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Week Two

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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.

“What.”

“I couldn’t find my cardigan!”

“What,” David said, much more loudly.

“It was cold! I had to change!”

“Why.”

“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?”

“No.”

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.

“Yes.”

“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.

David froze.

“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.”

Chapter Text

Sunday was Patrick’s day off, so David ran the store alone. Technically it was his tenth day in a row working, but who was counting. He never did anything else any more, but there were very few other things he wanted to do, so it worked out.

David: So these kids came in and told me they liked my shoes

Patrick: Were they those high tops

David: Which high tops

Patrick: Oh you have more than one pair of high tops

David: I don’t like you
David: But who needs you I am very hip with the youth

Patrick: sure

David: No remember last week there were kids who liked my hair

Patrick: Were they the same kids

David: How should I know I don’t care about other people

Patrick: Are these people buying anything

David: I feel like you’re questioning my vibe

Patrick: I’m questioning your high tops really
Patrick: Do you want to come to my place for dinner

David: When you say your place

Patrick: Fine rays place

David: When you say ray

Patrick:He’s making Italian. We’ll just have dinner with him that’s all

David: no

Patrick: Look if you have dinner with him now he’s less likely to ask questions and talk if you come in the future
Patrick: He’s an excellent cook

David: no

Patrick: See you tomorrow then

David: How excellent of a cook

Patrick: Fair to middling excellent. It has to happen sometime

David: Does it

Patrick: I have a bed

David: You also have a ray

Patrick: I also have a bedroom that’s mine

David: You also have a ray

Patrick: So I’ll see you tomorrow

David: What kind of Italian

Patrick: Carbs so many carbs you’ll love it

David: I'm watching my weight

Patrick: salad

David: Will there be garlic bread

Patrick: You want to kiss me with garlic breath

David: Who said anything about kissing was it ray

Patrick: There can be garlic bread if that’s what it takes

David: That’s what it takes

Patrick: Hard sell here

David: You have no idea

*

David didn’t know how this had become his life, to the point where he was bringing wine to the house of a real estate agent cum photographer cum—whatever else it was that Ray did, but here David was, in an absolutely fabulous Juun.j cardigan and Neil Barrett lightning sock sneakers, holding local red.

“Welcome!” said Ray with his huge grin, throwing open the door.

Trying not to grimace as he stepped over the threshold, David handed him the wine.

“Ooh a very nice vintage,” said Ray.

“Did you pay for that?” Patrick asked, coming down the stairs.

“I’ll put it in the kitchen,” said Ray, disappearing.

“You’re very brave,” Patrick told David, kissing him and leading him to the living-room.

“I’m a saint,” David informed him.

“You two make a good couple!” Ray said, coming back into the living-room, where David shot apart from Patrick as though he had been stabbed.

“You have a lovely home,” David said politely.

Ray was still grinning somehow. “Oh, thank you, but you’ve seen it before. You met here!”

“Did we?” David swallowed, feeling like some sort of cat was lodged in his throat. “I don’t remember.”

“I noticed a spark from the beginning,” Ray said in his perpetually too-friendly voice. “Patrick did too! He asked a lot of questions about you.”

Everything in Ray’s country suburban too-frilled (but not as bad as Jocelyn’s) house suddenly became much brighter, and the only reason David tried to stop smiling was out of habit. “Did he?” he asked.

“Don’t you have to check on the garlic bread?” Patrick asked Ray, sounding a trifle alarmed.

“Oh, no,” said Ray. “I just did. It won’t be ready for another five minutes. That’s so sweet you want to check. He wanted garlic bread just for you,” Ray added, turning back to David.

“Mm-hm,” said David. “What did Patrick ask about me?”

“Oh, so many questions.” Ray gestured to the pastel couch, seating himself in an over-stuffed love seat. “Would you like to sit down?”

“Yes, please.” David turned to seat himself immediately.

“Maybe I’ll go set the table,” said Patrick, turning to head out before David leaned over and grabbed him by the jeans.

“Uh-huh,” David said, sitting on the couch, pulling Patrick with him. “We’re talking to Ray; don’t be rude.”

“The table is already set!” said Ray excitedly.

“What did Patrick ask about me?” David said.

“Let’s see,” said Ray. “He asked whether you were dating Stevie, and whether Stevie was a man. That should have been my first clue!”

“Uh-huh,” David said, eyes sliding to Patrick, because that was not quite what Patrick had said, when Patrick had asked about Stevie.

Patrick put up his hands. “People were talking! I just wanted the truth.”

“Mm-hm.” David nodded to show how little he believed any of this, then turned back to Ray. “What else?”

“He asked whether I knew if you’d helped your father run Rose Video, and whether I thought you knew what you were doing—I didn’t—and whether I thought you would be hiring employees, and whether you needed a Drug Establishment License—I don’t know what that is; I don’t sell drugs—and whether I knew vendors you were selling and whether they would need permits if—”

“Okay,” David said, disappointed.

Patrick was obviously trying not to laugh at him. “Yeah, I guess I did ask a lot of questions about you. I must have been so interested.”

“You were very interested!” Ray nodded vigorously, turning to David. “I think he listened to your phone messages many times.”

David’s head whipped around to look at Patrick, who was turning a little red.

“I thought they were funny!” Patrick protested.

“And he talked a lot about your business,” Ray went on. “He thought it was a good idea. It was! I wish I’d thought of it. And he put in his notice very quickly, which I found suspicious because you seemed so responsible, Patrick.”

David lifted his chin. “He knew the store would be a success.”

“Or was it romance?” Ray’s brows waggled. “Though I don’t think the romance bloomed until after you became business partners, because that was when he stopped talking about you. I just assumed he was busy! You know, I didn’t even realize Patrick was gay.”

“Oh, um.” David had wanted Ray to tell him everything about Patrick’s early interest in him, but David didn’t want to hear anything about Patrick coming out or not coming out or Patrick having to deal with it. David didn’t want Patrick to have to deal with it, and David had kind of forgotten that coming out was a part of it for Patrick. Patrick was sitting beside David on the couch, and David wanted to reassure him but not in front of Ray; he didn’t know what to do, so he kind of pawed at Patrick’s shoulder. “Didn’t you say the garlic bread would be ready soon?”

“He didn’t even tell me you two were going out. I had to find out from Roland you were an item!” Ray’s brows waggled again while David pawed at Patrick’s shoulder again, looking worriedly from Ray’s excited smile to Patrick, who didn’t look upset, but did look sort of inscrutable.

David didn’t like Patrick looking inscrutable. “We’re very private people,” David said, plucking at Patrick’s shoulder some more.

“Oh, I know that about Patrick. He never talks about his past!”

David plucked some more, still looking at Ray because maybe if David kept looking at him Ray wouldn’t notice that Patrick was uncomfortable. David’s hands went down to try to find Patrick’s hand so he could do something that was supposed to be comforting, touch it or squeeze or something.

“It doesn’t come up,” was all Patrick said.

“But you,” Ray went on, turning to David, “I wouldn’t have thought that about you. Your mother shares a lot about your family.”

“When do you go around talking to my mother?” David said.

“Oh, not me, so much as I have a crew with Ronnie and Roland. She talks to them on the council; I hear all the news. You know, I fancy myself a sort of matchmaker?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t,” said David.

“But I myself am not in a relationship.” Ray sounded as excited about this as he did about everything, except he also sounded sad too. “I’ve been on many dates! And had several girlfriends, but it hasn’t worked out for me. Sometimes I feel like Drew Barrymore in that movie; I’ve been kissed but I’ve never really been kissed.”

“David’s a fan of Drew Barrymore,” Patrick said, some of the stiffness melting into a smile.

“Oh, really?” Ray looked at David eagerly.

“Some of her work is good,” David said, feeling a bit ill over agreeing with Ray about anything, except the last thing he would ever do was insult Drew.

“I love romantic comedy,” Ray said, smiling widely. “It’s my favorite genre of movie.”

“David likes romantic comedies,” Patrick said, his smile growing even bigger as David felt even more ill.

“My favorite movie is Practical Magic,” said Ray. “I love Nicole Kidman!”

David felt like he was swallowing a cat again. “That’s an excellent movie,” he whispered, because it was true. It also had Sandra Bullock in it.

“Oh, David,” said Ray, clapping his hands. “I am so glad I have something in common with you!” A buzzer rang, and Ray jumped up. “That’s the garlic bread! Dinner will be soon!” He rushed off to the kitchen, and David nearly collapsed in relief.

Patrick kissed him, mouth moving to David’s ear. “Think about my bed,” he whispered.

“Trust me, that’s the only reason I’m here,” David muttered.

“Are you sure?” Patrick said. “Because now you can talk about Nicole Kidman as much as you want.”

“I can never talk about Nicole Kidman as much as I want,” David said, kissing him back.

“See? I’ve provided for you.”

“Yeah.” David turned to kiss him more thoroughly. “You’re such a provider. You listened to my phone messages more than once?”

“Time for dinner!” Patrick said, leaping to his feet.

Unable to hide his smile, David followed Patrick into the kitchen.

*

Dinner with Ray was not actually excruciating, because he really was a decent cook and he did have excellent taste in romantic comedies, even if he was wrong about While You Were Sleeping, and Sabrina. The garlic bread was cheap and American and absolutely divine, and David tried to have the salad but Patrick asked him if he wanted to taste the manicotti and David had to say yes because it was manicotti, and then he had to have his own.

Ray looked at him proudly and said wrong things about Julia Roberts, and David had probably too much wine, but at some point Patrick put his hand on David’s thigh under the table, and David kind of couldn’t believe that Patrick would do things like that in front of Ray, but David was glad. He was dating a guy who was cute and funny and polite to people like Ray, and it almost made up for having to deal with Ray, and then David was going to get to go to Patrick’s bedroom where Patrick had a bed, and that almost definitely made up for Ray. David really liked Patrick. Patrick had listened to David’s messages and asked whether David was dating Stevie. Patrick liked him back.

After dinner, Patrick helped clear the dishes and then helped Ray with cleaning up, and David stood there uncomfortably because he didn’t know what was happening, but Patrick gave him more wine, which was nice. Then, we’re going upstairs, which was what Patrick had said and how they got upstairs, even though Ray wanted to know if they wanted to watch Far and Away.

Far and Away was excellent and had Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise before he got weird, but David and Patrick were doing something fun upstairs so Patrick said no, and David followed him; he was going to make out with Patrick. He was going to make out with Patrick so much and make him feel so good and maybe get his shirt off and touch him all over; David wanted to touch him all over.

David was just a little tipsy.

“Okay,” said Patrick, opening a door and leading David through it. “I am braced for your reaction to this room.”

“Are you?” David followed him in, closed the door behind him, then pulled on Patrick’s shoulders, getting Patrick’s mouth on his. “Mm,” David said, settling against the door. “This room is great.”

“You wouldn’t be saying that if you were looking at it.” Patrick leaned back in, kissing him some more.

David didn’t understand how it could feel so long since he’d kissed Patrick; he’d done it last night, then looked at those pictures he’d taken in the stockroom about thirty times since then and thought about kissing him some more. He’d thought about Patrick having breakfast with Alexis and telling him to come and getting him a birthday present, and he wanted to kiss Patrick even more.

Patrick’s hands were moving under David’s asymmetrical cardigan, then under the shirt under that, and David put his hands on Patrick’s wrists to still them, because he didn’t actually want Patrick touching his stomach. “Ugh.” David thumped his head against the door. “I just ate—way too much garlic bread.”

“I know,” Patrick said, hands still under David’s shirt but no longer moving. Patrick kissed him again. “Pretty sure I can taste it.”

“That’s gross.”

“Yeah,” Patrick agreed, trying to kiss him again. “Disgusting.”

David looked over Patrick’s shoulder as a stalling tactic. “Oh my God, this room.”

“I told you.” Patrick smiled against his mouth.

“The wallpaper.”

“I know.”

“Do you really want to make out under the eyes of this wallpaper?”

“The wallpaper doesn’t have eyes,” Patrick said, kissing David’s neck now.

“Those cats have eyes,” David said, looking nervously at the little figurines on the credenza to the right of the door. These couldn’t be Patrick’s figurines. Could they? “The little birdie on that vase has eyes.”

“Are you scared of the birdie?” Patrick murmured.

“Where are your things? Patrick-things?”

“Um, the closet?” Patrick at last pulled away from him. “I didn’t bring that much when I moved here.”

Uh-oh. Backstory. Patrick never talks about his past! Ray had said, just as joyfully as he said everything else, and David wondered whether there were reasons for that—sad, homophobic reasons, not at all the same as why David didn’t like to talk about his own past either, but just as bad.

“This bed is big though, which almost balances out the wallpaper,” David said, going to Patrick and tugging on his jeans. Patrick didn’t have on his fancy little belt; maybe because it wasn’t a work day, and David had no idea why he thought that was cute. Patrick was really cute; David wanted him to be happy; he tried to put on a sexy expression, hoping it would make Patrick happy, even though David didn’t actually feel that sexy; he felt full of garlic bread. “Do you want to try it out?” he asked, in a voice he hoped was also sexy, tugging Patrick’s jeans to bring him over to the bed. David sat down on it, spreading his legs and pulling Patrick to stand between them. “Make sure it works?”

“I don’t know,” Patrick said, leaning down to kiss him. “I ate a lot of garlic bread too. Maybe we’ll break it.”

“Mm, hot,” David said, because really the last thing David needed to feel sexy was remembering anything about the meal they’d just eaten, except Patrick was smiling against his mouth, and David needed that more. Patrick was leaning in, so David scooted back, Patrick getting a knee on the mattress between David’s legs before coming back up.

“Can we get this,” Patrick said, plucking at David’s cardigan, “off?” He started feeling around on it, probably looking for the tag of the zipper, and David got it; it was confusing.

“It doesn’t zip that way,” he said, wondering why he hadn’t thought of this when he’d gotten dressed. He looked fantastic; that was why he hadn’t thought of it, or—he had wanted to look fantastic, for Patrick, but now David had had wine and ten thousand carbs and dammit, he couldn’t find the tag either; okay, there it was. Fiddling with it, David got it unzipped, then Patrick helped him struggle out of it, tossing it behind them on the bed.

Patrick’s hand pressed solid and warm at the center of David’s chest, and David though possibly Patrick was admiring this amazing Diesel t-shirt when he started pulling that off David too, okay; they were going all the way with this. “God,” Patrick said, once the t-shirt was somewhere behind them, and his hand was on David’s chest. “I wanna do so many things to you.”

Patrick was serious, but David couldn’t help but smile, because Patrick liked it; he liked David’s chest, for some reason, and David was slowly getting used to that, that Patrick really did like it. That he meant it when he said it, even after ten thousand carbs, even when Patrick was pushing him back on the bed and David was doing a very undignified shimmy so Patrick could crawl over him. Patrick really liked it; Patrick liked him, and they were on a bed. They were in bed together; Patrick was on top of him, kissing him, and Patrick liked it. Even tasting like garlic, he liked it.

Patrick’s hand drifted over the front of David’s pants, and David had thought about that; he’d worn drawstring cargos because they were loose and he didn’t know how much time they’d have at Ray’s. “Can I?” Patrick breathed, his hand hovering above the drawstring.

“Yes? But maybe we should get you . . .” David pulled at Patrick’s sweater; it was really ugly, and Patrick was just getting his hands under the hem of it to help David take it off when the door opened.

“Hi!” said Ray.

A pillow landed over David’s chest, and Patrick was up and walking toward the door, herding Ray out of it, closing it so that just Patrick’s head poked into the hallway.

“I found two more Nicole Kidman movies!” Ray was saying loudly, but David couldn’t hear Patrick’s reply, only that it was low and sort of furious.

David plucked the pillow. Patrick had thrown it over him the second the door opened. That had been Patrick’s first thought. David felt his face twisting into a smile over it, even though it wasn’t funny; even though the pillow had an eighties floral print; even though it had lace edges. Actually, he was possibly smiling because the pillow had lace edges; it was sort of funny after all.

The door closed, and Patrick turned back toward him. Patrick looked more pissed off than David had seen him look before, mostly because Patrick was a really easy-going guy, but that didn’t mean he was never angry. The anger was melting now, though, because he was looking at David, who still couldn’t help thinking it was kind of funny.

“Come back to me and my pillow,” David whispered, when Patrick got his knee on the bed and was getting onto it beside him.

“I’m sorry,” said Patrick.

“The pillow’s not sorry,” said David, clutching it.

Patrick kissed him, hand coming to touch David’s bare shoulder, the pillow between them. As the kiss grew more heated, Patrick tried to pull it away.

“My pillow is into it,” David said, holding onto it.

“I knew you wouldn’t want him to see you.”

“And it feels like it’s down. No memory foam, but I don’t know, with all this lace; it’s a sexy pillow.”

“David,” Patrick remonstrated, but he was laughing, his head dipping into David’s shoulder, breath huffing as he chuckled. “What are you doing?”

“Pillow talk?”

“Why?”

“In case Ray comes back.”

“I told him not to.”

“If you’re sure.” David finally moved the pillow away, hands going to the hem of Patrick sweater. “The pillow is sorry; it was so interested in your muscular chest.”

Patrick was still laughing. “I don’t have a muscular chest.”

“More muscular than mine.”

“David—”

The door opened again. “I forgot to tell you I have ice cream!”

“Oh my God,” Patrick said, shooting out of the bed. He looked like murder, and David, who had scrambled for his pillow again, didn’t understand why Ray wasn’t actually afraid of Patrick, if he could look like that. Patrick stalked back over to the door, and while Patrick mostly closed it with his head out of it to talk to Ray, David put aside the pillow and found his t-shirt, putting it back on.

When Patrick got the door closed and turned back around, David was looking for his cardigan. “I’m sorry,” Patrick said.

He sounded so upset that David felt bad for finding it funny, but it was funny, and he’d eaten so much that it was difficult to feel in the mood anyway, and this bedroom had flowers all over it, and Patrick had said—well, he’d said . . . David closed his eyes and tried to not wince when he reminded Patrick of what he’d said. “You said you don’t—we don’t need to do things for you to—you said you wanted to hang out.”

“I do,” Patrick said, sounding frustrated. “I want to hang out with you, not Ray.”

“But Ray’s here,” David said, standing up from the bed. “And he has ice cream. And Far and Away.”

“What?” Patrick frowned at him in confusion, and David came closer to him.

“I would be fine,” David said tentatively. “If we just—I mean. I don’t know what you want; we could—try to find somewhere where we can—be private, the store, or—I brought the car; we could—”

“You want to watch Far and Away with Ray,” Patrick said skeptically.

“Not really.” David came closer, reaching out to Patrick’s shoulder, sliding his hand down Patrick’s arm, to his hand. Lifting up that hand, David played with it a little, Patrick’s blunt, inelegant fingers, but they were strong, good hands. Rougher than David’s. David liked them a lot. “I want to watch it with you.”

“Sitting on a couch? With Ray there?”

But you would be there. David didn’t say that, because as soon as he thought it, he realized how stupid it was. “Right, I wasn’t thinking.” Dropping Patrick’s hand, David turned away, looking for his cardigan. Patrick was right; Ray would talk through the movie; David didn’t know why he’d suggested it; had he even suggested it? Patrick had gotten the wrong idea; David wouldn’t suggest something like that—

“Hey.” Patrick’s hand caught his, turning him around, kissing him. Patrick kissed him and kissed him, a very heated kiss, and—oh, right; this was why they had come here, because Patrick wanted him, and there was a bed. And David wanted Patrick, of course; of course he wanted him; he wasn’t in this for ice cream and movies; why had he even—

“I didn’t know you were such a Nicole Kidman fan,” Patrick said, pulling away.

“I’m not. I was just . . .” David trailed off, turning to try to look for his cardigan again.

Patrick pulled him back to kiss him again. “I am, though,” he said, his hand on David’s face. “I’m a really big fan; I just assumed you wouldn’t—you didn’t like her the way I do.”

“I was glad she got an Oscar for The Hours.” Feeling a little better, David let Patrick kiss him.

“I want to watch the movie with you. I don’t know what The Hours is.” Patrick was kissing all over his face, and David pulled back.

“I’m beginning to suspect you’re not really a Nicole fan.”

“I’m”—Patrick kissed David’s temple—“a really big fan”—the corner of David’s mouth—“I like her”—right by David’s eye—“so much.”

“Mm-hm.” David pressed his lips against Patrick’s face, because a feeling was bubbling in David’s chest like he was going to laugh, but no one was being funny; he didn’t have a reason to. “How did you like her in Atonement?” he murmured.

“Good.” Patrick kissed him on the mouth again now. “She was so good in that.”

“And in The Reader?”

“Also good.” Patrick kissed him some more, and David pulled away.

“Do you even know who Nicole Kidman is?”

“Yes.” Patrick kissed him. “She was in Moulin Rouge.”

David did laugh; he didn’t know why; it wasn’t particularly funny; then he was kissing Patrick again, except not very well because they were both smiling.

At last Patrick pulled away. “I’m going to have to go apologize to Ray. I was—kind of harsh.”

“Harsh?” David mocked, trying to swallow another smile.

“I just wanted to . . .” Patrick’s smile faded, his hand running over the front of David’s t-shirt. He sucked in a breath. “I like your arms.”

“They’re all yours,” said David, looking around once more for his cardigan, “but not Ray’s. He doesn’t get any of this.”

“But the pillow got a little.”

“The pillow got a lot,” David said, picking up his cardigan.

“Hey.” Patrick’s hands were on the arms he apparently liked, stroking up to David’s shoulders, his neck, and Patrick was leaning in to kiss him again. “Thank you. I’m sorry tonight didn’t work out the way I—but thank you.”

“For what?” David said. “I get ice cream.”

“I thought you were full of garlic bread.”

“I have a separate compartment for ice cream.”

Patrick kissed him again.

*

They watched Far and Away with Ray, who apologized so profusely about having interrupted them earlier—apparently feeling so bad about it—that after he got them ice cream, he said they should watch the movie alone. Then he came into the living-room every five minutes, saying, “Does anyone need more chocolate sauce?” and “Ooh, I like this part!” and “You two look so cozy!” enough times that David finally said very loudly, “Why don’t you watch it with us?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to disturb,” said Ray.

“Too late for that!” said David, still loud.

Patrick put his arm around David and squeezed.

“I need more chocolate sauce,” David added.

Ray went and got it for him, then sat in the love-seat beside the couch to watch with them.

Patrick’s arm stayed around David’s shoulder, slowly rubbing circles on the arm of David’s cardigan as David finished his very chocolatey ice cream. After he was done, David didn’t actually want to try for anything else, because they were in a dark living-room with Ray, but then he put his hand on Patrick’s thigh after all. Patrick’s other hand immediately went down to it, stroking David’s rings. When David glanced at him, however, Patrick was just watching the movie, pale skin lit by the flicker of light from the TV.

Discreetly, David tried to shuffle down a bit so he could put his head on Patrick’s shoulder, and Patrick immediately adjusted, turning his body so David could lean onto it. It would have been embarrassing with the lights on, with Ray to see them, commenting on the couple they made, but here in the dark it felt warm and private and sort of weirdly—thrilling.

They were like . . . like teenagers from the fifties, out on a date, barely daring to innocently touch and David loved that; he loved the idea of being fifties teenagers. They could get a milkshake and two straws, both drinking from it; the café had the right style of glasses. They were a John Waters movie; they were Grease and Patrick was Sandy, except David didn’t like John Travolta; David could be Adrian Zmed in the sequel, except he wouldn’t mind being Michelle Pfeiffer. Michelle Pfeiffer and Olivia Newton John hooking up would be hot; David would rock a poodle skirt; this fantasy was stupid and weird; David liked it so much. He liked it so much. He wanted to be Rebel Without a Cause; he wanted to go to planetariums, aquariums; he wanted to stroll through parks with Patrick, ride motorcycles, and die young.

Except the motorcycles part because that would be terrifying. And also with the dying.

David turned his face into Patrick’s neck and smelled him, cheap laundry detergent and Old Spice and just a hint of garlic, and it was perfect. This was dumb and it was perfect. Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise were perfect. Even Ray was perfect. David wished he could take another picture, so that when this was all over he could remember that it had been worth it; all these stupid things had been worth it.

Still watching the screen, Patrick brought up David’s hand, kissing each one of David’s rings. Face still turned into Patrick’s neck, David smiled, the light of the TV flickering over both of them. And Ray.

Chapter Text

The next day Roland almost called the police on them.

Monday was Patrick’s other day off, and David had texted him that morning to ask if they were doing anything that night.

Patrick: idk do you want to?

This response sent David into a minor spiral, because it was so obvious he wanted to, or he wouldn’t have texted. He didn’t text many people, though he’d had to start doing it a lot more than he liked once he’d started contracting with vendors, and what if this was Patrick’s way of stepping back? Usually it was a little longer until they got fed up with him, but usually they were also having sex, so maybe that kept them interested; why the fuck had he been so happy about being fifties teenagers with Patrick; David should have been keeping him interested

Patrick: I want to

David made himself breathe. He made himself breathe, and breathe; he put his hands over his face and breathed in the stockroom; the bell rang over the door; he needed to go back out; he always got like this. Why did he get like this? Why did he panic? Normal people could behave normally! Why wasn’t he normal? David went to go help the customer.

David: What do you want to do?

Patrick: I should come up with something fun
Patrick: Got to keep you entertained
Patrick: But I really just want to go to the stockroom

David: ok

Patrick: Cafe tropical?

David: ok

Patrick: Sorry to be boring

David: I’ll make it XXXciting

David thought about what he had just sent.

David: Please delete that text

Patrick: Oh no I’m framing that text

David: You’re always framing things

Patrick: Only things that are important to our relationship
Patrick: I have a picture of barenaked ladies framed beside my bed

David: Ok you can go to the cafe by yourself

Patrick: I can’t do what I want to in the stockroom by myself

David: You could
David: I’d watch you

David thought about that text as well.

David: You can delete those too
David: sorry

For a long time, Patrick didn’t text back, and David thought he’d fucked it up again.

Patrick: I’d do that
Patrick: If you wanted me to

David couldn’t help it; he called up the pictures he’d taken of Patrick in the stockroom, Patrick with this sad awful lighting and his tired smile and beautiful eyelashes, and David imagined him doing it. He imagined Patrick touching himself, looking at David, and David finally realized just how bad making out in the stockroom really was, because for just a flash of a moment, he thought about taking care of this problem. For the flash of a moment, he thought about masturbating in his own store during open hours, and he’d done a lot of dirty and despicable things but it was his store, his beautiful store, and how could he think about doing that? Here?

David: Only if you wanted to

Patrick: I assume you’ll want to change. Want me to pick you up? Motel at 7?

David: ok

Patrick: Can’t wait

*

At Café Tropical, Twyla was inappropriate, just like everyone else in this town. “I heard from Bob you two are an item!” she said, handing them their menus.

Bob,” David said miserably.

“Yep,” Patrick said brightly.

“I’m trying out these new smoothies,” said Twyla.

Oh God, no.

“Do you guy wanna try one? They’d be perfect for people dating, because they’re duo smoothies. Get it? Duo? Because there are two people in a couple. They’re flavor duos, you know; two tastes that taste great together. Like Brad and Angelina—only, I think they split up. But I mean, like a classic duo. Like Sonny and Cher!”

“They also split up,” David muttered.

“Tom and Jerry,” said Twyla.

“One is literally trying to kill the other one,” said David.

“Batman and Robin,” said Twyla.

“There are lots of Robins,” said Patrick.

David didn’t know anything about Batman, but he remembered Uma Thurman’s costumes. “I want to be Poison Ivy,” he said.

“Um,” said Twyla. “For instance, there’s a smoothie that’s peanut butter and—”

“Chocolate?” David said, because Twyla’s smoothies were disgusting, but he sometimes made bad choices, and often they involved chocolate.

“Nope!” Twyla grinned. “Jelly!”

“A peanut butter and jelly smoothie?” Patrick asked, sounding revolted, which was the appropriate emotion.

“Patrick and I are going to have a milkshake,” said David. “A chocolate one. With two straws.”

“Oh.” Twyla looked uncertain. “Are you sure? I remember you didn’t want to share last time; you had like a—mouth . . . condition?”

“Yes, it’s contagious,” David said. “I gave it to him. With my mouth.”

“I only have a few months to live,” Patrick said.

Twyla looked between them. “Oh,” she said after a long moment, sort of laughing. “That’s a joke!”

“It’s part of the disease he gave me,” Patrick said. “Sorry.”

“Okay,” Twyla said, laughing some more. After taking their orders for food, she picked up their menus and left, saying, “I’ll go get that milkshake!”

Patrick suppressed a smile at David. “You didn’t ask me if I wanted a milkshake.”

“Excuse me, do you not want a milkshake?”

“No, I do.”

“I want to be from the fifties with you,” David said.

“I don’t know what that means,” said Patrick, laughing, “but okay.”

David looked at him. He hadn’t gotten to look at him all day, except for those horribly lit pictures on his phone, and Patrick looked so much better than the pictures. He looked well rested, fresh, his skin clear. David wondered what Patrick’s skin care regimen was, probably bar soap and a towel; it was so sad, and David didn’t want him to change it. He didn’t want Patrick to change anything. “What do you do all day?” David heard himself ask suddenly. “What do you do on your days off?”

“I sit at home, staring at my phone . . . just hoping you might text.”

“No, but for real. What did you do today?”

“Well, I did text you an awful lot. More than I should. Weren’t you supposed to be working?”

“But what else?”

“What do you mean?” said Patrick. “Normal stuff.”

I have no idea what that is, David wanted to say, but figured it probably wasn’t best to emphasize just how normal he wasn’t to Patrick. “Like what?”

Patrick shrugged, sort of uncomfortably. “Read. Catch up on the news. I try to get some exercise—sometimes I hike,” he said, somewhat sharply, as though David would object to this.

David didn’t object. Hiking was gross, but he didn’t mind if other people did it. He didn’t mind if Patrick did it; it was probably why he looked like that. David should probably start doing squats again. He should go to the gym.

“I’ve been trying to cook more. I watch things. Just normal things,” Patrick said again. “I’m not very interesting.”

“Okay, but I’m interested in you? Therefore, you’re fascinating.”

Patrick bit down on a smile, and David realized how sweet the thing he’d said was. He hadn’t meant to be sweet, but it wasn’t like he could take it back.

Lifting his chin, David said archly, “Because I have impeccable taste.”

“Mm-hm,” said Patrick. “That’s why you want to be Poison Ivy.”

“Those boots were amazing.”

Patrick bit down on his smile harder. “What do you do on your days off?”

“I can’t remember the last day I had off.”

“All right. What would you do?”

David sighed. “I need to find Alexis a tutor. She wants to take these pretests—she’s trying to go to college; she’s not going to pass; it’s stressful. Ugh, the whole thing is stressful.”

“It’s stressful she’s going to college?”

“I want her to go; it’ll be really good for her; I just . . . I want her to do a good job. She needs to do a good job. She needs—something; I just . . . ugh. I don’t understand why I have to deal with this.”

Patrick was doing that soft expression with his face. He really liked Alexis, David guessed, which was nice. Maybe Patrick could deal with her instead. “Ronnie’s wife used to be a professor,” Patrick said, after a moment.

“Who’s Ronnie?”

Patrick’s smile turned into one of those I can’t believe you smiles. “Local contractor? She’s on the Council with your mom?”

David moved his head around to try to rearrange all the thoughts in it. “That Ronnie?”

“Are there other Ronnies?”

“She’s a lesbian?”

Laughing, Patrick looked around the café, because David might have said that very loudly. “Did you think you were the only gay person in Schitt’s Creek?”

“No, there’s you.” David frowned. “I don’t really pay attention to other people.”

“You pay attention to Alexis.”

“That’s habit.”

Patrick’s face was soft again; David really didn’t get it. “Did you look after her when she was younger?”

“I—” David’s mouth hung open, about to tell Patrick about the time his parents had had a mix-up with Adelina’s schedule. David had been eight, Alexis three, and they’d been left alone in the summer house for two days. David had known it was his responsibility to take care of Alexis; he was her big brother, so he fed her all the Flintstones vitamins, because they tasted good and Adelina said that they were good for you. Mom had gotten very upset, and that had been scary because Mom never got mad at him; he was her favorite, and he was scared of not being her favorite because then she might forget about him like she forgot about Alexis, and Dad had called poison control.

For years after that David had been fairly certain he’d poisoned his sister, even though he realized later that wasn’t the case, but when she’d had that overdose at fourteen he’d thought it was probably because of the Flintstones vitamins, like he had never taught her moderation; how could he? He didn’t have any, and Doctor Morales had said that Alexis overdosing wasn’t David’s fault either, but he’d been nineteen, and he’d been at the same party, and he’d been in another room with an older woman who’d said she’d make him her pet, and he had wanted to be her pet because she’d do things like call him sweet names and take care of him, and how could he be doing that, crawling around on the floor like that, when Alexis was having a seizure in the next room and she didn’t have anyone to take care of her?

“Sometimes,” David said. “Did you take care of your sister?”

“Oh.” Patrick looked away, then shrugged rather uncomfortably. “Sometimes. She was always . . .” He ground his teeth together. “She could take care of herself. Better than I . . . I haven’t always been . . .”

Patrick didn’t want to talk about this either, and it made David glad. He was so glad; they didn’t have to talk about it. “So Ronnie’s wife used to be a professor? What does she do now?”

“Something to do with gravel.” Patrick held his hands up. “Hey, I don’t know; this is just what I’ve heard.”

“Okay,” David said slowly. “What did the lesbian gravel professor teach?”

“I don’t know. You could probably ask your mom.”

“My mom’s not going to know what Ronnie’s wife used to teach,” said David. “I doubt my mom even knows Ronnie has a wife. She thinks about other people even less than me. You see, I’m not like this by choice; it’s genetic.”

Patrick’s mouth folded over a smile. “I like your genetics.”

“They do favor me.” David’s heart was lifting from a heavy place in his chest; Patrick was lifting it. Being with Patrick felt so good. David stretched his leg out under the table, his foot sliding along Patrick’s leg, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough. David put his hand out, hoping Patrick would take it.

Patrick took it immediately.

“I can’t wait to have this milkshake with you,” David said. “I can’t wait to be Johnny Depp in Cry-Baby with you; you can be Zac Efron in the Hairspray remake.”

“Did you just call me Zac Efron?”

“You’re right; the original is better; I’m a fan of Divine.”

Patrick pressed his lips together to keep from laughing, and David passed his thumbs over Patrick’s knuckles, which Patrick really needed to moisturize more. David did it again. “You have no idea what I’m talking about,” he said.

Patrick pressed his lips together harder. “I did part of Hairspray for an audition, once.”

David’s mouth dropped open. “Who were you?”

Patrick laughed. “I was Divine.”

David brought Patrick’s hand up and kissed it; he kissed Patrick’s too-dry knuckles; he kissed Patrick’s horrible cuticles. “I want to suck your fingers,” he said without meaning to.

Patrick laughed harder, his head shaking. “Why are you like this?” He sounded so happy.

David’s face hurt. It hurt from smiling; he didn’t think he’d ever smiled this much before. “Genetics,” he said, kissing Patrick’s hand again. “Genetics and my history and you; you make me like this.”

It was what Patrick had said to him a few days ago; it was what John Waters would have put in a period piece with beehives and milkshakes; it was perfect. Being fifties boyfriends was perfect; never mind that David wanted to raw him right there on the table in front of everyone. David could be a fifties boyfriend until the movie ended, and Patrick returned him to Rose Video. He’d probably be kind and rewind; David didn’t care; he’d suffer the heart-wrenching lurch of going all the way back to the beginning to find out it had always meant less to Patrick than it had to him; David didn’t care. He had never cared so little. He’d be happy going back on the shelf if Patrick had watched him; he’d be happy with anything; he was happy.

He was happy he was happy he was happy. David took his hand away from Patrick’s to cover his face; he was smiling too much. He didn’t want anyone to see him.

“Here’s your milkshake,” Twyla said.

That would happen in a John Waters movie too, a perfect time for a scene break.

*

David drank most of the milkshake, but it was okay because he ordered a salad. By the time they got to the store they were both laughing about something; David wasn’t even sure what; they were stumbling around in the dark toward the stockroom, getting the light on in there and kissing. Patrick was already taking off his sweater, and David was backing him into the make-out space when Patrick looked over David’s shoulder.

“David,” Patrick said with an incredulous smile. “Did you tape the cardboard over the window?”

“There was an incident.”

“Aw,” Patrick said, his eyes alight with mirth. “Did someone see you?”

“I was having—impure thoughts.”

Patrick had stopped taking off his sweater, so David began to help. “What kind of impure thoughts?” Patrick wanted to know.

“It was this guy,” David said, tugging on Patrick’s sweater. “He texted me about doing—indecent things.”

“He texted you while you were at work?” Patrick finally got with the sweater program, getting it over his head.

David pulled it the rest of the way off Patrick’s arms, tossing it somewhere behind him. “Uh-huh. I had to do something.”

“David.” Patrick held David away, his voice a little off. “Something that included putting cardboard over the window?”

“What?” David got what he meant, then made a face. “Ugh, no. I meant—I needed to keep myself busy. I also rearranged all of the products in the backroom. I also took everything off the table, dusted it, and put everything back on.”

Patrick did his pleased little smile where he tried not to show just how pleased he was. “This guy must’ve really gotten you bothered.”

David tried not to do a pleased smile as well. “You should have seen what he texted me. You would’ve gotten hot too.” He leaned in for a kiss, but instead Patrick took a swift breath.

“I didn’t know you felt that way.”

David pulled back but not very much, his lips almost brushing Patrick’s. “What did you think I felt?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well.” David put his hand on the button of Patrick’s jeans. He wasn’t wearing a belt again. “Are you going to?” David breathed.

