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no other version of me i would rather be tonight

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David should have known it would be a weird day immediately by the way Alexis was acting.

She was flipping through a magazine in her bed, seemingly at loose ends after Cabaret ended but before she leaves for the Galapagos. And don’t get David wrong, he’s very grateful that the near-constant rehearsals of choreography she’d been staging in their bedroom are now over, but he can’t quite take the dramatic, attention-seeking sighs either.

After about the fifth one in ten minutes, David finally breaks and acknowledges it. He should have known it would all be downhill from there.

“Do you need medical attention? Or maybe some smelling salts? You’re acting like a distressed Downton Abbey character,” he says, focused on getting his hair just right in the mirror.

“No,” she says dreamily, and immediately, like she’s finally gotten her cue. “I was just thinking about how lucky I am that Ted and I are so compatible.”

He shoots her a face as he sits down at the table. “Gross, no thank you to this conversation.”

She continues as if he hadn’t spoken. “Like, even in this magazine. There’s this article about love languages, which is like, how you connect with your partner and express affection.” She does a little hand motion to accompany the words, and then her expression goes smug. “You should read it, David, it would probably be very helpful for you.”

David recoils. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

She purses her lips, happy to have finally captured his full attention. “Nothing, it’s just that you and Patrick are like, complete opposites on the spectrum. There’s five love languages, and yours could not be more different.”

He knows she’s doing it to wind him up, but he’s mad that it’s working, especially after the whole fucking “in need of a generator” debacle. Still, it hits a nerve, because he knows he and Patrick are different, and he loves that about them, but he does still sometimes wonder how it doesn’t seem to grate on Patrick. It’s annoyed everyone else he’s ever dated. It’s little things, like the way he physically can’t stop himself from shutting up sometimes, especially if it’s something he’s passionate about, no matter how trivial. And all the times he can feel himself spinning out but isn’t in control of it, can’t make it stop. He has a seemingly endless list of quirks. And yet Patrick, while not without eccentricities, is somehow one of the steadiest, most in-control people he knows. That has to be… difficult to handle, sometimes.

He grits his teeth, frustrated at himself for being interested. “Okay, fine, what are they?”

“Well for example, Ted and I are both… physical touch,” she says, shimmying her shoulders on the last words and winking.

“Oh my god, literally shut up forever,” he interrupts, gagging.

She flips a page, oblivious. “Mom and Dad are both words of affirmation, obviously. It’s very good if they match, David. And even if they don’t, you have to speak to someone in their own love language. Otherwise, the potential for miscommunications and crossed wires is like… crazy,” she says, shooting him an overdramatically worried look.

“Well,” David says, tying his shoes. “I would be concerned, except that this is officially the biggest load of nonsense I’ve heard from you in a while.”

“Umm, it’s actually science, David?” she replies, and David rolls his eyes. Her tone goes obnoxious and knowing. “Don’t you wanna know what Patrick is?”

David sits up, shrugging, exhausted and worn down by her silly babble. “Fine. What’s Patrick?”

Alexis looks smug. “Patrick is acts of service, which means he expresses and feels love doing nice things for others, and he feels unappreciated when people don’t step up and do things for him in return.” She makes a sappy face and plays with her hair. “What an absolute little lamb.”

David presses his lips together so he doesn’t have to admit that Patrick doing things for people without being asked sounds extremely on the nose. “Okay, so what am I, then?”

“Yours is gifts,” Alexis says certainly, making wide, delighted eyes at him, and David squirms. He doesn’t like the way that sounds, like Patrick goes out of his way to do things for him to show him he loves him and all David does is—want presents?

“Give me that,” he snaps, getting up and snatching the magazine out of her hands. Alexis smirks as he pages through the quiz impatiently, skimming without reading, like there will be a big, bold sign telling him she’s wrong, though of course there isn’t.

“If you think I’m wrong, take the quiz,” she sing-songs as he flips it closed, getting up. He’s not doing this with her again, getting all wrapped up in his head about his relationship from some dumb women’s magazine that came out twenty years ago. He’s not giving her the satisfaction.

The worst part is, he knows she’s annoying him on purpose, and he’s still letting himself fall for it. She’s been this way the last couple days especially, and he knows it probably has to do with her nerves about leaving, but she is definitely making it hard to miss her at the moment.

He packs the quiz in his bag. “You’re not getting this back,” he says, slinging it over his shoulder.

Her mischievous face immediately transforms into a pout. “David!” she squawks, but she must not actually care that much because she doesn’t chase after him as he leaves.

 

//

 

He looks at it somewhat guiltily while he eats lunch in the back that afternoon. There’s a bit of a rush, so Patrick’s on the floor and not likely to come back. And even if he did, he would probably assume David’s looking at this month’s Vogue instead of a Cosmopolitan from 1996.

It’s easy to understand, and it certainly rings truer than some of the other dubious theories Alexis has tried to sell him on over the years. She has a tendency to fixate on this kind of thing. Once when she was still with Stavros she’d become real attached to something called the “color wheel theory of love” that she found in one of Mom’s old books, which David still doesn’t entirely understand.

But this is simple. Receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.

He takes the stupid quiz. Some of the options make him blush slightly: I like it when people compliment how I look, I like it when someone buys me a birthday present, I like it when someone gives me their undivided attention.

Quality time, it informs him, is his love language, which surprises him slightly. He’s relieved to prove Alexis wrong, since part of him did worry that maybe it was an accurate guess on her part. But the magazine informs him that actually, he expresses love by spending one-on-one time with someone, and that he feels most loved when he’s the sole focus of someone’s attention.

He feels flushed all over again thinking about it, and has to admit it probably isn’t incorrect. He can’t fight the thrill that goes through him when they close for the day and it’s just the two of them. It’s not even physical, there’s just something nice about knowing Patrick can tease him without an audience now, the way he’ll look up at David open and grinning and unguarded, like he doesn’t have to be professional and measured with his affection.

He’s sure it’s a tendency that comes from his life before, where he rarely—if ever—had anyone all to himself. Alexis was gallivanting around the world and trying to get in as much trouble as possible, his father had always been in meetings, his mother had either been in a hazy fog of pills or surrounded by adoring fans or a flurry of people on set. Even his exes only seemed interested in him alone for as long as it took the shine to wear off, then it was back to surprise threesomes or someone… prettier, richer, thinner. Take your pick. Anyone who just wasn’t so—much.

