“I still can’t believe you’re moving to Texas,” Agustin says, for what has to be the twelfth time since he’d started driving that morning. It’s also the twelfth time Patrick has called him. He really deserves some kind of award for answering every time. “Do you know what they do to gay people in Texas?”
Patrick adjusts the phone on his shoulder and rummages through his console for a pair of sunglasses. All he’s learned about Texas so far, since crossing the Oklahoma border, is that it’s very large and very bright. “Maybe fifteen years ago. But, I mean, the world is evolving! Even in Texas. Richie’s cousins know he’s gay and they don’t care at all.”
Agustin simply makes a little humming noise, like he always does when he disagrees but he’s too bored to discuss it any further. “Well, you better at least start practicando tu español because you’re going to stick out like a sore fucking thumb there.”
“So now I’m being prosecuted for being gay and white,” Patrick says, and he gets a little thrill in his stomach when his phone’s map tells him to take the next exit on the right. He’s so close. He’s doing this. He’s really, actually doing this. “Do you think they have it out for videogame developers too?”
“Probably. Hey, you know what city you’d really like?”
“I’m going to make a random guess, I don’t know, San Francisco?”
Agustin sighs. “If you start wearing cowboy boots our friendship is over.”
“What if they have rhinestones?”
A pause, and then: “I’ll consider.”
“Great. Okay, I’m sorry, I have to go. Siri’s telling me I’m only fifteen minutes away and I need to rehearse what I’m going to say to Richie when I see him.”
“It’s been two months, Patrick, not two years. Besides, if you spend the first hour talking and not fucking then you two are doing something seriously, seriously wrong.”
“Goodbye, Agustin,” Patrick says pointedly, and hangs up the phone.
Agustin has a point, though: it has only been two months. Two incredibly long months since the wedding. Two months in Denver. Two months to get his shit together. That’s how long they thought he’d needed, before he’d be packed and ready to start his new life with Richie in Texas.
He’s been packed for a month and twenty-nine days. So maybe they’d misjudged.
They’ve talked every single day since. It wasn’t like they were incommunicado. Richie had driven the barber truck down to San Antonio, started spreading the word about his business. Patrick had forced him to create a Facebook page, and he had 300 likes already. Okay, a solid 250 if you didn’t count every person Patrick had ever come in contact with, including his least favorite barista at Philz. Richie had taken care of everything else: the house, the electricity, the internet. “All that’s missing now,” he’d said, just a week ago, “is you.”
Patrick’s phone directs him down one side street, and then another. He’s five minutes away, and then four, and then three, and his heart rate starts picking up when he turns onto his—their—street. This was it. The start of their lives together. The start of forever.
“You have arrived at your destination,” Siri tells him, and he’s so excited he can barely unbuckle his seatbelt. The front door of the house swings open and Patrick takes a deep breath and steps out of the car.
- - -
His excitement carries him through the yard. It carries him up a rickety step, over a fallen gatepost, and straight into Richie’s arms. “Oh my god,” he says, rehearsed speech completely forgotten, “that was the longest drive of my life," and tugs him full-force into a kiss that literally almost knocks him off his feet. Richie laughs and grabs Patrick around the waist to balance himself and then kisses him back, long and sweet and deep. They don’t break apart until they have to, until Patrick’s out of breath and a little dizzy, and he rests his forehead against Richie’s and says, earnestly, “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too, Pato. I can’t believe you’re actually here.”
“Right? I’m in Texas! How insane is that?”
“Insane,” Richie agrees, and Patrick pulls back to really look at him for the first time in two months. He’s scruffier than normal, but in a good way, and he’s shirtless, in the best way. His entire life Patrick has thought he’d end up with someone kind of average. Not ugly, but not extremely good-looking, either. A middle-of-the-road kind of guy. Richie has defied all expectations. He is so hot. That’s the best word Patrick has for it. He is incredibly, unbelievably hot.
“So this is it. This is home.”
“This is it, yeah. Should I give you the grand tour?”
“Yes please,” Patrick says, and decides to come back for his boxes later. He reaches down for Richie’s hand and gives it a subtle squeeze. It really had been a long drive, and, well, Agustin had a point. “Maybe we can start with the bedroom?”
