David opened, and Patrick came in at ten-thirty, which was later than David had expected. David hadn’t exactly specified a time; just, it wasn’t as though Patrick had stayed up hours talking to Alexis, so he hadn’t actually needed to sleep in this long. It just kind of seemed like he was taking advantage, and there was a line at the register. David didn’t like doing the register; Patrick usually did the register, and David hardly ever remembered there being a line except at their launch. It hadn’t been like this last Saturday. Had it been like this the Saturday before last? With Patrick here alone?
David was so busy poking the purchases into the computer with one tense finger that he hadn’t seen Patrick come in, just felt a presence when someone else came behind the counter, a hand skimming on the small of David’s back. “I’ll do this,” Patrick said, reaching over David’s arm to quickly enter the purchase, then turning to the woman at the counter. “Thanks, Mrs. Diaz.” Mrs. Diaz or whoever went away, and the next person was there. “Hello, Omar, more apricot chutney?” Patrick said to Omar as David moved out from behind the register. Patrick smelled like coffee and Old Spice and cinnamon, his body solid and warm and steady, while David felt stripped raw and vibrating from having woken up too early.
He turned to go back behind the curtain to the stockroom, but Patrick caught his hand, and David looked up. Patrick wasn’t even looking at him; he was still talking to Omar, but his hand guided David’s over a lidded cup of coffee. “Is this mine?” David breathed.
“Yes,” said Patrick, finally turning to David, Omar leaving happily with his apricot chutney while the next customer stepped up. “That bag’s yours too.” Patrick tilted his head to catch David’s lips with his own, then turned away. “Hi, Mr. Dawson. How did that sweater work for your wife?”
David returned to a frequent thought about dropping to his knees to suck off Patrick behind the register counter, but it was too early in the morning and there were probably other issues with it David wasn’t thinking of just now. Grabbing the paper bag and the coffee, David went into the back to get his things. The cinnamon roll inside the bag was still warm, and David slipped on his sunglasses and the strap of his satchel over his shoulder, then headed out the back way so he wouldn’t have to exist near people.
When he got back to his room, Alexis was there, of course, because where else was she going to go? She was going to register for classes at Elmdale next week, unless David murdered her before then, which at this point seemed likely. “I’m going to sleep,” David said, putting his empty coffee and half-eaten cinnamon roll on the nightstand and throwing himself down on his bed, sunglasses and all. “Don’t make noise.”
“Sorry I made Patrick late,” Alexis said, just like the obedient little sister she was.
“I couldn’t find my cardigan!”
“What,” David said, much more loudly.
“It was cold! I had to change!”
“Because I didn’t have anything that matched, David. Don’t be such a bear.”
“Why,” David groaned, finally turning over toward her.
“Because it wasn’t my fault your little cutie wanted to have breakfast with me; he just needs a little help, is all.”
Patrick isn’t my cutie, David wanted to tell her, because his brain was too fried to process other things and also gross—except that a part of him didn’t think it was gross at all, having someone cute who was his, especially someone as cute as Patrick. God. David closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose above his sunglasses. “You had breakfast with Patrick,” he finally said.
“He asked me for help with Twitter. He said you said I was good with social media, which—thank you; I didn’t know you said nice things about me.”
“I never say nice things about you.” David put his hand down and stared at the ceiling.
“I think it’s sweet. I mean, he’s obviously trying to get in good with me to get closer to you, which—I have no idea why he thought that would work. Did you know he has a Facebook?”
“Don’t go on his Facebook. He said he didn’t want us on his Facebook.”
“Ew.” Alexis sounded honestly disgusted. “Why would I go on Facebook? That’s like, last century.”
David stared at the ceiling some more.
“I helped him set a Twitter account and an Instagram. He asked how he could friend you on Insta, so clueless and adorable. Anyway, being Patrick’s little social media guru gave me an idea.”
David rolled over to face the wall.
“David, are you sleeping?”
The pillow felt nice, and David wanted to bury his head in it. He should take his sunglasses off. “What idea,” he finally said, when Alexis didn’t go on.
“You were right, about me being good at social media, and I thought while I was helping Patrick with Twitter, I know all these tips and tricks. Remember when I made hashtag younoglow trend? I mean, Patrick is no one, but if I wanted, I could probably get him hundreds of followers, easy.”
“Patrick doesn’t care about getting hundreds of followers.”
“No, but some people do. I think I’m going to get a major in making people popular.”
“You mean public relations?”
“And marketing. That’s what Patrick said.”
David opened his eyes to look at the wall. “Patrick gave you this idea?”