And from the very start, whenever Patrick looked at him it felt like something special, like his expression was just for David, and it had given him butterflies. Patrick’s never seemed to mind that David is more than most people; well, not in a real way, anyway. And for what feels like the hundredth time, David is bowled over by how much Patrick really sees him. Because he seemed to know that this is how David understands affection before David did himself.

David reads the description for acts of service and is boggled at just how much it screams Patrick. A whole series of events flashes before him throughout their relationship: Patrick filling out his incorporation papers; Patrick bringing him his business license, already framed; Patrick offering to let David stay with him when Alexis had lice; Patrick fixing the store lighting before the opening.

He’s so annoyed that this all seems to make sense, because now it’s in his head and he’s overthinking all of it. You have to speak to someone in their own love language, Alexis had said, and David thinks he’s probably not completely failing at that. He thinks of the way Patrick will sometimes ask David to grab him a tea if he’s heading over to the cafe, a little shy, and look so impossibly soft when David brings it, even though he asked, so of course David’s going to get it for him. The way he glowed when David subbed in for his baseball game and hit a home run. How truly touched he was that David had thrown him a surprise party, despite all the bumps in the road. Even on the hike, when he’d said, I got up early to pack these bags for us cause I thought this would be a fun thing to do together, and then looked at David a little bit more meaningfully when he’d used the hand sanitizer on his cut. The way he’d nodded nervously but surely when they reached the top, arguing about the picnic, and David had said Just tell me what to do and I’ll set it all up.

Still, he could… Patrick does so much for him. He feels slightly choked up just thinking about it. The taxes and spreadsheets and dinners he cooks and the coffees he makes him in the mornings. All the times David’s fallen asleep on his lap while they were watching baseball and Patrick’s pulled a blanket over him. He starts to feel slightly anxious because he doesn’t even know where to start, it’s so much and he’s never going to be able to do it justice in comparison, and—

“Hey,” Patrick says as he ducks into the stockroom. David flips the magazine closed, on its back so the cover isn’t visible, hurriedly clearing his throat.

“Hey,” he replies, hoping to god he sounds normal.

“I know it’s your lunch, but Brenda’s on the phone and there are a bunch of customers who need help,” Patrick says, making his way over to the shelves for more of the handcrafted wooden spoons.

David stuffs the magazine back in his bag furtively before standing up and smoothing out his sweater. “It’s fine, I was done anyway. I’ll go talk to Brenda.”

Patrick smiles, pressing a quick hand on David’s hip and kiss on his cheek as he heads back out there, easy as anything. David gives himself a second to take a deep, cleansing breath before following.

 

//

 

One thing David has learned about running the store is that you spend a lot of time on your feet. He had done it at Blouse Barn too, but it had been slightly more manageable because he worked shorter shifts, but also because there were fewer customers, so there were more breaks.

Patrick always reminds him when he complains about this that it’s good that they’re busy, and David does know that. But he also knows that it wears Patrick out too, so much so that he’s already mentally composing an argument to hire someone part-time. He’s waiting until everything settles down slightly to mention it, but he figures a responsible, trustworthy teen to pick up some shifts—who has passed David’s rigorous training and testing—could be a really good thing for them both. He’s not sure exactly what Patrick will think about the whole thing, but he can’t argue that the long days seem to hit him harder than they do David, sometimes. David thinks it’s because Patrick hardly ever allows himself to stop, that some nights he’ll go home and go through spreadsheets until much later than he should, especially if David is at the motel for the night and can’t distract him. David gets it—he’s the same way himself, to an extent—but having the family that he does it’s impossible for him to focus on the store all the time, between his mother’s dramatics and Alexis’ romantic rollercoasters and his dad’s latest motel scheme.

Anyway, tonight seems to be one of those nights, even though they go home together. Patrick sits down on the couch to pull off his shoes, and when David turns around, he’s asleep.

He smiles to himself, biting down to keep it from overtaking his face, just in case Patrick blinks awake in the next second and catches him at it. He doesn’t, though, so David occupies himself with a book for a while, letting him have his time, secretly glad he’s getting some rest.

When it’s been half an hour, David decides that this is probably going to be a longer nap than usual, and tucks a blanket over him, careful not to wake him.

Then it’s about 7:30, and Patrick’s been asleep for two hours, and David’s stomach is starting to growl. Patrick had talked about doing chili tonight, but David knows that’s a long process and he’s not gonna make it to then, even if Patrick woke up right now.

Normally, he’d already be on his phone ordering pizza. Which he knows would be fine. But after reading that stupid article today it’s all in his head, and he can’t help thinking how nice it would be to surprise Patrick with something he normally does for them instead.

So he tiptoes around the kitchen, pulling out a pot and a saucepan, confidently retrieving a box of pasta from a cabinet and the jar of sauce Patrick keeps in the fridge. Contrary to popular belief, he did live on his own once upon a time and can assemble easy food in the kitchen, even if he can’t make fucking enchiladas. He’s very careful, not just because he doesn’t want to screw up, but so that he isn’t too noisy that he startles Patrick awake. He even remembers to add a healthy dash of Italian spices to the jar of sauce, the way Patrick does when he cooks so it tastes a little less generic.

He’s just spooning it into bowls when Patrick blinks awake, jumping slightly and looking confused. “Hi,” David murmurs, voice soft as he makes his way over.

He presses a bowl and fork into Patrick’s hands, who is looking at the food in front of him as if it had appeared by magic. “Did you… make dinner?” he asks, voice all croaky with sleep.

David settles onto the other end of the couch, tucking his feet underneath him. “I wasn’t about to starve to death,” he says dramatically, but Patrick seems slightly more awake now, looking at him sideways that way he used to before they were together and mostly sneaking glances. There’s something precious and secret about it, and David kind of hopes that he never stops looking at him that way, like there’s something special and awe-inducing in him that Patrick can’t quite figure out. He presses his lips together and looks into his own bowl, pretending not to see.

The moment passes, and Patrick stabs a noodle and looks at it questioningly, sarcastic and teasing. David groans at him. “Oh my god.”

Patrick grins, happy to annoy him. “You first,” he says, and David rolls his eyes and takes a comically large bite.

