his mom and Patrick to get along well. He takes Patrick’s hand, pulls him closer; it pains him that he hadn’t been able to do so earlier. One day, in a better world, he will be able to show his love in front of his mother.

Patrick relaxes, rests his head against Pete’s shoulder.

“You didn’t have to let her show you the whole photo album,” Pete says, “and you really didn’t need to encourage her to tell you more. And are you serious with those stupid bible quotes? She’ll never forget those, you prick!”

There’s a moment of silence before Patrick breaks into a bright laugh. Pete pouts, but eventually, joins in, because he’s relieved, and because it’s nice to be able to laugh together with Patrick.

“I’m sorry,” Patrick says eventually, giggles a little again, “well, a tiny bit sorry. It was… How do you always phrase it? It was swell.”

 

“Hmm,” Pete raises an eyebrow in playful reproach and shifts to begin washing the dishes but there are fingers, strong and sure, snagged into his belt loop and hauling him back. “Patrick?”

There’s a question on his lips answered with a twinkle in Patrick’s eyes that sparkle with promise. Patrick still isn’t great at articulating exactly what he wants, there’s always hesitation in those pretty blue-green eyes, a soft frown turning down the plush plumpness of his lips as he tries, he tries, to make himself understood. But right now there’s nothing but a smirk and a hand gently caressing the crotch of Pete’s jeans as he murmurs, “I think we should go to bed.”

“I haven’t done the dishes…” Pete begins to object, the plates and cutlery stacked neatly in the sink.

“To hell with the dishes,” Patrick whispers, dragging him forward by the belt loop once more, pressing their hips flush as he ghosts a kiss to Pete’s lips. That’s just about the closest Pete has ever come to hearing Patrick declare fuck it. “They can wait. I can’t.”

Patrick’s hand finds his, warm and sure, tugging him along to his room, pressing him down onto the bed and climbing after him, mouth a messy slide of lips and tongues as he fumbles with shirt buttons. He traces tattoos with soft lips and an eager tongue, like he’s obsessed to the point of madness with committing each line of ink to memory. One day, Pete swears to himself, one day he’ll get one just for Patrick, like the fellas in his squadron had for their sweethearts back home. When they’re somewhere safe, somewhere it doesn’t matter that they’ve found love outside of convention. The conviction is lost in a smooth, warm hand finding its way inside his jeans, shuffling into his boxers and closing around his half-hard cock.

“Oh fuck,” he hisses, head rolling back into the pillow as Patrick sucks on his neck – careful not to leave a mark, no need to give anyone a reason to talk – and strokes him stiff slowly and easily. “Mm, you’re so good at that…”

He can feel the smile against his throat, the way those fingers tighten around him just a little at the praise. He scrapes his fingers through Patrick’s honey blonde hair, eases him back just for a moment, just so their eyes can meet for the briefest beat of time, enough to share a smile and then he’s gone once more, busily biting bruises to Pete’s collarbone like he’ll die if he stops. They lose themselves in undressing one another, leisurely, unhurried, they have all the time in the world to revel in stolen kisses to swollen lips, to touching and stroking one another into a frenzy as they roll together on the bed. He won’t admit it, but he feels at least a little proud of himself when he finally succeeds in unfastening that goddamn collar around Patrick’s neck.

But he does it, somehow, with fingers that fumble and hands that tremble just a little with lust and desire until they’re bare for one another, hands roaming as lips explore until Patrick pulls back, propped on an elbow with a thoughtful little frown. He doesn’t stop stroking Pete’s cock, however, the motion frustratingly light and disconcertingly absent as he nibbles softly at that delicious lower lip.

“Patrick?” Pete prompts gently, earning a smile in response. “Something on your mind.”

For a moment, he thinks Patrick won’t respond beyond that sweet little grin, his hand tightening a little as his rhythm picks back up. Pete moans softly, forces his eyes to focus on Patrick’s face as he takes a deep breath and begins to speak, “Do you remember what we did earlier in the week? With… with the Vaseline?”

“Mm, I do,” Pete confirms, but doesn’t elaborate, it’s too much fun hearing Patrick talk about the dirty things they’ve done.

“Could we do that again?” Patrick asks, hunger in his eyes and voice as he slides his hand lower, stroking the pad of his thumb between Pete’s cheeks, dragging it lightly over the pucker there. “I- I really liked it.”

Pete liked it too, he has to admit, he liked the way Patrick thrummed with desire between his thighs. He liked the way his pretty face contorted with something he clearly didn’t understand but that Pete recognised without hesitation. Patrick wanted more, just hadn’t known how to articulate it, he’d ached for something he didn’t understand or have the vocabulary for but Pete knew, oh, Pete knew. He spreads his legs a little, lets Patrick carry on stroking over sensitive skin as he moans softly, blinking up at him innocently.

“You did?” He slides a hand around his own cock, stroking slowly in time with Patrick’s fingers making delicate inquiry around his hole. “Me too, fuck, me too.”

He gropes, fingers fumbling blindly, into the nightstand for the little glass jar, hoping against hope that there’ll be enough left to… His hand closed around it, smooth and cool and far too heavy, his eyebrows raising slowly as he lifts it free to reveal a brand new jar, untouched. He smirks at Patrick, wide and bright, eyes twinkling with teasing accusation as he licks his lips and speaks softly, “This seems… fuller than last time?”

“Shut up, Pete,” Patrick laughs, unscrewing the lid and dipping his fingers inside with a frown of concentration. Something uncomfortable curls in Pete’s stomach for a moment, something that tells him Patrick shouldn’t be buying jars of Vaseline – and nothing else – from the drugstore in Clark. Something that tells him it’s an unnecessary way to draw attention to them. But the thought is lost as Patrick’s fingers slip down between his legs once more, circling gently, testing the give of tight muscle until – and Pete can’t bite back the moan – he slides inside with a tiny shiver of delight.

Patrick still fumbles slightly, there’s still a sense of awkward shyness about him as he rocks his finger in and out a little too shallowly, a little too slowly. It’s maddening in the best possible way, his fists curling into the sheets in an effort not to get himself off too quickly. It’s as though Patrick can read his mind as, with another of those teasing smiles, he slips down and licks the slick of precum from the head of Pete’s dick with a neat little swirl of his tongue. Pete cries out, his hoarse shout of holy fucking shit, Patrick echoing around the room, the noise turning to a low hum as Patrick slides the exquisite heat of his mouth down and over his cock.

If Pete were capable of rational thought as he stared down, entranced, at Patrick’s lush lips stretched around the swell of his cock, he would probably be proud because the way Patrick sucks him, fucks into him with two slicked up fingers and slides his free hand up to test the swell of his balls is a testament to his teaching if ever he saw one. Instead, all he can do is mumble nonsense as his hips strain upward, hand stroking softly through the golden softness of Patrick’s hair.

“Another,” he whispers, tapping Patrick’s wrist desperately. “Fuck, another, I can take it, don’t look at me like that…”

There’s a worried frown on Patrick’s brow and an objection lurking at the back of his tongue that Pete doesn’t want to hear, he just wants the burn of Patrick three fingers deep inside of him. Cautiously, Patrick obeys, working in that third finger as he sucks greedily at Pete’s cock, rocking them in a slow, gentle rhythm, fingers grazing closer to…

“Shit fuck, Patrick!” His nails sink into Patrick’s shoulder hard enough to make him try to wriggle away as he finds that spot, his eyes widening when he realises, as he pushes against it experimentally. “Yes! Fuck! Right there, don’t stop!”

He doesn’t, pressing and rubbing eagerly as he sucks with whimpering little moans muffled around Pete’s cock. Pete who thinks he might be dying as he arches his hips up, biting hard into the heel of his hand to stop himself from screaming because fuck it’s been so long since… since…

Since anyone’s fucked him.

The thing is, Pete decides as Patrick continues to thrust into him with those pale, elegant fingers, as he sucks as his cock like he needs it to stay breathing, he really does enjoy a good fuck. He’s willing to wait, oh so willing, but if Patrick is as ready as those lust-glazed pretty blue eyes would seem to attest then who is Pete to deny them both? He eases him back gently, the surprise on his face evidence as he strains forward, eager to suck Pete straight back down and drag him into oblivion.

“Patrick, wait,” he whispers, unable to stop himself rocking down onto the fingers still buried inside of him, whimpering softly as Patrick presses against that spot once more. “Fuck, you need to stop doing that, this is… it’s important…”

“Is something wrong?” Patrick withdraws his fingers far too quickly, leaving Pete aching with need. “D-did I hurt you? Oh… Oh I’m so sorry, I – ”

“No,” Pete rushes to reassure him, struggling to sit up as Patrick does the same, reaching for his hand with a smile. “No, baby, you didn’t hurt me. I just… Patrick, do you think you’re ready to go all the way?”

“All the…” Patrick trails off, clearly confused. “I don’t… You know I don’t understand when you talk in riddles…”

“Sex, Patrick,” Pete chuckles quietly, squeezing his hand gently. “I mean are you ready for sex. Have you… thought any more about it?”

“Yes,” Patrick whispers, eyes never leaving Pete’s although a blush springs up on his cheeks. “Definitely thought about it. A lot. But,” he pauses and takes a steadying breath, “I don’t really… I don’t understand how… How it works. Beyond the basic uh… well, mechanics of it, I suppose.”

“Okay. Okay, that’s fine,” Pete nods, tracing the pad of his thumb over the delicate arch of Patrick’s cheekbone. He eases Patrick up to straddle his lap, hands stroking softly over the satin smooth skin of his hips. “What, exactly, did you think about? Did you think about me fucking you? Imagine my cock here?”

With that he gently presses a finger between Patrick’s cheeks, intent on lightly circling the delicate pucker there. He has plans for this, plans that involve pressing Patrick face first into the mattress, hauling him ass up so he can slide his tongue inside of him. He can imagine the little whining moans Patrick might make, the desperation for more as he begs and pleads and loses himself… But Patrick clenches tight against him, eyes wide as he shakes his head quickly.

“No,” he mutters, lips drawn tight. “I- I don’t… No.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” Pete gently cradles Patrick’s chin in his hand, tilting his face up so that their eyes meet once more. “Don’t run away from me, I’m not gonna make you. This is all about you, baby, all about what you want. Okay, so did you imagine doing that to me?”

He circles Patrick’s cock with his free hand, sliding his palm slowly from base to tip as he whispers to him quietly.

“You want to feel me on your cock? Hmm?” Patrick nods as a slow shiver shudders down his spine, as his hips surge forward towards Pete’s hand. “Okay, what if I got on my hands and knees for you and – “

“I don’t know,” Patrick shrugs helplessly. “What… Doesn’t it hurt? I don’t… What if I do something wrong and I… damage you, somehow? What if – “

“What if,” Pete interrupts gently, still stroking the hard length of Patrick’s prick, sure he can feel the throb of it against his palm. “What if we did this the same way you fingered me? If you just… lay back and let me take care of it?”

Patrick seems to consider this for a moment, the dim light of his bedside lamp casting shadows across the planes of his face and sparking brilliant points of sparkling warmth in the cool blue of his eyes. He chews softly at that plump lower lip and runs a hand slowly through his hair, pushing it back out of his eyes as he thinks. But then, slowly, he nods, his expression shifting from uncertainty to utter conviction as he smiles shyly and murmurs, “You won’t… I won’t hurt you that way?”

“No, I swear you won’t,” he leans in for a kiss, soft and sweet, pulling back to meet Patrick’s eyes carefully. “You’re absolutely sure? I don’t… I don’t want to rush you into doing something you’re not ready for. We can’t take it back and – ”

He’s silenced by those warm lips closing over his own once more, the smooth flicker of a damp tongue against his, soft hands framing his face and drawing him closer. They kiss, deep and dirty and desperate, until Patrick pulls back with a sweet sigh, “Tell me what to do.”

“Lay back, that’s it, all the way,” he kisses encouragement to Patrick’s throat as he stretches out on the mattress, blinking up expectantly at Pete, hands loose at his sides and cock curving up, stiff and flushed dark with blood. It’s too much to resist, his mouth sliding down over the length of it, the bitter salt of precum sharp on his tongue. Patrick whimpers, hands gently cradling Pete’s face as he thrusts shallowly his head rolling back and his eyes falling closed as he loses himself in the sensation of Pete’s mouth on his dick. This is so much more than Pete could ever have imagined, the sweet abandon etched onto his lover’s face far more beautiful than anything he’s seen before.

He pulls off, presses a tender kiss to the head of Patrick’s cock and moves to straddle his thighs, grasping his hands loosely and guiding them to his hips. “Vaseline?” He whispers, hand extended expectantly until Patrick presses the jar into his palm. He slicks up his fingers, reaching down to languidly stroke the slick over the length of Patrick’s cock, the surprised whine enough to make him chuckle, low and dark, “Oh yeah, feels good on your dick, doesn’t it?”

Patrick nods, whimpering with an arch of his hips, his nails sinking into the smooth gold of Pete’s thighs, “Y-yes, very nice…”

No fuck yeah , no oh Jesus Christ don’t stop. Just very nice and yet the sincerity in that formal proclamation, the way adoration glows from him even as he gasps and groans, it means more to Pete than all of the filth muttered into his ear by the ones that didn’t care. The ones that used him. The ones that fucked him then rejected him for never being quite enough, his skin or his cock just too much to bear in the cold light of day.

“Okay baby,” he moves up, straddles Patrick’s hips with his hands splayed out over his chest, teasing fingertips pinching at the rose flush of tight nipples. Patrick gasps softly, raising his hips with a moan. “I’m gonna… I’m gonna get your cock inside me now, okay? Just… We can stop any time you want, just remember that, yeah? Are you ready?”

Patrick nods, eyes fixed down at his cock, framed by Pete’s thighs. It’s not enough.

“Patrick, look at me,” Pete urges, blue eyes drifting to meet his own. “I said are you ready, baby? I need you to say it.”

“Please,” he says, without hesitation, eyes wide and dark with lust. “I want you to. I’m ready.”

There’s nothing but sincerity reflected back at him from those beautiful eyes, nothing but honesty falling from those petal-plush lips, damp and shining as he slicks them with the tip of his tongue. Fuck, but he’s pretty, all flushed and glowing with sweat and need beneath him, his skin suffused with rose as he slides his hands to Pete’s hips. Pete slips a hand around the base of Patrick’s cock, holding him steady as he lines himself up and slowly, painfully slowly, begins to ease down onto him.

He holds his breath as the thick, blunt head of Patrick’s cock breaches the tight ring of muscle. He’s big, his cock stretching Pete exquisitely as he gasps, sinking blunt nails into Patrick’s chest. He babbles nonsense to a wide-eyed, open-mouthed Patrick beneath him, murmurs half-formed thoughts of how he’s so good, doing so well, feels fucking fantastic forcing Pete wide open for him. He nods like he agrees though Pete’s not sure he really understands much beyond the burning bright heat wrapping tight around his cock as Pete sinks lower and wonderfully lower.

He stills, panting, once Patrick is flush inside of him, hands rubbing frantically at his hips as he bites that pretty pink lower lip once again and gazes up with lust-glazed adoration shining from him. Pete rolls his hips a little, trying to adjust to the thick length of Patrick’s cock filling him, stretching him, turning him inside out with need.

“You… You good?” He asks softly, tremors shaking his thighs as he watches a dozen different emotions play across Patrick’s face. “Fuck, you’re... Jesus Christ, you’re huge… You need me to stop?”

Please don’t ask me to stop, he thinks, biting his lip as he waits for Patrick to answer, to say or do something, anything.

“I’m…? I don’t understand,” Patrick’s voice is tight with need and just a touch of confusion. “Huge?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Pete shakes his head with a breathy laugh. “Can I…?”

“I- yes,” Patrick’s voice is low and rough, eyes clouding dark as he presses his thumbs into Pete’s hips. “W-what do I do? I don’t know how…”

“I’m gonna start to move,” Pete grits through teeth clenched tight. “Just like I did when you used your fingers. You… you can lay still or… If you want to move with me that’s… that would be… fucking amazing, actually. But just, you know, whatever you’re- Fuck!”

He cries out, sharp and high as Patrick’s hips twitch, the head of his cock nudging that spot, that wonderful little point that makes his knees buckle and his vision blur, “Oh fuck, yes, like that…”

With that, he rises up, feeling the length of Patrick’s prick dragging against him in all the most wonderful ways, pausing at the top of the stroke and then, with a low groan, sinking back down onto him. The noise shifts, trails into a keening whine as, with a tilt of his hips, he brings Patrick against that sweet spot with a little nudge that makes him see stars. He continues, a few more slow thrusts as he acquaints himself with Patrick’s cock, until the burn of it gives and his body adjusts and shivering pleasure takes over.

He speeds his hips, rocking and thrusting against Patrick just a little harder, faster, enough to spark the sweet burn of desire that has him wrapping his hand around his cock and beginning to stroke. Sure, it would be nice if Patrick did it for him but judging from the look of intense concentration creasing his brow as he rolls his hips in time with Pete’s, now might not be the best time to ask. Next time, or the time after that, or any of the many times Pete knows will come in the future. The thought is lost as he brings himself down slightly harder, a sharp burst of pleasure exploding deep inside of him as Patrick slams into that secret spot with a flick of his hips. Unintended but blissful, Pete slumps forward a little, free hand splayed over Patrick’s heart as he strokes himself quick and sharp.

“Oh… Oh, Pete,” Patrick moans and it’s there in the desperate set of his jaw that he’s close, that this is all too much for him to withstand. “I- I think I’m gonna…”

“Gonna what?” Pete prompts, stroking himself hard and fast. “Come on, baby, say it for me.”

“I’m… I’m… Gonna…” Patrick’s hips are working with Pete’s, the odd badly timed thrust throwing the rhythm off but it’s sweet and needing and perfect.

“Say it,” Pete begs, feeling his own release coiling low and tight in his groin. “Say I’m gonna come… Come on, baby, it’s not a dirty word…”

Patrick’s hands are tight to Pete’s ass, nails pressing into the solid curve of the muscle, occasionally drifting back and down to touch where they’re joined with a bite of his lip and a groan. Pete wants to hear him say it, wants to hear at least a little filth fall from those pretty lips as he stares up at him.

“I’m… I’m gonna come,” he groans, deepening as Pete’s nails sink into his chest, as he whines high and sweet and clenches tight around the solid heat of Patrick’s cock. “Oh, Pete! I’m gonna come!”

A couple more hard thrusts from Pete and Patrick is there, crying out wordlessly as he comes, his nails biting precise points of perfect pain into Pete’s hips as he jerks and thrashes beneath him. His eyes are closed, jaw softly slack as he twitches up again and again, drawing it out, pulling every perfect tremor from it that he can until he relaxes back with a shuddering sigh. Pete keeps going, squeezing the press of Patrick’s dick, still buried inside of him, as he carries on stroking his own.

He’s getting close, that delicious surge of sensation sparking in his gut as Patrick watches him, licks his lips and, with trembling fingers, reaches to take over, sliding his hand to cover Pete’s cock. Their eyes meet once more, Patrick’s smile sweet and tinged with sleepiness as he does all of the things he’s learnt that Pete loves. So, when Pete falls apart, it’s under Patrick’s touch, with Patrick’s softening cock still inside of him, sweetly perfect in all of the ways that he’s never had before, tinged with overwhelming emotion as he collapses down onto the sticky, sweat and come slicked mess of Patrick’s chest.

“Fuck, I- that was perfect,” Pete babbles into the warm skin of Patrick’s throat, lips sucking kisses to the soft curve of it. “You’re just… that was amazing and I hope you enjoyed it but fuck, Patrick, I swear to God I – “

“Shh,” Patrick whispers with a smile, stroking a lazy hand up the valley of Pete’s spine, sliding his hand to tilt up his chin so he can continue softly. “I love you.”

Something warm and soft unfurls in Pete’s chest. Yes, he’s thought the words countless times over the past few weeks, imagined whispering them into the ear of his little priest, coupling them with a gentle kiss or a soft hand against softer hair. He never imagined Patrick would be the one to say it first and yet… Somehow that makes it better, that he, Pete Wentz, unworthy of even a night spent next to his previous lovers, could be worthy enough of love that someone – someone like Patrick – would place his heart on his sleeve and into Pete’s hands. It’s blissful, perfect safety as he nuzzles another kiss to sweetly soft lips.

“I love you, too,” he breathes, dropping Patrick’s gaze after a moment to butterfly tender kisses along his jaw, peppered with declarations of adoration. “I love you, I love you, I love you, you’re just… Fucking perfect, you know? I never thought I’d… And someone like you… It’s just…”

Patrick laughs, squirming ticklish as Pete feathers kisses to his neck as delicate as butterfly wings. He eases off him carefully, the familiar and not entirely pleasant leak of come made more bearable by Patrick insisting on fetching a bowl of warm water and a washcloth. He’s gentle, hands soothing and soft as he wipes Pete down like he’s not capable of cleaning himself. He doesn’t object though, secretly enjoying the pampering and spitting out a half-assed barb about payback for the photo album. Patrick rolls his eyes as he dries Pete off with gentle hands and the softest towel they own before muttering under his breath, “Okay, fine, if you’re going to keep going on…”

With that he leaves the room with the bowl and the cloth, some quiet fumbling in the living room marking his movement. Sleep is dragging at Pete as Patrick messes around doing God knows what but he forces himself awake until Patrick returns with a frame clutched in his hands that he thrusts at Pete with a roll of his eyes.

“Go ahead,” he instructs. “Laugh.”

Pete looks down with a puzzled from that soon turns to a wide grin as he takes in the picture in his hand. It’s Patrick, younger, dressed in a university cap and gown, his degree certificate clutched proudly in his hands and his clerical collar just visible. He’s also chubbier, a soft layer of puppy fat filling cheeks that frame his shy smile and sporting the worst pair of mutton chop sideburns Pete thinks he’s ever seen in his life.

“Nice chops,” a low chuckle rasps over his words as he pulls Patrick down onto the bed with him, arm slung over his waist as he examines the picture more closely. “Those glasses are hideous.”

“Shut up,” Patrick objects with a hint of that self-righteous snobbery creeping into his tone. “I’m a priest, I don’t care about something as shallow as looks.”

“Fucking liar,” Pete laughs. “The kid that grew those sideburns was proud of them, those beauts don’t just happen, my friend.”

“You’re an idiot, Peter,” Patrick reprimands, laughing as Pete pokes out his tongue. But he doesn’t deny it.

“Mm, grow them back for me,” Pete nuzzles into his neck. “Fuckin’ gorgeous, so manly…”

“It’s a good thing I love you,” Patrick rolls his eyes as he pries the picture from Pete’s hand and reaches for the lamp, casting the room in shadow as they press close together. Pete’s heart sings with the words spoken so casually, so sweet and soft.

“I love you too,” Pete murmurs, brushing a soft kiss to Patrick’s lips.

And for the first time he can remember, Pete falls asleep feeling safe, curled into Patrick’s side with a smile soft on his lips.

Chapter Text

It’s after Mass, and Patrick stands at the door of Saint Sebastian’s – it’s hinges no longer creaking – as he watches his parishioners leave. A regular Thursday morning doesn’t attract many people, and besides a few nods and superficial friendliness, not much conversation is expected from him.

That doesn’t mean Patrick isn’t busy. There’s confessions to take tomorrow, there’s a funeral on Saturday, and the family in mourning expects his visit later in the evening. The whole week has been busy, in fact. He’s visited the Hendersons before to give the last rites and the last comforting words to the old family patriarch, made another agonizing visit to Mrs. Johnson, went over this month’s expenses with Andy as they tried to plan their budget. Of course, nothing like tragedy and anger to unite people; there has never been more money in the offertory. Patrick tries to make the best of it, tells himself they need the money, and that generosity is a good, Catholic value, even if the intent might be questionable.

All of this means he’s barely seen Pete over the past week, who has been busy himself with all kinds of repair work, running errands, and trying to get everything winterproof. Patrick sighs internally, while he keeps up his smile as he watches the last people leave, together with the laughing and squabbling altar boys. Soon. Soon he can go home, Pete will be there for lunch, maybe they can…

His thoughts are interrupted when little Paul Henderson Jr. almost bumps into him. The youngest son of the family serves as an altar boy, just like all of his brothers, father, grandfather, and probably all of the other men of his family before him. The boy holds a Tupperware container in his hands, and turns to Patrick with a thoughtful frown.

“Bless you, son,” Patrick says with a little laugh, “can I help you? I’m afraid all your friends left already.”

“Father, can I ask you something? It’s very important.” The boy lowers his voice, and he looks very serious. Patrick kneels down, so they can be on eye-level. The kids rarely care for the difficult spiritual side of religion, they’re usually more caught up in festivities, family traditions and the games that they make up between themselves.

“Sure,” Patrick says encouragingly, with the friendliest smile he can muster. “Go ahead. Don’t be shy.”

Paul looks around, but there’s no one left around them. “Michael said that you lived with a nigger,” he says quietly, with uncertainty in his voice. “He says that’s why people are angry at us. He says that’s a bad thing. Is that true?”

The words pierce right into Patrick’s heart, and he tries his best to remain calm and gentle. Michael is one of the other altar boys, the oldest one and kind of their leader. He’s been here the longest, so no wonder the younger ones look up to him.

“It’s not true,” Patrick answers as calmly as possible. “The people who did this were full of foolish rage. They were full of disrespect against God and his children, and their misguided anger made them want to hurt others. It’s no one’s fault but their own. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen – that’s what John says in the bible.”

The kid nods solemnly as he takes a minute to ponder the heavy words. Finally, there’s a small but sincere smile on his lips. “I knew that Michael wasn’t right!” he says with glee. “He’s so stupid someti-“ Paul breaks off, clears his throat. “Forgive me, Father, I didn’t mean to insult him.”

“You’re forgiven, son.” Patrick can’t help but feel relieved that his message came through. “Now, God doesn’t appreciate unpleasant rumors. You better let your friends know about this, too, so that they can be better people.” There’s a firm nod from the kid, and Patrick relaxes. “Good, good. Never be afraid to ask questions, okay?”

“Okay, Father,” Paul says with another stern nod, indicating he’s serious about this. At least with the children, there’s some hope they won’t grow into hateful adults like some of their parents.

“And one more thing,” Patrick adds, now with a more serious voice. “We’re all equal in God’s eyes, no matter who we are and what others say. Humans don’t get to decide for God, and God loves all of his creations equally.” Patrick breathes in, a little unsure, but then he remembers the hurt in Pete’s eyes, the anger, the way he flinches when someone hurls a slur at him. “That also means God won’t tolerate when people use bad words. I don’t want you or your friends going around and calling someone by the word you just used for Peter. Because that’s a bad word full of hate, and that’s not right. Hurting others is a sin.”

The boy looks at him with big eyes, like he’s hearing this for the first time. Patrick wouldn’t be surprised.

“Your past mistakes can be forgiven, but you know better now,” Patrick says sternly, “so, I don’t want to hear that word from you or your friends ever again.”

“I understand,” Paul says after a while. “I’m sorry, Father.”

“Don’t apologize to me,” Patrick answers, “say your prayers like a good boy, and make sure you don’t do it again.”

“Okay.” The kid bites his lip, frowns a little. All the new information will surely give him something to think for a while. “Thank you, Father Stump. Oh, and one more thing,” he mumbles, now with a blush on his face, “I, uhm – my momma made these cookies for you? Because you helped us so much when grandpa died. But – I know I shouldn’t have done it, but – me and Jonathan ate two of them on our way to church this morning. I’m so sorry!”

With that, he hands the Tupperware box to Patrick, who does his best to suppress a laugh. “You’re forgiven,” he chuckles as he takes the colorful plastic box and ruffles the kid’s hair, “it’s a good thing you’ve been honest about it. Try not to do it again, okay? Sharing is a Christian value, and if you ask next time, I won’t deny you one of these frankly delicious-looking cookies.”

The boy visibly relaxes, and promises not to do it again. Andy exits the church now, heading over to Patrick and the altar boy, and Paul hastily asks Patrick: “The cookie thing is a secret, okay?”

“Sure thing. Confessions are confidential!” Patrick says with a wink as he stands up, and pats the boy’s head.

“Everything alright?” Andy stands next to them now, and he sounds weirdly serious.

“S-sure, Father Hurley,” the kid replies, obviously thrown off by the strange sense of threat in Andy’s voice. “Uhm, I need to go now. Thank you, Father Stump, and goodbye!”

“God bless you!” Patrick half-shouts as the boy already ran away, probably intending to catch up with his friends.

“What was that about secrets?” Andy inquires, and is that anger in his voice? Patrick can’t understand why; he must have misinterpreted the deacon’s tone.

“Nothing,” he replies cheerfully, “the boy just came up to ask me some questions, and to give me the cookies.” That’s really all that matters, and Patrick won’t break his word, especially not that he gave to a child – he has to lead by example, after all - and he rattles the box to emphasise his point

“Okay then,” Andy says, but despite the usual gentleness and patience in his voice, it doesn’t really sound like he means it. He takes a step closer, and even though he neither raises his voice or his fists, there’s suddenly something very menacing to him. “I’m keeping an eye on you, Father. I don’t know what it was like back in Chicago, but here, in my town… Things are different.”

Patrick stares at him dumbfounded as he tries to make sense of Andy’s words. Before he has a chance to defend himself, Father Hurley turns around, and leaves without a proper farewell. It’s unsettling, the cryptic words and the unusual disrespect in the deacon’s behavior, and Patrick sighs as he closes the door of the church, and wonders if everyone in this town has gone mad.

When Patrick enters the rectory, silence greets him. He looks in the kitchen, only to find it empty. He places the Tupperware container on the kitchen counter, and sighs. Just as disappointment has washed over Patrick and he decided he can use the spare time to write his funeral speech for Saturday, he hears the door, and then Pete’s heavy work boots as he bursts into the kitchen, out of breath.

“’m sorry for being late,” Pete gasps as he catches his breath. “Almost lost track of the time. I’ll make us something nice to eat to make up for it…!”

Patrick can’t help but smile, can’t help but stretch out his arms to invite Pete into a hug. A welcome kiss is planted on his lips, one that quickly turns dirtier than usual. They’ve had so little time together in the past days, and Patrick’s heart aches at the thought of how little time the next few days offer them. He misses Pete, hates that all they have in these busy times are stolen kisses in the morning and whenever they miraculously run into each other during the day. Sure, they have the evenings together, but by then they’re usually exhausted and tired. There isn’t much more than sweet kisses as they listen to music, comforting hugs as they fall asleep together, maybe some hasty groping when they wake up in the morning, always with the knowledge of the alarm clock about to separate them again in the back of their minds.

It’s not like Patrick doesn’t appreciate these things, he’s happy about any time he can spend with Pete, any affection they can share. But he can’t deny that he longs for a little more, and knowing Pete, he’s sure that they feel the same.

“I missed you,” Patrick mumbles as he buries his face in Pete’s neck.

“Yeah, me too,” Pete replies, hands sliding down Patrick’s hips and dangerously close to indecent territory. Patrick hums in encouragement, grinds closer to Pete in a silent plea for more as he contemplates what to do next. He is free until evening mass, and Pete doesn’t have to be anywhere until the evening, when he’s supposed to meet up with Mrs. Harvey to discuss the job she’s offering. Well, Patrick supposes Pete has planned the afternoon for working on the church, but maybe that can wait. The building won’t collapse within the next few hours.

“What about lunch?” Pete asks, although the semi pressing against rough denim suggests he has little interest in food.

“Maybe later.” Patrick slings his arms around Pete, allows his hands to dip under the waistband of his jeans to rest on the swell of his ass.

“My, my, Father, but isn’t there work I should be doing?” The tone of Pete’s voice is more playful than serious, and the moan he gives when Patrick’s fingers dig into his skin is only encouraging.

“I’m your boss,” Patrick groans between two kisses, “and I’m ordering you to take a break. Now.”

Pete laughs, low and ugly and endearing. “Well, can’t say no to the boss,” he grins, before he breaks their embrace to guide them both to Patrick’s bedroom.

With care, Patrick unbuttons the heavy cassock, puts the garment over his chair so it won’t get wrinkled and damaged. That would only be a time-consuming nuisance, or worse, suspicious. Meanwhile, Pete has thrown his jeans to the floor, and shrugs off his shirt. Patrick throws his pants over the chair together with his underwear, but before he can take off his socks, Pete’s patience is at its limits. He drags Patrick into his arms, and maneuvers them both to lie on the bed. Patrick finds himself between Pete’s legs, feels a hand sliding into his hair, urging him to bow down for a kiss.

It’s slow and affectionate at first, then more and more passionate as Patrick wraps his hand around Pete’s dick, strokes him into hardness. He’s learned a lesson or two about what Pete likes by now, and it fills him with pride and happiness to see Pete enjoying his touches so much. Pete looks beautiful spread out like that for him, and the soft sighs falling from his lips are music in Patrick’s ear.

Still, Patrick wants something more. Something that goes deeper, something more intense, something to connect them with each other on a whole different level – sex , his brain supplies. Oh, but no, not only that; lust may be a sin, but Patrick can’t feel guilty. It’s not just mindless lust – he wants to make Pete feel good, wants to show Pete how much he loves him, wants an opportunity for both of them to share their bodies with each other out of love and desire and trust. That can’t be wrong, it can’t be.

“Mmm, what’s my little priest up to?” Pete looks at him with a big grin as he props himself up on his elbows. “Tell me, boss, how – ah, how should we spend this break?”

Patrick laughs a little, plants a kiss on Pete’s cheek. “You’re being silly. And don’t make fun of me.” There’s no bite behind his words, he knows Pete is joking.

“Okay, for real then.” Pete runs a hand over Patrick’s chest, and Patrick remembers it’s best to talk about these things when their hands aren’t on each other’s cocks. “What would you like to do, Patrick?”

Patrick bites his lip, keeps back a frustrated sigh. He hates talking about this, or rather, hates how hard it is for him to articulate himself. Why do words like fuck and suck my cock slip from Pete’s pretty lips so easily? Why can’t they just… do it?

With another suppressed sigh, Patrick reminds himself that just doing it hasn’t exactly worked out for them in the past. Focus, he needs to focus, and he needs words.

“Remember what we did on Sunday?” He asks while he glances at Pete. “I would… Love to do that again. That is, if you want…?”