Richie laughs. “You read my mind.”
He leads him by the hand through the front door, through a nondescript living room, past a pastel pink kitchen—“Oh,” Patrick says, “oh wow,” but Richie keeps on moving—and finally, into a small bedroom tucked into the back of the house. The room isn’t much to look at: there’s a bed, with the blankets arranged messily on top, and a cross affixed to the wall by the doorway, and Richie’s guitar propped up in the corner. That’s it.
Patrick’s gaze lingers on the cross. “Aren’t you going to feel dirty letting this watch what I’m about to do to you?”
“First off,” Richie says, and tugs him towards the bed, “crosses don’t have eyes.” He runs a thumb along Patrick’s cheek gently and then kisses him, once, on the lips. “Second, it was a gift from my tía. She snuck in and hung it while I was working.” He kisses him again, but it lasts longer this time, less sweet, and Patrick’s hands drift to Richie’s sides, already pulling at his shirt. Richie breaks away and presses his nose into Patrick’s jaw. “Third, God wouldn’t have given us these—” His hand cups Patrick through his jeans, suddenly, so that Patrick lets out a little gasping noise into Richie’s ear, “—if he didn’t want us to use them.”
“Okay, sold,” Patrick answers, his eyes falling shut. “I’ve converted. I’m a believer. Hallelujah.”
Richie laughs again and Patrick realizes, distantly, that it’s his favorite sound in the world. “Can we stop talking now?”
“Yes, god, yes—oh, shit, I already took his name in vain. I’m not very good at this.”
“Pato, shut up,” Richie says, and he grasps him by the face and kisses him, hard.
They make it onto the mattress, eventually; Patrick nearly trips trying to get out of his shoes, but then they’re off and Richie’s tugging at his waistband like he doesn’t want to waste any time. He pushes Patrick’s shirt up and out of the way and presses a kiss right against the center of his chest. “I’ve missed this,” he says, and aims the next kiss lower. “And this,” with the next kiss, just below his bellybutton, “and especially this…”
Patrick gasps as Richie wraps his mouth around him. He’d spent all day in a car—not for this, specifically, but this had been a pretty good mind distractor right around hour eight.
He decides right then and there that he could do this for the rest of his life.
- - -
Patrick wakes up the next morning to Richie sliding carefully out of the blankets. It’s warm and toasty and that bright Texan sun is blasting in through the curtainless window, and the pillows are fluffed just right, and Patrick’s pretty sure he could stay in bed all day as long as there were snacks within reach and Richie was willing to do that thing with his mouth one or twelve more times.
Richie apparently has other plans, though, because he’s stepping into a pair of pants with his back turned to Patrick.
“Where you sneaking off to?” Patrick asks, and Richie turns around and grins at him like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“I thought you were still asleep. I have to go work for a little bit.”
Patrick frowns. “You’re working? Today?”
“I have to, I’ve had this in my calendar for weeks.”
“You make your own schedule,” Patrick says, and he tries not to make it sound accusing, but, well. This was his first full day in Texas. It seemed pretty obvious that Richie would take the day off to help him settle in.
“It won’t take long, okay? I promise.” Richie leans forward and kisses Patrick, teasingly light, but then scrunches his nose. “First thing you should unpack today is your toothbrush.”
He ducks and runs laughing from the room as Patrick launches a pillow at him, calling at his back, “I was preoccupied, okay?!”
Patrick stays in bed for a little while longer, and while he’d love to say that he was ruminating about life, what he’s really doing is moping. It had taken him fifteen hours to drive down here. He’d turned down a job offer, begged to work remotely, said goodbye to everyone he loved again, all to do this. To be in Texas with Richie. He’d imagined a lot of things for their first day together: cooking breakfast in their underwear, shopping for decorative pillows, stumbling across a gay honkytonk bar where they’d meet the future godparents of their future adopted children. Maybe not all in that order. Instead, though, Patrick is apparently spending the day alone.
So he mopes.