“It’s fine,” he says, his mouth full. Patrick laughs at him and eats too, humming appreciatively at the taste, and David feels a fuzzy contentment in his stomach.

“How long have you been hiding these skills?” Patrick asks as David flips the TV on. He knows there was a hockey game tonight that Patrick wanted to see, and catches the small smile flicker over his face as he realizes what David’s looking for, but doesn’t mention it.

“They are very rudimentary skills. Pasta and fried rice are really stretching the limits of my abilities, to be honest. Don’t get excited.”

Patrick scoots closer so he can wedge his feet under David’s thighs. “I like fried rice. Maybe you can take over a night of the week?” he says, voice sounding hopeful but teasing, and David shoots him a look that’s supposed to shut him up but only makes him laugh instead. He turns up the volume of the game and they settle into comfortable silence.

 

//

 

He’s in the cafe the next day, getting Patrick a tea and a coffee for himself when he overhears Roland whining to Twyla about something. Mostly he tries to tune out Roland as much as he can, but unfortunately, it’s not always possible.

“C’mon, they’re really good seats,” he’s saying. “And $37.50 each instead of the $40 I paid for each of them is a bargain.”

Twyla is shaking her head sadly. “I’m sorry, Roland, I promise I would if I could! But I’m closing tonight, and the only sport my mom and her boyfriend watch together is the Bassmaster Classic, not baseball.”

David perks his ears up, edging closer to their conversation. “Sorry, what’s happening?”

“Bassmaster Classic?” Twyla says, face lighting up. “It’s the biggest professional bass fishing tournament—”

“Mm, nope,” David cuts in, shaking his head with a tight smile. “I thought, I thought I heard something about baseball?”

Roland sighs heavily. “Yeah, Joce and I were supposed to go to this minor league game tonight in Elmdale, but little Roland Jr. is sick, so I need to get these tickets off my hands.”

David is going to regret this. He is going to regret this so much, because if there’s one thing that’s true in Schitt’s Creek, it’s that life is best when interaction with Roland is kept to a minimum, and that only idiots try and buy anything from him. He’s learned that lesson well and good from his father, thanks.

But he’s also thinking about all the dates Patrick’s planned for them since they’ve been together—dinners in Elmdale and movie nights at the drive-in and yes, romantic hikes. And Patrick loves baseball the way David loves karaoke or luxury consignment apps, and they don’t have plans tonight, and maybe this is a push from the universe. His attempt at dinner seemed to go over pretty well last night, and that was with absolutely no planning, limited skill, and very little fanfare. A baseball game in Elmdale can only be better. Right?

“Um, I? Would be interested. In the tickets.” he says, stuttering it out, because no part of this feels natural.

Roland’s face lights up, looking surprised but willing. “Hey, alright! That would be great, I can give you the tickets for…” he makes a considering sound, “$38.50 each.”

David narrows his eyes. “That’s more than you were offering them to Twyla for, though.”

“Hey, it’s simple supply and demand, Dave!” Roland protests, holding his hands up. “Not my fault if a bidding war breaks out.”

He clenches his teeth and sighs once before plastering on his fakest smile. He’s doing something nice for Patrick, this is going to be worth it. “Roland, if you give me the tickets for free, I’ll give you four jars of that organic applesauce.”

“Done,” Roland says, because the only thing he loves more than being the cheapest person alive is getting something for free. He reaches out and shakes David’s hand, over-the-top with much too firm a grip, before holding out the tickets. “Now, that’s four jars each for me and Joce, right?”

 

//

 

“So you’re really not gonna tell me where we’re going?” Patrick asks for the third time today, after they’ve been in the car for about twenty minutes.

“Sorry,” David says, shaking his head, determined not to look over to the passenger’s seat and get distracted by Patrick’s teasing face. “You’re going to have to wait a whole half an hour to find out. I’m sure it must be very hard for you.”

Patrick chuckles softly. “So somewhere in Elmdale, then?”

David turns for just a quick second to shoot him a very sarcastic smile. “Congrats, you’ve determined the obvious.”

“What brought this on, anyway?” Patrick asks, something curious in his voice.

David bristles slightly, though he knows it’s a reasonable question. “You’re not the only one who can do surprises, you know,” he says, annoyed that he can hear the defensiveness coming through in his voice.

“I know,” Patrick says patiently, like he can tell there’s something more to this but doesn’t want to push. David takes a breath, trying to settle himself.

“I just thought it would be nice to do something spontaneous,” he says weakly, hands tightening around the steering wheel. He doesn’t add the for you to the end of that sentence that’s so important in his brain, careful not to reveal this newfound insecurity.

He doesn’t have to see Patrick’s face to know that his expression has gone soft; he can hear it in his voice. “It is. I’m sure it will be great,” he says, and politely changes the subject to a new product from one of their vendors.

It’s pretty obvious once they’re driving through downtown Elmdale where they’re going. People walking around outside are decked out in team colors and baseball caps, but Patrick doesn’t say anything, just bites down on a grin and keeps talking, his voice going bright and excited even though he’s talking profit margins. David plays along, keeping up the shop talk until they’re parked outside the stadium and getting out of the car. Patrick pauses for a minute, watching David try not to smile across the roof of the car as he’s fidgeting, waiting.

Patrick moves suddenly, walking around to David’s side, grabbing his face in both hands and kissing him before David has the chance to speak. It’s so… tender, so warm, and it gives David butterflies in his stomach in such a comfortable, domestic way. He can tell Patrick’s really happy and so touched at this turn of events, and soon they’re both smiling too hard to continue, just two faces pressed together.

“How did you even know this was happening?” he asks, taking David’s hand and leading them toward the entrance.

“Roland and Jocelyn were going to go, but something came up, so I bought them from him,” he says, and Patrick winces, knowing exactly what that entails.

“But he knows we’re not stocking Mr. Hockley’s tea anymore, right?”

“It was a deal with the applesauce, actually,” David says guiltily, and Patrick looks like he’s about to ask more specific questions, so David quickly changes the subject. “Anyway, I thought you might like to do something different, for a change.”

His voice is quiet, almost like he’s hoping Patrick won’t hear, but of course he does, pulling David into him. “This is really sweet, David, thank you,” he says, earnest enough that David has to close his eyes and shake his head just to get away from it a little bit, which makes Patrick laugh.

