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Patrick is not a flexible, go-with-the-flow sort of person. He's aware, and he's working on being more tolerant of chaos, or at the very least working  to mitigate its effects on his mood. Nobody's perfect; he certainly never claimed to be perfect.

And he knew going into this that wanting David Rose in his life was opening the door to chaos in so many different ways. He had time – he had more than enough time, in the endless nine weeks since he found himself sleepless in bed in the minuscule hours of the morning with an uninvited voice in his head telling him straight men do not think about another man every hour of every day, you know this isn't normal, are you ever going to stop lying even for one minute? – more than enough time to do a thorough cost/benefit analysis.

The cost is that he'd have to stop lying, first to himself, then slowly but surely to everyone else. The cost is that he likes this job and he'll feel guilty forever if he tanks Rose Apothecary amidst a bunch of messy emotional drama. The cost is the potential for messy emotional drama. The cost is – the mess. The chaos. The loss of control over so many different aspects of his life that he had to start a separate list.

The benefit is....

That David has a heart-stoppingly beautiful smile. That David might smile more at him. That Patrick might finally be able to lean in and press a kiss to that smile and the world won't end, or maybe it would end, and maybe in a sense – Patrick wants it to.

The potential benefit is... everything.

It didn't happen overnight. It took nine weeks, actually, of sleepless nights and stream-of-consciousness lists about his fears and his hopes (some of which resolved themselves into bits of lyrics, and god, he hasn't written a song in at least five years, he thought he'd put that part of his life behind him, but here he is) and long hikes to higher ground to watch the sun set over a perfect, unspoiled piece of western Saskatchewan forest.

It took twenty-eight years, Patrick guesses. And he still screwed it up.

But somehow David figured it out in spite of Patrick's best efforts to make a hash of the whole event – everything that Patrick wanted and couldn't ask for, David just quietly gave him without having to be asked at all, from the perfect first date to the perfect sweet smile to that kiss.

That kiss.

The night of that kiss, Patrick lies awake into the minuscule hours of the morning, his heart pushing too hard to let him sleep, the voice in his head telling him don't get lost in this, don't lose your head, you don't want to lose him, do you?

But for once in his life, Patrick doesn't feel lost. He doesn't have a map, but maybe he doesn't need one. Maybe all he needs is this compass, the invisible one that keeps pulling him straight toward David again and again every time Patrick tries to steer for shallower, safer waters.

By five o'clock he's woken up from his pitiful attempt at sleep and he heads to the store, because he doesn't know what else to do with all this energy. He sweeps and mops and stocks and files invoices and pretends he isn't watching the clock tick, its hands pulling like a compass needle toward nine a.m. – toward David.

David Rose.

The cost/benefit....

David. David Rose.

Patrick has to pull it together. This is no way to run a business, and David is counting on him; he made serious promises to David regarding this store, promises he has to come through on no matter what.

He takes a break at a quarter to eight. He sits alone at the diner and eats oatmeal and raisin toast and tea and he starts scribbling another list while he eats, because there have to be limits here, there has to be some structure. If he listens to his fear, he won't go far enough. If he listens to his heart, he could go way too far.

We talk about everything before it happens , he writes. No impulsive decisions.

We put the business first. He underlines first three times, and adds as a parenthetical (all work-inappropriate activities left outside of work).

He writes Stevie – Moira – Alexis, because David might eat broken glass before he'd admit it, but these are the people he loves deeply, and he deeply cares what they think. These are the people that Patrick has to make sure are on his side if this relationship has any hope of lasting.

Patrick pauses and taps his pen on the legal pad restlessly. Is he seriously thinking in terms of a lasting relationship? They've kissed one time. They've been on one date, and it was to this ridiculous diner. He loves the idea of something long-term with David, but then, hasn't that always been Patrick's problem? He loves the idea of things. Of people. He thought he was in love with Rachel the first time he proposed, but the second time – and the third time – and the time in between when she proposed to him – wasn't that mostly about the security of having his future all squared away, all his choices made, all unwelcome possibilities safely behind locked doors?

Is he making the same mistake all over again?

He does care about David. He cares – cared – cares about Rachel, too. But it's so early. It's not healthy, is it? To grab immediately after anything that generates a remotely positive response in him, just to make sure he has it locked down and all the uncertainty behind him?

This feels different. This – David – god, it feels so different.

But – what's a feeling, really? How are you supposed to know which feelings are trustworthy and which aren't? Patrick doesn't even know how to begin that list.