“You want to fuck me?” Pete’s phrasing is a little less delicate, and Patrick nods. All the years of education and stiff, formal speech have taught him not to use bad words, and he’s still a priest, he won’t stoop so low as to abuse God’s name. Some rules aren’t meant to be bended or broken. But maybe, there’s a better way.

“Yes,” Patrick whispers, he can do it, it’s just a silly word, and it would mean so much to Pete. “Yes, Pete, I – I would like to have sex with you, please.”

There’s a moment of silence, before Pete bursts into a short laugh. He quickly bites off the noise when he catches sight of Patrick’s scolding frown, but there’s a broad grin lighting up his face.

“Oh my God, baby, you have no idea how precious you are!” Pete says, not without a hint of amusement.

“Shut up,” Patrick retorts indignantly, cheeks blazing crimson and flame-hot. “You’re the one encouraging me to speak my mind, so don’t laugh at me!”

“I’m not laughing at you, I never would.” Pete is still smiling, but he’s being sincere. “I just… Never mind. It was just adorable. Please, feel free to tell me again.”

Patrick still can’t help but frown a little. He loves it when Pete talks dirty, it’s hot to hear these words from his mouth, and Patrick very much wants Pete to feel the same way. “You want to hear it again?” he mumbles as he bows down, brings his mouth closer to Pete’s ear. It’s easier when Pete isn’t looking at him and it seems… Like something Pete might do, whispering filth into his ear. He tries to get the tone right, lowers his voice to a soft whisper. “I would like to have sex with you. Here and now. If that’s something you might be interested in…?”

“You bet your ass it is,” Pete gasps, but this time, much to Patrick’s pride, there’s no chuckle accompanying his words. Just a low moan as Patrick runs his fingers over Pete’s shaft, and another moan when their lips meet for a kiss, eager and demanding.

Eventually, Patrick sits up, reaches for the drawer, and retrieves the Vaseline. He can’t deny he’s a little impatient, but he also has to admit that if he rushes this, he’s going to get off long before Pete does. And that’s not what Patrick wants; no, this time, he wants to feel Pete come properly before he does, wants to relish in Pete’s orgasm in a way he wasn’t able to the first time.

Encouraged by his little victory just now, Patrick decides to go for more words. The raw desire he heard in Pete’s voice is too enticing to resist.

“So, Pete,” Patrick starts, tries to push away doubts and fears. “Do you want me to put my mouth… My mouth on your manhood?”

There’s a second of silence, and Patrick swears that if Pete laughs again, he’s going to wind up completely soft and possibly losing the will to ever open his mouth to ask for anything ever again.

Luckily, Pete does no such thing. “Fuck, Patrick, of course I want you to!” He leans back into the pillow, sends Patrick a look that’s full of sinful intent. “I want to have your lips and tongue everywhere.”

Patrick mumbles something affectionately as he leans over for the desired kisses, works his way down over Pete’s chest, stomach, to his cock. He licks a stripe over the velvet-smooth head, another one over the shaft, before he takes Pete in. His cock is hard and hot in Patrick’s mouth, and Pete’s moans are sweet and encouraging. He continues like that for a while, Vaseline momentarily forgotten as his tongue explores well-known territory and the stroke of his hand evokes more passionate moans and mumbled swearing.

“Shit, shit, you’re amazing,” Pete groans, “really, you – ah, you’re getting so good at this, Patrick…”

More pride swells in Patrick’s chest, and he would just go on like that if it wasn’t for the light tap on his shoulder.

“C’mon, baby, you know what to do next, right?” There’s a challenge hidden in Pete’s words, a little spark in his amber eyes.

Patrick sits up, reaches for the glass jar again to slick up his fingers. He’s generous with the Vaseline, but still sends Pete a questioning look, just to make sure. Pete nods, and with that, Patrick lets his hand wander between Pete’s legs.

“You want me to put my fingers here?” Patrick whispers, and he knows his face is burning bright with leftover embarrassment. “Is that what you want me to do next?”

Thankfully, Pete doesn’t care about the blush or the way Patrick’s tongue almost trips over itself. “Fuck, yes!” He groans, “want that… Want you to work me open for your cock, baby…”

Patrick’s finger trail over the tight pucker, and he slowly pushes the first one in. Pete gasps, holds still as Patrick’s other hand soothingly strokes over his thighs, then wraps around his cock.

A second follows soon after, and with a concentrated frown, Patrick tries to crook his fingers just right, like last time. Pete shifts a little, mumbles “up, and a little deeper, harder… ‘m not gonna break…” Which Patrick tries to follow as best he can. There’s still hesitation left, the underlying fear he could hurt Pete, but the last few times have given Patrick much more confidence.

Finally, he can feel Pete tighten around his fingers as he lets out a loud whimper. “Yes, fuck, right there!” He gasps as he tries to grind closer. “Ah, again, fuck! And give me another finger...”

Patrick does as he’s told, and leans forward to take Pete’s cock back into his mouth. It takes serious effort to find a good pace for moving his fingers buried inside Pete, and his mouth around Pete’s dick at the same time. It’s worth it though, and every groan and whine from Pete goes straight to Patrick’s cock.

“How does it feel?” Patrick blurts out, lips slicking back down over Pete’s cock as he presses his fingers deep inside and feels the delicious clench of Pete around him. He’s… curious. The moans Pete makes when Patrick’s inside of him - fingers or cock - suggests it must be incredible and whilst he’d twitched away from the idea of Pete fucking him… Well, maybe fingers might be nice?

“Hmm?” Pete’s frowning but not like he’s upset, like he’s concentrating, hips rocking in time with Patrick’s mouth against him. “Y- your fingers? Fuck, it’s… It’s like everything was perfect and then… something else. You… You want to try it?”

But Patrick shakes his head, still a little nervous. Maybe another time. He slides his tongue, slick and flattened, against the vein along the underside of Pete’s cock, tastes the salted musk of sweat and skin and the faint, sharp tang of precum as he sucks and watches Pete from eyes wide with rapture.

“Patrick,” Pete gasps after a while, a hand cupped to his cheek, “Patrick, ah – you gotta stop, or I’m gonna come already…”

Patrick sits up, and so does Pete. For a moment, there’s just heavy breathing, and he can see how Pete tries his best to concentrate.

“How do you want to do this?” Pete reaches for Patrick’s hand, laces their fingers together. “Tell me, baby. Like last time?”

“No.” Patrick takes a deep breath, squeezes Pete’s hand. Last time was lovely, no doubt, and he certainly enjoyed Pete taking care of him, of everything. But this time, it would be nice to have it reversed, and be a little more active; to take care of Pete. “I want to, well, do more,” Patrick says weakly. “Want to make you… Feel good.”

“You always do,” Pete says with a grin, before a thoughtful look passes over his face. “Something simple and easy would be best to start – how about we do missionary?”

“Excuse me?” Patrick asks bewildered.

“Missionary. The position?” Pete raises his eyebrows. “Come on, it’s the most basic thing.”

“Uh, I’m sorry, but missionary has a very different meaning to me I guess,” Patrick says as he runs a hand through his hair, wondering what in God’s name Pete is talking about.

“Look, basically, we’re just gonna stay like this, okay? I’ll lean back, and you’ll get between my legs to put your dick inside of me. As easy as it gets. Nothing much that can go wrong.” Another grin lights up Pete’s face. “And it’s called missionary, Patrick. So it’s pretty much perfect for you.”

“This is serious blasphemy,” Patrick mutters as Pete reaches for the Vaseline. “I can’t – how does that even make sense?”

“Oh, you’re the priest, so maybe you’ll work it out?” Pete sends him a wink as he slicks up his fingers, and Patrick only moans as an answer when Pete’s hand finds his cock. He very much doubts he’ll get any spiritual enlightenment out of this, but can’t bring himself to care about that right now.

A few more strokes, then Pete lies down again. Patrick tries to shift to the right angle, and to line up his dick with Pete’s slick, stretched entrance. It’s a bit messy and it takes him a moment, but eventually, the head of his cock is ready to slide into Pete. Now, if Patrick could only say the same thing about himself.

“Pete,” he stutters, “I don’t know if – how can I be sure I’m doing this right…?”

He feels Pete’s hands on his ass, a light touch. “I’ll guide you,” Pete says, “just trust me. We can work this out together. So, when you’re ready…”

Patrick nods, and the hands on his body encourage him further. Slowly, almost agonizingly slowly he pushes into Pete. It feels amazing, all tight heat and sinful pleasure, hot and slick and just Pete.

There’s a look of sharp concentration on Pete’s face, and he’s breathing heavily, but doesn’t do anything to stop Patrick. Once he’s all the way in, he motions Patrick to stop moving, and Patrick takes that time to plant more kisses on Pete’s sweaty skin.

“Are you okay?” Patrick asks with concern. “Am I doing okay? We can stop, if you want –“

“Oh, no way,” Pete interrupts him, “no way we’re stopping, please… Could you move a little instead? Just… Start slow.”

Patrick tries his best, tries to follow the rhythm that Pete’s hands soon guide him into. The frown on Pete’s face is now replaced by a blissful grin as he starts to buck his hips, tries to time them with Patrick’s thrusts. It’s not that easy, especially when Patrick has to try his best not to give into temptation and just come right here and now.

It’s not flawless, but it’s perfect nonetheless.  

Once Patrick feels secure enough in his movements, he allows himself to take Pete’s dick into his hand. It’s rewarded with an appreciative moan, and Patrick tries his best to give it some broad, satisfying strokes.

“Is that… Enjoyable?” Patrick inquires breathlessly.

“Oh, it’s a fucking pleasure,” Pete answers, gasps again when Patrick’s thumb glides over his slit. He tries to adjust his position a little, lifts his leg, and on instinct, Patrick places his unoccupied hand on the back of Pete’s knee, pushes it down just a little. That must have changed the angle just right, because Pete lets out a loud whine, digs his fingers into Patrick’s ass as he makes an incoherent noise. Patrick can feel him clench down around his cock, tight, tight, and tighter, and it takes all his self-restraint to not come just from that.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Patrick, do that again!” Pete eventually stutters out when he’s a little more coherent, “please, oh God, just – fuck! Like that, but damn, harder; I can take it!” If Patrick weren’t so preoccupied with sex, he’d have a word or two about the profanities.

Pete thrashes his head, and there’s a stream of words mixing with moans and the sweetest iteration of Patrick’s name. His cock is hard and leaking in Patrick’s hand, and he can tell Pete is close. With what little brain capacity he has left, Patrick tries to remember what Pete did last time in this situation.

“Will you come for me, darling?” Patrick asks, too out of his mind to feel embarrassed over these sinful words falling from his lips. “Will you… Are you gonna do that for me?”

“Fuck yes, yes,” Pete groans, “yes, baby, I...!”

Another loud whine finishes the sentence instead, and Pete squeezes his eyes shut as his blunt nails dig deeper into Patrick’s skin. Another thrust, another stroke, and Pete falls apart underneath him, a moan and Patrick’s name on his lips as he spills over Patrick’s hand and his chest. He tightens around Patrick’s cock; Patrick can feel Pete’s orgasm vibrating through his own body, and it’s too much to resist. With a gasp, Patrick thrusts one last time into Pete before the world is momentarily reduced to nothing but Pete and him as he comes.

As the last waves of pleasure ebb away, Patrick slumps forward, rests his forehead against Pete’s. He’s hot and sweaty and there’s cum on Pete – in Pete – but all that matters is Pete is kissing him, slow and passionate and with a content little sigh. This is what heaven must be like, Patrick decides.

Then, Pete motions him to pull out, and drags him down next to him. There’s another kiss, slow and sweet, before Patrick eventually breaks away, frowns at the mess of sweaty sheets, Vaseline, and cum.

“Pete, you’re leaking,” he mumbles, and this time, he can’t help but join the laugh that erupts from Pete. It’s silly, but sincere. Patrick insists on cleaning Pete up, partially because he feels responsible for the mess, and partially because he enjoys the gentle care for him.

When the washcloth and towel are put away and they’re as clean as possible for now, Patrick stretches out next to Pete with a content hum. “I love you,” he whispers, and the smile Pete sends him is the most beautiful thing ever.

“I love you, too,” Pete whispers back, “and, well. Thanks for trying to talk more. Believe me, I enjoy that immensely.”

“I’m sorry we had so little time for each other this week,” Patrick mumbles as he strokes over Pete’s thighs. “The past few days have just been so busy.”

“I know,” Pete says, but there’s something somber in his voice, something that wasn’t there before. “Patrick, how long do you think we can keep going like this? I can’t live in the rectory forever. The repair work on the church will be done eventually. It’s gonna be suspicious if I stay too long.”

“You can visit?” Patrick proposes, causing only a scoff from Pete. There’s something cold in Patrick’s chest; this isn’t what he wants, not this conversation, not right now.

“Yeah, that’s not suspicious at all,” he replies impatiently. “That would never work and you know it. Damn, we barely have time to see each other sometimes even now that we live together. How do you think we could organize seeing each other when we basically live on opposite ends of town?”

Patrick stays quiet, rests his hand on Pete’s hips.

“And even if we do manage to see each other – how often do you think that would be? Once, twice a month if we’re lucky? And how long do you think until someone finds out about us? We could be as careful as we want, but this is Clark, and…” Pete doesn’t finish the sentence, but the unsaid implications hang heavy between them.

“I love you, Pete,” Patrick says eventually as he clutches his hand into Pete’s honey-colored skin. “And that’s why I told you to leave. You don’t need to stay here for me. I want you to be happy, and if that means you have to leave me behind – that’s okay with me. Well, not exactly okay but - ”

Goddamn it, you damn Catholics and your stupid martyrdom!” Pete pushes away Patrick’s hand, and sits up. Uncomfortable silence fills the room as Pete runs a hand through his hair, and sighs deeply.

“I’m gonna leave this hellhole of a town,” Pete says in a low voice. “But I swear to God, I’m taking you with me.”

“You shouldn’t say things like that.” Patrick sits up as well, and he can’t help but feel annoyed. “A promise to God is nothing to joke about, Peter.”

“Good,” Pete mutters, “because I’m dead fucking serious about it.”

Patrick bites his lip, and looks away. He hates how reality comes in between them, and he hates how Pete wants to endanger himself for his sake. Patrick doesn’t want to see him hurt by words or fists or worse.

“And by the way,” Pete reaches for the Vaseline jar, shoves it into Patrick’s hands just a little too roughly, “you shouldn’t just buy Vaseline and nothing else at the drugstore. Don’t do that again.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” Patrick answers irritated, “but I didn’t see a reason why I shouldn’t –“

“Because this is fucking Clark!” Pete interrupts him harshly, with venom in his too loud voice. “Because most people would be happy to smash your pretty little head to pieces if they found out their priest is fucking a man - a fucking nigger - behind their backs!”

“Don’t say that word - “ Patrick tries to object, trying to swallow around the lump in his throat.

“Nigger? Coon? Monkey?” Pete cuts him off viciously. “You want me to keep going, Patrick? I’ve heard ‘em all.”

Silence fills the room once more, heavy and disheartening. The anger lingers a little longer on Pete’s face, before he slumps over, and buries his head in his hands. His whole body is shaking, and Patrick hears a muffled sob.

Carefully, Patrick places a hand on Pete’s shoulder, just to test the water. “Pete, are you okay? Please, talk to me…”

For a moment, Pete stiffens under the touch, and Patrick’s heart aches at the thought of rejection. Then, Pete turns to him, and pulls him into an embrace, desperate but honest. Patrick can feel his tears on his skin, can feel his own vision go blurry as he pulls Pete closer.

“I’m sorry,” Pete mutters between choked sobs, “I didn’t mean to yell at you like that.”

“I meant it, Pete,” Patrick says helplessly, “there’s no need for you to hold back because of me. Your happiness is the most important thing to me, okay?”

Pete shakes his head. “And your happiness is important to me, idiot,” he says stubbornly. He sniffs, but his voice sounds determined. “And I’m gonna make you see that you have a right to be happy, too. You don’t need to throw your life away for this piece of shit church.”

“I’m not throwing my life away,” Patrick answers, but much to his shock, it comes out much less secure than intended. Just a few months ago, he wouldn’t have dared to doubt the words. But right here, right now, with tears in his eyes as he tries to comfort the man he loves, there’s a heavy feeling settling in his gut. There’s more he should say, about vows he took, about the faith in the church he serves, about – about –

Patrick shudders, as the nauseating feeling gets worse. Where are the words to defend his position? Why is the path that once was so clear in front of him suddenly hidden behind the gray veil of doubts he was never supposed to have?

With a small sigh, Pete sits up, and wipes over his face. “I’m sorry,” he says again as he gently wipes away a stray tear from Patrick’s face. “I didn’t want… This isn’t how I planned it, you know?”

Patrick shakes his head, leans closer for a small kiss to Pete’s lips. “It’s not your fault Clark is the way it is,” he whispers. “Don’t apologise, darling. Never apologise to me for anything that wasn’t meant to hurt me.”

“The wise words of your mother, right?” Pete smiles a little, takes Patrick’s hands into his own. They share another kiss, soft and vulnerable.

When they break away from the kiss, Pete cocks his head. “Should I get back to work?”

Patrick huffs in disapproval. “Pah. As your boss, I just decided you need an extended break.”

“Does that break include cuddling with my lover?” Pete asks expectantly, laughs with glee when Patrick just pulls him down to the bed.

Deep down, Patrick knows this conversation isn’t over; he knows that there’s a determination in Pete’s eyes that make it clear he’s not going to give up that easily. But right now, he allows himself a few more blissful minutes of peace.

Patrick starts awake with a jolt of raw, nervous energy. He has no idea how long he’s been asleep, just knows it’s long enough for the light outside to have changed, the noontime brightness softening into a late afternoon glow. If he were so inclined, he might be tempted to use one of those colourful curses Pete seems so fond of but instead he fumbles upright, gropes for something to cover himself because - God forgive him - he’s naked and exposed and wrapped around Pete in broad daylight. If buying something as innocuous as Vaseline puts them at risk then this is unfathomable. He needs to dress, needs to cover himself and...

He realises belatedly that he’s not actually uncovered. The sheet has been thrown over him and the bed is his own, only the scent of Pete lingering against the cotton any indication that he was ever there. If he listens, head cocked towards the window, he can hear the faint sound of rhythmic thumping - presumably Pete hammering away at something or other - laced under the noise of a distant car engine. It’s peaceful. Deceptively so.

His eyes are drawn, somewhat unwillingly, to the cross above his bedroom door, Jesus draped across it artfully. Patrick wonders what the King of Kings might have to say about his predicament because, although his faith itself remains unshakable, he’s aware of questions creeping in at the edges that were never there before. His collar, his crucifix and his clerical title have been all he’s needed to protect himself for so long, a firm reminder when the thoughts of sin whispered to him that he was above all of that nonsense.

Why isn’t it working now? Is he to believe that Pete is so great a temptation that he couldn’t possibly have resisted? Or is it something more than that? He doesn’t know, can’t untangle the thoughts that clutter his mind, he’s already committed so many “sins” that he just can’t bring himself to condemn anymore. But he can’t help but wonder as he slips his vestments back on, as he stands in front of the mirror and combs down the matted tangle of his hair; if the Lord wouldn’t punish him for something as simple as finding love, is it the church that’s wrong?

But really, what’s  the alternative? Leaving for New York City with Pete. Patrick has spent his whole life wrapped in the security of the Catholic church, he has no idea who he is outside of it. What if Pete grows tired of him? What if he finds one of those pretty fairies that Joe talked about in his letters, someone handsome and tall and skilled in all of the carnal pleasures Patrick barely fumbles his way through? He couldn’t blame Pete for finding himself a man that could fuck him insensible when Patrick can’t make it through a single experience without Pete smiling that sweetly indulgent smile. Patrick would like to bet he’s never smiled like that at his other lovers, like they were an adorable, bumbling mess. No, Patrick would like to bet the ones that were with Pete before him knew exactly what to do, how to make Pete cry out, how to make him come without constant coaching and cajoling.

No, he decides firmly as he settles at his desk with his sermon pad and bible, it would be for the best if Pete just started again without Patrick acting as a millstone around his neck. He picks up his pen - a gift from Father Iero when he was first ordained, the weight of it suddenly unbearably heavy and uncomfortable between his fingers - and begins to write.

After dinner, they walk into town together in easy silence, the horrific, all-consuming humidity of the midst of summer is fading, the temperature is still high but a little more bearable. They separate with a soft goodbye on Main Street, Pete turning left to head to the sprawling ranch style home of Mrs Harvey and Patrick continuing into the middle class suburbs where most of his parishioners can be found.

He’s served coffee with too much sugar and cream, offered cake and pie and a dozen other things that he refuses politely. The widowed Mrs Henderson comments that Pete must be feeding him well, the note of derision in her tone unmissable. He won’t rise to it this time, though, just smiles blandly and informs her that yes, Pete does indeed take excellent care of him.

“I have a niece, out in Tupelo,” she informs him, after he’s led a few prayers with the bereaved family, taken some detailed notes in his battered notebook of family stories to recite during Mr Henderson’s eulogy. Patrick wonders why this information has anything to do with him. “Not married. Such a nice girl, she cooks real good, too. She’d make a wonderful housekeeper. I mean, surely you don’t expect Peter to do a woman’s job forever…”

The thought hasn’t even occurred to Patrick but as soon as she says it he knows - he knows with horrifying, devastating clarity - that of course she’s right. He’ll have to take on a housekeeper when Pete leaves. Someone else sleeping in Pete’s bed, another pair of eyes prying into any stolen moments they may have been able to snatch together. His chest hurts with it and he’s undeniably pleased when the family begins to make the sorts of comments that suggest he ought to be on his way.

He wonders absently, as he walks back towards the church and the rectory, what the weather is like in New York in the fall.

Pete gets the job and Patrick is both elated and saddened. Of course, he’s thrilled that someone in this godforsaken town is willing to look beyond the colour of Pete’s skin. But it reminds him that they have a few months of repairs at most at Saint Sebastian’s. Time that can be realistically measured in weeks, or even days, until Pete will need to leave and a nice girl from the town take his place as housekeeper. Patrick wonders if it would hurt more to see Pete now and again in the town, to bump into him and exchange meaningless greetings and smiles that don’t reach eyes. Or would it be worse to know he was thousands of miles away, tending bar and taking home a different man each night.

They lie on Pete’s bed in silence that night, the crickets chirping outside the open window, as Pete cards a hand gently through Patrick’s hair, amber eyes focused on something far away, something Patrick can’t see. He presses closer, lips brushing the coarse hair that scatters across Pete’s chest as he whispers quietly, “Tell me about New York. I went once, when I was very young, it’s - well, it’s where we all arrived, you know? Ellis Island. I don’t remember much about it if I’m honest. Have you been?”

Pete smiles and reaches into his nightstand, pulling out a couple of battered photographs and a stack of letters, pressing the pictures into Patrick’s hand as he flips through pages worn from folding and refolding, “Hold on a sec, let me just find the part… Here, I love this bit… New York in the wintertime is really something, there’s snow but it’s nothing like Chicago. It’s a different kind of experience, not the endless cold of the Midwest, it sparkles like Christmas - don’t tell my mom I made that comparison! We make a killing on hot whiskey on the snowy days, get a band or a singer on stage and it’s like printing money. Sometimes, I go walking in Central Park, just to stand by the ice rink and watch them skate, this magical little spot of white and green with the grey of the city rising up around it like a goddamn phoenix, hey,” Pete looks at him thoughtfully, “you ever been skating?”

Patrick nods, thinking back on days spent on the frozen pond near his home in Glenview when he was a boy. The cheap hand-me-down skates from his older siblings that didn’t really fit but were better than not joining in. The other boys already thought he was strange, he hadn’t needed to give them further reason to question him.

“I’ll take you,” Pete nods and presses a kiss to Patrick’s brow, taking back the pictures and pointing out different things to him. “See this? This is Joe’s bar, that’s him! That’s - that’s my buddy, Joe. Swell guy, you’ll like him and he’ll… Gee, he’ll love you. And this is the Rockefeller Center. The bar is close by. Oh, and this is - “

“The Statue of Liberty,” Patrick interrupts softly, tracing his fingertips over the picture. This he knows, remembers it through the haze of time that has elapsed since he stood on the deck of the boat approaching the country where the streets were paved with gold, his face tucked into his mother’s skirts as he stared with wide-eyed wonder. This is it, Paddy, she’d whispered to him in the soft voice he barely recalls, this is the start of a wonderful life for you. Tears spring to his eyes and he cuffs at them with a soft cough to hide the stifled sob. “I - I remember it.”

“Hey,” Pete tilts up his chin, captures his lips in a kiss glazed with salt. “We’ll be okay, I promise, you’re… We’re gonna be so happy, I swear it.”

Patrick nods. Pete will be happy. New York sounds utterly, inexplicably, thoroughly perfect for him. Patrick just needs to make him see that he can do it alone.

Chapter Text

Patrick won’t talk about New York.

It’s not overt – his refusal – he’s subtle and polite and oh so guarded that it makes Pete want to shake him. When he brings it up, Patrick will change the subject, he’ll mention this repair or that repair, a new patch of the roof he thinks might need looking at. It doesn’t. The roof is watertight and ready for winter. The repair work Pete needs to carry out around the church and the rectory dwindles day by day and now, in honesty, he knows they’re both eking it out, desperately trying to make it last longer.

He wants to leave, wants nothing more than to throw what few possessions they own between them into one of those battered leather cases from the mothballed depths of Patrick’s closet and head to the train station in Tupelo. It’s not like he owns much and if Patrick left behind his signifiers of priesthood – his vestments and suits, his cassock and notebooks – if he just threw on a pair of Pete’s jeans, a shirt and ran … Well, between them they’d barely half-fill the smallest case.

He’s checked at the train station in Tupelo when he’s been on errands with Andy, knows down to the last cent how much cash they’d need for a couple of one-way tickets to Grand Central Station. He’s checked maps and talked it over with Joe endlessly, reading and re-reading the letter he received a week before; bring him with you, the room you can have is small but it’s a double bed, any friend of yours is a friend of mine. But none of it matters if Patrick won’t leave, because Pete won’t go without him, can’t bear the thought of abandoning to a life of loneliness or… Worse.

He watches him, heavy-eyed and nodding into his bowl of oatmeal, the dark circles under his eyes where sleep has been stolen by tender touches and hours of restless worrying. Pete’s never been a good sleeper, his mom told him that even as a baby he would fret for hours, but Patrick always slept soundly until recently. There have been moments that Pete has flickered into wakefulness before the dawn smudges the sky in purple and orange and caught the weight of a troubled blue gaze on his face. When he asks what’s wrong, Patrick just smiles sadly and presses a kiss to his lips, tells him to go back to sleep or slips a hand between his legs, distracting him from further discussion by teasing his cock.

Pete always gives in, because he knows these moments can’t last forever.

Patrick blinks up at him through his glasses, a tired smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he gestures down to his bowl, “It’s very good, thank you.”

“I could make it for you every day in New York,” Pete murmurs as Patrick flinches almost imperceptibly. He won’t back down this time, continue to press and push. “Maybe I’ll persuade you to try it with honey. A little cinnamon. Or bagels, we could have bagels, Joe says – ”

“Have you taken a look at the roof yet? I’m sure the north-west corner was sagging a little, maybe you could…” He trails off as Pete shakes his head with a scowl. “What? I…”

“The roof is fine, Patrick,” Pete snaps crisply, shoving to his feet and scraping the last of his breakfast into the trash. In truth, it’s more than half the bowl. His appetite plummets when he’s angry or stressed and right now he knows he’s barely eating, the hollowness of his stomach and the sharpness of his ribs under the sinuous stretch of muscle a living testament to the fact. “The doors are fine, most of the benches are fine, the electrics are fine. It’s all, fuck – it’s all fine. I’ve got maybe a month of things to do, maybe a little longer once I’ve prepped everything for winter. Then the church doesn’t need me.”

“Pete, I – ”

“No, Patrick,” he cuts him off sharply, then feels bad, pauses to brush a soft kiss to the plush pink sweep of Patrick’s as he makes his way to the door. “Look, I’m sorry. But you need to decide… Do you need me? Because if you do, it can’t be here. The church never did squat for you, Patrick, think real hard about how much you want to do for it. I’ll be back in time to make lunch.”

He’s almost at the door, the thump of his boots against the hardwood echoing loud in the silence that stretches between them, his fingers reaching for the door knob when Patrick calls softly after him, “I love you, Pete.”

“I love you too,” Pete replies quietly, a heavy ache in his chest as his fingers close around the latch. “I just can’t watch this place kill you. You need to decide.”

Outside there’s a definite bite of fall in the air, the cotton fields stretching away heavy with their crop as far as the eye can see. This time last year he helped with the harvest, bent double with the others with no hope of better work, sweat on his brow and an ache in his bones. They were worked too hard with no breaks, no drinks, dawn until dusk for next to no money. It was one of the few times he missed the army, at least there he was fed and watered with the same wage as the next man each week to send home to his mom. He knows when he works today that, at some point, Patrick will fetch him a glass of water, that tonight he’ll fall asleep in his own bed – okay, perhaps Patrick’s, but that’s not really the point – he knows he’ll spend the day feeling like a man, not an animal.

He knows he can’t return to it.

His eye is caught by the letters still faint against the church wall, glowing in the morning light like an accusation. Niggers out. If only they knew that that’s the only thing he wants. He makes his way to the outbuilding where he stores his tools with a sigh. Clark can kiss his ass.

*

Another letter arrives at the rectory with its New York stamp brightly obvious in the corner, Joe’s flowing cursive looped across the envelope. He reads it to himself in the shade of a sprawling oak tree, shaded from the worst of the midday sun by the spread of its branches, his boots crossed in front of him.

Dear Pete,

I hope this letter finds you well. The leaves are starting to turn in the park and it looks incredible, golds and reds and browns. It reminds me of Chicago or maybe France. Do you remember the dances we would go to at the barracks in England? Those girls, wow, sometimes I think they spoilt me for life!

It’s not the same without you, Pete, and that place you’re staying doesn’t sound safe. I know you’re a loyal guy and I know you love your mom but I swear you could make ten times what you earn there up here. Think of how much you could send back to her. And this guy of yours? He sounds swell. I think the two of you could be real happy here, why, I hear there’s bars just for fellas like you out in Soho! Imagine that!

I looked into what you asked me and I’ve put the train timetable in with this letter. If you need me to wire some dough across for your tickets, I can do that, no sweat. I’d call it a gift but I know how proud you are so we’ll just call it an advance on your paycheck. Anything I can do to help, anything I can have here waiting for you, just let me know and I’ll do it. I put my phone number (we got a phone installed in the bar, can you imagine that?!) at the bottom on the page, call me anytime, buddy, any day of the week and you know I’ll fix you up.

I keep reading terrible things about the south. The civil rights movement is so long overdue but those confederate motherfuckers won’t come easy. Please stay safe, both of you, I know I’ve never met Patrick but I know I like him already and he makes you happy so, he’s alright by me. Stay safe and make plans! New York City is ready for you, buddy!

Yours,

Joe

He needs to show Patrick, needs him to see his name all mixed up with Pete’s like them being together is normal, something that the people around them expect and understand. He waits, the heat of the paper in his pocket almost unbearable until dinner time rolls around and he can’t put it off any longer.

He pushes the page – with its neat and meticulous crease down the centre – across the table to Patrick with raised eyebrows. He watches the way Patrick’s eyes trace the words with an expression that moves from interested to guarded to closed down entirely. He slides it back without a word and turns his attention back to his dinner, chewing stoically as Pete tips the remaining two thirds of his into the trash. He’s suddenly not hungry anymore.

The silence hangs between them as Patrick finishes his dinner, as he scrapes the remnants into the trash and washes their plates under the faucet. Pete stands to the side, head bowed and hands braced to the countertop as he stares down at his feet in their threadbare socks. Fucking socks , he could afford something as simple as decent socks on the money Joe’s offering. Pants that fit, shirts that don’t itch. Bars filled with men like him and Patrick – he doesn’t want anyone else but God , the idea of a community just like them.

“Come to bed?” He offers, soft as a promise, fingertips ghosting through the soft, downy hair at the nape of Patrick’s neck. He knows the smell of that hair, the place his scent gathers, sweet and musky and Patrick . He can’t continue like this and they’re going to be torn apart when Patrick has to let him go anyway, he wants every second he can harvest, each memory retained and stored for those awkward moments their paths cross in town. “Please, Patrick. We need to – this isn’t forever, you know that. You know it…”

Patrick nods as he gazes out of the window, moonlight casting the cotton fields in silver and platinum, the mountains a smudge of ink dark against the horizon. There are car tail lights rolling away and out of town and Pete envies them with a fierceness that makes his chest ache and constrict. Oh, to roll away with them to somewhere safe and contained and them.

He cups the pale curve of Patrick’s cheek, feels the light rub of a shadow of stubble that curves in a perfect frame around his chin. The hair is thicker there, slightly darker, brass against the pale gold of his cheeks and upper lip. He wonders how he’d look with a beard, just the scruff of one topped by messy hair. How he’d look in one of those jaunty fedoras that are so fashionable, a sharply cut suit and a soft scarf to keep out the north-eastern chill.

He wonders how he’d look in a casket, pale and still, then forces that thought away with a surge of bile that fights its way up his throat. He won’t think like that. He can’t. Thoughts have a way of crawling into his head and sinking into his brain, of chasing themselves in loops through his mind until he can’t think, can’t breathe, can’t –

“Pete? Darling?” He murmurs, voice soft but somehow sharp enough to make Pete flinch in on himself. Patrick steadies him, hand tight to his hip as he steps in close and rests their foreheads together. Their fingers lace and Patrick lifts their joined hands to touch Pete’s cheek. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Pete whispers, steering him back and towards his room, back to where they can fall to the bed in a tangle of messy limbs and kisses that taste of desperation and fear. Because Pete is terrified but he can’t articulate it, he can’t dislodge the image he’s planted, raised and cultivated in his head so he clings to Patrick instead. He reminds himself silently that he’s okay , he’s warm and soft in his arms. He’s safe.

He takes his time, luxuriates in each button popped on Patrick’s shirt, each new inch of cream-pale, gold-flecked skin exposed to his touch. He wants to hoard the memories, to keep them safe and his for the nights he’ll spend in a room with his brother, for the days he’ll spend with his head bowed because he can’t bear to see his mom cry when he fights back.

Until he fights back.