They find their seats—Roland was actually right, they’re pretty good—and David can’t get over how stupidly happy Patrick looks, which makes him ache in his chest, full to bursting with the knot of emotions settled over his heart. It takes so, so little to thrill Patrick this way, and part David wishes he could crash into Patrick’s past and fix that, but he’s also a little bit mad at himself that it’s this simple and he’s not doing it all the time. It’s just so easy to get into the momentum of their daily lives. And maybe there’s not a little piece of him that thinks their happiness is tempting fate anymore, but there is a part of him that’s still learning how to do this long-term relationship thing. He’s never had someone stick around the way Patrick has, and he’s wearing Patrick’s rings on his fingers but his brain is still working out what that’s going to look like every day.

Regardless, Patrick is excited like a little kid, looking up the stats for Elmdale’s team, and David is having trouble not finding that really adorable right now. He remembers from the game with Ronnie that baseball is long, so he’s fully prepared to occupy himself with his phone or some snacks to get through it while Patrick gets wrapped up in the game.

Tonight, though, it’s different. He discovers it goes much faster with Patrick beside him. He explains everything and gently corrects all of David’s incorrect terminology, laughing and playing along when David starts to rate the players on how well they wear their uniforms instead of their performance. David has to suppress a smile at the way his brow furrows when he’s concentrating or squinting to see what’s out on the field. During the seventh inning stretch, Patrick buys them hot dogs and peanuts and David munches happily, listening to Patrick talk about his dad coaching his Little League team and going to games together as a special treat. He looks gorgeous in the sun, happy and relaxed, and at one point he catches David looking, not that he was trying to hide it.

“What?” he asks, half a laugh, and David just shakes his head, mouth quirked sideways. Patrick grins wider, leaning in and kissing him, slow and sweet, and David feels himself go pink.

He holds David’s hand the rest of the night.

They watch the home team lose efficiently, and then Patrick drives them back from Elmdale. They’re both the pleased, happy kind of exhausted, and David is content to doze against the window while Patrick sings along faintly to the easy listening station.

By the time they pull up outside Patrick’s apartment, it’s been dark for a while. “David, we’re home,” Patrick murmurs, shaking his shoulder gently, and David startles.

“I wasn’t asleep,” he protests immediately, slurring slightly, and Patrick grins at him in the dim light.

“I didn’t say you were.”

David feels himself waking up slowly as they head upstairs and Patrick unlocks his door. It’s dark and hushed inside as David claims the bathroom, changing into the softest pajamas he keeps here and brushing his teeth. When he emerges, Patrick’s in his boxers and an old cotton t-shirt, sitting on the bed scrolling through his phone. He shoots David a small smile as he moves for the bathroom, like he knows David’s still not fully awake and probably not ready for conversation.

David gets under the covers, closing his eyes as he listens to Patrick brush his teeth and wash his face, and then pad around the apartment to turn off the lights and lock the door. Finally, he crawls between the sheets next to David.

“Did you use my cleanser?” David mumbles, on his side facing Patrick, and Patrick laughs gently.

“Seeing as it spends most of its time in my apartment, I’d say it’s more my cleanser than yours,” he replies, voice low and gravelly, which never fails to make David’s heart do flips.

He blinks his eyes open a few times, waiting for them to adjust in the dark. Patrick’s facing him, smiling easily, looking so content and relaxed that David’s chest aches with it.

He sighs dramatically. “Mmkay, we’re going to have to establish some ground rules about skincare before we’re married.”

Patrick’s grin goes elusive, teasing. “So, we’re skipping the ‘what’s mine is yours and yours is mine’ sentiments, then?” He slides closer to David in the bed, winding an arm around his waist.

David goes to answer, but Patrick’s cutting him off with a slow, thorough kiss, so David thinks that maybe it wasn’t really a serious question.

Five minutes ago he probably could have fallen asleep standing up, but he now feels desperately awake and downright greedy for more, though he tries not to show it. He tries to kiss him back lazily, with absolutely no hurry, because nothing else winds Patrick up quite the same way.

Patrick does pull away after a moment, groaning slightly and burying his face in David’s neck. “I like it when you say married,” he whispers, like a secret, lips brushing against David’s skin. He feels goosebumps crop up everywhere, though whether they’re from Patrick’s words or his touch, he couldn’t say.

“Me too,” David murmurs back. “I mean—I like it when you say it, too.”

David can feel him smiling against his skin, but thrills even more when he pulls back and it’s just light enough to see the blush high on his cheeks. “Thank you for tonight, David.”

David tries to shrug, shake his head, and generally play off the moment, because it’s not supposed to be something Patrick has to thank him for, because it’s the kind of thing Patrick would pull together for them without a second thought.

He clears his throat. “You really get off on surprises, don’t you?” he asks, ribbing him so he doesn’t have to acknowledge the moment, but Patrick sees right through it, rolling his eyes.

Still, he lets David get away with it, kissing him again instead. It starts off easy, comfortable, but Patrick thumbs the spot behind his ear and David shivers in his arms, giving the game away. He feels Patrick grin against his lips and press closer, go deeper. He nudges a thigh between David’s own, and David whimpers slightly, rolling into it. Patrick smells like sweat and grass and sunshine and a hint of that citrus cologne they sell at the store, a combination of things David never thought he would find sexy but most definitely does on Patrick.

The problem is, he wants as much as he can get from Patrick almost all of the time. It’s why he strips Patrick’s shirt off fumblingly, so he can get his hands on Patrick’s chest and stomach and they’re moving faster now, rutting into each other and picking up speed as they gasp into each other’s mouths. It sometimes goes like this for them; they’ll have every intention of taking their time and riding it out but lose patience, needing each other before that. David’s never been good at impulse control, honestly, and Patrick doesn’t seem to mind.

He pushes David’s shirt up and off, closing his mouth around one nipple while he idly thumbs at the other, and David groans, low and primal. Patrick basically knows how to play him like a fiddle at this point, grinning slightly as he pinches and rolls it between his fingers to make David’s hips cant up hard.

“You bastard,” he gasps, and Patrick laughs as he moves to suck a hickey into David’s collarbone.

“Don’t like it?” Patrick says, smug but breathless.

“You know—exactly—what I like,” David grits out, and so Patrick does it again, like it’s a reward, and David squirms, gasping.

“Do I?” Patrick asks, playing it straight, face open, and David groans, frustrated at the teasing. Patrick always wins when they do it like this; David is always the first to break.