Maybe – not definitely, but maybe – he has an idea how to begin that song.

He hasn't written a song in years.

Below the other bullet points, in larger capital letters, he writes GO SLOW. BE SURE. He closes the words in a neat box.

The thought of holding back is...not appealing. He's dying to see David – hell, if David didn't live with his sister, Patrick probably would've brought him coffee and breakfast sandwiches and kissed him good morning and maybe (not definitely, but maybe) have been allowed to run his fingers through David's pre-product hair. Patrick doesn't want to go slow, which is – exactly the reason that he should.

Because he's not allowed to be wrong about this. He's not going to let himself treat David like... just the first opportunity to come along at exactly the moment when Patrick's maybe more-or-less ready to kiss a man. He wants to mean absolutely everything he says, so that he never has to take any of it back again.

So that he's someone whose word David can trust completely.

David needs that, Patrick's sure of it.

And what's a feeling, really? But Patrick still feels warmth bloom out of his chest and beam into every cell of his body when he thinks that he could maybe – not definitely, but maybe – be the person who gives David what he needs.

That's never happened to Patrick before and Patrick has a low tolerance for the unexpected, but this particular unexpected experience is – not a bad thing, per se.

As a matter of fact, it's the second-best feeling he's had in the past twelve hours.

 

The whole day turns out to be chaos. There are miscommunications and a visit from Moira Rose and he and David do, after all, end up being somewhat unprofessional at work.

But it's fine. It's fine, it's a good day. It's Day One, and Patrick is adapting, and David is smiling, and it feels good. The benefits are, so far, vastly outweighing the costs.

God, it takes everything Patrick's got to stop kissing David Rose, and it's only Day One.

Go slow , he reminds himself. Be sure.

Whose stupid idea was that?

“Closing time,” David reports cheerfully as he flips the sign, and then he turns around and leans against the door, his smile softening and deepening like it sometimes does – like it did last night in the car – while he takes in everything about Patrick with his eyes.

Patrick should be counting the till, but he feels addled and forgetful, like he barely remembers what math is. All he can think about is music. What's David's song? More Than Words? No Ordinary Love? The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face? The right song is out there, Patrick just can't quite put his finger on it yet. It's on the tip of his tongue.

David huffs a little laugh and looks down, as if he's pleasantly overcome under the heat of Patrick's intense regard. “Well. So, is this – when we talk?”

Talk. They do need to do that. It's thing number one on Patrick's list from this morning. But David, who's never worn an item of clothing in his life that wasn't black so far as Patrick is aware, is wearing white, and it's all Patrick can focus on.

Like we're both starting something new, David said. At the time, Patrick assumed he was being sweet, stressing that he intended to stay by Patrick's side instead of dragging him forward, but now Patrick is thinking.... When David got up this morning, he dressed in white. David never does that.

“Patrick?” David says. “You're making me nervous again. If you don't talk, I'm going to talk, and neither of us really wants me to talk.”

“I might,” Patrick says, and then he heads off the sour look on David's face by standing up from his lean behind the counter, smacking its surface authoritatively with his palm and saying, “You know what? Fuck the till, and fuck talking. I'm hungry, want to get dinner?”

“Not if I'm not allowed to talk,” David says warily.

“I'll allow it,” Patrick says. “But nothing heavy. Not yet. I just want to have dinner, and I want to have dinner with you, and I want to pay for it, because it's a date.”

David grins. “Now, was that so difficult?”

“Stop swooning, David, you're embarrassing yourself,” Patrick says.

He picks up David's black bag from behind the counter and brings it with him when he meets David at the door. “I bet this is your first date with a homeless person,” David says as he accepts it.

“You are sort of homeless, aren't you?” They are both entirely too old to be living out of single rooms, but here they both are. “I think I should call Ray and see if he minds putting you up on the couch tonight.”

“I don't want to make you uncomfortable,” David says. “I'll make Stevie uncomfortable, she's used to it.”

“I won't be uncomfortable,” Patrick says. “Really, David, it's fine. It is. We'll make popcorn and watch a movie. It'll be fun.”

“Dinner and a movie,” David says. “Love among the bourgeoisie.”

It's a joke, Patrick knows. But the word love still feels – more like a possible benefit than a possible cost. “Sorry, I don't fly anyone to Paris until the third date.”

“No one's ever flown me to Paris for a date,” David says. “I did meet up with someone for a third date in Caracas once.”

