Of all the people Patrice is expecting to see outside his door on that rainy Friday afternoon-- and he is ready to shout. He made it clear that he needs alone time and if it’s one more person with a casserole he is going to break the dish and maybe the person’s head while he is at it too.
But he opens the door and all words die on his lips.
Brad is standing on his doorstep. There is a far away look on his face, a frown on his brow. His shoulders are hunched and he is wearing--it’s that same t-shirt--the black one he loved with the logo of an obscure metal band on the front. The one he--
Patrice makes a sound at the back of his throat--a whimper.
“I didn’t--I didn’t know where else to go,” Brad says quietly, staring at some point past Patrice’s shoulder.
Patrice reaches out a hand on instinct--to hold him, to catch him--but it goes into and past Brad’s arm. Brad flinches back, frowns at the spot Patrice touched.
Right. Right. It spooks them when they are reminded of their death. Patrice knows that.
“Come in,” he says after what feels like a century, steps out of the way.
Brad walks inside, though his feet don’t quite touch the ground.
He hoped. God knows he selfishly hoped but it’s been a week and he thought-- And he was happy for Brad too. That he moved on. Ghosts don’t belong among the living. They never quite fit.
He follows Brad inside to the living room, tries not to focus on how he can see the staircase--distorted and hazy--through his head as if through a curtain.
Brad looks around for a moment like he can’t quite place where he is before he sits down on the sofa. On his side. (Patrice did not dare touch that side since.) He rubs at his arms like he is cold and Patrice knows that frown, the way Brad’s lips are parted--he only has that look when he is hurting bad and doesn’t want to let others know, doesn’t know how to.
“Brad?” he say and Brad finally looks up, looks at him. Patrice would hold him in his arms. He would hold him and rub his back, stroke his hair until Brad knew it was okay if he came apart because Patrice would always be there to put him back together again.
Patrice reaches out a hand. He draws it back and lets it fall on his lap.
Displays of intense emotion spook them. Some ghosts seek revenge. They are known to anger and hurt those who wronged them back when they were alive.
He smiles, tells Brad he is so glad he came.
“I didn’t know--” Brad says again, his voice a hoarse whisper. “I know you said I was--but I--it’s so cold outside.”
A liability. That’s what Patrice said he was. To the team and to him.
“Were you out there the entire time?” Patrice asks, his voice small. Ghosts don’t come back a week after their death. Brad must have been out there, alone, the entire time. Because of--
Brad nods, almost imperceptibly so.
“I didn’t know where to go.”
Because of him.
“I didn’t mean any of it.” Patrice holds back a tear through sheer force of will. “You are never a liability, not to the team, but never to me. I was angry and I had no right. Brad I am so sorry.”
Brad bites at his lower lip, his eyes fixed on the TV as if something mesmerizing is playing on the black screen. If he trashed the place--if he strangled him, killed him, Patrice would welcome it. It was such a stupid fight. He was tired and he’d hurt his shoulder and it had been so easy to blow up at Brad--one dirty hit. One suspension and what did it even matter in the end?
“I love you,” Patrice says, like he should have said so many more times while he still had the chance. “You have no idea how much I love you.”
Brad looks up at that and for the first time since he came in, his lips quirk up in the shadow of a smile. Far away, even as he is sitting on his spot on the couch they bought together on a rainy Friday like this.
Patrice wakes up in his own bed with a start. Their bed--though there is no Brad in it. He makes a sound, a whimper caught at the back of his throat because--Brad is--Patrice loves him and he is--
He sits up when the dream recedes into the shadows just by a little bit. Dream--that’s what it was. They fought that morning, not a week ago; Brad took his pillow and said he was going to sleep in the guest room without meeting Patrice’s eye this very night.
In a sprint Patrice makes it to the guest room, doesn’t even knock.
Brad sits up with a start. “Pat?” he says, voice thick with sleep, but he doesn’t get to say anything else. Because in the next moment Patrice sits on the bed and buries his head into Brad’s shoulder, holds him tighter than he held him before.
Brad is--he is so solid against him, warm. Patrice can smell what’s left of his cologne and the sweat, can smell him. And it only takes a second for his arms to close around Patrice, for a hand to start stroking his hair.
“Hey,” Brad says, voice warm like the rest of him, “hey it’s alright Bergy, I’ve got you. It’s alright.”
Patrice doesn’t realize he is crying until he feels his shoulder shake with sobs. But Brad is there for that too, rubbing his back, telling him how much he loves him.
“Nightmares?” he asks when Patrice has calmed down enough to draw back.
Patrice nods, only now feeling a pang of guilt for waking up his boyfriend in the middle of the night--and in the middle of a fight at that too. He gets these horrible nightmares sometimes--not often but when he does they are HD in how lifelike they are and always mess him up.
“I’m so sorry,” he says, because he is. “I didn’t mean what I said earlier. You are not a liability to this team, and never ever to me. I was tired and I was upset and I had no right to say what I said.”
Brad reaches out a hand to stroke his cheek.
“Sometimes I kind of am though.” He smiles quietly. “To the team. I am sorry too Pat.”
They need to--talk more. A whole lot more in the morning but for now--
“Is it okay if you come back to the bed?” Patrice asks even though he doesn’t have much right to. But even knowing that Brad is alive and well the prospect of an empty bed makes him shudder.
Brad draws him in for another hug again, holds him close enough for Patrice’s center to click back into place. “Come on,” he says, “let’s go back to our bed.”