“Patrick, if you don’t touch me in the next thirty seconds—”

Patrick chuckles, close and intimate, pulling away enough so he can tug down David’s pajama pants and then kick off his own boxers into the sheets. He reaches into the bedside table for the lube, which feels like overkill slightly because David’s already so fucking wet, before wrapping a hand around both of them.

David gasps, a sound that comes out as both soothed and needy to his own ears. Patrick is working his hand in slow, rhythmic pulls, and David digs his nails into the small, secret skin of Patrick’s back. “I want—”

“You want?” Patrick echoes, because he’s an asshole, but David can only whimper in response. He feels himself shaking all over, squeezing his eyes shut tighter. Patrick slows down his hand. “David, you want?”

Patrick has this thing about making David ask for what he wants. It’s supremely embarrassing, and David feels his skin go splotchy and red every single time, but it’s kind of worth it for the way Patrick’s face looks after he gets the words out.

“I want you on me,” he whispers, trembling with need, and he sees the words surge through Patrick, hungry.

He pushes David onto his back, settling on top of him. David groans at the welcome weight of it, and Patrick’s has one hand behind his neck and the other one the side of his face, kissing him like he can’t get enough. David steadies himself with a hand on the curve of Patrick’s back as they roll their hips into it, a slow rhythm that builds until Patrick’s face is pressed into David’s neck, panting, both of them desperate. It’s sloppy and lazy and hot, their dicks sliding together like this, both of them tired and close but unable to stop touching each other.

“David, fuck, I’m gonna come,” Patrick gasps, and David feels the electricity surge through him the way it always does when Patrick curses. He sounds so far gone, and David loves it, loves when he can screw Patrick out of his head, touch him until all his carefully put-together pieces quake apart.

God yes, Patrick, please, come on me,” he breathes back. Patrick groans at the words at then does, all over David’s stomach, crying out but moving through it until David’s coming too, making a mess between them as he whimpers embarrassingly.

Then they’re frozen for a second, catching their breath together until Patrick drops a quick kiss to David’s pulse point and rolls off him, reaching to the bedside table to gather some tissues and clean them up. David still feels blurry, out of it, the day’s exhaustion is starting to hit him again.

“To answer your earlier question, yes, I do get off on you surprising me,” Patrick murmurs as he straightens them up, and David smiles easier in the dark. This time David’s the one to tangle them together, wrapping himself around Patrick.

“For the record, so do I, apparently,” he teases back, and Patrick huffs out a laugh, taking David’s hand in his own and kissing the back of it, close.

“It’s so good with you,” he says, voice intimate, like a secret. “It’s never been like this, how is it always so good with you?”

And sure, maybe he just means the sex, but he can hear Patrick’s voice and doesn’t think so. He remembers his train of thought from earlier—the way Patrick’s been the one to stick around, and how David’s brain has mostly rolled with that when he would have already catastrophized six ways to Sunday with anyone else.

“I love you,” he mumbles into the bare skin of Patrick’s shoulder, and feels the happy sigh roll through him. He doesn’t usually initiate that, and it’s something he’s trying to work on with all the rest of it. Because Patrick deserves everything David can give.

“I love you too,” Patrick breathes back.

 

//

 

Patrick takes him to the motel the next morning because David needs clean clothes. He normally would have thought ahead, but the baseball game last night was spontaneous, and they were both too exhausted to make an extra trip at the end of the night.

Stevie’s in his room, bringing fresh towels when they show up. She immediately looks mischievous, which obviously puts David on guard. She’s been in such a good mood since the show recently, and he’s so happy for her and proud of her, but he also doesn’t want to be ganged up on before nine in the morning.

“Hi Stevie,” Patrick says, because he’s polite. David just eyes her cautiously instead, heading straight for his closet.

“Good morning, Patrick,” she replies, bright. “Enjoying a nice walk of shame, are we?”

Patrick laughs. “Yeah, we ended up at a baseball game in Elmdale last night, actually, so David stayed over, but we didn’t realize he didn’t have any more clothes until this morning.”

She immediately grins like the cat that got the cream. “You managed to drag him to a spontaneous baseball game?”

“Excuse me, I’m right here,” David calls, even as he tries to burrow further into the wardrobe.

“It was actually David’s idea,” Patrick says, as if David hadn’t even spoken. There’s something slightly proud in his tone, though, and David’s going to count that as a win.

“It was David’s idea and he didn’t think about the clothing situation?” she asks, sounding skeptical.

“Okay,” David says, falsely bright as he makes his way over to the bed, hangers in hand. “I’m sorry that I was more focused on the surprise, spontaneous date for my fiance than I was on small, logistical details. I guess I’m just a giving person like that.” Stevie nods along sarcastically, which prompts Patrick to stifle a chuckle.

“Still,” Patrick says, sighing and standing up. “It’ll be nice when you’re moved in and we don’t have to worry about it.” He looks around the room appraisingly. “It actually shouldn’t be too bad, I don’t think, there’s not that much in here. The cedar chest will probably be the worst of it.” He taps the wood, and David and Stevie both freeze in a moment of intensely awkward silence.

Patrick looks up, noticing it. “What?”

“Um,” Stevie says, hands on her hips as she faces David. It sounds like she’s barely containing her excitement and frankly, he doesn’t appreciate it. “He doesn’t know?”

Patrick turns to David, eyes wide and face carefully blank. “Doesn’t know what, David?”

David focuses on folding everything in his overnight bag very precisely. “Um, this closet is just a… curated selection of a… wider variety of, um, pieces, that make up a very—”

“David has two more closets full of clothes in the love room.” Stevie blurts out.

There’s a beat of stunned silence and David squeezes his eyes shut before Patrick says, voice high, “Excuse me?”

When David looks at him, he’s wearing that panicked face he’d had when Jake had shown up unexpectedly, and a twist of worry settles into David’s gut. “Okay, Stevie is making it sound worse than it really is. It’s just a couple extra pieces—”

Stevie cuts him off with a cough that is clearly meant to disguise a laugh, and David shoots her a glare.

“Alright, then show me,” Patrick says, arms crossed, and so that’s how they all troop into the love room.

Stevie throws open the closets with a grin like a kid on Christmas, and Patrick’s jaw drops. David folds and unfolds his arms, fidgety and nervous as Patrick steps forward, combing through the hangers.