Eventually, his stomach growls so intensely that he has to get up and do something about it. He throws on a pair of boxers and starts towards the kitchen—or where he thought was the kitchen was located. Turns out he ends up in the bathroom instead. It’s weird, living here but not knowing where anything is.
The house is small, though, so it’s not hard to find his way. He and Richie had been so busy, uh, reuniting the night before that he’d never actually gotten the tour of the place, so he takes his time now to really study the rooms as he makes his way through them. And he’s a little… surprised.
He’d never been expecting to live in a mansion. He really hadn’t. In fact, his apartment in San Francisco was nothing spectacular. He doesn’t need fancy. His fridge had been crooked and off-balance and he’d worn it like a badge of honor; he was roughing it. But here, little things start to jump out at him as he wanders the hallways: the dirty carpet. The cracks in the walls. Some suspicious-looking stains on the ceiling. A weird smell in the laundry room. He can’t brag about these things. They aren’t hipster-cool. They’re, well, kind of gross.
“I moved here for Richie,” Patrick says aloud, because talking to himself helps sometimes. “Not for the housing market. For Richie.”
Richie, who hadn’t even taken the day off work to spend time with him. That Richie.
Patrick opens the fridge in the kitchen, his stomach still grumbling, but finds that it’s pretty empty. There’s essentially only beer and condiments. They’d ordered take-out the night before, but Patrick had gotten hungry and finished them off around midnight. He deeply regrets that now.
The pantry’s more or less the same. There aren’t even any stale potato chips to snack on.
Sighing, Patrick gives up and leaves the kitchen. One of his only requests when Richie was house-hunting was for office space, since he was now working remotely and experience had proven he couldn’t get any work done from bed. Patrick goes out to the car and brings his laptop in, and takes it straight to the office. It’s a tiny room, about the third the size of the bedroom, but Richie’s already assembled a desk for him. Patrick sets his computer down, sits in the chair, and a chunk of the wall falls off and lands on his keyboard.
That actually happens. Well, it’s more a piece than a chunk, but Patrick stares at it wordlessly before picking up his phone and calling Agustin.
“Ah,” Agustin says, picking up after the second ring, “he emerges from his sex dungeon at the break of dawn.”
“Agustin,” Patrick says back, “I think I made a mistake.”
There’s silence on the other end of the line, and then Agustin says, all business, “Okay, what happened?”
From the background, Patrick can hear Eddie’s voice: “Is it an emergency? A sex-related emergency? Did Patrick break someone's dick again?”
“No” Patrick says defensively, "and also, you told him about that? It wasn't technically broken." He tries to put the piece of wall back into the wall, but it just falls out again, so he abandons the room altogether. This is the sort of situation where he’d break into the stash of cookies hidden behind the coffee mugs at home, but his mugs are still boxed up in the car. There are no cookies to break into. He decides to crawl back to bed instead and pathetically buries himself under the blankets so that his voice comes out a little muffled. “Seriously, though. I think we rushed into this. Why do I keep making that mistake? I moved to Texas, Agustin. Why am I in Texas? What could Texas possibly ever have for me?”
“Calm down, you’re having a very typical Patrick-moment right now,” Agustin says, in what’s probably supposed to be a soothing voice. “Of course Texas sucks. It’s Texas. But you moved there to be with your super hot boyfriend. Who you love. Right?”
“Right,” Patrick agrees, “it’s just—”
He can hear the front door open, and a second later Richie’s voice rings out: “Patrick? You home?”
Patrick pulls the blanket away from his face. “In the bedroom,” he calls back, and then turns his attention to the phone. “I’ll call you later. Please have better advice ready than of course Texas sucks.”
“Well, it does suck,” Agustin points out, and Patrick rolls his eyes and hangs up on him, knowing he wouldn’t be offended. A second later, Richie appears in the doorway.
“Are you still in bed, huevón? Get dressed, I have something to show you.”
“Is it a vacuum cleaner?” Patrick asks, framing it like a joke, but Richie shakes his head and passes him a pair of jeans.
“You seem upset. Are you upset?”