“Going to what?”

David pawed at the button gently. He didn’t want to open it; he didn’t want to pressure him, but—but Patrick was the one who had suggested it, and they were still going slow, and—and this would be slow, wouldn’t it? Even fifties boyfriends masturbated in front of each other.

Well. No. They didn’t. Maybe they did in Dead Poets Society. That movie was sad and gay and David didn’t like it.

“Oh,” said Patrick, as though David’s helpless flailing at his button had actually communicated something. “You mean—what I said in the text? Here—now?”

David gulped. “Only—if you want to. Only if you want to.”

“David,” Patrick said, but he didn’t say anything else.

Then Patrick’s hands came down, brushing David’s, and David snatched his away. Patrick got himself unbuttoned, unzipped, hands at his hips to shimmy down his jeans a bit. His boxer briefs were white this time; just looking at them made David’s mouth water; Patrick’s hands came back to the front and they were trembling. David wanted to help him, but he wanted to watch too much; he wanted to see it; he wanted to see Patrick put his hand on his cock; he wanted to see Patrick’s cock; he wanted to see everything, everything. Was this how it was when Patrick was alone? Did he do it thinking of David? Had he done it—earlier today?

Patrick reached in, got his cock out, pulled his underwear down enough to show it; he was half-hard already. His hand was on it. “Can you,” David said swaying in toward Patrick’s ear, “pull your underwear down farther; I want to see . . .”

“David.” Patrick’s breath hitched, and David regretted saying anything; he didn’t want to direct; he wanted to watch. He wanted to yank Patrick’s pants down and drop to his knees, but he wanted to watch.

Patrick took his hand off it, hand back on his underwear to shimmy them down farther; he had balls with a good amount of hair, not too much; David wanted to suck those too. He basically wanted to suck every part of Patrick; Patrick made him hungry. Patrick was like a decadent dessert, and David was on a diet. He could only have a very little bit at a time, just enough to make him want more. David was really bad at diets. Whenever he quit them it was like he couldn’t stop eating.

“David,” Patrick said again, then held his hand up.

David got it immediately; Patrick wanted him to lick it, just like before, and that was a good thing since David had sort of been thinking about eating Patrick alive. This was like a glass of water in a desert; David grabbed Patrick’s wrist, put his tongue flat against Patrick’s palm, then licked. He licked lasciviously, on purpose, his eyes on Patrick as he opened his mouth still further and got gross about it, building up saliva, getting his tongue between Patrick’s fingers, fellating them.

“Okay, David,” Patrick said, just like he had the last time, just as David was beginning to get truly nasty with it; David didn’t care.

Breath hitching again, Patrick brought his wet hand back down to his hardening cock, and David heard himself make a high-pitched sound when Patrick finally got his hand around it; Patrick was going too slow. Patrick was—performing for him, but it was—it was sort of artless, like Patrick wasn’t used to it or didn’t quite know how, and it felt like Patrick was touching David’s own cock. It was like Patrick was touching him, and David whined again, swaying toward him, bringing his head down so his forehead pushed against Patrick’s as David looked down at Patrick’s hand on his cock between them. God, it was beautiful. He was so beautiful. “Please,” David whispered. “Please.”

“David,” Patrick said uncertainly, pausing in the long, slow pull he’d started along his cock. “Do you need me to—?”

“Please don’t stop touching yourself,” David said. “I need to see. Please.”

“O-okay,” Patrick said, starting up again, another long pull on his cock, then another.

“Yeah, mm-hm,” David said, pressing his lips together so he wouldn’t say more. Then he forgot. “That’s good; it looks so good.”

Patrick huffed a laugh. “You make it sound like I’m doing this to you.”

“You are.”

“Pretty sure—I’m not.”

“Imagine you’re fucking me.”

“Oh.” Patrick’s cock jumped in his hand, hand tightening spasmodically. He was fully hard now. “David.” Then Patrick began to speed up.

“This is what it feels like if you’re fucking me,” David whispered, then heard his own words. “Is that—is this okay?”

“I don’t—know,” Patrick breathed. “I want—I want . . .” His grip changed on his cock, and he was going harder. “Yes. You can—yes.”

“I’d be wet for you,” David said immediately. “I could be so tight and wet for you.”

“Fuck.” Patrick’s other hand clamped down on David’s shoulder, not pushing him away, but holding him there.

“I’d be anything you need,” David said. He was getting hard just watching Patrick, just talking about it, imagining it. “You could fuck me with that thick cock—”

Patrick made another sound, a gasped release of air, his fingers on David’s shoulder tight enough to bruise, and David thought about touching himself, doing it while Patrick did it, but he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to; he wanted to watch; he didn’t care about getting off. He didn’t care; he cared about Patrick. Fuck, David was so hard.

“You could fill me up with it so good,” David said. “You’d feel so good inside me.”

“David,” Patrick said, jacking hard and fast now.

“Look at you go,” David breathed. “Look at you; I want . . .”

Patrick panted for breath. “What? You want what?”

“I,” David said.

“Tell me. Tell me, David.”

“I want to get on my knees and open my mouth and take you in and choke on it.”

“Christ.” Patrick thumped his head against the wall, but his hand didn’t stop on his cock.

David swallowed. “You told me to.”

“Yeah.” Patrick took his hand off David’s shoulder, and David knew he shouldn’t have said it, and then Patrick’s free hand touched David’s face, fingers pressing against David’s lips. “Open,” said Patrick.

“What,” David began to say, but Patrick pushed two of his fingers inside.

“Suck,” Patrick said, and David instantly complied, going down on them, as far as he could; his eyes almost rolled back in his skull.

“Ffffuck,” Patrick said, and he was coming, a hoarse cry followed by several wild thrusts, and David pulled off Patrick’s fingers to watch. Patrick’s face was closed up tight, eyes squeezed closed, mouth strained as though in pain; he was really hot. He’d told David to suck his fingers; it was so hot. David picked up Patrick’s hand again and took the same two fingers in again, showing Patrick how he would suck him if it was his cock, how gentle he could be after Patrick came, how good.

Patrick had come on his other hand, and David wondered whether he could get away with sucking that one as well.

“David.” Patrick finally opened his eyes, his voice sounding broken. “David.”

A loud banging came from the direction of the storefront.

David went on sucking Patrick’s fingers. He wished they were long enough to go down his throat, but Patrick pulled them away.

“David,” he said again, tone changed. “I think someone’s . . . at the door.”

“We’re closed.”

“David.” Patrick pushed him away, and David finally pulled back to look at him.

Patrick was shirtless with his jeans undone, mouth red, pupils blown wide, a sort of glassy look to his eyes, a gorgeous flush in his cheeks. He had come on his chest and hand. He looked debauched. David wanted another picture. “I’ll go,” David said, kissing him swiftly. “Don’t move.”

Roland was at the door. “So it is you! I thought someone might be trying to—”

“Go away,” David told him, then tried to close the door.

Roland put his foot in it. “What are you doing here so late? I was about to call the police!”

“It’s my store,” David said. “I can spend time in my store.”

“Sure,” said Roland. “Four hours after it closes? That’s some dedication.”

“I’m dedicated. Now I have to go be more dedicated, so . . .” David didn’t know why he didn’t finish his sentence. He should tell Roland to get out; he needed to get out.

“Whatcha working on?” Roland went on. “Must be some project.”

“It is. It’s a huge project.”

“Well, what is it?”

David swallowed because he was terrible at lying and even more terrible at improvisation. “It’s a . . . secret. A secret project. For the store.”

“Wow,” Roland said. “Does your business partner know?”

Fuck. The way he said business partner made it very clear why this conversation was still going on; Roland was gross. He was so gross; David did not want to be here. He wanted to be anywhere but here, but Patrick was shirtless and indecent in the other room and David would do anything for no one else to see him.

“You know,” Roland went on. “I was just walking by, when I saw the light. I was gonna check it out, but there was something over the window. Is that because it’s—secret?”

“Yep. Yes,” David said. “Okay, so I have to go.”

“Is that Patrick’s car?” Roland asked, gesturing behind him.

“Who?” David asked, before realizing that was probably the stupidest possible lie he could ever come up with.

Roland laughed his disgusting laugh. “Dave, you know, just for future reference, if you and your business partner are doing projects late at night with the windows covered, I, or other people like me, could get the idea you’re being robbed.”

“Right,” David said faintly, hoping this torture would soon be over. “Thank you.”

“Or we could get other ideas!” Roland burst into laughter again.

“Please leave,” David whispered.

“Other ideas,” Roland said, shaking his head. He was still laughing, but he seemed to be turning to leave.

Yes, he was going, and David hurriedly shut the door, locking it.

When David got back to the stockroom, Patrick was still there; David didn’t know why he thought Patrick might not be. He was still shirtless, but cleaned off; his jeans were up, and somehow to David he looked both strong and entirely vulnerable, with his broad hard back and pale skin, his big eyes and small pink mouth. “What,” Patrick began to say, but David was already kissing him.

“I’m sorry,” David said, turning around and looking for Patrick’s sweater. “I’m sorry; we have to leave.”

“What?” Patrick sounded so disappointed.

“We have to leave,” David repeated, getting Patrick’s sweater. “You have to put this on. We can’t have sex in here again.”

“David.” Patrick put his hands up as though to slow him down. “Who was—”

“It was Roland,” David said, giving Patrick his sweater. “I don’t like him. He knew what we were doing; I don’t like him. He’s gross.”

“Okay,” Patrick said slowly, too slowly, turning his sweater so he could put it on too slowly as well.

David tried to help, tugging on the sweater; he wanted it on him; he wanted Patrick covered up.

“David,” Patrick protested, once his head was through the neck hole. “He’s not going to come back here.”

“I know,” said David, plucking at Patrick’s sweater, still sort of trying to help him with it. “I didn’t like it.”

“Okay,” Patrick said, finally getting his arms in the sweater’s arms. “All right.”

“I’m sorry,” said David, petting Patrick in his sweater. He was much better in his sweater; David liked him in his sweater.

“Hon, it’s fine.” Patrick leaned in to kiss him. “I mean, we all get freaked out by Roland at some point or another.”

“Mm-hm.” David still wanted to get out. He didn’t like how his store was making him feel gross; this was not how his store was supposed to feel. Looking first to make sure that Patrick looked presentable, David went over to the carboard and pulled down the masking tape. As he moved aside the cardboard, he half expected to see Roland on the other side of the window, grinning his awful grin and waving, but of course he wasn’t there, and the window was tinted anyway. Patrick was right; Roland was harmless, but David still didn’t like it.

“Come on,” Patrick said, kissing him on the cheek. “I’ll take you home.”

*

The drive between the store and the motel was only a few minutes, but it was almost entirely quiet, David’s leg bouncing the whole time. He kept thinking of Patrick, shirtless and beautiful with come on him, getting found by someone else, anyone else—after what Patrick had done, the way that Patrick had done it, letting David watch him, letting David say those things. It was awful. Oh God, it was awful.

Finally, they rolled up to a spot in front of the motel, and Patrick put the car in park.

“David.” Patrick put a hand on David’s bouncing knee. “Are you okay?”

“I didn’t want him to see,” David bit out. “You gave me something—that, what you did, it meant something to me; I didn’t want—he sullied it.”

Patrick didn’t smile, but his whole face was trying not to, his expression so warm and affectionate that David finally realized what that soft look meant, oh shit. “I don’t think he could sully it,” Patrick said. “I was already pretty sullied.”

“You weren’t,” David snapped. “You were amazing.”

“It meant something to me too.” Patrick rubbed David’s thigh, then leaned over to kiss David by the ear. “I—I never did anything like that before.”

David’s knee finally stopped bouncing. “Never?” he said, with slowly dawning horror.

“I mean, you . . .” Patrick took his hand away, putting both hands on the steering wheel, as though for protection. He was slowly going red. “Those things—you said. I’d heard them. Before. Some of them. I just mean I—I didn’t know you’d still say them with—with a guy.”

David looked at him in incomprehension. “Why wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know! I just haven’t—I haven’t—thought of everything. I mean, I’ve thought of everything, but just not . . . I haven’t . . .” Patrick swallowed hard.

“Okay,” David said quietly.

“Those things you said . . . the part about . . .” Patrick took a swift breath. His next words were rushed. “When you said you want me inside you.”

David swallowed. “We can make that happen.”

“Right. Right.” Patrick’s hands tightened on the steering wheel, then loosened. “It wasn’t like I hadn’t thought about it before. It’s just—that’s something a girl would—I don’t mean that you—I just mean. It was hot to me. Hearing you say it. Like that. Hotter than any—than anything I’ve heard anyone say before. Out loud. To me.”

“That’s good.” David pushed aside a smile. “I can say anything you want.”

“Right, okay, but David.” Patrick gritted his teeth. “I don’t want you to say that.”

David clamped his mouth shut.

“I like that you want to give me what I want. I don’t know what I want. I don’t want everything to be about the fact that—that I’m not experienced. I want you to get something out of it.”

“Something out of it,” David said, disgusted. “Why, because we’re business partners?”

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

“Well, what way did you mean it?” David said, rather too loudly.

“I wish . . .” Patrick scrubbed a hand over his face, looking rather worn. “I wish I’d gotten to make you come.”

“Is that what this is about?” David asked, surprised. He didn’t remember anyone ever having said anything like that to him before.

“Not—entirely.”

“Then what is it entirely?”

Taking off his seatbelt, Patrick turned toward him in the car. “You—you just keep saying I can have anything, that I can take anything, and I know you’re—you’re giving me what I asked for; it’s just what I asked for, to go slow, but sometimes you don’t—you don’t ask for things you want. You say things you want, all the time, but you—David, you said you didn’t deserve me, and I didn’t like it. I don’t like it. I want you to feel like you deserve things, because you deserve things, David. You deserve the best.”

“Oh,” David said.

“David.” Patrick put a hand on his shoulder, and David turned away.

“Just a minute,” David said, blinking hard.

“David.” Patrick leaned into him, kissing by David’s ear, his jaw; he couldn’t get more because David was turned away. Patrick’s hand came up to David’s cheek, turning David toward him.

“Don’t kiss me while I’m crying.”

“David.” Patrick’s lips brushed his, and David pulled away.

“Okay, you told me to ask you for things I want,” said David. “I want you to not kiss me while I’m crying.”

All the touching stopped immediately, and Patrick was back on his side of the car, and it made David want to cry harder. Taking off his own seatbelt, David turned to Patrick, pulling on his face, kissing him messily. “Sorry,” David said. “I don’t know what I want either; I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Patrick said between kisses. “David, it’s okay.”

“I want everything,” David said, still kissing him. “All the time. A lot. I want it a lot; it’s hard to—that’s what I mean by anything; it’s really anything.”

“I mean,” Patrick said, pulling away from David’s mouth, kissing him on his cheeks, his temple. “Anything except ET.”

“That’s because it’s terrible.”

“You think lots of things are terrible.”

“Lots of things are terrible,” said David, finally pulling away.

“Right,” said Patrick. “Just, sometimes I can’t tell what’s—what’s actually important to you. To us.”

“You’re important!”

Patrick smiled, but it had a bit of a rueful look. “Okay, David.”

“Don’t ‘okay, David’!”

“You want me to say it’s not okay?”

“You’re always okay! Everything I do is okay! I tried to tell you what lunch to eat! I tried to break up with you on Friday!”

Patrick pursed his lips. “Did you really, though?”

“You know what I mean!”

“Not really.”

“I’m annoying!”

Patrick just gave him this look. “Have you met me?”

David moved his head around to try to look for a thought that made sense. “What?”

“I’m annoying! Everyone finds me annoying! I love annoying! You make me laugh; I think you’re funny; I think you’re—” Patrick broke off.

David waited until he couldn’t any more. “You think I’m what?”

“I think you’re fishing for a compliment, and that it’s annoying.”

“And you like annoying.”

“Yeah.” Patrick leaned in. “I really, really do.” Patrick kissed him, hot and smiling, kind of awkward with the angles in the car.

“Glad we had this talk,” David said, when Patrick pulled away.

Patrick’s lips twitched. “I thought it was annoying.”

“You’re carrying that a little far.”

“See? And you thought I wasn’t annoying.”

“I never said that.”

Patrick suppressed a smile so big it was like he couldn’t keep it in, because he said, “David,” again, then kissed him, as though all of his joy and laughter could be contained in that one word and kiss.

“Mm, you have to stop,” David said, pushing him away.

“Right. In front of the motel. Your family.”

“Also, I didn’t come,” David teased.

For once, David had been able to catch Patrick off guard, because Patrick blinked several times. “Wow,” he said. “Wow. Do we need to—can I take you back to the store? Or maybe we can do it right here in the car.” Patrick leaned into him.

“Oh my God!” David leaned away, horrified, but Patrick was laughing.

“I want to,” Patrick said, resting his chin on David’s shoulder, still laughing. “Sometime I’m going to; I’ll get you off in this car.”

David swallowed hard. “Okay, is that—a promise?”

“Mm.” Patrick pushed up closer to kiss his neck. “Guess you’ll find out.”

“We could go find that old abandoned road,” David joked.

Patrick pulled back. “See, that? That right there. I can’t tell whether you’re serious.”

“You wouldn’t really . . . ?”

“What?” Patrick said, and now David couldn’t tell whether he was serious either. “Drive you right now to an abandoned road so I can make you come?”

Well, when he put it like that . . . David didn’t know what to think, actually. He’d been joking about not coming; all his arousal had died with Roland at the door, but the thought of Patrick doing it, of Patrick taking them somewhere, right now, just to make him come—David didn’t know what he thought. His dick kind of knew what to think, but David didn’t know what to think.

No one had ever seemed so concerned before about David coming. Not in David’s memory, anyway. Lots of times it was an afterthought—both for him and for his partners as well; David liked . . . people being pleased with him. He didn’t like pleasing people; he didn’t like them knowing or using it against him or thinking they could control him, but he liked it when they were pleased with him. He really liked it when people were pleased with him, especially when he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t like to get them there.

If someone could just be pleased that he existed without him ever having to do anything for them, that would be perfect, but that person didn’t exist; the closest the universe had ever come was Mom, and David would have done anything for her. David would bathe naked in a pit of fire ants for her; it was disgusting; he hated it, but at least she seemed pleased by him.

“David,” Patrick said.

“Um, I don’t . . .”

Patrick put his hand on the gear shift as though to shift it out of park.

“Don’t!” David heard himself say. “Don’t. I—we already got caught once tonight; I don’t want to—I don’t want to be seedy with you. Let’s not be seedy.”

“Okay.” Patrick took his hand off the gear shift, and David looked at him, trying to read this mood.

“You really would have done it?” David asked, somewhat tentatively.

“Yeah, probably.” Patrick shook his head. “I’d probably do worse, and I’m not—I’ve never really been a seedy guy.”

“Worse how?”

“I didn’t mean bad; I meant—I’d go really far. To make you happy.”

The warm thing that clasped around David’s heart when he was with Patrick seemed to be facing off the cold knot of dread that so often pervaded David’s stomach. It sounded like a lot of responsibility, someone else wanting to make him happy. What if Patrick decided it wasn’t worth it? David swallowed hard. “How far?” he mumbled, sort of hating himself for needing to know.

Patrick gritted his teeth. “You said . . . you said you’d do everything. I’d—I’d do everything too.”

The warm thing seemed to be winning, opening its wings within David’s chest. “Do you mean—everything everything? Or just—everything?”

“I don’t know what that means,” said Patrick. “I mean everything everything.”

David nodded hard in an effort to keep his mouth shut. “Mm-hm,” he said, because that didn’t require opening his lips.

“I want things with you I didn’t know I could want,” Patrick said.

Okay, but now David had to open his mouth to breathe, because he wasn’t getting enough air. He didn’t have enough air, and what did Patrick mean; had he thought about everything?

“All those things you said,” Patrick said. “Tonight. I want you to do them to me too.”

“Oh,” David said, softly because he didn’t mean to say it.

“Yeah,” said Patrick.

They sat there in silence for a minute, David trying to pretend Patrick hadn’t just told him he wanted David to fuck him, but he couldn’t actually pretend that, because it wasn’t true. Patrick wanted David to fuck him; he wanted to fuck David; Patrick wanted everything, all the things.

David liked both of them—fucking and being fucked. He kind of—responded to people pushing him around, but that didn’t mean he didn’t like to penetrate them, and—well. Some people who were really pushy weren’t very nice. Like. Nikolai had called him a pillow queen, which was sort of true, except that David liked to lie there and get fucked because it got other people off, and he liked getting other people off because it made him feel—more whole and real and worthy, of something; he didn’t know what. He just liked it, feeling like he’d been—something. For someone.

But sometimes those people didn’t care about getting him off, which didn’t always matter because that was not always what he was in it for, except that when that kept happening it—it made him feel a little trashy. Sometimes. Less worthwhile and a little bit more like—like a fucktoy. And people could use you like a human dildo when you were penetrating them, sure, but then at least they wanted to get you hard; they cared enough for that.

Not that Patrick wanted to use him like a human dildo, or anything. Probably. Well. Maybe he might like it; it might be less stressful. Like. If you were being penetrated the first time it might be less stressful to just—use someone’s cock the way you wanted, and not have to worry about what was attached. Patrick probably hadn’t thought about it that way, but he should. David would do it for him—allow himself to be used, allow himself to be ridden, allow Patrick to forget about what he was on top of. It would be nice for Patrick. Probably. Not like long term or anything. Patrick didn’t seem like that kind of guy. Probably.

These were really terrible thoughts. If Patrick knew that David was thinking them—he’d probably take back what he’d said. Patrick hadn’t meant any of this when he’d said what he had, and David knew it. He knew it. Patrick had meant something softer and much sweeter. David hated his own brain.

Without breaking the silence, Patrick leaned over and kissed him, one of his warm, tender kisses, but slowly growing deeper as well, his tongue eventually sweeping inside of David’s mouth, stroking David’s tongue with his own. David heard himself make a sound—a small, pitiful, needy sound. He hadn’t meant to.

“Okay?” Patrick asked finally, his hand on David’s thigh.

He likes my thighs, David thought wildly, then said in a rush, “I think I’m going to go inside.”

“Yeah.” Patrick rubbed his thigh a bit, a soothing motion. “Okay.”

“I’m going to go.” David took a breath. “I’m going to go take a shower.”

“Okay. Good idea.”

David took another sharp, noisy breath. “I’m going to think about you while I’m in it.”

Patrick’s own breath caught. “David.”

“You still want to go slow, right?” David asked.

Though Patrick pressed his lips together more tightly, he nodded.

“Then I’ll shower, and we can do those other things—all those other things—as soon as you feel ready.”

Patrick kissed him again.

Chapter Text

As it turned out, not being seedy was more difficult than David had anticipated.

On Tuesday, David finally took a day off. He hadn’t had one since a day before his birthday, though he hadn’t exactly worked full days every day since then. Luckily Patrick understood David’s inability to stick to a regular schedule, and they had set it up so that this flexible schedule thing really worked, so that when David texted him to say he wasn’t coming in, he didn’t even feel that bad about it.

He did feel bad about the fact that he tried to talk to his mom about getting Ronnie’s wife to tutor Alexis, and that somehow this led David to be embroiled in some planning committee for some fundraiser to bring asbestos back; it made no sense.

Patrick: Can you tell her you’re not interested

David: You’ve never met my mother

Patrick: I have actually twice

David: Did you try to say no to her

Patrick: no

David: Don’t she will ruin you

Patrick: Does that mean I won’t see you tonight

David: sorry

Patrick: That’s okay
Patrick: I’ll take a shower

David: dirty

Patrick: Clean actually

David: Mmmmm no my shower last night was dirty

Patrick: So you’ll let me call this sexting right because that’s what this is

David: Not yet
David: Do you want it to be

Patrick: I’m at work

David: hot

Patrick: What would you text me if this was sexting?

David: Are we theoretically sexting now
David: We could just sext

Patrick: theoretically

David: THEORETICALLY I’d tell you what I did in the shower

Patrick: ok
Patrick: Tell me

“Has that phone become an extension of your person, David?” David’s mom asked. “It seems unbecoming.”

“Okay, but I run a business?” David said, slipping his phone into his pocket. “So I have to do business things on my phone.”

“Oh, is that what you were doing?” Mom asked, sort of sadly shaking her head, and fuck; it was so annoying. She never even paid attention; how could she know?

“Yes,” David said emphatically. “I have to sort things out with Patrick sometimes; it’s not all fun and weird carnivals celebrating deadly insulation.”

“If you say so,” Mom said doubtfully. “I don’t know why Jocelyn didn’t ask for my help with this fundraiser; surely she didn’t think she could do it on her own!”

These words fell upon David's ears unpleasantly. “I thought Ronnie was helping her.”

“Ronnie? What has she to do with it?”

Oh fucking God. “Maybe because you said that if I wanted Ronnie’s wife to help Alexis for free, I should help Ronnie organize a freak show!”

“It’s not a freak show; it’s for a good cause.”

“And that good cause was getting Alexis a tutor!”

“David.” Mom’s voice was reproachful. “You’re already dating the shop-keep; is an additional paramour truly required?”

“For the last time, I’m not looking for a tutor to date!”

“Well, surely it’s not for Alexis. I know you missed her graduation from high school, but she did accomplish it. I should know; I was there, unlike some members of our family.”

David kept his mouth clamped shut, because Mom and Dad didn’t know about the college thing. David had thought it worth the risk to ask Mom about Ronnie’s wife, since Mom didn’t always necessarily dig deeply into other people’s motivations. David slipped his phone out to glance at it, because he’d been kind of in the middle of something with Patrick before this whole inane conversation.

Patrick: After work

David: ok
David: Are you sure

Patrick: yes

Mom went on talking about the fundraiser, waxing eloquent on her possible acts while David made a list of them. He didn’t even know why he was doing it, since apparently the whole reason he’d agreed to be involved in this at all had apparently been a con, but Mom was like this. She was always like this, and so excited about the pageant thing; she hadn’t gotten to perform in so long and she had so little. She had so little, and David kept writing the list.

*

At five-ten, David texted Patrick.

David: It’s after work

Patrick: Still closing up
Patrick: Text you when I get home?

David: k

David would be at the asbestos committee meeting then; he didn’t care. He couldn’t believe he was going to something called an asbestos committee, but then again, he’d get to sext Patrick while he was there. David had never really made an appointment to sext anyone before; it usually just kind of—happened, but this was like Patrick. Patrick was a planner. David kind of liked that; it wasn’t like David didn’t like to plan things, and knowing what was coming could be nice. It could be very nice. David hid his phone, trying not to look forward to it too much. Not having high expectations was important in a relationship. David tried not to expect anything at all.

*

The committee meeting had schnapps. Peach schnapps, Ritz crackers, cheddar, and baby carrots. David didn’t know what was going on here; the theme must have been some weird orange-blonde color, and David had three little Dixie cups of the schnapps before the meeting even began. Then it began, and the fundraiser wasn’t to bring back asbestos, and Jocelyn wasn’t organizing it by herself. She was supposed to be doing it with her sister, who wasn’t here for unclear reasons, and Jocelyn had just called them together so they could brainstorm ideas, and then Patrick texted.

Patrick: Ok I’m home
Patrick: If you still want to

David: Oh I want to what are you wearing

There was a long pause, and Jocelyn was talking about a children’s choir. Ronnie was there after all, and David wondered if he could secretly message her about her wife and then just sneak out.

Patrick: boxers

David: omg

Patrick: I didn’t know you were going to ask

David: Have you ever done this before

Patrick: obviously
Patrick: Ok not over text

David: Can’t do it out loud I’m at a meeting

Patrick: You’re at a meeting?

David: I told you that’s why I couldn’t tonight

Patrick: But isn’t your mom there

David: so

Patrick: Don’t you want to wait until you get home

David: No I head abysmal pox
David: snaps
David: schnapps
David: I had snaps

Patrick: So maybe another night

David: No I want you
David: I want you right now so much

The committee was talking other possible performances besides the children’s choir; Mom kept talking about all the things that she could do. David had another cup of schnapps, but Patrick still hadn’t replied. David texted him recklessly.

David: Do you want me

Patrick: yes

David: Ok touch yourself
David: Are you doing it

Patrick: I thought you were going to tell me what you did in the shower

David: Pretended I was sucking your cock
David: On my knees looking up at you
David: Got my fingers in my mouth like you did to me
David: Pretended it was you and sucked
David: Moaned around them
David: I want to suck you I want you to fuck my face
David: Want it so bad

“David has a keen instinct for design,” David’s mother said.

“No,” David said, looking up from his phone to find that the committee was looking at him. “Right, I do, I’m just—not involved in this project?”

“Then why are you here?” Ronnie asked, giving him a pointed look.

“Support?” David guessed. “I’m a bastion of support. Moral support for the community.”

“Are you?” Jocelyn asked, her voice sounding as though she was trying to be polite.

David glanced back down at his phone, but Patrick hadn’t replied. “I’ll help with the décor if the store gets advertised,” he told the committee.

“It’s a fundraiser,” said Ronnie, still with that look.

“Uh-huh. We could raise funds.” David glanced at his phone again, but still no reply, and then he processed the look on Ronnie’s face. “Um, so some of the acts we’re discussing will require a wall of mirrors? Just so you’re aware.” This did not improve the look on Ronnie’s face, and David felt a little cowed. “I can help with sourcing.”

“He does have a lot of connections,” said Mom, and right, this was how she’d conned him into this. A lot of compliments about how successful he’d been with the store, and he was basically putty. But who was he kidding; David was never not putty when it came to Mom, and Patrick still hadn’t replied. “I imagine he’s texting business associates right now,” Mom went on.

“Yes,” David said, immediately pouncing on this. “We’ve—so many shipments. Things are—constantly busy.”

Patrick: was it good
Patrick: I mean did you like it

David: It was fantastic
David: Are you ok

Patrick: yes
Patrick: Im good

David: Ok give me something here

Patrick: Ok what

David: Are you touching yourself

Patrick: yes

David: how

Patrick: I’m do you really want me to do this one hands
Patrick: handed

David: yes

Patrick: Stroking it

David: how

Patrick: With my hand

David: Stop teasing me

Patrick: What do you want me to say

David: How does it feel for you

Patrick: good

Ronnie said something about her wife formatting the programs, and David lifted his head at this because Ronnie’s wife was why he was here, after all. But it wasn’t useful information, and David returned to his phone, where Patrick had still only said good.

David: Never mind you don’t need to

Patrick: sorry

David: No it’s ok
David: I fingered myself
David: In the shower
David: Pretended it was you
David: Do you want to know how many

Patrick: Sorry I shouldn’t have done this

“This is why I brought David,” said Mom. “David?”

“Um.” David stood up, still looking down at his phone.

Patrick: It was a bad idea it’s my fault and I’m sorry

“There’s an emergency with one of our vendors,” David said. “I have to go deal with this.”

“The meeting isn’t over, David,” Mom said.

“Yes, it is.” David moved out of the circle of chairs in the town hall building—why were they in a circle anyway? Shouldn’t they be at a table? Taking notes? Isn’t that what committees did? But David didn’t care; he walked out of the doors, down the steps. The night air was cool, fresh but far too open; he didn’t want fresh; he wanted somewhere close and private. He’d forgotten to get the keys to the car, and David didn’t actually like being outside, but if he walked far enough there were trees. Walking toward them, David scrolled on his phone.

Patrick: It wasn’t anything you said. This is me

David touched the “call” icon.

“Sorry,” Patrick said, immediately upon picking up. “I’m sorry; I just wasn’t expecting—I screwed that up.”

“Mm-hm.” David took a deep breath. “If you’re not into that you need to tell me? Just so I know—where your boundaries are, because I can accommodate many things, but I can’t if you say ‘everything’ but actually mean—”

“I’m into that.” Patrick cut him off. “David—I’m really into it; it wasn’t that.”

“Well, I think you need to tell me what it was, because I’m getting very confused about—”

“I didn’t know what to say to you! You asked me—what I was doing, and I—I clammed up.”

“And then I told you you didn’t have to tell me, and then I told you what I did with my hand, and then you freaked—”

“It wasn’t that!” Patrick exclaimed. “If you think I haven’t already done that to myself, thinking of you, then—then I don’t know what to tell you, David!”

David bit his lip. Hard. I’ve already done that, thinking of you kept playing in David’s head like a song. “I’m very confused,” he said at last, his voice quite soft.

“I'm sorry." Patrick sucked in a breath. "I'm sorry; I shouldn’t have snapped at you.” Patrick's voice dropped into a croak. “I like you; I like you—so much. I haven’t been clear.”

“Not really,” David said, his voice still near a whisper. Finally coming to the trees, he went to one of the bigger ones; the branches weren’t low enough to close him in, but he could lean against the trunk of it, the hard bark cutting into his back.

“David.” Patrick’s voice was thick.

I’ve already done that, thinking of you. David swallowed. “If I made you uncomfortable—”

“No,” Patrick said firmly. “No. I thought you were going to text me. I didn’t think of what I would text you back; I got—I was nervous. It was stupid.”

“But I said you didn’t have to.”

“I know,” said Patrick, “but you wanted me to, and I should have thought of that.”

“It doesn’t matter what I want.”

A long silence followed. It was actually kind of woodsy here; there could be bugs and—animals. David didn’t care for animals, and who knew what was lurking in the dark.

“It matters to me,” Patrick said finally.

“Why?” David asked, feeling annoyed with him. “If it doesn’t to me? I just want you to get what you want!”

“David.” Patrick sounded heartbroken about this for some reason, which was even more annoying, when David was literally doing it for him. “When you asked me to tell you what I was doing—”

“You didn’t need to!”

“Right,” Patrick said, sounding rather dogged, “but I—it was difficult. For me. I didn’t expect it to be difficult. I—I haven’t . . .” Patrick took a breath. “I haven’t liked sex. Most of my life.”

Oh, fuck. David pressed himself harder into the tree.

“I pretended that I did,” Patrick said. “I even thought that I did, but it’s never—it’s never been anything like what it’s been with you. I feel like I barely know what to do, much less—what to say; I like to know what I’m doing; I like to—I’m usually—it’s—it’s hard for me to—”

“Stop.” David squeezed his eyes shut, because he shouldn’t have said stop; this was one of those times when he should listen. Even David knew that; he should listen, even though this was painful for him; it was so painful, but David didn’t have the heart to apologize, to tell Patrick to go on with his fumbling explanation after all. Instead David slid down the tree—or he wanted to slide down, but his sweater got caught up in the bark, so he had to move away from it a little and sink down, except sitting on the ground was gross so then he was just kind of squatting there.

“I’m sorry,” Patrick said. “Aren’t you in a meeting?”

“I left.”

“I’m sorry,” Patrick said.

“Stop saying that.”

That was the wrong thing to say also, because now Patrick wasn’t saying anything, and David was squatting there on the ground, leaning against the tree again with his arms around his knees, phone up to his ear, not saying anything either. He wondered what Patrick was doing now, on the phone. Was he still wearing just his boxers? Boxer briefs, or boxers? David imagined him, naked on his floral bed in nothing but underwear, and it was terrible, Patrick like that, by himself and too shy to talk about how he was getting off and telling David he used to pretend to like sex. David didn’t know how to make it better.

“I should go,” Patrick finally said.

“Let me talk you off.” David hadn’t known he was going to say that.

Patrick sucked in a breath. “What?”

“That was what you wanted,” David said. “Instead of—participating? Let me talk you off.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t.”

David swallowed hard. Back off, went his brain, he doesn’t want it, and yet his mouth was slowly opening, and he already knew what was going to come out; he was going to ask for it, beg for it, pitifully, pathetically.

“I got off last night,” said Patrick. “You didn’t—”

David’s mouth snapped shut, and when it opened again, something completely different came out. “This is not a one for one exchange. This is not—it’s not—do you think you’re the only one who feels it, when you come?” He was even more annoyed now than before, which was surprising. “Did you hear me last night? It’s not—you’re not the only one who’s—”

“Yes,” Patrick interrupted. “Yes, you can. I didn’t mean to make it just about me.”

“This is something I’m actually good at,” David snapped at him, even though Patrick had already conceded.

“David,” Patrick said, warningly. “You’re good at a lot of things.”

“But I can get you off,” David said. “I can make you come.”

“Yeah. I—I think you’ve proven that.”

“Then you should just let me do it.”

“I am.

“Oh.”

“I said you could,” Patrick said.

“Well, now that I have your permission,” David said, somewhat sarcastically, and he didn’t know why he was being a brat about this. The point had been to make Patrick feel good, and now there was—this, except now Patrick’s voice had that warm, amused quality, the way he did when Patrick was smiling at him.

“Yeah,” Patrick said. “You do.”

David’s mouth opened again, and then he realized his mind had gone completely blank. Which was weird. Patrick had said he could talk him off; now was the time to talk him off, and—and there was nothing. Nothing in David’s brain; it was empty, and he’d just been bragging about being good at it, except he’d never done it this way before. Literally never. All those other times, he’d done it because he wanted to be hot and wanted someone to like him and wanted them to be into him; he’d wanted to feel special, and now the only thing he could think was that he wanted Patrick to feel safe.

I barely know what to do, Patrick had said.

Fuck. David squinched his eyes shut. I haven’t enjoyed it most of my life, Patrick had said, and David wanted him to enjoy it. He so desperately wanted Patrick to enjoy it; Patrick deserved to enjoy it; David wanted Patrick to enjoy everything about this, everything—phone sex and gay sex and sex sex. Sex was good. It was nice. It could make you feel nice and satisfied and good, and Patrick should feel that; he should feel good; David wanted him to feel so good.

“David?”

“Touch your nipples,” David said in a rush. “Pretend it’s me; pretend it’s my mouth. Pretend I’m sucking on them; pinch them. I want to bite them.” He waited for Patrick to say he’d done it, but Patrick didn’t say anything, and David couldn’t stand it, not knowing how he felt. “Are—are you doing it?”