“So this is what you meant when you were talking about closet space in the apartment?” he asks, and David nods guiltily. “Why didn’t I know about this?”

“You never questioned why you didn’t see him wearing the same thing twice?” Stevie asks, unhelpful as always.

Okay, that’s not true. That Givenchy Gypsophila sweatshirt? I’ve worn that at least three times—”

“Some of this actually has color!” Patrick exclaims, pulling down a pale pink Diesel embroidered bomber jacket and shaking it a little to prove his point.

“If we could just be gentle with that, though? It’s a $1,000 jacket,” David winces, and Patrick’s face goes kind of pale. He puts the hanger back, stepping back and rubbing a hand over his face.

“I don’t know what we’re gonna do with all this, David. It’s not going to fit in the apartment, and we shouldn’t leave it here in the motel, not when Stevie and your dad could renovate this room. Are we going to have to find a storage unit to rent for your clothes? I mean—”

David steps forward, setting his hands gently on Patrick’s elbows. “Look, I know it’s a lot, but this wasn’t actually on the agenda for today and we do have more pressing wedding issues to worry about?” he tries. Patrick responds by dropping his hands and giving David a look. “For example, Ray stopped me at the cafe the other day to ask how many plus-ones he was getting? So a guest list should probably be our first priority.”

Patrick sighs, nodding and biting his lip the way he does when he’s thinking hard. “Still, for the record, I am not looking forward to dealing with this.”

 

//

 

David heads back to the motel that afternoon to see Alexis off. She’s heading out at 4, before the store closes, so she and Patrick already exchanged goodbyes.

Dad is sweet and Mom is uncharacteristically weepy (everything’s seemed to hit her harder after the news about the Crows movie), and Alexis seems nervous and a little emotional, but sure of herself.

She hugs him tight and sniffles a little. David holds on tight, because six months is a long time and it hadn’t really hit him that she would be gone so long until now.

“No mishaps this time,” he tells her, voice slightly rough.

She pulls away, scoffing, looking perfectly composed now. “Ugh, as if, David. You think I’d let Ted anywhere near Somali pirates? They’d eat him alive.” David twists his mouth up, trying not to smile.

She pokes him authoritatively in the chest. “Don’t screw up up your wedding,” she says, and a jolt of fear runs through him at the thought. “I’m going to need regular check-ins so that I can approve the details.”

He rolls his eyes as she steps back into the cab. “Please, have you even looked at the Pinterest boards I sent you? You’re not qualified.” She makes a face at him before pulling the door shut, waving at them all as the taxi kicks up dust, driving away, even as his dad continues to shout goodbyes.

Mom is clinging to Dad like she needs him to stay upright, and David thinks that if he stands one more second stewing in this emotion he’s going to crumble, so he crosses his arms and heads for the love room, mostly without thinking about it. He just wants to be by himself for a second, but as soon as he’s there, he remembers the conversation with Patrick about what they’re going to do about all his clothes.

There are some trash bags in the corner, and he picks them up and starts sorting without even thinking about it. A pile to keep, a pile to get rid of, and a pile to try on to see if he still even likes them. It’s easy to zone out, absorbed by the task, and Patrick was right about how many clothes are here, because before he notices, it’s two hours later and Patrick is calling him.

“Hey,” he says, sounding slightly exhausted. “How’d it go with Alexis?”

David nods, clearing his throat. “Yeah, um, fine. She says she wants wedding updates, so. I’m sure she’ll be texting me every couple of hours with some bohemian-inspired decor links, or something.”

Patrick laughs softly. “Can’t wait. I just finished closing up, I was going to head your way and see if your family wanted to get dinner. Try and pick everyone’s spirits up.”

A smile slips onto David’s features before he can stop it, because Patrick is so sweet, and thoughtful, and how did David ever end up with someone like him? “Sure, okay. I think, um. I think my parents could probably use it.” There’s a beat of silence and David doesn’t have to see Patrick’s face to know he has that soft look on his face, like David can say whatever he wants but he knows the truth, and David wants to melt.

He walks through the door a good twenty minutes later, when David is in the bathroom trying on a Rick Owens long sleeve button-down in a shiny silver that he’s not sure he’s into anymore. “Hey, Stevie told me you might be back here?” he calls, sounding slightly baffled, eyes widening as David steps out to look in the mirror. “Is… that what you’re wearing to dinner?”

David shoots him a skeptical look. “This isn’t exactly cafe attire. Though I can assure you this was the look a few years ago.” He adjusts the cuffs, surveying his reflection with scrutiny as Patrick comes up behind him, hands on David’s hips, pressing a kiss to his shoulder.

“What are you doing, David?” he asks which a slightly curious smile.

“I just thought it might be a good idea to get started on some of this. I have a pile to get rid of,” he says, not meeting Patrick’s eyes in the mirror. The problem is that Patrick’s gotten really fucking good at reading him, and he knows just when the best strategy is to wait David out. “I was going to come back here after dinner and keep working.”

He frowns slightly but rolls with it. “Okay. I’m not averse to a fashion show,” he says, voice teasing.

“No,” David interrupts, too quickly. Patrick’s brow furrows. “I mean—you don’t have to help. I can do it.”

“It’s fine, David, I don’t mind.”

David squirms out of his hold, heading back toward the bathroom to change, leaving the door open. “No, you should… you should go relax, do something else.”

Patrick’s voice is still puzzled as David pulls his sweater over his head. “Is everything okay?”

“Mhm!” David calls, trying for chipper, but soon Patrick’s leaning against the doorframe and he can see the concern on his face. “What?” he shrugs, prickly. “It’s just that it’s not really a two person job, and you said you weren’t really looking forward to dealing with it, so.”

Patrick’s face goes soft. “David, I didn’t mean… I was just overwhelmed this morning, that’s all. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a grouch about it.”

David doesn’t say anything, trying to remedy his hair situation instead. It’s just that he’s had a lump in his throat since Alexis’ taxi pulled up, and Patrick being earnest isn’t going to help that situation.

“Hey,” Patrick says, and David turns to face him, swallowing hard. “I promise, I’d much rather spend the evening here with you, going through clothes, than at home by myself.”

