David Rose did not consider himself to be a master of many things—he was more of a dabbler in most areas of his life—but aside from swimming, his one true skill was zoning out during Ronnie’s post-swim pep talks while still giving the unmistakable appearance of being an attentive participant in the conversation.
Just now, he was vaguely aware of Ronnie gesticulating with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm than was necessarily warranted and could tell she was leading up to the grand finale of her little coaching session, but David’s mind was firmly focused on the soothing bath he was going to draw as soon as he got home. Everybody from his family to friends to past lovers had commented on David’s love for baths being odd—didn’t he spend enough time submerged in water?—but every time the subject came up, David took it as an opportunity to launch into his favorite soapbox rant regarding how the temperature of the water and the attire one wore while in the water (or lack thereof in the case of bathing) altered the experience immensely, making it unfair and a waste of time to compare swimming to soaking in a luxurious tub.
He’d use the last of his lavender bath salts this evening, he decided. He’d been saving them for a special occasion, and since today’s practice had been brutal and Ronnie had been blathering on for at least twenty minutes longer than she normally did, he felt that this was the perfect opportunity.
David was picturing it now: the delicate scent of lavender calming his senses, warm water engulfing him, gentle music humming in the background, a rare glass of wine balanced on the edge of the tub when he was suddenly ripped out of his nearly catatonic state by the end of one of Ronnie’s sentences.
“...and Patrick Brewer.”
His night of relaxation no longer on the brain, David straightened up from where he was slouched on the chair across from Ronnie. “Um, excuse me, what did you just say?”
Ronnie sighed the weary, knowing sigh of a person who had been, to put it delicately, putting up with David’s shit since he was a gangly teen. “David, were you fantasizing about your damn bathtub again? I can tell when you zone out, you know. You’re not as subtle as you think.”
Well, damn. Apparently the allusion of attentiveness wasn’t as solid of a skill as he’d thought. He’d have to work on that.
David huffed. “Okay, fine. Yes. Sorry,” he said, only somewhat petulantly. “What were you saying about”—he scowled in preparation for spitting out the name—”Patrick Brewer.”
Ronnie rolled her eyes at him. “You’ve got to get over your stupid grudge, Rose,” she said, rubbing her temples. “Especially because—as I already told you—you will be swimming the 4 x 200 relay on his team in Tokyo.”
David leapt out of his chair, hackles raised and rearing for a fight. “Excuse me, no I am NOT,” he exclaimed. “For one, I don’t even swim the 200 anymore! I haven’t competed in a 200 in like two years. And second, I will not under any circumstances be on a team with Patrick Brewer. It’s not going to happen, Ronnie.”
“David,” Ronnie said, her voice unusually patient and taking on the tone one would use when explaining to a toddler why he isn’t allowed to color on the walls with a permanent marker, “Again, as I already explained, Jake Ellsworth went and broke his leg and won’t be competing. We need a fourth swimmer to round out the relay team, and that swimmer is going to be you.”
“But I don’t swim the 200!” David repeated, willing himself to believe that his protest would be effective this time. “Don’t they have an alternate?”
“Jake was the alternate,” Ronnie said. “Remember that creepy, twitchy blond kid ... Eric something?”
“Eric Weaver,” David supplied flatly.
“Yeah, that’s the one. He was originally the fourth member of the team, but then he got arrested for some shady pyramid scheme shit and Jake took his place. Now Jake is incapacitated, the Olympics are in a week, and Swimming Canada is scrambling to find somebody to fill in. Gwen Currie called me earlier today and asked if you could do it since you’re only competing in two other events this year and you’ve done the 200 in the past, and I said yes. Despite the revolving fourth man, the team is a favorite to win this year, you know. You could add another medal to your collection.”
David scoffed. “Nobody even cares about team medals, Ronnie. Especially team medals you might win by working with Patrick fucking Brewer. So you can respectfully tell Gwen Currie from Swimming Canada to fuck right off.” He crossed his arms tightly across his chest and fixed her with what he hoped was a firm glare.
Ronnie shook her head. “David, I’ve been your coach for over fifteen years. I helped shape you into the swimmer you are today. I’ve been by your side through every triumph and failure. I spend more time with you than anybody else on the planet, parents and sister included.”
“Not exactly a high bar to clear,” David muttered.
“So,” Ronnie continued as though she hadn’t heard David’s gripe, “I think I of all people have earned the right to tell you to fucking get over yourself and swim the damn 4 x 200 with Patrick fucking Brewer.”
David just gaped at Ronnie. True, Ronnie had never been one to mince words or make any attempt to spare David’s feelings, but something—probably the buckets of money that found their way into her bank account courtesy of David’s parents—had always held her back from berating David so directly. David suspected the fact that their professional relationship was nearing its end might have loosened her tongue a bit. Neither of them had openly acknowledged it, but they both knew the Tokyo Olympics would be David’s last. He was in his early thirties now, and while he obviously wasn’t eligible for senior discounts yet, he didn’t have much left in him to compete against increasingly strong and fast eighteen year olds.
David knew he was no Michael Phelps, but he’d managed to secure a few bronzes and a couple silvers in past Olympic games and a singular gold from World’s. Nobody was making calendars of him or anything—to his knowledge at least—or lauding him as a superathlete who has changed swimming as the world knows it, but in those few quiet moments when he let go of all his self-deprecation and doubt, he could admit to himself—but obviously never to anybody else—that he was proud of his accomplishments.
David heaved a deep sigh, reluctantly admitting to himself that swimming the 4 x 200 as a little swan song wouldn’t be the worst way to end his swimming career, even if that meant having to interact with Patrick Brewer. “I know you already told me,” he said, anticipating Ronnie’s next jab, “but who else would I be swimming with?”
Ronnie smiled, knowing she’d won him over. “It’s a great lineup, David, really. Patrick Brewer, as you already know, plus Ted Mullins and, god help him if this is really the name his mama gave him, Mutt Schitt.”
David nodded absently. He’d never really interacted with Ted or Mutt much outside of the occasional pleasantries at competitions or press events or what have you, but they seemed reasonable enough people, despite the fact that blond-haired, jovial Ted was one of the aforementioned young swimmers whose face was plastered on calendars. He was a few years older than eighteen, David would give him that, but he was still solidly in the prime of his career with several good years stretching ahead of him. Mutt, David had noticed, tended to keep to himself, not interacting with the rest of Team Canada when he could help it, and that was just fine with David. Ideal, really.
“Okay. Fine.” David was ready for this conversation to be over pronto, and his mind turned back to his bath.
“Good. Tomorrow we’ll hone in on the 200. I know you haven’t competed at that distance in a while, but you’ve still been swimming it in practice consistently. I don’t think you’ll have any issues getting back into the swing of things.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“Nope. Go home and enjoy your bath, Rose.”
The thing was, David couldn’t pinpoint exactly why he hated Patrick Brewer. There was no impetus, really, no inciting event that pitted the two against each other. True, David thought Patrick had been a little standoffish upon meeting for the first time, but even he could admit that wasn’t necessarily a valid reason to fuel a decade-long dislike for another person.
Despite the lack or origin or, okay fine, logic to it, it was just a consistent fact in David’s life for nearly as long as he could remember: He did NOT like Patrick Brewer. He could count on that as surely as he could count on his father missing meets because he was too wrapped up in work or his mother taking one too many sleeping pills to be functional for any major event in David’s life or Alexis calling him from the cell phone of a Cambodian war lord demanding that David immediately send her last season’s Gucci sunglasses and a nail gun, because those items would somehow thwart a military coup and win the freedom of this girl she met while at a sauna in Amsterdam.
David and Patrick had qualified for the national team at the same time, so it would be easy to write David’s dislike off as simple rivalry. But that wasn’t even accurate, because this upcoming relay—in which they’d literally be working as a team—would be the first time they’d competed in the same events. David stuck to the 50 and 100 freestyle and occasionally the 100 backstroke. Patrick, on the other hand, preferred longer events, with the exception of the 200 freestyle, which was both his favorite and his best event.
So it wasn’t as simple as two men competing for the same spots on the national team or for qualification in the same event. There was just … something about Patrick that wormed its way under David’s skin and made it prickle uncomfortably whenever they had to share a space. Even looking at Patrick or saying his name was enough to make David’s stomach clench a little. The air just felt so charged when he and Patrick Brewer were near one another, and David did not like it one bit.
Besides, David was nearly certain that if people were to peel back the layers of farm fresh charm and sheepish modesty that Patrick swathed himself in, there’d be something darker, nastier lurking beneath. He had absolutely no proof of this, but refused to believe that anybody—especially somebody who had spent the majority of his life in professional sports—was that damn good and wholesome all the fucking time. It just wasn’t possible, and David found the way that Patrick’s facade insisted that such wholesomeness was a possibility to be nothing short of infuriating.
Sometimes when David saw televised interviews with Patrick (which was often, as Patrick was a favorite face of Canadian swimming due to his—completely fake, in David’s opinion—pleasant demeanor and cheerful optimism), David had this overwhelming urge to just get up in Patrick’s face and do … something. He wasn’t sure what, but he was pretty sure if would involve some sort of physical contact. Shake him, maybe. But for sure something.
Ronnie and David’s best friend, Stevie, had both spent literal years in futile attempts to convince David to let go of his grudge, but David’s dislike for Patrick was as much of a part of David as the designer sweaters he favored when not in swimwear or official team gear. Stevie had even had the audacity to suggest that David, you know, stop watching all those interviews with Patrick, to which David had tersely responded that hate watching Patrick charming the socks off some up and coming sports reporter was “vital to maintaining the appropriate flow of energy necessary for daily function.” Stevie had just raised her eyebrow, fixing David with one of her patented unreadable looks.
So the moral of the story, really, was that David hated Patrick, and not even swimming a relay with him at the last Olympic Games of David’s career was going to change that.