“Yes,” Patrick said, slightly hoarse.

“Good, I want you to feel good; I want to touch your cock. Can you put your hand on it for me, over your boxers; that’s what I would do for you, feel you through the fabric.” David waited again, and then whispered, “Is that—good; are you doing it?”

“Yes.”

David’s ankles hurt from sitting on them. He rolled back, sitting on the ground after all, which was a little damp. He drew his knees up close as possible so he was huddled in the dark under the tree with Patrick on the phone. “Okay, I want—can you—one hand on your nipple, the other in your underwear; touch it—I’d touch it slowly, I’d make you want more; I’d make you want me—”

“David,” Patrick said. “I want you.”

David’s breath caught. “I . . . I’d tongue your nipple while you’re doing that, while my hand is on your cock; can you—I’d pull your underwear down so I can see you. You make my mouth water. I’m such a—” David swallowed. “Did you pull them down?”

“Yeah,” said Patrick. “Yes.”

“Um, can you pull them back up? Because I forgot.” David sucked in a breath, realizing how ridiculous that request was. In a rush, he went on, “I just, if you pull them back up and then suck on your fingers, just two or three, then if you—touch yourself with them, over your underwear, it’ll feel like my mouth, sort of. I would do that. Put my mouth on your underwear; I’d tongue you through the cloth, get you wet—”

“David.” Patrick breathed noisily.

David waited again, but still nothing was forthcoming. “Is it good?”

“Yes. It’s good; it’s—yes.”

“I’d try to taste you,” David said. “I want to taste you so bad; I’d see if I could suck you, through your underwear; I’d try—just to get a taste of you; I want it so bad. I’m a real—” David cut himself off, because he thought that Patrick might not like the word cockslut. Fuck. David was getting hard. “I—I want to get my hand on you, take you out; can you take it out now? You’re so . . .” David was imagining Patrick’s cock. “I want it. I want—um. Are you leaking?”

“Yeah.”

“How much?”

“David.” Patrick huffed a hot little laugh.

“I asked for practical purposes, not—um. Put your thumb on the tip. Spread it around, get yourself wet; I want you wet. Is that—are you doing it? Is that good?”

“Yeah, I’m—I’m wet for you. I’m so—it’s wet. Like you said.”

Just the sound of those breathy little yeses, Patrick’s saying I’m wet, was making David grow harder, uncomfortably so. “Put two fingers around it, just two, near the head,” David said. “Slide down. Slide down on it.”

Patrick made this muffled little sound, and David needed more.

“Is that—is it good?”

“Yeah. Yeah. David.”

“Do it again, just two fingers; pretend it’s me.”

Patrick made this tight sound, this tight little groaning sound, and David squirmed in the dirt, trying to find a way to sit comfortably with his cock aching to be touched. “Do you want,” David began breathlessly, then had to start again. “Do you want to—to hear about me; do you want me to—describe the things you could do to me; or do you—”

“Yes,” Patrick said quickly, forcefully. “Yeah, I need—I wanna . . . You make my mouth water too, you know."

“Oh,” David whispered.

“When I—whenever I think about you, I just—I want to touch you; I’ve never wanted to touch anyone so much. I loved getting to touch you.”

“You can,” David said, feeling his shoulders melt in relief. “You could. You can do any—” David cut himself off, remembering how Patrick had said he didn’t like that. “You can . . .” fuck my throat, use me, wreck me, but those were things Patrick also probably wouldn’t like. In fact, David said a lot of things—hurt me, please, fuck me unconscious—and agreed with a lot of things that other people said—yeah, I’m such a slut, yeah, I’m only good for my dick, only good for my dick—that Patrick probably wouldn’t like. David’s shoulders tightened once more against the tree. “You can touch me,” he said quietly.

“I want to kiss you,” Patrick said, and David pressed his eyes against his knees.

He did it hard, until he could feel the outline of eye sockets against kneecaps, because he’d forgotten about kissing. How could he have forgotten about kissing? He hadn’t even thought about it.

“David,” Patrick said.

“Mm-hm,” David said tightly, nodding even though Patrick couldn’t see. “Kiss me; I like kissing. I like it when you kiss me.”

“That’s good, David, because I really like kissing you.” David couldn’t quite tell whether he was being teased or not, but Patrick’s voice sounded so raw and husky that it was just making David even more hopelessly turned on, out here in the dirt. “Can I,” Patrick began. “I want you to take off your clothes.”

“I’m under a tree.”

A short soft laugh. “What?”

“Outside town hall,” David said. “I was in a meeting.”

“I know. I didn’t mean actually . . .” Patrick trailed off.

“Oh,” David said, feeling stupid. “Yes, I’d—do that. I’d take off everything for you.”

“I know.”

A silence followed, but Patrick didn’t ask for anything else, and David wasn’t sure whether Patrick wanted him to keep going, because maybe Patrick would tell him what he wanted next? Except that was what had made Patrick bolt from the text conversation. He’d said he wanted David to take his clothes off, though, so apparently he was interested in participating some. “Um. Are you still—are you touching it?”

“Yeah,” Patrick said breathlessly. “Yeah, I wanna—I want to touch you. Feel you in my hand. Can I—can I wrap my hand around it? I want you in my hand.”

“Yeah. Yes, take it.”

Patrick made another tense, muffled noise.

“What are you doing?” David needed to know.

“I’ve—I’ve got my hand around it, and I’m—I’m stroking it.”

“Please.” David rocked where he sat, trying to get—anything; it was filthy in the dirt; he wasn’t going to do anything, but he needed—something. “Please.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“You can do anything. Anything you want.”

“David,” said Patrick, sounding heartbroken again. “I know.”

There was a silence, and David realized Patrick wanted David to do it, to direct it. Except Patrick had been doing some of it; he’d said he wanted to get his hand around it, so which was it, really? “I want you to,” Patrick said at the same time as David said, “You should.” Both of them stopped talking.

“Let me,” breathed David. “I can do it.”

Patrick took a sharp breath. “David—”

“I want you to get on top of me,” David said, too loudly.

“All right,” Patrick said.

“Naked,” David said. “Get on top of me naked; you could—slide your cock against mine, and I could touch us; we could do it, both, at the same time—”

“Yes,” Patrick breathed.

“I want to feel your cock touching mine,” David said. “I want to feel you—stroke, against me, and if you were on top of me, you could . . . you could fuck against me; you could fuck both of us together; I mean—if you wanted—”

“I would fuck you, David,” Patrick said, thank God. “You against me, me against you; I’d fuck you like that. You feel so good.”

Patrick was panting, as though with effort, and David whispered, “What are you doing to yourself?” before he could control his mouth.

“I’m still touching—”

“No, you don’t have to say,” David said quickly. He swallowed. “Can you—can you turn over? Are you on your bed?”

“Yes. It’s okay; I can—”

“Turn over for me,” David said. “Turn over so your cock is against the mattress, and then can you—can you fuck it for me? Can you let me hear you fuck it?”

“David—”

“You don’t have to say anything.” David’s voice was still quick. “Fuck it; pretend it’s me; pretend you’re fucking your cock against me. Did you turn over?”

“Yeah.”

“Let me hear you,” David said. “You don’t have to say anything; just—just fuck it and let me hear you fuck it, Patrick. Patrick.”

“Yes,” Patrick said. “Yes.”

David strained to hear the rock of the bed, the squeak of the mattress, anything. Patrick could be—he could be sitting there watching TV with Ray, and David shuddered, because he’d already thought about how mortifying this was without Patrick saying anything back, but he hadn’t yet thought about that, but no. David could hear Patrick breathing. He could hear Patrick’s noisy panting, his poor lungs, desperate for oxygen, and now there was a little catch—a little catch each time, in a rhythm, Patrick making these little noises—

Fuck. Oh fuck.

“Keep going,” David breathed. “Keep going, fuck me. Fuck me like you mean it, Patrick; I’m ready for you; fuck me, fuck me so hard—”

“Christ,” Patrick said. “David.”

“Yeah,” David said. “Fuck me into the mattress with that gorgeous cock; fuck me so good; use me up; make yourself feel good; you could make yourself feel so good—”

“Can you—touch me,” Patrick panted.

“What?”

“I want to come,” Patrick said. “Can you put your hand—on me—”

“Yeah, of course,” David said, overwhelmed. “Anything, anything, I’ll get my hand on you, touch you, that beautiful cock. Touch yourself, gorgeous; I want you to come. Come all over me. Make yourself come for me, please. Please.”

“Yes.” Patrick sounded choked. “Jesus, yes.”

Patrick made this—this awful little sound, desperate and too agonized and too small, and that was it, David thought. Patrick was coming. He’d made Patrick come, and David was so, so hard, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care. He wanted to listen to Patrick come forever, the series of panting breaths following that exclamation beautiful to hear.

“Oh my God,” said Patrick.

David found himself smiling. He wouldn’t have thought he would be able to, with all of that, his dick so hard in his pants, but Patrick sounded so—wasted, like everything had come out of him and he was all—tired and wet. That was it; Patrick sounded tired and wet, and it sounded so fucking good. It sounded like it had been really good for him.

“God,” Patrick said again. “That was good.”

David bit down on his smile harder.

“Jesus,” Patrick said.

“Mm, I don’t know him; I’m Jewish.”

“Jesus,” Patrick said again.

“Where did you do it?”

“What?”

“Where did you come?” David was too happy with himself to be ashamed of asking. “In your hand? On the bed?”

“Um.” David could hear Patrick swallow. “Both? You told me to—turn over on the bed.”

“Mm-hm,” said David. “And now you’re all wet.”

“Yeah,” said Patrick. “Yeah. I . . . don’t actually know what I’m going to do with these sheets.”

Fuck. That was so good. So good. David bit down even harder on his smile; it was so good.

Patrick’s voice was tentative. “How are you?”

“I’m great,” David said, trying not to sound nearly as happy as he felt. “Better than you; I don’t have to figure out what to do with dirty sheets while Ray’s around; I’m not all wet and messy like you are.”

There was a pause. “You really liked that?”

“Mm-hm.” David nodded vigorously, even though Patrick couldn’t see. David’s voice was too thick and sincere when he said, “I liked it a lot.”

“I guess we’ll have to do it again some time.”

“I guess,” David said, still smiling so much more than he wanted to.

“So what about you?” Patrick said, after another long moment. “Is there anything I can—”

“Nope,” David said quickly. “I’m alone in the woods. And now that I’ve said that, I’ve realized it’s the start of a horror movie.”

“Aw,” said Patrick. “Is it scary in the dark?”

“At least I’m not wet.”

Another pause. “So not even a little?”

David jaw dropped open. “I’m shocked.”

“Why?”

“That’s a personal question!”

“Is it really? Because I feel like it’s kind of commensurate with the topics we’ve been discussing.”

“Is ‘discussing’ the word you want to use?” David asked.

Patrick actually sounded kind of irritated now. “Is it actually inappropriate for me to be asking if you’re leaking when you just made me come harder than I ever had in my life?”

“Harder, really?” David was interested in this.

“David,” Patrick said, warningly.

“Harder than last night?”

“I don’t know.”

“On a scale of one to ten,” David said.

“Why are you doing this?”

“I think I could get you to eleven.”

“David, you’re already at an eleven. That was what I was trying to tell you, earlier; I had to invent a whole other—it’s a whole other system for you.”

“Mm.” David tried to be satisfied with that. He really tried. “Okay, but what’s this other system like? And where does this one rank compared to last night, and what about the first one I gave you, and how does that compare to all the other—”

“I’m not going to rank orgasms.”

“Why not?”

“Because you won’t even tell me if you’re hard!”

“Mm. I am.”

Patrick didn’t say anything for a moment. “Okay, but how hard? On a scale of one to ten—”

“You’re mocking me.”

Patrick laughed. “God. You’re so ridiculous.”

“That makes me go from a nine to a six.”

Patrick laughed harder. “How do you even exist? Where did you even come from?”

Six to a three. Good job, Patrick, but David didn’t want Patrick to know the way that question made him feel. “The lap of luxury,” David said instead, sarcastically.

“I’m glad the lap dumped you here,” said Patrick. “I can’t believe I found you.”

“Yeah,” said David. “You said that. Before.”

“It’s true. I never thought I would find someone like you.”

“Someone like what?”

Patrick laughed again.

David listened to that warm, rich sound, then guessed it was okay.

“Maybe you should get out of the woods,” Patrick said, once his laughter had died down. “Want me to stay on the phone with you while you walk out?”

“Yes, please.” David couldn’t really think of an elegant way to stand up without having to put his hand in disgusting dirt, so he had to do a lot of odd things with his body as he stood up. The fact that he was still hard—really it was like a six—made it even more challenging, and he was glad Patrick wasn’t there to see.

“Are you all right?” Patrick asked, obviously listen to him struggle to stand without getting dirty.

“I’m fine,” David snapped, upright now.

“Monsters aren’t attacking you in the woods?”

“Don’t you have sheets to clean?”

“I just want you to be safe,” said Patrick. “Would it help if I told you how good-looking you are while you walked? You know, to distract you?”

David frowned. “I guess it would be helpful.”

“Uh-huh,” said Patrick. “So what are you doing tomorrow night?”

“I hate you,” said David.

Patrick laughed again, and David could see the town hall now. People were coming down the steps, his mother talking to Ronnie at the top of them. “I have to go,” David said.

“Goodnight, David.”

“Yeah.”

David hung up and pocketed his phone, smoothing his hair so he wouldn’t seem like a sex-crazed lunatic barging out of the woods. Ronnie was already heading to her car, which made David try to rush without running, since running was not a thing he did. “Hey,” David said to her, lifting a hand to wave, which was also not something he did.

“Good meeting!” Ronnie called back, then kept going to her car.

While David tried to decide whether to go after her, his mother came abreast of him. “David, what emergency?” she said, somewhat reprimanding. “That was very unprofessional!”

“Okay, I’m not going into—the asbestos profession!” David said, feeling disproportionately frustrated. He told himself it was because of having missed Ronnie, but it was probably also his now mostly-wilted cock. “The only professing I wanted to do tonight was about a former professor.”

“A professor. David, this is not a Franzen novel.” Mom tsked, looking him over rather sadly. “And you are no longer in the spring of your years.”

“Oh my God,” David said loudly. “I’m literally talking about a lesbian professor! Lesbian!”

“We all have our predilections. You look very disheveled.”

“I had an emergency!”

“Well.” Mom handed him the keys, then started walking to the car. “You missed a scintillating conversation about something to do with drywall and a motorcade.”

“A motorcade?” David said, following her. “What does asbestos have to do with motorcades?” He opened the passenger door for his mom to get in, then went around to the driver’s side.

“I really can’t say,” his mother answered, once David was getting into the car. “I stopped paying attention.”

“That’s probably for the best.”

“Yes,” Mom said. “I did get Karen’s number.”

“Who’s Karen?” David said, pulling away from the town hall. “Should I care?”

“You wanted the name of a lesbian gravel professor.”

David glanced at her, because Mom did this sometimes, seemed like she was going to be helpful, but sometimes it was the opposite of helpful, and other times it was better than anything he had dared hope for. Intermittent reinforcement, Doctor Maric had explained. You did it with pets so they would still perform the appropriate behaviors even if you didn’t give them a treat. “I didn’t want the name,” David said carefully. “I wanted the help of a lesbian gravel professor, and I didn’t specifically want her to help me, I wanted her to help Alexis.”

“Ooh, I don’t know about that.”

“Mm-hm.” David concentrated on the road.

“But I do know that Gwen would be happy to tutor Alexis for free, starting this Saturday. She was a librarian; she did test prep tutoring on the side.”

David whirled to face her.

“Look at the road, David!”

“Why does everyone think I know Gwen?” David demanded.

“She’s Bob’s wife.”

“Bob’s wife! How do you know Bob’s wife? Why didn’t you tell me Bob’s wife was a test tutor person!”

I didn’t know,” said Mom. “Karen told me.”

“When did Karen tell you?”

“When I asked about her tutoring Alexis.”

“Oh my God!”

“I don’t know why you’re so upset,” Mom said. “This saves you having to coordinate it yourself.”

“When?” David demanded. “When did you talk to Karen?”

“This afternoon on the phone.”

“So I came to this whole—insulation sensation—for nothing? I was here for nothing?”

“On the contrary! You were right about that wall of mirrors. No one here understands the production values required to showcase a true performance!”

“You made me come here, and I could have been with Patrick! I could have been with him this whole time!”

“Well, my darling, I didn’t know it was that important to you.”

“It’s that important to me! It’s the most important thing!”

At first, his mother didn’t say anything, and then David heard what he had said. Luckily, Mom was never quiet for long. “I rather think you were with him a little tonight,” she said finally. “You were very flushed when you rushed from the room.”

“Oh my God.”

“A little distance never hurt,” Mom said. “It builds anticipation.”

“Oh my God.”

“You know, Anatoly once told me that waiting is a sweet climax; the climax itself is putrid in its banal brevity.”

“You never worked with Anatoly!”

“I took a class with Sergey; it’s almost the same thing!”

Ughhh. Luckily, they were almost home, and David wouldn’t have to talk to her any more. “The Cha-Cha With Gza Gza is a good one,” he finally said. “For your insulation act.”

“I was brilliant in it, wasn’t I?”

“Or Shoes Glorious Shoes,” David said.

“Does anyone in this town know who Imelda Marcos is?”

“Does it matter?”

“I suppose not,” Mom said. “We would know. That’s all that really matters.”

David bit down on his smile.

“Thank you. For coming with me.”

David couldn’t stand it when Mom sounded that way, all the bravura leaked out to show something underneath that was much smaller than he imagined his mother to be, smaller and lonelier and frightened; David didn’t like it. Mom was always prodigious; he liked it when she was prodigious; he felt like he could be prodigious too. “It was good I did,” David said. “No one else would have thought about the mirrors.”

“As though Jocelyn will find a decent wall of mirrors. I do not approve of the decorations discussed; you shouldn’t have left the room.”

“There was an emergency.”

“So there was.” Mom smiled at him, affectionate and real, and when she spoke it was in the voice she only used for him, and sometimes Dad, and maybe once or twice, Alexis. “I think he’s very lucky.”

David didn’t want to smile. He didn’t want to look at her; he cared far too much. He kept on driving.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Mom was in David and Alexis’s room way too early in the morning, buzzing about the list of numbers David had written out as possibilities for her to do for Fest-bestos, or whatever, so of course, Dad had to come in too. It was always a party.

“Well, that ends our streak,” Dad said.

Bop It With Bobbit was also good,” David said.

“Oh, no, David.” His mother made a horrified face. “That was in poor taste.”

David moved his head around at this. “And the Woman With Two Heads isn’t?”

“I said, that ends our streak,” Dad said, louder now.

“God, we heard you the first time,” said Alexis, though no one had known or cared what Dad meant.

“It’s the first night we’re not fully booked since your graduation,” said Dad, and now David both knew and cared.

“Oh,” David said, trying to sound sincere. “Has business suffered—a downturn?”

“Maybe we can fill it up by tonight,” said Dad. “It’s just one room.”

“Which room?” David asked, a little too quickly, because Alexis whipped her head around from her nail-filing to look at him.

“Room Four.”

David remembered that swallowing-a-cat feeling, except now he felt like he was swallowing something bigger and grosser. Like a dog. With mange. “The one where . . . the man . . .” He tried to think of a way to say it that didn’t make him want to throw up.

“Passed away?” said Dad. “Yes.”

“Ew,” said Alexis. “Do people know? That’s why they don’t want the room?”

“No,” said Dad. “No one knows; it just so happens to be the room that’s empty.”

David’s stomach was doing weird things.

Mother Dearest: Medea Meets Ma Barker!” Mom said. “Put it on the list!”

David wrote it down.

*

“Are you sure you want to?” Patrick asked.

David felt like he was swallowing a cow at this point. “Yes?”

“Because we don’t have to,” Patrick went on.

“Where else are we going to?” David demanded. “Roland’s going to come look in the windows, or Ray’s going to ask if we want to see Birth, which—why; it’s a disgusting movie; and Alexis is always in our room, and last night I was under a tree.”

Patrick suppressed a smile at him. “But did you really do it last night?”

“I made you do it; it counts.”

Patrick’s smile got warmer and gooier; David didn’t understand how he hadn’t known what that soft look meant before. It was becoming a problem, Patrick looking at him like that; David finally understood what Alexis had meant about puppy dog eyes. The problem was Patrick liked him. Patrick liked him liked him, like, a lot; it was a problem; Patrick was going to expect things, good things, things David couldn’t deliver on. People didn’t look at David like that; he didn’t want to be looked at like that.

When David had walked in that morning, Patrick had looked at him like that. Patrick’s whole body had changed, as though something thrilling were happening, now that David was in the store. Patrick had looked at him, going a little pink, even—perhaps remembering last night, or the night before; that was the only way to explain it, because David had never really understood this term before, but Patrick was fucking glowing. Like, sex glowing. In the store. When they hadn’t had sex since last night, and then it had only been over the phone.

“Have you had coffee yet?” Patrick had said, coming to kiss him, all warmth and softness and tenderness.

“No,” David had said, kind of moodily. Maybe coffee would stop Patrick from looking like that; maybe Patrick didn’t look like that; maybe it was David. Maybe David was seeing him that way because he’d gotten to make Patrick come; he’d made Patrick come at rank eleven; this was very bad.

“Let me get it for you,” Patrick had said, kissing him. “Have you had breakfast? I’ll get you a pastry.”

“Egg whites,” said David.

“You smell so good,” Patrick had said, kissing David’s neck, burrowing his fucking nose under David’s ear and breathing; it was too much. It was too fucking much.

Make a joke at me, every part of David’s body screamed, standing there stiffly as Patrick got positively cuddly against his neck, afterglow delayed by hours.

“You know,” Patrick said, pulling away at last. “If you didn’t get so much sugar in your coffee, you could probably stand to have egg yolks.”

Teasing. That was a little better, except the last thing that David needed was someone criticizing things he ate; he’d had five different nutritionists at one point, ‘kay thanks bye. “I don’t want any sugar today,” David said, rather churlishly. “I’m getting tired of sweet things.”

“Yes, your majesty,” said Patrick, and David nearly gulped in relief. “Is there anything else you want?”

David thought about it. He wanted to say something else, something spoiled and highly specific and unreasonable, just to see what Patrick would do; he wanted to be a brat just to see what Patrick would do; David didn’t know why he was like this. “Yes,” said David, lifting his chin. “Three stalks of asparagus, blanched, sliced down the middle, sprinkled with truffle salt.”

Patrick’s mouth tucked over a smile. “I don’t know if Café Tropical has truffle salt.”

“Well,” David said, turning away. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Patrick had come back fifteen minutes later with unsweetened coffee (disgusting), packets of sweetener and a little cup of skim and baggy of cocoa powder on the side (“I didn’t believe in you,” Patrick said; “I don’t believe you can do it”), and egg whites. When David asked about the asparagus, Patrick laughed at him, then said, “I don’t know what to tell you,” and then went back to stocking candles, which was what he had been doing when David had come in and Patrick had turned into a puddle of goo.

So it had gotten better, but now they were here again, and Patrick was looking at him like that again.

“We could go somewhere in my car,” Patrick said. “I know you said you didn’t want to do seedy, but I don’t know—using a room where some guy died seems pretty seedy.”

“If you say it like that,” David said, almost happy for this distraction from extreme sentimentality. Almost, not quite, because Patrick was right; doing it in the dead man’s room sounded disgusting. “It’s just a room. It’s not as though it carries the . . . miasma of death around it,” David said, even though he was kind of convinced Room Four probably had a miasma of death around it.

“Well,” Patrick said. “Presumably they’ve washed the sheets.”

“Hopefully they burned the sheets,” said David.

“Look,” said Patrick. “I don’t have a problem with it. My great uncle George died on my favorite couch. Of course, I never sat on that couch again, but I don’t have a problem with it. I just thought maybe you would have a problem with it.”

“Death is a part of life,” David said loftily.

“That’s very philosophic of you.”

“We need a bed.”

“I don’t disagree.”

“There’s a bed in Room Four.”

“I didn’t disagree with that either,” said Patrick.

“The universe has gifted us,” said David.

“Okay, I might disagree there. David,” Patrick went on, suppressing another smile. “I’m really happy with the prospect of a bed. But I’m also really fine if it’s—too much for you.”

“It’s not too much for me.”

“Okay, then. After dinner we can—”

“Before dinner,” David said. “If someone books it, we’d need to clear out.”

“David.” Patrick’s tone changed. “You did—tell someone you wanted to use the room?”

“Who am I going to tell?” David said loudly. “My dad? Stevie? Roland?”

“I don’t know!” Patrick shrugged. “It might be a good idea, in case . . .”

“In case there is a miasma of death?”

“I was going to say, in case someone does check in. We wouldn’t want to be surprised while we’re . . .” Patrick blushed. “Um.”

This was an acceptable blush. David was okay with this. “Mm,” he said, leaning in suggestively. “While we’re what?”

Patrick looked around the store, as though customers would suddenly appear to haunt them, and that thought probably had something to do with the miasma of death, which David was thinking far too much about. “I wanna make out with you,” Patrick said.

“In Room Four?”

“Yeah, also—right now.” Patrick’s hands settled on David’s hips, then tugged, just once.

“Mmph, so you’re not going to play a trick on me to get me into the make-out space with you?”

Patrick leaned in to drift his lips across David’s mouth. “Do I need to play tricks on you?”

“Maybe.”

“Hm.” Patrick moved away, then went over behind the register counter and started looking at the computer.

David waited, but Patrick didn’t do anything else. “What are you doing?” David finally asked, hating himself for giving in and sounding whiny.

“Reconciling last week’s reports.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Huh,” said Patrick, with complete lack of surprise.

“Do you need to show me in the stockroom?”

“Why would I go in there?”

“Oh my God,” said David. “I’m going to lunch.”

As David stalked toward the door, Patrick didn’t even lift his eyes, but he did begin to smile, and it sort of made up for everything. “Get me a tuna sandwich, would you?” Patrick called.

“You’re a troll,” David told him.

David got him a tuna sandwich anyway.

*

“David,” Patrick said, between kisses. “The point of this room”—another kiss—“was the bed.” Another kiss. “If you don’t want to use the bed—maybe we should—leave.”

“We can use the bed,” David said, kissing him again. “I’m not stopping us.”

They’d kissed against the door of Room Four and against the wall; David had sat on the desk, opened his legs, then got Patrick between them, which had made Patrick moan. Now, however, Patrick was pulling away. “Fine,” Patrick was saying. Toeing off his shoes, he went over to the bed, lying down on it. “You’re not stopping us,” he said.

“I have to take off my shoes,” David said faintly, not looking at him. Finding the desk chair, he sat down on it, taking time with his Lanvin high-tops because they were extremely nice high-tops, not because he was afraid of the dead man’s bed. He wasn’t afraid of the dead man’s bed. Lanvin high-tops had velvet insteps.

When David finally got them off, he turned to find Patrick watching him, hands behind his head, elbows sticking out, legs crossed, looking insufferably cocky.

David wasn’t afraid of the dead man’s bed, so he came over to the side of it, looking down at Patrick.

“David.” Face softening, Patrick unfolded his arms and took David’s hand. “You don’t have to—”

“It’s just not very big, that’s all,” David interrupted.

Patrick looked like he was swallowing a smile, maybe because the bed was a queen. “You can get on top of me.”

“Usually when people say that to me they’re not laughing.”

“Right,” Patrick said gently. “That’s because other people who have said that to you haven’t been me.”

Now is not the time to bring up other partners, was the reminder there, but Patrick would never say it. Patrick wouldn’t say a lot of things, and he let David say everything. “I’m going to,” David said, then got on top of him.

The process of getting on top of him was extremely awkward and not at all sexy, because David wanted to touch the bed as little as possible, and Patrick was laughing under him. Then Patrick was too crushed to laugh, his chest shaking a little under David’s as he tried to do it anyway, but the breathy sounds that came out of Patrick’s mouth were definitely too wheezy for real laughs. “I’m really heavy,” David said, which he realized now he should have said when Patrick had said he could do this.

The wheezy sound came again, and Patrick’s arms came around him, tugging at David’s sweatshirt so Patrick could get it up, put his hands under it.

“Are you even breathing,” David asked, but it wasn’t really a question.

“It’s okay,” Patrick wheezed. “Now a second guy can die in this bed.”

David started to get off of him, putting knees on either side of Patrick’s hips, lifting himself up on his forearms so he could roll away.

Patrick prevented him with locked arms around David’s back, bringing his mouth up to kiss David’s. “Stay,” Patrick said, possibly because David was now holding himself above Patrick enough so that Patrick could breathe. Patrick’s hands moved down to David’s ass.

“Well, if you put it that way,” David breathed, feeling sexy after all. He kissed Patrick with an open mouth, barely teasing with his tongue before Patrick’s tongue was pushing its way into David’s mouth, forceful and hungry and everything David liked.

Patrick’s hands squeezed David’s ass, pulling David down against Patrick’s hips to grind against him, then again, and again, and now Patrick’s hips were rolling up to meet him. They’d done this before, the grinding, but David was a little surprised at how quickly Patrick got down to business. Like sure, they’d been kissing for a while before this, but as soon as they’d gotten on a bed Patrick seemed ready for it. He was really ready for it. David heard himself make a wanting sound.

Patrick ripped his mouth away. “I want,” he said, but didn’t finish, hand sliding up to push on David’s shoulder. Then he pushed much harder, shoving David beside him on the bed, but Patrick was coming with him, on top of him. David realized Patrick was probably used to doing that with girls—rolling them over, then getting on top, but even though David was so much larger it hadn’t stopped Patrick from doing it with him. David moaned again, then purposely spread his legs.

“Yeah, gorgeous,” David whispered. “Do anything you want with me.”

“You like that,” Patrick said, his voice breathy with surprise.

“I like everything.”

“No, but specifically.” Patrick kissed him. “Do you like to be pinned down?”

“What is this, analytics?”

A cute little furrow appeared in Patrick’s brow. “No, I was just—”

“It’s just sex, Patrick.” David put his hands on Patrick’s ass, then bucked his hips. “Let’s have sex.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

At first David thought Patrick wasn’t actually agreeing; maybe he was upset, because he was adjusting his position—but then Patrick was sitting up and straddling him, his hands at the buttons of his shirt.

“Mm-hm,” David agreed, hands going for Patrick’s shirt as well, untucking it so he could get the buttons at the bottom and meet Patrick part of the way up. Then Patrick’s ass wiggled enticingly over David’s groin as Patrick’s upper body stretched to get the shirt off his arms, then the undershirt over his head, then at last his chest was bare. David smoothed his hands up Patrick’s sides, then inward over his pecs. “This,” David said. “This is something that I like.”

“That’s fortunate.” Patrick’s little smile wasn’t really all there, but David didn’t have time to think about it because he was pulling Patrick down to kiss him. Patrick went willingly, and David’s hands stroked now over Patrick’s back, his ass, his thighs. Then David brought one of Patrick’s legs up so he wouldn’t crush it, then rolled them back over.

“I told you I like everything,” David whispered, over him now, his hands tweaking Patrick’s nipples. David had wanted to do this to Patrick in a bed ever since the first time he’d done it, which had been recent but seemed like forever ago now, too long, so he did it, sliding down to get his mouth on one of them, using teeth to get Patrick to respond as he had before.

“Okay,” Patrick said, hips jerking as David scraped his teeth over Patrick’s nipple.

David lifted his head to watch him as his hand drifting down to the front of Patrick’s jeans. “Can I get in here?” David whispered, tugging a bit at Patrick’s button.

“Yes,” Patrick said, but then he shimmied a bit out from under David, his hands at the hem of David’s sweatshirt again. “Can you take this off?”

David pulled away.

“David?”

David tried not to let his lip curl as he looked at the bed. “Someone died here.”

“David.”

David was very sure that Patrick was going to be annoyed with him, but he didn’t sound that way, and when David looked back at him Patrick seemed to find it very funny, his face holding in a smile. “We really, really don’t have to do this,” Patrick said.

“No,” said David. “If Seal could bare his chest for ‘Kiss From A Rose’, so can I.”

“Yes, David.” Patrick’s smile was leaking out the sides. “You’re Seal.”

David lifted them hems of his sweatshirt and the t-shirt under it, wanting to be sexy doing it in front of Patrick but knowing he didn’t manage—precisely because he was trying; he’d attempted one fluid motion and it’d gotten stuck on his head; Patrick had to help him. Then it was off, and Patrick was on him immediately, pushing him down, his hand instantly sinking into David’s chest hair as Patrick kissed him. Patrick liked it, David remembered again. He was beginning to think Patrick actually liked the hair there as well, and David could get used to Patrick pushing him down onto beds.

David did like being pinned down. He didn’t like people knowing what he liked. They could use it against him.

Patrick kissed him, playing with David’s nipples too, until finally Patrick’s hand came to the front of David’s pants. “Can I get in here?” Patrick teased.

“All yours,” David breathed, tilting his hips up toward Patrick.

“David.” The teasing fell away into something raw and needy, and Patrick roughly unbuttoned David’s pants—far more roughly than Balenciaga deserved, but then they were open, and Patrick’s hand was slipping in, and a knock came at the door. “Dammit,” Patrick said, at the same time as David through his head back into the pillows and said, “Oh my fucking God.”

Patrick took his hand away, sitting up, looking for his shirts. David buttoned his pants, and the knocking at the door happened again.

“Did you lock it?” David asked, looking for his sweatshirt as Patrick struggled into his button-down.

“I was kissing you,” Patrick said, as though this was an answer.

The knocking happened again, a particularly annoying knock, and then, “David!”

“Oh my flying fuckety fuck,” David said, getting out of the bed and stomping over to the door. He flung it open. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

“Ew, David.”

Had it been anyone but Alexis, David would rather die than open the door shirtless, but it was Alexis so he literally could not be paid to care. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Um, what are you doing, David? Did you know a guy died in there?”

“I’m going to kill you,” said David. “You know that embroidered sequin jacket you have? I am going to fashion a noose made of Laundry by Shelli Segal, and I am going to hang you with it.”

“Mmph! I’m doing you a favor, David.”

“What favor!”

“So, remember Dad was upset this morning? He’s happy now.”

“Why do I care what—”

“Ugph!” Alexis made a face at him. “Remember what Dad was upset about this morning, then think about what could make him happy.”

David pursed his lips, trying to process this. “The room got booked.”

“That’s what I was trying to tell you, David.”

“Then why couldn’t you just tell me! Why do I have to play twenty questions?”

“Because if I told you, I’d have to admit to knowing what you’re doing in there. It’s gross enough someone died. Patrick is a stuffed owl, David. Don’t make him be sleazy just because you’re—”

David stepped out of the room onto the sidewalk with Alexis, slamming the door behind him. “Don’t you dare finish that sentence.”

Alexis hopped back. “I was going to say because you’re in Schitt’s Creek! What did you think I was going to say?”

A tramp, David almost said. They’d been talking about it the other night. David had told her he’d slept with Pedro, even knowing that she’d slept with Pedro as well.

“Don’t ever tell anyone about this,” David said instead.

“Ew, why would I want to? Put a shirt on, David,” Alexis said, turning to leave.

David looked around. He was standing outside of the motel, shirtless on the sidewalk. Even drivers could have seen, if anyone had been passing by. Oh God, it was awful. Wrapping his arms around himself, David turned back to open the door, then went back in.

Patrick was there, of course, all dressed, sitting at the chair to put on his shoes. “Come on,” he said, hopping up as soon as David got in the door. Patrick grabbed David’s sweatshirt and t-shirt from the bed, coming over with them. “Let’s get these on you,” he said, bunching the fabric so that the head-hole was visible, reaching up to put it over David’s head, then pulling down. It was how you might dress a child, and it made David feel a whole lot better, except it was embarrassing, so he did the arms himself, Patrick hovering in front of him. “Come on,” Patrick said again, tugging his hand.

David followed where Patrick led, then Patrick was pushing him into the chair, sinking to his knees before him. This was very confusing, until Patrick picked up one of David’s high-tops and began loosening the laces to put it on him.

Two impulses warred within David, and one was to feel gratitude and wonder that anyone would get on their knees before him to put his shoes on like a child, as though he deserved to be spoiled. The other impulse was to snatch his shoes away in humiliation that anyone would get on their knees before him to put on his shoes like a child, as though he were to be patronized. In the end, a compromise happened, something in-between—David reached out for his shoes, saying half-heartedly, “I can do it.”

“I know,” Patrick said. “Let me.”

Then he got David’s shoe on, tying it. Afterwards he opened David’s legs, shuffling between them, but it was just so that it was easier to get his face close to David’s. “You’re not sleazy,” Patrick said, which maybe explained why he was doing this with David’s shoes. Kissing him again, Patrick started with the other shoe.

“She didn’t mean it,” David said.

“Right,” Patrick agreed. “But you’re not, and you couldn’t make me sleazy. Nothing we do is sleazy.” With the second shoe on, still untied, Patrick pulled up to kiss him again. “No part of this is sleazy.”

“She meant because we’re in Room Four.”

“We’re in Room Four because I want to be with you.” Patrick kissed him again. “I like being with you.”

“It was just Alexis,” said David. “Don’t listen to anything she says.”

“On that note,” Patrick said, returning to tying David’s shoe, “how am I a stuffed owl?”

David had made a big deal of giving the stuffed owl he’d had when he was eleven to Alexis so that it would protect her, except that Alexis had never been afraid of anything, not even moths. A week after he’d given it to her, he’d found it wedged under the mattress in Alexis’s room, where he’d specifically gone to look for it because he’d never seen her bring it with her anywhere.