He’ll snap eventually, he knows that, there’ll be an insult too far, a sneer too much, a fist or a boot that lands a blow he can’t ignore. Then there’ll be a fight, there’ll be punches thrown and insults screamed and it’ll end with blood if he’s lucky, with worse if he’s not. More and more until eventually someone goes too far, until it’s him in the casket, pale and still. No. No, he can’t think about that now.

He loosens Patrick’s collar – easy now he knows where the tiny pearl button is hidden – loses himself in kisses pressed to Patrick’s throat as he shrugs off his own shirt. He’s rougher than he has been, fingers wrapped around Patrick’s wrists and pressing them down into the mattress beneath them as he sucks a bruise to Patrick’s collarbone, his lips outlined in crimson against alabaster as Patrick gasps and thrashes beneath him.

“Pete?” Patrick sounds confused but not unwilling, his cock is still hard under Pete’s and his pupils blown black with desire.

“I wanna do something,” Pete whispers, fingers tugging at Patrick’s belt, at his pants until they’re snagged around his knees, kicked off to fall to the floor. “Fuck, Patrick, I need this, I fucking need it…”

“Whatever you need, darling,” Patrick murmurs, the words a caress against Pete’s overwrought, over-sensitive skin that has him needling and shuddering against the counterpane. If only he’d follow that mantra outside of the bedroom. There’s so much more Pete needs, but for now, he’ll just take what little he can get.

“I’ll stop if you want,” Pete offers, not sure that’s true, as he turns Patrick onto his front and shuffles out of his jeans. There’s silence, sweat and skin, the room buzzing with it as he leans over Patrick, rests his weight against his back and presses the aching jut of his cock to the crease of Patrick’s ass, as plush and plump as his lips. Patrick tenses below him, shoots him a glance back over his shoulder as he shifts, breath held. “It’s okay. I’m… I’m not gonna fuck you. Not right now.”

Patrick slackens beneath him, relaxes down into the mattress as Pete sinks his mouth down to press to the back of his neck, to nose through the softness of his hairline and absorb that smell, heat and sex, sweat and need. He groans appreciation against Patrick’s skin, laps a bead or two of sweat with the tip of his tongue then moves lower. He kisses and tastes each inch of skin that he’s never explored before, traces fingertips rough with callouses over each sweep and line of Patrick’s shoulders and back.

“It’s cooling down in New York,” he mumbles against skin damp with sweat. “Like Chicago. That smell of leaves and earth, you remember it? The way the air is just cool enough to make your ears a little pink. We’ll need coats. Gloves, too.”

Patrick whimpers as Pete traces his lips over each notch of his spine, sliding across to follow the smooth sweep of ribs under pale skin, fingertips conducting a concerto over the line of his hip bones.

“I’ll take you to Central Park,” Pete says, breathy and soft against the small of Patrick’s back, chin pressed where the curve of his ass flares out. “I’ll take you on one of those goddamn carriage rides like a sappy movie.”

Patrick whines in approval as Pete’s teeth trace the line of his ass, gentle and light, no broken skin, no raised red marks, just tingling sensation that makes him writhe and wriggle in anticipation of something he can’t possibly know is coming.

“We’ll head home and climb up to the roof of the building,” he murmurs, fingers bitten into skin like silk until he’s sure there’ll be smudges of crimson bruises left behind. “We’ll watch the stars come out together and we’ll… we’ll make love, right there. Right out in the open. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“Oh, Pete,” Patrick breathes, half encouragement, half sympathy that cuts Pete down to the quick.

He nudges Patrick’s legs apart, nips a kiss to the flawless stretch of his thigh then presses his palms, flat and firm, against the curve of Patrick’s ass, “I’m – I’m gonna eat you out. That… Is that okay with you? Fuck, please say yes…”

“I don’t know what that means,” Patrick confesses, voice small and lost in the crackle of tension between them. “But, yes. Yes , whatever you need, darling. I – I trust you.”

Patrick wouldn’t lie to him, but that still doesn’t feel like the full truth. He trusts Pete in bed, trusts him to handle their bodies, but that’s not enough. Why can’t Patrick trust everything else, his words, too, his goals, his ambitions for the two of them?

Pete fights down the irritating spark of annoyance and focuses on the task on hand.

He presses Patrick open with a smile that almost hurts, hears his breathing hitch unsteadily. Patrick is spread out for him, the tight pucker lightly flecked with golden hair like that which peppers his chest. He’s tense and tight, twitching like he’s nervous. Pete supposes he probably is and knows he should take more time to explain what he’s doing, to talk Patrick through it but he can’t, can just sigh in relief as he leans in and drags the flat of his tongue in a broad stripe across Patrick’s hole.

“Oh, sh – ” It’s the closest Pete’s ever come to hearing him curse, the word bitten off with a high whine as he freezes, torn between pulling away and pressing back for more.

Pete doesn’t give him chance to decide. Instead, he pins Patrick’s hips to the bed, hands splayed across the peach-soft curve of his ass, thumbs holding him open as he licks over him a second, then a third time. Patrick tastes of salt and musk, something forbidden that makes Pete want it all the more as he traces the tip of his tongue around the rim, teasing him as he gasps and writhes, knuckles shining bone-bright through the skin as he grips his fists into the sheets.

“Pete,” he implores with aching desperation. “What – what are you… I – please!”

Oh, but he wants to fuck him, wants to lick him wide open and wanting, a finger, two, three, pressed inside with his tongue as Patrick grunts and moans for him. He wants to slide over him and press his cock in deep, to fuck into him like no one else has, to take that final thing from him so that he can’t offer it to anyone else. He presses his tongue inside, the noise of it obscene as he ruts against the mattress beneath him, aching for relief.

“On your knees,” he growls and Patrick fumbles to comply, sliding his knees under himself as Pete follows, fingers teasing across the satin-soft skin of his cheeks. “Touch yourself.”

Patrick falters, another glance cast over his shoulder loaded with uncertainty.

“Do it, get yourself off,” Pete urges, pausing to slick his tongue inside once more as Patrick whines and reaches for his swollen cock with a shaking hand. “That’s it, baby. Fuck, you’re so fucking pretty…”

He slides his hand across, teases the tip of a finger across Patrick’s hole with his tongue and then, gently, he presses inside, just the tip. Patrick tenses, “Pete, I – I don’t know…”

“I can stop,” Pete offers, and he will, he absolutely will if that’s what Patrick wants. But for now he swirls his fingertip lightly against the soft pucker so close to his lips that he knows the warmth of his breath will feel like an inferno to Patrick. “Is that what you want, baby?”

“No,” Patrick whispers. “Please… Keep going…”

Pete obliges, tongue working delicately against tender, sensitive skin as he works his finger inside slowly. Patrick moans and sighs, musical and sweet, as Pete crooks his finger delicately, works his tongue in alongside and searches for –

“Pete!” Patrick cries out, knees buckling slightly as he slumps forward, ass still in the air but face falling into the pillow as he jerks choppily at his cock. Pete nudges and feathers that perfect little centre of throbbing pleasure, that spot he has no word or name for but that he knows will tingle down into Patrick’s bones. He barely even hitches as Pete slides in a second finger.

There’s a tremble to his voice as he shakes and fumbles, as Pete drives his tongue as deep as he can and presses his fingers tight to that hidden place deep inside. Patrick pulls taut, completely tense and delightfully tight against his lips as his motions on his prick become frantic, as he cries out ragged and hoarse and Pete knows, he knows from the twitch of muscle around his fingers and tongue that Patrick is coming hard.

He works him through it, through each shivering shudder and stuttering cry until Patrick collapses beneath him, rolling bonelessly to his back. He lies, legs spread and cock flushed, come cooling on the sheets next to him. His hands are loose fists by his head as he blinks up at Pete with tears gathered in the corners of his eyes from the intensity of it, his hole still stretched around Pete’s fingers. Pete stares down, fascinated at the way the pretty pink pillar of his prick twitches when he presses them in deep, the way he keens a weak cry.

He’d give anything to fuck him right now.

Instead, he withdraws his fingers gently, wraps his hand around his own cock and begins to stroke, thrusting into his fist as Patrick watches him. He’s so close, balanced on the edge like a goddamn teenager, his dick throbbing against his palm.

“Fuck,” he gasps, heat coiling tight in his groin as he stares down at Patrick. “Your – your face. Patrick, can I – ?”

Patrick nods, though Pete suspects he has no idea what he’s agreeing to, but he nods. Pete scrambles to straddle Patrick’s chest, free hand braced to the headboard as he strokes himself hard and fast. Patrick’s face is right under him, flushed and pretty, mouth hanging open a little and eyes now widened with the faint realization of what is about to happen. But he doesn’t flinch away, doesn’t protest, doesn’t say no, like he’s learned to do when he’s not comfortable with something, so Pete doesn’t stop. He comes with a cry, with pulsing pleasure that throbs through him like his heartbeat. He forces his eyes open, his gaze on Patrick as his come ribbons across pale cheeks flushed pink, across his plump lips and catching in sweat-slick hair. He strokes himself through the aftershocks, shivering out his release before moving to collapse at Patrick’s side.

Patrick stares at him, eyes wide in confusion, but not hurt or disgusted. He darts the tip of his tongue out to lick away the come that streaks his lips, touches the stickiness of it against his cheek and frowns a little, like he doesn’t quite know what to make of it. And Pete knows he doesn’t, how could he? A bit of guilt creeps up on Pete, he distantly remembers what it’s like, to have all these new things done to you without words or explanation because no one ever bothered to sit down and talk to him. He was just expected to perform.

“That was… A little weird,” Patrick whispers quietly, “I don’t mind! I… liked it? That’s okay, right? Liking this? But – why? I don’t think I understand…”

Pete doesn’t reply right away. Instead he climbs to his feet and slips to the bathroom, collecting a washcloth and returning to the bed. He takes his time wiping Patrick’s face clean, then slides the cloth between his legs to slick away the spit gathered there. Once he’s clean, once he’s heavy-eyed and tucked against his chest, Pete whispers softly, “I hope… That was all okay, right?”

“Oh, yes,” Patrick agrees dreamily. “Now I understand why you like… why you enjoy having my fingers inside of you.”

“You said you didn’t understand why I… did what I did,” suddenly he’s embarrassed, struggling for the right words just like Patrick does. Patrick nods and yawns, clearly not upset by it, just curious and still a little confused. “I think I just… You’re mine, just like I’m yours. I don’t know, I just hope I didn’t… upset you.”

“No,” Patrick shakes his head, barely clinging to consciousness, thoroughly fucked out. “No, darling. I… I think I liked it. A lot. I like being yours.”

Pete smiles into the dark and rakes his fingers through Patrick’s hair, holding him close as he drifts into heavy slumber. At least, for tonight, he knows Patrick will find solace in sleep.

*

Next day after lunch, Pete heads into town to Misses Harvey’s. He’s glad he got the job, not only because she pays well, but also because it delays the repair work on the church, gives him just a little more time with Patrick. It’s been a quiet morning, Pete has avoided the topic of New York at breakfast. It’s been nice, almost lighthearted, with Patrick turning an interesting shade of crimson when Pete had stuck out his tongue at him after some harmless teasing.

If only every morning could be like this.

It can be, Pete tells himself, he only needs to convince Patrick, break through his stubbornness like he has already done once.

Work distracts him from his gloomy thoughts for a while. The repairs on Misses Harvey’s house – Pete would call it more of a mansion – aren’t difficult, but it’s hard labor. Pete doesn’t mind, he can shut off the stream of uncomfortable thoughts for a while until it’s dusk, and then too dark for him to work.

The worries come back on the way home. Every bone in his body is aching, and all Pete wants is to rest. He hasn’t slept well last night, barely slept at all, and he can feel the exhaustion taking over. It’s almost night-time, with just the last hint of sunlight illuminating the streets, and Pete tries not to think how fire could light up the center of the town, a vile, vicious crowd cheering on whatever - whomever – is burning on a stake.

Someone is following him. At first, Pete thinks he’s just being paranoid, that his brain is making things up like it does sometimes. But no, there’s the shadow of three people lingering a little too close to him, following him too long to be a coincidence. Pete swallows, hands clenched into fists. He can’t risk confrontation, especially when technically, nothing has happened yet. He contemplates running, but where to? And if he runs back to the rectory, all it would do is endanger Patrick. Even if he outruns them he’s still trapped in Clark. Whoever wants to find him can easily do so.

Maybe they’re just trying to scare him.

That is wishful thinking, as it soon turns out.

Before Pete knows it, the three people have caught up to him, and Pete finds his back pressed against a brick wall. It’s only now that he identifies one of the people as Stan, the store clerk, and what he presumes to be two of his friends.

“Look who we have here,” Stan says sweetly, in a parody of his friendly customer service voice. “We’ve been trying to talk to you. Three men just dying for your company, isn’t that what a flit like you loves?”

The bitter sarcasm in his voice stings, but Pete says nothing. It’s best not to provoke them. The sooner they get the insults out of their systems, the sooner they can get this charade over with.

“Do you know why we want to talk to you? Do you know what you did?”

“No,” Pete says through gritted teeth. He’d love to tell them that he’s done nothing wrong, but with shitheads like Stan, there’s always something wrong. If not, they’ll just make something up.

“Look at that bastard,” one of Stan’s friends hisses, “the nigger doesn’t even have an ounce of guilt.”

“You’ve cost me my job with Mrs. Harvey,” Stan says in a low voice as he grabs Pete’s collar. “A fucking nigger cost me my job – how fucking dare you. What’s your excuse for taking work away from the honest, good people?!”

Pete can’t talk back. He can’t talk back. Everything is bad enough already, and no. No, Pete can’t make it worse by snapping right here, right now, even though he wants to so much. Wants to sink his fist into someone else’s skin, wants to feel skin tear and bones break.  

Instead, Pete grits his teeth, and keeps his head down. It’s not worth it, he tells himself, it’s not worth it. He’s stronger than these bastards believe him to be. He won’t fall for their stupid provocation, he can endure these hurtful words if he just keeps thinking they all won’t matter when he finally gets out of this hellhole.

“Is he deaf? Or a mute?” Stan’s friend asks, a dangerous anger on his voice. “Hey, asshole, Stan here asked you a question.”

There’s an answer to that right on the tip of Pete’s tongue, but he swallows it down. It’s not worth it, it’s not worth the hurt look on his mother’s face when she inevitably finds out, not worth the pain and tears. Maybe, if he doesn’t give them any ammunition, they’ll just leave.

Of course, no such thing is on Stan’s mind. He’s annoyed and angry, and then, his fist is on Pete’s face, an explosion of pain that temporarily takes all of Pete’s breath away.

The right side of his face hurts like hell, a steady throb, and Pete can barely open his eye. Shit, it really fucking hurts.

He’s still disoriented when Stan runs his hand over Pete’s face, thumb digging into the swelling enough to make Pete flinch. The hand has been there before, in the same mockery of an intimate gesture, back when they were both on the backseat of his dad’s delivery truck and when Stan was very eager to do all of the forbidden things with and to Pete, the color of skin forgotten for an opportunistic orgasm.

“Next time,” Stan says, “next time, we’ll bring a knife, carve something a little more permanent into you. Maybe a little cross? That commie deacon and that stupid fucking priest of yours would love that, wouldn’t they…?”

Hate coils in Pete’s stomach, hot and burning, mixed with cold fear. He feels his knees go weak, and it takes all his strength to not show his weakness, to not allow tears in his eyes because he knows, he fucking knows that there’s no way he can avoid this threat. There’s so many of them, and only one of Pete, he can’t take all of them out.

“Leave him be,” one of Stan’s friend intervenes. “Do you expect a monkey like him to give you an answer? We’ve given his tiny brain enough to think about.”

They leave Pete because he’s no fun to play with for now, and of course, what Stan said could’ve been an empty threat – after all, they’re all cowards, and beating someone up is far less effort. But Pete has the distinct feeling that someone will eventually deliver, someone will step forward with a knife or a gun or a lighter, or a noose to tie around his neck.

At least it’s not blood, Pete can’t help but think. At least it’s not another shirt ruined by dark red stains that will never wash out properly.

When he stumbles into the rectory, all he wants to do is go to bed. He doesn’t want to face Patrick, doesn’t want questions or concern or pity. But he knows it’s no use, because the swelling and bruising around his eye will last for days. Patrick’s gonna notice it sooner or later anyway.

The paper-thin walls of the rectory have announced his arrival to the priest already, and Pete can hear footsteps, then a door as Patrick leaves his room. “Pete!” He greets him with a smile, not yet aware that there’s no reason to smile at all. “You’re late! Got caught up in work -?”

The priest’s happiness falters when he’s close enough to Pete that even a lowered head can’t hide the obvious anymore.

“I ran into trouble,” Pete says, jaw clenched. “Or rather, trouble ran into me.”

Patrick looks stunned, face twisted between confusion and pure worry. He reaches for Pete’s face, probably to examine the injury, but when his fingers brush over Pete’s skin, all Pete can see is Stan’s horrendous grin, hear Stan’s sickening words. Next thing he knows is that he has pushed Patrick’s arm away, that panic floods him, that the anger twisting up his face hurts because of the swelling.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” Pete hears himself yell, words that come way too late, words meant for someone else, for Stan and his friends, for all of these goddamn bastards who ever dared to lay a hand on him.  

The regret hits just a moment later, when the panic-induced fog in his brain has cleared and when he realizes it’s still just Patrick standing in front of him.

Patrick doesn’t say anything, just stares at him with wide eyes, before he turns around and heads for the kitchen. Pete doesn’t dare to follow him, just leans against the wall as he tries to compose himself. There’s an unsaid explanation and apology on his lips, he didn’t mean it, he wanted to say these words to someone else…

Patrick comes back now, with something in his hands – a bag of frozen peas and a towel, Pete realizes. “For your eye,” Patrick says softly as he holds out both items at arm’s length, cautious as if he were afraid Pete might snap again. “I think – that’s what helps, right?”


“Yeah,” Pete mumbles weakly as he takes the bag, wraps the towel around it, wonders how often he has done this before. The coldness is an instant relief, soothing against his injured skin. “Thank you. And I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. No, I meant to yell, but not at you – I just…”

Pete trails off, doesn’t know what to say. Patrick comes a step closer, shyly puts his hands on Pete’s hips and, encouraged by Pete’s smile at that, presses a small kiss to his cheek. Then he maneuvers Pete to the living room, sits him down on the couch, sends him a contemplative look that makes Pete squirm a little.

“Do you need anything else?”

Pete just shakes his head as he continues to press the bag of peas on his eye. He doesn’t deserve this friendliness. And all he needs are things Patrick isn’t willing to give him – to leave together, to just go.

With a sigh, Patrick sits down next to him. “Tell me what happened?”

Pete scoffs. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

It’s a poor excuse, and he knows it, knows Patrick won’t accept it when the priest narrows his eyes and tries to channel all the authority he has.

“You’re so big on talking about New York,” Patrick says, not without accusation in his voice, “you’re pushing me all the time, so don’t think you’ll get away with just talking about what you like, and sweeping this under the rug.”

There’s a good amount of angry, vicious words about avoiding confrontation on the tip of Pete’s tongue, but he pushes them aside, waits until the anger has settled to turn them into something that’s hopefully more constructive.

“I ran into Stan and some of his friends. You know, the store clerk at the general store?” Pete says instead. “Stan didn’t like that I took his job with Mrs. Harvey away, so. Here we are.”

Silence settles between them, and Patrick reaches for his unoccupied hand. Pete knows the priest doesn’t know what to say, knows how frustrating the lack of words is to him. It’s the first time Patrick has seen him hurt, Pete realizes, and with a spark of anger, he’s reminded that Patrick and everyone else will see the humiliating black eye for the next week at least.

“It’s gonna happen again, Patrick.” Pete laces their fingers together, hopes he can keep Patrick from shying away from this conversation. “It’s not the first time, and believe me, it’s not the last either. Patrick, I swear, I didn’t even say anything, I gave them nothing to feel provoked by, but… They don’t care. Stan, he… Talked about bringing a knife next time. Told me you as a priest would appreciate if he carved a cross into my skin.”

“That’s horrendous,” Patrick blurts out, “how could anyone even think this?”

“Because they don’t think like us,” Pete answers through gritted teeth, “because they think like monsters. And when I go,” when, not if, because Pete is going, he will leave, it’s just a matter of time, “when I go, these are the people you’ll be left with.”

The uncomfortable truth hangs between them in the air, but Patrick just shakes his head. “I’ll be fine.”

“Fine?” Pete repeats incredulously, “forgive me, Father, but you’re gonna be anything but fine. How long do you think it will take them to figure out you’re queer? With all due respect, you’re pretty shitty at keeping this a secret.”

“Excuse me?” Patrick withdraws his hand, but he stays seated, unwilling to let these accusations go by. “What do you mean by that? No one has found out about us, right?”

“Yeah, not yet.” Pete crosses his arms, tries to keep the anger at bay. He has to be rational, has to find the right words to convince Patrick of the right way. “But what about Brendon? You were the one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut, even though the guy basically begged you to keep it a secret.”

He can see that each word is a stab into Patrick’s old wounds, some which may not have healed yet, and Pete knows. He hates seeing Patrick flinch, hates the way he furrows his brow and presses his pretty lips into a thin line.

“I’m not… I’m not that naïve anymore! I won’t be stupid enough  to run to the bishop this time!” Patrick’s agitated, Pete can tell. He still has a remarkable amount of self-restraint, there’s no cussing and no yelling, but he’s dangerously close. “I get it, Pete, you’re so smart and confident and I’m the dumb priest who keeps messing everything up. I’m sorry I wasn’t as strong as you were, I’m sorry I believed everything that’s been fed to me my whole life.”

“Do you hear yourself talk? Like, ever?” Pete asks with anger. “Keeping secrets from that stupid, almighty bishop, not trusting anyone, rejecting your church’s ideology – how can you keep being part of that very same church if that’s how you talk about it?”

“Maybe the church isn’t perfect.” That’s a huge thing to say for the priest, but much to Pete’s dismay, it’s still not enough. “But I can’t just… I can’t just leave, Pete. I took vows, I took responsibility.”

“What’s the next few decades gonna be for you then, hm?” Pete can’t help it, can’t stop the provocative words because Patrick is just so fucking blind. “Are you gonna spend it in this rectory, alone? I don’t think you could do that.”

“That’s what I was prepared to do when I became a priest,” Patrick answers snottily, he doesn’t get it, he just doesn’t get it and it drives Pete mad.

“Patrick, it took me just a few days to not only find out you’re queer, but to also get you into my bed with your legs spread and your hard cock just aching to be touched by me. And may I remind you, you were more than happy to let me do that. You didn’t even really know me! I could’ve told everyone, you could be fucking dead! You’re a dumbass and you’re awful at hiding who you truly are, no matter what you tell yourself. Someone’s gonna find out eventually.”

Pete pauses, he thinks about Stan and his hidden preference for the “wrong” gender. How almost nice Stan had been to him when it was all about getting Pete into the backseat of the truck to shove his cock inside Pete’s mouth, and everywhere else. There are other people just like him, just waiting to abuse someone, and Patrick is the perfect victim. His position as a priest only makes everything worse. Sure, people expect nothing but bad from Pete, but from their priest? If they find out he’s a homosexual – one who used to fuck Pete, as they will realize in no time – if they find out… The images of Patrick, dead in a casket, beaten to a pulp, bones smashed into pieces… Pete swallows the bile rising in his throat.

“You’re calling me a fool, Peter?” There’s a viciousness in Patrick’s voice that he’s never heard before, and there’s a spark of anger in his blue eyes, so unlike their usual calmness.

“You could be as cunning and clever as you want, but Clark… Clark will destroy people like us, no matter how careful, intelligent, or safe we think we are.”

“I’ve had enough.” Patrick gets up, and he’s clearly upset, his body shaking and his face still twisted with anger. “I can handle myself just fine, thank you very much. I’m not a stupid little child. I don’t think trusting you was a mistake, but it’s good to know you think it was.”

That’s not what Pete meant, he wants another chance to explain himself, wants to make everything right and find all the appropriate words for Patrick to pave the way for a better life.

“Patrick, wait –“

But Patrick is out of the living room already, and shortly after, Pete hears a door fall shut. He presses the frozen peas closer to his injury as newfound hate for this godforsaken town floods him.

The priest doesn’t come out of his room again, so a while later Pete ends up on the porch, alone, smoking his usual cigarette. The night is quiet and peaceful, but the beauty of the stars means nothing to Pete if he can’t admire them together with the man he loves.

When Pete eventually goes back into the rectory, the stomp of his boots and the door falling shut announcing his presence, there’s still no priest to be seen. Pete’s heart aches, but he also hopes he gave Patrick something to think about. Preferably, something that ends in a conclusion that leaving Clark is the only logical thing to do.

The door to Patrick’s room remains shut, so Pete goes into his own room after dumping the bag of peas back into the freezer. He sits down on his bed with a sigh. How long has it been since he’s last slept alone? He’s gotten so used to have Patrick at his side in the past few weeks. Sure, sometimes it has gotten late, sometimes they were both exhausted and wanted nothing but to cuddle, and yeah, the beds still aren’t really big enough for two people. But the irreplaceable feeling of Pete’s loved one next to him, right in his arms, is worth all the discomfort.

Not today, apparently. Pete doesn’t want to apologize, he sees no need to do so, and it doesn’t seem like Patrick is interested in hearing him out properly. Silence it is then, except for the occasional strangled sob that comes from Patrick’s room. It’s agonizing, Pete hates how Clark and its inhabitants wear both of them down, and how it’s disrupting their fragile relationship just when it had started to improve. There’s not much time left, and it enrages Pete that assholes like Stan and his friend poison what little time they have left together.

Just as Pete contemplates whether he should sleep on the couch so he doesn’t have to hear Patrick toss and turn and hold back more tears, or swallow his pride and go over to comfort Patrick, he hears the mattress creak – presumably because Patrick sat up. Then, a small knock on their shared wall.

“Pete?” A small, muffled voice comes from the other side. “Are you… awake?”

“Yeah,” Pete mumbles. “I’m awake.”

“Can I…” He hears how Patrick clears his throat. “Can I come over…?”

Pete nods absentmindedly, before he realizes Patrick can’t see him. “Yes,” he says hastily, because apparently, he’s lost the word no in his vocabulary when it comes to Patrick in his bed. “Sure, come here.”

He hears footsteps, then Patrick is standing in his door frame, pale and ghostly aside from the redness around his eyes. He’s even wearing the stupid nightgown, Pete hasn’t seen that in a while, because usually, it’s just his naked body under their shared sheets. Patrick hesitates, sends a questioning look to Pete, who forgets his annoyance when he sees the hurt and regret in Patrick’s eyes.

“Come here,” Pete repeats softly as he sits up, and pats the mattress.

A moment later, he’s holding the priest in his arms, murmuring soothing words as he rests his head on soft, blonde hair. He expects Patrick’s hand between his legs to stop any attempts at conversation, expects that the night will be filled with sweat and sex like every other time.

“You were right,” Patrick says instead, “you were right with what you said, Pete, and I’m – I’m a fool.”

“I didn’t call you that,” Pete reminds him, “but I’m sorry for calling you a dumbass. I just… I want you to realize that you’re living in a fantasy, Patrick, and even worse, you’re living in Clark, which is a bastion of hell on this planet. People will find out eventually.” He pauses, lets out a sigh. “Some already know about me, and I’ve only lived here for a few years. You’re gonna spend the rest of your life here, decades, which means plenty of times for mistakes – plenty of opportunities for people to hurt you, and abuse your trust.”

“I know,” Patrick whispers, presses his face closer to Pete’s neck as he lays his arms around him. “I know, but…”

“I meant no offense, but you really are pretty terrible at resisting temptation. Brendon, me… Someone’s gonna be next. Even if you can hide for the rest of your life… Is that how God wants you to spend your time on earth?” Pete asks as he strokes through Patrick’s hair. He can’t deny he may have made things worse – he’s the one who has introduced Patrick to all kinds of pleasures he hadn’t even known before, he’s the one who whetted Patrick’s appetite for all these allegedly sinful activities. Pete has shown him love and everything that comes with it, and he doubts that Patrick can keep resisting to want that even when Pete’s gone.

“You can’t afford to keep me around, Pete. It’s unnecessary danger, and… I’m good for nothing.” Patrick sits back up, wipes over his eyes with the sleeve of his gown. There’s a self-deprecating smile tugging at his lips as he looks Pete into the eye for the first time. “Look at me, Pete, I’m not even a good Catholic priest, and that’s all I ever worked for in life!”

“Hey. You’re smart. We’ll find something to do for you.” Pete takes Patrick’s hands into his own. “You could help me out at the bar first, how about that?”

There’s another smile on Patrick’s face, still tainted with disbelief. “I don’t even drink alcohol.”

“You don’t need to drink it, just pour it and keep tabs on how many drinks other people have.”

Patrick shrugs. He still doesn’t look convinced, but his smile looks a little less sad. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, but quite frankly, excuses aren’t what Pete wants to hear from him.

“You don’t need my forgiveness,” Pete answers, “you only need to forgive yourself.”

It’s enough for today, Pete decides, as they both lay down together. Patrick eyes the injury, shakes his head. “To hell with them,” he mumbles angrily, “they can just burn.”

Pete yawns, and nods. He tries to forget that the colorful bruises will bother him for days, will announce his helplessness to everyone in town upon first glance. He just hopes it’s something that can make Patrick rethink his stance on leaving.

He drags Patrick closer to him, runs his hand over his back, and can’t help but slide it under the nightgown and rest it on the swell of Patrick’s ass. Patrick turns a little pink, but Pete just grins. “Sorry,” Pete’s not sorry at all, “just wanted to know if you wear anything under this horrible thing.”

“Shut up,” Patrick scolds him, “and yes, I wear underwear, like any civilized person would.”

“I think I need to explore this more tomorrow,” Pete says with a grin, and Patrick shakes his head again, but the smile on his lips doesn’t look sad, and he does give Pete a sweet goodnight kiss before he buries his head in his chest, about to fall asleep.

There’s a spark of hope in Pete, a little bit of optimism. It’s the most productive conversation they’ve had about this so far. Which doesn’t mean much given that Patrick previously hadn’t want to talk about New York at all, but still.

It’s a first step, right? That has to be good enough for now. He can’t lose Patrick, he won’t…  

Oh, if only Pete could believe his own words.

Chapter Text

The topic of New York continues to linger between them.

The last conversation has done nothing but confuse Patrick further, and it offered no answers. Working in a bar – Patrick can just shake his head. That’s never going to happen. It’s a dream, a pleasant one, but a dream nonetheless.

Patrick knows nothing about business. He knows nothing about alcohol, he knows nothing about bars. He hasn’t been to one ever since his mother died, and he can’t be seen in a bar in Clark, that much is sure. It could have been easy in Chicago, where he could have blended into the masses, but back in Chicago, there was fear, and the distant devilish whisper of what dark temptations besides alcohol might linger in bars.

Unlike Pete, he would make a pitiful figure behind a bar, that much Patrick is sure of. He’s been groomed and prepared for a proper life as a priest, where small talk is kept family-friendly, where conversation is kept to Jesus, and where dark confessions and unholy thoughts are only ever counteracted with prayers and bible phrases. Patrick doubts that the men in New York would appreciate any of that.

Pete on the other hand, he’s handsome and charismatic, he’s good with talking when someone gives him a chance to hear him out. That doesn’t happen too often in Clark, but in New York… People must be more open-minded. If they frequent a bar owned by a Jew, they probably have no problems with a beautiful biracial man.

Something dark and ugly has settled in Patrick’s stomach, an abyss of horrible emotions he can’t quite place. He’s never felt this way before, he doesn’t know why he does so now. Patrick only knows he loves Pete, and it’s that love that fuels the shameful, horrible feelings rushing through his veins whenever he thinks of Pete smiling at someone else, Pete kissing another man, Pete underneath another guy, sweating and moaning in pure lust –

Patrick always tries to push these conflicting emotions aside.

He loves Pete, he really does. How can something as beautiful as love evoke something so painful inside of him?

It must be my fault, Patrick can’t help but think, he’s doing this wrong, he’s broken, he’s not worthy of loving Pete. He doesn’t want these feelings, he doesn’t know how to deal with this, and he doesn’t want Pete to find out. Patrick is ashamed, and afraid that if Pete finds out there’s all this ugliness inside of him, it will taint their relationship for what little time they have left.

So, Patrick shoves these thoughts into the back of his mind, and tries not ruin the remaining moments between them.

It’s after evening mass, and Patrick is finally on his way back to the rectory. All tasks have been completed, he’s written the sermon for Sunday mass, he can spend the evening as he wants. Usually, that would lighten Patrick’s step and brighten his mood, but ever since Pete came home with a black eye and a grim expression, Patrick feels fear. Fear that it could – no, worse, it will happen again - and what will happen next. Visions of more bruises and blood and Pete hurt, Pete crying, Pete losing his temper. It’s suffocating him whenever Pete goes to Mrs. Harvey’s, straight towards potential danger.

But today, these gloomy thoughts don’t last long, because when Patrick enters the rectory he can smell food, and a moment later, he hears Pete yelling from the kitchen.

“Supper’s almost ready,” never has Patrick been happier hearing such mundane things, because it means everything is alright, everything is fine for now, “don’t wanna risk burning it, so you gotta come to the kitchen to greet me, baby!”

Patrick smiles to himself as bright relief floods him. Another evening they can spend in almost-happiness, time that belongs to them, untainted by anyone else.

They skirt around the sensitive topics, keep the conversation light – Pete seems to believe Patrick may change his mind given time, and Patrick would like him to keep that illusion for a little longer. It makes both of them happy, and Pete has started to eat a little better again; he looks healthier, almost happy. No way Patrick can take that away from him.

It’s just pleasant small-talk and stolen glances at each other, and then it’s Pete’s hand sneaking into Patrick’s, a soft kiss, and a gentle “come to bed?” whispered into his ear.

They end up in Patrick’s room, mattress squeaking as they both tumble down, too preoccupied with undressing each other. Pete is all bright grins and naked skin, and that certain kind of darkness creeps up on Patrick when he reminds himself how someone else will see Pete like that soon enough.

Patrick licks over the swallow tattoo tucked behind Pete’s ear, bites into the soft curve of his neck, just a little. People could see. People could talk. Pete still works shirtless sometimes, so anything on his upper body is off-limits.