David thought he would weep with relief upon finally arriving at the Olympic Village. Between delayed flights and obnoxious passengers surrounding him on the plane, David was fed up, exhausted, and desperately in need of a nap. Ronnie had immediately abandoned David to go check out the training facilities and ensure that David had been given a fair training schedule, and since Stevie wasn’t set to arrive until the next day, David was completely alone. Sure, he could seek out other Canadian athletes, but despite being on the national team for so many years, David found that he didn’t have any real friends, aside from Stevie.
Over the years, various athletes had been among the many people who had feigned interest in relationships with David, platonic or romantic, that in the end all turned out to be hollow attempts to take advantage of David’s wealth or connections. Apparently even elite athletes with all their fame and endorsements and talent were seduced by the irresistible draw of the benefits of being associated with a Rose. They never cared about David. Not really. They just wanted to be invited to parties or be gifted expensive things or use David as a stepping stone to get close to Alexis, the more desirable Rose sibling.
At first, David hadn’t cared that much that people were only interested in getting to know him because of his name and healthy bank account. After a lonely childhood spent feeling isolated and alone, being sought after felt thrilling and novel. But as the years went by, and so-called friends and lovers habitually mistreated David before casting him aside for something brighter and shinier, David began to impose self-isolation and only interact with teammates when it was absolutely necessary. He spent his time training, competing, hanging out with Stevie, taking a ridiculous amount of long baths, and doing very little else.
It was a lonely existence, there was no way around that, but David had accepted that he had two options: be used for his wealth and connections or be alone. With the exception of Stevie, he saw no room for another option in which people actually wanted to spend time with him for who he was and not what he had. He was sick and tired of being pushed around by vapid, greedy people looking for more fame or visibility, so he chose loneliness and worked hard to convince himself every day that he didn’t yearn for somebody to connect to, who understood him.
Shaking his head—it must have been the lack of sleep that had David dwelling on his life of relative isolation—he found the admin building, got himself checked in, and, key in hand, headed for the minuscule room he’d be living in for the next few weeks.
Naturally, his building was the furthest from the admin building, and David was ready to just drop to the floor and fall asleep by the time he found it. Lugging his bags, he wandered the halls of the first floor until he found his room, unlocked the door, and froze when it swung open.
There, sitting on the bed furthest from the door was Patrick Brewer, clad in a pair of grey sweatpants and a tight Swimming Canada t-shirt. He looked up from the book he was reading when the door banged against the wall. “Oh. Hi, David,” he said, a little timidly.
David just stood there blinking for a moment, before entering the room and closing the door behind him. He dropped his bags just inside the threshold, unable to bear the thought of carrying them a few feet to the bed that he supposed would be his. “Did you know?”
“Know what?” Patrick’s brow furrowed and he slid a bookmark in to mark his place and set the book on the bed. He was reading Anna Karenina, because of fucking course he was.
“That we were going to be roommates.”
“Oh, yeah,” Patrick said slowly, as though he were afraid of David’s reaction to his answer. “Jocelyn mentioned it to me.”
“My coach,” Patrick said, even though he was fairly certain that David knew exactly who Jocelyn was.
So this meant that Ronnie probably knew about their rooming arrangements and had conveniently failed to mention it to David. They would be having words about this.
“Look,” Patrick said when David didn’t respond, “can we just put whatever issues you have with me aside and make this as painless as possible? I really don’t want to be distracted by unnecessary drama, and I’m sure you don’t either.”
David huffed, picking up his bags and entering the room properly. He dropped his bags beside the bed before collapsing onto it. “Fine,” he said tersely. “But just so you know, I require at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep in total darkness and complete silence, so don’t even think about stumbling into the room at 2 a.m. after partying all night with the Russian wrestlers or whatever.”
David swore that Patrick’s mouth twitched a little in amusement, but it must have been a trick of the light, because in no world would Patrick Brewer find something he’d said to be funny.
“Okay, David,” he said mildly. “I promise I won’t party with the Russian wrestlers.”
David jerked his head in a rough approximation of a nod and wiggled out of the sweater he was wearing, leaving him in a t-shirt and a pair of very confusing, very expensive, and very comfortable sweatpants. “I need to take a nap before my first training slot,” David stated, a bit rudely if he were being honest with himself, surprised to even care that he was being rude to Patrick fucking Brewer.
“Does that require total darkness and complete silence?” Patrick’s tone was teasing, but David had to admit that it was lighthearted and lacking any malice.
“It would be helpful, yes,” David said snippily.
Ever affable, Patrick just shrugged and got off his bed. “I was going to go have lunch with Ted anyway,” he said, shoving his feet into a pair of sneakers and walking to the door.
David, who had already slid under the covers and was pulling a sleeping mask over his eyes made a vague noise of acknowledgement.
“Have a good nap, David,” Patrick said, flicking off the light. “And good luck training later.”
David was finishing up his last set of chest rows when Ronnie suddenly appeared in his line of sight and beckoned to him. He racked his weights and crossed the room to her, wiping the sweat on his forehead with the hem of his t-shirt.
“Hello, Benedict,” he said waspishly, following her out of the strength training room and down the hall toward the locker room where he’d suit up for his swim.
“Benedict Arnold. Traitor in the American Revolutionary War?”
Ronnie sighed. “What have I done this time?”
“Would it have killed you to have given me a heads up that I was going to be sharing a room with Patrick fucking Brewer? Or better yet, requested that I get put with somebody I haven’t had a decade-long feud with?”
“David,” Ronnie said as patiently as she could, “I’m your coach, not your social coordinator. And I’ve told you a thousand times that you need to let whatever this hang up with Brewer is go already. He’s a nice guy, honestly, and it’s not doing you any good to be so uptight about it.”
“I am not uptight,” David said stiffly. “And I don’t have a hang up with Brewer. I just don’t like him, and I would prefer to not have to spend my downtime five feet away from him.”
Ronnie winced a little, and David recognized the look on her face as the one she had before delivering bad news.
“Fuck, what now, Ronnie?”
“It appears there was a bit of a … scheduling mix-up for training slots in the pool.”
“And what does that mean?” David’s voice was sharp.
“Well, they double booked the pool for this session.”
“Meaning that you’ll be sharing the pool.” She saw the alarmed expression on David’s face. He was intensely rigid about his training regimen and the thing that made him lose focus the most was sharing the pool with another athlete. She hurried on. “Just for this session, David. I’ve already talked to—”
David cut her off. “Let me guess: Gwen Currie from Swimming Canada?”
Ronnie looked sheepish. “Well, yes. She apologized profusely and assured me that the training schedules for the duration of the games are correct and there’s no overlap.”
“Gwen Currie has earned herself a spot quite near the top of my shit list,” he said darkly. They were outside the locker rooms now, and David leaned against the wall looking quite put out. “And who, pray tell,” he said sarcastically, “do I have the honor of sharing the pool with?”
Ronnie looked almost afraid to tell him. “Patrick Brewer,” she said eventually.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me!” David yelled, just as Patrick and his coach rounded the corner. The look on Patrick’s face assured David that he’d heard enough to know that David’s little outburst was about him.
An awkward beat passed as the four of them stood in silence.
“Well hi there, Ronnie,” Jocelyn finally said, her voice pumped with false cheer and enthusiasm. “Bummer about this mix up, huh?” She finished weakly.
David huffed. Loudly. He turned to Ronnie. “I’m just going to go change so we can get this over with.”
“Okay, David,” Ronnie said, only a little exasperated—she was quite used to David’s wildly swinging moods by now. “I’ll see you in there.”
David opened the door to the locker room with perhaps a little more force than necessary and beelined for the locker where he’d stored his things before hitting the weight room. He made record time changing into his suit, and was folding his workout clothes neatly and placing them in the locker when the door opened again and Patrick appeared.
Without a word, Patrick opened his locker and began rifling through the contents. He pulled out what he needed and stripped out of his shirt.
Now David had spent the better part of his professional life around very muscular men in various states of undress, so you’d think that he’d be immune to shirtless men with impressive abs by this point. But he was only human, and even his hatred for Patrick Brewer wasn’t quite strong enough to block out the appreciative “wow” that popped into David’s brain as he admired Patrick’s smooth, strong chest.
A strangled cough escaped him, and he realized he was staring, slammed the locker shut and sped out of the locker room to the pool area.
This training session was, to put it mildly, a fucking waste of time. David couldn’t focus thanks to Patrick splashing about and the gratingly cheerful instruction from Jocelyn. Whereas Ronnie’s coaching style was more in the realm of “Are you sure you know how to swim, Rose? Should I see if I can find you some floaties?”, Jocelyn preferred dumping praise upon Patrick and treating any corrections like tiny little tweaks that hardly mattered.
This, David decided, was probably where Patrick got his big head from. He spent his days training with a coach who thought he walked on water, even as he was immersed in it. No wonder he had an ego the size of the prairie he came from.
“Alright, that’s enough, David. Our time is up,” Ronnie said impatiently. “Let’s just go back to the village, get you something to eat, and then head in early. We have the first training slot in the morning and the opening ceremony is in the evening, so no late night for you.”
David hoisted himself out of the pool and grabbed a towel, scrubbing it over his face. “Fine,” he said shortly, padding back toward the locker room. He stripped and stood under the spray of the shower, wishing he could take a bath instead.
David hadn’t heard Patrick come into the locker room while he took an admittedly long shower, but he must have, as Patrick stepped out of the shower cubicle next to David’s at the same time as David, both of them with towels slung low across their hips.
The dressed in tense silence, backs toward each other. David was slinging his bag over his shoulder and ready to head toward the door when Patrick broke the silence.
“What did I do?” He asked, his voice quiet and almost insecure.
“What do you mean?” David was pretty sure he knew exactly what Patrick meant, but wasn’t willing to delve deeper into the subject unless forced.
“What did I do to make you hate me?” Patrick asked, sounding as though he’d been holding this question in for, well, years. “Seriously, I don’t even know! I’ve racked my brain so many times thinking about anything I could have said or done to offend you, and I can’t come up with a single thing. So, please, David, put me out of my misery and tell me what heinous thing I’ve done to earn your eternal wrath!”