“It was ratty and dirty, David,” Alexis’s had said many years later, when he’d brought up her neglect of it in yet another argument. “You carried it everywhere; it was gross.”

“To protect me from moths,” David had tried to tell her, even though he was seventeen by then.

“We’re not going to talk about that,” David said.

“Huh.” Finished with tying David’s shoes, Patrick’s hands slid up David’s legs, over his thighs, settling at the crease of them as Patrick leaned up to kiss him again.

Patrick had wanted to take care of him because he thought someone had called David a name, and who was this guy? Real people didn’t behave like this. “I don’t believe you exist,” David said, in-between kissing him.

“Yeah, I’m a figment.” Patrick slapped David’s thigh, which was shocking really, but it was just a casual thing as Patrick was getting to his feet, not meant as anything sexy at all. David thought it was sexy. “Come on,” Patrick said, now that he was standing. “I’ll take you to dinner.”

*

“Back to being fifties boyfriends,” David remarked, once they were seated in a booth at Café Tropical.

“I still don’t know what that means,” said Patrick.

“We’re rated PG. Except that rating system isn’t until later. We’re Hays Code.”

“We’re not Hays Code.”

“We can’t find a room to do it in, no touching below the waist; we’re Hays Code.”

“We’re gay, David,” Patrick said. “That’s not Hays Code. Why are we talking about Hays Code? I don’t like Hays Code.”

I used to pretend to like sex, Patrick had said, or something like that. David didn’t like it either. “Well,” David said. “Let’s be glad, then, that we are children of the nineties.”

“Are we really, though?” Patrick sipped his tea.

The man drank too much tea. Sometimes David thought he did it just for emphasis.

“I spent most of my teenage years in the early two thousands,” Patrick went on. “I mean because you’re so much older than me.”

“Oh my God.”

“I’m not the one making ‘Kiss From a Rose’ references.”

“Tell me your little ten-year-old self didn’t find Seal pretty.”

“My ten-year-old self didn’t find Seal pretty,” Patrick said. “I thought Heidi Klum was pretty, though.”

“No wonder you were confused.” David thought about it. “Heidi Klum is gorgeous. Kind of nuts, though.”

Patrick rolled his eyes. “You’re not telling me you know Heidi Klum.”

“No,” said David. “I dated her wardrobe assistant in Tokyo.”

“Right, so you know everything about her.”

“Well, I also dated her makeup technician in Rio.”

Patrick was laughing now, but skeptically. “David, how many people have you actually dated?”

David flinched. “I don’t know; how many have you dated?”

“It was just a question.”

“Mm ‘kay, and I just asked you a question.”

Patrick looked down at his tea. “We should make a plan.”

“What for?” David’s voice was falsely bright and too loud; he knew he was being an asshole, but he didn’t know how to stop, too afraid that Patrick was going to say a plan to share things about our pasts.

“For tomorrow night,” said Patrick. “There’s my place, but we’ll have to brave Ray; there’s the store, but we may have to brave Roland—”

“Or other passersby,” David said, feeling so relieved.

“Or other passersby,” Patrick agreed. “There’s the motel, but we don’t know if rooms will be free. There’s my car, but you think it’s seedy. I guess we could get a motel in Elmdale.”

“You said you weren’t ready for a motel in Elmdale.”

“That was last week.”

“Oh, so we’re moving along, then?”

“Moving along? David. Last Friday we took—a step forward. I haven’t been able to even repeat that step with you since then. It’s been almost a week. I think I might—combust if I don’t get to touch you again soon.”

“Combust, hm?” David teased, but he put his hand on the table for Patrick, in case Patrick wanted it.

Patrick took it immediately, fingers playing with David’s rings. “You think that’s funny,” Patrick said.

David pursed his lips over a smile. “No one’s ever wanted to combust for me before.”

“Yeah,” said Patrick. “I find that really hard to believe.” His fingers were doing things to David’s now, spreading them out, stroking fingers along either side of David’s middle finger, wrapping around and tugging on it, not very subtly.

“It’s true,” David murmured, hoping Patrick would say more things about how much he wanted him, anything about wanting him.

“We still don’t have a plan,” Patrick said.

“Um,” David said, because it was hard to think with Patrick doing those things to his hand. They weren’t exactly innocent things, but you could only get so graphic with hands; it should not have been turning David on like this, and he was a little embarrassed, but it was Patrick. Patrick, who was going to combust from desire. Hating how much he liked the thought of Patrick being so on fire for him, David said, “I guess a motel in Elmdale wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

“Yeah, but if we keep doing it, the cost is really going to rack up. I mean . . .” Patrick’s hand faltered. “If you wanted to keep doing it. I wasn’t trying to . . .” His hand began to move away, and David snatched it up.

“I always—” want to keep doing it, David was going to say, and he didn’t even mean anything by it. It was the sort of flirty, carefree thing he said to other people, to show them he was open and willing and—easy; he wanted them to think he was easy when in reality, he was the most difficult person alive. The problem was that David didn’t know how to save the start of that sentence without being far more earnest than he had any capacity to be. “Practice makes perfect,” David finally said, because he couldn’t think of anything else.

Patrick gave him a strange look, but all he said was, “Okay, David.”

David hated okay David. It usually meant David had said something horrible and Patrick wasn’t going to call him on it, because he was Patrick and put on David’s shoes and didn’t get him blanched asparagus with truffle salt and laughed when David did terrible things. David stroked Patrick’s hand, wishing that could communicate how much he liked him, how lucky David knew he was.

“I’ll look into a motel,” Patrick said. “I guess we can go from there.”

Chapter Text

Patrick: Motels in elmdale booked solid through the weekend
Patrick: sorry

On Thursday, David was doing pickups again. He shouldn’t have to every week once things got into more of a routine at the store, but it had only been a little over a month since Rose Apothecary had opened, and they were still finalizing their products and vendors.

David: This honey is crystallizing I’m not sure we can sell it

Patrick: Did you talk to mr ellis

David: He said people could microwave it. I told him that was unacceptable

Patrick: You took the honey didn’t you

David: He was forceful

Patrick: You know it’s okay to put your foot down

David: I put my foot down he stepped on my foot

Patrick: Poor baby

David: Don’t you know what calling me that does to me

Patrick: What does it do to you

David: Are you serious right now I’m working
David: You should be working too

Patrick: sorry

David: No I like it
David: Come onto me all you want

Patrick: Nice shoes

David: omg

Patrick: lol

David: You don’t understand that actually works on me

Patrick: Somehow I’m not surprised

David: You should think better of me

Patrick: Are you a campfire?

David: what

Patrick: Because you’re hot and I want s’more

David: ew

Patrick: Are you a parking ticket?

David wasn’t dignifying this with more responses. But he did check his phone when Patrick texted again.

Patrick: Because you have fine written all over you
Patrick: I don’t have a library card
Patrick: But do you mind if I check you out

“Are you breaking up with Patrick again?” Alexis asked, because David had taken her on his vendor trips again, and David was no longer checking his phone. She was supposed to sign up for classes at Elmdale College tomorrow; maybe then he would finally be rid of her.

“No,” said David. “He’s just really fucking annoying.”

There weren’t any pings for the next two hours, and David finally decided to check, afraid that Patrick had somehow found a silent way to text him and that his phone would be blown up with bad pick-up lines. There was just the parking ticket and library card ones though, as well as one that was almost like an apology.

Patrick: Don’t break up with me again I’ll stop

David: It’s just reminding me uncomfortably of stevie

Patrick: ?

“Patrick is an adorable bowler hat,” Alexis said a few minutes later, when they were on the road again. She was looking at her phone, probably having texted Patrick to ask if they were broken up.

David glanced over, but of course he couldn’t see the texts. “What did he say? What are you talking about?”

“Nothing, David,” Alexis said, stroking her hair. “He’s a perfect mushroom.”

When they stopped at the next farm, David checked his phone again.

Stevie: Patrick just asked me about you and pick-up lines

David: no

Stevie: Is your name homework?

David: no

Stevie: Because I’m not doing you, but I should

After loading in the tastefully wood-carved kitchen utensils and receiving five bad pickup lines from Stevie, David reluctantly checked his messages from Patrick.

Patrick: Sorry about stevie. I really didn’t mean to I just thought it would be funny to ask her

David: I’m glad there are no motels in elmdale

Patrick: I’m really actually sorry
Patrick: You probably don’t believe me. But sometimes I just let things get out of hand
Patrick: I’m sorry

David: ok

Patrick: I’d make it up to you if I could find us a place for us to go

“Patrick is asking whether you like chocolate, David,” Alexis told him, once they were on the road again. “I’m going to tell him no.”

“Don’t you dare,” David said, but Alexis kept texting and David couldn’t do anything about it.

When they got to the Blakely farm, David checked his messages again.

Stevie: P is asking whether you liked those roses he sent
Stevie: He’s REALLY into you

David: I know

David switched to his text messages from Patrick. I’d make it up to you if I could find us a place for us to go still sitting there, unanswered.

David: You can do me in your car

Patrick: How romantic

David: Are we going for romantic

Patrick: yes

David: I couldn’t tell bc of the pickup lines

Patrick: I apologized for that

David: fine
David: Fuck me in your car
David: Is that more romantic

Patrick: I thought we were working

David: Sure. I’ll take out your cock and lick my hand and put it on your cock and pretend that was me getting to lick your cock and then I’ll work you hard until you come. Is that working for you

Patrick: yes

David and Alexis stopped for slushies after that at the horrible little ice cream stand where Dad had stopped after picking David up from the Mennonites; they actually had good slushies. The sky was blue and the grass was green, and David hated the outsideness of it all, where wind could abrade his skin and nice smells like grass and sunshine were mixed with terrible smells like cow dung and the diesel for the generator of the ice cream stand. You wanted the sounds to be nature, birds singing and wind in the grass and leaves of trees, but instead there were the distant road sounds of cars and the hum of that generator. And flies buzzing, which was nature, but not, you know, pretty nature.

Even in the country nothing was actually pretty, except Alexis of course, because she was annoyingly gorgeous. David would never tell her that, and she was smiling down a little at her phone, idly playing with her hair. She was probably talking to Patrick. Everyone was talking to Patrick, apparently, and David tried to hate it. He really wanted to hate it, but the sun felt great, actually, and the slushie was better than was fair, and Patrick liked Alexis. David didn’t like how it made his heart feel, but he couldn’t hate it.

Patrick: You said I could do you

It had been a while since Patrick’s yes, and David had been a little worried about it, but now he smiled. He was sitting at an ice cream stand with Alexis, both of them smiling at their phones. It was a good thing he was wearing Fendi and Kenzo, or else he would have felt completely trite. Remembering how Patrick had said he was nervous about sexting, David tried to make it easier for him.

David: Yes you can do me
David: What do you want do you want me to get naked for you. Do you want me to put on a show for you I would do that.

Patrick: I want to touch you

David: You can you can put your hand on my cock and fuck me. You can fuck me you can make me writhe for you
David: Would you like that

Patrick: yes

David: Is this ok

Patrick: Im working

Waiting to see if that meant Patrick was okay, or whether he just needed a pause, David finished his slushie. Meanwhile, Alexis went on smiling at her phone, thumb moving on it occasionally, and David frowned. “Are you texting with Patrick?”

“What? No.”

“Okay, because I thought he was a little toadstool or something.”

“I said a mushroom, David.”

“What were you doing?”

“Um, texting.”

David’s eyes narrowed, because Alexis was acting suspicious. “Who?”

“Twyla,” Alexis said, as if this should have been obvious, which made it an obvious lie.

“Oh,” David said, not really pretending to go along with this. “I didn’t know you were friends with her.”

Some of us have friends, David.”

“Uh-huh. What were you really doing?”

“Well, if you must know.” Alexis handed him her phone, which was covered in puppies.

Literal puppies. Picture after picture of them, and okay maybe not literal puppies because David didn’t really know what the difference between a puppy and a dog was; they all looked the same to him, and there were cats too. And a parakeet. And a lizard. And a sheep? A goat? A ram? David wasn’t sure about the difference between these animals. “This is Ted’s Instagram,” David announced.

“He does these little—little—little . . .” Alexis was doing these things with her hands that didn’t really seem to be demonstrate anything little. “Captions about each of them? They need to get adopted or something; they live at pet orphanages; they come from bad homes, so he wants people to adopt them.”

David’s heart sank in his chest. “You don’t even like animals.”

“But the captions are cute!”

The captions were things like This little guy’s kiss is worse than his bite! and This furry gal’s pawsome! David didn’t know what to say, and his phone was pinging. Handing Alexis’s phone back to her, David checked his own phone.

Patrick: Yes its ok you can do more
Patrick: Sorry there were customers
Patrick: I really liked that
Patrick: I’d like more
Patrick: If you want

David: Good

David scrolled up to remember what he’d texted, then tried to get back into it.

David: If you got me almost there then stopped me from coming I’d writhe harder
David: What would you do would you try to make me beg

Patrick: yes

Those were just the kind of answers Patrick gave, David was learning. Patrick had said he was nervous about it; he was still nervous, and that was okay. David could make it easy for him; he’d make everything easy, as long as Patrick liked it, as long as Patrick liked him. When David glanced up, Alexis was doing that little smile at her phone, still scrolling Ted’s Instagram, probably. That was a problem.

David: You could put your fingers in my mouth again. I’d take any part of you inside of me
David: I’d suck on any part of you. I’d suck on anything you gave me
David: Do you like that

Patrick: yes

David: While you’re doing that you could put your cock on me and fuck yourself on me
David: Put your cock beside mine and fuck me we could do it that way again

Patrick: We haven’t done it that way yet
Patrick: We’ve barely done it

David: Fantasy land we did it having phone sex

Patrick: That’s nice
Patrick: I’d like real sex
Patrick: please

David: Well look who’s horny

Patrick: What did you think would happen

David: You can do it to me in your car

David glanced up at Alexis again. She was still on her phone, and it was really a problem. He sucked on his slushie, remembered that it was empty, then went back to Patrick.

David: Have you thought about fucking my thighs

Patrick: yes

David: You have?

David felt surprised, because lots of people didn’t think about intercrural at all.

Patrick: I told you I love your thighs did you not think that meant I wanted to fuck them

David didn’t know what to text.

Patrick: Id fuck any part of you

Across the table in front of the ice cream stand, Alexis giggled to herself about something on her phone. It was a big big problem.

Patrick: That came out wrong. I meant I find every part of you hot

David liked what Patrick had written too much to look at his phone. He didn’t want to look at Alexis either, because she was too fucking sad. He didn’t want to look at the ice cream stand, because it was ugly in what should have been a bucolic little setting he never would have appreciated, but still could have been idyllic nevertheless. David looked at the sky, then typed on his phone.

David: How hot

His phone pinged a reply.

Patrick: Like the sun

David couldn’t look at it any more; he couldn’t stand this; he liked it so much. He started texting rapidly

David: Could you text alexis some
David: I mean if you’re not busy
David: You’re obviously not busy
David: Our break is almost over
David: And I need to get back on the road
David: She’s looking at Ted’s ig and idk how to make her stop I can’t deal with her
David: please

Patrick: Of course

David went to throw his slushie cup away, and when he got back to the table Alexis was still sitting there with her horrible smile, blissfully unaware of their surroundings. David grabbed her empty slushie cup and stomped over to the trash to throw it away as well. “We’re leaving,” he told her when he got back.

“Rude, David. I wasn’t done with my slushie.” But Alexis stood up and headed with him to the car, and they went on their way to the next vendor.

Alexis was still on her phone, but a few minutes later she said, “Aw, David. Patrick is such a copper penny!”

David smiled.

*

When David finished picking up the merch from all the vendors, Alexis said she’d help him unload at the store. This was a lie, but David guessed his other option was to drop her off at the motel when she’d probably just look at Ted’s Instagram some more, and that was too pathetic even for him. So David took her to the store after all, where he thought he’d do another switch-off with Patrick so Patrick could unload and David would work the counter

It started that way. David took over the floor, Patrick going back to the car with Alexis to get boxes, but of course it did not end that way. Alexis kept talking to Patrick, wanting to sample the products, and Patrick let her, which meant somehow David was the only one working while the two of them messed around in the stockroom.

Then they were closed, and Patrick made more of a concerted effort, actually trying to get work done around Alexis’s ridiculous distractions. That she wasn’t helping was annoying, but that she was flirting was okay. It kept her occupied, and Patrick kept sliding David these helpless little half smiles; he obviously didn’t know what to do with someone like Alexis. David was glad Patrick didn’t know what to do with someone like Alexis. Patrick knew what to do with him; that was what mattered.

They got done much later than they would have otherwise, trying to close and unload with Alexis bothering them, but afterwards Patrick told her he was going on a date with David, which was news to David. Or maybe Patrick really meant they were going to go fuck in his car, which wasn’t news to David. David was fine with either.

David gave Alexis the car keys so she could go home, but before she left, Patrick went a little cross-eyed as he tried to follow what her finger was doing, because she was poking him on the nose, saying, “Boop!”

It was just one boop, which was good because to David's knowledge Alexis only booped Dad and him. It was a family thing.

Then she was gone, and Patrick looked at him. “I’m a baby cactus,” he told David.

“You’re also a boy lady bug, a snugly Afghan, and a jelly bean,” David informed him, because Alexis had told him in the car.

“I thought I was a ring-pop,” said Patrick, and David didn’t tell him that ring-pops also were a family thing.

Alexis had never done this to any of the people David had dated before. Obviously, this small town was making her confused. “Are we actually going on a date,” asked David, “or are you fucking me in your car?”

“Both,” Patrick said, kissing him briefly before moving away to the stockroom. “We have to hurry though, because the Cookie Mill closes early.”

David followed him into the stockroom. “Um,” he said, barely daring to believe it. “Did you say cookies?”

Patrick looked over his shoulder at him as he gathered his things. “Stevie said you liked them.” Seeing the expression on David’s face, Patrick’s turned to face him fully, his own face kind of falling. “Was it a prank? Because I really actually didn’t mean for her to send you pick-up lines, and I can’t tell when she’s being seri—”

David cut him off with a kiss, a really big fat long one. “Stevie was serious,” he said, pulling away.

Patrick leaned in to lick David’s lips, then pulled away. “Sounds like she was very serious.”

“I’m always serious about delicious things.”

“Good to know,” Patrick said, and he smiled.

*

The Cookie Mill was supposed to have soup and sandwiches as well as cookies; Patrick said it wasn’t a fancy date, but he thought it would make up for the pick-up lines. It didn’t, because the Cookie Mill was closed. So then they had to drive around Elmdale, which was always a barrel of laughs.

“This is like Wetzel’s Pretzels all over again,” David mourned.

“Didn’t you work in this town?” Patrick asked. “Where did you go for lunch?”

“This tasteful little Thai restaurant in a strip center which is now closed, because this town is hell.”

“I thought Schitt’s Creek was hell.”

David felt appalled. “That town has Rose Apothecary. It’s obviously Ibiza, compared to here.”

“Right. It’s Ibiza,” Patrick said, amused.

They tried going to Lucy’s Place, then The Shade Tree which had a wait over an hour long. That made no sense on a Thursday night; for some reason, Elmdale was really hopping, and then they learned some kind of polka fest was happening that weekend, which was why all the motels were booked up too.

When they got back in the car after deciding not to wait at The Shade Tree, David held himself very stiffly out of fear that Patrick might suggest they do polka fest things, but Patrick didn’t. In fact, Patrick seemed kind of tense. “Did you want to do polka fest things?” David finally asked, because he couldn’t stand it any more. He also couldn’t stand the thought of polka, and furthermore, he couldn’t stand the thought that he would do literally any polka thing Patrick wanted if Patrick wanted it. David couldn’t stand very many of his thoughts at all.

“No, I don’t want to do polka things,” Patrick said tightly. “There were a few very specific things I wanted to do tonight, and none of them were polka.”

“Like fuck in the car,” David suggested.

“Right,” Patrick said, “but I also wanted to take you to a place you’d like, and I didn’t want to drive around all night just trying to find dinner.”

“Okay.” David swallowed a smile.

Patrick glanced over at him, because apparently David had delivered that okay suspiciously. “What?”

“Nothing.”

“What’s so funny?”

“I just—you—” Patrick wanted to take him out to eat, enough to get upset about the fact that he had been thwarted, and this delighted David, except that he couldn’t say that. At least there were several other delightful things going on in this conversation as well. “Polka,” David finally said. “They have a polka fest, Patrick.”

Patrick began to smile. At the next intersection, he leaned over to kiss David on the cheek. “We can do polka stuff if you want to that bad,” he said magnanimously.

David’s amusement quickly transitioned to horror. “That is not what I said.”

Patrick laughed.

*

It was eight-thirty when they found a gas station that doubled as a general store. It had sandwiches wrapped in plastic wrap in an upright cooler and a startling selection of ice cream, which Patrick seemed to want to get for David.

“I already had a slushie today,” David said.

“I’ll get it for me,” said Patrick. “What flavor?”

“Mint chocolate chip,” David said instantly.

They ate at the one little plastic table the gas station afforded, and then by nine-twenty were on a dirt road halfway between Elmdale and home, making out in Patrick’s car. “David,” Patrick was panting. “David. I want you so much.”

“Do you?” David said, pretending that he wasn’t serious, even though he was. He also knew that Patrick was serious, but David liked hearing it. He liked hearing it more than any dirty thing that Patrick could say, and David wanted him as well. David was hard for him as well, and Patrick wanted him. Patrick wanted to get him off. He talked about it like he liked it, like it was important, and David couldn’t remember partners he’d had acting that way before.

“David,” Patrick breathed, a world of need and want in his voice. He’d finally gotten the layers of David’s shirt and pants up, and his hands were on the clasp.

Light filled the car.

“Shit,” Patrick said, then took his hands away.

“What?” David looked at him, not understanding.

“Come on,” Patrick said, getting off him, tugging on David’s thigh.

“Oh my God,” said David, at last realizing what was happening. Bolting up, he got his feet in the seat-well and his sweater yanked down before the knock came at the window.

Patrick had turned the key to power the car, and now he rolled the window down.

“Are you all right?” The person standing there was not anything like what David had dreaded, for it was a rather round woman with short gray hair and—well, what appeared to be a polka costume.

“No,” Patrick was saying. “We’re fine.”

“I saw your emergency lights,” she said. “It looked like maybe you were having some kind of medical issue in there.”

“It wasn’t—a medical issue.” Patrick was turning red. “I’d pulled over because—we—we thought he left his wallet at the restaurant.”

David’s head snapped to look at him, because it was a rather good lie.

Patrick just went on innocently, “We were looking for it in the car. I just didn’t want anyone to hit us; it’s dark—so, emergency lights.”

“Oh!” said Polka Woman. “Glad you’re okay! Did you find it?”

“Yep!” Patrick gave her a friendly smile.

“It can get busy around Polka Fest,” Polka Woman went on. “The roads are so much busier, and their GPS things don’t work on some of these country roads. A lot of people get lost.”

“Why are you out here alone?” David said, rather too loudly.

“Excuse me?” said Polka Woman, and Patrick gave him a look.

“It’s after dark,” David said. “Don’t get out of your car on the road after dark.”

“Why not?” asked Polka Woman.

“Um,” David said, realizing all the things that he could say were terrifying. “Wolves?”

Polka Woman laughed. “I don’t think there are wolves around here!”

“Please get back in your car,” David begged. “Don’t ever get out to help strangers.”

“What kind of person would I be?” Polka Woman asked.

“A living one,” David said, and Patrick put his hand on David’s knee.

“My friend is very frightened of wolves,” Patrick said. “But he just means it’s not always safe to be out alone at night.”

“I’m always out alone at night during Polka Fest,” said Polka Woman. “My husband hates it. I don’t mind doing the events alone.”

“Patrick.” David kind of pawed at Patrick’s shoulder.

“Um,” said Patrick. “But these events aren’t out in the middle of a dark road; that’s all I meant.”

Polka Woman laughed. “The events are over for tonight; I’m on my way home!”

“Don’t stop,” David told the woman loudly.

“Thanks for stopping,” Patrick said.

“No problem! Glad you guys are safe!” Laughing again, Polka Woman turned to go, and Patrick started rolling up the window.

“Patrick.” David pawed some more. “Walk her to her car.”

“You realize that would make me terrifying; don’t you?”

“She’s going to die,” said David. “She’s going to die and we’ll be the last people who saw her alive.”

“She’ll be fine.”

“But what if we had been serial killers?”

“Pretty sure we’re not serial killers,” said Patrick.

David waited until he could see the figure of the woman get into the other car in the rearview, but even though she got into it, the car just sat behind them, lights from brights spilling in through the back of Patrick’s car. “What’s she doing?” David asked, turning to look back at the other car.

“Pretty sure she’s waiting to make sure we know where we’re going.” Patrick turned the key all the way to start the engine.

“How will she know we know where we’re going?” said David. “Is she going to follow us? Is she the serial killer?”

“There is no serial killer,” Patrick said, pulling out onto the road.

Behind them, the brights switched off, and the other car got onto the road too.

“But what if there was one,” David wanted to know. “She can’t just stop and get out like that, especially since she’s a woman. She was an old woman, Patrick!”

“I don’t think there’s much we can do about that,” said Patrick.

“You people in these small towns,” David said in disgust. “Have you no sense of self-preservation? What makes you think helping each other is a good idea? What makes you think people aren’t going to kill you if they get a chance? What makes—you think this is so fucking funny?”

“I don’t,” Patrick said, even though he was obviously trying to contain laughter. “I don’t. I like you.”

“I’m not being funny!”

“I know,” Patrick said, chuckling almost helplessly. “I like you so much.”

“Because I care about helpless women motorists who are going to die?”

“Yes, David. In fact, that was what made me want to go out with you. I didn’t know about the rest, but caring about helpless women motorists is actually my kryptonite.”

“I told you I don’t know anything about Batman,” David said on purpose, just because he hadn’t decided yet whether he would accept this teasing.

Patrick laughed out loud, with such joy in it, such affection, that David found himself smiling too.

“So,” David said eventually, when Patrick’s laughter had died down. “You like me.”

“Oh, here we go,” Patrick said, but he was smiling.

But David didn't want to be annoying, so he didn’t ask how much. Instead, he leaned over to kiss Patrick’s ear.

“Take it easy,” Patrick said, laughing again. “She’s still behind us.”

“What!” David whipped around, but it was impossible to tell whether the headlights following them were the same headlights, because David had stopped paying attention. “Oh my God.”

Patrick laughed some more.

Chapter Text

David had told Patrick he was going to take that Friday off, which was probably why Patrick was surprised when David arrived at the store. No one else was in it, which was good, since David didn’t want people; he wanted Patrick. Then Patrick turned to him with one of his startled, happy smiles, and David didn’t want Patrick any more either, Patrick who was so soft and warm and fucking happy.

David didn’t know why he’d come; it was stupid, except he didn’t want to be at the motel either, so he stalked through the store and behind the register counter into the stockroom to put his satchel and sunglasses away. Except he didn’t want to take off his sunglasses; he hadn’t even finished his morning facial regimen because he hadn’t expected to come to work today; his eyes were probably a mess. He was going to have bags for miles with this fucking disaster.

Lingering there in the stockroom, trying to decide what to do with his sunglasses, David wondered why Patrick hadn’t come back to see what was wrong. Hadn’t he seen that David was upset? Or didn’t he care? How long would David have to stand here before Patrick even realized—

“David?” Patrick said, moving the curtain to come back into the stockroom. “What’s wrong?”

“Alexis is pregnant,” David said, taking off his sunglasses after all and putting them with his bag. Turning around, he swept past Patrick, who was uttering a stunned, “What?” as David left the stockroom.

David had never really liked having the conditioner on the shelf above the shampoo. They should go in the order that you used them, so he crossed the store and started taking bottles off the shelf. “I thought you said Ted didn’t like her like that any more,” said Patrick, who had followed him.

“I guess he liked something.” David was busy with the shampoos; he didn’t want to turn around. “Or who knows if it was Ted! It could be anyone! A man off the street! Maybe it was Tramp Man.”

“Who’s Tramp Man?”

“I don’t know! He was a tramp!”

“David.” Patrick’s hand closed around his arm.

David shook it off. “I don’t like these shampoos here.”

“Okay, then let me help you.” Patrick’s hand was back, and David shook it off again.

“I don’t need help.”

“Let me anyway.” Patrick’s hand was once again on David’s shoulder, more forceful, and Patrick could be strong when he decided he wanted to push David around, because he turned David around even though David didn’t want to turn, then Patrick was kissing him.

Patrick tasted like tea and smelled like Old Spice and he was warm and strong and David wanted him; he wanted him so fucking much.

“Okay,” Patrick said, pulling away. “Okay.” He kissed him again, just briefly, then said, “Who’s Tramp Man?”

“This man she used to see,” David said, feeling calmer. “I didn’t like him. But I mean. He built me a cedar chest. He’s a nice guy. I just didn’t like him.”

“Okay,” Patrick said. “Did she tell you how this happened?”

“No. Dad found her pregnancy test. And then he said I was a disappointment.”

“David.” Patrick kissed him again, warmth and strength and tea.

Patrick kissed him a long time, his lips lazy and gentle as David stood and let himself be kissed, wondering what the fuck he was going to do that night, because he didn’t want to see Alexis. He didn’t ever want to fucking see Alexis again; he wanted—well, he wanted Patrick, and a small horrible petty part of himself David hated wondered why she was getting to have sex when he hadn’t even gotten to look at Patrick’s dick since Monday; why was he thinking about that now? Why couldn’t he just kiss Patrick forever? Why did his family always have to fuck everything up for him; what had Dad expected him to fucking do, as though David hadn’t been trying to take care of Alexis every other fucking moment of his—

“David,” Patrick said urgently, breaking away. “Not here.”

David realized his leg was around Patrick, his hands on Patrick’s ass. David’s tongue had been halfway down Patrick’s throat, and David had just wanted not to think about anything else. David let him go, and Patrick tilted his head up to give David a quick kiss. “You’re not a disappointment,” he said. “Anyone who says that about you hasn’t been paying attention.”

“It’s my dad,” David said. “He never pays attention to anything I do.”

“Then he’s a fool.” Patrick kissed him again. “Let me put the shampoo back. Then we can talk some more.” He gave David a little push, and when David stepped away, began restocking the shelves.

David watched him for a moment, but it was too upsetting. He was too upset; he sort of wanted to destroy things, or at least start re-shelving everything else in this God forsaken place, which was not God forsaken; it was his store. It was his store, and he loved it. Usually he loved it; he hated it now; he hated everything. It was a disappointment.

Whirling around, David went back to the stockroom, rummaging in his satchel for his moisturizer. He wasn’t even moisturized; it would make him feel better if he at least looked human, but then when he started rubbing the moisturizer in it wasn’t working, probably because he was still going to have enormous bags under his eyes.

If they were enormous enough, would Patrick still want him, and David knew that was a stupid thought; it was so stupid, but he couldn’t stop himself from thinking it, and when he tried to put the under-eye serum on his hands were shaking. He tried again and thought about Patrick putting David’s shoes on his feet, you’re not sleazy, and Patrick kissing him. You’re not a disappointment.

“Hey,” Patrick said, coming into the stockroom. “Do you want to—”

“You need to put this on me,” David said, whirling to face him and holding out the serum.

“Okay,” Patrick said, taking the small jar. “Um, where?”

“Under the eyes,” said David. “I get bags; they’re hideous; I didn’t have time to put it on this morning. I have a facial regimen, but Dad was in the bathroom, going through our trash, possibly looking for more ways we’re disappointing—”

Patrick kissed him. “You have a regimen?”

“What?” David said, startled out of all his thoughts.

“For your face?” Patrick went on. “You don’t just shave and call it good?”

David stared at him in bewildered disgust for several long moments before he realized Patrick was laughing at him.

Patrick kissed him again. “Come on,” he said warmly in David’s ear, taking his hand. “You need to sit down so I have a better angle.”

Leading him back onto the floor, Patrick had David sit on the table beside the sweaters, where he kissed him again. Then he opened the little jar, the contents of which caused him to frown.

“You just need a little,” David said. “Put your finger in and dab it. Dabbing is better than smearing; under-eye skin is delicate.”

“Mm-hm. Especially yours.” Patrick put his finger in. “It’s a little cool.”

“That’s okay,” said David.

“Oh is it?” Patrick said, amused for some reason. He kissed him again, then pulled back and began to dab.

“You don’t need to make fun of me,” said David.

“Don’t I?” Patrick asked, dipping his finger in for more serum.

“Okay, I just think I’m in a state of shock right now, you know,” said David. “The news is very numbing and I’m feeling very alone.”

Patrick kissed him again. “Imagine how Alexis must feel.”

“Yeah, I haven’t spoken to her.”

“Huh.” Patrick seemed amused all over again. “Remind me what this is again?”

“That is a eucalyptus under eye serum.”

Patrick kissed him again. “And remind me why you can’t apply it to yourself?”

“Because it requires a steady hand,” David said, “and I’m going through a lot right now.”

“Right.” Patrick leaned in to kiss him again, but of course this moment, which was perfect, was interrupted by someone coming in the door. It was like the whole universe wanted to keep them apart, and Patrick, being Patrick, spoke politely to the customer who wanted bath salts, teased David about whether he was going to make it through this terrible ordeal, then rubbed David’s thighs, smiling as he left to go help the customer.

David should be very frustrated. He was very frustrated! But God, Patrick was so perfect, and all David really wanted was for Patrick to come back and rub his thighs some more, smile at him and kiss him, because it almost made David feel as though everything would be okay.

*

More people came in after bath salts girl and David hated all of them; he was mostly just here for Patrick, so he stood in the stockroom and looked at Instagram. He only followed people who posted soothing pictures of things like concrete and tree bark and birds and petrified paint and triangles and tater tots and birds and Moncler down jackets and brick walls and birds. David really liked birds. And tater tots. Oh, an egret, that was really beautiful.

“Are you talking to Alexis?” Patrick said, moving aside the curtain to come into the stockroom.

“I’m never talking to Alexis again.”

“Oh.” Patrick came up beside him, pushing David away from the work counter so he could get behind him to look over David’s shoulder at David’s phone, which was not very practical as David was taller, though Patrick’s head could still fit over David’s shoulder. It was a very boyfriend thing to do, Patrick wrapping his arms around David from behind; David wondered whether Patrick would change his behavior once he got used to David being bigger, but of course he already knew David was bigger. Patrick must still want to do these things, these affectionate things he only used to do with girls, and David didn’t know why it touched him so. Patrick dropped a kiss on David’s shoulder, which David couldn’t feel through his sweatshirt, but he could feel Patrick’s head moving to do it. “It’s okay if I still talk to Alexis though, right?” Patrick asked.

“No,” David said, still scrolling through his Instagram. “You’re mine. You only get to talk to people I like, and I don’t like her any more.”

“Huh.” Patrick kissed his shoulder again. “There are a lot of birds on your phone.”

“I like birds.”

“Really? I’ve never heard you talk about them.”

“There are birds in the store.”

“I thought they were decorative,” Patrick said.

“Why would I get decorations of things I don’t like?”

“I don’t know.” Patrick kissed the spot under David’s ear, Patrick’s hands creeping under the front of David’s sweatshirt, under the t-shirt to touch David’s stomach. Patrick did that a lot, his hands gently seeking bare skin, and David wondered whether Patrick ever realized he did it. David didn’t really want anyone touching his stomach, but it was Patrick, so David let him do it anyway. “Why are there so many pictures of doors?” Patrick asked.

“Doors have interesting textures,” said David, still scrolling.

“Who posts all those doors?” Patrick’s lips were moving along David’s neck.

“People with good taste.”

“Maybe it’s just people with lots of doors.” Patrick nipped him under David’s ear, which he had to know was dangerous.

“What are you doing?” David demanded.

“Distracting you.”

“From what?”

“Doors?” Patrick nipped him again.

“Good job,” David said, putting his phone in his pocket and then turning to kiss Patrick properly; David had to get him back for all that nipping. Patrick had still never even bitten him really properly, even though he’d teased David about it nearly all last week. Patrick hadn’t really gotten much of a chance, if David was being fair, because they were always getting interrupted, but David was going to get him back for it anyway.

The universe still hated them, however, because the bell rang above the door ten minutes later.

Patrick’s shirt was untucked, and he was kind of a mess. David was feeling much better, so he went to face the customer, who was Stevie.

She offered them a room. Patrick took her up on it.

He tried to hide it, possibly because of the Alexis thing, but Patrick was upbeat for the rest of the day. He just looked so fucking sunny, and David remembered how Patrick had texted him like the sun. No one had ever said anything like that to David before, but maybe because he saw himself as more of a silvery kind of guy. Like the moon, except for how the moon was associated with moths. Anyway, Patrick was wrong and Alexis was wrong; Patrick wasn’t a button or a copper penny, he was a sun. He even wore blue all the time like the sky, and when he smiled it was like—

Oh god. There had been this really bad phase when David was thirteen and he thought he’d be a poet; he’d written way too much about death. And sex and flowers and balloons, for some reason. It had been a dark time.

David still thought there had to be a catch to Stevie’s offer—another catch, besides stealing strawberries, but a catch would be worth it if David got to spend the night with Patrick.

*

The catch was Jake.

“So we’re gonna talk about this, right?” Patrick asked, as soon as Jake and Stevie went out the door.

“Yep!” David said, reaching above Stevie’s fridge as Patrick moved away from him. “I’m just gonna grab that bottle of—”

“Whiskey? Yeah.”

“Yeah, the whiskey. And glasses! We need glasses.” David searched in Stevie’s cabinets. “Okay, by the bowls? Who keeps glasses by the bowls?”

“Pretty much everyone, David.” Patrick was sitting on the chest at the foot of Stevie’s bed.