But everything below the belt isn’t. So he works his way down, stops at Pete’s cock, already hard and just begging to be touched. A soft kiss to the head, a broad, teasing stroke down its length, the promise of more when Patrick takes him in.   

Pete whines in protest when Patrick stops all too soon, shivers when Patrick’s hot mouth ghosts over the inside of his thigh, and yelps in surprise when Patrick bites down; less out of pain, and more out of surprise.

“Patrick?” Pete mumbles with a little confusion, Patrick has never been anything but gentle and utterly careful, if not a little too careful. But that’s not on Patrick’s mind today. There’s a hunger and desperation, there’s a burning desire to leave something on Pete, a sign of his love, something to mark Pete as his even if no one else can see. To leave bruises that tell a story of lust, that make Pete remember their nights together whenever he looks at his naked body. To leave him just a little sore, enough that whenever Pete sits down to rest at work, he’ll remember their night together. He’ll remember Patrick.

There’s still Pete’s fingertips imprinted on Patrick’s skin, there’s a fresh bruise blooming on Patrick’s collarbone, the place Pete seems to like the most to leave a mark on. And Patrick loves it, wants to give something of that back together with something else Pete has done.

With that in mind, Patrick maneuvers Pete to lie on his stomach. Pete gives him a look Patrick can’t quite place, but he stays silent, just moans as Patrick’s tongue traces over the tattoos on his back, down to the swell of his ass. Teeth linger a little too long on soft skin as Patrick leaves another bruise, then another, all accompanied by encouraging noises from Pete. If this is slightly off, they both manage to ignore it.

“Get on your knees,” Patrick orders after a while, “I want to do… What you did a few days ago.”

“Want to eat me out?” Pete turns his head around, looks at Patrick with hunger and silent plea.

“Yes,” Patrick mumbles in response; the words aren’t anything bad, but put together in this context, they sound obscene. “Yes,” he repeats, say it , he orders himself, before someone else can say it to him, “I want to eat you out.”

A sound of pure bliss is the answer as Pete shuffles on all fours, leans into the touch of Patrick’s hands still resting on his hips. Anticipation fills the air as Patrick takes a deep breath, tries to gather his courage. He’s never done this before, never even thought of it before Pete did it to him. Patrick wants this, and Pete clearly wants it, too, so there’s no way to back out. The meek may inherit the earth, but the meek aren’t pleasing their partners in bed, and that’s very much what Patrick wants.

Pete’s hand already wanders to his cock, dark red from blood and from being neglected for a while. Patrick grabs his wrist, forces him to hold still, Pete groans in utter frustration.

“Don’t come yet, darling,” Patrick whispers, it sounds almost like something Pete could say, which gives him a little confidence. “I want to… It’s just the beginning.”

A hoarse chuckle comes from Pete, voice loaded with desire. “You gonna fuck me?”

“Yes,” Patrick says, “if you want…?”

“Well, make me want it.” It’s playful, but there’s a challenge, there’s urgency and there’s a little bit of fear creeping up on Patrick again – of failure, of not pleasing, of…

Patrick shakes his head, it doesn’t matter. What matters is Pete on all fours for him, legs parted, hand on his cock, just teasing himself a little as he waits for Patrick to start. He tries to remember what Pete did last time, what his hazy brain can recall about the mechanics behind the maddening, new ways of pleasure.

He puts his hands on Pete’s cheeks, spreads him open, pauses to blush at the slightly obscene sight. He’s seen this before, hell, he’s been inside of Pete. But this feels different, more intimate, more vulnerable for the both of them. Patrick licks a broad stripe over Pete’s cleft, still a little hesitant, just to test it. Pete tastes like salt and sweat and flesh, and it makes Patrick crave more.

Another broad stripe, tongue flicking over Pete’s hole, again, and more, and soon enough Pete is writhing underneath him, moaning and cursing as he presses closer, pushes back against the finger Patrick has slipped into him already. There’s no Vaseline, but there’s enough wetness from spit. Patrick pushes in a second finger, tries to find the right angle and the right spot, and rejoices with pride when he feels Pete tighten around his fingers when he does. He’s learned Pete’s body so well, mapped every inch of his skin and every hidden point of pleasure. He tries not to wonder who else will discover them after him.

Patrick scissors his fingers to allow his tongue to slide back in; he can feel how Pete tightens around him, shivers with pleasure and oh, it’s all so much. He understands now how hard it must have been for Pete to hold back, to be gentle, to not coax something out of Patrick that he wasn’t fully ready to give. Another pang of fear and guilt flashes through Patrick; he knows what Pete wanted, still wants, and he hates how he can’t bring himself to give Pete that yet. How long is Pete willing to wait? He’s sure the men in New York aren’t that uptight and afraid.

Right now, Pete seems pretty impatient, though for something else. “For God’s sake, Patrick, just fuck me already please,” he groans, “Or let me come at least!”

Patrick withdraws his mouth, looks at his fingers buried inside of Pete – it’s just two, and there’s just spit, that can’t be enough. He pulls out, leans over to the nightstand to grab the Vaseline. Everything between Pete’s legs is pretty wet from spit already, but Patrick still applies a generous amount of Vaseline to his fingers before pushing them in again, a third one following soon.

More impatient swearing and hungry moans come from Pete. “Enough,” Patrick hears him, slightly muffled since his face is pressed into the pillows, “enough, baby, give me your cock already!”

Patrick mumbles something affirmative while he slicks up his dick. The Vaseline jar’s getting emptier, he’ll have to come up with a good excuse next time he buys a new one, has to hide the troublesome purchase behind a fake smile and lies and more products. That’s not what Patrick became a priest for; to lie to the friendly old cashier at the drug store who always gives generously to the collection, and he hates how he has abandoned his old lies just to hide behind new ones.

It’s not important, Patrick tells himself as he places a hand on the small of Pete’s back, it doesn’t matter, Pete doesn’t have to worry about this.

“Just like this, baby,” Pete says, head now turned to the side to send Patrick an impatient glance. “I’ll stay like this, all you have to do is fuck me into the mattress, doesn’t that sound good?”

Patrick isn’t quite sure about that phrasing, and while Pete does look tempting, insecurity sparks in him. Why won’t Pete look at him? Why does he want to keep his face pressed into the pillow? But Pete doesn’t tell, so Patrick doesn’t ask.

Instead, he sits on his knees behind Pete, lines up with his entrance, and slowly pushes inside. He can hear Pete groan, feels the burning heat of his body around his cock and under his fingers, gripping harshly into Pete’s hips. He can see his cock disappearing into Pete, he has a better view from this angle, and for a moment Patrick is glad that Pete can’t see the embarrassing shade of crimson that must paint his face.

Oh, but it’s so good, in every possible way, all of Patrick’s senses flooded at once. He can hear Pete whimper, can feel him shift, can feel the warmth of his body, smell sex and sweat and Pete, similar to the taste still lingering on his tongue. Then, Pete starts to push back against his cock, mutters something under his breath – the exact wording is lost on Patrick, but his brain does register that he’s supposed to move.

Patrick grits his teeth, squeezes his eyes shut as he tries to hold back his orgasm. He’s done it before, he’s let Pete come properly, he can do it again. He has to, he has to, what little time is left can’t be filled with even more disappointment. The egotistical part in Patrick wants Pete to remember him no matter how many other beautiful men are around him in New York, wants Pete to look back and miss him, if just a little. And if Patrick is going to be alone for the rest of his life, that’s fine, that’s what he has sworn to be when he took his vows, but he’d love some pleasant memories for stolen hours of loneliness at least.

It almost works, Patrick can keep his orgasm at bay for a while, manages not to let out a pathetic little whine as Pete clenches down around him tight, accompanied by a moan that must rival the sweetness of the Heavenly Choir. Almost, almost, and Pete’s close, Patrick just has to – just a few more thrusts – if only, if just –

Ah, but all of it is no use. Patrick’s orgasm hits him hard, soothes his former fears as pure bliss overwhelms him. He distantly registers a loud moan falling from his lips, how Pete squirms as his hands dig deeper into his skin as pleasure jolts through Patrick’s body.

That feeling doesn’t last long. All too soon, reality catches up with Patrick again, and reality is that his already softening cock slides out of Pete, who whimpers at the loss, and whose own cock is still hard between his legs, because Pete didn’t come.

“Pete, I’m sorry,” Patrick stutters as he sits back, “You didn’t… I’m sorry -!”

Failure and disappointment replace any sense of satisfaction, and make Patrick’s chest ache. Why, why can’t he do anything right? Why can’t he give even the simplest of pleasures to his lover? And he’s the man Pete wants to take to the big city, wants to build a life with? Oh, that’s just ridiculous, laughable, if only Patrick felt like laughing at all.

Pete sits up, still panting, and turns to him. Pete says something, but the words don’t reach Patrick’s mind anymore.

There’s white noise, and then, there’s just tears.

Every single emotion that has been bottled up in the past few weeks tries to force its way out of Patrick at once. He slumps forward, face buried behind his hands, and he sobs.

It’s worse than after their last fight. It’s overwhelming and suffocating and Patrick can’t do anything but give in. He cries because Pete will leave, he cries because he wants, he wants so badly to give Pete everything he asks for but he can’t; he cries because there are these nameless fears inside of him that poison everything.

Pete tries to talk to him, tries to soothe him with a gentle hand and reassuring words, but nothing of that reaches Patrick right now. After a while, Pete stands up, and leaves. Patrick hears the water in the bathroom running; then Pete comes back with a wet washcloth and a glass of water.

“It’s okay,” Pete mumbles, even though it’s not okay, nothing is really okay. “Hey, calm down a little. Here, drink. Would’ve gotten you something stronger, but I thought you wouldn’t like that very much.”

Patrick sniffles, embarrassed that he requires a glass of water like some child, not an adult. And certainly not like an adult who should be anywhere near a bar. He drinks it anyway, and lets Pete clean the sweat and slick from his body.

Pete sits down next to him, hesitates, then takes Patrick’s hand into his own. “Do you feel better?”

Patrick lets out a weak laugh. “Not really, no.”

Pete sighs, shakes his head. “Could you please explain what all of this is about? You… You scared me for a moment there.”

“I can’t,” Patrick says weakly. Partially because it’s true, he can’t put his inner turmoil into words, and partially because he’s afraid that if he does so, Pete will end up hating him.

“Well, you better fucking try, Patrick, because I won’t just pretend you didn’t just cry violently in the middle of sex.” Pete’s patience is thin, as always these days, and it’s audible in his voice. “I’m so tired of you not talking. You know how that makes me feel?! Like I’m an idiot. Like I’m useless.”

“That’s not what I want.” Patrick wipes away the leftover tears from his face, and tries to give Pete a shaky smile. “That’s not why I’m… I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry –“

“Can you stop with the apologies?” Pete pinches the bridge of his nose, squeezes Patrick’s hand a little too hard. “I know you Catholics are big on begging for forgiveness, but I told you already, there’s no need to apologize to me. Say something more than sorry. Tell me what’s going on with you.”

The silence hangs heavy between them, suffocating seconds of just nothing. Pete withdraws his hand, lips pressed into a thin line as he sends Patrick a look that makes it clear he’s angry and hurt. Panic floods Patrick, and he realizes that he might lose Pete before he even leaves for the city if he goes on like that. Pete could hate him either way, so might as well give him a reason to.

“You’re leaving,” Patrick manages to choke out, “you’ll go to the big city, you’ll meet so many other people, so many other men, someone better than me and I can’t bear that thought!”

Pete stares at him speechless, but all these ugly confessions keep forcing their way out of Patrick’s mouth.

“I love you, Pete, I do, and I hate that it gives me all these ugly feelings… I don’t want this! I want you to be happy! I should be glad! Instead, I’m just terrible, I’m just…”

“Jealous?” Pete supplies cautiously. “I think that’s the word you’re looking for.”

“Jealous,” Patrick repeats weakly. It’s a horrible word, and it’s – it’s not something he’s ever felt before, he realizes. He has never loved someone like he loves Pete; and with Brendon, everything had been a whole different kind of mess. “Is that… That’s not good, is it? Please, Pete, I’m sorry... Please don’t hate me for feeling such vile things.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t hate you. Jealousy… We all feel that sometimes.” Pete sighs, and Patrick wonders why someone like Pete would feel jealous; of what? Of whom?

“Why don’t you just come with me, Patrick? Then there wouldn’t be a need to be jealous in the first place.”

“Yeah, right.” Patrick can’t help but scoff. “Even if I come with you, what if… You could still meet someone better. Look at me, Pete, I’m just a small-town Catholic priest. I know nothing about bars and clubs and dances, I don’t look as pretty and well-dressed as everyone else, I don’t know anything about romance! I can’t – I can’t even please you in bed!”

That earns him another sigh from Pete, who seems a little overwhelmed with the flood of confessions. It was a whole lot easier for everyone when the answer to any confession had just been to pray, and when absolution was granted with a simple formula Patrick knows by heart.

“Why didn’t you look at me?” Patrick asks before Pete can speak up. “Today, why… Why didn’t you look at me, Pete?”

“You mean why I - oh, dear God, baby.” Pete shakes his head, seemingly torn between anger, amusement and confusion. “I wanted to stay on my hands and knees because it feels good, okay? Remember when I had my fingers and tongue in you when your face was pressed into the pillows? You seemed to enjoy that, and so do I, because believe me, it feels great with a dick, too. I didn’t know it bothered you.”

Patrick just shrugs helplessly. “I didn’t want to ruin the moment. It felt - it felt silly.”

“Do you trust my love so little?” Pete asks softly after a while, and he looks genuinely hurt. “Do you think I’m that shallow, that I love you so little I’d just chase after the next best pretty guy given the opportunity?”

Patrick shakes his head. “I trust you, Pete. I just don’t trust myself. You only deserve the best, Pete, and… I’m not the best.”

“God damnit, Patrick” Pete mutters, and Patrick can’t even feel offended at the blasphemy. “I fucking love you, okay? You are the best I could ever ask for, and you’re the only one that matters to me, whether we’re stuck in Clark or sitting in a dark bar in New York. I don’t want anyone else! Sure, it’s gonna be nice to have a community, with people who share similar stories and struggles, but at the end of the day…” Pete shuffles closer, gently takes Patrick’s hand back into his own with a shyness that’s unusual for him. “At the end of the day, you’re the only one I want to go home with. You’re the only one I want to build a life with. Please believe me – please believe in yourself, Patrick.”

Ah, if only that was that easy. Patrick still feels confused, and he still can’t keep the irrational thoughts at bay. Who’s living in a fantasy world, Pete with his bright eyes and overly optimistic plans, or is it Patrick himself, too grim and not seeing the path God offers them? But is he truly good enough, can he make Pete happy, for the rest of their lives? Patrick doesn’t know, and it’s scary.

Still, he feels himself relax, like a weight has been lifted from his shoulder. They lay down next to each other, although Pete still gives him a pensive thought as he rests his hand on Patrick’s hip.

“Nobody’s perfect, y’know,” Pete says after a while. “And just because sex doesn’t go as planned doesn’t mean it’s bad, or that I’m not satisfied, or that I want someone else or whatever. We’re both still learning here.” He pauses, and a shadow hushes over his face. “And believe me, I’ve had much worse.”

“There’s so much I don’t know,” Patrick mumbles, “so much I can’t do, so much… Pete, I want to give you everything, I really do, I just…”

“You’re worrying too much. I’ll wait until you’re ready, okay?” Pete smiles a little. “And hey, how can I be sure you’re not running off with some little white boy once we’re in New York? Someone who won’t get in constant trouble because of their skin color?”

“I would never!” The words are out before Patrick can even think about it, and he blushes when Pete laughs at how offended his tone is. “I love you, Pete,” he says, interrupted when Pete plants a kiss to his lips after that. “Sorry that I ruined tonight. I’ll… Make up for that, okay?”

“Tomorrow, okay?” Pete says, concealing a yawn. “No offence, but seeing you burst into tears like that really killed my boner for today. But don’t worry, unlike Jesus, it won’t take three days to be resurrected…”

“You’re unbelievable, Peter,” Patrick says with a sneer, yet no bite behind his words. He allows Pete to turn him around, cuddle closer so that his back is pressed flush against Pete’s chest. Pete has eaten well today, and Patrick hopes he catches up on some sleep, too. Actually, they both need to, Patrick reminds himself when he thinks of the circles under his eyes, of sleepless hours full of worries and hazy, gruesome thoughts.

But right here, with Pete breathing softly into his ear, with Pete’s heartbeat against his own, with the words of their conversation playing in his mind again Patrick feels the seed of hope sowed into his heart.


~*~

“This is ours,” Pete whispers the next morning, tugging Patrick by the hand and into his room, urging him to stand at the dresser as he rifles through his paltry belongings to extract an old, battered mess tin. He fumbles with the catch, flipping it open to reveal a neat roll of bills, surrounded by loose change, the coins glittering in the early morning light that streams through the window. “I know… Look, I get that you don’t want to talk about it, but I just wanted you to know – to understand – that I’m serious.”

Patrick nods with a smile on his lips but an ache in his heart. He doesn’t know much of the cost of things, but he knows how much he paid for his train ticket at Union Station back in Chicago, and he’s fairly sure Pete has more than enough for a one-way ticket to New York. He just needs to persuade him to go, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how agonising the wound it tears into his chest.

They kiss, sweet and soft and lovely, pressed to the wall of the hallway like the kids used to do in high school. Pete whispers honeyed words into his ear about how they can do that right on the street in New York. Patrick would love to believe him but something worries him, some niggling thought that the city can’t possibly be the utopia Pete imagines it to be, that the world outside may have progressed beyond the confines of Clark and the Catholic church but surely not to the point where their love is accepted by all.

“When we’re in New York,” Pete promises, stroking fingers through Patrick’s hair as though it’s decided. “We can sleep late every morning, can you imagine? Just you, me and the sheets, no goddamn alarm clock at ass in the morning…”

It plants an idea in Patrick’s mind that he turns over and over as he walks the short distance to Saint Sebastian’s, as he unlocks the door and heads into the cool quiet of the hallowed space, pausing to cross himself with holy water as he passes the font. He enjoys these moments, the dignified silence of an empty church, a chance to be entirely alone with his thoughts and his God, to ask Him for guidance and understanding. How he wishes the Lord would provide him with something solid and concrete instead of the silence he always receives.

Morning mass passes without incident and, as he sends the last altar boy on his way with a private smile and a joke, he takes a deep breath and steels himself to talk to Andy. The deacon has been withdrawn and uncharacteristically quiet since he took the cookies from little Paul Henderson. Patrick wonders privately if he ought to have offered half to the deacon but surely, surely , he isn’t sulking over a Tupperware of cookies? No matter, Patrick squares his shoulders and promises himself he won’t blush or stammer, reminds himself that he is the priest and Father Hurley has no right to question him as he approaches him, opens his mouth and hears the most pathetic, squeaking rasp of a voice scrape over his lips.

“Uh, Fath – Andy?” He begins, nerves adding a stammer to his voice as his face heats and he knows he’s fooling no one. “I just… Could I possibly ask you a favour?”

“Of course, Father Stump,” Andy smiles, blandly polite, eyes still sharp with disapproval and dislike. “How can I help you?”

“I just – and don’t worry at all if it’s not convenient – I wondered if, uh…” he trails off and fidgets with the cuff of his vestment sleeve. Say it , he demands of himself, you’re his boss for crying out loud. “I wondered if you could take mass in the morning? And maybe run into town tomorrow morning? Not Clark, um… Hope? Tupelo preferably. I just… we needed some…” he fumbles, he really should have thought out the excuse entirely before he opened his mouth, he’s such an idiot. “Candles! We needed… candles! And I like the ones from Tupelo. So, yes. Morning mass, then drive to Tupelo. Tomorrow. If that’s alright?”

“Candles?” Andy repeats slowly, something close to blackened fury dancing in his eyes as his fists clench and for a moment Patrick wonders if he might take a swing and if he has any hope of defending himself. “From Tupelo?”

“Yes, please,” Patrick tries to inject a note of authority into his trembling voice. The tension between them beats on palpably for a few seconds before Andy relaxes with an insincere smile.

“Of course, Father Stump,” he turns back to dealing with the collection, dismissing Patrick like an irritating altar boy. “Whatever you want.”

It’s not much, Patrick knows that as he heads back to the rectory, it’s barely anything at all. But hopefully, it can be another happy memory that he can tuck away neatly for the decades of all-encompassing loneliness that stretch ahead like a penance. The morning they laid in bed together and shared a tale of skin and sweat and wrote their love letters to one another in bruises bitten and pressed to willing flesh. He won’t tell him today, he decides, it can be a surprise, a parting gift.

He spends his day dealing with the various issues that the church demands and, as the light takes on the golden glow of early evening, he heads back down to take confession from his flock. The worn wooden bench of the confessional always stirs memories for Patrick, the not entirely pleasant reminder of Pete on his knees, Patrick’s nails sunk blunt and burning into the curve of his jaw. He’s glad he has better memories to ease the ache of the inevitable loss to come as he drums his fingertips lightly against the wood and waits for someone to slip onto the bench next to him.

It’s the usual people, the ones that come back each week to confess their sins and atone, one after another he issues absolution with words he knows as well as he knows his own name. It’s late by the time they’re done, the light outside of the confessional entirely artificial and flickering from the overheads Pete managed to fix. He’s about to leave, to lock up and return to Pete light with the knowledge that they get a whole morning together when the door creaks and hurried footsteps click across the church floor.

The booth door next to his opens, someone slipping inside in a cloud of flowery scent – not entirely unfamiliar and Patrick absently tries to place it. When they speak, voice soft and low, he freezes, spine straightening as his fingernails bite into his palms.

“Good evening, Father,” Mrs Wentz murmurs through the latticework between them. “I hope you don’t mind…”

“No, of course not,” his throat constricts as he swallows and tugs at his collar, burning with the knowledge of what her son has done and said whilst sat at the very same bench she currently graces. “When – when did you last take confession?”

“I’m afraid I’m not here to confess anything, Patrick,” his eyes flick to the lattice, her dark gaze burning into him. “I’m sorry if I’m using this for the wrong reasons, but I needed to talk to you. Not as a Catholic – God knows it’s been years since I set foot in a Catholic church, Peter will tell you that – no, I’m here as a mother.”

Silence echoes between them as he stares down at his hands, lacing and unlacing against his lap as his eyes sting and his throat hurts.

“Peter thinks I’m an idiot,” she continues, voice conversational and light, though the meaning behind it is perfectly clear. “Tell me, Patrick, do you think I’m an idiot?”

“No,” he hurries to reassure her, terrified of where this could possibly be going. “I… I would never  think such a thing, I – “

“Good,” she cuts him off in the way that only a mother can. “Then let’s not pretend that I don’t know that you and my boy are far more than friends.”

Patrick doesn’t know what to say, can just continue to stare down at his hands and wait for the blow, the threats to reveal everything to the Bishop if he doesn’t leave Pete alone. It’s no more than he deserves, really, he should never have dragged Pete into his sorry excuse of an existence, he could have been far away by now, safe and sound in New York.

“Do you love him?” she asks, and although her voice doesn’t waver, he hears the pain in each word. “There’s been a lot of men that didn’t love him. I just… do you?”

Patrick thinks about lying but knows he can’t, his voice trembling as he turns to meet her eyes once more in the gloom, “Yes. With all of my heart.”

He sees the flash of some painful emotion across her face; loss to come mingled with hope and understanding as she nods slowly.

“Clark isn’t made for people like the two of you,” she says, the pain of it sharp in her voice. Patrick would take her hand if there wasn’t a wall of oak and propriety between them. “I should never have brought him here, he used to come home every day with a face full of bruises and a heart full of rage. The black men don’t want him near them because he’s white, the white ones won’t tolerate him because he’s black, there’s no middle ground, Patrick, no shades of grey, not in Clark. He has a temper, you’ve seen that, no doubt, a sharp tongue and a hot head and he’s going to… Well, I don’t need to spell it out to you, do I?”

Patrick shakes his head. Those three letters; KKK, sharp against the soft brick of the church, Pete with a noose around his neck. His stomach turns and bile creeps up his throat.

“He’s loyal, though,” she continues with absent fondness, a smile on her face like she’s recalling the little boy in the photo album with too-big teeth and a mass of dark curls. Patrick thinks he’d quite like to see him with his hair like that, to run his fingers through it and press his nose amongst the curls to heave in his scent. “Sweet, kind and oh so loving. I saw how he looked at you, he thinks his mom’s too old to remember that look, but I do, it’s how his father used to look at me. Has he talked to you about his friend, Joe? Sweet boy, met him once when they first came back, has a bar up in New York.”

“He’s mentioned him, yes,” Patrick offers cautiously, unsure of how much he should give away.

“Then he’ll have told you about their grand scheme,” she nods with certainty and Patrick knows he’s a terrible liar so mumbles his agreement at the floor. “He needs to go, Patrick, needs to get out of this place before he winds up dead. I could flower it up for you and tell you he’ll be fine, that he’ll take a beating here and there but nothing worse, but we both know that isn’t true, don’t we?”

Patrick nods again, “I know, believe me, I – “

“No, I don’t need to hear excuses,” she holds up her hand to stop him and he snaps his mouth shut obediently, thumbnail scoring a red mark of misery into his wrist. “If he loves you as much as I think he does, he’ll go nowhere without you. So, you need to make your choice, Patrick; Clark, or my Peter.”

“I – I’m just…” he stammers, blood rushing to his cheeks. “It’s not that – “

“Don’t try and justify it to me,” she cuts him off gently, the urge to take her hand is back once again as the tears thicken her voice and sting his eyes. “You need to make this decision yourself. But you won’t get a second chance, Patrick, so make it wisely, do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good,” she smooths a hand over what little hair shows beneath her carefully pinned hat, begins to move to her feet with a gust of a sigh. She pauses, in the moment before she opens the booth door, and smiles at him in the dim light of the booth, a gesture he returns though his chest aches and he can feel the damp fall of tears on his cheeks that match the shine on hers. “I like you, Patrick, you’re the man he deserves. Don’t fail him.”

“Goodnight, Mrs Wentz,” he murmurs quietly, leaving his booth as she leaves hers and standing to face her in the sharp light of the church. “God bless you.”

“Honey,” she cups his cheek in a gentle hand, thumb swiping away his tears as she squeezes softly with motherly reassurance. “You stay in Clark and even God can’t save you. Keep this visit between us, okay?”

He nods and watches her leave in her best Sunday dress, the conflict tearing him wide open as he makes his way to the altar, praying for a solution he’s not sure God can provide. He locks up carefully and makes his way on unsteady feet to the rectory, pressing a kiss to Pete’s lips before slipping into his room and hunting for the mess tin as he pulls out his wallet. Pete watches with a small smile as he slips the few dollars he has to his name into the tin, as he turns to him with a shrug.

“It’s all I have,” he mumbles awkwardly. “I’ll get more. Every cent I can spare.”

Pete draws him into another kiss, passionate and desperate, and he leans into it with all of the fervour that he feels.

“You’ll come to New York?” Pete asks, eyes bright with hope.

“I’ll think about it,” he assures him, hands warm in the small of Pete’s back.

It’s the best he can offer for now, the chance to spin beautiful stories around themselves for the last few weeks of Pete’s employment. A chance for hopeful smiles instead of angry accusations of cowardice. It’ll probably never happen, but it might be nice to dream.

Chapter Text

Father Stump stays true to his words, and doesn’t show up for morning Mass. No one seems to mind much, Father Francis missed far more than one morning Mass when he had had one too many drinks.

But Andy suspects there’s something far more sinister going on here. It’s the spark of a doubt that has been burning in his chest ever since the new priest arrived from Chicago with a nervous look and a lack of explanation for the sudden transfer to this tiny town so far away. It didn’t make any sense, no one gets sent to Clark for no reason, oh, Andy knows that far too well from first-hand experience. And Father Stump is young and has a good education, such potential isn’t squandered for nothing.  

 

Why is Father Stump here? Andy had his own suspicions, thought it was best to be respectful first – he knows that with his church’s ideology, the one he once wanted to reform so badly, there could be dozens of explanations.

 

And today, with horror, Andy can’t help but think he knows why Patrick is here.

 

It’s been little hints over the past few weeks; the good Father’s hand patting the altar boys’ heads. The way his smiles seemed all-too friendly when they were aimed at them. How willing he is to engage with them in conversation, and God forbid, maybe more? And then the secretive behavior around little Paul Henderson, all of it too close to what Andy had once seen Father Francis do.

 

After Mass, Andy hurries from the church with a heavy heart. It all makes a horrific kind of sense now he’s thinking about it rationally. Father Stump never misses Mass and he barely even stuttered out a plausible excuse just the pointless errand to gather a few things from the store in Tupelo of all places - more candles when Andy knows there are plenty stored in the church. The missing altar boy had been the final piece of the puzzle, little Michael Yeats, a cherubic little nine-year-old, usually so fastidious in performing his duties.

 

What duties, exactly, could Patrick have him completing up at the rectory?

 

Andy’s brain supplies quite a few nauseating answers – oh, he knows, he knows too well what a good Father with a friendly smile and seemingly friendly intention can do to little children. He’s seen it before, has seen Father Francis pinch a kid’s cheek a little too hard, let his hands linger on places they shouldn’t be, and God knows what even worse things Andy hasn’t seen. Only the aftermath consisting of a teary-eyed, red-faced boy, of people turning away their heads and denying any accusations, of the boy’s family finally moving away for reasons no one dared to speak about.

 

It’s sickening, but this time, Andy will catch the Father in the process. Unlike Father Francis, Patrick is a terrible, terrible liar, and unlike his predecessor, he was trusting enough to hand Andy the spare keys to the rectory.

 

Andy fumbles in his pocket for the front door key - just for emergencies, he’d assured Patrick - with trembling hands, shoving open the door and padding quietly into the cool, quiet of the rectory. He pauses, head cocked, and listens carefully for signs of life. In just a few moments he hears what he dreads, a low moan - definitely Patrick’s voice and worryingly echoing from his bedroom down the hallway. He stays silent, though every instinct he has screams at him to run to the door, throw it open, but he wants the element of surprise as he steals down the hallway on soft soles, pausing outside the bedroom.

 

“Oh,” Patrick gasps from within. “That’s… Mmm, good boy…”

 

Good boy? Andy feels sick, bile burning at the back of his throat. Of course the Father is no better than his predecessor - why the hell else would someone be sent to this godforsaken town? He reaches for the door handle, turning it silently and easing open the door, revealing the scene within.

 

It’s an image that Andy swears he’ll take with him to his grave and he’s not sure which part of it is burning itself most brightly into his poor, bewildered brain. Patrick is as naked as the day he was born, straddling Pete’s face with his hands braced against the headboard, head dropped forward and hair flopping across his brow. His cock is buried in Pete’s throat which is both a blessing and a curse because, okay, he’s watching Pete suck Patrick off but at least he can’t see Patrick’s dick, lodged as it is in Pete’s apparently eager mouth.

 

The same can’t be said for Pete as he tugs furiously at his cock, his other hand cupped to Patrick’s bare ass with an indeterminate number of fingers buried within. Patrick is rocking back and forth, into the mouth then onto the fingers, an expression that can only be described as pure bliss etched on his face.

 

“Oh, Lord have mercy,” Andy yelps once the split second of horrific imagery has released him and he finds the sense to cover his eyes.

 

Patrick makes an insensible noise from the bed, no words, just a strangled sort of yelp and Andy hopes, oh Christ Andy hopes, that wasn’t him blowing down Pete’s throat. Andy’s never thought of Father Stump as a particularly athletic man but he has to admit, he’s quietly impressed by the way he manages to dismount, shove Pete out of his way and yank the sheet over himself in what seems, through the cracks in Andy’s fingers, to be one graceful movement. Pete doesn’t move other than to remove his hand from his cock, brows drawn down into a scowl and his lips and chin shining with spit and… Andy doesn’t want to think about it.

 

“Andy,” Patrick sounds as though he’s already crying, voice shaking. “It’s not…”

 

“Don’t tell him it’s not what it looks like,” Pete scolds him sharply. “He just saw me three fucking knuckles deep in your ass…”

 

As much as Andy would like to object that phrasing – and the mental image it evokes, one he definitely didn’t ask for – he can’t disagree.

 

“Pete!” Patrick yelps. “Just… please…”

 

“Oh, put on your nightshirt and quit complaining,” Pete grumbles under his breath. He seems angry, but Andy can’t help but suspect he’s angry for all the wrong reasons.

 

“Are the two of you decent?” Andy interrupts, lowering his hand. Patrick, glowing crimson and tears gathering in his eyes, has thankfully slipped on his nightshirt. Pete however is still sprawled with his cock out. “Pete! Come on!”

 

“Andy, I swear this…” Patrick trails off miserably for a moment. “Please, don’t tell anyone. This isn’t the first time I… I love him, Andy.”

 

The last four words are delivered simply, his head bowed as he picks miserably at the comforter. Uncomfortable silence lingers for a moment. Andy really doesn’t know what to say first, or how to explain this horrifying situation. This is not what he expected to find, and he’s not prepared at all to deal with a teary-eyed Patrick confessing his love for Pete, who, goddamn it, still hasn’t made any effort to cover himself.

 

“Pete,” Andy beseeches him. “Please, just some underwear would be great. Patrick, I’m… I’m not going to tell anyone. I promise. I never want to think about what I’ve just seen ever again, never mind repeat it to the bishop. You love who you love and, to be honest, I’m just glad it wasn’t an altar boy in here with you.”

 

Another awkward moment of silence passes, and Andy instantly regrets his words. Pete, of course, has instantly picked up on the meaning behind this, and stares at Andy with a way more accusing and disappointed look than anyone completely naked who’s just been interrupted mid-coitus – oh, don’t think about it, don’t think about it! – should be capable of.  

 

“An altar boy?” Patrick frowns in utter confusion and Andy feels guilt curl in his stomach. “I don’t… Why would I have one of the boys in my room?”

 

Jesus Christ, so the good Father really was that clueless after all. Of course Patrick was never a risk to the boys, Andy feels like the worst kind of asshole as he takes in the puzzled frown that chases away the tears. Well, Andy supposes he was kind of right with parts of his accusations – all this babbling about missing the morning Mass and the trip to Tupelo was just a pointless excuse, and Patrick was fucking someone behind his back, but he never would’ve thought it to be Pete of all people. Oh, this is really not looking good at all. Andy has no idea how he can explain such a delicate misunderstanding in a way that won’t cause offence -

 

“For Christ’s sake, Patrick, get a grip! He thinks you were fucking one of them,” Pete scowls, mercilessly exposing the whole embarrassing situation. Patrick gasps in horror. Andy feels like a complete jerk.

