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all the things you are to me

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The sheets are cool and comfortable, though a little lonely with David all the way on the other side of the apartment. Most of the remnants of the party have all been thrown out or put away. All that’s left are the dishes and David standing at the sink washing them in the half-light. It's an oddly domestic scene, one that makes Patrick feel privileged to be allowed to witness it. He knows enough about David's former life to recognize what a feat it is that not only is he doing the dishes at all but also that he'd volunteered for the job, sending Patrick off to bed with a kiss.

He wonders if it's, at least in part, an apology for the events that had unfolded this evening. But even in the towering height of his jealousy, he had known deep down that David had done nothing wrong. Ted had been the one to kiss David, and it had been chaste and silly and all in good fun—or at least it should have been—and David isn't to blame for Patrick's fleeting sulk about it all. He doesn't owe Patrick an apology of any sort.

"Come to bed, babe," he calls across the room.

David turns away from the sink with a grimace. "Babe?" he asks. "Since when are we doing 'babe'?"

"Uhh, I don't know. It just kind of... slipped out." Patrick really hadn't meant to include the endearment, but it had escaped before he could even think to stop it.

"Well, can we slip it right back in? Alexis and Ted do 'babe,' and I don't want anything about this"—he gestures between them with the plate in his hands, scattering drops of soapy water all across the kitchen floor—"to be even remotely the same as that."

"Noted." David turns back to finish rinsing the plate, and Patrick smirks to himself. "How about 'big guy' then?"

"Oh ha ha. Somebody thinks they're funny." David sets the plate on the drying rack, pulls the plug in the sink, and dries his hands as he pins Patrick with a stare.

"What?" Patrick asks, as innocently as he can manage. "Is 'big guy' just a you and Ted thing then, or... ?" There's a dramatic eye roll, and a hand towel comes sailing across the room, though it's nowhere near to hitting its mark. All it does is set Patrick to laughing. "Oh, come on, big guy."

David shakes his head and gathers up his rings from their safe place behind the sink, depositing them in the little dish Patrick had bought for the shelf on David's side of the bed. It's one of several markers around the apartment of the space Patrick has made for David in his life. A dish for those ubiquitous silver rings. A small cedar box at the bottom of his closet in which to store a spare sweater or two. An entire shelf reserved for hair and skincare products in his bathroom (and a proper door, too). It makes Patrick smile to know that anyone who walked into his apartment would be able to see David's presence there, in his home and in his life.

David sheds the silky pajamas he'd worn for the party in favor of his usual t-shirt and drawstring pants combo and, after turning out the lamp in the corner, climbs into bed. In spite of the bit of a row they'd had earlier, and in spite of all the teasing they've both done since, he curls up immediately in his usual place at Patrick's side, familiar and cozy and warm.

His head settles on Patrick's chest, a hand coming up to slip beneath his shirt, and Patrick yelps. “Fuck, David, that’s cold.”

“Serves you right. Big guy..." he grumbles.

Patrick pushes his hand away, and it resettles in the same place but outside his shirt this time, his fingers playing idly with the buttons there. In playful retaliation, he asks, "What about pumpkin?"

"Oh my god."

"Pudding pop?"

David groans.

Patrick can't help teasing him like this. It's too easy. "Pookie bear?"

"I hate you," David replies, but he twists the bottom button of Patrick's shirt free. A finger parts the fabric to trace little circles across the sliver of skin that appears there, leaving behind a patch of goosebumps that has nothing to do with the cold this time.

"I just think," Patrick says, "that if Ted gets to have a pet name for you, your boyfriend should at least get to have one for you, too."

"Not if it's 'pookie bear.'" David slips the next button free, giving his finger more space to roam. A flicker of heat begins to spark beneath Patrick's skin.

"So is that a yes then, just not that particular name?"

Instead of a reply, David undoes another button and slides down to press a kiss to Patrick's stomach. His mouth is warm against Patrick's skin, and for a moment the thread of their conversation is lost. By the time he can find it again, the rest of his shirt buttons have been unfastened, David is straddling his hips, and there's a fast-cooling trail of wet kisses leading up and over his sternum.

"Seriously," Patrick says, his hands coming up to cup the lines of David's jaw, thumbs rasping against the stubble there, "I want a name for you."

"Why? I have a name." David turns his head and captures Patrick's thumb between his lips, his tongue swirling around the length of it, but this time Patrick doesn't let himself get so easily distracted.