David swallowed nervously, surprised at the intensity and hint of sarcasm in Patrick’s voice. He’d really never heard Patrick be anything but mild and mellow. “Um. Well. I don’t know—it’s complicated.”
“It’s complicated.” Patrick parroted, his voice harder now.
“Yes,” David said quietly.
Heat David had never seen before in Patrick flared in Patrick’s eyes. “So you’re telling me that ‘I don’t know’ and ‘it’s complicated’ is the only explanation you have for treating me like shit all these years? Well, fuck you, David Rose.”
Patrick stormed off toward the door, stopping a few feet from it and whirling around. “You know, despite you being all cold and rude to me all these years, I’ve always thought you were a pretty decent guy. And I guess part of me thought that if we could just actually get to know each other, we could put this behind us and, I don’t know, actually be friends or something?” He scoffed. “Obviously I was wrong, because it’s painfully clear that you’re just a selfish, coldhearted asshole who has a shit ton of money but not an ounce of humanity.”
And then Patrick was gone, and David found himself collapsing onto a bench, feeling as though Patrick had just punched him in the gut.
David pounded on Stevie’s door at the Olympic Village, exasperated that she was taking so fucking long to answer a fucking door. Roughly twelve minutes ago, David had received the text he’d been anxiously waiting for from Stevie saying that she was finally at the Village and in her room. David had immediately demanded her room number. When she’d asked if she could, you know, have a little time to settle in or take a shower after too many hours of travel, David had insisted that his situation was “urgent and dire” and followed up this pronouncement with “Don’t make this into a joke, Stevie Budd.” The mood in his and Patrick’s room the previous evening and this morning was noticeably frosty—though David did acknowledge that Patrick was compliant with David’s list of sleeping demands—and they’d both made a point to steer clear of each other. Now that his training for the day was completed and Stevie was here, he desperately needed to hash the whole mess out.
So here he was, tapping his foot impatiently. He was pretty certain that Stevie was taking her sweet time answering the door just because it amused her to mess with him, and his suspicion was confirmed when she opened the door with a gleeful grin on her face. “Oh sorry, David,” she said. “You were knocking so softly that I didn’t hear it.”
David scowled at her and pushed past her into the small room. “Are we alone?” He asked, his head swiveling around to inspect the room, which was very obviously empty except for himself and Stevie.
“Oh, no, we’re not,” Stevie said, voice full of mock remorse. “I actually brought an entire troupe of contortionists, and they’re all hiding under the bed.”
Another glare was directed her way. “Who’s your roommate?” David asked, sitting on one of the beds.
Stevie sat down on the bed opposite David. “Twyla Sands,” she said. “But she’s not flying in until tomorrow.”
“She’s missing the opening ceremony?”
“Yeah, her cousin’s mother-in-law is having some sort of parole hearing or something today, and she wanted to be there for it? I’m not really sure.”
David wasn’t sure what to do with this information, so he just chose to ignore it. He took a deep breath. “Stevie,” he said, his voice uncharacteristically serious. “Am I a total asshole?”
Stevie snorted. “Yes, David, you are a complete asshole. It’s why we’re friends.”
David’s face seemed to sag a little, and Stevie quickly realized that his question was completely sincere. “David,” she said, choosing her words carefully now, “You are a good guy at heart. I just think that sometimes you … struggle to show that side of you to others. But for the most part, you’re a good person to be around.”
“And by ‘for the most part,’ you mean except for when I’m around Patrick Brewer.” This was a statement, not a question, but David still looked to Stevie for confirmation.
“Um. Well, yes.”
David nodded, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. “Stevie, I don’t even know why I hate him so much,” he said, his voice small and tired.
Stevie appeared to be having an internal debate with herself over what she should say next. Eventually she spoke, her voice quiet and kind. “David, are you sure you actually hate Patrick?”
David furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that you’ve admitted you don’t have a reason for disliking him. And for all your faults—”
David scoffed. “Thanks,” he muttered.
“And for all your faults,” she said, a little louder this time, “you’re not really one to judge unfairly. Except for when it comes to Patrick.”
“Stevie,” David said, rubbing his temples. “I don’t even know what you’re trying to say to me right now.”
“What I’m saying is that I think it’s possible that you are confusing another strong emotion with hatred.” Stevie was more hesitant saying this than David had perhaps ever heard her.
“Another strong emotion.”
David sat quietly for a moment, considering the implication of Stevie’s theory. It’s not like he’d never noticed that Patrick was an objectively attractive guy. He wasn’t blind. And if he was being honest with himself, yesterday was definitely not the first time he’d checked Patrick out. Plus there was that one time Florencia Suarez was flirting with Patrick hardcore and Patrick smiled at Florencia like she hung the damn moon and David felt a tug of displeasure behind his navel. At the time he’d written it off as his normal anti-Patrick stomach swoops, but looking back now, it read as jealousy? Maybe? Just a little?
Still, David was entirely too overwhelmed to consider Stevie’s … alternate possibility too seriously just yet.
“But. Like. Being around him makes my skin crawl and my stomach feel weird. Like I react physically to his presence, Stevie.” He emphasized the word physically as though it provided all the context and information necessary to refute Stevie’s theory.
It was a testament to how good a friend Stevie was underneath all her snark that she managed to keep a smirk from spreading across her face. “David,” she said, slight amusement on her face and in her voice, because damn it, she was a good friend but she wasn’t perfect, “have you ever heard the phrase ‘butterflies in your stomach’?”
“Of course I have,” David said sullenly. “But I fail to see what relevance it has here.”
Stevie rolled her eyes at this, her restraint cracking a tiny bit. “David. C’mon. Think back to the first time you met Patrick. What happened? How did you feel?”
David didn’t have to try too hard to remember—his first time meeting Patrick was just short of seared into his brain. “It was at Trials. We’d both just qualified for the Olympic team for the first time, and I was really curious about him, because I hadn’t really heard of him before. Like because he was from some podunk town in the middle of nowhere and was this dark horse who just came out of nowhere and blew everybody away. I ran into him in the locker room and introduced myself, but he didn’t really seem too interested in talking to me. But he shook my hand when I introduced myself—like honestly what 18-year-old does that?—and, I dunno, I just felt this like energy? I know it sounds stupid, but that’s what it was.”
“Was it bad energy?”
“Yes? No? I don’t know. But, like, I guess I just associate him not being interested in even having a five second conversation with me with the energy, so it seems bad?”
Stevie considered this. “I mean, that makes sense.”
“Yeah, I think so. Like you didn’t have a great first interaction with him, so you associate the physical reaction—and the ones you’ve had after—with negative feelings.” Stevie was quiet a moment. “Do you think Patrick was just really overwhelmed and that’s why he wasn’t more enthusiastic? I mean, he was in a new place and had just qualified for the fucking Olympics and was suddenly thrust into chaos.”
“Yeah, I mean that’s what I thought at the time, but I saw him talking to Mutt and Clayton King like two minutes later, and he was his normal self.”
“Yeah, like all … bright and shiny and glowing.”
“Bright and shiny and glowing,” Stevie repeated pointedly.
“Yes!” David said defensively. “He’s just so damn bright and open. Like he just radiates this cheerful, wholesome vibe that like takes over everything around him and makes it better. You know what I’m talking about! How he’s so mellow and pleasant and … just good. ”
Stevie smiled. “David, it really doesn’t sound like you’re talking about somebody you hate,” she said gently.
“Fuck,” David said. “Just … fuck.”
“Let’s expand that vocabulary, bud.”
David glared at her. “I … don’t think I hate Patrick Brewer.”
“Finally!” Stevie threw her hands into the air. “We have some truth and reason in the room coming from somebody other than me!”
“That was rude and unnecessary,” David sniffed, but he was doing that twisted half-smile he did when he was trying to hide his happiness. He sighed a little. “What do I do now?”
“I think an apology and an honest conversation would be a good place to start.”
David winced. “I was afraid you’d say that. Like … how honest do I have to be?”
Stevie shrugged. “Up to you.”
“Do I have to tell him about all the bright and shiny stuff?”
“Up to you,” Stevie repeated.
“Okay, I think we’ve reached your pinnacle of helpfulness and it’s all downhill from here,” David said, standing up.
“Probably,” Stevie said, laughing a little.
“I’ll let you shower and get settled in and stuff, I guess.”
“I’m a very generous person,” David shot back. “But Stevie? Thank you. Honestly.”
Stevie smiled. “You’re welcome, David.”
David’s hand was on the doorknob when Stevie spoke again. “Oh, and you owe me 200 bucks.”
David whirled around, an eyebrow quirked. “Excuse me?”
“That was some first rate therapy shit,” Stevie said, fully back in messing with David mode. “And therapy ain’t cheap.”
“Oh, fuck off, Stevie,” David said, voice completely devoid of malice.
“Best wishes,” Stevie said as David opened the door.
David and Patrick ended up walking together from the shuttles that had transported all of Team Canada from the opening ceremony back to the Olympic Village. Like, it wasn’t intentional by any means, but they were coming from the same place and going to the same place, so it was inevitable that they’d run into one another at some point. Stevie had been alongside them for a while as they all walked in complete silence, but she peeled away from them to head to her building, giving David a meaningful look as she said good night to both of them.
A lot of the tension of the previous night and the morning had dissipated, but the silence and their proximity was still awkward as hell. Back at the room, Patrick unlocked the door, and David followed him in, still not saying a word.
They quietly changed into pajamas, David ducking into the small bathroom to do so—sure, he found himself naked in front of Patrick in locker rooms loads of times, but it felt too intimate to change in front of him in this setting. He did an abbreviated version of his skincare routine, not wanting to hog the bathroom for too long and then went and got in his bed while Patrick used the restroom.
David was scrolling aimlessly on his phone when Patrick finished in the bathroom and got into his own bed after turning off the light.
The silence felt thicker, more tangible in the dark. David lay motionless, eyes fixed on the ceiling, the urge to say something growing stronger and stronger. He took a deep breath. “Hey, Patrick?”