 

“I… I would never… Why would you think that about me?” The revulsion, the hurt and betrayal on his face are more than Andy can bear. Instinct urges him to cross the room and touch Patrick reassuringly on the shoulder but he doesn’t know where he’s been and Pete still hasn’t put his cock away. It’s really nice that he and Patrick are so comfortable with each other, but Andy isn’t, and he’d very much like to be spared being forced to look at his best friend’s dick any longer. Oh Lord, none of this is going according to plan, and Andy really isn’t sure how the hell he’s supposed to handle this mess.

 

“I apologise,” Andy tries, stiff with formality. “I won’t be using my key for anything other than planned visits, ever again, I promise you.”

 

“Out,” Patrick waves a hand towards the door with an embarrassed grimace. “Both of you. I need to get dressed. Pete, your underwear, please.”

 

“None in here,” he grins widely. “You know I sleep naked.” Another piece of information Andy certainly hasn’t asked for.

 

“Pete,” Andy begs. “Just cover your cock.”

 

“What’s wrong with my cock?” Pete queries, offended, still lounging on the bed. He could at least try to act like he has any sense of modesty.

 

“Can everyone please stop saying co - that word?” Patrick implores.

 

“You just said it,” Pete grins broadly. “And you were… admiring mine ten minutes ago…”

 

“Out,” Patrick half-shouts and pushes Pete off the bed. “Both of you, now!”

 

Andy is more than happy to leave the room. He’d be more than happy to leave the rectory and never talk about this ever again, and preferably never think of it again as well. But alas, of course it can’t be that easy, and he may owe poor Father Stump an explanation and an apology. Therefore, he heads to the kitchen, dreading the awkward and embarrassing conversation that surely lies ahead.

 

Pete joins him in the kitchen soon after; he seems to have cleaned himself up, but according to his definition, just underwear passes as being dressed. Andy groans in frustration, and buries his head in his hands. May the Lord grant him patience, because he’s running short on that right now.

 

“I think you owe us an explanation,” Pete says in a tone that’s way too casual for someone who just got caught with a dick shoved down their throat. “And please, Andy, could you fucking tell Patrick you’re not one of those typical Catholic assholes who believes being a homosexual is a sin? I tried to tell him, but he’s not listening to me, and he’s freaking out a little over this little incident. It would be real nice of you to convince him you’re usually a pretty decent guy when you’re not busy showing up in other people’s bedrooms unannounced.”

 

Andy groans again, but this incoherent answer is enough for Pete, who now rummages through the cupboards for ground coffee and a kettle.

 

“Oh, and thanks a lot,” Pete snaps quietly as he begins to make coffee. “I was this close to him letting me fuck him, this fucking close! You know it’s gonna take me weeks to persuade him to do anything after that!”

 

“Pete, I swear to God - and don’t think I’m using the Lord’s name lightly - if you ever tell me anything like that again, I might just forget myself and punch you in the dick.”

 

“You’re a terrible man of the Lord,” Pete observes casually, propped against the countertop in his undershirt and boxers.

 

“And you’re a terrible human being, and a terrible friend,” Andy counters with heartfelt vehemence. "Can you maybe... Get fully dressed?" he says through gritted teeth, pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

Pete just shrugs. "You've just had a first-class view of my dick anyway. Why bother with modesty now?"

 

"Because," Andy snaps, trying not to mind that the fingers of the hand that carries his mug of coffee had just been buried inside of Father Stump. At least he’s washed his hands but oh Lord, that mental image will haunt Andy forever. "I've seen enough, and one look was more than I ever wanted to see anyway."

 

"Excuse me? I think I look very pretty naked," Pete says snottily with zero sense of regret. Meanwhile, regret is something that Andy feels plenty of right now. Patrick enters the kitchen, face cherry red and eyes on the floor. Pete points a finger at him. " Hey Patrick, tell Andy how pretty I look with your di-"

 

"Pete, I swear to God, you better not finish that sentence," Patrick interrupts him, voice sharp with reprove. "Go, please, for the love of God- get... get dressed...!"

 

"You're both terrible men of God," Pete grumbles as he leaves the kitchen, followed by a sharp and simultaneous shut up from both clergymen.

 

But once he leaves it’s just the two of them and an aching chasm of silence that stretches out and away from them. Andy stares at the floor, the pattern on the wallpaper, the fields that roll away outside of the window - anything to avoid looking at Father Stump.

 

“Coffee?” Father Stump asks softly, apparently as eager to distract and distance himself from the situation as Andy is.

 

“Yes, that would be… very nice,” he pauses awkwardly then takes a deep breath and begins a speech he hasn’t even begun to plan. “Father Stump, I -”

 

“Patrick,” the priest interrupts him gently, their eyes meeting for a moment as he blushes and shrugs. “I think… you can probably call me Patrick now.”

 

“Patrick, of course,” Andy takes the offered coffee cup and a seat at the table. Patrick smiles, shaky and hesitant, rakes his hands through his hair and gusts a sigh. Andy bites his embarrassment into the soft flesh inside his cheek, he needs to man up, grab the bull by the horns and apologise. Something profound, something carefully weighted to demonstrate that he understands the full ramifications of his earlier accusations.

 

“Sugar?” Patrick offers, pushing the bowl towards him.

 

“I’m so sorry,” he blurts out, words rushing over one another on a single breath that gusts from him until he’s sagging down into the chair. “I didn’t - didn’t mean to just… I had no idea you would be - trust me it’s not… I didn’t want to see anyone’s - but then I saw everything and oh - oh, God, Patrick I’m just sorry…”

 

He trails off miserably as Patrick flames ever more interesting shades of bold and brilliant crimson until he’s fit to match the stained glass in the church window. Andy’s cheeks feel hot now he comes to think of it, bright and burning as he buries his face in his hands and takes a few steadying breaths. Footsteps - socks not boots - pad across the kitchen floor, the scrape of a chair announcing Pete’s arrival. Andy glances up just in time to see Pete - mercifully dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt -  cup Patrick’s cheek in a tender hand, to watch him brush his lips softly against Patrick’s forehead and hear him murmur quietly, “You okay, baby?”

 

Andy looks away, embarrassed. Somehow that chaste exchange seems more intimate than what he saw in the bedroom, the enormity of their situation hitting him in the stomach harder than any punch he’s been dealt.

 

“Oh Lord,” he drops his head into his hands and murmurs at the tabletop. “The two of you… This is serious, isn’t it?”

 

For a moment there’s only their breathing, the draw of air in and out of lungs as they sit in awkward silence. He hears Pete shift in his seat, can see under the shade of his hands the way he reaches across to lace his fingers with Patrick’s. Patrick seems to tense, moving like he’ll yank his hand away but Pete whispers something soft and encouraging and he relaxes, leans into him with a grateful sigh.

 

“Yeah,” Pete replies eventually, Andy forces his eyes up to meet the sharpness of Pete’s. “It’s pretty serious.”

 

There’s so much exchanged in the look they share, the shared knowledge of Clark’s nature, the way the town will tear them apart at best. The worst case scenario is… well. It doesn’t even bear thinking about. Patrick continues to stare at the floor, the complexities of their unspoken conversation passing him by entirely until he glances up with a sigh.

 

“Andy,” he begins quietly. “Please, just, I know… I know that - that I’m an aberration. I understand that -”

 

“Patrick…” Pete tries to interrupt, Andy can see the clench of his fingers twined around Patrick’s. It’s no use, Patrick rolls on regardless.

 

“I’m an idiot, a - a damned fool and I can’t, I -”

 

“Baby,” Pete tries again, his hand back against Patrick’s cheek.

 

“I should just, just take myself somewhere away where I can’t hurt anyone,” tears are rolling over Patrick’s cheeks as Pete falls to his knees beside him, hauling him into his arms and holding him close. Patrick resists, stammering out apologies that barely make sense as Pete tries to soothe him. Andy doesn’t know where to look, what to say, until Pete swings to him with a scowl.

 

“Would you fucking tell him, for Christ’s sake?” he snaps, fired with fury. “Tell him you know about me and you don’t care, before he…”

 

Andy jolts upright, reaches for Patrick’s hand without thinking and squeezes gently. He’s never shown any kind of affection towards the priest, it seems strange to leap straight to physical reassurance but there seems very little way to get through to him otherwise.

 

“Patrick,” he begins, waiting until blue eyes focus on him, blurred by tears behind his glasses, before continuing. “Patrick, I don’t care that you’re queer. I don’t care that Pete is, it was one of the first things he told me, you know? Like he thought it might put me off being his friend. I’ll tell you what I told him - it’s none of my damn business, you are what you are. I’m not gonna tell, Patrick, do you hear me?”

 

Patrick is frozen, Pete’s arms around his neck, his hand damp with sweat in Andy’s as he stares and sniffs and trembles like he’ll vibrate straight out of his skin.

 

“Please believe me,” Andy murmurs gently. “I’m not gonna snitch on the two of you.”

 

“I - I’m sorry,” Patrick stammers. Pete tenses beside him, affronted, until Patrick continues softly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep the vows but they just… don’t make sense. Why - why would God,” he pauses like he’s trying to decide the best way to phrase what he wants to say, the best way to communicate a concept he barely understands himself, “why would He want us to be alone, Andy? Love is… indescribable.”

 

“Don’t ask me,” Andy says in response, unable to hold back a certain sense of bitterness. Pete quietly shakes his head, he’s hear the stories before, he knows the struggle. “Look, Patrick, why do you think I’m still here in Clark? Why do you think I’m still a deacon, even though I’m older than you?”

 

Andy sighs, as Patrick stays silent, waiting for him to continue a tale that still hurts so much.

 

“I’m not in favor of these outdated rules. I’m… rather unconventional, if you want to phrase it like that. I have some radical ideas and concepts, and once upon a time, I was determined to share those with the world. I thought I could make the church that I cherished so much a better place, y’know? That I could make a difference, that I could lead us into a new era of acceptance. Be a second Luther, but one that keeps the church together, and reforms the Catholics once and for all.” Andy interrupts himself, swallows another sigh and the frown tugging at his lips. All those ideas seem so far away now, and the man he had once been seems like an entirely different person.

 

“You see where it landed me,” Andy concludes, a sad smile on his face. “In the middle of nowhere, where no one cares about my ideas, where whatever deviation from the norm I care to bring up gets me nothing but trouble.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Patrick says in a small voice, and he sounds like he means it. He probably does, given the nice memories the population of Clark have given him so far, like bold red racist letters and injuries on Pete’s skin.

 

“Andy is too good for his own sake,” Pete chides in, with an old argument resurfacing. “He still truly believes this piece of shit church will change its views.”

 

“If no one tries to challenge the system, there’ll never be a revolution,” Andy says through gritted teeth.  

 

“Why did you think… How could you ever assume I’d have one of the altar boys…” Patrick trails off, though the meaning in his words is clear. Pete scoffs, but says nothing, making it clear he considers it Andy’s job to explain the mess. That might only be fair given the fact that Andy walked in on them, unannounced, mid-coitus.

 

“Your predecessor, Father Francis, he…” Andy groans in anger and frustration as the memories come back. “He had a liking… For the altar boys, okay? One that – one that was sick.”

 

For a heartbeat or two there’s just silence. Patrick scrunches his face in utter disgust as he realizes the full weight behind these words, and Pete just frowns, well-acquainted with the miserable stories already.

 

“And I thought,” Andy continues, still feeling like a total jerk, “Well… you’re young, educated, and you’re wasted in this town. I knew they sent you here for a reason, I know Clark, I know it’s meant as punishment. And I thought… Well.” He winces a little. “Please forgive me. Over the years, my trust in the church has dwindled a lot. But I am deeply, deeply sorry.”

 

“Why didn’t you just ask me?” Pete says bewildered. “I’ve been living here for a while, Andy, don’t you think I would have noticed if the priest did something weird with the kids?”

 

“To be fair, Pete, you seemed pretty hostile towards Father Stump first, and that didn’t exactly give me a good impression either.” Andy shrugs helplessly. “And Father Francis had been so good at hiding it! Pete, c’mon. You’re out of the house for work most of the day, you almost never set foot into the church, you don’t accompany the Father when he makes visits… You don’t have constant surveillance, he could’ve sneaked it past by you and I was afraid if I told you, you could tip him off accidentally.”

 

“I would never!” Patrick chimes in desperately, tripping over his tongue as he hastily adds: “Oh, Andy, I would never! I’m queer, yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person, or that I would ever harm one of the children! I know the things they say about us, Andy, but it’s not true! I’m not a danger to anyone!”

 

Andy holds up his hands in defense. “I’d never think that your sexuality makes you a bad person.”

 

“Andy’s a good guy, he really is.” Pete smiles a little. “Well, when he’s not busy barging into people’s bedrooms unannounced.”

 

That evokes a frown from Patrick and he gives Pete a light kick to the shin under the table, while Andy just groans. “For Christ’s sake, Pete, please don’t remind me of that ever again.”

 

There’s a moment of silence, before Andy picks up the conversation again. “Your predecessor, Father Francis, he wasn’t the first or the last one to hide his despicable desires under a robe and behind a bible,” Andy continues, “and yet, no one ever believed me when I tried to call him out. Because of course, in goddamn Clark, everyone would rather turn a blind eye to the obvious rather than break with conventions. Not to mention the powerful friends the Father had back in Tupelo…”

 

“Oh!” Patrick interrupts him, “the Becketts, right?”

 

“Right,” Andy confirms with anger, underlined by another scoff from Pete.

 

“We’ve had the pleasure of meeting their youngest priest spawn,” Pete says with venom in his voice. “A splendid time full of the best the Becketts and Tupelo has to offer – a snobby attitude, sugarcoated insults, and good old racism.”

 

“You should be careful,” Andy can’t help but say, even though he hates having to say this. “The Becketts have tons of influence, and worse, tons of money. If they don’t like someone…” He turns to Patrick, who may be a little more open to advice than his reckless friend. “There’s a reason everyone in town knows about the books I buy, the views I support, about everything I do that’s too open-minded for people here. And there’s a reason all of this has been twisted into something ugly. I can’t prove it, but the gossip must’ve started somewhere.”

 

Something in Patrick must’ve clicked, because his eyes widen, and he blurts out: “Red menace! That’s what they called you, I remember…” He frowns as he undoubtedly recalls a lot more unfriendly words, now all making sense in the context he’s just been given. “I’m sorry, I never paid much mind to what everyone said. And since Father Beckett was just such an unpleasant person, I just assumed he was being snobby and arrogant, looking down on our church and its inhabitants. I never thought… I didn’t realize it was something so serious.”

 

“Being a decent person isn’t well-received in Clark.” Andy isn’t a man of violence, but he balls his hands into fists, anger flooding him. “They didn’t like the ideas about equality that I tried to share – we’re all equal in God’s eyes, but not in the eyes of the inhabitants of Clark. Or Tupelo, or any city down South here for that matter. The idea of losing their privileges, of sharing their wealth, it scares them. So, when they saw me spreading the words and the flyers, when they heard I took part in the marches… They came to their own conclusions, born of jealousy, fear, and hate. And of course, most people would rather listen to gossip then to what I have to say.”

 

It’s pure frustration, something that Andy has felt for years now, and he bites back another litany of the many things wrong with Clark. It’s not like Patrick really needs to hear it; he must know by now. No, there’s something else on Andy’s mind instead.

 

“I’m happy that you two found each other,” Andy starts. “I don’t care that you’re queer, and I don’t share our church’s view on celibacy or homosexuality. That’s not the point. But…”

 

“Andy, please,” Patrick tries to interrupt weakly, although he must know that the truth that is about to come is one he’s faced before.

 

“The point is, in Clark, lots of people do care. They care a lot, and for all the wrong reasons. A priest, sleeping with a man? A black one, at that? Can you imagine what they’d do when they found out? You think old Missus Hudson would pat your shoulder and wish you good luck? You think the Hendersons and all the other good, Catholic families would allow that to happen?” Andy takes a deep breath; no, but he’s not going to sugarcoat this for the good Father. “So what if not everyone in Clark is a bad person? Because there are enough vile, despicable people to outnumber them, enough willing to pick up a pitchfork, a noose, or a fucking gun. This town is buzzing with racism, brutality, and frustration, Father. Pete can tell you a lot about that. And you two are going to be the final spark, the perfect excuse to let loose and go on a violent rampage. If that had been anyone but me walking in on you today, you’d be dead!”

 

“Andy is right,” Pete says cautiously, despite not being quite so innocent himself. After all, he was the one with the good Father’s dick shoved into his mouth – oh, no more thinking about that, Lord have mercy.

 

“I know,” Patrick whispers miserably. “I know we can’t go on like this, okay? I’m not stupid!”

 

There seems to be a longer running argument underneath that. Pete just brushes a soothing kiss over Patrick’s cheek, then turns to Andy with determination in his eyes.

 

“We know we can’t go on like this. That’s why we’re leaving.”

 

“Really?” Andy can’t help but ask as he glances at Patrick, who has guilt written all over his face, and who doesn’t say anything.

 

“Really,” Pete says with a coldness in his voice, one that makes Patrick flinch a little as the guilt on his features intensifies. “I’m doing it, Andy. All these great plans I made with Joe, you know those, right? The ones about running away to New York, work at his bar… Well, it’s not just gonna be silly dreaming anymore. I can’t do this anymore, I can’t. And I’m taking Patrick with me.”

 

There’s silence after these words, one loaded with the tension of all the words already said, and all the ones that don’t need to be repeated. Pete looks determined, stubborn even. He’s made up his mind. Patrick, on the other hand, looks a lot less sure about it. Pete is free to go, but Andy knows that Father Stump is weighted down by responsibilities, by guilt, by beliefs that Andy once had too.

 

Oh, Andy’s still a man of the faith, no matter how much Pete may mock him for that; Andy hasn’t given up all hope. That doesn’t mean he’s a blind supporter of the church, and that doesn’t mean he’s deaf to the local Bishop’s questionable words, that he’ll stay mute and won’t say what’s necessary.

 

“Good for you,” is what Andy says, and he means it. “You two should go, and leave this town behind.”

 

“But how?” Patrick says with frustration; he’s looking at Andy like he expects answers from his fellow clergyman, an insight that Pete can’t give him. “Andy, I’ve taken vows, I’m a priest! I made a promise to God Himself, I’ve taken the sacrament, I can’t just abandon all of this! The church is where I belong, it’s all I ever worked for in life, everything I know! You’re staying, too, despite all the difficulties, so how can I justify running away?!”

 

“It’s not your battle to fight, Patrick. Did you ever stop to think that maybe, this isn’t what God wants for you? The Almighty Lord wants his creatures to live in peace and love, and maybe, it’s His task for you to – to go, leave, and be free to love.” Andy sighs; he isn’t exactly prepared to deal with the secret lover of his best friend questioning his faith. Still, the words are true. “And maybe, one day, you can come back to a church that isn’t – well, riddled with problems and prejudices. The word of the Lord counts more than those vows a bishop took from you. It’s nothing sacred if we humans abuse it. I doubt anyone in their right faith would blame you for escaping an institution that twists Jesus’ love to something so devastating.”

 

Patrick stays silent, lips pressed into a thin line. Andy waits, he’s ready to argue his point, he’s not going to back off. But there’s no objection. He suspects that what he voiced is similar to the thoughts that deep down, Father Stump may have had as well, just never allowed himself to face them. Pete mouths a silent thank you to him as he rubs his thumb over the back of Patrick’s hand.

 

“Pieces of shit like Father Beckett or Father Francis or that dusty old fart who sent you to Clark don’t get to decide who gets into heaven,” Pete says after a while. “If there’s a God, He wouldn’t want these assholes to twist his words to play God themselves.”

 

That’s a little less eloquent, but Andy nods in agreement anyway. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone,” he adds, “though just to reiterate, believe me, I don’t think your love for Pete is a sin.”

 

“Thanks,” Patrick says softly, with relief in his voice. How long must he have waited for

someone from his church to say this? How many years must’ve been spent in painful denial?

 

“Leave, Patrick,” Andy repeats. “The only ones that need to beg God for forgiveness are the townspeople in Clark.”

 

Patrick nods though he still seems unconvinced, his heart clearly battling with his head as he leans into Pete once more. Tense silence lingers between them as Andy finishes the last of his coffee, standing and rinsing his cup at the sink as he stares out at the cotton fields around them, rich with their harvest. Away in the distance, the mountains streak the horizon blue and grey and - not for the first time - Andy wonders how somewhere so devoid of hope can be so helplessly beautiful. The two of them don’t need stunning vistas, they need the rise of concrete, the anonymity of thundering traffic. They need one another.

 

“Thank you for the coffee,” he mutters awkwardly, embarrassment still gnawing at his stomach. “It’s probably more hospitality than I deserve after… well, you know.”

 

“Let’s never speak of it again,” Patrick mumbles into his hands. “Please.”

 

“Gladly,” Andy agrees readily, heading for the door. “Well, I’m sure you have things to… You know what? I’m not going to give Pete the satisfaction of think of an inappropriate reply. I’m going home.”

 

“I’ll walk you to your car,” Pete stands quickly, fingers carding through Patrick’s hair with gentle tenderness, tugging on his boots with a sigh.

 

They leave the rectory in silence, the morning sunlight warm against their backs as they walk towards Andy’s battered little Ford. They pause at the door together, awkward hands that don’t know if they should shake or reach for a hug, somehow fumbling to do both as they lean into one another for a moment.

 

“You need to leave,” Andy reiterates softly as they pull apart. “God knows, I’ll miss you and who knows who they’ll send to replace Patrick but… Pete, you’re gonna wind up dead. Both of you.”

 

“I know,” Pete sighs at his boots, eyes raising with a quirk of a sad smile pulling at his lips. “I’d go today but… I can’t leave him, he’ll get himself killed and I can’t… I just…”

 

“He’ll go,” Andy assures him gently with a squeeze to Pete’s shoulder. “He loves you.”

 

“Maybe that’s not enough,” Pete stares back towards the town with a curl of distaste to his lips.

 

“It has to be,” Andy climbs into the driver’s seat and pauses, window down at he stares up at Pete. “You know I’d do anything to help, right? Anything at all, you guys just holler and I’ll - I’ll do everything I can to get you someplace safe.”

 

“Thanks,” Pete smiles, crooked and warm. “Hey, maybe we’ll take you with us.”

 

Andy chuckles softly, “Wouldn’t that be a thrill? Well, I’d better get going, enjoy your day off and never tell me about it.”

 

“You’re just jealous,” Pete grins widely, waving as Andy shifts the car into gear and bumps away down the lane. There’s something ominous about the way the blazing sun behind him casts him in shadow under the spread of the oak outside the church, the way his stretched arm almost seems to look like a rope looped from the branches above him. Andy shivers in spite of the warmth - they need to get out. Fast.

 

Chapter Text

Pete sits on the porch swing in the dusk of the evening, rocking gently back and forth under the propulsion of his heel planted lazily against the floorboards, the last of his nightly smoke burning down to ash. Patrick sits on the steps, staring contemplatively out over the tiny vegetable patch Pete has hoed and weeded and planted up over the course of the past few days. In the distance, the moon rises bright and silvered in the sky, casting the fields in sparkling tones.

 

“Penny for them?” Pete offers softly, watching the way Patrick’s jaw moves in profile as he smiles, basking in the glance that’s thrown back over a black-clad shoulder.

 

“Just thinking,” Patrick shrugs with a gusty sigh, his head leaning back to rest against the carefully mended and painted railing. “I’d like to sit on the swing with you.”

 

“Yeah?” Pete smiles widely. “I’d like that too. You’d sit here with me — no, you’d lay here — your head in my lap…”

 

“Hmm,” Patrick wraps his arms around his knees, still gazing out over the beautiful vista in front of them. “You’d stroke my hair, like you do when we’ve…”

 

Pete lets him trail off, closes his eyes and leans back against the swing, lets the rocking soothe him for a moment before continuing, voice low, “When we’re in New York, I’ll build you a porch swing.”

 

“I thought we were getting an apartment?” Patrick teases.

 

“We’ll get one with a balcony,” he insists with vehemence that burns his blood. Because for once, he didn’t say no. For the first time, he didn’t voice a ridiculous objection. “A fucking huge balcony.”

 

They fall into easy silence and - Pete knows - in a moment or two Patrick will rise to his feet, he’ll smile at Pete across the porch and incline his head towards the rectory without a word. Pete will follow him inside and they’ll lose themselves to lips and hands, to their bodies exchanging vows of forever that they can never possibly hope to uphold here in Clark. Pete’s fingers ache a little from the way he’d awkwardly clutched at the ladder earlier, fixing the guttering into place for the winter.

 

It was the job he’d saved until last.

 

“Patrick,” he begins softly, eyes troubled as a blue gaze regards him carefully. “I’m done, you know.”

 

“Done?” Patrick asks dumbly, like he doesn’t understand the implications of the proclamation. “I don’t…”

 

“The church, baby,” the swing judders to a stop as Pete sits forward, elbows braced to his knees and hands clasped in a mockery of prayer. “There’s nothing left for me to do here. I can do some final winter-proofing, if I take it slow, draw it out, mix it up with going to Mrs Harvey’s…”

 

“No,” Patrick shakes his head slowly, lip snagged hard between his teeth for a moment. “I’m sure there must be something… I mean - there’s the… You need to… Oh! How about -”

 

“It’s all done,” Pete interrupts him gently, eyes stinging bright with unshed tears as he takes a deep, steadying breath. “A week, baby. That’s all we’ve got.”

 

He doesn’t mention New York, he can’t. He’s made his declarations, stated his case and presented it carefully with all of his evidence. He’s called his witnesses in the form of Andy and Father Beckett, exhibits displayed of bruised skin marked by furious fists. He’s delivered his closing argument in heated touch and whispered declarations of love and now it’s Patrick’s time to make a decision. Stay and martyr himself for his cause, hoist himself up to burn for self-righteousness and a town that will never really care about him. Or leave for love, take Pete’s hand and run for the unknown that has to be better than this.

 

“Are you coming inside?” he asks as he rises to his feet. Patrick shakes his head, eyes fixed miserably on the floor as he picks compulsively at the skin around his thumbnail.

 

“I’d like…” he trails off for a moment, rubbing awkwardly at the back of his neck. “I think I’d like to spend a few minutes in the church. I’ll be back soon.”

 

Pete nods with a smile filled with reassurance he doesn’t feel; when will he walk away from that godforsaken church? He watches Patrick stand, watches him make his way slowly down the lane to the doors of the church, his progress marked by the glow of a candle against the windows. It flickers like firelight, bathing the windows orange and gold in a way that makes Pete shiver. He watches for a while, shadows dancing against the walls as he imagines Patrick on his knees in front of the altar, wondering what he’s asking God for, what kind of guidance he imagines He can offer.

 

But the nights are growing cooler and soon he’s chased inside, hands chilled and bed empty as he shrugs out of his clothes and slides between the sheets. He’s determined to stay awake for Patrick, to hold him close when he returns and listen to his fears once again. He hears the quarter-hourly chime of the clock in the living room, the creaks and groans of the house settling around him.

 

It’s inevitable, of course, that tonight is the night that insomnia doesn’t claim him, sleep wrapping soft around him as drifts away alone.

 

He blinks awake to the clock chiming two, aware of three things. The first is that the breeze drifting in through the open window is cool against his skin, his fingers cramped and slightly cold with it. The second is that Patrick has joined him at some point, back curved to Pete’s chest, legs tangled together. The third is that he’s hard, throbbing an ache between his legs that picks up his pulse.

 

Patrick is sleeping, his breathing slow and level, face tucked into the crook of his elbow. He’s also as naked as Pete, his suit draped over Pete’s dresser, shoes pushed neatly beneath, the soft curve of his ass pressed flush to the stiff length of Pete’s cock. Pete’s heart throbs in his chest, the sting of raw want settling over his skin like an itch he can’t scratch. He presses lazy kisses to Patrick’s neck from lips stained with need, the tickle of soft blonde hair against his nose enough to bring the burn of tears to his eyes.

 

Patrick stirs softly in his arms, the rise and fall of his breathing interrupted by the hitching stutter of wakefulness, “Pete?”

 

“Shh,” Pete soothes him softly, tongue tracing the delicate curve of Patrick’s ear, hand sliding soft to his hip as his fingers caress a melody of desire - of love - into the warm curve of soft skin.

 

Patrick relaxes back with a yawn bitten into his pillow, body soft and pliant against Pete’s, his groan low and sweet as Pete presses the hard throb of his cock into the small of Patrick’s back. He contents himself to taste, to brush kisses and the flicker of an inquisitive tongue against each inch of soft, salted skin he can reach, his heart hurting a little more with each touch. His hand wanders, work-rough fingertips catching the pebbled heat of a nipple, stroking over the delicate scattering of chest hair. Patrick whispers his approval in wordless moans, head tipped back to Pete’s shoulder as he touches lower, brushing the softness of his stomach, the hard curve of a hipbone then lower…

 

Patrick tenses with a moan that trails to a whine as Pete avoids the jut of his leaking cock. His voice breaks a little on the noise as Pete traces a hand down the length of the outside of one pale thigh, pressing a devilish smile to the twitching column of Patrick’s throat before gliding back up his inner thigh. He repeats it on the other leg, fingers skirting ticklishly under the swell of his balls then back to stroke gently at his hip.

 

Patrick shifts against him a little, Pete’s cock trailing against the cleft of his ass. He doesn’t tense for once, doesn’t pull away. Pete cocks a thoughtful eyebrow into the darkness, takes a moment to listen to a fox yipping somewhere in the fields then slides his hand back to stroke over the plush roundness of Patrick’s ass.

 

For minutes or more he does nothing else, just teases his hand over soft skin as Patrick trembles under the touch. He runs his thumb gently down the seam between his cheeks, feels the press of each one against his palm, the taut swell of it beneath his hands. He wants him so badly it hurts.

 

He reaches up when the urge to do more threatens to overwhelm him, to sweep him away and cast him adrift before he’s ready. He reaches up and presses two fingertips lightly to the curve of Patrick’s lips, instruction murmured on whispered breath, “Suck.”

 

Patrick sucks. Like a show-off, like a tease, tongue swirling and pressing over Pete’s fingers, flipping against the tips in a way that makes him groan desire into the pillow. He works his lips and tongue like he has something to prove, as though he wants Pete to acknowledge how far he’s come from the fumbling failure of their first attempt. Oh, spit won’t be enough, Pete’s not an idiot, but just for these moments he needs the sweet warmth of Patrick’s mouth around him. He withdraws them slowly - reluctantly - heart singing a chorus as Patrick shifts a little, legs spread in open invitation.

 

His fingers slide, slicked by the damp that coats them, over the curve of his ass and lower. He presses between the warmth of his cheeks, trails over the delicate pucker he finds there, slowly scoring a fingertip against the rim as Patrick whimpers and writhes for him.

 

“You want more, baby?” Pete breathes honeyed warmth into Patrick’s ear, fingertip pressing to open him, heady with the thought of sliding his tongue there, feeling him loosen up for him sweet and sure.

 

“Yes,” Patrick moans, heat radiating from him like a sinful promise, skin already misted with sweat as his hips squirm against the sheets. “Please, Pete…”

 

He doesn’t need to beg, Pete will give him everything he has, each touch, each breath stolen from his lungs, everything and more handed over willingly and for nothing in return. He gropes in the nightstand blindly, fingers finding the cool glass of the Vaseline jar - a full one, bought from the drug store on a secretive trip into Tupelo.

 

Fingers slicked, he slides them back to Patrick’s hole, tests the tightness with a gentle fingertip as Patrick tenses against him with a whine. “You want me to stop?” he asks quietly.

 

“No,” Patrick whispers, shaking his head as his fingers twist into the bedsheets.

 

So, he doesn’t, instead he works a finger in slowly, lips pressing reassurance to Patrick’s neck, to his shoulders, to the velvet curve of his earlobe. He kisses him with adoration humming through him like blood, with the wants of a future he can only comprehend as being with Patrick. He crooks his finger once he’s deep inside, the rough tip searching for that spot, that juddering point of oneness that will shake Patrick apart. He finds it with a smile against the hollow of Patrick’s throat, knowledge of familiarity hot in his chest as Patrick stiffens against him, as he cries out his ecstasy into the cool, quiet of the room.

 

He works in a second finger as Patrick rocks against him, riding his hand  with shuddering moans that echo through Pete, that he memorises obsessively in case he never gets this again. Patrick hasn’t touched himself yet, his cock leaking and neglected against his thigh, hard and hot and begging for the touch of Pete’s mouth. He resists.

 

“Patrick, baby?” he murmurs the unspoken question with the press of a third fingertip to Patrick’s hole. Patrick arches his back, head rolled to press his mouth against Pete’s awkwardly over his shoulder. Their tongues brush, warm and satin soft, and he nods with a whimper that pulses blood directly to the throbbing swell of Pete’s cock.

 

Slow and careful, he doesn’t want to hurt him, he gently works in the third finger. He pauses each time Patrick resists, stroking sweet reassurance against the rounded warmth of his cheeks with his free hand, whispered words of adoration tripping from his tongue as Patrick slowly loosens around his fingers. He licks a broad stripe up the length of Patrick’s neck, tastes the tang of salt and need against his tongue as Patrick finally relaxes back into him, keening delicious little whines into his hand as Pete massages that hidden spot inside of him that makes his back arch and his toes curl against the mattress.

 

“Pete,” Patrick gasps, the word a breath of noise in the silence, underscored by the rasp of their breathing. Pete hums a response into the soft crown of honey blonde hair against the pillow, drunk on the very scent of him. Patrick pauses and takes a deep breath, body clenching around the press of Pete’s fingers as he fucks him open carefully and then he continues, the words wrapping tight around Pete’s chest. “Fuck me… Please… Fuck me.”

 

“You really want that?” he asks, fingers feathering against Patrick’s spot until he’s weak and trembling, head thrashing against Pete’s shoulder as he gasps for breath like he’s drowning.

 

“Yes! Pete, please, darling. I just… I need you to…” his voice breaks on a sob. Pete gathers him close, slowing his fingers until they’re just a slow rock back and forth, a burning stretch that he knows Patrick will feel down to his bones.