“Yeah?” Patrick says, determined not to think about I've kissed like a thousand people. David is kissing Patrick now, and that's the only thing that matters.

Well. Unfortunately, not now.

Dinner first. Dinner, then a movie, then they kiss goodnight, because Patrick is not a thousand people.

A thousand people are all gone now, and Patrick is here. That's how you can tell the difference, and it's a difference that Patrick has made up his mind to hang onto.

David wore white to work this morning. Like a Virgin feels much too on-the-nose. Like a Prayer, maybe. That wouldn't be hard to come up with a good acoustic arrangement for, and Patrick likes the idea. David's song should have solid diva credentials.

“You can tell me all about it over dinner,” Patrick offers.

“I would genuinely rather die,” David says cheerily.

 

Like most of Schitt's Creek, Ray is friendly and generous and slightly detached from reality and twenty years behind the rest of the civilized world. It makes him a terrible boss, but a fair-to-middling landlord, and it means that he still owns a VCR and a surprisingly vast collection of movies from the 90s.

David presses both hands to his heart and makes a sound that Patrick can only describe as a coo of excitement when he steps up to the bookshelf to browse the titles. “I'll make the popcorn,” Patrick says. “You can...greet the videotapes as their prince in exile.”

Oh ,” David whispers with the devotional reverence appropriate to a cathedral, reaching out to touch one videotape box with a single fingertip. “ Selena.”

It's so goddamn cute. David is so goddamn cute.

And he packed his pajamas this morning when he left the hotel – deeply unsexy, gray pinstriped pajamas, which you would absolutely not pack if your agenda were to seduce anyone.

Maybe the song he's looking for is a funny one. David makes Patrick smile, makes him laugh, and somehow he seems to have the same effect on David. No one with a smile like David's should be reduced to mawkish, sentimental songs. He doesn't make Patrick feel sentimental. He makes Patrick feel...joyful.

Patrick sings Can't Get Enough of You, Baby under his breath in the kitchen while he makes the popcorn.

“What did you pick?” he asks when he comes back in. He has no choice but to sit close to David on the couch, so they can share the popcorn. Patrick arranges a blanket over their laps and bunches it up to create a secure little nest for the bowl.

“Oh, The Bodyguard,” David says, as though it's obvious and inevitable. Patrick supposes it might be.

He's seen the movie before, but not since he was a kid, and even then, he's not sure that he payed it a lot of attention – it's a movie that his mother and his sisters liked, and he took a passing interest because Kevin Costner made him think of Field of Dreams . The Bodyguard , as it turned out, was no Field of Dreams, and watching it again now, Patrick finds his opinion pretty much unchanged.

David, however, is fully riveted. He even tears up at the end, giving Patrick an excuse to put a comforting arm around his shoulders.

Patrick's not sure why he feels he needs an excuse, but...whatever.

David is even riveted to the credits, but as they die off, he says, “That was originally written for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross, until it got stuck for decades in development hell.”

“They'd have been good,” Patrick says, although he doesn't have strong feelings about Steve McQueen or Diana Ross.

One of them should probably get up and – rewind the tape, or turn off the tv, or something. But instead they both continue to sit there as the screen goes blue. The bowl is all but empty, and Patrick shifts around just enough to move it to the coffee table. He hesitates a minute before putting his arm back around David, but when he does, David snuggles down, his head on Patrick's shoulder.

Patrick's heart stops briefly, then does a funny thing like a pinata where it breaks, but instead of pain, everything erupts in bright colors and candy.

Go slow , he thinks. Be sure . He carefully squeezes David's arm to express his approval of this development. Slow. Sure.

“When I was little,” David says softly, like he's reluctant to break the silence, “Rose Video did this thing where they'd kind of – curate collections around a theme and promote them in the stores. My dad wanted to do one for classic family movies, and he asked me to make him a list. He said he was hiring me as a consultant.”

There's such fondness in his voice for the memory, but also a little thread of sadness, and it makes Patrick realize that this morning when he wrote Stevie – Moira – Alexis , it never occurred to him to put down David's father, too. He's sure that David loves his father, but the two of them seem to have an amiable, distant relationship, each satisfied to know the other exists and is reasonably happy, but asking almost nothing of each other. It's so wildly different from the way that Patrick always was with his father that Patrick doesn't even really know how to make sense of it. Patrick always wanted so much from his father, wanted so badly to make him happy.