“I just feel like optimal placement would have been—”

“David.”

David continued looking in cupboards, because it was better than talking about this, or looking at Patrick. He’d done a really good job so far of convincing Patrick he was not a slut, mainly by avoiding any and every aspect of his past that he could, and it was so like Stevie to ruin it all; it was so like Stevie to still be dating Jake; it was so like Stevie to not have any bitters or cherries or anything but Ramen in her cupboards. “Did you want anything in the whiskey? We could have—”

“David.”

“—old-fashioneds? Really? You just want it straight? Because we’re not really.”

“David.”

“Straight, I mean.” David took the cap off the whiskey. “So Jake kissed me at a party,” he said, trying to be casual as he poured the whiskey. “And I said—sure, why not. So we—we—we had a thing; you could say we . . .”

“Went out?” said Patrick.

“Mm-hm.” David started pouring the other glass. “And then I walked into the lobby one day, and there was Jake. With Stevie. So I said sure! Why not. But then I decided—I decided not, and the interesting thing is that Stevie decided not. We all decided not! Except Stevie, apparently. Well, and Jake.” Putting the cap on the whiskey, David put it back above Stevie’s fridge. “That’s it; that’s the end of the story.”

Picking up the glasses, David joined Patrick. “So this is for you,” he said, handing Patrick one of the glasses and sitting down beside him on the chest. “Um, cheers! To privacy.” They clinked glasses and David moved in for a kiss.

Patrick turned his head away. “Sorry, I’ve just gotta go through that one more time.”

They went through it one more time. David didn’t understand why, as he had explained it very clearly the first time, and they had this whole deal, didn’t they? Patrick sometimes asked him things, did you used to take care of your sister, and when David turned it around on him, Patrick didn’t want to answer either. If Patrick didn’t have to talk about it, David didn’t either, quid pro quo, so neither of them had to talk about it. Surely if there were something really important, they’d tell each other, but David had never had anyone important.

There was no one important except Patrick, and they’d only been going out two weeks. Probably years from now it wouldn’t feel important; it’d feel like just another three-week thing where David had misinterpreted everything, and Patrick was actually married or wanted threesomes or was moving to Budapest, just having a fling before he left.

This was really not how David wanted to be spending what little time they had.

“I knew you had a rich dating history, David,” Patrick said eventually. “I just didn’t expect to be graced by the presence of two of your exes tonight.”

“Yeah, funny thing,” David said, “neither did I. So . . .”

Patrick looked down at his whiskey. “But.”

“Mm-hm?” David said eagerly.

Patrick lifted his head. “Given that we only have the apartment for one night . . .”

“Mm!”

“Maybe it’s best if we lock that box back up for now.”

David nodded. “I think that’s a good idea. Mm-hm.”

“Mm-hm,” Patrick echoed, leaning in to kiss him.

“You know what,” David said, breaking away, because quid quo pro, and it wasn’t fair. “We didn’t even get into your history—”

“Lock it up David,” Patrick said, which was typical, Patrick asking him about his past, then clamming up about his own, but it was hard not to smile when Patrick’s hand was on the back of David’s neck, pulling David in with the warm murmur against his lips. “Lock it up.”

“Oh, okay.” David could feel himself laughing, because Patrick was kissing him, and David thought he might get him back for it later, but then Patrick kissed him some more and David didn’t want to get back at him. He wanted to keep kissing him, so David kept kissing him. He wanted to get him on the bed, but Patrick’s whiskey was in the way, so David reached for it—

“I’m drinking that,” Patrick said.

“Are you really,” David said, smiling and kissing him again.

“Yes.” Pulling away, Patrick stood up, then had a sip of whiskey. It was really more like a gulp of whiskey. It was a lot of the whiskey, and then Patrick did it again.

“Patrick,” David said, concerned.

Then Patrick was finishing the whiskey, setting the glass down on the chest while he bared his teeth, the way you did when liquor was burning your throat. Well, that made sense, Patrick had drunk a lot of it really fast, and then Patrick’s hands were going to the hem of his sweater—and apparently the shirt under that, because he was pulling both of them off.

“Oh,” said David. His mouth was already kind of watering, and he swallowed hard. “Don’t you want me to—” help you, David had been going to say, but—

“Yes,” Patrick interrupted, coming over to him, his shirt and sweater already off.

David instinctively opened his legs, Patrick moving to stand between them, and David tipped his head back to be kissed, except Patrick got his hands on David’s sweater, tugging up on it. “Oh, we’re . . .” David trailed off, because Patrick was making it fairly obvious what they were doing, so David helped him get his sweater off, over his head, then the shirt on underneath.

Then Patrick did kiss him, warm and like whiskey, standing between David’s legs and leaning awkwardly over him. David got his hands on Patrick’s ass, over his jeans, one hand scratching up over the small of Patrick’s back, then up his lat to pull him down harder into David’s mouth. That went on for kind of a while, Patrick kissing and kissing him, tongue very thorough in David’s mouth, David’s hands kind of lazily wandering, until David at last pulled his mouth away, put his fingertips in Patrick’s front pockets, and gave a little tug.

“David.” Patrick kissed him again.

David let him for a moment, then pulled back, and gave another little tug.

“I feel like you want something,” Patrick murmured, smiling as he leaned in to give David another kiss.

“I don’t know what I could possibly want,” David said huskily, giving another little tug. “There’s an entire bed, behind us, empty.” Patrick kissed him again. “And we get to use it all night,” David went on, “so obviously I want to spend the night here, on this—extremely hard chest.”

“Really?” Patrick kissed him. “I had other plans.”

“What other plans?”

“I don’t think you’d like them.”

“Try me.”

Patrick sank to his knees, and David’s jaw dropped open. “Just shoes, David,” Patrick said, tugging on David’s foot, then beginning to untie the laces.

“You’re teasing me,” David accused, because Patrick kneeling between his legs couldn’t really be construed a different way.

“No, I’m perfectly serious.” Shoe untied now, Patrick pulled it off David’s foot, then began on the sock.

Embarrassed by this, David tried to tug his foot away. “I can do it myself.”

“I thought you probably could,” Patrick said. Now the sock was off, Patrick’s hand swept over the top of David’s foot, up inside the hem of David’s Balmain black jeans to touch his ankle. Patrick came up to kiss him, hand still stroking David’s ankle, going at it for long enough that David finally pulled away.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“What?” said Patrick.

“With my ankle.”

Patrick’s brows lifted. “Touching it?”

“But why?”

“Because I don’t remember really touching it before,” Patrick said, taking his hand away. “Does it make you uncomfortable?”

“No.” David bit his lip. “I thought you might want to touch—other things.”

“Oh?” Patrick said, moving to David’s other shoe, untying it. “Which things?”

“Um,” said David.

Patrick got David’s other shoe off, then his sock, but didn’t pause for ankle stroking, standing up instead and toeing his own shoes off, then leaning down to pull one sock off, then the other. David stood, pulling Patrick into a kiss again once he was barefoot. It wasn’t a very long kiss, because David had figured it out, what was happening—Patrick was delaying; even though he wanted it, he was delaying. He’d drunk all that whiskey, but it hadn’t given him quite enough courage now that they were faced with a bed and the possibility of a night, a whole night together.

David felt the warm thing struggle in his chest; he wanted to take care of that thing and of Patrick, treat it so gently but make him feel so good; he wanted Patrick to feel so good; I haven’t liked sex; David wanted to be good. He wanted to be so good for him, but Patrick was nervous, and David was terrified he didn’t know how to be gentle. Slowly, he put his fingers at the top of Patrick’s jeans, just near the button. “Do you want me to?” David whispered.

“David.” Patrick took a swift breath. “Can we—can we get on the bed?”

“Mm-hm, yes,” David said, dropping his hands to take one of Patrick’s, leading him over toward the bed.

“I want to. I just . . .” Patrick trailed off.

“It’s okay,” David said, sitting on the bed, getting Patrick between his legs again. “Anything you want is okay.” He pulled Patrick down for a kiss, coaxing Patrick’s tongue inside his mouth, kissing him until Patrick was pushing him back, getting a knee on the bed to climb onto it. Then they were both on the bed, Patrick getting on top of him, David scratching his nails down Patrick’s back but not too hard; he wanted to be gentle.

He desperately wanted to be gentle, and then Patrick started that slow, steady roll of his hips that ground his groin against David’s; Patrick was really good at that. He was good at it, and David realized Patrick just needed help to get started. Patrick had been the same way over the phone—he’d had trouble talking about it in the beginning, but once David had started, it’d been easier, and that was good. That was great. David could start him over and over if it made Patrick get into it like this.

As if in evidence of this assessment, Patrick’s hands went to David’s pants. “Can I?” he breathed.

“Anything you want,” said David, and Patrick got them open, tugged them down, exposing David’s black underwear, which he’d chosen very carefully, Tom Ford. Patrick had David’s pants down enough, but he kept going—all the way, okay; David didn’t like being less dressed than other people in the room, but he’d done it before. He’d done it lots of times before, and David did things he didn’t like all the time.

Patrick pulled David’s jeans off all the way, which was awkward; he had to get partially off the bed to get them off David’s ankles and feet, but then it was done; the jeans were on the floor, and Patrick was moving back onto the bed beside him. “Like what you see?” David asked, closing his eyes, because he didn’t want to ask that. He didn’t want to sound like bad porn and he didn’t want to sound afraid, but he sounded like both, and it wasn’t a fair question; it was a stupid, childish, bad porn question.

“Maybe,” said Patrick, sounding amused. “I’ll have to look at it some more to find out.”

David opened his eyes, and Patrick was on his side beside him, kissing him again, hand drifting down over the front of David’s briefs, lightly skimming the outline of David’s cock through the fabric. “David,” Patrick said, sounding breathless. Then he kissed him again, hand still on David, touch maybe a little firmer, but still just stroking him through fabric, over and over while kissing him; it was maddening, and David realized he was twitching a little, whimpering. “You’re so good, David,” Patrick whispered in his ear.

“Am I?” David hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but he heard it, so it must have been him.

“Uh-huh,” Patrick said. “You’re so good for me; open your mouth.”

“Why?” David whispered, because he really liked to be told what to do, but he also really hated to be told what to do. It was fucking terrifying when you didn’t know what was coming; he always questioned it, even when he wanted to blindly obey so he could stop thinking about anything.

“I want you to suck my fingers,” Patrick breathed.

David looked at him, and he trusted him, and he opened his mouth.

“Good.” Patrick slid his fore and middle fingers in. “You’re so good.” His other fingers played in David’s hair, and already David didn’t like this.

It was stupid that he didn’t like this; he liked everything, especially sucking on things, especially sucking on Patrick, even though it was only the second time he’d ever gotten to have Patrick in his mouth, but this was too—it was too sweet. It was too tender and too intimate; David closed his eyes, but it still felt like too much and not enough; why wasn’t Patrick touching David’s dick?

More importantly, why wasn’t David touching Patrick’s dick; that was all he really wanted. But Patrick was still in his jeans, and David didn’t want to push him.

“Good,” Patrick said again, and where had he learned that, that being told good was something David liked? Patrick’s fingers slid out of David’s mouth, back down to David’s underwear, but he didn’t reach in like David was so sure he would; instead he went back to stroking David over the fabric with his wet fingers.

“What—” David took a breath and swallowed, opening his eyes. “What are you doing?”

“Pretend it’s my mouth,” Patrick said in David’s ear.

David couldn’t help it; his hips bucked, and Patrick applied his lips to David’s throat, kissing him and sucking as his wet fingers traced David’s cock through cloth. It was quite possibly the most innocent thing David had ever had done to him, and already he wanted to come. “Patrick,” David said, trying not to whimper.

“I liked it,” Patrick said. “I liked it on the phone, when you did it to me. Is this something you—do you mind?”

Closing his eyes, turning his head away, David nodded. “Mm-hm. It’s good.”

“David.” Patrick kissed his throat again. “David.” Then Patrick’s hand was finally, finally moving the elastic strap of David’s underwear down over David’s cock; David was fully hard now. “Jesus,” Patrick said, as though just the sight of it was too much for him. He wrapped his hand around it, starting a pull, getting to the head, thumb touching the leaking tip. “Jesus,” Patrick said again, “I need . . . I’m—” Then he took off his hand and got off the bed.

David’s eyes flew open.

“Good, you’re okay, David,” Patrick said, his hands at the button of his jeans. “I have to—I have to,” was all he said, and then he was shucking off his jeans, yanking them off his feet and onto the floor, immediately coming back up to touch the band of his underwear, heather gray boxer briefs. His eyes were on David, who was very okay with these developments and tried to look encouraging at the prospect of those underwear coming off to reveal the hard cock visible underneath, but seeming to lose his nerve, Patrick got back on the bed instead. “Kiss me,” Patrick said, which was a command David could not have disobeyed, since Patrick’s mouth immediately descended over his. “Kiss me,” Patrick said, unnecessarily, pulling back up enough just to say it, then kissing him again.

David opened his mouth and kissed him, trying to show Patrick he could have anything, take anything. Patrick was only partially leaning over him now, and eventually he pulled away to look back down at David’s cock. Then Patrick’s hand was there, tentatively wrapping around it, stroking up, then again, and again. Patrick tried to kiss him again while he was doing it, but it was clumsy; he was too distracted, or uncoordinated maybe; maybe he just wasn’t used to it, because he pulled away again and looked back down at his hand wrapped around it. “Jesus,” he whispered again.

David swallowed. “I brought us—something. If you want to use it. Lube, I mean. You don’t have to; I don’t need it, but you seem like you—if you want.”

“Oh.” Patrick began to smile, kissing him through it. “You didn’t want to use my K-Y?”

David pulled back to stare at him. “You brought K-Y?”

“No.” Smiling, kissing him, Patrick kind of tugged on David’s cock. It was a tease, but a hot tease, and David’s hips twitched in response. “I wanted to see your face.”

“What do you mean?”

Patrick just laughed, kissing him again, starting another stroke on David’s cock.

“No,” David said, twitching for another reason, “what do you mean?”

“It’s K-Y,” Patrick said. “You get it at Shoppers.”

“So?”

“It’s not good enough for you,” Patrick said, trying to kiss him again.

David pulled away. “Why not?”

Patrick kissed David’s chin, his jaw. “Because you’re expensive.”

“No, I’m not.”

Patrick finally let go of David’s cock. “I’m teasing you.”

“I know, and I’m not sure I appreciate it.” David didn’t know why he was choosing to be a brat about this; he didn’t know why he did half the things he did. “You think I wouldn’t want to use K-Y?”

Patrick pressed his lips together in the way he did when he was amused but also kind of exasperated. “You want me to run out to the gas station and get us some? I’ll do it.”

“I just don’t know why you would think I would think I’m too good for K-Y, if you use K-Y.”

“It was a joke! I don’t even use K-Y!”

“What do you use?”

“Why does it matter?”

David opened his mouth, then closed it. He still didn’t know why he was doing this.

Patrick kissed him, then came up. “I use whatever hand lotion, is lying around. I probably got it at Shoppers too.”

Trying to comprehend this new and very odd information, David blinked several times. “But—why?”

“Because—because when I was a teenager that’s what I could find, and later I never—I just never thought much about it. I didn’t think it mattered.”

I never thought much about it, the pull quote from the story of Patrick’s sex life. It broke David’s heart at the same time as it filled him with dread, because he did not want to be responsible for showing this boy how to seek pleasure from his own body, and yet the thought of not doing so filled him with a worse, fiercely possessive kind of dread. What was David going to do, let someone else show him? Leave him to never learn it at all? David couldn’t conceive of anything he liked less. “But you said you—you said you fingered yourself,” David said, immediately biting his lip, because he had not known those words were going to come out of his mouth. Then more words came out. “Did you use—hand lotion?”

Patrick looked at him incredulously. “You want to know what I used?”

David bit his lip, but that couldn’t stop himself from nodding.

“Shampoo.”

“Patrick.”

“I was in the shower!”

“Patrick.” David took a steadying breath. “Don’t put soap in yourself.”

“Well, I know that now!”

“I’m sorry,” David said, then kissed him. David had embarrassed him, and he hadn’t meant to; Patrick had used shampoo, and that was even more terrible; I never thought much about it, and that was the worst part of all. “I’m sorry,” David said again, pulling his underwear over his dick, because the band was cutting into his balls. He kissed Patrick again. “I’m sorry,” David said a third time. “If—um, if you don’t want to buy anything specific for it, you can use—use um, um vegetable shortening or—or olive oil; it will feel good for you. It’s messy but—but it will be good for you; it won’t hurt you; use a towel.”

“Well, I was going to, when I did it again.” Patrick looked at him sharply when David sucked in a breath. “I haven’t exactly had a lot of time,” Patrick said, somewhat defensively.

“It’s good you’re—I want you to take time.” David kissed him again. “Go slow with that. Can I—” He didn’t want to say this; he didn’t want these words to come out of his mouth; he was making Patrick uncomfortable, and yet they were coming out anyway. “I have a lot of stuff you can use,” he said too quickly. “That sounds—I’m making it sound intimidating, but, um, you can—some of it will—it’ll be really nice for you.” David kissed him so maybe Patrick wouldn’t think about what David was saying. “It’ll be really nice for you, make it feel nicer, um, if—if you don’t mind if I—I give them to you.”

“Let me—see if I understand that.” Patrick’s lips twitched. “You want to give me—lubrication products?”

That wasn’t half of what David wanted to give him, but he knew he was being—a little much, right now. Biting hard on his lip, he nodded rather vigorously.

“David.”

Patrick sounded like he was going to say no, and it made David speak rather too quickly. “You don’t have to,” he said, “but they’re—they’re mine and you could use them and you could think of me when you use them and it would be more—um, more like I was doing it to you and you could think of what I do with them and you can use them on me if you—and is this too much right now? Is this—not slow?”

Patrick didn’t say anything, and David didn’t know what Patrick was feeling, because after a moment David realized he’d squinched his eyes closed. At last he pried them open to find that Patrick had his warmest smallest smile on, the private one, the tender one. “Okay, David,” Patrick said, kissing him, but it wasn’t okay David, I’ll tolerate this assholery because I like you; it was just okay David, I like you.

“Good,” David said, relaxing a fraction. “Good.” Patrick kissed him for a minute, and David finally relaxed enough to say, “You should go get my bag.”

“What?” Patrick pulled up.

“I brought lube; it’s in my bag.”

“And the reason you can’t get up is . . . ?”

“I’m in my underwear,” David said, because he’d probably die before he’d walk around Stevie’s apartment in his underwear. It was bad enough lying on her bed in his underwear. He didn’t know what he’d do when Patrick left the bed, either—probably grab a pillow for protection, even though they were not hilarious flower pillows, like at Ray’s.

“You’re impossible,” Patrick said, possibly because he was in his underwear too, but he leaned down to kiss David, then got off the bed. Then David got to watch Patrick walk around in those heather gray boxer briefs, which did him all the favors, and David found a blanket on the bed and covered himself with that.

“What’s with the blanket, David?” Patrick asked when he got back to the bed.

David sat up, reaching for his bag, which Patrick handed him. “I’m cold?” David said, rummaging around in the bag.

“Huh,” Patrick said.

David found the bottle of lube and handed it to Patrick, then tossed the bag on the floor. He should lie down now, cast the blanket aside, look—sexy and enticing for Patrick, but then Patrick’s hand was on David’s shoulder, holding him there. “While you’re up,” Patrick began, but then stopped.

“Yes,” David said, because he would say yes to whatever Patrick asked.

“Can you?” Patrick swallowed. “Your underwear.”

“Yes?” David hadn’t meant to make that sound like a question. It had to happen sometime. “I mean—yes. Can you? Too?”

Patrick nodded, then tossed the bottle on the bed. His thumbs went to the waistline, but he hesitated.

“You don’t have to,” David said quickly.

“No,” said Patrick. “I . . .” Then he was pushing them down, but it was so so slow, and David wanted to help, but didn’t know whether he should. Patrick was obviously nervous; even though David had seen Patrick’s cock before, it was a little different to be entirely naked with someone, and then David saw his own hands come up and help anyway. Then Patrick’s underwear was almost to Patrick’s knees and now came the awkward part with bending over and feet, so David let Patrick do the rest, waiting for the moment when Patrick stood up again and David could get a good view of that cock.

Then Patrick did stand up and David’s mouth flooded with saliva; it was like looking at a goddamn meal. David wondered if he could get away with just a little lick, just a taste; it was right there, with Patrick standing there and David sitting before him on the bed. But it wouldn’t be fair, because that wouldn’t be going slow, and Patrick was nervous; God, he’d used shampoo. It made David feel so fucking sad that he stood up, letting the blanket fall away, and took off his own underwear too; even though being completely naked in front of someone was sort of awful.

“David,” Patrick whispered, as though the sight of him was something wondrous, and then Patrick was kissing him, holding himself apart enough that their lower halves did not touch, just kissing him. Then Patrick’s hand was moving over David’s bare back, the small of it, then the curve of his ass, sweeping in until his fingertips found the crease and froze. Patrick’s lips ripped away from him; he was breathing hard, as though even just that much was too much, and David opened his mouth to tell him they didn’t need to do anything with asses, when Patrick said, “Get on the bed,” and pushed him.

David got on the bed.

Patrick found the bottle of lube, then got on the bed beside him, squeezing out some of the lube on his hand, then putting the bottle on the nightstand and bringing his hand down to his own cock.

“Oh,” David said, feeling slightly disappointed by this. He’d just thought he was going to get to do that. “Can I . . . ?” He turned on his side, gesturing at Patrick’s cock.

“Yeah,” Patrick said, wiping off the glob of lube on his hand onto his cock, leaving it for David.

David spread the lube over Patrick’s cock in a few deft strokes that made Patrick’s jerk and gasp, “David.”

“Slower?” David whispered.

“Just—more.” Patrick’s eyes were closed, his voice tight, and David watched his face as David stroked him again, then again, trying to figure out a rhythm that worked for Patrick, a speed and a firmness and where he liked to be touched.

It was like a game, the kind that David liked because he could be good at it and it was fun and sometimes there were rewards.

“It’s—it’s warm,” Patrick breathed.

“I mean, you weren’t wrong,” David said. “It’s expensive.”

Patrick opened his eyes, which made David drop his own gaze—eye contact was a little much at times like this; most people didn’t like it. Then Patrick reached for the bottle again, and David wanted to tell him he had enough, but he didn’t want to tell Patrick what to do, and Patrick was twisting around to get it open and squeeze out more, which broke the rhythm of David’s hand on Patrick’s cock. Then Patrick had more lube on his hand and was reaching for David’s cock.

“Oh, you want . . .” David shifted his hips for him. “Both of us?”

“Yeah,” Patrick said, still sounding so breathless. His hand circled around David’s cock now, beginning a slow pull. “If that’s okay.”

“Yes,” David said.

Mutual masturbation was always awkward lying down. Usually it was better standing up, unless there was a significant height difference, and David kind of wanted to mention this, since now that they had a bed wouldn’t it be better to do bed things? But they didn’t have a place for standing up things either, and where else was David going to mutually masturbate with Patrick; nowhere, and it was what Patrick wanted; it was slow. Farther along than getting each other off one at a time, which was what they had done last time they’d both had their cocks out, but still slow, and this was agonizing, and David liked it.

He liked Patrick’s inexpert tugging at his cock and getting to stroke Patrick’s at the same time, witnessing every little catch of Patrick’s breath, the way when David stopped to stroke that spot underneath where the head met the shaft, Patrick jerked a little, his own hand clumsy on David. David liked it; he liked self-warming lube; he liked the way that Patrick kept changing his grip on David’s cock, as though trying to find a way to angle his wrist that felt comfortable. David felt like he could mutually masturbate with Patrick all night long.

“Is this what you want?” David whispered.

“No.” Patrick’s hand slid off of him, and David’s own hand faltered, and then Patrick was pushing at David’s shoulder—kind of aggressively, forcing David down onto the bed, then climbing on top of him. “I wanna do it like you did me on the phone,” Patrick said, his voice a kind of rushed mumble, but there was nothing uncertain in the way he was straddling David, and then his cock brushed along-side David’s, and Patrick shuddered.

“Yeah, uh-huh,” David agreed immediately. “Okay, yes, we can make that happen; can you . . . ?” He stopped because Patrick had moved his hips, his slow steady Patrick-roll, and the way it slid his lubed cock along David’s made David catch his breath, arch into it. It was such an innocent little thing, compared to so many things David had done, but it was Patrick and Patrick’s cock and Patrick had never done this. He wanted to try it; he wanted to do what they’d done on the phone and that was killing David; it was killing him that Patrick wanted it to be real and liked it so much when it was just—just this simple thing, just moving together. David felt that too-big feeling, the one where if he broke open he would expand to fill the room with something hot and tender and impossible; it was impossible, feeling like this.

“Oh God,” Patrick breathed. “Oh my God. David.”

“Mm-hm, yes.” David got his hands on Patrick’s shoulders, holding Patrick as he rolled his hips again, bringing their cocks together.

“I’m,” Patrick began, but he didn’t finish, biting his lower lip, closing his eyes.

David couldn’t stop looking at him; Patrick already looked like he was blissed out and they’d barely started.

“I’m . . .” Patrick didn’t finish again, and he hung his head, lips by David’s ear. “You feel so good. You feel so good, David.”

“Yeah.” David arched against him. “Keep doing it.”

“Yeah,” Patrick said, then picked up the pace again.

David imagined Patrick continuing to pick up the pace, doing it harder, and it was going to be—it was going to be awkward and too dry and David wanted the wet hot slick feel of it. He wanted the sound of Patrick against David’s abs, and Patrick’s cock against David’s abs made David think maybe he should do more crunches, except it would matter less if it slid well and David got to hear those noises, those sick wet filthy noises, the sound of a cock on him and his cock on someone else.

It would be better, so David flailed for Stevie’s nightstand while Patrick thrust against him again; David was pretty sure Patrick had set the lube—there. David’s hand closed around it and he was bringing it down, opening it, getting some on his hand. “Let me,” he whispered, pushing up on Patrick with his free hand. “It’ll be so much better; I promise; I promise, Patrick.”

“Yeah,” Patrick said, sitting up a bit so David could smear lube on his own abdomen, over the hair, anywhere Patrick’s cock might touch, then some on Patrick too.

“I want it to be good for you,” David explained. “It will be so good for you; I promise.”

“I believe you,” Patrick said quietly.

“Okay,” David said, trying to wipe the last of the lube on his hand off on his dry belly so it wouldn’t get somewhere on Patrick it wasn’t supposed to go. “That’s good. Can you . . . um.” David pushed on Patrick’s thigh with his clean hand.

“What?” Patrick asked, but he was already obeying David’s hand, getting off him.

“Just get—get one of your legs between my legs,” David said in a rush. “We’ll fit together better and you’ll balance better and I can make you feel so good—”

“I know,” Patrick said, doing it, one knee between David’s thighs and the other outside of David’s hip, touching their cocks together again, Patrick’s hand coming to wrap around them both. “I know you can.” Patrick leaned over David, on top of him with his hand between them, Patrick’s lips brushing David’s jaw. “Now what do you want?” Patrick whispered.

“Fuck me,” David said immediately, then realized maybe Patrick was kind of teasing, but David wanted it too much; he didn’t care. His hand was greasy and he didn’t want to get Patrick’s clean pretty skin all dirty but he kind of did want to; he wanted to get him filthy, so David put his hand on Patrick’s hip and slid it to the small of Patrick’s back, just on the rise of his ass, then tugged him down. “Please fuck me,” David said, not really liking hearing himself say please, so his voice had dropped very low, and then he said it again. “Please. Please.”

“Yeah,” Patrick agreed, “yes.” Then he was doing it, rolling his hips against David, grinding their cocks together in his hand, and again, and again; then his hand moved away so Patrick could lower himself against him further and David made a sound, a high tight whine somewhere in his throat. “Yeah,” Patrick murmured, lips moving along David’s throat. “That feels so good. You feel so good.”

“As—as good as you hoped?” David said, wishing he wasn’t saying it.

“Better,” Patrick breathed. “You’re better. Much better than the mattress.”

“Good. I was—worried. About how I might compare.”

“David,” Patrick said, rolling into him again. “It’s—it’s not a fair comparison.” He did it again, and David arched.

“To the mattress?”

“To anyone.” Patrick gave another thrust of his hips, cock dragging against David’s, across his abdomen, slippery and hot. “To anyone else, anyone, ever.”

David closed his eyes tightly. He could listen to Patrick say words like that forever, forever. He felt so big inside and it was good, so good.

“I love getting to feel you,” Patrick whispered.

“Mm-hm,” David agreed, nodding his head enthusiastically. “Feel me all you want. Feel me, anything you want.”

“Yeah.” Patrick was grinding down, their cocks sliding together, and with Patrick’s increasing speed David could almost hear that sound he wanted—that hot sick nasty sound of wet flesh and great sex, then Patrick’s hips moved in a circle, wow. Patrick was adding tricks, and David whined, his own hips bucking in response. He dug his nails down into Patrick’s shoulders, then dragged them down as hard as he could in long, unkind scratches. “God,” Patrick said, jerking out of rhythm on top of him. “God, David.”

David opened his eyes. “You like that?”

“You know I do,” Patrick said breathlessly, grinding into him again.

David took his nails out of Patrick’s back, then put them at the creases of Patrick’s thighs where ass met leg; then David scratched up, as hard as he could, dragging up Patrick’s ass and in, grinding their pelvises together.

“David!” Patrick’s voice had gone high and needy, and David did it again, rolling his own hips for emphasis.

“Like that?” David said.

“David.” Patrick kissed him messily, thrusting against him, and they were getting there now, Patrick going harder, all that lube David had put all over them easing the glide of their cocks beside each other against their abs, David rocking his hips now too, trying to give Patrick the friction he needed.

“Fuck me,” David panted. “Fuck me so I can hear it. I want to hear you move against me.”

“Yeah,” Patrick agreed thrusting against him. “David you’re so good. So good; I love getting to feel you. I love getting to feel your—your . . . .”

“Oh God.” David arched, because he hadn’t known he wanted to hear it; he hadn’t even noticed before that Patrick had never said it. “Say it.” David’s back arched again; he pressed Patrick into him. “Say it.”

“What?”

“Say you like my cock. Say you like it.”

“Yeah, I like it.” Patrick gave a hard roll of his hips. “I like it a lot.”

“No, the word,” David said, scratching his nails harder. “I need you to say the word.”

“What word?”

“Cock.” David panted, his cock sliding along Patrick’s as Patrick moved in long, ragged thrusts, both of their cocks dragging on each other’s abs. “I need you to say the word cock.” Hot air was puffing against him. “Are—are you laughing?”

“I can’t help it,” Patrick said, smiling against his shoulder. “I can’t help how much I like you.”

David grunted, but squeezed Patrick’s ass, rolling his hips for him, because even if David didn’t really appreciate being laughed at during sex, he did appreciate Patrick liking him. “You can help how much you like my cock,” David said bitterly.

“Not really.” Patrick picked up speed; he’d slowed down a bit to laugh. “I don’t think I can help it at all. I like it—I like it so much.”

That wasn’t super helpful, since Patrick still hadn’t said the word cock, which was all David had ever really wanted from life, but David felt a little mollified. “How much?”

Patrick huffed another laugh. “David.” Patrick kissed him—or tried to, anyway; he was smiling. “David. God, I want to feel you.” Then Patrick shifted, rising up, and David didn’t know what Patrick wanted so David shifted too, trying to adjust, and then Patrick’s hand was at the center of David’s chest. “Stay down,” said Patrick, and David sort of froze.

Then David’s heart went into double-time, and Patrick was on his knees, sort of sitting back on David’s thigh, Patrick’s dick lined up with David’s, Patrick’s hand coming to wrap around both of them, but Patrick didn’t seem to realize what he’d done, so David just sort of—replayed it for himself. Stay down. Stay down stay down stay down, and David thought about trying to sit up so Patrick would force him back; maybe David would get a I thought I told you to stay down, but what if he didn’t; that would be tragic. It would be really tragic, and David felt sort of paralyzed with indecision over the possibility of Patrick not following through; Patrick probably hadn’t even meant it that way.

“I want you to come like this. Can I make you—can you?”

“Mm-hm,” David said, closing his eyes tightly and turning his face away. Patrick wanted to make him come, and David dug his nails hard into Patrick’s hips, as though someone might take him away. “Mm-hm, yep, I can, if you want, I can.”

“Good.” Patrick rose up, then sank back down, his cock sliding against David’s in Patrick’s wet hand. “Good,” Patrick said again. “I’ve been wanting—all week, I’ve been—I. I’ve been thinking about it, about making you come. What do you want?”

Stay down, David thought, but of course he wasn’t going to say that; he was never going to say that. “Um,” said David, because his mind was honestly blank of anything else but Patrick pushing him around and telling him what to do, making him do it, not letting him refuse. Punishing him if he refused; Patrick wouldn’t—he wouldn’t spank him, would he; he didn’t seem like that type of—

“David.” Patrick leaned over him again, but he was still on his knees, bracing himself with a hand on David’s chest while Patrick’s other hand worked their cocks, his hips still rocking to match the rhythm of his hand. “David,” Patrick said again, his voice hoarse. “I like your cock.”

“Oh,” David said, and the thoughts about stay down and those type of things sank to the bottom of his brain.

“I like getting to touch it—so much.” Patrick arched on top of him, and that was—he was really pretty. Sometimes David forgot how pretty, because of those ugly sweaters Patrick wore. “I like,” Patrick said breathlessly, “the way it feels under me. On me. I like the way your cock feels against mine. People talk about—the way it feels; I thought I just didn’t—I thought I didn’t.”

I didn’t like sex, David thought, and he wanted to kiss him, but Patrick had said stay down, so David stayed where he was, but he put his hands on Patrick’s thighs, sliding back to Patrick’s ass, giving a little tug.

Then Patrick came down to kiss him after all, his hand still on their cocks between them, and then he came up. “You’re so beautiful,” he said, and David jerked under him. “Are you going to come for me?”

“Uh-huh,” David said, a bit desperately, because he wanted to obey; he really wanted to obey, but he wasn’t—he wasn’t that close, actually. They’d been at it a while, but David kept getting—distracted—and—

“What do you need?” said Patrick, still jacking them, but not enough, not enough.

“Just—harder,” David said, but he could already tell it wasn’t going to be hard enough.

“That’s good,” said Patrick, going harder. “What else?”

Hurt me, David wanted to say, but he didn’t want to scare him, and Patrick was nice, and David hated saying those things anyway; he didn’t want to say those things. He didn’t want to be hurt, except he really wanted to be hurt; he could never possibly explain it.

“Come on,” Patrick said, but he was changing position again, sitting up a bit, one hand wrapping around David, the other moving down to tug at David’s balls, and that was good; that made David arch, but Patrick wasn’t even touching himself at all any more. Their cocks weren’t against each other any more; Patrick wasn’t doing anything for himself, both hands on David, fully focused on him, on making him come—oh God—“You’re so good for me,” Patrick said. “You make me feel so good—”

But I’m not! David wanted to scream, but he was closer now; he was so close, and then Patrick let go of David’s balls, shifted his weight again, leaned down, and bit David’s shoulder.

David jerked under him, crying out—Patrick had bit down pretty hard, and then he came up. “You said you wanted someone to bite—”

“Harder,” David panted.

“Wh—”

“Do it again,” David said. “As hard as you can.”

Patrick did it—in the same spot, which David hadn’t even known he wanted, teeth scraping skin, and it hurt really bad, and David arched. “Harder, please, please, harder, do it again,” David begged.

Patrick did it again, and David came, crying out hoarsely, and Patrick’s teeth unlatched, his hand coming up clumsily to touch the head of David’s cock, like he wanted all of that come. “Good,” Patrick was saying, “that was so good; you did so good; I’m sorry, shh; that was good; you’re good; honey, let me—shh. Shh. David. Are you okay?”

“Yep. Mm-hm.” David shut his eyes tightly, nodding energetically so Patrick wouldn’t notice the tears at the corner of them, but he wasn’t crying; Patrick had bit him really hard and it smarted, and David had come, God. He’d come. He hadn’t come that hard in a really long time, and Patrick was hovering over him sort of worriedly, kissing the corner of David’s eye.

“Are you okay?” Patrick kissed the corner of his other eye. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Um, don’t be,” David said tightly, because this was really goddamn embarrassing. “That was—spectacular; can I—I want . . .” He thrust his hand between them to look for Patrick’s dick.

“Spectacular?” Patrick said, and David pushed Patrick off of him, rolling him over, getting on top.

“I’m gonna make you come,” David whispered.

“But will it be spectacular?” Patrick was smiling, because he didn’t know.

He had no idea. David had already learned Patrick’s dick; he’d learned it like a fucking pro though he’d only gotten to touch it twice; he knew what Patrick liked—that spot underneath, swipes across the head, short sharp tugs mixed with a few long strokes. So David did it to him; he did it to him really fast. “Oh God,” Patrick said, his voice entirely changed, already arching, writhing, looking lost.

“Where’s my come?” David said, stroking Patrick’s cock and looking at Patrick’s belly, his hands.

“Wha—?” Patrick began to say, but David could already see it, the whitish smear on Patrick’s right hand, and David grabbed Patrick’s wrist.

Guiding Patrick’s hand, David wiped it off on Patrick’s cock, getting David’s spent come all over Patrick’s cock. “Oh God,” Patrick said again.

It was gross; David didn’t care; he dropped Patrick’s hand, rubbing the come in. “If we weren’t going slow I’d put this cock down my throat next,” David said, but he didn’t mean to.

“Holy fuck, Jesus,” Patrick said, his back arching off the bed as he began to come.