“I came up with it, but when I told him, he had all sorts of helpful advice; you know, because he’s a business major. He said I’d have to do some business, but he said he would help me with my classes if I needed it.”
“He said that?”
“Don’t be mad. Classes start in a few weeks; you guys might not even have broken up by then. He’s a chipmunk, David; he wants to be with you. And just think, if he tutors me, that’s like a turn-on for you.”
The thing inside of David that existed for Patrick had expanded to fill his whole chest, pushing away that tight feeling of exhaustion and leaving in its place something warm and heavy and aching; he ached. God, Patrick made him ache. David closed his eyes and wished that he could smell him.
He could feel himself drifting, the sounds in the room farther away. He could hear Alexis getting up, but he felt too warm and heavy to turn to look at her; he hoped that she’d be quiet so he could fall asleep the rest of the way. Then something on his face was moving—his sunglasses, he realized; they were coming off his face. Alexis was pulling them off his face, and she was going to say something, and he was going to have to pull himself out of almost-sleep to deal with her.
He could hear Alexis fold the sunglasses, the clack of them setting down on the nightstand. The light behind David’s eyes dimmed—she’d turned off the light, and the click of the door sounded. She’d gone.
Thoughts that never occurred to David when he was fully awake drifted through his mind whenever he was falling asleep, and now he thought about Alexis, picking her major, calling Patrick a chipmunk, taking off his sunglasses for him.
I love you, he thought, then finally fell asleep.
Waking up and working and having too much coffee and then going back to bed was not an optimal start to the day. David woke up, ate the rest of the cinnamon roll, felt disgusting, took a shower, spent an extremely long time on his facial regimen because he could; Alexis wasn’t there. Finally he felt alive enough to walk to Café Tropical and have lunch, pick up an extra sandwich, and get back to the store by four. Patrick was still stuck at the register, though there were only a few customers. Maybe it would be over soon. David was just there to drop off a few things.
Still wearing his sunglasses so he could feel farther away from people, David went to the stockroom to put his things down, then came back out to give Patrick the tea he’d gotten him. “Thanks,” said Patrick, when David set it down in front of him as the current customer was leaving and the next one was coming up. Patrick’s smile was small and beautiful and surprised, as though he wouldn’t expect David to do anything like that. For good reason, David supposed. He didn’t do things like that.
“Do you have any more of this brie?” a customer asked David.
“I don’t work here,” David said. He had on his sunglasses and was drinking a coffee; it should have been obvious.
“Um,” said the customer. “You’re behind the desk? And you own this shop.”
“I don’t work here.” David sipped his coffee.
Patrick hit him—a light slap of the back of his hand on David’s hip, which was the part that Patrick could reach. Patrick wasn’t even looking at him; he was checking out another customer.
David leaned against the register counter because he wanted to look at Patrick some more.
“Do you have to buy all the pieces of the shaving set together?” a man asked, coming up to David. “Or can you get them separately?”
“I don’t work here,” David said.
The man huffed and went away, and Patrick was too busy to notice. At the other side of the store a short little girl-looking-person was trying to pull the glass jars off the shelves, and David hated this world. Putting his coffee and sunglasses in the back, David went out to find the negligent parent of this maladjusted girl-child; then the guy asked him about the shaving stuff again. Then someone else was asking about the brie, and David was working.
Three minutes into an excruciating conversation about mouthwash, David looked over the shoulder of the man he was talking to find that Patrick was in a pause between customers. He was watching David, smiling, and David remembered Alexis saying you should see the way he looks at you, and David felt his face change. He really didn’t want it to, not while talking to this stupid guy about mouthwash, and Patrick had already looked away to the next customer, but David’s face was still changed; he couldn’t change it back, and a thrill was inside him. He was thrilled, just being near Patrick.
David had felt this way before; he could be thrilled easily with the right combination of things, and yet here were none of the things that usually thrilled him. He was talking to strangers with bad taste after having woken up too early and slept half the day. There was nothing thrilling about this except for that guy over there who wore Hanes, and David owned this store, and that guy brought him pastries and smelled incredible, and they had built this together from nothing, and that guy had had breakfast with his sister and made her feel worthwhile. Patrick had made Alexis feel worthwhile, and David’s face would never go back to normal.
They were busy enough that by the time David turned over the sign, there were still customers in the store, and Patrick finished up with them at the register while David began to clean up for closing. At last the bell was ringing as the final customer left, and David turned towards Patrick except Patrick was already there, arms slipping around David and lips brushing against his. “Thank you,” Patrick breathed.
“I got you something.” David kissed him back.
“Is it a nap?”