“That's sweet,” Patrick says. “Were movies – the thing you two had in common?”

“I don't know,” David says. “I guess so. He didn't use any of my suggestions anyway. Apparently Flashdance and An Officer and a Gentleman were not technically 'family movies.'” Patrick can't help releasing a laugh, even though he's not sure whether or not this is an intentionally funny story. David doesn't seem offended, though. “I was just happy he thought of me. My mother...always needed a lot. From the world, obviously, but even more from me specifically. Dad – wasn't like that.”

“Yeah,” Patrick says. “It feels nice to be needed.”

You can find yourself doing some objectively crazy things, when you think someone really, really needs you. You can agree to marry them four separate times, even though you know you don't love them and you suspect you'll never be happy a day in your life if you go through with it. But if they need you, who are you to say no over a little thing like your own happiness?

“I always feel guilty about how much I like that movie,” David says. “It feels disloyal to Mariah.”

“Sorry?” Patrick says. He's missed something.

“She had to spend the first portion of her career unfairly forced into competition with Whitney. People didn't recognize her genius because she was informally marketed as 'the white Whitney Houston,' which is such total bullshit, because it erases both her biracial identity and her formidable gifts as a songwriter, which Whitney, may her memory be a blessing, was definitely not.”

“Wow,” Patrick says. “That's-- You've given this a lot of thought.”

Soberly, David says, “I have given this a lot of thought.”

“Are you Jewish?” Patrick asks.

“So they told me at my bar mitzvah,” David says. “My mother is Irish Catholic, though.”

“Sorry,” Patrick says. “Wasn't trying to erase your biracial identity.”

“Well, see that you don't,” David says comfortably, twisting around a bit so more of his back than his side is curled up against Patrick.

Patrick lets his arm move so that his hand dangles close enough to David's chest to touch, but he doesn't touch. “We should talk,” he says, barely able to do more than breathe it. He doesn't want to ruin the peace of this moment with words, but... It was thing number one on the list.

“Let's talk,” David says.

They don't. Patrick catches himself biting his lip, worrying over words that won't come. He's not sure he even knows any Mariah Carey songs. Vision of Love. Always Be My Baby. She had a lot more, he knows, but he can't come up with the name of a third. He can never admit this to David; he'll have to take it to his grave.

“How about I start?” David says, warmly indulgent. Patrick swallows, unable to voice even something so mundane as sure, go ahead. “Earlier you – you said you didn't mean to assume that I wanted to sleep with you. And I think you should know something about that. Actually two things – three things about that. I have three things to tell you about that: two reasons that I don't want to sleep with you and one reason I do.”

“That's-- Okay,” Patrick says. “Let's hear it, I guess.”

David tilts his head so he's looking slightly backwards at Patrick. Patrick isn't used to seeing him look so serious and so calm at the same time. It's a good look on him. “You're my friend,” David says, and Patrick's stomach lurches uncertainly. Is this the good news or the bad news? He could see it going either way. “And I can tell you're really nervous about this, and I want.... I want for you what I would want for anyone I considered a friend. I want every time you have sex to be a – completely positive experience, and I think – even though a little nervous zing is normal and not a big deal when you're trying new things, I think you're – more nervous than zingy. I think you'd put a ton of pressure on yourself and wouldn't really enjoy it, and I don't want that for you.”

“Yeah,” Patrick says. The ship has sailed on every time Patrick ever has sex being a completely positive experience, but it's – such a sweet thing to say anyway. Even more so because he very much suspects David is speaking as someone whose ship has also sailed. “I.... Thanks.”

“Mmhm. The second thing is, I really put a lot of myself into this store, and it's been a long, long time since I've – tried for anything, without a layer of ironic detachment to cushion the inevitable fall. It's important to me that.... It's just important to me, and I don't think I can do it alone. I know that was my original plan, but I didn't really understand how hard it would be, and I need someone..... No, I mean. I need you. For this. And I'm scared we'll mess things up, and you won't want to have anything to do with me or the Apothecary anymore, and I just--”

“That won't happen,” Patrick promises. He flattens his hand against David's chest, pressing gently like he's pushing the certainty down under David's skin. “It's important to me, too, David. Even if things don't – for some reason don't work out, I won't just walk away.”

David is silent for a moment, and then he says, “Okay,” a bit hesitantly, like he's choosing to accept what he can't fully believe, at least for now. “Well. I still have a lot of anxiety around that, and not in the nervous-zingy way. It actually makes me feel really bad when I stop and think about it, and I need some time to get past that.”