But just as David spoke, Patrick’s voice came out through the darkness as well. “David?”
They both laughed awkwardly. “You first,” David said.
“I, uh, want to apologize for what I said yesterday in the locker room. It was out of line.”
“No!” David exclaimed, scarcely able to believe what Patrick was saying. “You were right. I’ve been such an asshole to you, and I deserved everything you said.”
“You really didn’t,” Patrick said, his voice low. “Especially what I said about your money and lack of humanity. It was a low blow … I know the money thing is a sore spot for you.”
This was news to David. “Um. You do?”
“Yeah,” Patrick said. “I mean I’ve seen all the people over the years who have tried to be all buddy buddy with you when they were only interested in your money or connections or whatever. It’s total bullshit ... people shouldn’t use each other like that.”
David was deeply grateful for the dark, because he was certain his face was aflame, both from embarrassment that Patrick had noticed and also a little bit from pleasure at Patrick’s obvious distaste for that kind of behavior. “Yeah. It … wasn’t great. I mean, I know that being wealthy is obviously a thing that most people would love, and I shouldn’t complain for having so much privilege, but it’s hard to know if people actually like, you know, who you are instead of what you have. It can be really lonely.” He wasn’t intending to say that last part and was mortified that it had just slipped out.
Patrick didn’t say anything for a beat, and David thought maybe he’d fallen asleep or had decided he didn’t want to engage with David’s word vomit any longer. “It sounds lonely,” he said finally. “And so I’m really sorry to have made a jab at you about it.”
Damn, Patrick was just so fucking good. David could hardly stand it.
“Thank you,” David said. “But honestly, I’m the one who needs to be apologizing. You don’t deserve the way I’ve treated you, and I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I really am sorry. I know it sounds like such a cop out to say that the reasons for my behavior are complicated, but it’s the truth. And to be honest, I’m just barely starting to really understand them myself. I’m doing some introspection and self-evaluation, I guess you could say.” He chuckled self-consciously. “Sorry for rambling and making this about me. The point is that I’m really sorry.”
“Thank you, David,” Patrick said mildly. Another pause. “Um, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but why all the introspection now? Is it because of what I said?”
David was quiet for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. “Yes,” he said simply. “At least partially. I talked to Stevie earlier—I kind of bombarded her the second she got here—and she helped me make sense of things a little.”
“Yeah. She said I owe her 200 bucks for the therapy session.”
Patrick laughed, and it was the first time that he’d ever full out laughed because of something David had said. David squirmed a little, overwhelmed by how happy it made him to be the reason Patrick was laughing. His stomach did that little swooping thing he’d always associated with loathing, but no negative emotions could be involved when Patrick’s laugh was lighting David up inside like this.
“You know what I said in the locker room about how I always hoped we could be friends?”
“Yeah.” Nervous energy bubbled up in David as he waited to hear what Patrick would say next.
“Um. Well, I kind of still hope that.”
David smiled into the darkness. “Would you believe me if I said that I hope so too?”
“An hour ago, I would have said hell no. But yes, I believe you.”
Silence stretched between them, but it was no longer tense, awkward silence. The air felt lighter, as though their metaphorical clearing of the air between them had actually altered the density of the air in the room. Yawning, David rolled onto his side, finally ready to fall asleep. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt so at peace. Having lifted the burden of hating Patrick Brewer—or more accurately convincing himself that he hated Patrick Brewer—left him sated and content. “Goodnight, Patrick.”
David hoisted himself out of the pool, having just easily won his heat for the first round of the 50 meter freestyle. Toweling himself off, he made his way to Ronnie who clapped him on the back. “Don’t know what’s gotten into you today, Rose, but I like it.”
David shrugged. “Just feeling inspired by the spirit of competition, I suppose.”
Ronnie rolled her eyes.
“David!” A voice from behind him called.
David turned and barely suppressed a smile when he saw that it was Patrick.
“You were amazing out there!” Patrick said as he came up beside David and Ronnie.
If David were to describe his reaction, he certainly would not have used the word blush anywhere in the description, but then again, if David were to describe his reaction, it would be completely inaccurate, because he flushed bright red at the praise. “Thanks,” he said, his voice practically a whisper.
“Listen, I gotta get off to a practice session, but just wanted to say congrats!” Patrick smiled widely at David before hurrying off.
Ronnie cleared her throat rather conspicuously. “So. I take it you and Brewer are on better terms.”
“Maybe,” David muttered, having to suppress another smile when last night’s conversation popped into his head.
“And does Brewer have anything to do with your, ahem, invigorated spirit today?”
David grimaced. “I’m not sure exactly what you’re implying, Ronnie, but please pull the brakes on that train of thought.”
Ronnie smirked. “I’ve just been wondering how long it would take for you to admit that you want to bone Brewer, that’s all,” she said casually.
“Ronnie!” David exclaimed. “Pull the brakes!”
“I don’t hear you denying it,” Ronnie teased, her voice sing-songy.
“I am finished with this conversation. I need to go shower and change.”
“Go right ahead, David. Rest up tonight. We’ll do a short session in the morning, and then semi-finals are late afternoon, got it?”
“Yes, Ronnie, this isn’t my first rodeo,” David snapped, already walking toward the locker room.
“Tell Brewer hi from me!” Ronnie yelled after him.
David shot her the bird over his shoulder, but smiled anyway.
I'm sorry for another short chapter, but this was really just the best place to break!
Before you hate me too much, let's just say that the next chapter involves David and Patrick alone in a locker room with a much more favorable result than their last locker room encounter. So you have that to look forward to ;)
Two days later, David was pacing nervously in the ready room, waiting for the finals for the 50 meter freestyle. For some reason, his usual pre-race ritual of listening to Mariah Carey wasn’t doing squat to settle his nerves, especially after having had a less-than-optimal performance in the semi-finals. Sure, it had been enough for him to qualify for the finals, but his time felt like a let down after his spectacular race in the heat round.
Before he felt ready, he and the other swimmers in the finals were ushered out to the pool. Ronnie was hovering by David’s starting block and began to give him a final pep talk that David was only half-listening to as he adjusted his cap and goggles. Though he kept scolding his brain for doing so, he couldn’t help but wonder if Patrick had come to watch him.
Last night he and Patrick had talked for a long time before going to bed, as had become their routine ever since the night they’d both spoken apologies into the darkness. David was learning all sorts of things about Patrick, like the fact that he was allergic to melons and had a bunch of cousins that were more like siblings and that he had an irrational aversion to shoes that were long and pointy but had a squared off toe. He was also learning that Patrick was the perfect mixture of sweet and snarky and that he was so damn attentive when David was speaking and that he made David laugh in a way that nobody ever had before. .
And every single thing her learned about Patrick, every single conversation they had left David wondering how the hell he could have thought he hated this sweet, snarky, hilarious man. Just thinking about Patrick brought a smile to David’s face, though the smile was usually wiped off by the thought that quickly followed: Patrick would never want David that way.
Conversation had eventually turned to David’s race, and he’d been dying to ask Patrick if he’d be coming, but was too insecure to do so. The words were right there on the tip of his tongue, but every time they were about to tumble out, he bit them back. David told himself that the reason he didn’t ask was that their friendship was too new, too fragile and that making such a request of Patrick would crossing a line. But the real reason—the one David could barely admit to himself—was that it would have crushed him if he’d asked and Patrick had said no.
Now, mere minutes before he’d race, he wished he’d been braver. The thought of Patrick being in the stands to cheer him on warmed David a little, and he chose to believe it was true.
Ronnie, having realized that David wasn’t paying her any mind, clapped him on the shoulder. “You got this, Rose.”
David nodded, shaking his limbs out while subtly eyeing his competitors. He’d competed against most of them at some point over his career, but there were a few newbies and wild cards in the mix. Ryan Santiago, a tall, broad American swimmer with a truly enviable wingspan, was the clear favorite to win, and David knew that nothing short of an act of God would enable him to beat Santiago. So even though it defied all sports psychology mumbo jumbo that had been shoved down his throat over the years, he had his eye on silver, not gold. Personally, he thought it was a sign of self-awareness to recognize your limitations, but most people just told him he was a cynical pessimist.
This was what David both loved and hated about competing in short events—here he was spending a decent chunk of time agonizing over this race, when the race from start to finish would take literal seconds. A long lead up followed by a short burst of energy, and then it was all over. Winners announced, losers sulking off to lick their wounds, and everybody refocusing on the next event.
David was sure that there was some analogy or symbolism to be found in this, but he wasn’t exactly sure what it was.
A tone sounded throughout the room, indicating that the swimmers were to get on the starting blocks. David took a deep breath, glanced at Ronnie for one last encouraging thumbs up, and climbed onto the block.
And then the race started and David glided into the water, swimming his hardest, thinking about Patrick the entire time. And just like always, a few seconds later, it was over. Panting, he tread water at the edge of the pool. He pushed his goggles up and glanced at the leaderboard, and smiled.
He’d just won a silver medal.
Ryan Santiago—who, unsurprisingly, had nabbed himself another gold medal—was in the lane next to his, and David turned to him to give him a perfunctory congratulations before hauling himself out of the pool.
Ronnie hurried over to him. “I knew you had it in you, Rose,” she said. “Good work.”
“Thanks,” David said, smiling. He accepted the towel she extended to him and took off his cap and goggles.
“Media time,” Ronnie said, earning herself a sigh from David. He hated nothing more than answering the same inane questions from reporters after a race, but knew that it was part of the job.
Sure enough, the first question out of the overeager young reporter’s mouth was, “So David, how does it feel to earn your second silver medal in the 50 meter freestyle?”
David plastered on his media smile. “It feels great, Rita,” he said genially. “I’ve trained really hard this year, and I’m very pleased with this outcome.”
“Bet a gold wouldn’t have been too shabby either,” she said, a conspiratorial grin on her face.
“Of course that would have been wonderful, but there were some great competitors in the pool today, and like I said, I’m honored to have medaled.”
After a few more questions from other reporters, David finally was able to sneak away. He was ready for a nice long shower followed by some dry clothes.