He doesn’t know how Patrick does it, how he always manages to say the exact right thing. David has that ability too, but it doesn’t manifest the same way—it’s only ever been helpful in coming up with the most cutting remark during a fight, and he’s trying not to do that anymore. He doesn’t want to.

He lets out a breath and steps forward, pressing a kiss to Patrick’s forehead, hands on his shoulders. “Actually, we don’t have to do it tonight.”

Patrick still seems uncertain. “Yeah?”

David nods. “Yeah. Besides, I think my mom’s going to latch onto you anyway. She needs a distraction.” He rubs up and down Patrick’s shoulders once, going for reassuring, before stepping around him to tidy up the piles. “Let’s get going, I’m starving.”

Patrick doesn’t push, but he does watch David a little more closely the rest of the night. But if he’s not asking, David’s not telling, so they listen to his mom debate possible options for a show in the fall, determined that if they start planning now, they can swing something with “a touch more bravura.” She asks Patrick’s opinions constantly, mentally casting him as every possible lead. Patrick blushes and plays along beautifully, and by the end of the night David thinks things are almost forgotten.

He drops David off outside the motel room with a kiss—it’s pretty evident to them both that if his parents wake up with both kids gone in the morning, it could be bleak—and if David holds him a little tighter than usual when he says goodbye, well, Patrick is kind enough not to mention it.

 

//

 

Patrick leaves Saturday morning for some kind of financing workshop and won’t be back until Sunday night. It’s all the way in Hillsdale, which is a substantial drive and means he wouldn’t get much time to relax afterward. All this is made even worse by the fact that Ray’s coming by the store to take new pictures for the website after closing on Tuesday, so they were going to spend all of Monday night doing a deep clean, which meant Patrick would practically be dead on his feet by Wednesday night. David decides he’d like to avoid that if possible.

A deep clean is definitely a two person job. The problem is, Stevie and his dad are busy with motel stuff, he can’t even imagine his mom cleaning, and he’s not stooping low enough to asking anyone else. So he drives over Sunday morning, rolls out the cart of cleaning supplies, sets the speakers to a Mariah Carey playlist, and gets to work.

He’d really forgotten how much work this was, he realizes quickly. It doesn’t help that things just keep going wrong, either. He drops an ambience candle while moving it to clean the shelves, so he has to sweep that up and go into the back to get another, only to find while searching that the box with their next shipment of moisturizer has a broken jar in it. Which of course means carefully extracting all the glass, and then wiping down all the unbroken jars, now coated in moisturizer. He unloads everything from the fridge to wipe it down and finds that some of the tapenade has gone off, so then he has to double check everything in there and make sure the fridge isn’t broken or set on the wrong temperature. He nearly falls off the ladder cleaning the windows, which he is never telling Patrick, not even upon pain of death. The Mariah playlist turns into Tina, then into Beyoncé. He just has to mop before he puts everything back perfectly when he realizes the mophead has seen better days, and he’d really just be better off scrubbing on his hands and knees.

The bell on the door rings when he’s about halfway done. “Sorry, we’re actually closed?” he calls, only turning to look over his shoulder when there’s no response.

It’s Patrick, looking around absolutely baffled, hands in his pockets and speechless. David jumps.

“You weren’t supposed to be home yet,” he blurts out, and he knows it’s the wrong thing to say and flinches immediately.

Patrick steps forward, a concerned look on his face. “I skipped the last session. I’ve been home for three hours, looking for you.”

David furrows his brow. “Okay, and you only just thought to check here?”

Patrick steps over to the counter, arms crossed. “Actually, I tried the your place first, but I ended up helping your dad move all the furniture borrowed for Cabaret back into the motel. Then I checked the cafe, and Ray was there, and he wanted to tell me all about his latest business, which is luxury pet styling and grooming, by the way.”

David laughs at that, but it feels hollow, and Patrick notices. He pauses, looking at David a little too closely for his liking.

“Is everything okay? You’ve seemed really… nervous, I guess, this whole week. I don’t know, jumpy. And I thought we were going to the deep clean tomorrow. How did you manage to do the windows by yourself?”

“Not well, which reminds me, we should probably invest in a newer ladder. That one is secondhand from the motel and a little… precarious.” He cringes as soon as the words are out of his mouth, and he doesn’t know how Patrick does it, gets him to admit things he swore he wouldn’t say, just by nature of having that face.

Patrick’s eyes go wide. ”What?”

“It’s fine,” he insists, clearing his throat. “It’s all nothing, just stupid Alexis.” He keeps his eyes focused on the spot on the floor that’s scuffed.

“About her leaving?” Patrick asks.

David swallows hard, because part of it is that, probably. He’s grown used to having her around as a sort of safety blanket, there to talk him down when he’s spinning out about—whatever, when he was nervous about kissing his business partner or worked up about sending Patrick off on a date with another guy. She’s always good at putting it in perspective for him, even if he’s the one who made him worry in the first place. And how’s he going to handle those moments if she’s not here?

“Kind of,” he admits, still picking idly at the spot on the floor and not making eye contact. “She told me about this stupid quiz—”

Another quiz?” Patrick interrupts, looking incredulous.

“Okay, but this one made sense,” David says, feeling the frenzy start to spill out of him. “It said that you, you understand and express love through helping people, and doing things for them, and I—I’m not good at doing that. And you do so much for me that it’s not ever going to be even close to fair! I can’t cook and I’m not good at surprises, generally, and you’re so organized and put together, and, like, what could I even help you with? What do I have to offer that you can’t do better? And are you eventually going to feel like I don’t do enough for you and get tired and start to hate me for it a little bit for it?” he says, voice cracking at the end, and he didn’t realize until now that his eyes are filled with tears.

Patrick’s mouth is slightly agape and he looks blindsided. David blinks fast, trying to pull himself together, but it just makes the tears spill over onto his face and he hates this, hates that he’s spent all week trying so hard only to end up such a mess.

“Is that what this was all about?” Patrick asks, looking slightly wounded. “The baseball game and the clothes and now the cleaning? You don’t think you do enough for me?”

David nods, looking away. “I’ve just never…” he cuts himself off with a deep breath, trying to get his voice to quit quivering like this. “I’ve never been with someone who’s so good to me, and I’m trying. I know I may not be good at this but I’m trying, okay?”

Patrick heaves out a deep breath, clenching his jaw the way he does when he’s choosing his words carefully. David waits, feeling so exposed, breath still coming much too fast.