“That's fair,” Patrick says. “We should.... We'll both be more sure if we go slow.”

“But the reason I do want to sleep with you,” David says, and the sudden roar of blood throughout Patrick's whole body almost makes him miss the rest – “is that I am wildly attracted to you. Like, you did that very endearing, humble little thing earlier where you were all, oh, gosh, maybe I was being too full of myself when I thought he wanted me. So A-plus adorable, but also no, ridiculous, oh my god, Patrick, one thousand percent, I do want that. You. That – with you. Yes.”

“Yes,” Patrick echoes faintly. “I mean – thank you. Yes. I – thanks.”

He can feel David exhale deeply, relaxing back against Patrick now that he's dispatched the mission he set himself. Patrick drops his head forward until he's nuzzling David's hair, and David puts his hand over Patrick's, holding it to David's chest. “I didn't mean to do all the talking. This is your edgewise, in case you'd like to get a word in.”

Patrick should probably do that. He could tell David more about where he stands on his whole discovering-his-sexuality process, or how he's scared that he's not equipped to deal with a relationship that's built on emotional intensity instead of predictability, or how he worries that he's an extremely ordinary person and David is very much not and that is not a combination that's built to last. He could, at the very least, tell David that he's nervous-zingy because he wants this to last.

Or maybe that's too much, too fast. He probably shouldn't say that.

“Can I kiss you again?” he says instead.

David squeezes his hand and then lets go, but only to shift around, and he's hardly gotten himself situated when Patrick spins to him like a compass needle – falls into him with a hand cupped under David's strong, stubbled jaw, with a quiet little aching noise that David receives and holds between their mouths. David's hand finds a firm, grounding grip off-center of Patrick's lower back, and Patrick lets his mouth go soft and relaxed, lets himself follow instead of lead for once.

He lets David lower him to his back on the couch, David's hands strong but careful, gentlemanly , on Patrick's sides, and he feels his fingers scrabble at the smooth fabric of David's pinstriped pajama top, and he opens his mouth more and thinks as loudly as he possibly can more, come on, please, this but more . David turns his head just slightly, adjusts the angle of their mouths, and something happens, something snaps into place like the perfect crack of a home run in the ninth inning, and it's a whole different kind of kiss now.

It's the end of the world.

It's everything.

He's drunk on it in seconds, dizzy with it, stupidly oblivious to any and every facet of reality that isn't the weight of David, the taste of him, the breathless sensation of dancing right on the line between chaos and home, a line he didn't even know existed before he had David in his life. All too soon, David puts an inch or two of air between their mouths, and Patrick feels more than hears a helpless little no come out of his mouth.

“You are such a fucking temptation,” David says huskily. “I thought we were supposed to be talking. Getting to know each other, isn't that the point of dating?”

Pajamas are not designed for modesty, and Patrick's pretty sure that parts of them are getting to know each other awfully well right now. “Favorite ice cream flavor?” Patrick says.

“Salted caramel,” David says, as if there's absolutely nothing weird about this conversation at all. “You?”

“Cookies and cream.” David grunts a little, like he's not terribly impressed but he admits it could be worse. “Who's the most famous person you've ever kissed?”

“Claire Danes.”

“She was good in Romeo + Juliet,” Patrick admits.

Something in his face must give him away, though. David's smile curls faintly and he cuts right down to the bone when he slyly says, “I get the feeling you weren't hoping to hear stories about girls right now.”

“I....” Patrick flounders around searching for the response that a normal adult man with a comfortable handle on his own sexuality might have. “It's okay that you're bisexual,” he finally says, which – nope, is not it.

The curl of David's smile deepens. “I know it is,” he says, a slow, teasing drag over every one of Patrick's nerve endings. “It's okay if you are, too.”

“Yeah,” Patrick says. “But I'm not.” It's not – the thing he should be able to say by now, but it is something. Something true, and that has to count at least a little bit.

“No,” David says with infinite kindness, smoothing the tip of his finger over Patrick's eyebrow. “I didn't think so.”

He loves every single thing about the sight of David, but he still has to close his eyes in order to ask, “Who's – who's the most famous man you ever kissed?”

David rewards him with a sweet brush of lips, much more like this afternoon at the store than like – whatever that was a second ago. “Lance Bass,” he says.

“Yeah,” Patrick says. “I – can see that.”