 

“I’ve got you, baby,” Pete assures him, words punctuated with the caress of tender lips to sweat-damp skin. “I’ve got you… just relax…”

 

He eases his fingers out gently, mad with the need to flip Patrick to his front, to kick down the sheets and spread him wide, to see his hole stretched loose and ready for his cock. He bites resolution into his lower lip - another time, perhaps, maybe in New York when they have all of the time in the world to explore one another, to do as they want without prying, interested eyes.

 

It takes a moment to slick up his cock, to slide himself slippery with a generous rub of Vaseline. He moves in close to the curve of Patrick’s back, hips slotting like the fit of puzzle pieces as he murmurs reassuring nonsense into Patrick’s ear. Patrick is tight against him but not with fear, the roll of his hips back onto Pete’s is bright with fevered desire as he chants prayers for more, recites declarations of adulation like a litany, like he’s counting them off on the rosary until Pete is dizzy with it.

 

“Raise your leg, baby,” he murmurs softly, encouraging hand against Patrick’s thigh as he urges it up. “That’s it, you’re so good, such a good boy for me, now just relax…”

 

He reaches down, guides the crown of his cock to Patrick’s hole. For a moment, he just rolls his wrist, circling the thick-flushed head against the rim of his pucker, playing his own sensitive skin against the nerve-bright flush of Patrick’s. He can feel the give, feel the way the tip sinks in as he presses forward fractionally, the way Patrick moans his name and spreads his legs a little further in invitation. It’s impossible to think, to focus on anything other than sinking into Patrick’s slick, tight heat.

 

“Are you ready?” he pants, all desperate need and aching wants as Patrick nods with a breathy moan. He rolls his hips forward, slowly breaching tight muscle then sliding in further and deeper, sheathing himself inside as Patrick growls and cries out and stutters stammered declarations that barely make sense. He twists against the sheets, hips pressing back into Pete’s, back arching and thighs trembling. But he doesn’t tense, doesn’t stiffen against the invasion of Pete’s body into his, just takes it willing and wanting and begging for everything Pete has to offer him.

 

Once he’s seated inside of him completely, when all he can feel is the tremor of muscles pulled taut under his questing lips, he whispers into his ear, “You’re so good, you know that? Fuck, I love you so much, I’ll never leave you, I swear it… Fuck, Patrick, ah - I - I swear to God… Love you, baby, love you so much…”

 

He feels the moment that Patrick relaxes around him, the second he teeters from too much to more, hand sliding to wrap around the leaking throb of Patrick’s cock as he starts to rock his hips. Patrick whimpers wordlessly, knuckles glowing white against the tangle of cotton clutched in his fists. He fucks his hips into Pete’s hand with twitching desperation as Pete realises - too far gone to be embarrassed - that he’s already so close and hurtling closer, heat coiling tight in his groin.

 

He angles his hips a little better, bites his lip and counts the ceiling beams in the church to distract himself, a thrill of pride shooting through him like lightning as Patrick babbles a string of shouted nonsense and he knows he’s found that spot, “Oh… Oh, Pete, please… I can’t… I’m gonna…”

 

“Gonna what?” Pete prompts, pleasure shaking him half-mad with desire as he strokes harder, thrusts faster, the urge to mark Patrick entirely as his almost overwhelming. “Tell me what I’m doing to you, please baby, tell me…”

 

“I’m gonna come,” Patrick whines, hips rolling with Pete’s, aware of his rhythm and glowing with the need to keep it. “You’re gonna make me come…”

 

“Good,” Pete whispers, the salt-velvet tag of Patrick’s earlobe sucked between eager lips as he hisses on stolen breath. “Come for me, baby, just for me.”

 

When it happens - when the world crashes down around them in crumbling pillars of crippling pleasure - Pete can’t swear on which of them topples first. He feels Patrick lock up around him in the same split second he feels each muscle of his own draw tense and taut. He feels the impossibly tight clench of Patrick’s body around his cock in the same beat of time that his own hips stutter forward with desperate greed. He feels the slick slide of salted sin ribboning from the head of Patrick’s dick under the quest of his fingers in the moment the first pulsing tingle erupts from his own prick, pumping to fill Patrick with the liquid heat of his orgasm as he shakes and shudders against the sweat-slick curve of his shoulder.

 

He thinks he shouts, the noise mingling with Patrick’s delicious little cry, thinks he feels the snag of skin under his teeth as he bites into the sinew where Patrick’s neck meets his shoulder. He thinks he might be drifting, somewhere not-quite-here as his skin races with flames and his heart pounds a messy throb against his ribs. He thinks he might be dying as pleasure so complete races through, over and around him as he strokes at Patrick’s twitching cock, and plunges the softening length of his own in and out of the clenching grasp of Patrick’s fucked-out hole until they’re both crying out with it.

 

He thinks it’s a little ridiculous that his cheeks are wet with tears as he blinks back into awareness, but knows it doesn’t matter when he feels Patrick’s face is streaked with the same salt-bright damp.

 

For a few blissful moments, there’s nothing in the world but them. Pete has ripped these precious minutes and seconds away from the tight grip of Clark, pried them away from the hands of bishops and churches and God himself.

 

“You did so good, baby,” Pete hears himself whisper; he’s sure he’s said something before, more reassuring mumbled words that neither of them could grasp the meaning of. “So good,” Pete repeats, because eloquence has been washed away by salty sweat and tears, “Patrick, I… fuck, I just love you so much.”

 

In the silence of the night, all that’s audible is Patrick’s heavy breathing, words stuck in his throat as reality slowly catches up with him. Pete holds him close, licks a stripe over heated pale skin, tries to memorize its taste forever just in case.

 

“I love you too,” Patrick says eventually, voice shaking and barely more than a hoarse whisper. “Pete, please… Whatever happens, I love you.”

 

Whatever happens. Pete hopes that what happens is that they’ll run off together, that this isn’t a blank check for an apology, for forgiveness he’ll have to ask of Pete when he sends him off to New York alone. It can’t be, it just can’t be, not now, not here.

 

Pete gets up with a groan, pries himself away from Patrick’s warmth to stumble to the bathroom, and get a washcloth. He cleans Patrick off gently, bows down to whisper precious promises in his ear: “Let’s have a bath tomorrow, shall we? I wanna do this properly…”

 

A yawn splits Patrick’s face as he nods, too tired to insist on hygiene for now. Pete lays down next to him, eye to eye now, one last sweet kiss before Patrick sighs, and buries his head into Pete’s chest. He dozes off quickly, but sleep won’t bless Pete again. He lays awake for what feels like eternity, listening to the soft, rhythmic breathing of his little priest, drifts in and out from hazy sleep to tired wakefulness. It’s never enough to be restful, but at least, it’s never enough to make the nightmares come back either.

 

The sun casts its first shy rays of light over the town when Pete sits up, considers just starting to prepare breakfast – maybe something elaborate; pancakes or omelette, he has plenty of time – but Patrick stirs, too.

 

“Go back to sleep,” Pete says while running his hand over Patrick’s hair, messy from sleep. He gets a somewhat incoherent groan in response, then Patrick sits up.

 

“It’s fine,” Patrick mumbles as he rubs over his eyes. “I’m awake.”

 

Pete doesn’t protest. Any stolen moment with Patrick is fine with him, and maybe, they can have a nap together later; it’s not like Pete has much work left to do. He pushes that thought aside, goes for a smile instead. “Hey, now that you’re awake, how about that bath, hm?”

 

Patrick nods. “Would you let me go first?”

 

Pete laughs, cups Patrick’s chin with his hand and plants a small kiss on his cheek. “Baby, I meant I wanted to bath with you together. Wouldn’t that be swell? We’re two tiny guys, we can fit in the tub, no problem.”

 

“Oh,” Patrick says as realization paints a bright smile on his pretty lips. “Oh, together… Yes, that would be lovely,” he says dreamily.

 

With excitement, Pete drags the still sleepy priest over to the bathroom. He rummages through the bathroom cabinet for the bath salts – Patrick has kept buying them ever since their first night together, and Pete has never had the heart to object. It’s a small gesture, but it’s born out of pure kindness and care, and it never fails to make Pete smile.

 

They wait for the bathtub to fill – the water is just a little too hot for Pete’s taste, but he stays quiet – then lower themselves in. It’s a little awkward to coordinate their limbs, the bathtub isn’t really made for two people no matter how small. But eventually, Patrick ends up between Pete’s legs, back leaning against Pete’s chest. Pete rests his chin on his shoulder, slings his arms around Patrick’s waist.

 

Steam rises from the water, fills the air and mixes with the artificial scent of pine cones. It’s peaceful and quiet, warm and comforting, intimate in a way that’s different from sharing a bed. Pete would trade an eternity in heaven just to make this moment last a little longer.

 

Patrick lets out a content sigh as he leans closer, sinks a little deeper into the water. Pete can’t help but press his mouth to wet, flushed skin, let his teeth glide over it, lingering a little too long until a bordeaux bruise blooms on the pink canvas. Patrick moans a little, shifts his position to give better access to the delicate skin on his shoulders, his neck, just below the line of his collar. No one but them will ever know about the hidden kisses there.

 

After a while, Patrick reaches for the soap bar, and turns around. “Would you let me?” He asks with a hint of shyness, kind of adorable given what they’ve just done last night.

 

Of course, Pete nods. With a concentrated look on his face, Patrick starts to wash him. It may not be as effective as a washcloth, but it’s bare skin and bare hands, wet and slippery from soap, intimate touches that make Pete’s skin burn. Patrick’s hands feel heavenly as they lather soap into his hair, gently and with care. Pete can’t help but moan a little; not out of lust, just out of pure contentment.

 

When Patrick is done, Pete returns the gesture, runs his own soapy hands over every inch of pale skin he can find. Patrick hums a little, a dreamy smile on his lips, and Pete’s heart aches. He wants to have this every day, wants to have as much of this as possible, wonders if there’s a bathtub just for them in the apartment in New York – oh, no, he can’t bring himself to think about New York right now.  

 

When Pete is done, Patrick straddles his lap, causing a bit of water to splash to the floor. Neither of them pay attention to it, too caught up in the moment. Patrick looks beautiful, pale skin scrubbed into a faint pink, golden hair adorning his flushed face; Pete has seen the oceans of many countries, but none of them as mesmerizing as the swirl of colors in Patrick’s eyes, looking longingly at him.

 

“Pete,” he hears him say, “Pete…” Just his name, a prayer, a code for wishes that Patrick can’t voice otherwise. Pete runs his hand over Patrick’s chest, down to the tip of his hardening cock, a questioning look when Patrick shakes his head. He trails down further, over Patrick’s balls, still no sign Patrick wants him to stop. Instead, Patrick spreads his legs wider, as much as the limited space allows, juts his hips, searching. Pete’s hand wanders between his legs, rests against the delicate pucker.

 

“I want,” Patrick whispers dark and desperately, “Oh, I want you, Pete, please…”

 

Everything is wet from the soapy water around them anyway, so Pete just slides in, slowly; Patrick gasps, muscles tense for a second before he relaxes, allowing Pete to work a second finger in. Patrick moans, grinds on his hand, eager and greedy. It’s pure sin, and Pete wants to wrap his hand around his own cock, wants sweet relief; but he resists, determined to get as many treasured memories out of this as possible. So instead, his hand strokes over Patrick’s chest, over raised pink nipples, which causes another glorious moan as Patrick clenches down around his fingers. It’s wonderful, it’s maddening, it’s nothing but absolutely perfect.

 

Patrick is bracing himself on Pete’s shoulders, the tip of his untouched cock just above the water. Pete keeps a firm grip on Patrick’s hips with his other hand as he leans in to whisper: “Trust me, I got you, baby… Go ahead, touch yourself.”

 

Patrick moans in response, then lets out a weak cry once he starts to work his cock. Pete drinks in the sight of Patrick shamelessly touching himself as he rides Pete’s hand, as he pushes back against Pete’s fingers, his plush, parted lips trembling. Pete twists his wrist, tries to find that hidden spot of pleasure deep inside of him; and when Patrick throws his head back with a loud moan, tightens around Pete’s fingers in an unmistakable sign that Pete’s search has been successful, Pete is almost ready to come on the spot, just from watching, seeing, feeling Patrick.

 

The sound of water splashing mixes with the melodic moans which Patrick doesn’t even attempt to hold back, joined by Pete’s breathless groaning in between fervent, feverish kisses and whispered soothing nonsense. He rubs his fingertips over that place again, delighted each time his success is rewarded with more heavenly sounds from Patrick, higher and more desperate with each repetition.

 

Finally, Patrick comes with a cry of Pete’s name, spurts hot streaks of come from his pretty pink cock as he clenches tight, tight, tighter around Pete’s fingers. Pete doesn’t dare to move, doesn’t dare to breathe; just watches Patrick slump forward, panting heavily, his blue eyes hidden under blond lashes. He can’t help but almost sob in relief as he feels Patrick’s hand wrapping around his dick, aching with the want as it’s been neglected the whole time. Patrick is clumsier than usual, hand still trembling from his own orgasm, but that just makes it all the better. Pete comes within a few strokes, fingers still buried in Patrick, and he swears he can see the colors of pale pink skin and honey-colored hair in front of his eyes explode into a prism of brilliant bright shades, matching the brilliant white heat of his orgasm traveling through his whole body.

 

They stay like that for a while, the world outside forgotten for now. Then, Patrick gently eases Pete’s hand away, shivers when Pete withdraws his fingers.

 

“We need to get out,” Patrick says with a small laugh, “the bathwater is dirtier than we are.”

 

Pete nods dumbly, but can’t get himself to move. He watches as Patrick lifts himself out of the water and walks over to the towels with a grumble. He’s wet and naked, flushed skin glistening from the water, and he’s limping just a little; oh, if Pete had any stamina left, he’d get instantly hard again.

 

For now, all Pete does is to get up as well. His legs feel numb and uncooperative, and he stumbles with little grace towards Patrick, who already holds out a towel for him. He ends up half-falling into Patrick’s outstretched arms, both of them laughing a little at the silliness of it. Patrick wraps the towel around him, pulls him into a tight embrace, presses a sweet kiss to his lips. If Pete could fall any more in love with him, he would.

 

“We should do that more often,” Pete says with a grin while brushing away a strand of blond hair falling over Patrick’s face. “Imagine, when we’re in New York, we could just spend the whole Sunday in the bathtub. No alarm clocks, no Mass… Just us.”

 

Patrick raises his brow. “That’s nice, Pete, but I doubt that the bar is actually closed on Sunday,” he says with a small smile.

 

“So what,” Pete pouts, trying to hide his own smile because Patrick hasn’t said no. He hasn’t said yes, but he stopped saying outright no, maybe, that’s a good sign. “You get the point anyway.”

 

“I do,” Patrick whispers, quiet and thoughtful and Pete presses his lips into a thin line. He wants to hear a yes, he wants to hear affirmation, he wants Patrick to make up his goddamn mind. He wants Patrick, wants him so, so much, and everything in him aches at the thought that he could lose him. No. No, he’s not thinking about that again right now.

 

“Let’s get dressed,” Pete says instead, plants a gentle kiss on Patrick’s lips in the hope of wiping away the frown on them. “And I’ll make us something nice for breakfast.”

 

Patrick nods, traces his thumbs over Pete’s lips as if to memorize their shape under his fingertips. “I love you,” he says, smiling again.

 

“I love you, too.” Pete smiles back, bright and honest, and steals one last kiss before they leave the warmth of the bathroom to get ready for the day.

 

There’s not much work to do for Pete, but he still has a plan for today. He’s dressed properly, bathed and shaved and ready for the world as he strolls up to the train station. The money that he has taken from his tin seems to burn a hole through the pocket of his jeans.

 

He has memorized the train schedules, knows exactly which train they can take. The conductor seems mildly surprised when Pete buys two tickets, but says nothing.

 

“I’m taking my brother,” Pete says casually, just in case, just to make sure. He makes a mental apology to Andrew, he’s a good kid, one who stays out of trouble. Maybe they can get him to come live with them in New York one day, if he wants.

 

“Getting out of here, huh?” The conductor remarks dryly, then lowers his voice. “Good. Frankly, you should take the rest of your kind with you. We don’t want you here.”

 

Pete stays silent, though he has a dozen harsh remarks on the tip of his tongue; it’s not worth it, they’re so close to getting out, screw all of them. Pete will not ruin it by causing a scene. One week, one more week of keeping his head down, he can do that. It will be worth it.

 

He comes home just in time for dinner. Patrick is curled up on the sofa with his bible, a pen, and a notebook, dressed but with his hair dishevelled and eyes puffy from sleep. Which means he at least got a nap before evening mass. Once they’re in New York, Pete’s sure they can sneak in some afternoon naps together, precious hours of sleep that the nightwork at the bar will steal from them. The soft, dim light of the afternoon, the sound of the city and Patrick’s rhythmic breath as they cuddle together in a bed that damn it, will finally be big enough for the two of them – it’s going to be so good.

 

“I got you something,” Pete says after a sweet welcome kiss. “Hold on, wait a moment…”

 

He retrieves the two tickets from his pocket, holds them up so Patrick can see. Patrick’s eyes widen behind his glasses when realization hits him. “Train tickets?” He asks softly, as if he didn’t know.

 

“Exactly, baby.” Pete goes for the pet name, goes for a smile as he fights down the raging tempest in his heart. “One is for me, and –” he hands Patrick one of the tickets “this one is for you.”

 

“For me,” Patrick repeats quietly as he inspects the ticket. Pete expects him to deny, expects objections. Patrick stays silent though, just bites his lips as he looks away.

 

“If you don’t want it, throw it away.” Pete’s tone is harsh now, but he means it. “If you don’t want it, go burn it down on the candles of your church, watch it go aflame, sacrifice it to your God. I don’t care.”

 

That’s a mighty big lie, because Pete cares, oh, how could he not?

 

Patrick frowns, lips drawn into a tight line as he eyes the ticket. Then, he reaches for his bible, gently tucks the ticket between the battered cover and the first page.

 

“Patrick, baby –”

 

“Don’t.” Patrick holds up his hand; he’s trembling a little, the seriousness of their situation a heavy weight on him. “We are not talking about this right now.”

 

“Fine,” Pete sighs, although he still feels the tightness in his chest, insecurity cramping his guts. The days they have together in Clark are dwindling, and he has nothing to say anyway. It’s all been said before.

 

Patrick kisses him, with passion and desperation and with tears in his eyes. Pete pulls away eventually, gently wipes a stray tear away from Patrick’s cheek. All he can do now is make the last days in Clark as good as possible, and trust in Patrick.

 

“Dinner?” Pete asks with a smile, and Patrick relaxes, returns the smile even though it’s a little shaky.

 

“Yes, Pete, please… Oh, I’m starving! Just let me put my things away.”

 

With a chuckle, Pete pulls him up from the sofa, and then heads to the kitchen. He watches as Patrick heads to his room, the bible with the ticket in it pressed close to his chest; and Pete allows himself to hope.

 

 

Chapter Text

Three days.

 

Patrick can count the hours. Seventy-two of them, that’s all they have left. In three days, Pete will leave; his ticket is neatly hidden inside the mess tin, together with all the money that’s going to buy him a new – and hopefully, better – future.

 

Three days. Seventy-two hours. One decision to make. One that still weighs heavily on Patrick’s shoulders, a loaded piece of paper tucked into his bible, with more importance than any page of the actual book. He sees the ticket each time he opens it, a grim reminder. Three days. Patrick isn’t ready.

 

Morning mass is over, and Patrick stands at the door of Saint Sebastian’s, available for small talk, concerns, friendly smiles and frowns alike. The routine allows him to temporarily forget his trouble; he just has to smile and perform, same old phrases and faces and nothing that requires him to think too much.

 

Another hour will be over soon, one step closer to Pete leaving, and beyond that – there’s just nothing, a black wall, an abyss of uncertainty. This is not how Patrick had his life planned out, there was always, always a clear path in front of him. Become a priest, absolve your sins, pray to God. Each day to praise the Lord, every hour spent to serve Him, each and every day, week, year. There was no time for doubts. There was no room for anything else. But the path that once stretched so clear in front of Patrick has been swept away from under his feet, and Patrick feels like he is falling.

 

Every day he’s asked God for guidance, with increasing desperation. But Jesus stays silent.

 

Patrick smiles a little wider, wishes old Mrs. Johnson to get well soon (oh, a lie, he doesn’t mean it at all – when has he become a liar towards the people he promised to be a beacon of hope for?), he greets the Yeats family (another lie – Patrick knows Clark, and he knows that if the Yeats knew their son served a gay priest sleeping with a black man as an altar boy, there would be no more friendly words at all), he promises the Hendersons he will think about writing to her niece in Tupelo to inquire if she’s interested in becoming his housekeeper (lies, lies, there’s nothing but lies).

 

It’s almost a normal day, until young Davidson Jr. comes running along, hectic and fraught with worry. Patrick doesn’t notice until there’s suddenly concern ripples through the crowd, until some hushed whisper and frowns have suddenly taken over and the air is brimming with tension. Mothers and grandmothers – who make up most of the audience for morning mass – clasp their hands over their mouths, someone screams a little, and Patrick can see that Andy is as confused as he is.

 

“Excuse me, everyone,” Patrick speaks up with as much of a gentle voice as he can muster, “is everything alright?”

 

“There’s been a fight in town, Father Stump,” the youngest Davidson boy exclaims, still a little breathless. “I heard it went got of control, more than a dozen fellas involved. By golly, someone said they even heard a gun! They called for the ambulance in Tupelo, I’ve seen them coming through on my way here – it’s real bad, Father.”

 

Patrick swears his heart skips a beat, and even Andy’s eyes widen ever so slightly as realization hits them both: It’s a weekday, there’s no more work to do at the church so Pete is probably in town at Mrs. Harvey’s, and now, there’s a fight? How much of a coincidence can that be?

 

“Do you know what happened?” Patrick asks, and it takes all his strength to keep his voice even.

 

“I dunno,” is the very much not reassuring answer, “just heard it from my pals and went to get my mom right away – if my brother’s hurt, we need to be there for him!”

 

There’s a general noise of agreement as everyone suddenly has nothing else on their mind but to get home and see if their own sons, husbands, brothers are still safe and secure. Fights happen often in a small town like Clark, there isn’t much else to do – but on the morning of a regular work day, with the ambulance involved? Patrick can’t recall that ever happening before.

 

Fear pours into his stomach, cold and heavy. Is this the message from God he has prayed to receive for so long? Is it not a sign of hope, but rather a message just like Job received in the old testament? Misery and despair to test his faith, is that the Lord’s answer?

 

Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?

 

The boy, unknowing he had just given Job’s message to the priest, leaves together with everyone else, and Patrick has to cross his arms to stop himself from shaking. Is this God’s way of testing his faith, like with old Job himself? A real retelling of the biblical story that Patrick has read so many times?

 

But God is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back?  What He desires, that He does.  For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in His mind.

 

Pete hurt, Pete in pain, Pete dying – no, no, that can’t be, it just can’t be what God has planned for both of them.

 

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

No, Patrick refuses to believe it – how cruel would the Lord have to be to test his faith that much?

 

“I’m heading to town to see what happened,” Andy says in a low voice. “You get back to the rectory, Father, in case he shows up there.”

 

“I want to come with you,” Patrick tries to protest weakly, but Andy just shakes his head.

 

“With all due respect, Patrick, if Pete got into a fight, if he got hurt… You losing your cool in front of the whole audience of Clark, who are just itching for one more reason to stir up drama, won’t help at all. If anything happened, I’ll be there for him, and I’ll get you to him when it’s safe and we know what the situation is.”

 

All Patrick can do is nod weakly as he tries to blink away the tears. Andy hurries off, he’ll probably get his car, and Patrick tries not to think about Pete bleeding all over the leather seats.

 

But the images won’t leave his head. Patrick can see them crystal-clear in front of his eyes, as if God Himself refused to let him look away.

 

Pete with bruises, worse than Patrick has seen before, each one a kiss from the devil burning into Pete’s skin.

 

Pete bleeding, wounds from knives or a gun or whatever else the masses could find to hurt, stab, kill; gruesome and pretty-looking in his martyrdom just like the statue of saint Sebastian that Patrick has to look at every day.

Pete crying for help, unheard and uncared for, Pete in pain, Pete all alone because Patrick foolishly trusted the people in Clark to leave him alone – bile gathers in Patrick’s throat as he stumbles towards the rectory on unsteady feet.

 

He can see it, he can see the blood, he can see it all over Pete’s body and worse, Patrick can see it all over his own hands, too. The Lord has no mercy, because with each heartbeat, Patrick just feels more of the warm liquid pouring down his whole body, soiling him, suffocating him.

 

Through the tears, Patrick barely manages to open the door. It’s silent in the rectory, but the silence sounds like God is laughing at him.

 

“Pete?” Patrick cries out weakly, because he refuses, oh he refuses to believe this time.

 

There’s no answer, and when Patrick opens the door to Pete’s room, no one is there. Patrick swears he can hear the blood dripping down, he doesn’t realize it’s just his own cascade of tears mocking him. Pete isn’t there.

 

“Pete?” he cries out again, louder this time, a desperate yell; the kitchen is empty too, and Patrick has to brace his hands on the kitchen counter to not sag to the ground. The vision is clear –  Pete covered in blood. Pete screaming in agony. Someone tightening their grip around Pete’s throat until everything goes silent.

 

“Pete!” Patrick tries it one last time, voice loud and shrill and barely recognizable as his own, less because he expects an actual answer, but more because there’s nothing else left to fill the silence with. Before his inner eye, he sees Pete’s mouth hanging slightly open, lips parted for eternal silence…

 

Someone has to answer, God or Jesus or an archangel himself, someone has to answer him, please –

 

This time, there is indeed an answer. But not from the heavenly choir, not from any angel, not from a Jesus appearing in bright light. It’s Pete who leans against the doorframe of Patrick’s bedroom - their bedroom - voice raw from sleep as he mutters: “What the hell, Patrick?”

 

This Pete doesn’t look like anything that just flashed through Patrick’s mind; it’s not the nightmare version of blood and gore. This Pete looks like he stepped out of Patrick’s dreams, with honey-colored skin unharmed, no broken bones, no bruises, pretty lips in a pout instead of being twisted into the silent scream of death.  

 

Patrick doesn’t know what’s real anymore.  

 

“Why are you yelling like that? I just took a nap, there’s no reason to…” Pete breaks off as he takes a closer look at Patrick. “Baby, what’s going on?”

 

Patrick can’t answer him, not with words. His trembling hands reach for Pete’s face, and it’s real, he’s really here, and there’s no blood or bruises staining his skin. Patrick feels his legs giving in, and whatever strength has held him upright so far vanishes completely as he sinks to his knees at Pete’s feet, as each and every tear he has ever held back floods back into his eyes. Pete sits down next to him, Patrick can hear him say something that sounds both concerned and confused, he can feel the firm grip of Pete’s hands on his shoulders, anchoring them both to reality. It’s not the hurt Pete from his vision, this is the real Pete, unharmed and unknowing of any danger Patrick just saw him in.

 

Ah, it wasn’t the Lord who was wrong, it was Patrick all along – he had been too blind to see. The path has been right in front of him, Patrick had just refused to see it. Jesus had made his message clear, but Patrick just couldn’t interpret it right. But no more, no more – Patrick knows what he wants now, and Patrick knows that the loving God he still believes in has always supported that, no matter what some dusty old bishop or a gossiping Father Beckett may have tried to make him believe.

 

It takes a while until Patrick can stop sobbing. Pete mumbles soothing nonsense into his ear as Patrick slings his arms around him, in joy and triumph as he feels Pete’s heartbeat against his chest, hears Pete’s gentle voice, as he realizes Pete is alive and well and that there’s nothing more he could ever want. This is what God has gifted him with, Pete and their love, and Patrick won’t hesitate any further to accept that gift. He’s been a fool for long enough; no more.

 

“We’re going to New York,” Patrick finally heaves between two sobs, “you and I, we’re going. I’ve made my decision, and I’m going to leave this godforsaken town, and I’m going with you, always, forever! Wherever you go, I’m coming with you.”

 

These words bring the most brilliant smile to Pete’s face as he stutters: “Really? Oh, Patrick, baby… You have no idea – I’ve waited for so long – ha, I knew, fuck, I knew you’d come to your senses!” He giggles a little out of nervous excitement and the overwhelming emotionality. “I love you so much, Patrick, fuck… You’re making me the happiest man alive, you know that?”

 

Patrick laughs a little, too, out of sheer relief and happiness. How could he have hesitated for so long? It doesn’t matter anymore. There’s a whole life ahead away from here, there’s Pete right in front of him and Patrick swears to God he’ll never leave the side of the man he loves ever again.

 

“I love you too,” Patrick says in a shaky voice as Pete keeps cradling him. “I love you too, darling, and that’s all that matters.”

 

They sit like that for a while as Patrick calms down under Pete’s soothing kisses and gentle embrace. Eventually, Pete helps him up, and maneuvers him to the sofa. Patrick watches him go back to the kitchen, only to return with a glass of water that Pete hands him.

 

“Drink,” Pete instructs, “and then, well. Could you explain what’s been going on? You really scared me, and I’m a little worried.”

 

Patrick obediently takes a sip of water, then tries to clear his thoughts. “There was a fight in town,” he mumbles, “after Mass, someone came to tell us about it and – Pete, a terrible fight in town? I thought you were still with Mrs. Harvey, and I thought – I thought someone hurt you, and – I kept seeing these things –“

 

“Shh, baby. I’m here,” Pete interrupts him with a small smile. “I wasn’t supposed to go to Mrs. Harvey until later this afternoon, remember? I told you there isn’t much left to do, so I didn’t schedule any repairs with her earlier. I’m trying to stretch out what little there’s left over the last three days. No need to make anyone suspicious.”

 

“I was just so afraid, Pete,” Patrick whispers miserably. “I was so afraid something happened to you, and I can’t take this anymore. You’re the one I love the most, and wherever you go, whatever happens, I want to be there for you, always.”

 

Pete smiles, plants a sweet kiss to Patrick’s lips, and Patrick decides that Pete’s kisses are all the manna he will ever need.

 

“We can do this together,” Pete says firmly. “You and me, we’re leaving this hellhole. Clark can go choke on its own righteousness. We deserve better, and Patrick – you’re the only one I want to build a future with.”

 

“Yes,” Patrick sighs between two more kisses, “yes, Pete, that’s exactly what I want, too…”

 

~*~

 

It’s later that day after evening Mass when Patrick finds himself alone with Andy in the sacristy, counting the money from the collection. Father Hurley, bless his heart, has helped some of the men who got into trouble, and filled Patrick in on the details. It was something unrelated to Pete completely, a dumb fight over the accusations of infidelity that sadly, Patrick knows are true – he knows the secrets of his parishioners, entrusted to him in confessions, but he won’t say anything. Those are confidential, and whatever happens outside of those is none of his concern anymore.

 

Andy has seen Pete before Mass, he too needed just a bit of reassurance that Pete really was okay. Pete had tried to play it off, there was some laughing that was almost lighthearted and teasing that was almost believable as Andy had taken Pete’s hand into his own, a grim expression on his face that spoke volumes.

 

“You’re leaving,” Andy interrupts Patrick’s stream of thoughts. “Pete told me. It’s true, right, Father?”

 

“It’s true,” Patrick confirms in a quiet voice. There’s no use in lying to Andy anyway.

 

“Good.” All of the sudden, Andy pushes his chair back, and stands up. “Well, Father, it’s getting late, and a sudden headache just struck me. If you excuse me, I’ll leave the task of counting the money to you. I won’t know how much there is, do you understand?”

 

Patrick opens his mouth to protest – Andy has never let him handle the finances all alone, and if anything, Andy has kept a close eye on the collection that Patrick knows his predecessor liked to take a fair share from for himself. He doesn’t get a chance to speak up, as Andy interrupts him: “Do you understand, Patrick?”

 

Patrick nods faintly, and then Andy slams the door behind him shut.

 

The money looks tempting. Patrick knows that there isn’t too much left lingering in the tin after Pete bought the two train tickets, and he knows that the meager amount he could contribute won’t last them long either. He knows about Mrs. Wentz and the family’s financial struggle. He’s sure New York won’t be the paradise that Pete imagines it to be; they’ll start from the bottom, with absolutely nothing but the few clothes Pete owns, and Patrick’s battered old bible.

 

The money is for the church, for charity, but Patrick knows that the church is all set for winter, that everything is repaired and painted and carefully tended to. He knows that his parishioners – not all of them, but enough – don’t care for charity anyway, they just want to show off with how much money they can donate as they try to buy themselves a clear conscience.

 

Without hesitation, Patrick reaches for the money. He takes most of the bills, leaves the coins, and shoves it into the pockets of his suit. He notes down an unjust amount of money in the books, then locks up everything in the sacristy, turns off the light, and leaves without a glance back.

 

He swears that he’ll pay the money back. Once they have jobs in New York, Patrick will return it, somehow. It’s merely a loan, and he and Pete need the money, they are the ones who deserve some mercy and charity from Clark for once. Patrick can’t feel guilty at all.

 

Back in the rectory, he can already smell the food. Pete is cooking supper; now that he has more free time, Pete has begun to broaden his culinary horizon. “It’s just gonna be me and you, no maid, no cushy church,” Pete had argued, “and I’m not gonna eat canned beans or your awful scrambled eggs or oatmeal for the rest of my life, so shut up.”

 

Patrick couldn’t object, but right now, he isn’t interested in food at all. The money weighs heavily in his pockets, and even though Pete yells a greeting from the kitchen, Patrick heads straight to the tin can with the savings.

 

When there’s no answer, Pete follows him from the kitchen to his room, curious of what’s going on. Patrick throws open the drawer of the dresser, then shoves the money from his pockets into the tin. It feels right, and Patrick is sure Jesus won’t judge the needy for helping themselves.

 

“Patrick? What are you doing there?” Pete inquires surprised. “That money…”

 

Patrick balls his hands into fists. “Don’t ask. I’m still your boss,” he says through gritted teeth, “just consider it a bonus for all the good work you did.”

 

There’s stunned silence for a moment, before Pete shakes his head, and gathers Patrick into his arms for a tight hug. “Thanks,” he whispers with such sincerity it makes Patrick’s heart ache. “I know we’ll make good use of it.”