"And I love your name," he says, "but wouldn't it also be nice to have something that's... just for us?" He slips his thumb free of David's torturous mouth and guides his chin up, asking him to meet his gaze. Maybe it's dumb, Patrick thinks—and yes, the whole conversation had started out as a bit of a joke—but now it feels important. To have a name for David that only he knows, only he uses: a tender reminder every time he says it.

David's lips squeeze together the way they do when he's holding something back, as if he could physically keep his secrets hidden away there where Patrick can't see. But Patrick has learned to wait, and eventually the words come spilling out. "I, uh— I dated a guy once who insisted on calling me 'D.A.', even after I told him I didn't like it."

"David... Alan?"

A hand swats at his chest, and Patrick captures it to press a quick, chaste kiss against the back of it. Even in the dark, he can see David's blush. It's adorable. "Still not telling you my middle name," he says.

"It was worth a try." The guess eases the tension a little, but Patrick can still feel the stiffness in the way David is sitting astride him—head and shoulders stretched up a little too tall, spine pulled a little too straight, like he's drawing himself up for battle. Patrick squeezes his hand. He isn't sure he wants to know the answer anymore, but he asks anyway. "So what did D.A. stand for then?"

David just looks at him for several long seconds. But then he nods and swallows hard, his eyes darting around the room before coming back to meet Patrick's again. "It stood for dumb ass, actually." He shrugs. "He thought it was funny."

Another crack splits across Patrick's heart, the way it always does when he hears a new tidbit about the way David's exes have treated him. His heart is close to breaking, and how David's hasn't shattered like glass by now, he isn't sure.

He pulls David down and kisses him gently, trying to tell him just how little he deserves what he's so often been given before. Trying to tell him that that isn't what love is.

The kiss lingers a bit, and then a bit more, Patrick wanting to be sure that David knows he's loved, that he's cared for, that Patrick would never in a million years do something to intentionally hurt him that way. "I love you," he says against David's lips, and he means it more than he's ever meant it before.

Every single day he somehow means it more than he's ever meant it before.

"I know."

"And if you don't want some kind of pet name, I understand and will drop it completely."

The corner of David's mouth just twitches toward a smile. "I know," he says again.

"But I was thinking something, you know, a lot nicer. Something that makes you smile." He brushes his thumb across the corner of David's mouth. "Something that means all the things you are to me. That reminds you of how I feel every time I say it."

David bends down to kiss him again, a soft, sweet brush of lips that leaves Patrick's mouth tingling. He buries his face in Patrick's neck, and Patrick holds him there, wrapping him up snug in his arms as David breathes deeply against his skin. "I could, um... be amenable... to that."

A small grin blooms across Patrick's mouth, and he hides it in the mess of David's hair. They lie there in the quiet for a few minutes, just holding each other close in the warmth and comfort of their bed.

"Maybe," David says eventually, the words trembling a little as he breathes them into life, "I could find one for you, too."

Patrick's smile grows until even the ridiculous heights of David's hair can't contain it. It had been enough for him to agree; Patrick hadn't expected reciprocity. But he should have known better: everything that he has asked of David, he's been given back tenfold.

"Yeah," he says, his fingers dipping beneath the hem of David's shirt to find the warmth of his skin. "Yeah, I'd like that."

David stretches up to kiss him again, just once on the mouth, before his lips begin to trace down the column of Patrick's throat. If there is more of this conversation to be had, it will have to wait for the morning. Everything else is lost in a blur of fingers and tongues, of skin and sweat and satisfaction.

 

*

 

"Tiger?" Patrick suggests over breakfast, earning him an unamused stare. "Okay, what's the opposite of tiger then? Wolf? Mouse? Cow?"

David's spoon drops back into his bowl with a clatter, and he raises a silver-laden finger that promises to put Patrick in his place. "Okay, first of all, you agreed that it would be a nice name, and calling me 'cow' definitely falls under the category of not nice."

Patrick smirks. "Oh, that's just a jumping off point. The actual name would be something more like... sweet little moomoo-kins."

David makes a retching sound, and Patrick's smirk grows into a full-on grin. He would never actually call David anything of the sort and they both know it, but it's awfully fun to joke about it.

"Not just no, but hell no," David says. "And second of all, in what world is a cow the opposite of a tiger?"