“Who's your Mariah Carey?”

Patrick replays that in his head, and it comes frustratingly close to making sense, but doesn't quite land. “My – like a singer I like?”

David chuckles softly. “When you were young,” he spells out, letting his fingers trace over Patrick's hairline and down behind his ear, “just the age where you started wanting to know everything about the world – who was it whose music felt right – felt perfect – made you feel like you almost had all the answers?”

“I – I'm not sure,” Patrick admits. Music was always a part of his life, always mattered so much. He doesn't know how to distill all his favorites into something like what David's talking about, something that felt so – personal.

“It's Britney, isn't it?” David says, and Patrick can't help laughing. “It's okay, this is a safe space, you can say it. Go ahead, say Britney. Britney. Say it.”

Patrick's squirming a little underneath him now, teetering on the edge of what he's very much afraid will turn out to be hysterical giggles. “It's not Britney,” he says. “I – I don't know. Does it have to be a pop star?”

“I mean, if you want to be gay, it really should be,” David says breezily, and Patrick is momentarily gobsmacked, because David just – says it so easily, like they're just words, like they're just something he found lying on the floor and picked up and put to use, and sometimes Patrick despairs of even being able to force something like that out of his own mouth, let alone just – say it like that. “But, ugh, for you it was probably some very manly rock band or something. That's all right, you can still tell me, I won't judge.”

“Except you will, though,” Patrick says fondly. David shrugs one shoulder, and it makes Patrick very aware of his broad shoulders – very positively aware of them. He puts his hand up on David's shoulder, and he can feel David tense slightly, expecting to be pushed away. Patrick doesn't push, though. He just holds on until David relaxes, and then he tries kneading a little. David seems to like it. “I do think a lot of my – formative influences were rock bands,” he says. “REM. U2.”

“I'm not mad about that,” David says. “I thought I slept with Michael Stipe once, but it turned out not to be him.”

“I don't know how many of these stories I can take,” Patrick says.

David winces a little. “Sorry. That one I thought was funnier until I said it out loud.”

Patrick pushes up just far enough to kiss David's lips briefly, then drops back again. “Tori Amos,” he says. “I think... the one who changed things for me when I was young.... I think probably Tori Amos.”

“I kind of think you're lying?” David says. “You're too young for Tori.”

“Says the guy who thought other small children would enjoy An Officer and a Gentleman. I have older sisters, okay?”

“Best Tori Amos song, don't think, go,” David demands.

He doesn't have to think. “Pretty Good Year.”

“Ohhhh, I'm sorry,” David says. “The correct answer was Silent All These--” Patrick might actually get annoyed if David pushes this one, because Silent All These Years is only the third-best song from that album, so he heads this relationship test off at the pass by yanking David's head down and kissing him hard. That earns him six amazing slow kisses and, eventually, a breathless, “Actually, you know, solid choice. Under the Pink, a very strong album.”

“Did I just figure out how to win an argument with you?” Patrick says.

“No,” David scoffs, but then seems to do some quick calculations in his head and changes it to, “Possibly. Difficult to say, really. I think you should keep experimenting.”

Patrick knows there's no ill-will behind it, knows it's nothing more than a flirty joke, but the word still stings like a sharp cat scratch. “I'm not experimenting,” he says. He shouldn't say it. He's taking the joke too seriously. He's the one spoiling the mood, not David.

David would be within his rights to say exactly that, but he doesn't. He just looks at Patrick for a minute, his hand resting on Patrick's t-shirt, one finger tapping slowly, absently against the skin over Patrick's collarbone. “Okay,” he finally says, “but you know you're allowed to, right?” He's not. He has responsibilities. He doesn't know when David became his responsibility, but it happened, and now it's true. When he doesn't say anything, David frowns a little and shifts onto his elbow, freeing up his other hand to stroke Patrick's face. “I did,” David says. “A lot of people do. It's really okay not to be born automatically knowing everything about yourself. You should experiment. You should have fun with this stuff. It's pretty fun, actually?”

Fun is...not the first word that Patrick associates with this – whatever this is. This phase of his personal development. Okay, parts of it have been – kissing David is – Patrick can't complain there. But most of the rest has been.... “I hate it,” he hears himself saying before he can stop it, and once the dam has broken, he just has to keep pushing through. “I hate the time I lost being a coward – and I hate the mess I left behind when I ran out of my old life – and I hate that I spent nine weeks planning it out and I still couldn't ask you out like a normal person – and I hate that when we do have sex, you'll be tutoring me through the most basic crap possible instead of being able to actually enjoy it. I hate experimenting. I hate being in this place where I don't – I don't know who I am or where I'm going. I just want to skip to the end.”