He was making his way to the locker room when he heard heels clicking behind him much too quickly that he personally thought was safe on the floor so near a pool.
“Oh my god, David!”
David turned. “Alexis? What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you race!” His sister said cheerily, moving like she was going to hug him, but changing her mind at the last second either due to the fact that David was still a bit damp from the pool or the fact that he was half naked or maybe some combination of the two.
“I thought you were in Somalia.”
“What? No, I convinced the Somalian prime minister’s step-son to let me out of his weird sex dungeon weeks ago. All it took were my throwing stars and that antique diamond necklace I got from Mary Kate Olsen’s brother-in-law.”
David blinked rapidly, somewhat distressed at how unsurprising this response was. “Well, I’m glad you’re here,” he said honestly. “Do you know if, um, mom and dad are coming?”
Alexis frowned sympathetically. “I don’t think so, David. Dad is stressing about some big investor meeting and Mom has a guest arc coming up on that weird new show about, like, a small town all-female a capella group or something?”
David tried to tamp down the disappointment that swelled inside of him. He hadn’t expected his parents to show up, not really, but there was always a part of him hoping they’d surprise him. The fact that Alexis spent her time jetting around the world getting tangled up in what can only be described as bizarre international incidents and was still the Rose sibling his parents shared their goings on with was just salt in the wound.
“Well,” David said finally. “They’re busy, I guess.”
The siblings stood in somewhat awkward silence for a beat, before David spoke again. “How long are you going to be around?” He asked, expecting her to tell him that she was flying off to Port-au-Prince in forty-five minutes.
“Until next week!” Alexis said excitedly. “I wanted to see all your events.”
Affection bloomed within David. Sure, Alexis was known for being flighty and self-absorbed, but every now and then she showed that she truly did care.
“Thanks, Alexis,” David said, his voice warm and sincere. “It really means a lot. I’m swimming the 4 x 200 relay this weekend; did I tell you that?” He knew he hadn’t, but it felt appropriate to pretend they’d had enough communication for him to know that she was apparently no longer in a Somalian sex dungeon—he truly couldn’t allow himself to dwell on that—and her to know what events he was competing in.
“No!” she squealed. “That’s exciting, David! You’ve never done a relay before!”
David smiled. “I was … hesitant at first. But I’m excited about it now.”
“Good! I can’t wait. And I want to see Stevie while I’m here!”
“Some of the swim team is going out for sushi tonight. Do you maybe want to come with us?” David asked almost shyly. “Stevie will be there,” he was quick to add, feeling like he needed to give Alexis a reason to come along other than to just hang out with her brother.
“I’d love that,” Alexis told him.
“Cool,” David said. “Um, if you don’t mind, I feel really gross and need a shower.” He gestured in the general direction of the locker room.
“Of course! Text me when you’re done, and we can figure out the rest of the day.”
“Okay,” David agreed, walking to the locker room.
With the exception of two other swimmers who appeared to be nearly ready to leave, David was alone in the room, which pleased him just fine. His conversation with Alexis meant that nearly all his competitors had already come and gone, and the next race at this venue wasn’t for several hours, so nobody was there to get ready to compete.
David stepped into shower, sighing happily as they hot water flowed over him. He just stood there for several long moments, grateful that he didn’t have to swim again until tomorrow and that he had several hours before the medal ceremony. Stevie was swimming in a semi-final race soon, and this would be the first race of hers he’d be able to attend this Olympics, as his own races and training had always conflicted with them. He smiled at the thought of sitting next to Alexis as they cheered Stevie on.
Eventually he dragged himself out of the shower, toweled off, and pulled on some Team Canada gear. He hoisted his bag onto his shoulder and turned the corner to the main part of the locker room, surprised to see Patrick sitting on a bench, apparently waiting for David.
Patrick sprang to his feet when he saw David, a smile on his face. “Congratulations!” He said. “I tried to catch you before you came in, but you were talking to that woman, so I didn’t want to interrupt.”
“My sister,” David said quickly. “I didn’t know she was coming.”
“That’s a nice surprise,” Patrick said, taking a few steps toward David, who dropped his bag to the ground. “You were really great out there,” Patrick said, his voice almost tender.
“Thank you.” David couldn’t force any other words out. The pleasure of knowing that Patrick had come to watch him without David even asking him to made David’s tongue feel thick and useless.
Patrick surprised David then by pulling him into his arms for a tight hug. They’d never had this much—or maybe any—physical contact, and David luxuriated in the feeling of being so close to Patrick. He smelled like a mixture of chlorine and the woodsy body wash that was propped on the shelf in their shower, and David was pretty sure he’d never smelled a scent so alluring.
As much as he didn’t want to, David pulled back enough that he could look Patrick in the eye, their arms still loosely around each other in an embrace that felt achingly familiar and intimate. “Thank you for coming,” David whispered. “It really means a lot.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it,” Patrick said.
Tension built as they maintained eye contact, and David swore that Patrick’s eyes flicked down to David’s lips once or twice. Before he could talk himself out of it, David leaned in, slowly enough that Patrick would have time to pull away if he wanted to, and kissed him gently before moving back to gauge Patrick’s reaction.
Patrick was still for a second, and David began to panic, thinking he’d royally fucked everything up. But just as David tried to pull away, one of Patrick’s hands travelled up the length of David’s spine to cup the back of David’s neck, and he pulled David flush against his body as he crashed their lips together.
A desperate sort of whimper escaped David as he kissed Patrick back wildly, all the tension and desire he’d kept repressed for so many years spilling out into this one perfect kiss. His tongue teased at the seam of Patrick’s lips, and David could barely suppress a groan when Patrick immediately opened for him.
The kiss grew more and more out of control, Patrick taking a few staggering steps to push David against the nearest wall before molding his body against David’s. For his part, David couldn’t decide what to do with his hands, and they were constantly in motion, stroking a slow, circuitous route from the back of Patrick’s head to his ass and then back again. David could feel Patrick’s hard length pressing against him, and it took all his willpower not to roll his hips, seeking the friction he desperately craved.
Patrick’s tongue was tangling with David’s and it was soft and wet and warm and this entire situation was entirely too perfect for David to truly believe it was happening. But it was happening. It must be, because he could feel Patrick’s muscular body pressing against his and Patrick’s hands in his still-damp hair. And Patrick’s lips, which were too soft and pink to be allowed, were pressed against David’s, and now his teeth were tugging at David’s bottom lip and it was just so, so good.
Patrick’s phone beeped, and he tore his lips away, panting. “Fuck,” he whispered. “I’m supposed to be meeting Jocelyn.” He slid his phone out of his pocket and tapped out a quick message before returning his gaze to David’s face. “Can we talk later?”
David smiled, still trying to wrap his mind around what had just taken place. “We can talk whenever you’d like.”
Patrick gently cupped the side of David’s face. “Your medal ceremony is at 5:00, right?”
“I’ll be there,” Patrick said, kissing David softly one more time before peeling his body away from David’s.
“Okay,” David managed to say, still feeling a little dazed.
And then for the second time in a matter of days, David found himself watching Patrick leave a locker room, emotion bubbling inside of him. But this time, he had a smile on his face.
David stood on the podium listening to the American national anthem, scanning the stands in a futile attempt to find Patrick. There were far too many people for it to be likely he’d spot him, but David couldn’t stop himself from trying anyway.
He was still amazed that he hadn’t told Alexis about the kiss the moment they met up to watch Stevie’s race and even more surprised that he hadn’t told Stevie after congratulating her on qualifying for the next day’s finals. He kind of liked the idea of having this special little secret that was only his and Patrick’s to have, assuming, of course, that Patrick hadn’t gone and told anybody. It wasn’t that he was ashamed or embarrassed, but everything with Patrick was just so new, and David was both afraid that Patrick would change his mind about David and that telling people would be too much a strain on such a fragile situation.
David smiled for the necessary photo ops, congratulated Ryan Santiago and the bronze medalist, and suffered with a smile through a few more inane questions from reporters, barely able to contain the excitement and nerves coursing through him. He knew that he should be enjoying this moment more—he was getting a medal at the Olympics for god’s sake—but all he could focus on was finding Patrick and talking to Patrick and being near Patrick and kissing Patrick, and just Patrick, Patrick, Patrick.
Luckily the ceremony and the media interviews afterward didn’t drag on too terribly long, and the moment David was free to go, he beelined for the stands, texting Stevie and Alexis to find out where they were. He realized he didn’t even have Patrick’s phone number and resolved to fix this error as soon as humanly possible.
As it turned out, several members of the Team Canada swimming team had come to David’s ceremony, and blessedly, that group contained Stevie, Patrick, and Alexis, who’d tagged along with Stevie, so he was able to find everybody at the same time. Stevie and Alexis took turns hugging David and congratulating him once more, but David faltered when Alexis finally released him and he turned his gaze to Patrick. He’d been so focused on just finding him that he hadn’t even stopped to consider how he was supposed to react or greet him. Should he just say hi? Should he hug him? Kissing him in front of so many of their teammates was obviously out of the question, but it felt somehow disrespectful to their budding relationship to greet Patrick the same way he greeted Ted and Mutt.
But David didn’t need to worry about this after all; Patrick was a take charge kind of guy and pulled David in for a brief hug. It was nowhere near as intimate or wonderful as their hug in the locker room had been, but David appreciated the way Patrick just seemed to know what David would be comfortable with in this situation. Stevie fixed David with a look that clearly indicated that she expected the full story later on—David had told her about the friendship forming between the two of them, but she was obviously surprised to find out that they were at the hug-in-greeting stage of friendship.
David couldn't even find it in himself to be annoyed with Stevie and just smiled.
It only took about four minutes of the team dinner for David to realize that this outing was going to be blissful torture of the acutest kind.
The rowdy team was squeezed into a long table that was probably designed to seat at least two fewer people than were there, so quarters were tight. David ended up sitting between Patrick and Stevie, with Alexis across from him, and Patrick’s strong thigh was pressed right up against David’s. Based on the fact that there was a little wiggle room between David and Stevie, David suspected that Patrick had scooted a little closer to him than necessary, but he wasn’t about to complain about that.