"Tigers have stripes. Cows have spots."

"Oh my god. This explains so much about your fashion choices."

The horrified way he shakes his head draws a fond laugh from Patrick, and he sneaks a happy kiss to David's cheek as he gets up from the table. It's already half past eight, and one of them needs to get to the store. Judging by the robe still wrapped around his shoulders, David won't be ready any time soon, so Patrick washes his cereal bowl, finds his keys, and pulls on his shoes.

"I need to go, or we're going to open late. Again." He leans in for a quick kiss before he goes. "See you in a bit, hunny bunny."

David hooks a finger into the collar of his shirt to stop him from turning away. "You're the worst," he says, but he drags Patrick in for another kiss, longer and lingering. It's the kind of kiss that Patrick could fall into if he's not careful, letting it become something far, far more.

He tries to pull away, but David’s grip on his shirt doesn’t relax. “I really do need to leave, tater tot.”

"New ground rule: no food or animal-based names."

Patrick agrees—"I can work with that, hot stuff"— and with one last peck, David finally lets him go.

 

*

 

The suggestions become a running joke between them, the names running the full range from grotesquely sweet to hilariously obscene. Patrick tries out new ideas when they're alone at the store, bumping elbows as they restock the displays. Over dinner and a bit too much wine, tucked into a cozy corner booth at their favorite pizzeria in Elmdale. At night across the quiet stretch of their pillows, shared like secrets in the dark.

There's one morning spent in bed with Patrick making up body part-related names that start out innocent enough but turn so filthy David can't stop blushing. They open the store more than an hour late, but Patrick thinks the potential loss of revenue and customer loyalty are worth it for the way David turns faintly pink every time he looks at him for the rest of the day.

There's a whole weekend where Patrick tries to come up with a name for every letter of the alphabet, in order. 'Xylophone butt' is far from his best work, but the sheer horror it brings to David's face has Patrick laughing until he cries. He spends the rest of the night making it up to him, kissing apologies into all the soft, secret stretches of skin that only he gets to see.

The last two letters of the alphabet go completely forgotten.

There's a night curled up together on the sofa where Patrick finds a list of suggestions online that keep them laughing until their ribs ache. Despite their moratorium on food-based names, 'pickle head' becomes a fast favorite for the sheer absurdity of it, and Patrick spends all of the next day finding excuses to use it, just to see how long they can keep straight faces before dissolving into giggles.

David points out that it's probably something they need to find more organically, but Patrick keeps trying, mostly because there's nothing he loves more than making David laugh.

Sometimes he feels like he's learning something, too, about his very particular boyfriend with his very particular tastes. 'Hun,' for instance, earns him an entire lecture about how condescending it sounds, and 'sweetie' gets dragged under the bus with it even though Patrick hadn't suggested that one.

So he tries every name he can think up, no matter how saccharine or how scandalous, just to watch David react. It's funny and fascinating, and even without finding a proper choice, it feels like it's bringing them closer together.

 

*

 

In all their fun, Patrick begins to notice the one-sided nature of their suggestions—he's the only one offering them up for David to veto at will. One night, tucked into bed together, he asks about it. "How come you never suggest any names for me?"

"And overshadow the fine job you're doing of finding one for me?"

Patrick laughs and brushes a kiss across his temple. The day's offerings had included some real winners he'd dug up online. 'Num-nums' and 'gangsta baby' had both given them quite a laugh, while 'old man' had sent David literally fleeing the store. Patrick had had to put up the closed sign for twenty minutes while he went to the cafe to coax David back to work.

"Seriously though, why not?"

David wriggles a little closer. "I already have one for you."

"Oh yeah?" Patrick's mouth curves into a secret little smile. It's nice to know that David has given it some thought. "Let's hear it."

"Nope."

"Isn't the point to, you know, use the name once you've come up with it?"

David gives a little half shrug against Patrick's ribs and stretches up to drop a soft kiss along the bottom of his jaw. "When the time is right."

Patrick doesn't press him for more, just holds him a little tighter.

If David does have something in mind already, Patrick will have to work harder to find one, too. All the suggestions he's been making have been a good time, but none of them have been anywhere close to serious.

He lets himself drift, a litany of names rising to dot the sky like stars. What could he possibly choose that would actually capture all that David means to him? He wishes he could somehow reach up and pluck a name out of the inky blackness, twinkling and bright. The right word is out there, he knows. But for tonight sleep settles in around him like a fog, and one by one the stars all fade back into the dark.

