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At a Cruel Angle

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Stevie takes them out the night they come home; just to the cafe, but it counts — “No, it absolutely does not,” David counters, but he’s smiling as he opens the door, and she can hear Patrick’s laugh behind her.

It’s crowded for a Sunday evening, which is to say there are a half-dozen other people there, but their booth is open. She slides in and Patrick slides in after her, David across from them; they never talk about how they always sit like this, always pick this booth to sit in, but it makes her bite back a smile.

But this time she doesn’t have to bite it back, because David’s wincing as he shifts in his seat and Patrick’s watching him wince with the smuggest expression she’s ever seen. “So,” she says, refolding her menu, “How was the Elm Valley Small Business Convention? Did you guys have fun?”

For a second, it looks like they’re just going to make vague noises at her and start talking about some movie they want to go see with her or the intramural hockey team Patrick is trying to put together or something else non-incriminating. But David’s got the world’s shittiest poker face and Patrick bursts out laughing.

“Look,” David starts, and Patrick laughs harder, leaning away from David who’s reached over to swat at him. “In my defense,” David continues, “I had a bet to win, okay?”

*

“I’m just saying,” David insisted as they strolled into the hotel bar, “That guy in the next booth over—“

“Kyle,” Patrick repeated, because David’s refusal to remember the names of the people on the floor might become a problem.

It had been a successful first day: they’d switched off between manning their booth and wandering the vendor floor, Patrick got to attend the two panels he’d wanted to catch, and they already had a promising list of contacts who were interested in doing business with Rose Apothecary. But it also meant they’d spent most of the day apart, and Patrick was busy soaking up the long line of warmth against his side, David’s arm tucked around his. They’d earned at least a drink tonight, maybe some dinner.

Maybe some room service, instead.

“Whatever, he was very confident about his ability to — what did he call it? Pull?” David made a face. “Ew.”

“Well, that’s kind of a…” Patrick had no idea how to put this. “Side effect? Of these kinds of conventions? A lot of people use them as… dating opportunities.”

“Mm, yeah, Kyle did not sound all that interested in dating opportunities.” They found a couple of empty barstools; the bartender was busy at the other end, but David managed to nab a bowl of pretzels further down the bar. “Although I can’t help but think of all the conventions you’ve gone to since we—“

Patrick waited, serious expression firmly in place, and sure enough David faltered.

“Went into business together,” he said, biting his lip but his eyes sparkling. “Were you never tempted by a pretty face? Or a nice ass, as Kyle so eloquently put it?”

“I can safely say that I had a prettier face and a nicer ass waiting for me at home, but thanks for your concern,” said Patrick. David flushed, and Patrick really couldn’t help himself. “Of course, it’s not like there weren’t opportunities.”

“Of course,” David replied, still pink and pleased. “I mean,” and he looked around, the bar getting fuller as the convention wound down for the day, “Hotel bars are, statistically speaking, the easiest place to…ugh, ‘pull,’ that’s such a distasteful word, honestly.”

“What word did you used to use?” Patrick asked, curious.

David paused. Patrick could remember — too clearly — when David would shy away from any talk about his past, convinced that some part of it would make Patrick leave. It had taken a long time to pry out the ugliest of David’s secrets, but what had surprised Patrick the most is how… hopeful David had always been, even in the worst of his encounters, always thinking that maybe this time he’d have given enough of himself to make someone stay stay.

But now David smiled, even if it wasn't altogether happy, ready to share something else that he might have kept tucked away. “I never had a word for it. You only talk about the people you’re sleeping with if you have people to talk about it with. Which I didn’t.”

“Well, now you do,” Patrick assured him, and David’s smile got wider. Patrick bumped his knee, still a little awed that this was his — that David Rose was sitting with him, smiling at him. He wasn’t ever going to lose that rush.

“Patrick Brewer, are you trying to… pull?” David looked delighted despite having to use the word.

Patrick nodded. He’d made sure David put lube in their toiletry bag, and he wanted to use it — a hotel room, a bigger bed than they had at home, an actual jacuzzi bathtub, and a whole night in front of them: he didn’t want much else. Although that room service was looking more and more tempting.

“Well, too bad,” David said, in a tone of voice that didn’t sound wholly convincing. “You’ve got that ‘Reducing Shrinkage’ seminar at eight, so you need a good night’s sleep. Although I don’t need to be up until the floor opens at eight-thirty, so…” and he made a show of looking around.

“I don’t know that I’d brag about you just needing a half-hour, David,” Patrick pointed out, trying to keep his face straight. He’d never had this before David: someone who’d just play along, teasing and poking right back, never doubting him. It was almost better than sex.

Almost.

David rolled his eyes before turning to the bartender who’d showed up. “A glass of pinot gris and a Red Mountain, please,” he said, and leaned his elbow on the bar, his head propped on his hand. “Hmm?” he added, off Patrick’s expression. “What?”

“So who would you pull here, tonight?” Patrick asked, mirroring him and only slightly making fun, whatever David’s wrinkled nose might say. “With your available half-hour, that is.”

“You mean other than the pretty face and nice ass in front of me?” David looked around again, but this time with a calculation Patrick had never seen before — startling. “I’m going to be honest? The pickings are slim.”

“That's a shame,” Patrick said, and thanked the bartender when she dropped off the drinks. He took a swig but that expression was still fresh in his mind. Was that how David used to look, alone at bars or in clubs or restaurants, looking for someone? It wasn’t — Patrick didn’t like it, per se. But he wanted to see it again. “It’s just as well, though. You’re a little out of practice.”

“Out of practice?” David echoed, all instant indignation, and Patrick had to take another drink. It was just too easy. “I’ll have you know I could — I mean not that I would. But I could!” His glass took in the room and spilled some wine on the floor.