Except for the fact that the constant pressure from Patrick’s leg was killing David inside just a little bit. Touching Patrick in even the smallest, most benign way filled David with giddy glee, but it was also a constant reminder of how much he wanted to touch Patrick even more and in different places and preferably not in front of the entirety of Team Canada.
Halfway through dinner, David was suddenly pulled out of his conversation with Alexis and Ted—who were hitting it off a little too well for David’s comfort—by a warm hand on his leg. Patrick had dropped his napkin—entirely on purpose, if you asked David—and had apparently felt it was a good idea to run his hand up the length of David’s leg after retrieving it. David’s hand was resting in his lap, and he felt a shiver work its way up his spine when Patrick brushed their fingers together ever so gently before straightening up and rejoining the conversation like nothing had happened.
Out of his peripheral vision, David saw that Patrick had a satisfied little smirk on his face, and damn did David want to kiss it away until Patrick was desperate and panting and begging David to touch him.
Stevie spent most of the rest of dinner engaging David in conversation, enjoying how increasingly flustered David grew the longer they were there—and the longer David went without actually talking to Patrick. David knew she was doing this on purpose—he’d seen Stevie and Alexis exchange more than one amused glance that were certainly at his expense—and if David weren’t so preoccupied with getting Patrick alone, he would have already begun plotting his revenge.
When dinner was finally over, the team all started making their way back to the Village, with the exception of Ted, who disappeared with Alexis; David did his best to ignore this. They all eventually peeled off in the direction of their rooms, until eventually David and Patrick were left walking with just Mutt, who was staying in the same building as them.
Mutt seemed oblivious to the mounting tension between David and Patrick as they walked and kept a cheerful chatter running about their last team training session for the relay before the semi-finals, which was scheduled for late the following morning. Both David and Patrick did their best to maintain the illusion they were listening to Mutt while being deeply distracted by the presence of the other and the fact that their hands kept brushing against each other as they walked.
Relief coursed through David when they finally got to their building and Mutt bid them goodnight before climbing the stairs to his second floor room. Silently, he and Patrick hurried to their room, David fumbling a little with the key as he tried to unlock the door.
The moment the door slammed shut behind them, they were all over each other. David crowded Patrick up against the door, kissing him deeply and enjoying the happy sounds he was coaxing out of Patrick. One of David’s forearms was braced against the door, and the other cupped the side of Patrick’s face, his thumb gently stroking along Patrick’s cheekbone.
Patrick gripped David’s hips so tightly that David wondered if he’d bruise. Patrick pulled David’s hips against his own until David slotted a thigh between Patrick’s legs to give him something to rub up against, which he did with a broken gasp and a gentle bite to David’s lips.
And then they were moving, David leading them somewhat gracelessly to his narrow bed. He pushed Patrick down a little more roughly than he’d intended to before covering Patrick’s body with his own and began trailing wet kisses down Patrick’s neck. Patrick rucked up the back of David’s shirt and began tracing patterns over David’s bare skin as they rutted together desperately.
“David,” Patrick gasped, yanking his mouth away from David’s.
“Mm?” David mouthed at Patrick’s jaw.
“We should talk,” Patrick said weakly. “Remember, we said we were going to talk?”
“Later,” David said. “Wanna kiss you.”
Patrick moaned a little both out of pleasure and frustration. Like David, he just wanted to stay exactly where they were doing exactly what they were doing, but the logical, analytical part of his brain wouldn’t shut down, and he needed for them to talk about what all this was and what it meant. He desperately hoped that it meant something to David and that this wasn’t just about two horny guys wanting to get off.
Patrick kissed David, feeling lost in how soft David’s lips were and how demanding his kisses were. “Me too,” Patrick said. “I wanna kiss you too. But—” he was cut off by David’s lips sealing over his once more. He turned his head, breaking the kiss, and David nuzzled his neck. “But I really need for us to talk about this before anything else happens. Please?”
David pulled back immediately, hearing the plea in Patrick’s voice. “Okay.”
Patrick smiled, relieved. “And, um, I need you to get off me.”
“Oh. Okay.” David looked hurt as he moved to roll of Patrick, and Patrick reached up to cradle David’s face in his hands, kissing him softly.
“David,” he said, “there is absolutely no way I’ll be able to focus on having a conversation with you touching me like this.”
This explanation softened David a little, and he smiled, climbing off of Patrick and moving to flop on the other bed. He turned on his side so that he could look at Patrick, who was already curled up in the same position. “So. Talking,” David said, a little awkwardly.
“I like you, David,” Patrick said simply. “And it’s just a little confusing and overwhelming, because, um, well a lot has changed this week.”
“I know,” David said, a little sadly. “And it’s my fault. And I’m sorry.”
“No, David, I wasn’t blaming you, I swear. I just don’t want to let this get out of control and not have a conversation about it.”
“I never actually hated you,” David blurted out in what seemed like a non-sequitur.
“Okay?” Patrick replied, a little confused.
“No, let me explain. It’s relevant, I swear.” He took a breath, trying to gather his thoughts so he could present them in the way least likely to make Patrick a) hate him, or b) think he’s crazy. “I thought I hated you. I really did. But when I’m really honest with myself, I was in denial that the intense feelings I had for you were … not hatred, but something else.”
David huffed a little. “Yes. I have been stupidly attracted to you since the moment I met you, and I didn’t want to acknowledge that, because I knew you’d never reciprocate.”
Patrick furrowed his brow. “And how did you decide on that? Because based on today, I think it’s pretty clear I reciprocate.”
“Well, I didn’t know that at the time,” David said, a little petulantly. “Look, it’s just … the first time we met, you seemed so profoundly uninterested in having even a five second conversation with me. And then you turned around and were being all bright and shiny with everybody else and just, like, radiating all this goodness. You’re so damn good and kind and beautiful, Patrick, and I’m just … not. I guess I figured that you saw that and didn’t want anything to do with me, so I convinced myself that the attraction I felt was something else, because it was less likely to hurt me if it was hatred.” David’s voice was very small by the time he finished talking.
Upon hearing this, Patrick decided that being on separate beds was the worst idea he’d ever had and got up and encouraged David to scoot over so he could lay down on his side, face-to-face with David. He took one of David’s hands and kissed the palm before tangling their fingers together, resting their joined hands between them. “David, what you interpreted as me being disinterested when we met was actually me freaking the hell out because this beautiful, sexy man had just introduced himself to me and sent a lightning bolt through my body when we shook hands, and I didn’t know how to react.” He was quiet for a moment, as though gathering courage to continue. “I, um, I didn’t realize I was attracted to men until you, David. I’d only been with women before, and it never felt right, and I guess I just thought there was something wrong with me. And then you were there standing in front of me and the moment you touched me, it was like everything made sense, and I felt … right. You made me feel right, David. And it was exciting, but also scary as fuck because it was so new, and I didn’t even know you and I just … freaked out a little.”
David would heartily deny it if asked about it later, but there was definitely a slight sheen in his eyes as Patrick fell silent, his brown eyes staring into David’s, earnest and vulnerable.
“Well fuck,” David whispered. “I am such a fucking idiot.”
Patrick leaned in to brush his lips gently against David’s. “Don’t say that,” he begged. “Yes, we both could have handled things a lot better and maybe saved ourselves years of confusion, but I don’t want to dwell on that anymore. I forgive you, David. I don’t think I’ve said that, but I do. And I just want to move past it all and see what this can be.”
David let go of Patrick’s hand so that he could wrap both arms around Patrick, pulling him closer as he shifted so that he was laying on his back with Patrick cradled against his side. He sighed happily when Patrick burrowed into his chest and pressed a soft kiss just above the collar of the Team Canada t-shirt David was wearing. “Okay,” he agreed, his voice more sincere and vulnerable than Patrick had ever heard it before. “Let’s do that.”
They must have fallen asleep like that, because the next thing David knew, it was morning and Patrick was wiggling out of the circle of David’s arms. David tightened his grip. “Don’t go,” he mumbled, still partially asleep.
Patrick freed himself from David’s embrace anyway and stood up, leaning over to kiss David’s forehead. “I’m going to get breakfast with Jocelyn before our training session. I’ll see you there in a couple hours, okay?”
“Fine,” David grumbled. “But I want a real kiss before you go.”
Patrick smiled and knelt on the bed, one knee on either side of David’s hips, leaning over to kiss him thoroughly. “Better?” He teased.
David pulled his face back down for another kiss, his hands journeying to Patrick’s hips, trying to pull them down against his body.
Patrick broke away laughing. “None of that,” he admonished. “I really do have to get going.”
David scowled, and Patrick pressed one more kiss to David’s forehead before getting off the bed for a second time and going into the bathroom. David reached for his phone and sent a quick text to Alexis, asking if she wanted to have breakfast, so that he’d have something to keep him busy until training. By the time Patrick was finished in the bathroom, Alexis has responded Yes! Worked up an appetite lol ;) and David was regretting the invitation.
David and Patrick got ready quietly, and David couldn’t help but reflect on how damn domestic this all was. David started his skin care routine while Patrick brushed his teeth, and they got dressed and packed all their gear for their training session side-by-side.
Patrick was ready to head out first, and he pulled David into his arms and gave him a soft, sweet, and, dare he say it, romantic kiss before heading out the door, leaving David standing in the middle of the room with a goofy grin on his face.
Breakfast with Alexis was a struggle, both because she kept dropping “subtle” hints about the night she’d had with Ted, which, just ew, and because David kept getting preoccupied thinking about Patrick.
Alexis called him out on it several times, and David really did try to stay focused on the conversation with his sister, but it wasn’t an easy feat considering the events of the last 24 hours.
David had never been more glad to go to a training session than he was on this day, and Alexis tagged along as he headed to the practice pools. The first day Alexis had arrived, David had cleared it with the rest of the relay team and their coaches for Alexis to sit in on training when she didn’t have anything else to do, and since Stevie was training and Ted would also be at the pool, she was happy to come watch.