“Yeah, uh-huh,” David agreed, stroking Patrick through it, getting Patrick’s come in his hand. “That’s it; you did the right thing; mm-hm, look at you; look at you go; give it to me. Give it to me, gorgeous; you’re so pretty; look at you.”

But Patrick wasn’t looking; his eyes were closed, and so David had time—if he was really really quick; he knew that it was super dirty but he needed it—David had time, so he rubbed Patrick’s come over his own softened cock before Patrick could open his eyes. David didn’t know why he did these things; it was really gross. He was already ashamed; he already wanted to take a shower, but it was Patrick’s come, Patrick’s come on his cock; it meant something. David didn’t know what it meant, but it meant something to him; at least he hadn’t licked it or anything.

Fuck, he should have licked it. David’s mouth watered at the very thought of it; why hadn’t he thought of it like fifteen seconds ago; he could have had the taste of Patrick’s come in his mouth. David hated the way come tasted; it tasted like bleach and copper coins; he could have had it. Patrick’s come.

Fuck. This was bad.

Patrick’s eyes were opening slowly, and David didn’t want Patrick to look at him.

Rolling off of Patrick, David flung himself down on the bed.

“Goddamn,” said Patrick.

“I’m gonna shower,” David said, immediately sitting up.

Patrick reached for him. “Don’t you want to—”

“No,” David said, getting out of the bed. He took a step, realized what he was doing and what a dick it made him, how many people had done it to him, then turned back.

He didn’t want to look at Patrick, to process all that lovely skin and his sweet, confused face and his extremely fucked out body, his too-big eyes, so David didn’t look at him. Leaning down, David kissed him, as warm and soft as he could make it. “You were good,” David said. “It was so good; sometimes I don’t like—I just need to shower. I need to shower.”

“Okay,” Patrick said.

“Um,” David said, hovering over him but still not really looking at him. “Do you need . . . ?”

“It’s okay,” Patrick said. “Go shower.”

“I don’t,” David began. “I’m not always like this. I can—”

“Hon.” Arching up, Patrick kissed him again. “Clean up, if that’s what you need to do. I don’t want you dirty.”

“Oh,” David said softly, because Patrick had just made it okay in a way no one had ever done before.

“Go on.” Patrick pushed on his shoulder.

Stay down, David thought, and surprised himself by wanting to explain to Patrick that sometimes he really, really appreciated it when people took choices away from him. Right now was one of those times, but the choice was there anyway, so David went with what he’d originally planned, which was to get the hell away.

Grabbing his bag, David went to Stevie’s bathroom.

David had showered in Stevie’s bathroom before. When Alexis had had lice, David had told Stevie he could not exist as a real human being without a shower, and possibly that he would rather live under a bridge if he couldn’t get clean the next morning. “Where would you shower under a bridge?” Stevie had wanted to know.

“I would bathe,” said David. “It’s a bridge; that means there’s water.”

“You do realize that’s disgusting,” Stevie had said.

“You do realize I don’t give a flying fuck,” he’d told her.

Thinking about this helped David avoid looking in the mirror, the prospect of which felt even more disgusting to him than bathing in under-the-bridge water; he didn’t want to see himself. He didn’t want to look at himself, and he didn’t even know why. That sex had been good sex. It had been great sex. It hadn’t made him feel—sad or dirty or any of those things at all—well, maybe dirty at the end there, but David didn’t know why he’d done that either; that had been—really great sex. Patrick had told him stay down and that he was good and beautiful like, like six times—eleven times—it was a lot of times, and—and. Patrick had bitten him.

Stepping into the bathtub and turning on the taps, David got the shower going, touching the teeth-marks on his shoulder to prove to himself that Patrick had done it. Patrick had—he’d scraped away skin, not like it was bleeding, but it was like—like when you skinned your knee, and a layer of skin scraped off, and you didn’t drip blood but you felt like you almost did because of how pink it was; that was how excellently Patrick had bit him. David put his hand over it in the hot water of the shower. Then he pressed his nail in, where the scraped raw flesh was, pressing until it stung. That was really good. David wished he could put his own mouth on it, put his teeth directly where Patrick’s had been; that was fucked up, but David wanted to, because it had been good. Everything had been so good.

Fuck. Good sex was the worst.

It was really bad.

Good sex was really rare. You should take advantage of it. Milk it for all it was worth, except David actively did the opposite sometimes, because if the sex was really good, something else was sure to be awful. When the sex was spectacular, he sometimes actively sabotaged just to feel like he was on even ground, because the worst thing was sex that made you feel this way; it made you feel this way, and then—then it was over, and you couldn’t have it any more. And when you were used to having good sex—especially lots of good sex, then afterwards you missed it so much you were willing for anything, anything, and you—you had a lot of bad sex, after. Like really unhealthy sex. Sex you really shouldn’t be having, but were having anyway because you had lost something, something that meant something to you.

Fuck. David pressed his nail in harder, until it actually hurt and he had to stop. He didn’t like pain, actually. Well, he liked it; he just didn’t like it; who actually liked pain? But it felt good. It was—distracting. David liked being distracted; he was in a constant state of distraction; he didn’t like to—think about things. He didn’t want to think about anything.

If Patrick were here, he’d make a joke and laugh at him, and David wouldn’t have to think about anything at all.

At last David got cleaned up; he had soap in his bag and a towel too, because who knew what kind of terrible products Stevie had available. So David got really wet, then got really clean, then got really dry, then finally put on his pyjamas. He was aware he’d left Patrick out there; he was aware that it was uncool. He was aware that was not the kind of thing you should do with someone like Patrick, especially since—since Patrick wasn’t actually planning on ending this—this thing they had.

Like. It was going to end, but if David was—if he was careful and didn’t act like an asshole and didn’t destroy it because it was too nice and too good and Patrick didn’t find out too much about him—it could last longer than it had before, and it could be nice. It could be fun. It could be nicer and more fun than David had had before too. He just had to be careful, and this was not careful; David had not been careful.

He sort of half expected Patrick to be gone when David opened the door, and his heart stopped beating when he looked at the bed and no one was in it.

But Patrick hadn’t left. Of course, he hadn’t left. He was shirtless in the kitchen doing something with a teapot, and when David got closer he could see Patrick had on pyjama bottoms. Patrick looked toward him, his whole face softening and brightening, this hopeful little look in his eyes as he looked David over. “Hey,” he said gently.

“Um, hi,” David said, standing at the edge of the kitchen. “It—it wasn’t you,” he said, feeling the need to explain. “I just wanted a shower.”

Patrick smiled. “I mean, it was sort of me. I told you, I didn’t want to be with anyone dirty.” Fiddling with the stove, Patrick eventually got it to light, then turned away from it. The teapot was on the lit burner.
“Good thing you showered, or I guess I’d have had to ditch you.”

David fidgeted with his sleeves. “I don’t believe you.”

“Huh,” said Patrick. “Are you going somewhere?”

“What?”

“You changed your clothes.”

David looked down at himself. “These are my pyjamas.”

Patrick’s brows went up, the corners of his mouth tucking in to cover a smile. “Are they,” was all he said.

David was wearing a sweater and sweat pants. “I sleep in the same room as my sister,” he reminded Patrick.

“Right.” Patrick’s smile went deeper. “Heaven forbid she see you in silk.”

David scowled. “Why would I wear silk to bed?”

For some reason Patrick seemed to find this hilarious, and David didn’t like it. He didn’t like jokes that he didn’t get, but Patrick didn’t seem at all upset over David having left as he had. In fact, Patrick seemed warmer and kinder and softer than ever, and David had a sudden desperate longing to touch him, which was awkward since David had left the room so quickly after making Patrick come.

But then David did it anyway, even though it was awkward, because he really, really, really wanted it, except he pretended like he didn’t, going over to Patrick and pretending it was casual to wrap his arms around him. “Hello,” David said again, leaning down to kiss him.

Patrick kissed him back, but after a minute pulled away. “Mm,” he said, licking his lips. “Are you sure you want to kiss me? I didn’t have a chance to shower.”

“You can be dirty,” David told him, keeping his arms around Patrick’s waist.

“Oh.” Patrick laughed. “Am I allowed?”

“Mm-hm.” David kissed him again.

Patrick kissed him back, open and warm and comfortable, and David remembered this Patrick. This was gooey Patrick, the way Patrick had been after that night they had phone sex, and David didn’t remember seeing it after the other times they’d had sex, but that had been very few times and maybe David just hadn’t really had an opportunity to see much of Patrick afterwards. Like they’d been interrupted by Roland the second time and that first time in the stockroom—David couldn’t remember, but this was good to know. It was good to know how happy and smiling and affectionate Patrick got after coming, so David get it and avoid it when needed.

God, he was a terrible person.

Patrick was kissing David’s throat—soft, lazy kisses, until at last he pulled away. “Do you like tea?” he asked, going to look in Stevie’s cabinets.

“Do you even know me?”

“Is this—a trick question?” Patrick got two mugs and brought them to the counter. “How would I know?”

“I love tea,” David said, strangely hurt by this.

Patrick just shrugged, taking out two tea bags from a little box on the counter. “You always drink coffee.”

“Well, obviously, in the morning, I would rather drink coffee.”

“And in the afternoon.”

“I prefer coffee generally,” said David. “That doesn’t mean I don’t like tea.”

“Do you prefer smoothies and milkshakes and wine as well?”

“Obviously,” David said faintly.

“Mm-hm. What else do you prefer over tea?”

“That’s all.”

“Not soda,” Patrick said knowingly. “Because that’s bad for you.”

“I love soda,” David said, hating him.

“And juice. And lemonade. And sparkling water. And regular water. In fact,” Patrick went on, because he was such a troll, “I’d venture to say you prefer almost every drink, rather than tea.” The teapot was beginning to whistle, so Patrick turned off the heat.

“I like the platonic ideal of tea.”

Patrick glanced at him to smile, and it was such an incredibly fond smile that David had trouble hating him still, and then Patrick turned back to pouring the water. “What do you think of when you think of the platonic ideal of tea?”

“Um,” said David. “The tea is served in a ceramic bowl. Stone-ware, fire-glazed. And you sit on a tatami mat seiza style, and you have to turn the bowl before you drink out of it, and there is definitely a flower somewhere—probably just one, and a scroll, and it says something like ‘tranquility’ on it, and everyone is dressed very nicely.”

“So—a Japanese tea service?” David looked at him, and Patrick shrugged. “I know a lot about tea.” Patrick did something with his phone—he was setting a timer. “We can sit on the floor if you want; I don’t know if these cups are stoneware. I mean, they probably are, though.”

David tried not to make a disgusted face. “They’re not fire-glazed. Are you sure you want to drink Stevie’s tea? It’s probably the weed tea.”

“It’s my tea.”

David stared at him. “You brought tea?”

“I told you, I like tea.”

David was trying to contain his smile. “We came here to have sex and you brought tea?”

“Well, you can’t—” Patrick was starting to turn red. “I figured there’d be breaks—

“Mm, breaks,” David said, coming to kiss him again. “Is that what this is?”

“What—what would you say it is?”

“Foreplay?”

“David,” Patrick said, laughing.

David kissed him again so that Patrick wouldn’t be able to see his face. “Did you like it—what we did?”

Patrick kissed him very tenderly, then pulled back and said, “It was all right, I guess.”

God, he was such a tease. “All right enough to do it again?” David asked, still unwilling to show his face, and trying to pull it off as a joke. Sort of.

Patrick pulled away from him. “Don’t you need a break?”

“Um.”

“David.” It was kind of Patrick’s I’m not fucking around voice, and that was definitely his I’m not fucking around face. Then he was pushing David against Stevie’s counter, his hand on the front of David’s Satisfy sweats, then in the front of David’s Satisfy sweats; okay, Patrick really wasn’t fucking around, his hand brushing the front of David’s fresh underwear to feel David’s soft cock. “You need a break,” Patrick concluded, then took his hand out of David’s sweats.

“But do I?” David didn’t even really feel like having sex right now; he didn’t know why he was saying it, except that Patrick pushing him around like that and checking his dick was super, super hot.

“You’re not even—don’t tell me you can get it up again this soon.”

“Mm,” said David, pressing his lips together tightly, because he’d been in the bathroom for like twenty minutes; sometimes that was enough.

“David,” Patrick said warningly.

“No?”

Laughing incredulously, Patrick shook his head. “Okay,” he said. “Well I want a break. I’m going to drink this tea.”

“But—but you want to again, right?” David said, then bit his lip.

Patrick suppressed a smile. “I don’t know? Want more of you? That seems a bit of a stretch.” Then Patrick kissed him, his tongue licking David’s lips, sucking on the bottom one when David didn’t open his mouth.

“Okay, but,” David said. “Be serious.”

“Huh.” Patrick kissed him again.

David let him, because Patrick was cute, he guessed.

Then Patrick’s phone went off, and he pulled away, turning off the alert, taking out the tea bags. “Did you want any of this?”

David looked at the tea reluctantly, resenting it for interrupting, except he really liked things that tasted good. “What kind is it?”

“Chamomile.”

“Um, no.” David shook his head. “I’d go right to sleep.”

“So depending on the way the wind is blowing,” Patrick said, blowing on his tea, “you could fall asleep or have sex any minute now.”

“I’m just a very quick person,” David said, then wished he hadn’t said it, because it’d kind of taken him a little longer to come than he’d wanted, and he’d made Patrick go off almost instantly. But they’d been going at it a while by then, so maybe Patrick didn’t think of it as an insult. He didn’t look like he thought of it as an insult, standing there, blowing on his tea.

“You know,” Patrick said. “I thought an advantage of being with a guy is I’d know if he was—if he was ready.”

“There are lots of things you can do with a soft cock,” David said, then wished he hadn’t said that.

“I guess you’ll need to show me,” Patrick said, then sipped his tea.

He did it for fucking emphasis. Patrick was fucking Kermit the Frog with Lipton, and David bit back a smile.

“Not right now, though,” Patrick went on. “Now I’m drinking tea.”

“Evidently,” David said.

“How’s your shoulder?”

“Um.” Patrick meant the bite mark, and David was thinking quickly for ways to avoid ever talking about it again. “Good, it’s good. It’s fine.”

“Huh,” Patrick said again, and David didn’t like it when Patrick did that. It was sort of knowing, and David fidgeted.

He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t ever want to talk about it. He didn’t like for people to know he liked to be bitten and hit and tossed around; that was private, and most people were bad at it, and David didn’t like people who were good at it, professionals. Professionals were great! He didn’t have anything against professionals; you had to make a living; well, some people had to make a living, and anyway it was great that there was a whole—a whole system for that, and people could get what they needed. It was important for people to get what they needed, except David didn’t need it—not professionally; it made him uncomfortable. It was okay to be uncomfortable. It was okay to be uncomfortable with walking into a place where they were going to slap you around for pleasure; you didn’t have to get comfortable with strangers doing that to you, no thank you, Aleksandr. Also, fuck you, Aleksandr.

“David.” Patrick had put his tea down, and now he was in David’s space and warm and he tasted like tea, kissing David. “It’s okay,” Patrick said. “At least it wasn’t Ray.”

David leaned away to look at him. “What?”

“Who bit you,” Patrick said. “You said you were going to ask Ray to do it.”

“I never said that,” said David, appalled.

Smiling, Patrick picked up his tea. “Come on. Let’s sit down.”

David followed, but Patrick wasn’t going to the bed. “Okay, but Stevie’s couch is really uncomfortable.”

“We’ll see.”

They sat down on Stevie’s narrow, red-orange couch, which she had probably got from a thrift store, because it seemed really cute and colorful for Stevie, so it probably had like, cigarette stains and mildew in it, but that was not the problem. Thrift store couches could be really great; David had had this whole period when he’d decided he was going to save the environment in a trendy way; he’d gone to lots of thrift stores; that period had lasted three days. No, the problem was that this couch was small and narrow and felt like Styrofoam.

“Yep,” Patrick said, standing back up. “We tried it. Bed?”

“I told you,” David said, and he was going to follow Patrick the few steps to the bed, but—but Patrick was in front of him shirtless, bending down to put his tea on the nightstand, and David put his hand on Patrick’s shoulder.

Patrick was going to turn around, but David stopped him, and Patrick looked over his shoulder at him as David swept his hand over Patrick’s back. There were scratches all over it, over his pretty, pretty skin, which apparently David had also scraped raw in some places. None of the scratches were bloody or anything, but they had to sting. “What?” Patrick said.

Just admiring, David wanted to say, but—but it wasn’t nice. He shouldn’t be admiring; he should be ashamed or embarrassed or a little apologetic, but he wasn’t. He was satisfied. He wished he could mark up Patrick permanently, so Patrick would always remember that David was his first. That seemed really extreme. David wanted it anyway, just in passing. “Do you want . . . bandages? A salve?”

“No.” Patrick tried to turn around again, and this time David let him. “They’re not that bad.”

“Are you sure?” David moved his hands up to Patrick’s neck, so he wouldn’t touch the scratches. “We could do a wound-tending scene. You’d be—a wounded soldier. I would be the nurse.”

Patrick smiled, which was what David intended; David was smiling too. “I think you’d be a really sexy nurse,” Patrick said, hands settling on David’s hips.

“That’s the point,” David said, kissing him.

Patrick pulled away. “Would you clean my bed pan too?”

“Okay, that is not the point.”

“But I’m a soldier,” Patrick persisted. “I fought in a war!”

“I don’t see what that has to do with bed pans,” David said, trying to make it clear that he was very disgusted by this conversation.

“Oh, okay.” Patrick kissed him again, and they had had so, so many kisses like this, where they couldn’t really kiss because David was laughing, and it wasn’t something David usually associated with kissing. Kissing was serious business, except when it was with Patrick, who was so rarely serious about anything, and David wanted—he wanted to scratch him up more; he wanted to make him bleed; he wanted to—to mark him up and own him and swallow him whole, so he could always have this feeling inside.

“Are you sure they don’t hurt?” David asked, pulling away and very worried by his own thoughts.

“David,” Patrick breathed, sharing David’s breath between them, humid and hot. “I like it. As long as I can cover it up at work, I like it, unlike some hickeys I can point to.”

“It’s a half hickey,” David said. “You almost can’t point to it any more.”

“I can still point to it,” Patrick said, turning away and getting on the bed, David getting in beside him. “Ray pointed to it.”

“Oh my God.” David bit down on his lips to hopefully hide how horrified and delighted he was about this. “He didn’t.”

“He did.”

“Did you tell him—what did you tell him?”

“That it was a mouth-shaped sunburn.”

David bit down on his lips harder.

“You can’t do that to me at work, David.”

“Can I do that to you now?”

“I’m drinking tea.”

“No, you’re not.”

Patrick picked up his tea. For emphasis.

David scooted down so he could put his head on Patrick’s shoulder, and Patrick had said he was drinking tea and didn’t want more hickeys; what did that mean? Did it mean no kissing at all? What about touching? David picked up Patrick’s free hand and played with it. “What about hickeys in other places?” David asked, looking at Patrick’s hand.

“I said, as long as I can cover it up.”

“So they’re not disgusting in general,” David confirmed. “Hickeys, I mean. Just—in the work place, above the collar.”

“And on hands,” Patrick said, warningly.

“Why would I give you a hickey on your hand?”

“I don’t know; you’re unpredictable.”

David looked up swiftly. “Do you like that?” he couldn’t stop himself from asking.

“Mm,” Patrick said. “That’s difficult to predict.”

Lots of people liked that, unpredictability. Not like, real people, but people David had had sex with; for almost all his partners, David was pretty sure, that had been a factor. You’re unpredictable, they said, which was weird because David had a lot of routines, a lot of them, except when it came to sex, he—well, he wasn’t very—he couldn’t—he was kind of all over the place. He could be a hot fuck for someone but it was all over the place, and usually—well, he was kind of loud and messy. He didn’t like being loud and he hated being messy, but he was. Except when he was really, really quiet and clean. He could fuck like a fucking nun; it just depended on the day. Or the hour. Or sometimes the minute.

There was only so much of that back and forth you could take from someone. People didn’t like people who cried after sex or sometimes during sex or who sometimes loved to be called a slut and sometimes felt really, really bad about it, people who felt too overweight on some days to have sex at all, people who were kind of obsessed with come and vaginal excretions and sounds and smells and—and too many weird things. He’s a really great lay for two and a half weeks, Justina had told Quinn. Then all those hot things he does just seem really high maintenance.

It could last longer with Patrick, though; they hadn’t even started fucking until week two. Four weeks, maybe. But that was defeatist. David could do it; he could make it last more than a month. He could make it last—three months. Six? Nine. He could make it last until Alexis had a baby.

Fuck.

By that point David would be such a fucking mess he wouldn’t even be able to stand himself, much less have anyone stand him, and how could he take care of a fucking child, but it would have to be him. It’d have to be him. Mom and Dad had left them, and Alexis had almost over-dosed; Mom had had him fix her cocktails when he was nine; they should never be left with children, any of them. Especially not him! But at least he would love it and take care of it! And least he wouldn’t leave it all alone—

“David,” Patrick said softly. “What are you thinking about?”

David said the first thing that popped into his brain that wasn’t about Alexis or the inevitable end to this relationship, and David was still stroking Patrick’s hand, so the thing he said was, “Things you may have done with these fingers.”

Patrick took his hand away, his other hand setting down his tea, and David realized what he’d said. “Sorry,” he breathed.

“It wasn’t those fingers. It was these.” Patrick gave him his other hand.

“These!” David was excited by this, far too gratified by the fact that Patrick was humoring him and that it was something else to think about besides Alexis fucking up everything. “Can I . . . ?” David brought Patrick’s fingers to his lips and darted a glance up at Patrick, because David knew he was being weird. This—wasn’t the kind of thing people got into, the thing they got excited by; he was being unpredictable, except Patrick had—he’d, well, he’d sort of indicated that he’d put these fingers inside himself and, um. David didn’t care if it was a week ago and gross; he wanted to suck on them.

“David.”

“Never mind,” David said quickly, dropping Patrick’s hand.

Patrick turned toward David on the bed. “Lie down.”

David was sort of sitting up, slouched because he’d been leaning on Patrick and now he wasn’t, and David wondered what Patrick would do if he didn’t do it, so David didn’t do it.

“David, lie down,” Patrick said again, then pushed him, and David’s heartbeat ratcheted up, fuck.

Fuck. David moved down on the bed.

“Good,” Patrick said, and oh fuck, it could be very bad if Patrick figured out how exact combinations of commands and praise made David feel. Patrick put the fingers of his left hand on David’s chin. “You can do it,” Patrick said.

“Do what?” David whispered, because he was testing him. He didn’t mean to test him, but he was testing him.

“You’re the one who wanted to,” Patrick said, which was a fail.

“Wanted to what?” David was open to extra credit.

“Why are you so difficult?” Patrick asked, then kissed him.

David pulled away. “I’m not trying to be difficult.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. Suck my fingers, David,” Patrick said, then when David opened his mouth, shoved his fingers in, and goddamn. Goddamn.

The protest David had been about to make turned into a moan, because Patrick had fucking aced the test after all. David’s eyes sort of rolled back in his skull as he sucked two of Patrick’s fingers, tugging on Patrick’s hand to get his fingers farther down, and it was different than last time; last time had felt so sweet, but now it felt dirty. David moved his tongue between the fingers inside his mouth, stroking them inside his mouth, taking them farther down, then pulling Patrick’s hand away so David could get another finger in. He got another finger in, his mouth opening wider for it, which was good, and David moaned, because maybe Patrick would think it was hot; maybe he’d like it, how slutty David felt whenever he got something in his mouth.

“Jesus,” Patrick said, and David opened his eyes briefly to look at him, but he didn’t actually want to see him, and David was right to be afraid, because Patrick started to take his hand away. David had been wrong; it wasn’t hot; it was pathetic, actually, seeing David moan like a bitch in heat over a few fingers, and then Patrick moved his fingers back in. And then out. Then in. Patrick was fucking David’s face with his fingers.

Fuck.

Fuck. David moaned again, and it was like his cock hadn’t paid attention at all to the last hour because he was already hard again, like it was his early twenties; fuck, he ached. He ached. He wanted Patrick so bad.

“Jesus,” Patrick breathed. “Jesus. David. Do you want . . . ?”

“Mm-hm.” David nodded, still sucking Patrick’s fingers.

“You don’t know what I was going to say.”

“Mm-hm,” said David.

“David,” Patrick said seriously, pulling his fingers away, then settling his wet fingers on the front of David’s sweater.

Patrick didn’t say anything else, and at last David had to open his eyes. He had to face whatever Patrick was going to say, despite the heat crawling into David’s face, burning him from inside.

Patrick took a deep breath. “David, do you want to . . .” But he didn’t finish again, and David nodded again just to show how willing he was. “Do you want to,” Patrick said, more firmly now, “suck me?”

David felt his whole face open into an expression of eagerness, but he tried to hide it, in case it was a trick, or Patrick decided to take it away. David felt like he couldn’t speak, and so he nodded jerkily a few times, forcing his head up and down rather too vigorously.

“Okay.” Patrick took a swift breath. “Okay.” Then he started moving away. “I brought condoms.”

David’s hand shot out to grab Patrick’s wrist. “You don’t need a condom,” he said, even though something in his chest swelled strangely at the thought that Patrick had brought them.

“Yeah?” Patrick said. “To be safe.”

“It’s not unsafe,” David said. “It’s a blow-job.”

“You do know you can still get things from that.”

“Can I? Do you have anything?”

“Part of the point is someone might not know if they have something.”

“Do you?”

“No,” said Patrick.

“I never use condoms with oral.”

“See, it’s comments like that that make think we should use protection.”

David’s brows shot up. “You think I’m going to give you something? With my mouth?”

“That’s not what I said.”

“It sounded like that was what you said.” David looked him over, at Patrick looking—sort of confused, a little innocent, halfway out of bed to get a condom, and David regretted everything. “We can—you’re right. You’re right; that’s safe; that’s responsible. We can do whatever you want; I wasn’t thinking. Whatever you want.”

Patrick gritted his teeth. “I know I’m—I’m clean,” he said, after a long moment.

“It doesn’t matter; let’s use a condom; condoms are hot.”

Patrick gritted his teeth some more. “I don’t think . . . they are. For this.”

David bit his lip, because he didn’t think condoms were hot at all, but he didn’t want to say it; he didn’t want to sway Patrick either way; Patrick should get to choose. “It’s whatever you want,” David said, his voice a soft undertone. “Anything you want. I’d be happy—I’m happy either way.”

“Okay.” Leaning in, Patrick kissed him. “How do you want . . . ? Where do you want me?”

“Are you sure?” David asked. “About the condom.”

“I was—it wasn’t for me,” Patrick said, which had to be true, because anything Patrick could get through David’s mouth, he would have gotten it already. Maybe if Ted had been half as fucking thoughtful about protection, Alexis wouldn’t be in this mess, except that David didn’t want to think about Alexis. He didn’t want to think about any of this, but Patrick was right; David should think about it. He should think about it, except it was Patrick, the straightest and narrowest of the straight and narrow. Except not that straight, obviously. But Patrick was a business major. Business majors could still get herpes, though.

Maybe Alexis thought that veterinarians couldn’t get people pregnant.

“David?” Patrick said.

“Yeah. Yes.” Shaking his head to clear it from horrible Alexis thoughts, David scanned the bed, considering options. “Um, if you lay down high enough up,” he said. “I can do it—we can do it here, and we’ll get these—off—” David tugged on Patrick’s pyjama bottoms, a process which caused David to gasp rather loudly. It sounded like a fake gasp, but it was a real one, because, “You’re not wearing any underwear.”

Patrick smiled in embarrassment. “I thought it was just a break.”

“Kinky,” David said, then yanked the bottoms down, moving down to get them off Patrick’s feet. Patrick tried to help, so they got kind of tangled, but then they were off, and David was pleased to see that Patrick was already half hard. God. God. It was so good. Patrick had such a thick cock, and it was Patrick’s; David wanted to swallow it whole.

“Can I,” Patrick said, plucking at David’s sweater. “Do you want to keep wearing this?”

“Whatever you want,” said David.

Hand falling away, Patrick took an impatient breath. “What do you want?”

“I want to suck you off? So I’m not really thinking about my clothes right now.”

Patrick looked miserable, and David hated misery so he took off his sweater, since it was what Patrick really wanted, and David kissed him. He kissed him and got his hand around Patrick’s cock, going gentle with it, really gentle, because he wanted Patrick to last. He could probably last a while; he’d come like half an hour ago, forty-five minutes tops. When David had been in the shower, Patrick must have cleaned off all that lube and come, because he seemed dry and very clean. Where had Patrick cleaned up? Stevie’s kitchen? That was gross.

David went on kissing for a while, still gently touching Patrick’s cock, touching that spot underneath, spreading wet around the head until Patrick was all the way hard, and then David stopped touching it. He moved down Patrick’s body instead, kissing him, playing with his nipples, taking his time to work them, get them nice and hard, until Patrick was shifting hotly under him.

“David,” Patrick said, sounding kind of breathlessly impatient.

“Mm.” David put his chin on Patrick’s sternum to look up at him. “What?”

Patrick suppressed a smile. “Nothing.”

“Oh, nothing.” David had to push aside a smile as well. “All right then,” he said, going back to teasing Patrick’s nipples.

But Patrick was breathing faster now, and it wasn’t like David could last forever either, not with Patrick’s cock right there, straining for him, wanting him. David’s mouth had watered for it the moment he’d first laid eyes on it, so David eventually moved away from Patrick’s chest, opening Patrick’s legs and getting between them so that he could lick and bite over Patrick’s stomach, his abdomen, avoiding the cock pressing insistently above it, kissing instead to the top of Patrick’s thigh.

“David,” Patrick breathed.

“Mm-hm,” David said, because he wanted it too. He really, really wanted the weight of Patrick on his tongue, Patrick’s girth stretching David’s lips, Patrick’s precome dripping down David’s throat, Patrick’s balls on his chin. So David moved down further, opened Patrick’s legs wider, and then bent his head to suck on Patrick’s inner thigh.

David.”

David understood that too, because David’s chin actually was on Patrick’s balls now, but not in the correct direction, twisted sideways to suck on Patrick’s thigh. It was a good thigh, pale with reddish-brown hair like the rest of him, smooth and soft on the inside. David sucked skin into his mouth.

“David,” Patrick said again, his voice with that combination of amusement and remonstrance that David kind of thought he might get addicted to. “Are you giving me another hickey?”

David lifted his head to see that Patrick had propped himself up on an arm. “You said somewhere people couldn’t see.”

“Right. But it didn’t have to be that hidden.”

“Maybe you’ll feel it whenever you walk,” David said, then went back to sucking on Patrick’s thigh.

“Christ,” Patrick said, his hips bucking, and ooh. Patrick liked that. He liked it like he liked those scratches; he’d told David the scratches would remind him that David had been there, the next day; Patrick liked reminders. That was so good. That was great; David could remind him all up. “What’s so funny?” Patrick said, wiggling, pillows rustling.

“Nothing,” David said, his head still between Patrick’s thighs.

“You’re smiling.”

“I’m not smiling.”

“David. I can feel you smiling.”

“Mm. You taste good.” David went back to sucking.

“Right,” Patrick said, “but that’s not what I wanted you to taste.”

David poked his head up; this interested him. “What did you want me to taste?”

“Oh my God.” Patrick had propped himself up on some pillows, maybe so he could see, but now he covered his face with his hands and threw his head back. “Why? Why are you like this?”

“Was it this?” David ran a finger up Patrick’s cock.

“No, it was a macaroni casserole.”

“Mm. What’s a macaroni casserole?”

“The first thing that came to mind.”

“So you don’t want me to taste a macaroni casserole?”

“You know what?” Patrick took his hands off his face, bringing his head back up. “I will make you a macaroni casserole right now if that’s really what you want.”

“You can’t.” David ran his finger up Patrick’s cock again, lest Patrick forget what was really important here. “Stevie doesn’t have any ingredients.”

“Good!”

Patrick sounded pretty annoyed with him, and David ran his finger up Patrick’s cock again. He didn’t know why he was like this either. “I still don’t know what you want me to taste.”

“Why are you so obsessed with this?”

“Because you don’t say it. I’ve never even heard you say it until tonight.”

“Why does it matter if I say it?”

“Because it’s hot.” David lifted his head a little more. “You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to; I was just—”

“David,” Patrick said. “I really want you to suck my cock.”

David bit his lip. “Okay, suck it, or taste it, because earlier—”

“David.” Patrick touched his cheek, kind of guiding his face. “Suck my cock.”

“Uh-huh,” David agreed, then got his mouth on the head and sucked, hard, his tongue finding the spot underneath and pressing, then swirling around the head, quickly tonguing Patrick’s slit.

“Oh,” Patrick said, arching uncontrollably. “Shit.”

David pulled off, getting his hand on the root and going back down; fuck, it felt good. It felt really good, having his mouth full, the hot heavy feeling of Patrick on his tongue, the taste of his precome, the chafe of him on David’s lips. God, David wanted it down his throat, but he wanted to build Patrick up to it; he wanted to build Patrick up to fucking it; he wanted Patrick to feel so, so good. David could make him feel so good; he could be good. He wanted to be good.

“David,” Patrick said, hips stuttering. It caused his dick to move in David’s mouth, but not enough, and peripherally, David could see Patrick’s fists on either side of Patrick’s hips, twisting in the bedclothes.

Mouth still on Patrick’s cock, David reached for one of Patrick’s hands, wrapping his own hand around Patrick’s fist, bringing it down to his hair, showing Patrick’s hand where it should be. Patrick’s hand came willingly enough, but once in David’s hair, it kind of—petted him, and that was nice; petting was good, but it wasn’t what David wanted. He redoubled his efforts on Patrick’s cock, taking more of it in, dragging his tongue as he pulled back off, swirling around the head in skillful, lascivious ways. Patrick’s hand drifted down to gently touch David’s cheek.

Then David thought he knew what Patrick wanted; he took Patrick’s cock in his mouth and turned his head, so Patrick could feel the shape of his own cock poke out through David’s cheek. Some people really liked that, except Patrick’s hand darted away from it instantly, as though guilty or shocked or maybe both of the two, and okay, okay, Patrick didn’t want it like that; David could blow him however Patrick wanted. It shouldn’t be unusual for him, really—surely Patrick had been blown before; if you closed your eyes, it wouldn’t feel any different than a girl. David had actually told some men that before, even though he shouldn’t have. It was a terrible thing to say, as though you were just a mouth, just there to suck, as though the rest of you didn’t matter.

But then Patrick’s hand was back, so very tentative on David’s cheek, and he was—he was stroking David’s cheek. Just—just petting it as David worked and sucked, and David finally realized—Patrick was feeling his stubble.

It was if Patrick didn’t want to forget it, not even for a second, that it was a man who was down here, that it was David who was down here, and David couldn’t stand it any more. Opening his mouth, relaxing his throat, he took Patrick all the way down, and deep-throating cock was such a wonderful, miserable feeling. You were trapped; you couldn’t breathe; you were choking; you needed it out, and he owned you and filled you and made you feel like the most beautiful thing alive, because you could own him and trap him and make him so yours. You were a thing that was sexy and useful and wetter and dirtier than whatever else he could have; you were the best he could have and you knew it and he knew it and he’d think he could die, trapped in your throat, in your silky wet throat.

Patrick shouted. It was a glorious sound; he actually cried out, pained and unmanned, and David’s eyes rolled back, and he wished he could have more of him, more of him. If only he could have more of him, if Patrick were a little bigger.

“Fuck, David, please, please,” Patrick cried desperately, finally getting his hand in David’s hair now, but trying to yank him off. “Please.”

Patrick was trying to pull him off of it, so David slid off—less carefully than he usually did, leaving his throat raw. Once all the way off it, David licked his lips, swallowed, trying to feel normal. “That’s—that not something you like?” he said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“What?” Patrick said, shocked.

“Oh, okay,” David said, because it was obviously a misunderstanding, which frankly made more sense that Patrick not liking someone deep-throating his cock, though it wasn’t like that was unprecedented. Some people didn’t prefer it, and David opened his mouth to take it back in again.

“I thought I was going to hurt you,” Patrick said.

David took his mouth off. “You can’t hurt me.”

“Well, I—I probably could.”

David’s mouth twisted. “Why don’t you try?”

Patrick pulled David up by the hair, maybe because Patrick’s dick was still tantalizingly close and David had been going for it again. “I don’t want to try,” said Patrick.

“All right,” said David. “You don’t have to. Just let me—” Now that David had a taste for it, all he wanted was more cock, more of Patrick’s cock, and it was still so close; David could smell it; he didn’t understand why he couldn’t have it, why they were still talking. Then Patrick’s hands loosened in David’s hair and David went for it again.

“David,” Patrick said, and it sounded like it could be a protest, an objection, but he didn’t say no and he didn’t say stop and he didn’t pull David away.

David just really, really wanted to suck cock. It was simple enough; Patrick should let him.

He got his hand at the root again, locked his lips around the head and sucked hard, tonguing the slit again. Patrick’s hips jerked again; he liked that, and David looked up just to check—no, not just to check, but because he wanted to be hot; he wanted to be sexy; he wanted Patrick to look down at him and feel helpless when he saw David looking up, his mouth full of cock.

Patrick looked helpless enough, his eyes wide, his mouth open, a little bit trepidatious, maybe, but David didn’t think Patrick was scared of him, scared of this. Patrick sort of seemed like he was scared of how much he liked it. “David,” he said, his voice shaky, and David closed his eyes again, went to town again, taking more cock and pulling off, setting up a rhythm. “David,” Patrick said, and both hands were on David’s face, now, touching and trembling and cradling, cradling his face while David took his cock.

Great, thought David. Great, but do you like it? He was just going to have to do a better job.