 

*

 

It's late by the time Patrick makes it back to his hotel room, still just a shade past tipsy. It takes him three tries to get his keycard properly in the door, but eventually he manages it and spills into the waiting darkness of the room.

It's weird, turning on the lights to find an empty bed. He'd half forgotten that David isn't here. Instead he's at home in their own bed—Patrick grins to himself at the thought. Because it isn't their home and their bed, not really; it's Patrick's home and Patrick's bed, but he's so seldom alone there these days that he's apparently started to think of it as theirs anyway.

It's a realization that should probably frighten him more than it seems to. After he'd called off his engagement to Rachel, he'd sworn off relationships all together, but then David had stumbled into his life and all those self-promises had gone right out the window. Still, he'd tried to be at least a little cautious. That's part of the reason he hadn't just gone ahead and asked David to move in with him in the first place. But it seems they've pretty much ended up in the same place either way, and Patrick finds that he doesn't mind that at all. In fact, he kind of likes it. That they'd still found their way to this point feels a little like destiny. Fate. Divine intervention. And the idea that maybe someone or something bigger than themselves is rooting for them is strangely reassuring.

Patrick wriggles out of his jeans and button-up and climbs under the blankets with his phone. There are two messages waiting for him, both from David, and he smiles.

Hope you're having fun.

Let me know when you get in tonight, even if it's
late.

It's nearly four, and David's second message indicates it was sent shortly before midnight. Patrick can practically see him lying awake, his hands twitching as the minutes tick by, counting out the beats of his anxiety. It's one of his more endearing qualities, his perpetual worry. But Patrick knows that it's one borne of old wounds, and the last thing he wants is to reopen them. He replies as quickly as his liquor-loosened fingers will allow.

          Just got itno bed

Three dots appear immediately, indicating that David is typing a reply, and Patrick's heart flutters. He was right. David had been waiting up for him. He wishes he could be slipping into bed beside him instead of trading messages, but this will have to do for tonight. He's certainly in no shape to drive home right now, and even if he could leave this second, it's a long enough trip that he wouldn't make it home until well after David goes to work.

Alone?

Patrick shakes his head. Someday he's going to manage to love that particular fear right out of David, but for now it's still a work in progress.

          Well there were 3 strippers and a modle but we
          neve r made it to theh bed

          Of course Im alone wouldnt wnat anyone here
          but toi

          Tou

          Fuck

          Yoi

          I giv e

          U

          Up

He made an absolute mess of that. But when those three dots appear again, they make Patrick feel strangely warm and fuzzy. Some of that could be the last vestiges of the whiskey though.

Are you drunk?

          Thats what usually halpens at bachlor parties

Wouldn't know. Never been.

Patrick wrinkles his nose at yet another reminder of David’s rather lonely past.

          Everyone elses loss

          Wish youd come to this one

Someone had to stay at the store.

They had discussed it. Nick, Drew's best man, had been sure to extend the invitation to both of them once he'd found that Patrick was dating David. But even though David hadn't outright said it, Patrick knew he was unsure about the prospect of meeting all his old, high school friends, and he'd let David hide behind the store as a convenient excuse not to go. It was the right decision, of course, as Patrick would never force David into something he didn't want to do, but he had spent most of the night wishing David had been by his side.

          There ws karaoke u miss ed out

Did they have Mariah?

Patrick hugs the phone to his chest with a laugh, as if he could somehow let David feel his joy through the screen. He's so predictable in his Mariah obsession, and Patrick loves him fiercely for it.

          All of daydream plus  few others

Damn. Next time.

What did you sing?

          Bit of tuna

          Tina

It takes several minutes for the next message to appear, and Patrick starts to drift off a bit before the buzz of the notification jolts him awake again.

You sang our song to a room full of drunk
strangers?

          No!!

          No Im sorry cuddle nutt

          Jack and I did a rousing duet of proud mary think
          drew mightve filmed it

It takes Patrick four tries to get 'rousing' right before sending that one.

Cuddle nutt is a definite no.

          Oops I realy meant cuddle BUTT

K, in that case, also no.

Patrick can picture the disgust on David's face. He misses that face. It hasn't even been a whole day, but he misses that face so much he could almost cry. Although that might also be the whiskey.