Almost as soon as David entered the training facility, he caught sight of Patrick and his heart swelled before squeezing painfully upon realizing Patrick wasn’t alone. No, he was deep in conversation with a man David recognized as Ken Abernathy, star of the American diving team. Patrick was laughing heartily at something Ken said, and—David’s eyes narrowed—Ken reached up to squeeze Patrick’s bicep as he laughed right alongside Patrick.
“Well doesn’t he look cute in that tight little Speedo,” Alexis said, following David’s gaze to Patrick and Ken.
“I hardly think it’s necessary to be wearing a Speedo in the hallway,” David snapped. “And the diving practice pools are on the other side of the building. What’s he even doing here?” The questions left unsaid were: How did Patrick even know Ken and why in the hell was he flirting with him? David tried to tamp down his jealousy by reminding himself that he and Patrick had never actually gotten around to defining or discussing exactly what “this” was, just that they wanted to see where “this” could go. It was a completely unsuccessful exercise, and David was left feeling deflated and seriously regretting not having laid any ground rules with Patrick the night before.
David had tried the open relationship thing in the past—more accurately, his partners had declared they had an open relationship or told David that after he’d caught them with another person—and it had never worked for him. He knew of many people who had happy, successful open relationships, but he personally always ended up feeling cast aside or like an afterthought rather than a priority for his partner. And, true, he wasn’t exactly sure if he could qualify what he and Patrick had as a relationship, but one thing he was definitely sure of is that he did not want to share Patrick with anyone else. Ever.
“David, come on,” Alexis chided, and David realized he’d just been standing in the entryway, staring moodily in the direction of Patrick and Ken.
David took a deep breath and walked toward them. Seeing as he needed to go down the hallway Patrick and Ken were currently standing in the middle of, there was no avoiding an interaction.
Patrick’s face broke into a wide smile when he saw David, which loosened the band currently constricting David’s heart, but only a little.
“Hey, Patrick,” David said as pleasantly as he could. “You met my sister, Alexis, last night, right?”
“Yes, I did,” Patrick confirmed. “Hi again, Alexis.”
Alexis simpered. “Hi Patrick.” She turned to Ken. “And who is this cutie patootie?”
David was going to kill her.
“Oh, this is Ken!” Patrick said, a little sheepish that his prairie-grown manners had briefly fled. “We met at World’s last year and just ran into each other a few minutes ago!”
“Oh, but we did,” Ken said, his voice a little too suggestive for the situation, leaving David wondering what exactly happened at World’s last year. The brief sense of relief that Patrick’s smile had brought David was now gone, and a sense of dread had replaced it.
Alexis was right: Ken was a very good looking guy. He was slim and wiry like most divers, with tan skin, thick black hair, and just the slightest hint of scruff along his jaw. David knew that he was in good shape from years of training, but what if Patrick preferred Ken’s more compact body to David’s broad one? He figured that in the traditional sense, Ken was probably more attractive than he was, anyway, and he was reasonably sure that Ken hadn’t spent nearly a decade being an asshole to Patrick. No, Ken seemed nice and sweet and like a good match for bright and shiny Patrick. He probably didn’t have a dysfunctional childhood and absent parents who couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge that their child was competing at the Olympics.
“Oh, shit, we gotta go,” Patrick said, snapping David out of his self-deprecating reverie. “It was good to see you, Ken.”
“Likewise, Patrick,” Ken crooned—yes, crooned. “We should meet up later when we have more time.” He hugged Patrick and kissed him on the cheek, which, to be fair, did seem to surprise Patrick a little.
Patrick stepped out of Ken’s embrace a little awkwardly. “Um, sure,” he said. “But we really have to go if we don’t want to be late.”
“Of course,” Ken said, wiggling his fingers in a wave, before walking away, never having even acknowledged Davdi’s presence.
Alexis had the decency to keep her mouth shut before walking to the door that led directly to the pool, leaving David and Patrick alone to walk to the locker room.
“Hi,” Patrick said softly, a smile on his face when it was just the two of them. He reached out and briefly grasped David’s hand before releasing it.
David’s smile was a little forced. “Hi.”
Patrick frowned. “Is everything okay?”
“Yep,” David said, opening the door to the locker room and letting Patrick go in first.
David was saved from any more probing questions from Patrick once in the locker room, because Ted and Mutt were both already there, changing for practice.
“Hey guys,” Patrick said, and they returned the greeting.
“David! How as breakfast with Alexis? She was excited when she left this morning!” Ted asked, characteristically cheerful.
David winced. “Fine,” he said. “But, like, can we not acknowledge the fact that you slept with my sister from here on out?”
Ted bright smile didn’t wane. “Sure thing, bud,” he said, clapping David on the back as he walked by him to enter the pool.
David changed quickly, storing his gear in an empty locker and started to head to the pool himself, but Patrick grabbed his arm to stop him. Mutt had followed Ted to the pool, so they were alone in the locker room.
“David, seriously, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” David said shortly, regretting the way his tone made Patrick’s face fall.
“Was it Ken? Do you not like him or something?”
David opened his mouth to reply, but before he could, the door to the pool opened a crack, and he heard Ronnie’s voice yelling from the other side of the door. “Rose, stop lounging around and get your ass out here!”
David sighed. “Coming, Ronnie!” He turned to Patrick. “We’ll talk after, okay?”
Patrick still looked upset and concerned, so David kissed him softly to reassure him that they were okay. Which he really hoped they were. “Okay?” He repeated.
Patrick’s face softened. “Okay.”
David jumped when the curtain to his shower cubicle was ripped open and a very naked Patrick stepped in. “What the hell?” He exclaimed, instinctively using his hands to try to cover himself.
“You take really long showers,” Patrick said, as though that were an adequate explanation.
“And I got antsy and wanted to talk to you,” Patrick said, a little sheepishly.
“So you decided to crash my shower.”
“Did, uh, Ted and Mutt see you coming in?”
“Oh, they left a couple minutes ago.”
“Like I said: you take long showers.” Patrick grinned. “Do you want to tell me what was bothering you earlier?”
David was still so shocked at Patrick’s sudden appearance that he hadn’t even really registered how naked he was and took a moment to appreciate that fact instead of answering.
“Check me out later, Rose,” Patrick teased. “What’s going on?”
David sighed. “I was just being stupid.”
“David, come on.”
Another larger sigh. “It’s just that we had this nice cozy morning and then the next time I see you, you’re flirting with a mostly naked, younger, smaller, hotter guy, and I was jealous and then I didn’t know if I was allowed to be jealous because we never really talked about what this is.”
“Flirting? You mean when I was talking to Ken?”
“Yes,” David said incredulously.
“I wasn’t flirting with him, David. We were just catching up.”
David rolled his eyes. “Maybe you weren’t intentionally flirting, but he was most certainly flirting with you.”
“Was he?” Patrick’s expression was so shocked, so confused, and so genuine that David honestly believed that Patrick hadn’t been aware of Ken’s flirtation.
David had to laugh. It was a bit of a sardonic laugh, but it was a laugh. “Yes, Patrick.”
David examined Patrick’s face, trying to divine his thoughts. “Does, um, knowing that he was flirting … change anything for you?”
Patrick’s eyes snapped to David’s. “What? No! No, of course not.” He stepped closer to David. For two naked men who were definitely attracted to each other and who were alone in a small enclosed space, they were standing pretty far away from one another. Patrick tentatively wrapped his arms around David’s waist as though uncertain how David would react. When David leaned into Patrick’s touch, Patrick spoke again. “Ken is a nice guy,” he said, “but I don’t want to date him.”
David’s heart fluttered at the implication. “You don’t?”
“No, David, I don’t. In case I haven’t made this explicitly obvious, I want to date you. Only you. We don’t have to put a label on it or whatever, but I feel no need to meet up with other guys, and I … well, I really don’t like the idea of you seeing other people.” He said this last part quietly, uncertainly.
David tugged Patrick against his so that they were both fully underneath the warm spray and kissed him. “Agreed,” he said, finally pulling back.
“Yeah. Just you and me.”
The smile that Patrick gave David was nothing short of a revelation, and David was at least 85 percent sure in that moment that he loved Patrick. But it was too big of a feeling to share just yet, and it was far too soon for him to be comfortable acknowledging that he felt more for Patrick than he’d ever felt for another person. So instead, he tightened his arms around Patrick and kissed him thoroughly.
Patrick sighed happily, hands trailing over David’s wet skin as the kiss grew messy and out of control. His hips began to roll against David’s, coaxing a little groan out of him. He just couldn’t get enough of David—he wanted to touch him everywhere at the same time, wanted David’s hands all over his body. “David,” he whispered, his voice very nearly a whimper. “I need you.”
“Shh, don’t worry. I’ve got you, baby.” One of David’s hands, which had been cupped protectively around the back of Patrick’s neck immediately sprang into action, journeying to the front of Patrick’s body before wandering down. Patrick groaned when David wrapped his hand around him and began to stroke.
Patrick bucked up into David’s hand and bit down on David’s lower lip, earning him a strangled gasp from David. “Fuck, David, feels so good.”
David began to trail kisses along Patrick’s jaw then down his neck to his chest. He took one of Patrick’s nipples into his mouth, nibbling and sucking on it in a way that drove Patrick absolutely crazy.
Patrick whimpered in displeasure when David’s hot mouth released his nipple, but his frustration was quickly eliminated when David dropped to his knees and began kissing and sucking Patrick’s inner thighs. He was so close to where Patrick wanted him, and Patrick threaded his fingers through David’s wet hair in an attempt to guide his mouth to his cock.
“David, please,” he begged when David refused to comply and kept dropping teasing kisses on Patrick’s thighs and hipbones.
David looked up at Patrick, eyes hungry and adoring at the same time, and Patrick’s breath caught in his chest. “Do you want my mouth on your cock, Patrick?” David asked, voice husky and teasing.