That was okay. David was good at blow-jobs; he liked them, and he was learning what Patrick liked too—tongue on the slit and hard sucking; the hand didn’t seem to matter as much; other tongue things didn’t do it enough, but Patrick twitched whenever he hit the back of David’s throat. Maybe David could try it again, swallowing it all down; maybe that first time Patrick had just been scared. Maybe he’d never had that before. You could have plenty of blow-jobs in your life without having been deep-throated, but David was disappointed in those girls, for not having given him that, which wasn’t fair; you shouldn’t have to swallow a whole cock if it wasn’t your thing, but it was David’s thing. It was David’s thing; he was hungry for that feeling all over again, so he did it— moving his hand to hold Patrick’s balls, then in one slick, smooth motion, taking down the entirety of Patrick’s cock.

“F-fuck,” Patrick croaked, sounding broken and quavering, his hips less uncertain, jerking his cock down David’s throat.

Oh.

Patrick liked it; he liked it, liked it; he was overwhelmed by how much he liked it; this all made sense, now. David pulled off of it to swallow and catch his breath; then he took it down again.

Patrick’s hands startled away, fisting on Patrick’s own thighs. Breathing through his nose, David took those hands, put them in his hair deliberately, in a way that could not be misconstrued, then looked up at Patrick, communicating expectation.

Patrick still looked sort of terrified.

David put his hand back over Patrick’s in his hair, showing Patrick how to move David’s head on his dick, showing Patrick how to fuck his mouth. “Okay,” said Patrick, hoarsely, and David took his hand away. “Okay,” Patrick said, then did nothing David had just told him to, because instead of moving David’s head up and down on Patrick’s cock, Patrick held David’s face still with both hands and fucked it with his hips.

Patrick did it slow at first, these little rocks that were barely enough, and after a moment, David had to grab Patrick’s wrists and stop him for a second, pull off of it and swallow, rest his throat and breathe, but then he was ready, taking it down again. Patrick rocked harder, then started his slow roll, that thing he did with his hips that was so experienced, even though the rest of him seemed so innocent, and David loved it. He loved it happening in his throat more than any other place so far, and as Patrick gripped the sides of David’s head, Patrick finally started making more noise, blissful noise, the kind of noise David liked to hear, a sharp uh every time he slid back down.

Okay, time for more. David swallowed.

“Oh fuck,” said Patrick. “Fuck, David, I can’t . . .” But Patrick’s hips moved harder, his hands tighter on David’s head, not letting him move while Patrick fucked into it, and David felt drunk on it; he was drunk on it; Patrick was inside of him; Patrick was fucking him. Patrick was fucking him. David moaned, letting Patrick feel the vibrations of his vocal cords.

“Oh, my—” Patrick said, arching off the bed into David. “My—my—Jesus, I’m gonna . . .” Then his hands were tugging on David, pulling him off.

“Mm-mm.” David tried to mean no with his throat full of cock, but Patrick was pulling.

“I’m gonna—I’m gonna—”

Do it in me, David tried to communicate with his eyes, looking up at him.

“Oh my God, David,” Patrick said, and yanked on David’s head hard, getting half-way out before he started coming, coming and coming; well, this was messy. Patrick was no longer straight down David’s throat and David was going to choke, so he pulled off it the rest of the way, his throat getting come, his mouth getting come, his lips getting some, but that was okay. David only coughed a little, then did his best to clean it, clean it and taste it, hold onto Patrick’s cock with his hand and lap up the rest as Patrick spasmed and shook, his hips slowing and slowing, a gradual stop. David licked him until Patrick relaxed, breathing hard.

Now was the part where you moved up and kissed him, maybe said something sweet or, knowing him, probably teasing; you kissed and you cuddled and were warm, except David didn’t want to. He wanted to stay down here forever, with Patrick’s cock forever; he wanted to watch it, slowly softening, kiss it and touch it and make it touch his face. He wanted to nuzzle underneath and suck Patrick’s balls in a comforting way, have that smell of come all around him and Patrick’s thighs around him, knowing he’d done a good job. David knew he’d done a good job. He’d been pretty great.

He also knew he was weird and that most people didn’t really appreciate their genitals being nuzzled after coming; it was not a thing most people did, so David made himself pull away, made himself get on the bed beside Patrick and move up beside him, trying to think of something blasé enough to say.

“David,” Patrick said, “David,” then reached for him, and David reared his head back.

“Are you sure you want to kiss me?” David’s voice was thick, rough, his throat feeling stripped raw, but he thought maybe Patrick didn’t realize what he was getting into. “I just—”

Patrick kissed him. His tongue swept in immediately, stroking David’s, then licking inside David’s mouth—along his cheeks, along his teeth. David couldn’t miss what Patrick was doing, seeking out the taste, and it was shocking and delightful, though David realized he should not have been surprised. Just because you were sort of innocent never meant you weren’t filthy. David should know that by now, but sometimes he forgot.

“So good,” Patrick said, when he pulled away. “That was so good; it was so good; you made me feel so good; it was so good. How are you?” Patrick petted his neck. “Do you feel okay?”

“Mm-hm,” David said, trying not to smile, but it was so much praise, and he couldn’t help it. “I feel great.”

“So good,” Patrick said, then kissed him again, this kiss dragging off David’s mouth and over his chin, down his neck. Patrick’s lips kissed, caressed it, almost as though to fix what he had just fucked, his hands coming to touch it too, worshipping David’s neck, his stubble, his jaw. “So good,” Patrick said again.

“So. On a scale of one to ten—”

“Fifteen, David,” Patrick said, and covered David’s mouth with his own again. Then his lips moved to David’s ear, and one of Patrick’s hands was at David’s neck, the other now moving so that Patrick’s thumb stroked David’s bottom lip. “Your mouth is incredible,” Patrick breathed. “You know that, right?”

“No,” David said, feeling a slow fire light inside, because no one had ever really done this before, after a blow-job. He’d been given praise before, sure; he’d been called a good boy; he’d been kissed and he’d been thanked, but this—Patrick just seemed to want to shower him with good things, so many good things, and it made David want to sink inside the bed, within the mattress. It would be soft there and no one would see him, and he could still hear all the good things. “I thought my mouth was sloppy.”

“It’s beautiful,” Patrick said, kissing him again. “It was the first thing I wanted, the first thing I noticed.”

“Is that why you drank my juice?”

“I wanted all the ridiculous things that come out of it,” Patrick said, kissing him again. “I wanted all those faces you make with it.”

“I don’t make faces.”

“David.” Patrick’s teeth scraped over David’s lips, catching David’s lower one, biting down gently until David whimpered, and then he let go. “You make me feel so good. You make me feel good.”

“That—was the plan,” David said, still thinking about disappearing inside the mattress. What would Stevie think, if he lived inside her mattress? She’d be very annoyed.

“Good plan,” Patrick said, then kissed him again.

Patrick kissed him for a long time, both of his hands still on David’s face, stroking and kissing and lots of petting, so much petting, all over David’s mouth and his jaw and his neck. When Patrick finally pulled away, his hand slid down to David’s hip. “Did you want . . . ?” Patrick asked, then brushed his hand over the front of David’s sweats.

“Whatever you—” want, David was going to say, then remembered that Patrick didn’t like it. “Yeah,” David said instead. “Yes, that would be nice. It’s not required.”

Patrick’s mouth pulled in a smile. “Is any of this required?”

“Um. Well,” David said, trying not to be distracted by the fact that Patrick was very naked and now lightly stroking the front of David’s sweats. “Some urges are—biological . . .”

“Oh, biological,” Patrick said, as though this explained everything, and then he was pushing David’s shoulder, right beside the bite mark, pushing him down on the bed, leaning over him. “Is this biological?” Patrick asked, then put his mouth on the mark, licking, then sucking.

David heard himself make a wounded sound.

“Is this okay?” Patrick’s head came up, and for once, David didn’t resist begging.

“Please don’t stop,” he whispered, ashamed to hear his own voice, but Patrick did it again, kissing him there, and David had been hard for a while now. He’d gotten even harder sucking Patrick’s dick; David hadn’t realized how hard, but he noticed it now, like his dick had realized it might get some attention and had perked up at the prospect, except it wasn’t getting attention; it was still in David’s pants. It was still in David’s pants, and David’s hips were twitching, except he didn’t want Patrick to stop what he was doing to David’s shoulder; he didn’t want Patrick to do anything different, but David could feel his hand creeping down to himself. “Can I . . . ?” he asked, before stopping to think about why he would need to ask for permission.

Patrick lifted his head up to see David’s fingertips under the waistline of his own pants. “How about,” Patrick said, then paused. He swallowed. “No.”

Thoughts raced through David’s head—about how he could do it anyway, and what would Patrick say; would Patrick stop him, except that Patrick had said it with just enough hesitance that he probably wouldn’t, so David stayed there with his brows up, waiting to see what Patrick would do next.

“I wanted to—I want.” Patrick stopped, his face gone tense.

“It’s okay,” David said, because he didn’t know what Patrick wanted, but he was kind of getting to know that face, and David kind of thought it meant that Patrick was going to ask for something really, really gay. Then, even though Patrick didn’t like it, David put his hand carefully on the back of Patrick’s neck and said, as gently as he could, “Anything you want is okay.”

“I know.” Patrick pulled away from David’s hand enough to turn and kiss it, his lips on the palm. “I know, thank you. Thank you.”

“I mean,” David felt the need to say, “I’m not exactly being selfless here.”

“I know.” Patrick moved down to kiss his mouth again. “Thank you.”

David’s hand went back to the back of Patrick’s neck, trying not to anticipate what had Patrick tying himself in knots, but probably it was he wanted to try sucking David. He really didn’t need to suck David; David wasn’t always the biggest fan of reciprocation. He’d be all right with Patrick never sucking him. Patrick never needed to take David’s dick in any part of himself, except for maybe his hand, and David would have been just fine, but he thought Patrick wouldn’t be fine. He was getting the idea that Patrick wouldn’t, and David understood that it was scary; blow-jobs were scary; they were weird and gross; people didn’t talk about that enough. David wanted to talk about it, but knowing himself, he’d scare Patrick more, because David had done a lot of things with a lot of cocks. A lot, a lot. God, this poor boy. David moved his fingers through the fine hairs at the back of Patrick’s neck. He kept his hair so short. So neat and orderly and short. This poor sweetheart.

Patrick finally moved out of the kiss, and then, as though he had drawn strength from it, he said, “I want you to do what you said over the phone.”

They’d already done what David had said, just basic frotting; were there other things? David didn’t remember the phone. He remembered sitting alone in the woods in the growing darkness feeling unpleasantly damp and worried, and confused. He’d talked Patrick off, and that had been good, but David remembered realizing he was really only fantastic at phone sex when the other person was leading him along. He’d never realized that before, or he’d realized but never gotten himself into that situation; usually he got himself into situations with very controlling people; he knew that. It was bad.

“Over text,” Patrick added, and suddenly David knew.

“You want me to—to you?” David asked, barely daring to breathe, because if Patrick said no, which he probably would, that meant Patrick would be fingering him.

Patrick shook his head. “I want you to do it—to yourself. I want to—I want to watch you. Do it. If you—if that’s something . . .” He took a steadying breath. “You said anything I—”

“Yes,” David said, quickly. “Uh-huh.” David wasn’t trying to torture him; he was just trying to think it through, because he hadn’t expected it after all; none of this was what he’d expected. He didn’t think he’d ever done that before. Well, of course he had, like a million times, but it was always so someone could put something in him; he’d never done it just for the purpose of doing it, not with someone else watching. Or, he didn’t think he had. Maybe he had. Considering Patrick’s adventures with shampoo, it was a great idea; someone who’d really thought about it would see that it was a good step. David got the impression that Patrick thought about this.

David got the impression that Patrick thought about this a lot.

“Yes,” David said again, sitting up in the bed. “Let me get . . . um . . .” Leaning down toward the floor, he found his bag, lifted it up.

“It’s on the nightstand,” Patrick said, guessing what he was looking for.

“That’s not . . .” David kept looking through his bag. “I want a different one.” After another a moment of digging, David found the jar, bringing it out and tossing the bag back onto the floor.

“David,” Patrick finally said. “How many types of lube did you bring?”

“Um,” said David, feeling like the answer might incriminate him.

“Okay, I’ll bite. David.” Patrick’s voice was falsely bright. “How come you need more than one type of lube?”

“Because I like them?” David clutched his jar.

Patrick’s mouth pursed as he put out his hand. “Give it to me.”

“I thought I was going to—”

“I just want to see.”

Reluctantly, David handed it over, biting his lip as Patrick turned over the jar in his hands. It was from a minimalist sexual wellness shop in SoHo; it wasn’t embarrassing, but David guessed if you were still using hand lotion like a thirteen-year-old it might seem really extra. David bit down harder on his lip. “I’m just very prepared,” he whispered.

“Yeah, you’re a real Boy Scout,” Patrick breathed, kissing under David’s ear again.

He kept doing it, and David wanted to point out that kissing was not at all what they had just discussed, but he didn’t want to seem too eager. He didn’t even know if he was eager. He wasn’t sure what this feeling was—excitement or anxiety. It could be both; he didn’t want to and it was embarrassing and what if Patrick hated it and Patrick was going to watch; that was the worst part, but then again, it was almost unbearably hot. The thought of Patrick looking at him while David put his fingers inside himself was thrilling; David wanted it. He wanted to be put on display and admired; he didn’t want anyone to look at him, ever; it was both. It was both.

Patrick was still kissing him, but then his hand covered the hand in which David was holding the jar. “Can you take off your pants?” he murmured, his lips still brushing David’s.

“Yes,” David said. “I—yes.” Setting down the jar, David got off the bed, then pushed off his pants, the briefs underneath. He should probably do it sexy for Patrick, but David disliked getting naked almost as much as he disliked wearing clothes during sex; they got dirty. Once the pants and briefs were off, he sat down on the bed, picking up his jar as though it might protect him. “How do you want me to . . . ?”

“I don’t know,” said Patrick. “I want to see.”

The best way for Patrick to see it was probably for David to do it with his legs up, except David would look ridiculous like that and where would Patrick be; he’d have to get below him on the bed, and what would he do, just sit there? Look into David’s eyes? “Okay,” David said, then lay down on his side, back to Patrick, leg hiked up so he could reach more easily.

As David opened the jar, he could hear Patrick moving beside him, but he tried not to think about it; if he thought about Patrick watching, David might vibrate with anxiety to an untimely death. Luckily, he’d done some prep—not knowing what they were going to be doing, knowing he probably didn’t need to, but David liked to be clean. He got the lube on his fingers, spread it around some, closed his eyes, pretended he was doing this just for himself; then Patrick kissed the nape of his neck. David flinched.

Patrick put his hand on David’s shoulder. “Is this all right?” he asked, from behind, in David’s ear. “What we’re doing?”

As long as you don’t touch me! David wanted to scream. “Yes,” David said. “It’s fine.”

“Okay.” Patrick kissed David’s shoulder, hand still there, rubbing on David’s bicep in a soothing way. “Okay.”

But then he didn’t say anything else, and David felt like Patrick was waiting; he was waiting for David to do it, so David squeezed his eyes tight and did it, reaching over his thigh to his ass to get his lubed finger on his hole. His instinct was to just push it in, because while sometimes he liked to tease himself, he could take it—he could take it easily, and right now he just sort of wanted to get it over with, but Patrick was watching. Patrick wanted to know, poor thing, poor eager, innocent Patrick. David liked him so much. He wanted him to have a good time.

He wanted Patrick to have a good time, so he circled his hole slowly with his greasy finger, pulling his leg up higher so maybe Patrick could see a little of what David was doing without being intimidated; David wanted him to have a good time.

“God,” Patrick breathed. “You look—you look really good.”

The last thing David wanted to think about was how he looked. Squeezing his eyes shut harder, David swallowed forcefully, then began to push his finger in.

“Yeah.” Patrick’s voice was trembling. “Please. That feels really good.”

I’m not doing it to you! David wanted to shout, but he didn’t say anything, pushing his finger farther inside, feeling the burn of it. David really liked getting fucked; if he did it hard enough, he stopped thinking. It stopped his mind right up.

“So good,” Patrick said again, kissing his neck, and okay, David could handle that. He had his middle finger all the way inside himself now, so began to ease it out. “Can I . . . ?” Patrick said.

“Anything,” David panted, because his mind was racing with too many other things to remember Patrick didn’t like it.

Then Patrick’s fingertips settled lightly on the back of David’s hand—the hand he was using to fuck himself, and David didn’t know what he’d expected. He hadn’t expected anything, but that was—that was—his hips jerked, because that was hot. It was so incredibly hot, Patrick touching his hand while David worked his finger back into himself.

“This is so good,” Patrick said. “You look so good. I like your hands.”

“What—” David squeezed his whole face closed; he didn’t want to ask this question; he wanted to ask it so bad. “What do you like about them?”

Patrick kissed David’s shoulder again, Patrick’s fingers still touching the back of the hand David was using to fuck himself, David’s finger slowly sawing in an out. “They—I love the way they move.” Patrick kissed him again. “You have long fingers. I like . . .” Another kiss. “I like your rings. They’re hot. So hot.” Another kiss. “I want to see one of them go inside of you.”

David couldn’t help it; he groaned; it was one of the hotter things he’d ever heard, and he’d heard a lot of hot things, and it was especially hot coming from Patrick. Pulling his finger out, David started again with two, working their way inside. Patrick’s hand left the back of David’s, pushing David’s chest down into the bed, as though to see more of David’s backside, angling for a better view.

David really, really liked being forced down onto beds. He loved it; his mouth was watering just from getting pushed down like that, Patrick manipulating him so he could look at him like that, or maybe David’s mouth was so wet because of the awkward angle; who knew? Still fucking himself with his fingers, he closed his mouth to contain the drool, to swallow, and made this humming sound, probably to prevent himself from begging for approval or more manhandling. Was Patrick looking at it? David’s fingers in his ass? Did he think this was gross? Was it too gay? Too dirty? Was it hot for him? Was David hot, or was he ridiculous; he couldn’t tell; he couldn’t tell; he couldn’t tell, and then he heard himself make this high whining noise he didn’t want to make.

“You look so good,” Patrick whispered, his fingertips back on David’s hand now as David used it to fuck himself, Patrick’s touch so gentle, like Patrick just wanted to feel the shape of what David’s hand was doing. Patrick’s voice sank lower and softer still, husky in David’s ear. “I can’t believe you’re doing this for me. You’re so hot.”

David made an embarrassing sound.

“Keep going.” Patrick set his teeth on the back of David’s neck, then bit down, causing David to cry out again, thrusting the side of his dick against the bed. “That’s good.” Patrick licked the spot he’d bitten. “Do you wanna give me—can you give me some more?”

“Mm-hm,” David said, clenching his eyes closed but nodding his head vigorously.

“Good. I want some.” Patrick bit him again, this time right on the delt, and David shuddered. “You really like that,” said Patrick. “The biting.”

“Mm-hm.” David’s head jerked.

“Maybe I’ll save it, then.”

“Patrick.” David tried not to whimper.

“How many fingers did you use?” Patrick licked the spot he’d bitten again. “In the shower. You never told me.”

“Um,” David said, because he didn’t remember, but also because as soon as Patrick said it, David instantly wanted more; two wasn’t enough; it wasn’t enough; he needed more. “Three?”

“Okay,” Patrick said softly. “Can you give me three?”

David took his fingers out, Patrick’s hand moving off his. Getting his ring finger up there was easier if David did them all at once, so then he did them, taking them.

“Oh, God, David.” Patrick’s voice was breathless behind him. “Look at you.”

“Um,” said David. “I can’t.”

“I should”—Patrick was kind of panting—“get you a mirror. You could see how—hot you are. David. You’re so hot.”

Oh God. What would it look like to see himself with Patrick, to see himself fucking himself for Patrick, to see how Patrick was watching him and how David was drooling and how much David wanted it, wanted him. The love room had a mirror; it was gross; it would be so fucking hot; it would be terrible; David didn’t know; he didn’t know what he wanted. “Anything you want,” David said, kind of desperately.

“Yeah,” was all Patrick said. “You’ve made that—super clear.”

David didn’t know what that was supposed to mean, and his fingers weren’t enough. He wasn’t doing a very good job showing Patrick what to do. Fingering wasn’t just about getting your fingers in and out, so David stopped sawing in them, closing his eyes, concentrating on his fingers, what they were feeling, crooking them, pressing slowly in.

Patrick’s hand came back, gently covering David’s own, not touching David’s ass at all, but close, so close. “What are you”—Patrick’s voice was a little hesitant now—“I mean. Are you—looking for it?”

“What?” David arched his back a little, helping the angle of his hand.

“Uh,” Patrick said. “I just meant, your . . .”

Prostate. David didn’t need Patrick to say that one; that one wasn’t sexy. “Yes,” said David, catching his breath as he stroked it. “I’m touching it.”

“Oh. Is that going to—will that make you come?”

Sweetheart, David thought, even though he didn’t think like that; had Patrick been researching? Alexis was right; he was a fucking button-face; David didn’t want to think about Alexis. “It’s not a switch you flip,” David said, fucking himself breathless and managing to sound condescending at the same time; he didn’t mean to, dammit. “You don’t press it to make someone go.”

“Okay.”

“What have you been reading?” David asked, before he could stop himself. Fuck, he was such a dick.

Patrick’s hot breath huffed against David’s back. “My grandmother’s Bible.”

David groaned. “Why are you joking around? Now?”

“I don’t know.”

David sucked in a breath. He never thought he’d be in this position, but he liked Patrick so much; he liked him so so much, and he should know about it, even if—even if it wasn’t something David ever got to do to him. “You,” he said, closing his eyes more tightly than he had all evening, “you can stroke it, or—or press it, and it—it builds. It builds, and it can be—um. It can be really um . . .”

“Good?”

“Intense.”

“This is intense,” Patrick breathed. His hair was pressed into David’s shoulder blade; Patrick had to be looking down at where David’s fingers were pushed inside himself. “It’s so intense for me. It’s watching you . . .” Patrick’s voice croaked. “You have no idea what you’re doing to me.”

“Mm-hm.” David had his eyes closed, concentrating on that hot feeling building inside, working its way toward his dick. “Is it good?”

“David.” Hot breath brushed David’s shoulder blade. “You know I’m going to think of this every time I touch myself—you know that, right? I’ll never not think of this. How you look right now.”

“How—how do I look?”

“On a scale of one to ten?” Patrick’s voice felt like it dropped an octave. “Hundred and nineteen.”

“Nineteen?”

“A hundred and nineteen.”

“But why—nineteen?”

There was a little pause. “Fuck yourself harder, David,” Patrick said, moving his head so his voice could be in David’s ear, and David might have lost his mind just a little bit. He was at the point now where the drool was hard to contain, and he really was going to hump the mattress. He wanted to fuck; he needed to fuck, but he wanted Patrick to see him use his ass to get there, how big it could be, how good it could be. That hot feeling was growing, making his dick ache. “Stroke it harder.” Patrick’s voice was still so low, husky in David’s ear. “If you’ve got a sweet spot, I wanna see you use it.”

David gasped, rather too loudly, sparks inside him shooting up his dick; David needed to fuck, and then Patrick’s warm arm was over David’s. A greasy hand wrapped around David’s cock, and David let out another loud sound, a sharp uh of surprise as he jerked into Patrick’s hand.

“David,” Patrick said, and then he didn’t do anything else, his hand warm and wet around David’s cock. “What do you want?”

“Don’t—don’t tease me,” David said, his insides still liquid from if you’ve got a sweet spot, use it.

“I’m not teasing you.” Patrick voice was low and hot. “I love hearing what you want.” Then he said it again, as though he thought David might not have heard the first time. “I love it when you tell me what you want.”

“Fuck me.” David hated saying it; he thought it sounded pathetic and so obvious; he thought that he asked for that a lot, but he couldn’t help it. He could help it. “Please, I want you. I want you.”

“Like this?” Patrick asked, starting a slow stroke of his hand up David’s dick, and feeling was building from David’s fingers inside, an electric connection to his dick, and now that someone was finally touching it, he realized he could come; he was close. He was so close; he just needed it harder, just a little harder.

“Harder,” David almost slurred. His mouth was still too wet. He swallowed. “I need—I need it. Patrick.”

“Good,” Patrick said. “David, that’s so good. What else?”

“That’s it. That’s it; I just need . . .” David arched into Patrick’s hand, then back onto his own; fuck, it wasn’t very easy doing it like this, trying to get it from either end with one hip on the bed. It was easier on his hand and knees.

“Go for it,” Patrick whispered. “Come on.”

For Patrick to get his hand on David’s dick he’d moved a little closer, and now David could feel Patrick’s cock brushing the back David’s hand, the hand David was using to fuck himself. David wanted to hump back into that too, just to feel it, even though Patrick was mostly soft—he had to be soft; David had just sucked him; he could still taste come in his mouth if he tried, fuck. Fuck. Patrick’s cock. Patrick’s cock against his hand as David used it to fuck himself, and Patrick’s hand on his cock; it was good from both sides, both sides. David was whining, whining loudly; he could hear himself; it was humiliating.

“David,” Patrick whispered, and then his hand slid off David’s cock.

“No, please, please—”

“I just want to,” Patrick said, and then his hand was on David’s balls—okay; it was okay, but it was brushing past, and under, toward David’s fingers—

David cried out. He was very loud, and Patrick’s wet finger was touching David’s rim—just touching from the front where David’s fingers were inside himself from the back and David was sensitive there, so much more sensitive than he had realized, stretched as he was to take his own fingers. He was so stretched; Patrick could feel how stretched he was to take himself; Patrick could feel David’s own fingers inside himself.

David was making more noises, noises as he pressed against that spot, fucking himself, needing something for his cock so, so badly but not wanting Patrick to stop that gentle brush of his finger, damn; damn, it was too much, and Patrick’s soft cock was still brushing David’s hand from the back. It was more than David could take; it was more than he could take—

“Come,” David gasped. “Patrick, I need to come, right now; I need it right now—now now now, give it to me—”

“All right,” Patrick whispered, then his hand moved away from David’s rim, brushing his balls, grabbing David’s cock, which he stroked in one long firm pull.

Give it to me,” David said, thrusting into Patrick’s hand. “Right now. Now, give it, Patrick, Patrick—”

“All right, beautiful, do it.” Then Patrick sank his teeth into David’s shoulder, pulled on David’s cock again, hard, and David came; he came so fucking hard.

David made a really undignified sound; he wished he couldn’t remember how it sounded. His fingers were inside himself pressing that spot and it kept making him come, and come, and Patrick had given him so much all at once—Patrick touching his rim and biting and calling him beautiful, the feel of his cock on David’s hand; it was too much. David was still making mortifying sounds as he hurtled through orgasm, hips rocking as he shot come into Patrick’s wet hand. It was too much.

Then David was slowing and Patrick wasn’t biting him anymore. His arm was around him and he was saying in David’s ear, “Good, thank you. That was so good, thank you so much; you were so beautiful, thank you, thank you,” and then he was kissing him—David’s ear, his neck, his hair. “Thank you for letting me see; I needed that. I never knew how much I needed that.”

I didn’t know I needed it either, David wanted to say, but it sounded stupid, so he didn’t.

Besides, if he’d said something, Patrick might stop, and now he was saying, “Beautiful, I think you’re beautiful; you’re so beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like that; it was so good for me. I’ve never—thank you. Thank you, David, please don’t cry.”

“I’m not crying,” David said.

“Hon.” Patrick kissed the corner of David’s eye.

Fuck.

Fuck, David had been going out with this guy for two weeks; why was David like this? Why did he do this? Why was he like this? Just because Patrick was nicer than everyone else and said things like you’re beautiful. Patrick probably said that to all the girls he fucked. And so what if he did? It wasn’t fair to make less of it just because David made entirely too much of everything.

“I liked watching you,” Patrick whispered, his lips still on David’s face. “I’m so glad I got to watch you. I can’t believe I got to see that, thank you.”

“I’m not crying,” David said again.

“Mm-hm,” Patrick said, pushing on him, trying to turn him over, except David would have to take his fingers out of himself for that, and then where would he put them; he didn’t want to get them on Patrick.

“All right, I’m totally crying,” David said, even though he wasn’t any more. “I just—I haven’t done that. In a while. I mean I totally have, but it was—” alone. He couldn’t say that; it was too pathetic. “It’s just been a while.”

Patrick didn’t say anything, and David felt so stupid. His fingers were still in himself, and he didn’t know how to get them out in a way that wouldn’t call attention to them and make him look even more ridiculous.

“What about Jake?” Patrick finally said.

David’s whole brain had to rearrange to understand that question. “What about him?” he said, actually kind of trying to look over his shoulder, even though the last thing he wanted to do was look at someone, ever, while he was in this position.

“I mean,” said Patrick. “I assume you did stuff. With Jake.”

“I don’t care about Jake!”

“Oh.” Patrick sounded entirely different, then, which made David realized he’d squeezed his eyes shut, but he could feel Patrick’s smile as Patrick leaned in to kiss the side of David’s face again. “All right, then,” Patrick said, sounding oddly pleased. “That makes it different.”

He kissed him on the side of the face and kept kissing him, and David eased his fingers out then, while Patrick was distracted. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been; David’s ass was stretched, but not wrecked, though he still didn’t know where to put his fingers.

“Let me clean you,” Patrick said.

“What?” David said, aghast.

“I wanna take care of you,” he whispered in David’s ear.

“I’m . . .” David could feel tears spring behind his eyes again. “What?”

Smiling, Patrick kissed him, a swift peck on the mouth. “I said, I don’t like you to be dirty. Stay there.”

“But . . .” The word was about the weakest protest David had ever lodged, because I wanna take care of you was echoing in his brain over and over, like a series of thunderclaps, and Patrick was already getting off the bed.

I wanna take care of you. The worst situations David had ever found himself in were all a result of some variation on I wanna take care of you, because he wanted that so very badly that when they said that; he trusted them, and then they didn’t. Sometimes that was because they wanted to exploit him in some way, but sometimes it was just—David was a lot to take care of; he was a lot, and besides, he was thirty-five; he didn’t need—he wasn’t falling for that any more. He had his own store.

It was Patrick’s store too.

Fuck.

Then Patrick was back with a wet hand towel—two hand towels, actually, and—and—and Stevie’s hand soap; Patrick was really going to clean him. Patrick sat on the bed with his towels, reaching for David’s hand with the wet cloth—so he wouldn’t have to touch it, David thought, so it was okay, except then Patrick pumped soap into it and put both of his hands on David’s. David tried to pull his hand away. “I was just—you shouldn’t—”

“It’s anti-bacterial,” Patrick said, as if that mattered, rubbing the soap in.

“Why are you doing this?” David’s voice was barely an undertone, but Patrick just shrugged.

“I like it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I like you.” Patrick switched to the wet cloth, wiping it over David’s hand. It was really wet, which David guessed was the reason for the other cloth; it was really dry. Stevie was going to have to wash all her linens. She was used to it, David guessed. Was it really that different than working for a motel? Yes. They were bad guests.

But why do you like me? David desperately wanted to ask. “I didn’t like Jake,” he blurted instead.

“Yeah.” Patrick slapped the wet towel down on his naked thigh, then picked up the dry one to dry David’s hand. “I shouldn’t have said that. I was just—it makes me nervous. Sometimes.”

“What?” Threesomes? David wanted to ask, desperately curious about the fact that Patrick thought about threesomes enough to be nervous about them.

“The fact that you’ve—I’m afraid I’ll bore you.”

“What?”

Patrick stopped drying David’s hand. “I'm gonna rinse off your dick.”

David took a giant breath to say something, only he didn’t know what to say; he was remembering wanting to live in Stevie’s mattress, only he couldn’t. Patrick couldn’t rinse off his dick if David lived in Stevie’s mattress, or if he sank through the floor, or at least crawled under the bed for comfort, or had his flesh eaten off by slugs, all of which I’m gonna rinse off your dick made sound kind of appealing, because David wanted that far, far too much. Who said that. Who went around saying that. I’m gonna rinse off your dick, but then David had his answer because Patrick was doing it, just as matter-of-factly as he’d said it, wiping it with his wet cloth like a pro.

Closing his mouth, closing his eyes, David turned his face away. He couldn’t look. He couldn’t look at Patrick taking care of him. What if this got weird? Nice things always got weird. What if Patrick liked like—diapers? Or something? David would do it. He didn’t like diapers. He didn’t like anything like that. He’d do it if Patrick wanted it, fuck. Patrick could tell him to suck on one of those pacifiers David used to wear like jewelry in tenth grade; David would do it.

This was very, very bad.

“This okay?” Patrick said, David’s cock clean now of precome and lube, red and partially hard, possibly because he was still winding down from orgasm, and Patrick wiping at it had confused it, poor thing. You shouldn’t do that to dicks; it wasn’t fair to them.

“Mm-hm.” David nodded tightly.

“Good.” Patrick leaned in to kiss David's mouth, then pressed on his hip. “Turn over.”

“That won’t be necessary.” David’s voice was so soft it was barely there at all.

“Just a little,” Patrick said. “It’s Stevie’s bed.”

David was still on his side, but he did what Patrick wanted, twisting down into the bed to give Patrick more of his ass—dreading it, feeling humiliated, and yet wanting it so so much that he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Then Patrick was there, a few wet swipes over David’s ass—it wasn’t intimate, actually. It was really like Patrick was just trying to clean off any of the lube from David’s fingers that had gotten on the outside of David’s ass and lower thighs, so it wouldn’t get on Stevie’s bed. Patrick didn’t go inside, or anything like that, and then it was done, over too quickly and not quickly enough.

David loved getting his hair done. He loved manicures and pedicures. He even loved being waxed, because these things were necessities, and he could make excuses for wanting to be touched without admitting he wanted to be touched. Massages were borderline, because the purpose of them was to get touched, so really you went in asking for it. David was into personal maintenance of his own body by other people only if he could pretend it wasn’t because something was wrong with him.

“Feel good?” Patrick said, kissing David’s temple and pulling him back onto his side.

“Mm-hm,” David said again, still tight. Was this borderline? It felt borderline.

“Good.” Then Patrick was doing something with the hand towels—dropping them on the floor, then getting into bed beside David. Patrick wasn’t very big, but he was tall enough that he could almost match up to David, lying along-side him in the bed, and that was exactly what Patrick was doing—spooning, oh God. Patrick fit himself against David, David’s back to Patrick’s front, Patrick’s arm pushing away David’s so it could fit over David’s hip, Patrick’s face settling in the crook of David’s neck. “How’s that?” Patrick asked.

“Good,” David said tensely, because it was perfect. Everything about it was perfect; he wanted it too much.

“Are you sure?” Patrick asked, but didn’t let go. “What’s wrong?”

David said the first thing he could think of that wasn’t you make me feel so good that I’m scared, which was, “If Alexis has a baby, I’ll have to take care of it.”

“There’s always wolves.” Patrick kissed David’s neck. “They could take care of it.”

“I’m being serious.”

“I thought you were serious about wolves. You told that Polka Fest woman there were wolves.”

“The Polka Fest woman is going to die.”

“You worry a lot.” Patrick’s knee nudged against the back of David’s. “Lift up your leg.”

David lifted his leg, and Patrick’s knee was immediately nudging between David’s knees, moving up, wedging Patrick’s thigh between David’s thighs, like they were interlocking pieces of some kind. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it was really, really hot. “You like being between my legs,” David said in an undertone.

“Yeah.” Patrick kissed David’s neck again. “Is that a problem?”

Patrick didn’t sound like he thought it was a problem, and confidence had been one of the first things David had noticed about Patrick. It did squirmy things to David’s insides, especially since in his experience, even if confidence was a turn-on, confident people were assholes—except it was so obvious that Patrick was not an asshole. It was a contradiction, a contradiction David liked more than he cared to admit, except it wasn’t a contradiction at all, because when Patrick was scared, he admitted it. Sometimes David still thought about that confession in the car after that first kiss, about the gentle thing that had blossomed in his heart, and he feared that he couldn’t keep it safe, that he wouldn’t help it grow, that he couldn’t give it light. David wanted to give it light.

“It’s not a problem,” David whispered.

“There will be people to help her,” Patrick said, his hand settling on David’s hip.

“Help who?”

Patrick smiled against his neck. “Alexis.”

David had forgotten they were talking about Alexis. Patrick was very distracting. “Don’t count on my parents.”

There was a pause. “Okay.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” David said sharply. “Sure, they’re smart and talented and beautiful, but they have no idea how to raise children.”

“David.” Patrick’s hand was rubbing a circle into David’s hip. “I wasn’t saying you should count on your parents. If you don’t feel you can, don’t count on them. Not all parents are good.” He kissed David’s shoulder.

“I never said they weren’t good,” David said, even more sharply. “My mother is—” He cut himself off. He didn’t know why he was talking to Patrick about his parents. He didn’t talk to people about his parents, not like this.

“I just meant there are a lot of people in this community.” Patrick’s rubbing was very soothing, though probably he didn’t know that David’s hips were erogenous zones. “Everyone’s been so supportive—just look at the store. Lots of people know you and your family; lots of people care. Alexis wouldn’t be on her own, and you wouldn’t be either.”

I’m always on my own, David wanted to say, but though it had been true all of his life, it didn’t quite feel true now, because there was Stevie. And Mom and Dad had always cared; that had never been a problem, and Alexis—well. Alexis was in Beirut or Taipei or Nairobi, pick one.

“Why did you say you think I’d get bored of you?” David asked, staring straight ahead now, at Stevie’s surprisingly tasteful little lamp, if you liked bohemian clutter.

“Huh.” Patrick kissed him some more, like he thought that would distract him.

David tried to twist to face him, except Patrick’s leg hiked up so high between his own was kind of locking him down in such a hot, delicious way that he couldn’t really twist much besides his neck. “Why did you say it?”