“David,” Patrick says, sounding exhausted and frustrated and if David didn’t think he could feel worse before, he certainly does now. “You know I love your sister, but… she’s not in our relationship.”

David tries to catch his breath and slow himself down, but his voice still comes out shaky. “I know.”

Patrick comes close, kneeling down on the floor across from him and reaching out to thread their fingers together. “You don’t have to get all wrapped up in your head. If I have a problem with something between us, I’m gonna come talk to you about it, I promise.” He uses his free hand to reach and wipe away David’s stray tears, his voice going quiet and soft. “David, we’re getting married. And I know I’m the numbers guy in this relationship, but we’re going to be together for a long time and even I can’t count that high. This isn’t cricket, no one’s keeping score.”

David lets out a watery laugh, nodding frantically but still not able to make eye contact. Patrick tips his chin up so David has to look at him, and David’s breath catches when he meets his eyes. Patrick looks so touched, so fond, and David’s heart hurts.

“Look, you said you’ve never been with someone who’s done so much for you, but I haven’t either. ”

David hiccups slightly, caught off guard by his words. It’s not at all what he expected him to say. “What—what do you mean?”

Patrick’s smile is delicate. “You think I don’t notice the things you do for me?” His voice breaks a little. “You’re the one person who makes sure I don’t work myself too hard or take things too seriously. All the nights you’ve pulled me to bed when I’m worrying over some spreadsheet? Or made me laugh when I’m stressed out or nervous about something?”

David’s brain stops spiraling slightly. He hadn’t thought about those things as “acts of service” or whatever, he’d just thought about it as—well, taking care of Patrick. Second nature, something he didn’t have to even think about, something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Unconscious.

“Or remember the whole thing with Ken?” he continues.

David shoots him a quizzical look.

Patrick rolls his eyes good-naturedly, with an irrepressible smile. “You were trying to make sure I had what I needed without even thinking of yourself. Well, until Alexis got in your head about it.” His eyes drop to where he’s fiddling with David’s fingers now, playing with the engagement rings. “And my birthday? Everything you did for me then?” Patrick sounds a little close to tears himself now, remembering, and David nods, takes a deep breath.

Now Patrick laughs, the sound choked with emotion, eyes bright. “I mean, do you have any idea how boring my life was before you? How stuck I felt? I was a mess, I used to wake up and not know how I was going to get through the day, and you, you make everything fun, you make life easy, even if it’s inventory or—a surprisingly difficult ropes course. You make me laugh, and you make me excited to get up in the morning, and that’s everything, David. I couldn’t ask for more.”

David holds his hand tighter for a long minute as the words sink in. He leans forward and kisses him, soft but sure, and then pressing their foreheads together for a moment while Patrick catches his breath. He eventually does, smiling at David, trembling but happy, and David feels slightly embarrassed by causing them both to have an emotional breakdown in the middle of the day, but it’s okay.

“I mean, I’m not opposed to you making dinner now and then,” Patrick says, voice teasing, and they both laugh, all the tension easing away.

David nods. “I think I can commit to that.” he says, rising to his feet and offering Patrick a hand, which he takes. “Can we just agree to keep expectations low, please? I tend to do my best work when there’s the potential to surprise.”

Patrick laughs, full, sounding much more like himself. “I promise to manage my expectations.”

David winces. “That’s not the same as low, though.”

He grins, pressing in and kissing the side of David’s mouth, quick and familiar. “How about we take it as a sign of my faith in your abilities?”

David sighs dramatically but acqueises. “Can we order something tonight, at least? I’m a little worn out from all the cleaning. And the crying.”

“I may have brought back some surprise room service for us,” Patrick admits, smiling crookedly as David’s face goes bright and interested. Patrick has heard him whine more times than he can count about how much he misses room service, so David is obviously delighted. “You didn’t wonder why I took that cooler to the conference? C’mon, let’s straighten everything up a bit and then we can head back. We’ll finish the rest tomorrow.”

It all does go much faster with both of them working together, and soon they’re locking up and heading for home. “Hey,” David says when they’re out on the sidewalk, feeling lighter in the fresh air, tugging on Patrick’s hand in his own. “Thanks for helping me,” which is really what he meant to say all along, he thinks.

Patrick’s smile is gorgeous, the way it blooms slowly over his features. “You too,” he says, soft and private but sure, and David loves him so much he doesn’t know what to do with his face, with the feeling that threatens to burst out of his chest. He’s so lucky—no, he corrects himself. They’re so lucky to have found each other.

 

//

 

“Hey,” Patrick calls as he crawls between the sheets that night. “What was your love language thing?”

David spins around to look at him from where he is against the bathroom counter, applying his skincare routine. He really doesn’t have to talk about this any more. “Excuse me?”

But Patrick’s face is soft and slightly shy, like he really is curious to know but feels a little silly asking. “You just said they weren’t the same, you didn’t say what yours actually was.”

David smiles slightly, biting his lip to try and stop it. He steps forward, rummaging around in his bag and pulling out the tattered old magazine, tossing it his way. “See if you can guess,” he calls over his shoulder, closing the bathroom door behind him.

As he brushes his teeth, his brain spins around slightly wondering if this was actually a good idea. It had kind of hurt his feelings when Alexis had said his was gifts, and he doesn’t think he’d be able to disguise it on his face if Patrick came to the same conclusion.

He emerges hesitantly, but Patrick is still working, concentrating on the page intently with pencil in hand. David slips between the sheets beside him, fiddling around on his phone and reminding himself that this doesn’t actually matter. What Patrick had said was right—they’re the ones in this relationship. They get to make up the rules. And if something’s not working, then they talk to each other.

Patrick finishes, tossing it to the floor with a confident look on his face. “Got it.”

David eyes him with surprise and a slight edge of amusement. “Someone is certainly sure of themselves.”

Patrick reaches for him and David goes, settling easily into Patrick’s arms. Patrick looks at him for a second and David starts to blush at being observed so closely. He squirms slightly and Patrick kisses him soft and sweet and slow, something so gorgeously intimate about it. David sinks into it, nearly forgetting what they were talking about in the process, and finding himself fully breathless when Patrick pulls away to kiss the soft skin over his pulse.

Just when David thinks he couldn’t melt any further, Patrick’s voice is low and teasing in his ear.

“David,” he says, “You have my full attention.”