Patrick knows that the worst possible way to start this new phase of their lives together is with a lie, but he can’t bring himself to be honest. He can’t bring himself to see the disappointment on Richie’s face—or, even worse, what if he agreed? “No,” he says, “why would I be upset? Just tired, I think, can you get jetlag from driving?”
“I don’t think so.” Once Patrick is fully dressed, Richie checks him over, brushes his hair away from his face, and then draws him into a kiss. “I have a confession,” he says against Patrick’s mouth.
“I didn’t go to work today.”
Patrick pulls away and looks at Richie, confused. Apparently they’d already started this phase of their lives together on a lie. “You didn’t?”
“Where’d you go?”
“Come on,” Richie says, and he slips his hand into Patrick’s and pulls him out of the bedroom, passed the cracked walls, over the dirty carpet, and into the living room… where fifteen people are waiting with huge smiles on their faces.
Patrick, bewildered, glances around the room with wide eyes. The attendants range from young to old—there’s an infant in a pretty girl’s arms, and a man who’s got probably fifteen years on Patrick’s grandfather, and every age in between. Richie’s arm slides around Patrick’s waist. “When my family found out you were coming they insisted on throwing us a housewarming party,” he explains.
“Ricardo hasn’t stopped talking about you for two months straight,” says the girl holding a baby.
“Cállate, Sonia,” Richie says to her, but fondly. Patrick bites back a smile.
“It’s true,” an older lady pipes in, in heavily accented but perfect English, as she sets a tray of food on the coffee table. “It’s been Patrick-this, Patrick-that nonstop around here. We thought if you didn’t show up soon we would all have to drive up there and snatch you ourselves.”
“Too bad they took away your driver’s license when you turned ninety,” says a young guy that looks a lot like Richie, but about ten years younger.
The old lady points at him threateningly. “You’re not too old for la chancla,” she says, and everyone in the room laughs.
“So you gonna introduce your boyfriend or not?” another young guy asks, and Richie grins and squeezes Patrick’s hip. The word boyfriend was thrown out so casually, and no one flinched, no one looked away, and Richie had told him that his family down here didn’t care, but it was another thing to see it in person. Patrick feels stupidly emotional about that and has to clear his throat.
“Everyone, this is Patrick,” Richie says, to the group at large. “Patrick, this is my family.”
“I’m his favorite cousin,” one girl says, but then another quickly throws back, “No, I am,” and then they’re all arguing about who likes who best. The older lady comes up to Patrick and looks at him sternly.
“We’re not all related by blood in this room,” she says, gesturing loosely towards the crowd, “but we are family. Are you ready to be a part of this?”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice,” Patrick says, smiling. He wonders how, even for a split second, he could’ve possibly thought that any of this was a mistake. It’s not just that Richie had snuck out to introduce his entire extended family to Patrick the first day he got there. It’s that he did it without warning. That he didn’t need to prepare Patrick. That he thought he was good enough just as he was. And this house? It wasn’t perfect. The carpets were still pretty gross. The walls need a lot of spackling. But Patrick hadn’t considered the fact that maybe they could do that together. This house would be theirs more than anything else ever had. Patrick nudges Richie lightly in the side. “I’m pretty in love with this guy.”
She nods, so that was apparently an acceptable answer. “Good. That’s the second most important part of fitting in with us.”
“What’s the first?”
She points towards the kitchen where Patrick sees, in astonishment, the countertops are now covered in platters and platters of homemade food. There’s not a single inch of empty space. “A love of eating,” she says.
“Oh god,” Patrick says, a hand on his still-empty stomach. “I’m going to fit in so well."
- - -
Later, after everyone has eaten, and then eaten again, and they’re all laying around the living room and dishing dirt on each other, Patrick sneaks away to the bathroom. He closes the door behind him quietly and calls Agustin.
“Oh, Patrick, good. I’ve been working on my therapeutic speech. I think I’ve nailed it.”
“Actually,” Patrick says, “I don’t need it anymore.”
“Yeah. I was pretty stupid. Turns out I’m going to love Texas.”
“Because Richie’s there?”
“Because Richie’s here,” Patrick agrees, with a smile on his face that Agustin would’ve definitely made fun of if he could see it in person. “And also, because of the food.”