“Yes!” Patrick ground out. “Please.”
“Need you to say it, Patrick. Tell me what you want.”
Patrick moaned in frustration. “David,” he said, his voice thick. “Suck me, please. I need you.”
David rewarded him instantly, his lush lips wrapping around the head of Patrick’s cock and sucking hard, his hand stroking what wasn’t in his mouth. Patrick involuntarily thrust into David’s mouth, and David moaned in pleasure. He took more of Patrick into his mouth, hands migrating to Patrick’s ass, fingers digging into the flesh as he encouraged Patrick to thrust, which he did with a strangled shout.
Patrick kept a steady rhythm of gently thrusting into David’s eager mouth. “Getting close,” he muttered. He looked down at David and moaned when he saw the pleasure on David’s face and that David was furiously working his own cock with one hand. That image alone was enough to make him shoot down David’s throat with a groan.
David swallowed it all down, sucking Patrick gently through his orgasm as he came all over his hand. When Patrick got too sensitive, David let his cock slip out of his mouth and rested his forehead against Patrick’s hip, panting a little.
Patrick kept stroking David’s sopping hair for a few moments before grabbing David under his arms and helping him stand. Patrick immediately hauled David against his body, kissing him desperately, loving the way David melted against him and ran gentle fingers up and down Patrick’s back.
Reluctantly, Patrick pulled back after several blissful moments of exploring David’s mouth with his tongue. “We should probably go,” he said with a sigh, kissing David’s neck.
“Yeah,” David agreed, making no move to turn off the water—which was blessedly still hot—and leave the shower.
“We have semi-finals tonight. So we should probably go eat and rest up or whatever.”
“Yeah,” David said again.
Patrick chuckled against David’s skin and straightened up, reaching behind David to shut off the water.
David grabbed the towels hanging on the wall outside the shower cubicle and handed one to Patrick before they both stepped out to go get dressed.
One more chapter to go y'all!
David woke up to Patrick pressing a kiss to his cheek and murmuring, “Wake up, sleepyhead.”
David scowled and blindly reached up to try to grab some part of Patrick’s body and pull him down onto the bed. Much to both of their disappointment, they’d decided the smart thing to do would be to sleep in their own beds, since today they were competing for a gold medal, and two full grown men crammed into one narrow bed wasn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s rest. Now that it was morning, though, David saw no reason they couldn’t make it work. “It’s early and you woke me up so now you have to come cuddle me,” he said grumpily.
Patrick laughed but let David pull him onto the bed. “You know, if somebody told me a week ago that you’d be demanding that I cuddle you this morning, I would have told them they’re crazy,” he said, spooning David from behind and slinging an arm across him.
Patrick couldn’t see David’s face in this position, but he felt David tense slightly in his arms and knew he must be reacting to Patrick’s allusion to their rocky past. He kissed the back of David’s neck gently. “Baby, things about the past are going to come up, especially when we start telling people we’re together. But it’s all the past. That’s not who we are now, so it doesn’t matter anymore, okay?”
David shrugged as best he could.
“David, do you not believe me when I say I’ve forgiven you?” Patrick’s forehead pinched at the thought.
“It’s not that,” David said quietly. “It’s just that I guess I don’t think I deserve your forgiveness? Or deserve to be here with you now like this. Just like after the way I’ve acted and how awful I’ve been, I don’t understand how you’re so willing to just look past it all.”
“David, will you turn so I can look at you?”
David remained still.
With a slight sigh, David twisted in Patrick’s arms until they were nose to nose. Patrick pressed a quick kiss to David’s mouth. “You deserve forgiveness, David. And even if you don’t think you do, it’s my choice whether to forgive you or not, and I choose to. I am much, much happier right here with you in my arms than I ever would be holding a grudge against you because of your behavior in the past.”
David blinked a few times and then nodded. “Okay,” he said quietly.
Patrick smiled. “Thank you.”
“I should be the one thanking you,” David insisted.
“How about we just say that we have both thanked each other, and let’s move on.”
“Okay,” David said again. He nuzzled against Patrick’s neck, just luxuriating in the fact that it was even an option for him.
Patrick held David for a few more minutes, both of them dropping sweet kisses on each other’s skin from time to time before rolling off the bed. “We have a gold medal to win,” he said cheerfully when David whined his displeasure.
At this, David sat up and scowled again. “You know I’ve never won gold, right?”
Patrick looked up from the bag he was packing and quirked an eyebrow. “So?”
“Well what if we lose today because I’m cursed or something? You guys have been practicing together way longer without me, and I’m obviously the weakest link, and I’m just going to bring you all down and ruin everything.”
Patrick abandoned his bag and came to sit beside David. “You are not cursed, David Rose. You are not a weak link, and you’re not going to ruin anything. We’ve been practicing so well this week, and do I need to remind you that we killed it at semi finals?”
“A fluke,” David muttered, allowing Patrick to pull him into his arms.
“None of that,” Patrick chided. “You are an amazing swimmer, David, and an amazing person. No matter what happens in the pool today, both of those things will still be true.”
David straight up beamed at this and couldn’t resist seeking Patrick’s lips out for a kiss that went from sweet to dirty in a matter of seconds.
With a good-natured growl, Patrick pulled away. “Damn, you’re irresistible. Up, up, up. We need to go get breakfast and then it’s go time.”
A few hours later, David found himself in the ready room once again, psyching himself up for the race that was due to start any time now. While the pressure of competing with a team and the prospect of letting multiple people down and not just himself should he fail today was not a comfortable feeling for him, he was somewhat soothed by the fact that Patrick was sitting right next to him.
They were both listening to their own pump up playlists, and David grabbed Patrick’s phone from him to see what he was listening to. He smiled when he saw the song currently playing.
“Simply the Best is literally the only non-Mariah song on my playlist,” he told Patrick when Patrick slipped off his headphones.
Patrick smiled. “It’s better than all the rest.”
“You’re a dork,” David said, wanting so badly to kiss him but not wanting to distract from the task at hand.
“You love it.”
“I do,” David said and suddenly he pictured himself saying “I do” again in the future, except in this mental image, he was wearing a tux instead of his competition suit and Team Canada warm ups. As much as that image warmed his heart, he squashed it down. Now was not the time to be getting sentimental and daydreaming about the future.
This thought was reinforced by an official coming into the room and shepherding all the athletes out to the pool. David exchanged a meaningful look with Patrick, who brushed his fingers across the back of David’s hand as they joined Mutt and Ted by the pool.
They all stripped out of their warm up gear and donned caps and goggles, each of them going through their idiosyncratic pre-race rituals. All of their coaches chimed in with last minute instructions and encouragement, but it was all a blur to David. He tended to block everything out in the minutes leading up to a race except his own thoughts. And Patrick, now, apparently, because his presence next to him was the only thing he was really aware of other than the pool.
When the warning tone chimed, Ted climbed onto the block, as he was swimming the first leg and would be followed by Mutt and David. Patrick would be closing the race, and David felt a weird sense of comfort that he was metaphorically passing the baton to him. It felt significant in a way he couldn’t quite articulate.
And then it started and Ted dove smoothly into the water. David watched intently, but glanced at the leaderboard often, as it was a more accurate reflection of the rankings of the race. By the time Mutt dove in for his leg, they were in the lead, but only barely. Less than a second separated them from the German team two lanes over, and David sincerely hoped they could hold onto that lead.
David felt Patrick’s warm hand on his shoulder briefly just before he climbed onto the block and was soothed by this simple touch. He waited anxiously as Mutt finished his portion of the race, and had one thought as he hit the water and began to swim: This is for Patrick.
It was for him, too, of course, but part of David believed that if he could help the team win this race it would somehow be his final atonement for his past mistakes. If he could help Patrick win another gold medal, nobody would wonder why Patrick wanted to be with him.
So that’s what he thought about as he swam, and as he touched the wall on his last lap and heard Patrick dive in to finish the race, he was content that he’d done everything he could.
He hoisted himself out of the pool and stood with Ted and Mutt, suddenly very aware of the sounds of the crowd cheering and water splashing as bodies churned through it. He kept his eyes trained on Patrick, not bothering to look at the clock or the leaderboard. The times and the rankings didn’t matter as long as he focused on Patrick.
Patrick was 25 meters from finishing the race, now, and though his heart was pounding, David’s gaze didn’t leave Patrick. It wasn’t until he’d finished that David finally looked up at the board and saw Team Canada at the top, clocking in at just over a second ahead of the Germans.
Ted, Mutt, and David all leapt into the air, pulling each other into hugs as Patrick hauled himself out of the pool.
The moment Patrick was back on the pool deck, he was in David’s arms, and David was kissing him.
David hadn’t intended to kiss Patrick, honestly, nor had he really thought about doing so, even as he was leaning in to capture Patrick’s mouth. He acted on instinct alone, and based on Patrick’s enthusiastic response, he’d had the same instinct.
David was vaguely aware of the gasps both from the audience and from athletes, coaches, and officials on the pool deck. He distinctly heard Ronnie shout, “I knew it!” And he could hear the clicks of cameras, perfectly aware that these photos were going to be plastered all over the internet in mere seconds.
But he didn’t care about any of that. He just cared about being in this moment with Patrick, the man that he almost certainly loved, celebrating the fact that they’d just won David’s first—and likely only—Olympic gold medal.
It didn’t matter, David decided, that he had another race to compete in in a few days. It didn’t matter if he biffed it in the first round and didn’t even advance to the semi-finals. It didn’t matter that journalists and gossip bloggers were likely already speculating about their relationship and spreading false rumors. It didn’t matter that this was his last Olympics. It didn’t even matter that his own parents hadn’t been bothered to come watch him compete.
All that mattered was this—the scent of chlorine hanging in the air, Alexis and Stevie cheering from somewhere in the stands, the promise of the gold medal that would soon be hanging around his neck, and most importantly, Patrick pressed against him, arms wound around each other in a promise of much greater things to come.
And that's a wrap, folks. Thank you so much for the kind words and support; it has truly meant so much to me!