Patrick smiled. “Well, I know you love spreadsheets, so that wouldn’t be why I’d say something like that. Finances turn you on, so probably not that either. And business plans, they’re so fun—look at yours! So intricate, so involved—”

“You’re trying to distract me.”

Patrick huffed a laugh against David’s neck, Patrick’s thigh between David’s legs working up and down a bit, so David could feel it against his balls. “I would never try to distract you,” Patrick murmured.

“No.” David pulled away from him—he actually pulled away, and he liked spooning so much; he liked Patrick’s leg between his so much, but this was more important. Suddenly, he thought this was extremely important. “No,” David said again, extracting himself completely and turning over in the bed to face Patrick. “Why are you doing this? You think I—what, I’ll get bored of you because I—because you like spreadsheets?”

“Come on. You think spreadsheets are hot now?”

“They could be hot.”

“Uh-huh,” Patrick said, laughing at him. “Tell me about a hot spreadsheet. What’s on it?”

“It’s a sex spreadsheet,” David said instantly. “With every sex act, and you rank how much you like it or think you like it, and then you rank it again after you do it with me.”

“What do I do with the delta?”

“Is that an airline,” David said, because he didn’t like math.

Patrick laughed some more, probably thinking he’d successfully put David off, when nothing could be further from the truth.

“You think I’d get bored of you because of spreadsheets?” David demanded.

“Well, and I know how you love baseball.”

“Baseball is great. At first base, you kiss, and at second, you take off your shirt, and at third, someone’s genitals get touched, and home base is penetration.”

Patrick’s suppressed smile was actually a grin and so, so fond. “I’ve never actually had someone break it down for me.”

“It has nothing to do with real life,” David went on. “In real life you can score at third base. Over and over again; you can score really hard. You don’t ever have to go home to win the whole game—you know that, right? Sometimes you can win better at third than you ever can at home.”

“I don’t know,” Patrick teased. “I’m a very thorough person. I like to have my bases covered.”

David took a breath. “Do you think I’m shallow?”

“What?” Patrick sounded shocked.

“You really think I’ll get bored of you because you—because you’re . . . because we have slightly different interests?”

Slightly different.” Patrick snorted. “Did you know I like hockey, too?”

“I’m not joking around!”

“Huh.”

“Don’t ‘huh’ me!”

“Hm.”

“Oh my God!” David flopped down on the bed. I’m annoying floated through his brain, and he remembered Patrick saying it, but David had thought that Patrick meant just—in a funny way, not that you couldn’t actually speak seriously to him when you needed to. Why was Patrick doing this, except David knew why. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did, possibly because it was something he himself would do. I’m afraid you’ll get bored, Patrick had said, but he must not have meant to say it. It was a confession that was too real. Patrick was afraid, and he was trying to get out of it.

“What are your thoughts on crosswords?” Patrick’s voice was still teasing, but now David could hear the edge in it. “And sudoku? I like those too. I even liked the word jumble, back when I used to get newspapers.”

David closed his eyes. “You’re too young for newspapers.”

“That’s right,” Patrick went on. “I’m a baby. How could we possibly connect, when we’re from two different generations? Separated by decades. You are the era of Cito Gaston; I am the era of Joe Torre. I wish I could be the era of Cito Gaston. Did you know Bogaerts is on a hitting streak? Twenty-five games.”

David thought about this for a while, about all the things that he could say. He didn’t know how to fix it. “Can we go back to spooning?” he said at last.

“You’re the one that got out of it,” Patrick pointed out.

David got on his side again. “Because you were being . . .”

“Yes?” Patrick asked, but his arm was already sliding over David’s hip again, nudging David’s closer, his leg pushing back between David’s.

“I need a thesaurus,” David mumbled, because he didn’t want to tell Patrick he was annoying, even though he was.

Patrick’s nose moved back to David’s neck, practically burrowing there. A minute passed, Patrick breathing in the crook of David’s neck, his hand gradually beginning its slow stroke on David’s hip. This time his hand went down, gripping David’s ass, upper thigh, squeezing, then releasing, over and over again.

Patrick liked David’s thighs.

“You’re not shallow,” Patrick whispered, after a long, warm minute of nothing but this heady, naked touching. “You’re deep. Like Lake Superior.”

“I’m superior to Lake Superior,” David agreed.

They should talk more about this. They should talk about what Patrick was so afraid of, but then David would probably say things he was afraid of, because David was like that; he was good not talking about things until other people talked about them, and then he opened far too wide. Lock it up, Patrick had said.

“Um,” David said, not knowing how to ask what he wanted to ask, but knowing he wanted to change the subject. “So are you—can you score three times in a night? Is that something you can do?”

Patrick smiled against his neck. “Are you sure you want to keep using the baseball metaphor?”

“I don’t know hockey well enough to talk about touchdowns.”

That earned a huffed laugh from Patrick. “I don’t think I could go again tonight, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Oh, thank God, David thought, because honestly, he was kind of wiped. He could have fucked, if Patrick wanted to; he could’ve done anything Patrick wanted, but he probably wouldn’t have gotten much from it. Maybe some other time, when he felt less anxious about whether Patrick would keep liking him and about how he was going to disown Alexis and about Jake and about Stevie’s linens and about everything—maybe then, David could’ve gotten it up again. Hell knew he’d done it before; he could really go, if he got into it, but he didn’t want to now.

This was nice. Being in Patrick’s arms was nice. Patrick was still doing that thing where he was stroking David’s hip, down to his thigh, occasionally squeezing handfuls of ass, as though he liked how much of it there was. Patrick liked David’s thighs, David thought again. He was beginning to believe it.

“But I can,” Patrick said, and David realized he’d kind of zoned out.

“Hm?”

“Three times,” Patrick said. “I could.”

“Hm.”

“I already did.”

David yanked himself away, his legs still tangled with Patrick’s. “Tonight?” David demanded, extracting himself the rest of the way so he could turn over and look at Patrick.

Patrick smiled, but it was half a fake one, and the part that was real was shy. He wasn’t quite looking at David. “I thought I might—do it too quickly,” Patrick said. “Like that first time.”

David suddenly felt choked, his voice rasping against his still raw throat. “I thought our first time was great.”

Patrick lifted his eyes to him then, and they were so affectionate, the smile on his face turning so real, that David had to believe him when Patrick said, “So did I.”

“Oh. That’s good. Then.”

Patrick’s gaze swept down again, his long pretty lashes hiding his eyes. “I think,” he said, sounding like it was taking effort to speak, and David wanted to tell him he didn’t have to, except he really wanted to hear what Patrick had to say. “I think you have to understand that I—I’m kind of . . . I can just be kind of . . . I like to plan things because I like to succeed. I—I like it when things go my way. I . . . I really wanted things to go my way. Tonight.”

“Did they?” David asked, too breathlessly excited to see the danger in this question. I like it when things go my way was making his dick think maybe he had a third score in him after all.

“David.” Patrick lifted his gaze again, smile folding over his mouth. “You hit it out of the park.”

“But I don’t know anything about golf,” David complained.

Patrick’s grin split wide open, and then he was trying to kiss David but he was smiling too hard to do it, really, and David was kind of distracted.

After work, they’d mutually agreed they’d go home separately and then meet at Stevie’s later. David had just assumed Patrick was going along with what David wanted, though what David had wanted was to shave his ass and give himself an enema. David had assumed that all Patrick had done was eat dinner and change into that ugly sweater, answering Ray’s questions about his half-hickey, but no. Patrick had gone home and given himself an orgasm, because Patrick liked it when things went his way.

“You brought condoms,” David said, almost accusatorily.

Patrick flushed, but his hand took David’s—it was David’s other hand, the one he hadn’t put inside himself—and started playing with it.

“You knew I was going to suck you off?”

Patrick twisted one of David’s rings. “I knew I was going to ask you.”

The thing with its claws on David’s heart squeezed tight and then expanded. He didn’t know why the thought that Patrick had planned the details of this night made him feel this way. “Did you bring—discount hand lotion?”

“No.”

“So you didn’t plan—”

“Oh, I definitely did.” Patrick’s eyes flicked up again. “I planned on you bringing lube.”

“But how did you know I would?”

Patrick looked down, playing with David’s rings again. “I thought if you didn’t, it would maybe mean you—didn’t want the things I wanted. The way I wanted them.”

David sucked in a breath. “So, it was a test?”

“No. I’m never testing you. None of this is a test.”

I’m testing you all the time, David wanted to say, because this was how things just spilled out of him, but he managed to keep it to himself. “But you thought I might bring lube.”

“I like to think I know you a little bit,” Patrick said. “I thought maybe you—planned things too.”

“What did you think I planned?” David asked, so breathless that his voice was hushed.

“What did I plan on you planning?” Patrick smiled, finally meeting David’s eyes again. “That’s a little much, even for me.”

“I like you,” David said, still breathless. “I think you’re really”—but he’d trapped himself. He couldn’t think of what to say because he didn’t fully understand this feeling in his chest. “Cute,” he finally settled on.

“Yep, that’s what every guy wants to hear,” Patrick said, but he was swallowing a laugh.

I want to hear it.”

“Well damn, what a surprise.”

“I think it’s hot when you cuss,” David blurted.

Patrick bit down hard on a smile, but his eyes were smiling so, so hard. “Do you,” he said, but it wasn’t a question. “Are there other words you want me to say?”

Call me a slut, call my ass a cunt, tell me I’m a come-hungry whore, except David didn’t want any of those things. They were kind of hot, and he could get off to them, but he’d never really wanted any of those things. He didn’t ever want any of those things, David was realizing just now. He wanted Patrick. “No,” David said softly.

“Right,” Patrick said, disbelieving but also laughing. Patrick leaned in for a kiss on David’s temple, his cheek, trailing down toward David’s mouth with happy, warm, sunny kisses. Patrick’s hand found David’s hip again, stroking down, squeezing, coming back up. “What about you?” Patrick murmured. “Did you want to go for round three?” His hand came off David’s hip to lightly brush David’s cock, and David jerked away.

“Don’t do that,” David said in response to Patrick’s startled look. “You’ll confuse it.”

Patrick’s whole face made a smile that he subsequently tried to hide.

“It doesn’t know what’s best for it,” David snapped, because Patrick was laughing at him.

Best for it?”

“I don’t want it to decide things.”

“Okay.” Patrick looked as though he was trying and failing to look more serious. “You need to stop talking about it like that.”

“Why?”

“Because I thought your dick was kind of hot, but if you keep it up I’m just going to think it’s funny.”

Kind of hot,” David said, affronted.

“Really? Is that where we’re going with this now?” Patrick asked, but his hand went back to where it belonged, which was on David’s hip.

“Is what where we’re going with what now?”

“I’ll put the hotness of your cock on a spreadsheet,” Patrick said, leaning in to kiss him.

“But what—” are the titles of the columns, David needed to know, but Patrick was kissing him, and David hadn’t realized it until then, but David was laughing. He remembered what Patrick said, about not having laughed so much before.

Patrick kept kissing him, hand still stroking David’s hip randomly, almost mindlessly, like Patrick wasn’t thinking about it at all, like touching David was a compulsion. That was great. David had always wanted to be someone’s compulsion. Doctor Winshaw had said that was unhealthy. “Okay,” Patrick said finally, giving him one more kiss. “I told you what I planned. What did you plan?”

“Did you tell me what you planned?” David said, tilting his head. “I more recall you enacted the plans, without telling me the plans.”

“Oh, you mean they were bad plans?” Patrick asked, knowingly.

“No,” David whispered. “They were really excellent.”

Patrick tugged on David’s hip. “So? What did you plan?”

Maybe if David didn’t answer, he’d get another tug, and that was a good plan, because it worked. Patrick even did it harder the second time, and for a moment David had some heady visions of being forced by the hips and bent over a table. David didn’t even know if he wanted to be bent over a table. Well, of course he did; that was really hot, but he’d been bent over tables before and it was never as hot as you imagined. God, Patrick bending him over a table though. Patrick shoving him around, Patrick forcing David onto his hands and knees, grabbing him by the hips to shove him onto Patrick’s cock; had Patrick ever done that to any girls? David guessed they were smaller, with the way Patrick acted; Patrick was probably able to drag their whole bodies onto his cock; David wanted his whole body to be dragged onto Patrick’s cock.

“Do you think you’ll make me uncomfortable?” Patrick asked, his hand slipping off David’s hip.

Don’t you dare take your hand off me, David wanted to scream, and he closed his whole face to prevent it, and to prevent himself from saying other things, things about being bent over tables and called a slut and dragged around by force, so many other things.

“I won’t be,” Patrick said. “Uncomfortable. Unless you wanted to do something with Jake.”

“Can we please not talk about him?” David said tightly. “I didn’t like it.”

“No, David.” Patrick moved closer, his arm wrapping around David’s hip, now, his lips on David’s neck. “No, we don’t have to talk about him.”

“I wanted it to be nice,” David whispered. “Tonight. That was my plan, all of it. I wanted to be prepared for whatever you—I brought four different kinds of lube, and I took a shower, and I—I just—in case you wanted . . . anything. I didn’t plan anything. I just wanted it to be nice. I wanted it to be a good time.”

“Oh.” Patrick’s breath skated across David’s cheek to his ear. “How is that going? Are you having a good time?”

David nodded—then, even though he didn’t want to say it, added, “If you keep doing that with your hand.”

“Doing what?” Patrick asked, but he obviously knew, because his hand was on David’s hip again, and David did not want to explain that that slow stroking from hip to thigh made him feel gorgeous; it made him feel gorgeous. He didn’t know why.

“Are you having a good time?” David asked before he could stop himself.

“I already said you hit it out of the park.”

“Yes, but could you say it—without the baseball?”

“I thought it was golf.”

David could hear Patrick’s smile, but he couldn’t see it; his eyes were still closed too tightly. He bit down on his lip.

“Don’t let this go to your head,” Patrick said, so quietly that David opened his eyes after all. Patrick’s own eyes were cast down again. “This is—it’s the best time I’ve ever had. With sex. You’re the best I’ve ever had.”

David started to smile.

“You’re letting it go to your head,” Patrick accused.

“Can’t I just . . . appreciate a compliment?”

Patrick snorted softly. “I’m not sure you’ve ever appreciated a compliment in your life.”

“Okay, but you are currently depreciating the compliment you just gave me.”

“Aw.” Patrick made a pitying face. “If you allocated funds for that depreciation over the life of the compliment, your expense reports will look more profitable.”

“You’re trying to make me think you’re less cute,” David said, putting his hand on the back of Patrick’s neck, pulling him in. “It’s not working,” David breathed against his mouth, and then he kissed him.

Kissing Patrick was fun. Patrick wasn’t ever lazy about it; he didn’t ever let himself lie there and be kissed. If David had been a really aggressive kisser, maybe he wouldn’t like it quite so much, but he was the opposite. Sometimes Patrick even seemed like he wanted to let David take charge; he’d open his mouth and encourage David’s tongue in, but after a minute or two of that, it was like he couldn’t help it; his tongue was inevitably pushing against David’s, forcing him back, and David loved it. He loved it; he loved that Patrick tried to be a nice, polite little kisser, but was too fucking hungry for him not to try to devour him. David wanted to be devoured; he wanted it even more than he wanted to devour.

“I could kiss you all night,” Patrick said, coming up for air.

“I’m very kissable,” David agreed.

Patrick’s hand came up, his thumb stroking David’s lower lip. “Your mouth,” Patrick said, but that was all he said, and he kissed him again.

David pulled away. “What?”

“Nothing.” Patrick kissed him again. “I like it.”

David opened his mouth to say something about this, but Patrick’s hand tugged on David’s hip, hard, as Patrick rolled onto his back on the bed. “I want you on top of me,” Patrick murmured, and okay, David was on board; he was very on board with this, keeping one hip and one shoulder on the bed to hold his weight, but otherwise sprawling over Patrick. Patrick’s hand slid over David’s ass to David’s upper thigh, where Patrick tugged again until David threw one leg over both of Patrick’s, like Patrick seemed to want. “Yeah,” Patrick breathed, “that’s good,” and then he kissed him again.

Patrick kept kissing him, but now his hand moved up David’s thigh to his ass, ghosting over the place it was spread for David’s open legs, and David jerked against him. Patrick’s fingers touched him more firmly, pushing between David's legs to feel the way David’s ass flowed into his thigh; oh God, Patrick’s fingers were between David’s glutes, and David couldn’t help it; his hips rocked.

“Sure you don’t want to score?” Patrick breathed.

You didn’t tell me you were going to play with my ass, David wanted to say, but instead he said weakly, “Um.”

Patrick’s hand squeezed David’s ass cheek, fingers still touching between them, and David swallowed a moan. Patrick tugged. “Get up on me,” Patrick said.

David’s voice was under his breath, so soft he could barely hear it himself. “I don’t want to crush you.”

“You won’t,” Patrick said. “Just don’t lie right on me.”

But David had to lie on him a little to get over him enough to put a forearm on either side of him and lift himself up with said forearms, but Patrick didn’t seem to mind. “Good,” Patrick said, once David was on top, and then Patrick kissed him, his other hand coming to join the first, hands pushing between cheeks into David’s cleft.

David’s hole was still lube-y and a little stretched from earlier, but Patrick wasn’t quite touching it, just feeling between David’s glutes, kind of tugging them apart, but David couldn’t tell if it was greasy in there, if Patrick was feeling any of the lube from before. Maybe he’d gotten David clean enough, but even the idea that it was still dirty was turning David on. All of it was turning David on, and Patrick’s hands were squeezing and releasing, feeling that sensitive skin of David’s upper inner thighs where they met ass.

Patrick’s mouth moved to David's ear, nipping sharply on David’s earlobe, which caused David to gasp and jerk on top of him. “What about the word ‘ass’?” Patrick asked.

“Um.” David arched again, up into Patrick’s hands. “It’s—it’s good.”

“Not as good as cock?”

“I really like the ‘k’,” David said. “It has a good hard ‘k’.”

“Oh.” Patrick let go of David’s cheek, but now his finger slowly tracing up David’s crack, finger just pushing between. “I didn’t know you fetishized particular consonants.”

“It’s . . . not a fetish.” David expelled a breath, finally dealing with the fact that maybe he wanted to come after all. He actually didn’t particularly want to; he’d really have to work for it and he really was tired, but what if Patrick worked him; Patrick could work him as hard as he wanted.

“I’m making a list,” Patrick said. “Of everything you like.” His hands moved higher on David’s ass, now, fingers again pushing between David’s ass cheeks, spreading them just to spread them, squeezing them. “They’ll get ranked,” Patrick said. “I’ll put them on a spreadsheet.”

David made a whimpering sound, hips involuntarily rocking once again.

“You like that?” Patrick breathed.

David didn’t know whether Patrick meant what he was doing with his hands or what he was saying, but David liked both; he liked both. He nodded helplessly.

“Good.” Patrick kissed him. “I’ll put it on the spreadsheet.”

“Will I—can I see it?”

“The spreadsheet?” Patrick pulled David’s glutes apart, squeezing hard, then scratching.

David let out a desperate whine. He wanted—he didn’t know what he wanted; if he really had to come again, he’d prefer it not to be voluntary. He’d prefer Patrick make him, tie him up and hurt him and distract him from the effort of it, because this was too much. David had given too much tonight, more than he cared to give, but Patrick could take anything he wanted from him. He could take anything he wanted, and it would be so much better if Patrick hurt him when he did it.

“You can see it,” Patrick said. His hands spread flat on David’s ass, rubbing a bit. “Do you want to come again?”

David hesitated. Then, unable to stop himself, he closed his eyes and nodded.

“Good. Come on.” Patrick’s hand came up under him to shove at David’s chest, pushing David to the bed onto his back. “Stay there,” Patrick said, turning away to the nightstand.

David was worried about coming again, about it taking a really long time, about it being a pleasant experience for Patrick if David couldn’t get there, but he couldn’t say anything about it because stay there was echoing in his head, and he wanted it too bad. Patrick came back with lube, getting it on David’s half-hard cock. David wasn’t sure how long his cock had been that way; maybe it hadn’t ever really gone down completely since he’d come the last time; this was going to be difficult. It was going to be really difficult. He shouldn’t do it; he should tell Patrick to stop. David watched as Patrick spread the lube on David’s cock, getting him good and wet.

“Just lie back,” Patrick said, his warm hand circling David’s dick. “I want to do it for you.”

“All right,” David whispered.

Patrick’s hand started with long, slow pulls. He was getting better at it already, letting go to rearrange his wrist less often, and David kept his eyes closed to concentrate on it, concentrate on the build of it; oh God, he was never going to come. He was never going to come; it felt so good. It was so good, warm. Nice. It was nice. He could fall asleep like this. God, wouldn’t that be awful, falling asleep while Patrick did him; Patrick would think he’d done something wrong; he was so—so new and innocent; he’d probably never fallen asleep while someone was jacking him.

Patrick kept doing it, harder now, his hand moving up and down David’s length, pausing at the tip sometimes to touch the slit, squeeze the head. David tried to concentrate on the feel of him, letting go of his mind to be in his body.

The hand came off. “Can we,” Patrick said, but then didn’t finish, pulling on David’s shoulder, situating himself beside David. “On your side,” Patrick told him; Patrick wanted to do it to him while spooning. That was a good way to do it; the angle was more like doing it to yourself, and David did it, getting on his side. Patrick pushed up behind him, and David could feel Patrick’s cock against his ass, still mostly soft. David still wasn’t all the way hard, but Patrick’s hand was back on him, stroking more roughly now. “That good?” Patrick asked.

“Yes,” David said, because it was. It hurt just enough, because David’s cock was tired, and Patrick’s cock was reassuring on his ass, Patrick’s arm around him to stroke him. It was really comfortable, and David still kind of wanted to go to sleep.

“Doing so great, David,” Patrick said, his knee nudging once more between David’s legs.

By now familiar with what Patrick wanted, David lifted his leg, Patrick’s knee easing between them, thigh lifting up between David’s until David could feel it against his balls, and yeah, that was good. He might be able to come like this. Or sleep. Either would be nice. “Good,” Patrick whispered in his ear. “So good. You’re doing perfect.”

“Oh.” David jerked up into Patrick’s hand; it was an accident.

Perfect. David was perfect. His cock was stiffening the rest of the way.

Oh God. David didn’t think he was going to be able to come. It felt so good. He was perfect.

Patrick’s hips rocked into him, pressing his dick harder up against David’s ass, Patrick’s thigh rubbing against David’s balls. Patrick’s lips were at the spot below David’s ear. “Yeah, like that,” Patrick breathed. “That’s perfect.”

“I might not . . .” David swallowed hard. “I might not be able to come. I’m sorry; I thought I could; I just . . .”

“Don’t be sorry.” Pausing, Patrick squeezed his cock. “Do you want to try?”

David nodded his head vigorously. “I just might not be able to.”

“Does it feel good?”

David opened his eyes. “What?”

“Does it feel good, what I’m doing to you?”

“Yes, I’m just . . .”

“I just want to make you feel good,” Patrick said. “That’s all I want. It’s okay if you don’t come. Stop me if I hurt you.”

You’re not hurting me enough, David wanted to say, but he didn’t.

Patrick had started again, long, slightly rough strokes. “I really like doing this. I never—it makes me feel . . .” Patrick nuzzled against David’s neck, his voice husky and warm. “It makes me feel so good. I feel so good, doing this for you.”

David back arched, pushing his ass against Patrick. “Well,” David said. “I guess if you like it.”

“Yeah.” Patrick nipped David’s neck. “Do you want to put your hands on those bars like you were before?”

“What?”

Patrick was moving again, pushing David back on the bed, which meant David lost the feeling of Patrick’s cock against his ass, but he really liked Patrick pushing him around, and then Patrick said, “Put your hands above your head.”

Why should I? David’s heart was quite suddenly racing, but he was terrified that Patrick wouldn’t say, Because I said so, so David forced himself to obey without making someone else force him, which was a feat. He got his hands above his head, then found the bars Patrick was talking about. Stevie had an open-frame headboard of wrought iron bars, painted white; they were perfect. David didn’t remember holding them before, but he must have done it. When had he done it?

“Hold onto them,” Patrick said, still stroking him, and David made himself do it—slowly, but he made himself. He was going to come after all, if Patrick kept this up. “Good,” Patrick said, and David squeezed his eyes closed. Fuck, he really might come. “I just want to see you,” Patrick said, kissing him. “I want to watch you.”

“Mm-hm,” David said tightly.

“Is that all right?” Patrick pulled on David’s cock.

“Please,” David whispered. “Please.”

Patrick kissed him again, but David could feel his smile. “Good,” Patrick said, lips against David’s mouth while he kept working David’s cock. “Good, that’s so good; I like watching you so much.”

“I want you to.” David couldn’t tell if he was saying it loud enough to be heard. “I want you to.”

“Stretch out.” Hand leaving David’s cock, Patrick yanked on David’s hips, pulling him down on the bed. He must want David’s arms less bent above his head, and David was impressed that Patrick could drag him like that; that was a lot of man, but Patrick’s back didn’t break or anything. His hand was back on David’s cock, and David was already replaying it for himself—stretch out, getting dragged down on the bed, arching hotly under Patrick’s hand. Hold onto them; I want to watch you.

“That’s right,” Patrick told him. “That’s right. I wish you could see you. I’m gonna get that mirror.”

But where would you put it? David didn’t ask; people didn’t like questions like that during sex.

“I’d make you watch yourself,” Patrick said. “I’d make you see how hot you are.”

David threw his head back, tugging on the bars and moaning; he couldn’t help it; he couldn’t help it; it was everything—the idea that Patrick would make him, the idea of seeing himself—which would be humiliating, the fact that Patrick said he was hot, the heat and pressure and friction of Patrick’s hand on his dick. Fuck, David really was going to come. He was going to do it.

“That’s right,” Patrick said again. “Do you feel good?”

“Mm-hm.” David nodded energetically.

“Good,” Patrick said. “Good. David.” Patrick sounded like he was panting a little. “I really like fucking you.”

“Oh,” David said, jerking again into Patrick’s hand. He didn’t know why those words affected him so, but he could listen to Patrick say the word ‘fuck’ all day long. It had a ‘k’ as well.

“It’s so good,” Patrick said, then leaned in and got his mouth on David’s nipple. He wasn’t very nice about it either, teeth scraping while his hand still jacked David’s cock.

“Oh,” David whined. “Fuck.”

Then Patrick’s teeth were closing on it, and David humped wildly, his ah a loud, undignified sound, and then Patrick let him go and did it again. David could hear himself while Patrick did it, licking and sucking and biting David’s nipple; it was a series of sharp ah, ah, ah’s that was too high-pitched and embarrassing to hear, but David couldn’t control it. He was losing his mind; he couldn’t control it. “Patrick,” he said, and it was too loud, too plaintive.

“You like that?” Patrick said, switching to David’s other nipple.

“Mm!”

“Good.” Patrick sucked on it, mouth working on David’s nipple while his hand still worked on David’s cock.

It was almost enough. It was almost enough.

“What are you doing?” Patrick lifted his head, and David’s hand started away from his shoulder guiltily. He’d been digging his fingernail into that bite mark; he hadn’t even known he was doing it until Patrick saw.

“David,” Patrick breathed, reaching up for the marks his teeth had made. “Let me do that.” His voice was so gentle. “Put your hand back up there. Tell me what you want—I’ll do it for you.”

David couldn’t breathe, and Patrick pressed blunt fingernails into it, right into where his teeth had broken David’s skin. David couldn’t breathe.

“Keep your hands up there,” Patrick murmured. “Let me do everything for you.”

Almost mechanically, David’s hand went up to reach the bar of the bedframe again; he couldn’t help it, not when Patrick was talking to him that way, but he still couldn’t breathe; his breath was catching over and over; he might be hyperventilating.

“Shh,” said Patrick. “Let me.” He pressed in hard, until David could feel it hurting, and he made a strained sound, throwing his head back, closing his eyes, gritting his teeth against a groan. “Like that?” Patrick asked. He pressed in with his nails again. “David?”

“Yes,” David gasped. “Yes, Patrick, yes, please. Please.”

“Good,” Patrick whispered. “I like making you feel good.” His hand stayed on the bite mark, but his mouth went back to David’s nipple, and Patrick’s other hand was still stroking David’s cock.

“I’m going to.” David jerked under him. “I’m going to.”

Patrick’s mouth came off David’s nipple. “All right,” he said, then took his hand off the bite mark. Then his other hand let go of David’s cock, and Patrick wasn’t touching him any more at all.

“What?” David said, jerking in confusion, hands loosening on the bars of Stevie’s headboard. “Wh-what are you doing?”

Patrick moved up, partially over him, Patrick’s mouth kissing David’s temple, his ear. “The other thing you said,” he murmured. “Over the phone.”

“What?” Slowly, David brought his arms down.

“You said I could get you there and stop you,” Patrick said. “You said I could make you beg.”

“But why would I say that?”

“I don’t know,” Patrick said, kissing David’s ear again, his jaw. “But you shouldn’t give me permission for things you don’t want me to do.”

“I don’t remember.”

“But I do.”

“I’m never talking to you on the phone again,” David said, feeling very petulant.

“Good thing that was over text.” Patrick’s voice was still that hoarse little murmur, which was doing things to David’s insides, awful things. Terrible things. It shouldn’t get to do anything! David had been about to come! “If you don’t want me to do it, I won’t do it,” Patrick went on.

“You’re not doing anything right now,” David complained.

“Oh,” Patrick said softly, right in his ear. “Did you want me to do something?”

“That’s not funny.”

“I wasn’t trying to be funny.” Patrick’s hand came back down, slowly circling David’s cock, causing David’s hips to buck.

David bit his lip.

“Is this what you want?” Patrick whispered.

David thought about continuing to complain, but Patrick had gotten him really close, and David wanted it too much. “Mm-hm,” he said tightly, nodding his head.

“All right.” Patrcik’s hot, wet hand fisted lazily up David’s cock, then back down. “It’s just, I haven’t heard you ask for it.”

“For what?” David opened his eyes.

“For this.” Patrick did it again.

“But you’re hardly doing anything!”

“I was doing a lot.”

“But you stopped!”

“I haven’t heard you ask for more.” Patrick tugged the shell of David’s ear with his teeth, but it was very gentle.

“You haven’t told me to ask for more,” David pointed out.

“Oh, is that how this is supposed to go?” Patrick sounded amused.

“It’s not up to me.”

“Huh.” Patrick’s hand kept moving on him, still too slow. What if his wrist was sore? “All right, David,” Patrick said again. “Ask for more.”

You’re not doing this right! Going back to almost ground zero was not the way to get someone to beg you, especially someone who didn’t want to beg you in the first place, except—Patrick, poor thing, had heard David say he wanted Patrick to make him beg, and Patrick had thought it meant David wanted to beg him. That was probably how good, healthy people had sex, and the thing in David’s chest unfurled further to reveal even more tender parts inside.

I like hearing what you want, Patrick had said.

“Please,” David said, swallowing the lump in his throat. He was going to have to be fucking sincere, which he hated a lot. “I really want—more.”

“Like this?” Patrick sped up, his hand rougher on David’s cock.

“Mm-hm, yep.”

“David.” Patrick huffed a laugh..

David was patronizing him, and it wasn’t Patrick’s fault he didn’t know how to make someone beg properly; dirty talk was kind of an art; dominance was a skill, and Patrick was trying. He was trying really hard, and David liked him. He liked him so, so much, and he still wanted Patrick to have a good time, even if that meant David had to do things he didn’t like to do, such as ask for sex things without proper prompting. “And you,” David said, “can you—can I have . . . where you bit me, can you—touch me?”

“Yes,” Patrick said, then got his hand on there and pressed his nail in, like before.

David flinched against it, making a little sound, and Patrick held onto it even when David flinched; it hurt very nicely. “Great,” David said breathlessly, and he wasn’t even trying to be patronizing. “Now can I have—I can I have—your mouth . . .” David stopped to breathe, because honestly he was getting there again, Patrick’s hand on his cock, his other hand hurting him; it was really very good.

“My mouth,” Patrick said, and David couldn’t help it, his eyes flicked up to it.

Patrick’s mouth was still the most perfect thing, thin pink lips parted, slightly, in concentration, his brow knit. He was looking at David, and David felt everything under his skin go twice as hot as before. Patrick was focused, on him, on this; David’s heart felt too big, too big.

“My mouth,” Patrick reminded him again, and David wanted to cry kiss me!, but what if it didn’t get him there, and Patrick’s poor wrist, his intent little forehead, his perfect little mouth; David really, really wanted him to succeed.

“Um, I—can you, my chest, can you with your mouth, please just . . .”

Patrick huffed another laugh. “Like I was before?”

David nodded quickly. “Uh-huh.”

“Okay,” said Patrick. “I’m sorry I stopped you.”

That was wrong; David had made him feel bad about it, but Patrick’s mouth was back at David’s nipple—the other one now. It was exactly what Patrick had been doing before he stopped, and it was exactly what David needed. He gasped, arching into it. “Please,” David said raggedly, “please,” because he really didn’t want Patrick to stop again, and hey, that was basically begging.

“Say more,” Patrick said, coming up, but not lifting his head, hot breath against David’s chest, and David immediately complied.

“Don’t stop,” David said. “Keep fucking me. Keep fucking me.”

Patrick didn’t stop, biting and sucking with his mouth and pressing in with his hand and working David’s cock with his other hand; it was almost enough, but David tried to think about what Patrick wanted, what Patrick had said he wanted. “Please, it feels so good,” David said so Patrick could hear it. “I want it, I want it, I want you, please don’t stop.”

Patrick’s teeth locked around David’s nipple and it hurt; it hurt really good, and David kind of squealed; he didn’t mean to. “Yes,” he gasped afterwards, “please, Patrick, please, fuck—fuck my brains out; I want to come for you. Make me come for you.”

“I’m trying,” Patrick grunted.

“I’m close,” David gasped. “I’m close, please don’t stop.”

“Come on, you're almost there. Give me just a little more, baby. Just a little more.” Patrick’s hand left David’s cock, but David’s strangled wail of disappointment was cut off by a sharp tug on his balls, Patrick’s hand reaching under them.

Fuck, was he going to—

Then Patrick was scratching him there, David’s cheeks, his hole, his perineum.

“Fuck!” David writhed, and Patrick did it again, and David choked out, “I’m going to—I need—I need—I need you—”

“I’ve got you,” Patrick said, and his hand was back on David’s dick, jerking hard, Patrick’s teeth on David’s nipple, and David was arching off the bed.

“Patrick,” he moaned as he came, and it hurt. He’d known that it would hurt; he shouldn’t have said that he could come again, but he was. He was, and it was amazing torture, exhausting. He was already exhausted and he wasn’t done coming.

“Jesus,” Patrick was saying, no longer holding his dick. “God, that was incredible; you were incredible. I’ve never—you were—so amazing, doing that for me, thank you. Thank you.”

“Mmph.” David’s hips were slowing, the pain easing away. He felt so completely empty, scraped clean of everything inside; it was all on the outside, where he was filthy, and yet he felt too exhausted to care. His eyes closed. Maybe he was already asleep. At least he didn’t cry this time.

“You can take your arms down,” David heard Patrick say, from what seemed to be very far away. David didn’t know what it meant, but warm skin was on his wrists, tugging. Oh, right. Having his arms down would be more comfortable, and David eased them down.

“You’re so beautiful,” said a warm voice. A warm mouth was kissing him. Patrick. David should probably open his eyes. “You were perfect.”

David couldn’t open his eyes, but he did kind of hum in agreement to show Patrick he was there. He agreed. He was perfect.

“I’ll work on getting you to beg.” A warm body cuddled up close to his; it was nice, all that skin. So nice. “I realize now that I didn’t do it right.”

David hummed again.

“Practice makes perfect, right?” A warm, heavy weight landed over David’s chest—Patrick’s arm, pulling him in closer.

“Mm,” David roused himself enough to say. “Don’t say that about sex.”

“Practice makes perfect?” Patrick sounded surprised. “David, you said that about sex.”

“Didn’t.”

“Yes, you did.”

“Mm-mm.”

“You did,” said Patrick.

“Don’t have to practice.”

“That’s too bad.” Patrick’s lips found David’s neck, the spot under his ear.

“Mm.”

“You don’t know me well enough yet,” Patrick breathed. “I practice everything.”

David was falling asleep, so he didn’t realize which words were coming out of his mouth. “Already perfect,” he said.

“Stay here.” Patrick kissed him, but then the warmth and the cuddling was gone, and David groaned in protest. He should get under the covers. He wanted to be under the covers. He didn’t want to move. Also, he was naked and filthy. He never went to sleep naked and filthy. Except all those times when he had.

“. . . clean you up,” someone was saying, and David could feel Patrick with his wet cloth, firm wet swipes over David’s body, his poor, utterly spent dick. Then the comforter under him was getting tugged, and David didn’t want to move.

“. . . get you in,” someone else was saying, or maybe the same person. David had only been fucked by one person tonight. One person, three times, the same person, the same smirking teasing pretty pretty clean-mouthed smart funny sexy person. “Yes, I know, David,” the voice said, his voice, David’s person’s voice, warm and amused, and the comforter was still being tugged.

“What did I say?” David said, finally moving enough for Patrick to get the comforter out from under him and turn the sheets back.

“That you’re tired,” said Patrick. “Let me tuck you in.”

Rustling and cool sheets and his head on a pillow, a warm body beside, snuggling up to him, the soft brush of fabric. David rolled on his side, so Patrick could be closer, if he wanted. Patrick must have wanted, because he immediately did, lining up behind David, slinging an arm around him. “I’ve never had this,” David said.

“Never?” Patrick said, a little skeptically.

I’ve never had anyone like you, David was thinking, but he fell asleep before he could say it, thank God.