          U know I wouldnt sing the best to anyone but u
          right

Well I know how sentimental you get when you're
drunk, so I just had to check.

He has a point, Patrick supposes. He has been known to get a little gushy when he drinks. Had he not just been close to tears thinking about David's face?

He also has a point in that the first time Patrick had sung to David, he’d definitely done it in front of a whole room full of people. But that had been different. That had been a declaration—one he'd known David wouldn't fully believe if Patrick hadn't put himself out there where other people could see it.

It's one thing to offer your affections into the salt and sweat of someone's skin, to hold it between you in the secret spaces of the dark, to hide it behind closed doors. And it's another thing entirely to stand in the spotlight in front of nearly every person you know (and some you don't) and say this is how I feel about this man. Patrick would stand and sing to David in front of the entire world if it would give him even an inkling of an idea of how much Patrick loves him. Of how proud Patrick is to be given the chance to love him.

          Its only you yuo know that right ? Just you

          You are the best david

See what I mean? Sentimental.

Some might even say sappy.

Patrick knows he's smiling though, so he tells him again.

          Youre the best

He follows it up with a long, ridiculous string of emojis—hearts and kissy faces and maybe a peach or two. As he hits send, a thought occurs to him, rising warm and bright under his skin like the dawn.

          Hey I got it

          Got a name for u

Oh god this should be good.

Patrick hesitates for a moment. He likes it, but will David?

Let's hear it then.

He sends it before he can overthink it.

          Best.

It's simple and sincere. It's not cutesy or twee or ridiculous like so many of the names they've laughed over. It's a reminder of how they've gotten to where they are. It's what David is and always will be to him—the absolute best. The best person he's ever met. The best thing that's ever happened to him. The best.

That's an adjective, not a name.

Patrick doesn't let David's less-than-enthusiastic response dampen his own fondness for it. It feels right. David just needs to see it in context.

          I love you, best

The seconds tick past as Patrick awaits a reply, staring at the screen and willing those three tiny dots to appear. Just as his nerves start to get the better of him, they do.

Yes

          You like it?

I like it.

It feels like some kind of victory, and Patrick's heart soars.

          I know youre blushing

          Send me a pic

Absolutely not.

          Please, best

Ok you don't get to just trot it out as a
manipulation tactic.

Despite his refusals, however, a photo arrives anyway, He is indeed blushing, a deep pink splotched across his neck and cheeks. His hair is a disaster where it's been rubbing against the pillows. Ever bashful—something Patrick had found surprising considering the number of people in David's past who have been such lovers of the spotlight, his own mother included—he isn't looking at the camera, but his mouth is twisted in that familiar little pucker, the one that means he's pleased but trying desperately not to show it. It makes Patrick ache with longing.

          You're so beautiful

I've been up all night. I'm a mess.

          I like you messy.

Oh my god

          I like you in our bed.

Another picture arrives. David's actually looking into the camera in this one, his dark eyes staring at Patrick right through the lens, but the rest of his face is hidden behind what Patrick recognizes as his own pillow.

It smells like you.

He groans. Tomorrow morning can't come soon enough.

He sends his own photo in reply, giving David a little half-smile that comes nowhere near capturing everything he wants to show him right now. But it's late, and David will have to open the store on his own in the morning, which means Patrick really should let him get some sleep.

Still, he sends another picture just for good measure, this one of an exaggerated kissy face. He looks ridiculous, but he knows it will make David laugh.

You're ridiculous.

Patrick smiles—he knows David so well.

God I miss you.

          I miss you too. I'll be home around lunch. Meet
          you at the store

Ok, let me know when you leave.

          I will.

          I love you

I love you, too.

Goodnight, button.

Button.

He'd half expected that David didn't really have a name in mind despite his insistence that he did. But here it is. Patrick isn't entirely sure where it came from. He seems to maybe remember hearing it a long time ago but can't place exactly where or when—he'll have to ask David when he gets home. But he does know what it means.

It means all the same things that he'd been looking for in a name for David. It means I miss you and I love you and I can't wait to see you.

It means you're mine and I'm yours and there's no one else who could ever compare.

It means I see you and I've got you and I will never, ever leave you.

It means everything.

Patrick turns out the lamp on the bedside table, smiling softly into the dark as he sends back his reply, the only one that could possibly even start to capture all the things he’s feeling in this moment: his own name for the everything in his life.

          Goodnight, best.