 

“I’ll pay it back one day,” Patrick whispers.

 

Pete laughs. “I know you will.”

 

Patrick smiles as he leans into the embrace. For the first time in weeks, he just feels serene, and at peace with God and the world itself.

 

~*~

 

Patrick groans softly as Pete presses in another finger, on his knees between Patrick’s thighs, a frown of concentration drawing his brows together. Their eyes meet, the clash of waves, of tumbling cities, of something blissfully powerful and sweetly overwhelming. Patrick sighs, lips nudged to the calloused press of Pete’s palm as he cups his cheek, thumb scoring a tender turn against the flush of Patrick’s lower lip. He’s heard some of the most lauded choirs in the country but, as he sucks it into his mouth, plays the flattened tip of his tongue against the pad of it, Patrick would swear that Pete’s hiss of lustful adoration is the prettiest sound he’s ever heard.

 

“You okay?” Pete whispers, his hand trailing lazily over Patrick’s chest, fingers blazing heat into his skin as he curls his fist loosely around the flush of Patrick’s prick. Patrick nods, eyes never leaving Pete’s, lost in the glow of them like flickering lamplight, begging for more with the arch of his hips. He cries out, ragged and raw, throat bright-sharp from the intensity of it. Pete smiles, sugar-soft. “You gonna tell me what you want, baby? You want me to suck you?”

 

“No,” Patrick shakes his head, a lazy roll from side to side as he grinds down against Pete’s fingers.

 

He’s a little sore, nerve-bold with the dull ache of the times before, the burn of a bruise that matches his teeth sharp against Pete’s shoulder where he’s bitten the shivering give of pain to pleasure. He’s told himself each time that this could be it, the last time he gives control of his body to the only person he could imagine would be worthy of the honour. He’s reminded himself, each time his body has throbbed with the invasion, stammering nerve endings crying out for reprieve that this might be the final chance to give Pete everything he has. And Pete has seized the invitation with both hands, pressing inside of him with fevered moans and heated lips sucking need into his skin. Together they’ve rolled, laid bare for one another, and declared their love in sweat, come and bruises.

 

Tonight though… Tonight it’s different. Patrick feels none of the desperation, none of the aching need to offer himself one last time. If the previous times have been a goodbye, then tonight sings above them, wraps around them, pitched perfectly with celebration. He smiles, the lazy quirk of his lips reflected in the blaze of Pete’s grin, stretched wide and toothsome.

 

“I want you,” he whispers, fingers joining the twine of Pete’s around his cock, both of them stroking him insane as Pete’s dick curves up, blood-dark and lust-leaking, against the tattooed stretch of his honey-gold stomach.

 

“Want me to what?” Pete prompts, thumb rolling the stretch of Patrick’s foreskin over the tender tip of his cock, mirth shimmering soft as kisses over them both as Patrick bucks his hips with a whimper. “Keep doing that? Make you come all over yourself?”

 

“Quit acting like an ass,” Patrick objects without bite or malice, the curses and profanity falling easy from his tongue because, after all, it was the church that told him they were wrong. The priests and the nuns with their canes that cut into soft little palms. If they got everything else wrong, why not this, too? “Just fuck me.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Pete mocks a salute with a twinkle of a wink, fingers twisting a final time against that place deep inside, the one that makes Patrick shiver down to his bones. “You’re getting quite the potty mouth, you know.”

 

They slick Pete up together, a tangle of eager fingers that fumble over the heated swell of hard flesh, flushed and wanting. Their mouths meet, sweet and tender and delicious, and in his mind at least, Patrick is several thousand miles away, safe in the solitude of an apartment above a bar, wrapped in sheets and Pete. His hand slides faster, palm rolling over the head on each rock of his wrist, moans swallowed as they spill over the adored curve of Pete’s lips, every tug and stroke soft with adulation and need.

 

“Stop,” Pete’s laugh, his ugly, adorable laugh, rings between them as he grasps Patrick’s wrist and he doesn’t let go. He doesn’t let go as he pushes Patrick to his back, as he slides his free hand around Patrick’s unbound wrist and hauls them both above his head, pinning him with a growl. “You’re gonna make me come…”

 

“No!” Patrick objects as Pete slides his hands back down. Dark eyebrows raise in silent question. “Hold me… hold me down. I think… I think  might like it.”

 

Pete doesn’t comment, doesn’t make observations that might make Patrick feel stupid as he wonders; is this a thing people do? He just wraps both of Patrick’s wrists in one elegant hand, pressing them down into the mattress as he lines up and, oh so gently, eases inside. It’s sweet surrender, unimagined bliss as he hitches his thighs up onto Pete’s waist breathing through the sting of it as Pete’s palm presses reassuring pressure to his wrists.

 

Pete shifts above him, a wrist in each hand that turns to the tangle of their fingers, hands laced and pushed down over his head as Pete’s mouth quests with searching possession against his throat. They rock together, slow as the tide, steady and gentle and Patrick wonders, for the thousandth time, how this could possibly be wrong, what twisted logic could make this sinful. Pete’s lips find his, the curl of his tongue against Patrick’s sublime, flavoured with his evening cigarette and delicious devotion.

 

Patrick is close, needs the pull of his palm against his cock to drag him over the edge. Pete is stuttering against him, groaning raw need into his ear, against his lips, lost in the hollow of his throat as they grind together. Oh, but it’s not enough, he needs more, gasps the request like a broken sob, “Touch me… Oh, please, touch me…”

 

Pete doesn’t object, releasing his hand to wrap tight and perfect around Patrick’s prick. He strokes, quick and hard with the rhythm of his hips, and for a moment Patrick is blinded by tears, overwhelmed by the adoration, the desire, the love he feels for the man pressed above him. Their eyes meet in the moment he falls apart and he forces them open, fingers twisted into the sheets above him as he arches up, body raw with wants as he paints them both with stripes of bitter pearl.

 

He shudders against the mattress as Pete fucks into him, harder and faster, the rut of his hips stuttering through Patrick and blazing fire across his skin. He thinks he cries out - his throat tight and hoarse - every nerve ending sharp with the slide of Pete’s cock against that place, that deliciously sensitive thrum pressed deep inside. When Pete comes, when he fills Patrick with the liquid heat of his ecstasy, he keeps the burning bright copper of his gaze fixed sharp on Patrick. Each twist of his lips, the furrow of his brow, the slack fall of his jaw, Patrick watches it all with rapture, legs tight around Pete’s waist as he hauls him close and deep, welcomes each frantic grind of his hips until he softens against him.

 

The sweat-damp slick of their foreheads touch, the tender press of salted lips, hands twining into hair and stroking sticky skin.

 

“I love you,” Pete whispers, voice raw. “I fucking love you.”

 

“I love you, too,” Patrick whispers.

 

His heart sings bright in his chest as Pete pulls out, as they collapse together on the mess of sheets damp with sweat and come. Pete curls into his side, head on his chest and arm slung over him like he thinks he’ll drift away and, as he strokes his fingertips over the clipped-short prickle of Pete’s hair, he determines that tonight Pete will sleep. He remembers dimly, nights from his childhood when fever burned through him, when his mother would rock him in her arms to soothe him to sleep and, without thinking, he begins to sing.

 

“Over in Killarney, many years ago, my Mother sang a song to me in tones so sweet and low, just a simple little ditty, in her good ould Irish way, and I'd give the world if she could sing that song to me this day.”

 

“S’pretty,” Pete slurs, eyes heavy, lips soft. “You can sing at the bar…”

 

Patrick smiles into the crown of Pete’s head, stroking his back as he continues, voice sweet and low.

 

“Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now don't you cry! Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, too-ra-loo-ra-li, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that's an Irish lullaby.”

 

~*~

 

One day.

 

Just one day until they make their escape. Twenty-four hours that Patrick can count down easily, the thrill of it bright enough to dull any creeping unease at the thought of abandoning his vows, deserting his flock. He’s turning away from Catholicism, not God, he reminds himself as he says his morning prayers and, for once, doesn’t ask for forgiveness.

 

The air has a damp chill to it in early December. It’s not cold, not for a Chicago native such as himself, but the mist that hangs on the now-empty cotton fields seems to bleed into his veins. They’ll need coats in New York, the first thing they’ll have to buy before they freeze to death. He smiles a silent thanks at Andy across the church, the fond quirk of lips he receives in return sending a lurch through his stomach. He never really had friends as a child, the neighbourhood boys deemed him weird, a stigma that followed him through high school and then college brought the unkind whispering and angry glares, the muttering about his heritage and how he didn’t belong there. Still, he straightens his shoulders, life has a funny way of making up for these things.

 

Morning mass is over and he considers the possibility of heading back to the rectory to collapse into bed with Pete. There’s no Sunday sermon to write, he’ll be long gone by then, nothing but the chatter of outraged gossip; the queer priest that took off with a black man. He’s being generous, of course - their vocabulary will be far more vicious than “queer” and “black.”

 

Before he can make the decision, before he can move from his position by the altar, the door to the church slides smoothly open and Pete strides inside. He’s wrapped in his jacket - too thin, pitifully patched - but oh, the smile that lights his face is more than warming as he hurries between the pews to brush a tender kiss to Patrick’s lips.

 

“Please stop that,” Andy begs and Patrick burns bright with the humiliation of exactly what Andy has seen them do. He’d quite like to do that again actually, but not until they’re safely ensconced behind the locked door of their own apartment.

 

“You’re just jealous you didn’t snap this cutie up yourself,” Pete laughs, pinching Patrick’s cheek as he flinches away in feigned irritation.

 

“Yes, that’s it,” Andy rolls his eyes and pulls a face. “The two of you are disgusting… Adorable. But disgusting.”

 

“Did you come to bother us for a reason, Pete?” Patrick chastises playfully, heating pink once more and desperate to deflect the attention. “We’re very busy, you know.”

 

They’re not. The tease dances in his voice, puts something glittering gold in the shine of Pete’s smile.

 

“I wanted to go grab a few things from the store,” his dark eyes sparkle with promise. “Just some stuff for… you know. The trip. Thought you might want to come with me?”

 

“Go,” Andy says, waving instruction with a firm hand towards the door, bristled with fake indignation. “I’m sure I can hold the fort for a few minutes. I hear a rumour I’m going to be holding it all alone soon enough anyway…”

 

They go. Patrick shrugs into the heavy wrap of his coat, the one he can’t take with him because, despite its warmth, full length black wool with the neckline cut away to reveal his collar is just a little too conspicuous for their needs. They walk a respectable distance apart; Patrick would have to stretch his arm to grasp Pete’s hand, to slide his own into the warm press of it and tangle their fingers together. He pushes his hands a little further into his pockets, smiles his conspiracy at Pete as they head towards the town. One day. Just one day and he can take that hand whenever he wants, brush a kiss the stubble-rough grate of Pete’s cheek right out on the street.

 

Won’t that be something?

 

In the store Pete wanders with the kind of aimlessness that is absolutely intentional to a rack towards the back, neatly stacked with winter workwear, coats and thick flannel shirts and heavy leather boots. Patrick pretends to pay attention to the rack of newspapers, eyes watching warily as Pete flicks through the coats, selects one and sends him a casual glance, holding it up in assessment. Patrick moves to his side.

 

“What are you doing?” he asks, voice soft.

 

“You need a coat,” Pete breathes with a smile tugging his lips. The back of Patrick’s neck burns with the weight of Stan’s stare.

 

“I can get one when we get there,” Patrick argues, interest feigned in a shelf of dinnerware. “Put it back, for God’s sake, he’s going to - ”

 

“Can I help you, Father?” Stan’s voice suggests he suspects the very opposite is true. His disdain for the Catholic faith is never far from the surface and Patrick knows - though he can never prove - that Stan was one of those responsible for the words scrawled on the church that still burn like hellfire in Patrick’s blood. “Not fixing that coon up to steal from me, now are you?”

 

Something flickers in Pete’s eyes, the spark of flint to stone in the amber depths of them, the way they shift from the glimmer glow of shared conspiracy to the dangerous flare of rage. His mouth flattens, shoulders squared as though for a fight and, without a glance at Patrick, he turns for the cash register, hurling the coat onto the counter followed by the warning thump of his fists. Stan’s flinches back, but only for a moment, fury written on each unfairly handsome feature as his lips twist with disdain.

 

“I’ll take this,” Pete tilts his chin in defiance, fists still clenched, jaw tight. Patrick’s pulse throbs wildly in his ears as he follows on suddenly unsteady feet.

 

“You can’t afford it,” Stan sneers. “I’ll have to mark it down, now you’ve had your filthy nigger hands all - ”

 

“I said I’ll take it,” Pete interrupts, voice low and dangerous. Patrick is at his side, aching with the urge to take his arm and guide him away. This doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel safe. “Bag it up for me, there’s a good boy.”

 

Stan snarls, a low, animal noise that thrums through his chest, fingers fisting into the fabric of the coat between them, hand reaching under the counter as Patrick’s vision blurs with panic.

 

“We’re really sorry,” he whispers, hand snatched into the fabric of Pete’s jacket as he hauls him back, fear white hot at the corners of his vision with the thought of what might be lurking under that counter. “We’ll just… we’ll go. Pete, please, just… Let’s go.”

 

By some miracle, Pete doesn’t argue, just shoves away from the counter with a growl of his own, dark with unspent fury that seems to twitch through him. Patrick is giddy with fright, shoulders tense for the click of a gun cocking, for the explosion of noise, of pain and blood, for the thud of Pete crumpling to the ground beside him. Just one day, he repeats to himself with each step.

 

Pete is at the door, the jingle of the bell above it impossibly cheerful in the thick tension that wraps around them like smoke. The street outside is washed golden with winter sunlight.

 

“He’s going with you,” Stan’s voice cuts with the precision of a blade, realisation startling and bright in the venom of his tone. Pete cocks his head back, eyebrows raised. “Yeah, everyone knows you bought those tickets, you think folk don’t talk about a nigger like you tossing around dough like he owns the place? You running away with the good Father here, faggot? Yeah, bet a couple fairies like you think you’d have it made up there, don’t you?”

 

Pete’s gaze flicks to Patrick for the briefest moment, concern, worry, pain hardening to disdain, disinterest. He grimances, “Him? You’re talking horseshit, Stan. What would I want with someone like him?”

 

Oh, but the denial hurts, stings down into Patrick’s bones as he reels back half a step like Pete’s throwing punches rather than insults. He understands, he’s not as naive as he once was, but that doesn’t means it doesn’t hurt to be so casually denied. Pete stalks from the store and, with a steadying breath, Patrick follows him.

 

“Go,” Pete whispers under his breath once they’re outside. “Get back to the rectory, I’ll go to my mom’s and follow you later.”

 

“I can’t just leave you,” Patrick feels nauseated at the very thought, bile crawling up his throat.  “What if he - ”

 

“Go!” Pete hisses, shoving him hard. Patrick staggers back a step, stumbling across the sidewalk as tears burn, hot and ridiculous, behind his eyes. “Baby, please.”

 

Objections thicken his tongue, the refusal and the rational explanation and taking Pete back home to where it’s safe for one more fucking day. But he can’t say them, can’t make his lips work, the pull of breath from his lungs like liquid fire as he shakes his head slowly. He turns, the church with it’s warm glow of comforting red brick tucked away at the end of the road. Just an hour or two, it’ll be fine. He hurries away, daren’t risk a glance back over his shoulder but hopes Pete is moving just as quickly. His mom’s house isn’t safe, Patrick knows that, but it’s safer than being out here. They just need to...

 

“Hey nigger,” Stan is at the door of his store, voice impossibly loud on the street. People start to stare. “Where do you think you’re going?”

 

Patrick looks back. Pete is walking away, head high, hands in his pockets, attention focussed sharp on the road ahead as he walks towards the black part of town. He doesn’t glance back and maybe he should, maybe if he did Stan wouldn’t get quite so angry, wouldn’t stalk after him all screamed slurs bellowed from angry lips that can only frame hate. Patrick wonders what makes him so angry, what part of his mind is so entrenched in darkness that he needs to hurt and harm, to humiliate and injure. But Patrick’s run awfully low on Christian charity since arriving at Clark and suspects now that some people are just inherently bad, just thoroughly irredeemable.

 

He pauses, uncertain. He turns back towards the store; he won’t leave Pete to do this alone. Maybe if he just reasons with Stan? Surely, out here on a crowded street… Patrick is a priest for God’s sake, that has to mean something. He hurries after them, stomach lurching as Stan’s voice summons the darker parts of the town to steal around them like shadows. They creep from hidden places, oozing like poison from the bar on the corner, full of liquor and boredom even so early in the day. Before he can reach him, Pete is surrounded by something like a mob, the tension crackling around them. It feels like the moments before a storm, the eerie calm that falls as the sky darkens and dims, the moment the animals hide themselves away and everything falls still.

 

Pete stands, fists clenched and jaw raised, the image of hopeless defiance as they circle him, as Stan throws insults like barbs, as the others mutter and murmur amongst themselves. Patrick can’t make any of it out clearly, the pound of his pulse almost agonising in his head as, with a weak cry, he watches Stan snatch back his fist and slam it into Pete’s stomach.

 

Pete doubles over like he’s falling through water, curled down protectively as he drops to his knees. Stan steps in and Patrick thinks he might be sick as he draws back for a kick, clearly intent on ramming his knee up into Pete’s jaw. Patrick is small, he’s slight and he’s nothing close to athletic but somehow he shoves through the press of them, barrels them out of the way as he skids to his knees by Pete, arm flung out protectively as Stan pauses, knocked off his stride.

 

“Leave him be!” Patrick tries to shout with authority, the way he’d separate squabbling altar boys, but his voice breaks and cracks. “Just… Go back to the bar, and leave him alone. He didn’t do anything.”

 

“Father Stump,” Pete snarls through gritted teeth. “Get the fuck out of here!”

 

“Get out of the way, Father,” Stan spits, the title clearly sour on his tongue, an insult to be hurled in anger. “Your boyfriend’s talking sense.”

 

“He’s not my fucking boyfriend,” Pete wheezes, still doubled over, hand braced to the floor as he struggles to get his breath back.

 

“No,” Patrick can’t look at Pete, he’ll lose his nerve, instead he focuses on the sharp blue of Stan’s eyes, at the hatred that dances there, flame-bright. “No, I won’t. Just walk away and leave him be.”

 

The shove to his shoulder is sharp, delivered under the jeering encouragement of the thugs that surround them, the sickening thud of Stan’s knee landing sharp against Pete’s jaw impossibly loud. Pete grunts, sharp and breathless with pain, snapping to the side as he jerks away. Patrick reaches out for him, fingers questing to brush tender reassurance into the swelling that blooms, bright with accusation.

 

“Don’t fucking touch me,” Pete knocks him away. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Go away!”

 

Patrick flinches, the words stinging him raw as Stan moves in again, heavy boots dark with menace against the sidewalk as Pete curls in on himself, preparing himself for the next kick. There are so many of them; ten? Twelve? More? More than they can take on, that’s for sure and Patrick is bright with fear as, without thinking, without hesitating, he takes Pete’s hand.

 

He takes Pete’s hand.

 

It’s a lover’s touch, fingers laced with familiarity of the way the knuckles fit and flare against his own. It’s tender and well-known, the curve of a work-rough palm against his own for the briefest of moments, the kiss of fingers he knows like his own. The stupidity of it takes only a moment as the mob falls silent, as Pete snatches his hand back and panic floods his features.

 

Patrick thinks he might throw up.

 

“Let all that you do be done in love,” Patrick implores them softly, the sting of it burning his chest as Stan sneers at him like a curse. “We share a bible, Stanley, we share those words even if we don’t share a faith. Don’t do this.”

 

The deafening hum of a hundred conversations rings in Patrick’s ears as Stan’s rage and fury manifest in the final slam of his boot into Pete’s ribs, the sickening grunt that falls from lips Patrick has kissed more times than he can count, each memory held close and treasured. He hisses more vile indoctrination, something about faggots and nigger lovers and they melt away, dispersing back like rolling storm clouds as Patrick brushes a tentative hand over Pete’s hair.

 

“It worked,” Patrick whispers, triumph like the heavenly choir singing a glory of hallelujah in his chest. “It worked.”

 

“Oh Christ, Patrick, you don't fucking get it,” Pete struggles to his feet, hauling Patrick up after him, wincing sharp with pain as he cradles his chest with a grimace. “We need to get the fuck out of here. Now.”

 

Chapter Text

They fall through the door of the rectory in a burst of stuttering movement and disjointed limbs. Nothing feels quite real, breathing an impossible task as Pete presses his back to the wall, digs fingertips like anchors into the plaster and tries to ground himself. It’s like waiting, poised in the line of tree cover, eyes sharp and rifle heavy in his arms, deep breaths steadying shuddering lungs until everything falls back to one.

 

Patrick is staring at him.

 

Eyes wide and very blue in the wax carved pale of his face, lips flushed impossibly pink as he frowns like he doesn’t understand. Because he doesn’t understand. He’s never understood, not really. He’s about to be subjected to an impossibly steep learning curve.

 

“We need to get out of here,” Pete’s voice somehow doesn’t tremble, doesn’t waver for a moment as he reaches for Patrick’s hand. “Not tomorrow, not the train, right now.”

 

“But how…” Patrick trails off for a moment, hands wiping wearily at his eyes, glasses smudged with sudden sweat. “I don’t understand. They left, surely we – ”

 

“We need to go,” Pete mutters, only half-listening as Patrick stammers pointless objections, fingers raking against his scalp as he snatches at hair that isn’t there, clipped short, keep it hidden, don’t let them see you’re different.

 

“You need to calm down,” Patrick insists and it’s all Pete can do not to shake him until his eyes roll as he rounds on him, blazing with fury like fire in his veins.

 

“You ever seen a lynching, Father,” Pete snaps and hates himself for the way Patrick flinches back from him, the way he throws the title at him that he knows will be meaningless the moment they leave. “They don’t tend to happen in daylight,” he glances at the clock, registers through vision spotty with panic that it’s barely midday, “we’ve got five hours to get the hell out of here.”

 

He strides past him, fumbling under Patrick’s bed for the warm brush of leather under his fingertips. A parody, he realises without humour, of that night when he reached for the record player, when this all began. He drags out the smallest of Patrick’s suitcases, the one they’d earmarked for their meagre belongings – a few flannel shirts of Pete’s, Patrick’s bible, maybe a record or two though the player will stay behind – so little to show for two lifetimes. He slips a hand into the nightstand, fingers closing around the cool glass jar he finds there, slipping it smoothly into the case. He won’t give those bastards any reason to sneer at them when they’re gone. By the time Patrick joins him, pale and silent, he’s all but done, shoulders squared as he turns to face him.

 

For a moment they just stare at one another.

 

Everything contained in a glance.

 

“l love you,” Patrick whispers, beautiful in its simple sincerity.

 

“I love you, too,” Pete responds softly, the distance between them closed by the tap of leather shoes and the thump of heavy boots. Warm arms circle his waist as he cups smooth skin in both hands, thumbs scoring the delicate crest of Patrick’s cheekbones. He dips his head, claims the sweet warmth of Patrick’s lips with his own in a tender kiss as they breath together.

 

“I’m sorry,” Patrick murmurs, Pete’s stomach lurches with guilt. “I shouldn’t… I’m an idiot, I – ”

 

“Don’t apologise,” Pete cuts him off, smile sweet and soft and brimmed with reassurance he doesn’t really feel. “You didn’t mean to hurt me. But we need to go, now.”

 

“Go where?” Patrick asks. Pete tenses. Go where? He has no idea. “This is ridiculous, pointless. We need to lay low for the night, they won’t… the church. They won’t damage the – the church, surely? It’s – it’s a place of worship! It’s God’s house, they – they wouldn’t… We can stay there. Just tonight, tomorrow we get on the… on the train and we – we don’t look back.”

 

All Pete can do is shake his head, objections bright on his tongue that of course the church isn’t safe,

they’ll string them from the beams he spent so long fixing. Drape their corpses over the altar as a testament. He thinks this and more, so many vile things that could be, so many ways Patrick could be hurt and he can’t think, can’t breathe, can’t can’t can’t.

 

“Is it true?” Pete’s head snaps to the doorway, eyes meeting the concerned gaze of Clark’s friendly neighbourhood communist. “I was heading home and… Is it true? Patrick did you…?”

 

He leaves it unsaid as Patrick nods miserably.

 

“It wasn’t his fault,” Pete knows he sounds shrill, hates himself for losing his cool and yet… and yet, he can barely think, speak, breathe. They need to leave, it’s a long walk to New York. “Stan, the fucking asshole, they were… he was gonna… Patrick just… Oh fuck, Andy, it’s all a goddamn mess. One day. One fucking day…”

 

The crash of flesh to plaster echoes around the rectory. Pete’s knuckles throb in time with his pulse, the crimson bloom of bruising springing up stark against the gold of his skin as he aims a hard kick at the doorpost, “Fuck it all!”

 

Silence rings between the three of them as Pete allows his legs to give way, as he slides to the floor, head in his hands and burning tears of furious frustration leaping traitorously into the corners of his eyes. It’s hopeless.

 

“Pete?” Patrick whispers, a tremor of uncertainty as he moves to Pete’s side. “What – what do we do?”

 

“Nothing,” Pete wipes his eyes, sniffs away the last of the tears and hopes his voice isn’t shaking as he raises his eyes to Patrick’s with a smile raw with sadness. “We wait for them to come. We can’t get away, we’ve got nowhere to go and no way to get there anyway. They win, Patrick. They win. That’s what people like Stan do… They win.”

 

Pete supposes they probably won’t kill Patrick, they’ll likely make him watch whatever they do to him – lynching? Burning? Beat him to death on the steps of the church? – but Patrick will get away with nothing more than a beating, he assumes. Patrick slides down the wall to sit beside him, head bowed and fingers tangled in the sweep of hair like wheat fields, satin soft and golden. Their fingers lace and he leans in to murmur reassurance, to remind him that everything will be okay, that Patrick will do just fine without him –

 

“Take my car,” Andy mutters gruffly. Pete’s already shaking his head before he opens his mouth. “No, don’t argue with me. You’re taking my car and you’re getting away from here, just like you planned.”

 

“You can’t,” Pete whispers hoarsely, even as Andy rummages in his pocket for the keys. “Andy, you can’t, they – ”

 

“Patrick,” Andy interrupts him sharply, glare of reprimand burning in keen brown eyes. “Go and get changed, you can’t wear the suit and collar.”

 

“I don’t – I don’t have anything else,” Patrick shrugs helplessly.

 

“It’s okay, baby,” Pete nudges his lips to the heated flush of Patrick’s temple. “Go grab a shirt of mine, some jeans. Your shoes are fine.”

 

Patrick looks between them, long and searching. He’s not as naïve as he once was, Clark has made sure of that, stripping away the ability to see the good in everyone and leaving him brittle and suspicious. Pete hates the town a little more for having that ability, for taking away part of Patrick and returning it sour and twisted. But Patrick knows, he knows there’s a conversation that they don’t want him to be part of and Pete isn’t sure if it’s love for him or respect for Andy that makes him rise to his feet and slip into the bedroom, closing the door behind him without a word.

 

Pete pushes to his feet and then, for a moment, he and Andy simply look at one another. His best friend, his confidant, the man that has hugged him when it seemed that no one else would ever touch him kindly again, the one that’s patched him up after yet another fight so that his mom wouldn’t worry. A good man, honest, kind, too good for a hellhole like Clark. Pete steps forward, wraps his arms around Andy in a fierce hug that’s returned with just as much fervour, that brings those tears back to burn behind his eyelids as he whispers, “You can’t do this.”

 

“I can,” Andy responds, voice low and soft, it doesn’t shake.

 

“They’ll…” Pete trails off for a moment, smells the tang of Andy’s beard oil, the musk of his skin, the smell of his apartment and nights drinking beer and talking about how things would get better. “You know what they’ll do.”

 

“You’re taking the car,” Andy insists, dark eyes unwavering. “You’re taking it and you’re getting yourselves some place safe.”

 

Pete leans into him again, arms tight around him as he shudders a sob against the dark wool of Andy’s suit. Andy pats his back softly, laughs though the sound rings hollow between them, “None of that, come on.”

 

“Thank you,” Pete whispers into the auburn wave of his hair, Andy shrugs slightly in response, pats his back a little more firmly. “Just… it’s not enough, but thank you.”

 

The bedroom door clicks and creaks behind them, they ease apart but for hands clasped to shoulders.

 

“I’m – I’m ready,” Patrick says, voice soft, the stammer of uncertainty apparent.

 

Pete has never seen Patrick in anything other than his suit or vestments - or, beautifully, gloriously naked - and for a moment he simply stares. He’s almost unrecognisable in a soft, worn flannel shirt and faded jeans - too big, almost comically so, they hang off his hips dangerously - and Pete smiles softly, crosses the hallway to touch him under the chin with reverent tenderness, “You need a belt.”

 

Patrick nods, the panic on his face at odds with the serenity Pete knows paints his own features. It’s over, one way or another, everything they’ve known so far ends tonight. He leaves Patrick to secure his belt around his waist and turns to Andy, grasps his shoulders firmly.

 

“You could come with us?” He offers, smiles sadly as the corner of Andy’s mouth tucks up into a defiant smirk.

 

“I can’t,” he shakes his head, a thousand different emotions painted across his honest, kind face. No fear though, Pete can’t see fear. “I need to stay here, throw them off the scent.”

 

“Andy-”

 

“I know,” Andy cuts him off with a firm nod. Pete can see in his eyes that he does know, he knows what’s coming, that there's only one possible punishment for helping a gay Catholic and a gay half breed to elope. “Come on, with my views it’s a miracle this didn’t happen fifteen years ago.”

 

“Why did you stay?” Pete asks, anguish burning along each raw nerve ending as he crushes Andy tight to his chest once more.

 

“Because I needed to help,” he replies with a simplicity that shatters Pete’s heart. “Now go! Get out of here, the both of you! You need to be a long way away before you lose the daylight.”

 

Pete nods and fumbles for their bags, nothing much, just what they need for a day or two, hurries down the steps and throws them into the trunk of the Ford. He watches Patrick awkwardly hug the deacon, watches them exchange a few murmured words that he can’t catch and then Patrick is following him, slipping into the passenger seat and smiling across at him.

 

“He says he’ll come visit,” Patrick reaches across, squeezes Pete’s knee gently. He doesn’t know, oh God, he doesn’t realise. “Once we’re set up. He’s never been to New York.”

 

Pete doesn’t have the heart to tell him the truth, just smiles around the tears that blur his vision as he raises a hand in final farewell. Andy waves back, Pete can see him in the rear-view mirror as they head down the potholed track and towards the road. Left and back into town, to say goodbye to his mom and his brother or right to… Anywhere. Somewhere that isn’t Clark.

 

“We can go,” Patrick seems to read his mind, voice soft as he looks back towards the town. “There’s time.”

 

“No,” Pete shakes his head, heads right. “We can’t… It’s not worth the risk. We need to go. I can call her when we… When we’re safe.”

 

Patrick nods and rests an arm along the door, staring out over the fields, west to the mountains that rear up against the sky. Softly, he begins to sing, his voice bright and clear over the percussion of the wheels against the road below them.

 

“Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen and down the mountain side,

the summer's gone and all the roses falling, it's you, it's you must go and I must bide…”

 

Pete knowsbecause Patrick has told him it’s a song of his childhood, of peat fires and cottages and not enough to eat. It’s a song his mother would sing as she rocked him through yet another fever, a song that reminds him of cool hands against hot skin and soothing words murmured to comfort. Pete reaches across, brushes his fingers through Patrick’s soft, copper blonde hair, traces them down over the shell of his ear, smiles softly as he reaches up and laces their fingers together, pressing them to his cheek as he sings.

 

They drive, taking whichever roads keep the sinking sun, glowing orange against the darkening sky, to their left. North, Pete keeps repeating, they just need to keep heading north. Once they’ve put some distance between them and Clark they can work out where they are, plan a route, for now…

 

North is good enough.

 

Darkness falls and they’re running low on gas, a tiny gas station with an equally tiny motel glows like a siren’s call from the side of the road. Patrick is sleeping, head lolling against his shoulder, drool on his chin. Pete wakes him with a gentle nudge.

 

“Patrick?” He murmurs, squeezing his shoulder gently. “Patrick, you need to wake up, you need to go get us a room.”

 

“You do it,” Patrick grumbles, still half asleep.

 

“I can’t,” Pete shakes him again. “They won’t rent a room to someone like me.”

 

“Why… Oh,” Patrick blinks and fumbles for his glasses, his voice quiet and controlled as he continues with vehemence. “Fuck this place. I just… I can’t wait for us to get to New York.”

 

Pete waits anxiously in the car as Patrick heads to the desk. He can see him through the window, face pale and drawn as he pulls a few bills out of his wallet and returns with a key.

 

“Twin beds,” he smiles apologetically. “Obviously.”

 

Pete pulls the car to the back of the motel, Patrick objects, mutters something about the clerk telling him to park out front of their room. Pete shakes his head; the parking lot is visible from the highway and he won’t… he won’t take a needless risk. They walk back to their room in silence, a distance of proper propriety between them, hands shaking as he stares back along the highway. There’s nothing there, no lights, no lurking monsters, just empty, echoing darkness.

 

The room is basic, two beds, a sink in the corner and not much else. The bathroom is shared and three doors away. He closes the threadbare curtains and turns to Patrick who stands by one of the beds, staring at the bible on the nightstand. He meets Pete’s eyes slowly and murmurs with a shaky sigh, “Kiss me?”

 

Pete crosses the room in a couple of strides, hands sliding to Patrick’s hips, dragging him close as their mouths meet, as their lips part and their tongues duel dark and demanding. He shoves Patrick back and he sprawls across one of the beds as Pete falls to his knees in front of him, working open his belt and the buttons of his jeans. He pauses as Patrick touches his cheek lightly, as their eyes meet, “I don’t know if I should tell you to hurry up or slow down.”

 

“You wanna tell me how to do this?” Pete asks with a grin, as an idea sparks in him. He remembers the first blowjob, back in the confession booth. Oh, it seems a lifetime away now, but still, Pete would love to repeat what they did back there, only with happiness instead of hurt, with hope instead of fear, with shared passion and trust and the man he’s grown to love so much. “You could show me, y’know.”