It should be obnoxious, or possibly even humiliating, the way that David hums sympathetically and kisses Patrick's forehead like he's a toddler having an adorable tantrum. It's...actually a little bit soothing. “I feel like most of that was about you,” David says, “but briefly in the middle there it was about me, so can I just check in around that part and tell you? I plan to enjoy the fuck out of tutoring you through absolutely whatever you want me to. I know you're dealing with a lot right now, so just – please, I don't want you to worry about me. Even I'm not worried about me, and when worrisome things happen that might affect me, I am the first to start worrying. So just...do whatever you need to do for you.”

“I like you so much,” Patrick says.

“I'm glad,” David says. “And I know it's not really.... It's a personal thing you're going through, and advice isn't all that useful, but I do want to – maybe gently drop in the suggestion that you could be a little kinder to yourself? Because I think you do know who you are, and I think you know where you're going. You're just...not totally sure what getting there is going to look like, and that's outside of your comfort zone, I get that. But it'll look like something. And you can't skip to the end, but...this anxious, confusing middle part? It ends eventually. It really does.”

“Promise?” Patrick says. David smiles at him and nods. “Thanks for putting up with the messy middle part.”

“Oh, honey,” David says. “I've put up with so much worse for so much less.”

“I should...probably get to bed,” Patrick says. If he stays here any longer....

David shifts away immediately, giving him room to sit up, and then it's a few minutes of – awkward, but nice-awkward, as Patrick cleans up the popcorn mess and brings extra pillows to help David settle in. They don't even kiss goodnight, because that seems unwise, but actually the contented way David smiles up at him is very close to just as good.

There are things Patrick isn't ready for. There are things he isn't sure about. But David's right: Patrick does know who he is, even if he can't verbalize all of it, and he does know where he's going, in his own stubborn-and-inflexible-but-working-on-it way.

He doesn't have a map, but he has a compass, and no, a compass won't show you every individual detail of your route, but it's enough to point Patrick in the direction he needs to head. Toward true north. Home.

David. David Rose.

He takes a minute on his way out to hover in the hallway and look at David. He has one arm folded behind his head, and the thick, bunched muscle in his arm fills out the sleeve of his pajama top surprisingly well. Patrick doesn't know why David always wears those heavy, baggy sweatshirts, it's honestly such a waste. “What?” David says. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Patrick shrugs. “Guess I like looking at you.”

“Oh,” David says, and Patrick also likes watching his expressive face shift from confused to hopeful realization to embarrassed pleasure. That, of course, is followed by that stiff, self-deprecating thing David sometimes does; maybe Patrick can break him of that eventually. Something to think about. “Well. You should've seen me in my prime. I'm told I was stunning.”

If David had a prime somewhere in his past, Patrick is almost glad he missed out on it. Patrick barely survived last Thursday. There's a limit to how overstimulated he can go around being on a daily basis. He doesn't say that, though. He only says, “I'm seeing you now.”

That does the trick, luring David back into embarrassed and pleased. “Go away, flatterer. Go to bed.”

“Goodnight, David.”

The heavy click of Patrick's bedroom door closing between them is almost a relief. The decision feels out of his hands now, less like he's a breath away from saying, oh, the hell with this, and crawling on top of David, begging him to let Patrick--

Yeah, no. No, he's not doing that, because he needs one decent night of sleep, and because that would be rushing into things they haven't discussed, which is forbidden by the list. The list is there to keep Patrick from not going far enough, or way too far. He needs to let it do its job.

Maybe the song that's perfect for David is one that hasn't been written yet – that Patrick is supposed to be writing.

It's a romantic idea, but Patrick only considers it briefly before discarding it. Even when he was practicing regularly, when music was still an integral part of his life, Patrick's songwriting skills were – mostly pedestrian. He enjoyed doing it, but the results were--

They were fine for what they were, but fine considering is not good enough for David. For David, Patrick wants – the best, nothing less than the best. He'll just give the question more time, let it percolate. There's no rush. The right song will come to him when it comes.

He's starting to think, more and more, that it's not just wishful thinking and wanting to skip ahead to the end. He's starting to think he and David really could have...time.

All the time they need.