Patrick was still kissing him, and it felt new; there was no heat in the kisses, or any exploration either. It was kissing just to kiss, just to touch; David wanted to touch him forever.
“It’s gross by now,” David said.
“What is it?”
“It was a tuna sandwich.”
Patrick laughed into David’s mouth, finally pulling away enough to put his head on David’s shoulder. “David.” Then Patrick’s head came back up to look at him. “Is that why you’re here?”
“Um,” said David.
“You came here to bring me a tuna sandwich.”
“What?” David tried to pretend he was hurt that Patrick look skeptical. “Now you have to admit I’m nice.”
“Do I?” Patrick kissed him.
“Huh.” Patrick kissed him again.
“Okay, but,” David said, extracting himself from Patrick’s lips, “nice.”
“David.” Tilting his head up, Patrick nibbled on David’s ear lobe. “You’re really nice-looking.”
“That’s not fair,” David pointed out, because Patrick had not only changed what David had said but was doing indecent things to David’s ear; the kissing had been so sweet and innocent before.
Patrick huffed a laugh against David’s neck, warm breath curling against his skin. “I’m so glad you came,” Patrick murmured, and David wanted to point out that that still was not the same as saying that he was nice, but holding Patrick was too pleasant to further protest; Patrick was warm and solid and David just wanted to hold him. He rubbed the small of Patrick’s back, wishing it was bare but also not particularly wanting to get into it just then, and maybe Patrick felt the same things, because he rucked up David’s sweater in back, got his hands in, but then just left them there on David’s back, as though he had simply wanted to feel skin.
“I wish we had a bed,” Patrick murmured.
“I don’t mean . . .” Patrick trailed off. “I just want to make out with you. For a while. In a bed. And then I wanna go to sleep.”
David was still frozen, but Patrick didn’t seem to realize he had said anything incredibly intimate. Maybe he meant he’d go to sleep after David left the room? David thought about their options—Ray’s, or his room, Patrick’s car—that wasn’t a bed. Dad had said the motel was booked again tonight, but maybe if there was a late check-in, like nine or something, they could have a bed in one of the other rooms for a few hours—but then Patrick couldn’t really sleep.
And they’d have to be sure the bed wasn’t rumpled by nine or Dad would kill him, and David thought of kissing Patrick in one of the motel beds with their scratchy linens, timing it so they could pretend no one had been there so some stranger could sleep where they had kissed, and David couldn’t bear it. He couldn’t bear it; Patrick deserved better. Patrick, who wasn’t kissing him, who was just kind of lazily mouthing at David’s neck, deserved better.
“I think you should go home,” David said, even though it killed him to say it with Patrick warm and heavy and tired in his arms.
“Yeah.” Sucking in a breath, Patrick pulled away from him. “Yeah.”
They finished closing, then went in back to get their stuff, David finding the bag with the tuna sandwich and giving it to Patrick, who set it down and kissed him again. “I can’t believe you got me a tuna sandwich and came here just to give it to me.”
“It’s not something you should get used to,” David said, kissing him back.
“I won’t,” Patrick said, backing into the make-out space, pulling David with him. “I just want to express my gratitude.”
“It’s all soggy and cold by now.”
“I’ll still eat it.”
“Mm,” David said. “Don’t say things like that to me while I’m kissing you.”
Patrick smiled against David’s mouth.
“You went to breakfast with my sister,” David said.
“Yeah, sorry.” Patrick pulled back to look at him. “I thought it’d be better face to face; she was taking about career choices.”
“Alexis was talking about career choices.”
Patrick suppressed a smile at the doubt in David’s voice. “I might’ve asked her what she was planning.”
“Did you give her the idea to major in PR?”
“What?” Patrick looked surprised. “No, that was her. Why? Is something wrong with it?”
“No,” David said.
“I think it’d be good for her. She might not know Shakespeare, but she knows her way around social media. She’d be great at marketing people’s brands.”
The constant swirling anxiety in David’s stomach coalesced and tightened into a knot, because suddenly he was thinking about how this would end. Patrick would get fed up with him, maybe just tired. He looked tired right now, leaning against the unfinished drywall of the make-out space, a little too pale, his eyes a bit red-rimmed. Let’s start seeing other people, he’d say, and David wouldn’t know how to tell him he didn’t want to see other people, he didn’t want other people ever again.
“What are you doing?”
David had his phone out, scrolling through to find the camera app. “Nothing.” He held it up.
“Don’t do that now.” Patrick put his hand up to block the view. “I’m tired.”
“Yeah,” David said, but he kept touching the button to take photos until Patrick was rolling his eyes and laughing.
“Come on,” Patrick said. “I’ll take you home.”