“Show you?” Patrick asks with a chuckle, not quite getting it yet. Pete shoves down his pants and underwear, swears that when they’ve earned some money, he’ll take Patrick shopping for some nice fancy clothes. Something modern, he’d look so much better than in his vestments and old-fashioned suits… Yeah, that’s a good plan.

 

It’s tempting to reach for Patrick’s cock, it’s right in front of him and already half-hard, but Pete reaches for Patrick’s hand instead, guides it to his jaw. His hair is too short to grab, shaved like it always had to be in Clark. No more, Pete swears he’ll grow it out in New York, enough that Patrick can run his hand through it, can grab it and hold it, enough to show everyone that Pete isn’t ashamed of who he is, that he won’t let the bastards win.

 

“Show me,” Pete repeats in a low voice. “Guide me.”

 

“Oh,” Patrick says softly as he sits up, realization dimming his smile. “Like back when…”

 

“No.” Pete looks at him, makes sure those blue eyes are looking back at him. “Nothing like that, baby. Well, the technical aspect, maybe, but… Everything else between us has changed. I love you, and I wanna do this with you. If you like?”

 

“Is it enjoyable for you?” Patrick asks with concern as he runs his thumb over Pete’s jawline. “I’m a bit… I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

“You won’t. You never did. I trust you,” Pete repeats, and lets his hand wander to Patrick’s dick. He trails over the shaft, watches Patrick’s eyes stare at him pensively. “And believe me, it’s fucking enjoyable for me, yes.”

 

Patrick’s eyes widen, and he loses the thoughtful look; instead, something dark takes over, the shadow of a smirk, the first hints of lust and desire seeping through, curling at the edge of his pretty plush lips. “Fine then,” he growls as his fingers tighten their grip around Pete’s jaw, “suck my fucking cock, Pete.”

 

It’s the words Pete has always wanted to hear him say, the words Patrick never had back in the rectory in Clark. The relief that they have escaped must have given him a boost in confidence – Pete likes that. A lot.

 

There would be a witty remark about the dirty words if not for the fact that his lips are being pressed against the head of Patrick’s cock. Pete gives an experimental lick, then another, keeping his eyes fixed on Patrick.

 

It doesn’t take long until Pete has gotten him fully hard. Gradually, Patrick’s hand demands he take more of him in, until Pete’s lips meet his own hand at the base.

 

“Just look at you,” Patrick groans darkly; his other hand cups Pete’s cheek, thumb digging into the stubble. “I wish you knew how goddamn beautiful you look.”

 

Seems like all the dirty words Patrick has suppressed until now all bubble up inside of him, ready to be finally said. Well, Pete wouldn’t object even if his mouth were free to speak.

 

Patrick’s grip is tight, but he’s still holding back, a bit hesitant, still testing out limits, not wanting to repeat the bad experience back in the confession booth. Pete trusts his own skills, he knows he’s good at this, knows how to handle a dick shoved down his throat. Others weren’t as careful with him as Patrick. But Pete just follows Patrick’s pace, waits until he grows more confident to be rougher.

 

“So good,” Patrick pants as he runs one hand over Pete’s hair, finds nothing to grip into, and again, Pete promises himself he’ll let his hair grow out when they’re in New York. “So fucking good, Pete!”

 

As a reply, Pete moans around Patrick’s cock, bats his lashes at him, which gets him a smirk from Patrick that he’s never seen before. Patrick goes a little faster, a bit harder, whines as his cock hits the back of Pete’s throat repeatedly. Pete works his tongue with all the finesse possible, moans again, and it doesn’t take long until Patrick has given up on holding back.

 

“I swear, the Lord made your mouth for sucking cock,” Patrick manages to say through gritted teeth, and it’s almost adorable how he finds a way to work his faith even into this sort of conversation.

 

This isn’t someone using him just to get off, and it isn’t loaded with Patrick worrying about Jesus or eternal damnation. No. It’s rough, it’s dirty, it’s glorious, and Pete relishes in each of Patrick’s groans, each muttered little swear, the way Patrick’s cock fills his mouth just perfectly. Pete doesn’t touch himself, all his attention belongs to Patrick right now, who’s close to coming, Pete can tell. Eyes squeezed shut, pink lips parted for a sweet moan, blunt nails digging into Pete’s skin, then Patrick comes, and Pete makes sure to swallow every last bit of his cum.

 

Patrick lets go of him, and lets himself fall back into the mattress, soon to be joined by Pete who’s laying down next to him. He pulls him into a tender embrace, feels how Patrick’s chest rises and falls as he gasps for air, feels Patrick’s heart beating against his cheek. It’s triumph and defiance, it’s pure joy and utter sadness, but Patrick doesn’t know what price he paid yet, and Pete isn’t going to tell.

 

Not here, not now.

 

“That was amazing,” Patrick mumbles after a while, sighs content. “I like this.”

 

“Wanna try yourself?” Pete asks, but feels how Patrick shakes his head.

 

“I don’t know,” Patrick says thoughtfully, “I don’t think I can handle myself well enough…”

 

“I’ll teach you,” Pete grins, “when we’re in New York, we’ll have all the time in the world for this.”

 

“We’ll have to work, Pete,” Patrick objects with a small laugh, “we barely have any money, hell, I don’t even have clothes. It’s not going to be a walk in the park.”

 

“Spoilsport,” Pete pouts with fake hurt in his voice. “We’ll have free time, don’t worry. We can spend a morning in bed. We can have naps in the afternoon, we can go to the zoo, we can visit museums and we can fuck as much as we want without having to worry. We can live, Patrick.”

 

Patrick hums in agreement, and Pete is sure his blue eyes see the same dream in the distance. The glow of the city, the promise of so much more than Clark ever held for them.

 

“Hey. By the way. I didn’t pack the Vaseline for nothing, baby.”

 

“You did what?” Patrick asks in disbelief.

 

“It’s ours,” Pete explains, “and I don’t want to give the bastards back in Clark any more reason to sneer at us.”

 

Patrick looks like he might want to comment on how Pete managed to remember to pack Vaseline despite impending doom. “You could’ve told me before,” he just says, “I would’ve stopped you before I came.”

 

“Guess you’ll have to entertain yourself with me until you’re ready for round two,” Pete purrs as he stretches out on the bed. There’s not much space, and fuck, he can’t wait until they can get a proper sized double bed in their own apartment. He’s still fully clothed, but Patrick is about to change that as he straddles Pete’s lap, fully unbuttons his shirt while peppering kisses to tan skin. Patrick works open his belt, slides off Pete again to throw his pants to the pile of his own borrowed clothes.

 

Each touch feels like fire, each kiss is burning hot on Pete’s skin; all he can do is moan as Patrick works his way up again, lets his pretty mouth wander over every inch of exposed skin, tongue trailing the ink of tattoos, hands leaving goosebumps. Pete wants body contact, wants friction, wants Patrick’s hand on his growing erection, but all he gets is some grinding against Patrick’s hip. Patrick kisses him, deep and dirty, slips his tongue into Pete’s mouth, bites into Pete’s lip. He licks over the swallow tattoo tucked behind Pete’s ear, and Pete can’t help but whimper a little when he feels Patrick’s teeth tugging at his earlobe.

 

Two firm hands guide him on all fours. “Stay like that,” Patrick whispers in a low voice as he stands up to go through the luggage. Pete watches Patrick’s eyes widen in excitement and his lips curl into a dirty grin when he finds the glass jar.

 

Patrick settles behind him on the bed, and Pete reaches for his dick, only to feel Patrick’s hand grabbing his wrist.

 

“Have I told you to do that?”

 

“No,” Pete answers, and the grip around his wrist tightens.

 

“Right,” Patrick says, and Pete wonders where he has hidden that filthy smile all that time. “Be a good boy, will you?”

 

“You know I will,” Pete chuckles as anticipation jolts through him. Patrick hasn’t called him that since that one time Andy – no, it’s best to push that thought as far away as possible.

 

Pete expects Patrick’s hand on his dick, a slicked-up finger against his hole. Instead, Patrick digs his hand into his cheeks, blunt nails pressing into the swell of his ass, and Pete yelps in surprise when he feels Patrick’s tongue licking a broad stripe over his cleft.

 

“Keep it down,” Patrick says sternly. “There might be other people next door. But when we’re in New York,” he growls and Pete’s stomach twists, “when we have our own apartment, I swear, baby, I’ll make you fucking scream yourself hoarse.”

 

“Can’t wait for that,” Pete manages to bring out before he has to press his face into the pillows to drown out another moan, and before coherent sentences are washed away by a wave of pure pleasure. Patrick’s tongue is hot and wet and sinful, soon joined by two fingers. Pete cries out into the pillow when they find that perfect spot inside of him, when the white heat of arousal drowns out every other sense; his dick is still untouched, and Pete swears he’ll go mad if it stays that way for much longer. It’s too intense and yet there’s no relief in sight, there’s so much but it’s not enough to satisfy the throbbing need between his legs.

 

Just as Pete wants to give in and reach for his dick, Patrick pulls away, flips him over and presses him into the mattress. There’s hunger in his eyes, dark and intense, and Pete almost sobs in relief when Patrick takes his dick into his mouth. He’s shaking, stuttering out nonsense as Patrick sucks his cock, slow and deliberate, good, but not enough to let him come. Pete barely feels the burn of a third finger being slipped into him. Then, Patrick withdraws both his mouth and his hand, and Pete has never felt so empty and aching. All he can do is watch as Patrick slicks up his cock, and all he can do is sigh in relief as Patrick finally slides into him.

 

Patrick waits for him to adjust, bites a brilliant new bruise into his collarbone to match the one already there. Pete still can’t believe that’s the only bruise he’ll get tonight, the kiss of his lover instead of the fists of his enemy. He feels luckier than ever, and he feels tears gathering in his eyes as Patrick starts moving.

 

Patrick slides his hand up to Pete’s chest, over the fresh bruise, lays his hand on Pete’s throat. He doesn’t press, it’s just enough to let them both feel his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he swallows, feel Pete’s heartbeat against Patrick’s hand, feel hot skin and sweat and them being alive.

 

“You’re so fucking pretty, and so good for me,” Patrick groans, “God, I fucking love you so much, Pete.”

 

“Me too,” Pete manages to gasp out, then Patrick moves his hand back to his chest, pinches his nipple, just hard enough for a brilliant flash of pain. Pete wraps his legs around Patrick’s waist, tries to find the perfect angle as Patrick thrusts harder into him.

 

Finally, Patrick takes his dick into his hand, and Pete can only whimper as he bucks his hips, tries to fuck into Patrick’s fist. And then, Patrick’s cock finds that hidden point of pleasure, sends a spark of desire through Pete as heat pours into his groin. He’s close, he’s so fucking close; Patrick leans forward, licks away a stray tear, mutters filth into Pete’s ear as he fucks into him harder.

 

“Come for me,” Pete hears him hiss, “fuck, Pete, don’t hold back, I want to feel you, darling…”

 

“Fuck, yes,” is all Pete chokes out in response, and then Patrick’s dick slams harder into him, Patrick’s fingers stroke his cock with just the right amount of pressure, and Pete lets go of everything and comes apart, moaning Patrick’s name as he spills all over Patrick’s hand and himself.

 

“Fuck,” Patrick whispers, voice trembling, “fuck, Pete, Pete -!” With that, Patrick comes too, buried deep inside of Pete, lip caught between his teeth to prevent himself from crying out even louder.

 

For a while, they stay like that, in a sweaty but blissful embrace, until Pete can feel Patrick’s softening cock slide out of him. Patrick gets up, stumbles towards the sink, curses under his breath as he searches for a washcloth. Pete grins to himself; he likes Patrick being loose and uninhibited in his speech. Fuck those bible-thumpers and their stupid rules.

 

“Told ya,” Pete laughs as Patrick tries his best to clean them up a little, “you’re getting quite the potty mouth.”

 

“’s because you’re a bad influence,” Patrick says with no bite. He gets up again, and throws the dirty washcloth into the sink. “I can’t wait until we have our own apartment. Do you think there’ll be a bathtub? Did Joe ever mention that?”

 

Pete just laughs. “We’ll have to find out for ourselves.”

 

“It’s cold,” Patrick whispers when he slips back into bed. Pete pulls him closer, tries to share his body heat under the thin blanket.

 

“I’ll get you some nice pajamas,” Pete mumbles, lips grazing Patrick’s neck, “not one of those weird night gowns. Nice, warm flannel pajamas for cold New York nights. How does that sound?”

 

“Wonderful,” Patrick whispers, voice heavy with sleep. “It sounds wonderful, Pete. All of life with you just sounds so wonderful.”

 

“It will be,” Pete whispers back, “I promise, it will be.” It has to be, they’ve paid a price too high to not lead a decent life. He’s come so far and he’ll do everything it takes to make the life with Patrick – that he fought for so hard, that he had to earn with sweat and tears and blood – as good as he can.

They fall silent, and there’s nothing but darkness around them. They’ve driven so far, Clark must long be out of sight. Pete is sure that if he were to open the curtains, nothing but the empty fields and nature would be seen, and only stars would illuminate the night.

 

But he knows that somewhere, back in Clark – there are burning torches, there are angry mobs. There’s bright white flashing through the black velvet of the night, there’s heated anger and shouting, there’s burning fire and burning fury tearing up the sky. There’s fists and knives, there’s ropes, maybe, there’s a variety of weapons held by a mob of people out to destroy the life of someone innocent.

 

And when they’re done, Pete knows, oh he knows – tomorrow, those men and women will rise from their beds with a clear conscience. They’ll pat themselves on the back, they’ll believe themselves to be in the right, always, forever. They won’t even fucking bat an eye as they continue to live their daily lives full of vile hate and carelessness, with righteous smugness, without so much as a second thought to the man they killed.

 

“Pete?” Patrick’s soft voice breaks through his gloomy thoughts. “Pete, are you okay? Why are you crying?”

 

Pete wipes over his eyes; he hasn’t even noticed the tears. He can’t tell Patrick, not today. It hurts so much, that Pete will have to destroy yet another part of his innocence, that the knowledge of Andy’s terrible fate will weigh down their conscience forever, it’s all so fucking unfair.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Pete mumbles, and his voice is trembling. “Let’s just get some sleep, okay? It’s gonna be a long drive to New York.”

 

For a second, Patrick seems to hesitate; but it’s late and they’re exhausted, so he doesn’t press the issue. Instead, Patrick gives him a kiss, sweet and tender and hopeful – may it be the first of many kisses yet to come.

 

“I love you, darling,” Patrick says softly. For now, that’s all Pete could ask for.

 

“I love you too, baby,” he whispers back, cuddles closer, and waits for sleep to claim them both.

 

Somewhere, the darkness of the night makes way for the bright light of fire. Today in Clark, somewhere else tomorrow maybe. But all Pete can see is the faint first hint of dawn on the horizon.

The beginning of a new day; the start of their life.

 

And when they creep from the motel in the stillness before anyone else stirs, Pete sees something off to one side. A photobooth, like the one in the drugstore in Clark where the teens would take their silly pictures. The white teens, anyway, black kids weren’t allowed anywhere near it. He glances around - there’s no one to see, no one to object as he strides over, rooting through his pocket for a quarter.

 

Patrick follows, nervous, uncertain. His eyes rove the highway, misted in the dawn glow like he’s expecting an army to chase them down.

 

“Come on,” Pete urges, all smiling eyes and hands that ache to touch. “No one’s around…”

 

They slip into the booth, pull the curtain closed behind them and Pete takes a seat on the stool, drags Patrick down to his lap as he feeds the coin into the slot.

 

“This is silly,” Patrick insists, smile hesitant as Pete leans into him, presses the warm touch of their cheeks together. He forgot their razors, the light touch of Patrick’s barely-there stubble grazes his skin. The flashbulb pops and they blink, momentarily blinded and stifling their laughter in one another’s skin.

 

“We get another,” Pete whispers, fingers finding the curve of Patrick’s chin, lips meeting sweet and tender. The bulb flashes once more, Patrick’s eyelids flutter, eyelashes gold against cream-pale skin. Pete’s heart hurts a little as their foreheads touch.

 

A minute later, the pictures pop from the booth, slipped carefully into his wallet. Just like the fellas used to do with their sweethearts when they were on leave.

 

They don’t touch as they walk back to the car, but the brilliance of Patrick’s smile, the way the slow sunrise bathes him golden, that’s enough for Pete.

 

~*~

 

The New York Grand Central Terminal is crowded, despite the late hour.

 

Patrick feels tired and drained, muscles aching and bones cracking after sitting for so many hours. It’s not become any easier over the years, although the modern train they traveled with was much nicer and faster than the one that once brought him to Clark for the first time.

 

They took the train back for All Saint’s Day, to visit the graves of the people left behind in Clark. Pete rolls his eyes upon that every year, argues they could go whenever, but Patrick likes the tradition. No matter how wrong, the church still gave a structure, assigned meaning, set clear rules and dates that Patrick can’t speak himself free of. He still believes, not in the Catholic church, but in God.

 

There’s the one of Pete’s mother, a beautiful headstone displaying her grand old age, always attended with care by her remaining family. They light a grave candle every year, another tradition Patrick insists on.

 

There’s another one a little further off, hidden away and marked discreetly with the name Andrew Hurley. Few people know of the grave that shouldn’t be in the gospel church graveyard, shouldn’t be there at all. It was a kindness granted by the pastor at the time, a gentle man with the kind of christian love in his heart that Patrick never came across once during his time as a Catholic. Dale Wentz used to attend to it, but ever since she’s been gone it’s a little ragged and each year Pete tears out any weeds with more force than necessary, every year there’s a silent prayer for forgiveness on Patrick’s lips. It’s a debt that can’t be repaid, it’s a burden he wishes they didn’t have to shoulder. Andy died just so that they could live, and it’s not fair, it’s simply not fair that their hearts are still beating because someone else’s isn’t.

 

With Pete’s mother gone, there’s no reason to stay in Clark any longer than necessary. Patrick would’ve loved to stay for All Soul’s Day, but this year November 2nd is a Sunday, pushing all Soul’s Day to Monday, and they can’t take off another day. Although it’s not like Patrick is sad to leave. The town hasn’t changed, probably never will change, and even though they may have forgotten their faces, the inhabitants of Clark haven’t forgotten their hate. Saint Sebastian’s still looms over on the horizon, and Patrick knows that even the old general store still stands. He knows no one ever faced consequences for what they did to Andy, and it’s so infuriating even decades afterwards. He knows everyone just went home afterwards, he can see their proud smiles as they deem themselves to be in the right; he knows people like Stan married a nice girl, had some kids, and lived a comfortable life of smug self-righteousness as they trampled over everyone they consider unworthy without so much as a second thought. He knows that next town in Tupelo, Father Beckett still is the local priest, rumored to become the next bishop even, no doubt that the generous donations of his family to the church helped with that. Surely, William – lover of gossip that he is – took every opportunity to exploit the scandal of Clark for a cheap sensation, for a shudder and a laugh, for mockery and jokes, because that’s all they ever were to him.

 

The Lord might be just, but life sure is fucking unfair.

 

It’s the beginning of November, and it’s cold back in New York. Patrick tightens his scarf, adjusts the hat covering his almost bald head, and plays with the golden ring on his finger while he looks out for Pete. They stopped at the little kiosk inside the train station for Pete to buy the newspaper, which means Pete will probably be up all night and wants something to do. The years have only worsened his insomnia, and his insistence that sleep feels more and more like death does not help either. Patrick doesn’t argue, he’s too exhausted and just wants to go home.

 

Finally, he spots Pete with a newspaper tucked under his arm. Elections are two days away, and the tensions are high. Pete still keeps up with politics, Patrick has heard him swear about Reagan and Bush more than once, and will probably hear it again given that the Republicans are most likely going to win. Patrick isn’t looking forward to that; unlike Pete, he’s given up hope on politics a long time ago.

 

Pete comes over to him; he’s limping, dragging his left leg behind him, an old injury back from when Pete stood in the first row of every protest, back when he stood in the way of police violence and hate and paid the price for it with his own health. Patrick can map out the scars on Pete’s skin, can give each one a name and a date but the worst happened at the Stonewall riots. Patrick remembers the panic of seeing Pete go down to the ground, remembers when they wouldn’t let him come with Pete in the ambulance because he wasn’t considered family, how everyone there looked at him with disgust because they knew why Pete was here and they could easily guess who Patrick was. He remembers Pete’s tight-lipped frown when the doctor rattled off the injuries with a bored voice, told him he’d be limping for the rest of his life, whispered to Pete he should be happy someone treated a mentally diseased queer like him in the first place.

 

After that, each and every step Pete makes is a reminder of who they are, what they are, and every battle fought just for the basic human right of being allowed to exist.

 

Patrick knows that after sitting around for hours, Pete is usually in more pain.  And stubborn that he is, Pete refuses to use his cane most of the time, insisting that he can still walk just fine, he’s doing well, even though he isn’t. He mentally catalogues the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, sure the pain medication is there and plentiful.

 

“Missed me, baby?” Pete asks in a low whisper as he leans on Patrick for support.

 

“I just sat on a train with you for hours,” Patrick mumbles back, but the smile belies his words. Pete links his arm in and Patrick lets him, he always does. He kind of wants to kiss Pete, wants to sling his arms around him and press their lips together for a passionate kiss like so many men and women do on the platform, a big romantic welcome home gesture. He doesn’t, because they are two queer men, and public romance isn’t for them. It’s not safe, it’s still not safe, it’s been so many years and it still never fails to make Patrick’s heart ache so badly. So many missed kisses they can never get back.

 

Life owes them so much.

 

If age has any advantage, is that it makes them look less suspicious together. From the outside, Pete’s just an invalid elderly man getting help from his friend. No one pays attention to them as they walk onto the street, huddled together just a little closer than strictly necessary.

 

Back in their apartment, Patrick takes off his coat and scarf, just throws the small case (that he refused to let Pete carry, and that Pete was smart enough to not insist on) into a corner, and lets himself fall into bed. Pete soon follows him, and if they were ten years younger, Pete would probably try something funny. But right now, there’s just a soft kiss, then another as they hug each other, trying to make up for all the lost moments of intimacy that they have to keep hidden from the public eye.

 

“So glad to be home with you,” Pete whispers, fingers tracing a lullaby into the small of Patrick’s back. “Clark still gives me the creeps.”

 

“Me too,” Patrick confesses with a sigh.

 

Home. It’s been their home for almost three decades now, still the same apartment they stumbled into as two starry-eyed men when they first arrived in New York. Joe rents it to them for a laughably low price, and that’s the only reason they’re not homeless, the only way they could afford to set money aside for the future. It was never enough for a house in the suburbs, but even if it was, who would sell a house to a black man and his gay Irish lover? Who would want such a pair in their neighborhood?

 

Ever since Pete’s crippling injury from the Stonewall riots, money has been tight. He can’t stand at the bar like he used to for hours at a time and who would hire a queer black disabled man? About as many people as the ones who rent apartments out to someone like Pete. He’s been doing the paperwork for Joe, mostly, anything that isn’t too demanding, doesn’t require too much walking or standing. Pete has taken up most of the housework, too; somewhat ironic given how much he hated it back when Patrick hired him (a fact confessed to Patrick many years later).

 

Not that Patrick is complaining. In fact, he’s more than glad that he could be of use. A fancy degree (rendered invalid by excommunication, he supposes, but it’s not like they know, and he’s not going to tell) and a polite smile had granted him a job as a teacher; that had been the easy part. The hard part was when people found out about his private life, when people whispered about him living above a bar with a black guy, when schools deemed him too dangerous to be near kids because they assumed his queerness made him a predator, a pedophile, and many other equally absurd and insulting things. It happened more than once, but it never stopped hurting.

 

He’s still working despite his age. Patrick loves his job, loves working with children, he hopes he can do that for as long as his brain and body and society allows him. Even the Anti-Gay lecture videos he had to show to his students back in the 60s couldn’t stop his hope that maybe, he could give those children something precious – a good education, a little bit of hope, and in recent years, lend an ear to those flustered young men who know they’re different, too.

 

Of course, it’s both a blessing and a sad reminder to be around those kids all day. It doesn’t matter that Patrick always knew that a family with children would forever be out of his reach – first due to priesthood, then due to the fact he was gay. That doesn’t make it any easier. He knows Pete feels the same, he knows how much Pete loves Joe’s kids and grandkids. They would’ve made great parents, Patrick had often thought whenever he watched Pete chase Joe’s sons over the playground, cradled them on his lap and tunelessly sang along to the nursery rhymes they loved. He feels it whenever he sees that brief hint of sadness when Pete strokes over the cheek of Joe’s youngest grandkid, a beautiful baby girl just like Patrick has always wished for – oh, it’s no use to ponder over those lost opportunities, he knows. They would’ve made great parents, but no one ever let them take that chance.

 

Marriage had been another thing Patrick had been prepared to give up on forever. Priests can’t get married. Ex-priests can’t get married to their boyfriends. Up to this year, technically, ex-priests –  or any other man for that matter – weren’t even allowed to have sex with their boyfriends. Not that it stopped either of them ever, but the law hung as an unfriendly reminder of how unwelcome they are in society.

 

He knows it’s those little things that made Pete suffer, the children they never had and the vows they never took, so one day, Patrick used his savings to buy two plain gold bands, engraved simply with their initials and the date they arrived in New York – the date they started their life.

 

“I was a priest once, you know,” Patrick had explained as he handed Pete the velvet box, “I was deemed worthy to give out this holy sacrament to everyone who wanted to enter the holy unity or marriage.”

 

“Baby, I’m pretty sure the church threw you out,” Pete countered, though his voice trembled as he ran his finger over the velvet.

 

“Who gives a fuck. They can go to hell. I still believe, and I don’t need their rules to believe that I can still declare us – well, man and man in the eyes of God.” Patrick had taken a deep breath, then reached for Pete’s hand. “Will you marry me, Peter?”

 

It may not have been considered real, there’s no law to legitimize the promises he made to Pete, but that doesn’t matter. All that mattered was that Pete had said yes, with tears in his eyes. All that mattered was that whenever Patrick catches the flash of gold from Pete’s hand, he knows the man he loves belongs to him.  All that mattered was them.

 

“Just wait. It’s gonna be legal one day,” Pete would insist. “And then I’ll marry you again, with a big cake and a party and everything.”

 

Patrick had smiled and nodded. He’s still waiting for that day.

 

With a groan, Patrick stands up, and begins to change for the night. Pete does the same, even though Patrick is sure he won’t sleep. But even when Pete is sleepless, he insists on going to bed with Patrick, always holds him close, or strokes his cheek, or is just there. To fall asleep next to the man he loves; a luxury Patrick never gets tired of. It’s a privilege he paid a high price for.

 

Patrick yawns as he tries to find the best position to sleep in. He’s getting old, and his body is getting more fragile and wayward. Pete slings his arm around Patrick’s waist, and gives him a kiss, sweet and tender.

 

“I love you,” Pete whispers with a smile that seems to light up the darkness of their bedroom with its intensity. It’s three simple words, but they mean the world to Patrick. It’s three simple words, but they had to fight so hard to say them. It’s three simple words, but the world still doesn’t want them to say it.

 

“I love you too,” Patrick whispers back, because fuck everyone who ever dared to tell him saying this is wrong, because fuck the despicable people who still insists it’s immoral, sinful, or a litany of other hateful words that Patrick sadly knows too well. Fuck all of them. Every I love you he has ever said to Pete is a triumph above them, and with that comforting thought, Patrick finally falls asleep.

 

Next day after work, Patrick comes home to find Pete in the kitchen, with soft music coming from the kitchen radio. Pete tunelessly hums along, only interrupts himself to greet Patrick with a kiss. They eat while listening to the radio, watching the busy city go on about its day from the tiny kitchen window.

 

“You wanna go for a walk?” Pete asks when he’s done with the dishes. “’s such a nice winter day, and who knows when we’ll get to see the sun through the city smog again?”

 

“Sure,” Patrick says with a smile. Pete is right, and maybe the fresh air and exercise will help him fall asleep tonight.

 

“We could go get coffee and sweets afterwards? To warm up again?” Pete suggests in a manner that makes it clear it’s more of a demand, and Patrick sighs, shakes his head and smiles in a manner that makes it clear his objection is only superficial, and that Pete has won him over already.

 

They get shrug on coats and scarves, and once they’re outside, Pete links his arm with Patrick’s. Just two old friends on a walk. It kinda hurts to be seen as such, but it’s better than the violence that the truth would inevitably cause. One day, things will change. Patrick will wait until he dies if he has to. Things will change. They have to.

 

“I’ve been hearing rumours,” Pete mutters as they make their way slowly down towards Central Park. Patrick huffs out a sound of confusion, eyebrows raised as he adjusts his hat, steadies Pete’s weight against his side as he stumbles a little, snarls out a curse at his leg. “Cancer. That’s what they’re saying it is,” Patrick knows the they he refers to is the government, “but I talk to these kids, Patrick, I hear what they have to say and… the same cancer? All gay men? And the pneumonia killing men out in San Francisco? Something’s up, there’s something they’re not talking about.”

 

Patrick stays silent for a minute, the swell of the city noise wrapping around them. So many cars, so many people crowding the streets. There’s anonymity in the press and crush of people; why pay attention to two silly old fools hobbling along the sidewalk together? But he’s never quite thrown off the fear, the ice cold anguish that 28 years of closeting himself left him with. There’s always a voice that whispers don’t let them see, but he crushes it down, turns his attention back to the man he calls his husband.

 

“Do you think…” Patrick pauses, uncertain. “What do you think?”

 

“The kids are calling it gay man’s plague,” Pete shrugs, the line of his jaw clenched tight in fury. “Because it’s always the gay guy’s fault, right? You think they’d let straight, white men die like this? I don’t know, baby, maybe they found a way to get rid of us permanently.”

 

“Shh,” Patrick soothes him, though the same fury wells in his own chest. He’s the calm, the one that takes a deep breath and thinks before he speaks, their dynamic played out over three decades. Impulsively, he reaches over to brush a kiss to Pete’s cheek. “It’ll be okay. The community came through the riots, right? We’ll get through this. They can’t break us, they’ll never break us.”

 

“Yeah, but when will they give a shit about us?” Pete asks, rhetorically, Patrick assumes. “When will it stop being us and them and just be… people. Why can’t people just love people and that’s okay?”

 

Patrick wishes he had for of an answer than a comforting squeeze of Pete’s arm, “We’ll get there, darling.”

 

They meander around the pond in comfortable silence, content with their own thoughts as they watch the kids feeding the ducks and geese with fond smiles. Maybe they’ll head back to Chicago for thanksgiving, Andrew keeps inviting them, or head upstate to spend it with Hilary and her kids. They can talk about it later, Patrick decides, as they doze on the couch in front of the news.

 

There’s a tiny coffee shop, no more than a little concession stand with a few tables and chairs scattered carelessly outside, just down the hill to their right. The tables are empty, too cold for most people, but he guides them down, helps Pete into a chair and orders their coffees and pastries. Pete smiles his thanks as he takes his cappuccino, his hand curling around the warmth of the mug. He’s wincing, though he pretends he isn’t and Patrick knows he’ll need the hot water bottle against his thigh when they get home. Goddammit, why can’t he just use the damn cane?

 

“I’d do it again,” Pete mumbles, around a mouthful of danish. Patrick frowns at him, confused. “Us. This. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, even the shitty times, you know?”

 

He fumbles for his wallet as he speaks, fingers working to extract the photograph he’s folded and unfolded so many times it’s on the verge of crumbling away to nothing. Two young men stare up at them defiantly from the gloss of the paper, smiles forever captured in the flashbulb glare of a Mississippi photobooth. He folds it down, reveals the second picture, their mouths pressed together, Pete’s fingers curled under Patrick’s chin in sweet possession. Emboldened by the reminder, Patrick slides a cool hand around the warmth of Pete’s neck, draws him in for a kiss that tastes of sugar and the bitter burn of coffee.

 

“What was that for?” there’s a sparkle in Pete’s eyes that suggests that he’s thinking of their bed, of the things they can still do together though not as athletically as they once did. Patrick’s heart jumps a little at the thought, he might be nearing sixty but he’s still enamoured at the thought of Pete’s rough hands on his skin, of warm lips trailing his body.

 

“For being you,” Patrick replies, simply, fingertip soft against the photograph. “What do you think they’d think of us, if they could see us now?”

 

“They’d be horrified, we got old,” Pete’s laugh - still ugly, still adored - rings around them as he twines their left hands, their rings sitting snug and sure against one another. One day they’ll be acknowledged, one day. “What about you, baby? If you could go back in time and give that job to someone else, would you?”

 

“You’re noisy,” Patrick begins as Pete huffs in mock-hurt. “You’re messy. You’re opinionated to the point of being insufferable, you never did know how to keep yourself out of trouble.”

 

He pauses to press an affectionate kiss to the back of Pete’s knuckles, Pete smiles knowingly, “But?”

 

“But...” Patrick takes a deep breath and thinks back, thinks of everything they’ve sacrificed and all that they’ve lost to reach this moment, sitting at a cafe in New York sipping coffee and watching the city pass them by.

 

He thinks of Andy, dear, brave Andy who paid the ultimate price for their freedom. He thinks of Dale, never able to speak openly about her son in New York, always hiding the picture of them he knows she kept by her bed. He thinks of each time another principal called him to their office to utter the words something has come to my attention… He thinks of Pete, broken and bleeding on the sidewalk, the crash of nightsticks and police boots into his body as he fought so desperately for acceptance. Acceptance for his skin tone, for his sexuality, for his right to live and breathe and enjoy the same as any straight white man that walked into the bar. He thinks of a life that always, somehow, seemed half held back from them. He thinks he’s a silly old fool but he still hopes, someday, things will change.

 

Pete smiles at him, encouraging and sweet and suddenly something warm unfurls in his chest, as it’s done every time he’s looked at Pete over the past twenty-eight years, every time their eyes have met, each time they’ve held one another. Each time they’ve shared their love on sweat-damp sheets or curled together on the couch, quietly content just to be with one another. Love. He loves this ridiculous, hot-headed, wonderful man with his afro that he’s far too old for - much more salt than pepper these days - with his tendency to yell at the TV like it can hear him, with his eyes that glow like lamplight whenever he looks at Patrick. If this is the best that this life can offer him; this now, this Pete, this them, then the answer is clear.

 

“I wouldn’t change a thing, my darling.”

 

FINAL done