“I know, David,” Patrick soothed. “Those grapes are probably sour anyway.”

David glared, although it wasn’t real enough to worry him. “What does that even mean?”

“Nothing,” said Patrick. “I’m just glad the greater Elm Valley Business Association is safe from all your pulling.”

“Okay, you know what?” David said, putting the glass down for emphasis. “I bet you the next person who comes in here gives me their room key. How about that, Mr. I’m Out Of Practice?”

Patrick pretended to give it some thought. “What do you bet me?”

This stymied David for a minute — but just a minute. “If I win,” he said, fairly wiggling in his seat, “Tomorrow night, we go over to that hotel Stevie and I went to,” he waved vaguely East, “And you have to pay for every karaoke song and drink. The whole night.”

“Tomorrow night we have to be back home in order to open the store,” he reminded him. “But I’ll take you next weekend, how about that?”

“Acceptable,” David said, grudging.

“And if I win,” Patrick continued, “Then next weekend, we come back here… and go see the Elm Valley Common Loons play their home game.”

David looked apprehensive. “Is that the—“

“The baseball, yes, I would make you come watch the baseball with me.”

Clearly this was a bigger bet than David had anticipated, but after a minute he stuck out his hand. “You’re on.”

“Sorry that the pickings are going to be so slim, though,” Patrick said.

But David wasn’t paying attention; he was looking at the entrance to the bar, and Patrick turned to follow his gaze.

*

“I swear to God,” Patrick says, leaning back in the booth, “She was probably the most attractive woman I’ve ever seen in real life, it was incredible. Like—“ he snaps his fingers, frowning. “You know the evil queen on Game of Thrones?”

Stevie frowns. “Cersei?” she ventures.

Patrick snaps his fingers. “Yes! Like a brunette Cersei, that’s what she looked like.”

“Lena Heady is a brunette,” David says, prim. “A natural brunette, I might add. And since when are you some kind of expert in the attractiveness of women?”

“Just because I don’t play for that team doesn’t mean I can’t admire the players,” Patrick says, defensive.

Stevie decides to be a nice friend and not draw attention to that “natural brunette” comment. “You’re telling me David managed to get brunette Cersei’s room key?”

“There is a rhythm to this story, Stevie, just have a little patience,” David chides. “So, I shoo off the love of my life and future husband—“

“After he made me take his rings, by the way, that was nice—“

“And he has the gall to get his phone out to ‘check who the Loons are playing next weekend—’”

*

“Excuse me?” David said, one eye still on the woman making her way through the crowd to the bar. “So you’ve decided you’ve already won.”

Patrick wasn’t really sure how to put this; a lot of the mores of the queer community were still fairly abstract to him, sets of rules he didn’t know. But the woman was wearing a suit — not a pantsuit, a suit and tie, with cufflinks and some really nice loafers — and had a haircut not that different than his. “I don’t think you’re her type,” he tried.

David smiled — a smile he didn’t see often. It was sharp and a little bit mean, teeth flashing. “Patrick,” he said, fond and patronizing and very, very hot, “I’m everyone’s type tonight. Now seriously, shoo.”

*

“So he leans against the bar looking — I mean, you’ve seen him, right?” Patrick always gets a little bit of a blush going on whenever he talks about how David looks, which Stevie’s never in a million years is going to tell him about because it’s fucking hilarious. Two years together and Patrick still fucking blushes. She keeps her jaw clamped tight and nods. “And I swear to god, a minute later—“

“It was like twenty minutes later,” David interjects. “That’s when I texted you about the mimosa deal the hotel has. Because I was biding my time.”

“Yeah sure,” Patrick says. “Anyway, Brunette Cersei—“

“Her name was Sarah,” David corrects.

“Sarah Connor?” Stevie asks, which makes Patrick laugh and David frown.

“I didn’t — I don’t know what her last name was,” he says. “Anyway, we started talking and she was very nice—“

“Yeah, she was a little too nice,” Patrick says, leaning back in his booth, and there’s just a little bit of annoyance there that Stevie remembers from his party a couple months back, that huffiness that David seems to think is cute. Stevie would tolerate it for about five seconds before dumping anyone who tried it on her, but different strokes.

“Mm, yes she was,” says David. “Not that you were really in a position to notice.”

*

Patrick had found a seat at one of the smaller tables, far enough away that he couldn’t hear much but close enough to watch. Which was a monumentally bad idea, he realized after a few minutes.

David was — pulling. That sharp smile was back, and he was leaning close to her and she was leaning close to him, her mouth curved upward. They ordered another glass — no, a bottle, some white wine Patrick couldn’t see the label of but looked expensive, and David put his credit card down with another smile. They clinked glasses.

Patrick managed to catch a passing waiter’s attention. “Can I get a whiskey?”

*

“So I’m having a lovely time with Sarah and meanwhile, Patrick over here is getting — I believe the term is ‘shitfaced’?”

“Don’t act like all these terms are some foreign language you’ve never spoken before,” Patrick grumbles. “And I did not get shitfaced, I had two whiskeys and another beer, unlike David who had almost an entire bottle of wine—“

“Okay, I had two glasses, she definitely outdrank me,” David says. “And then—“

“And then,” Patrick says over him, “He starts waving a room key at me, because Sandra Day O’Connor—“

“I’m guessing it wasn’t her,” Stevie murmurs.

“—has gotten up and left, but not before — I can honestly say I’d never actually seen someone undress somebody else with their eyes, but now I have,” Patrick finishes. “Anyway, she left and David’s just sitting there, because I’m marrying the worst man in the world.”

“Mm, so true,” David says.

*

Patrick’s chair did its best to trip him up, but he managed to get to the bar without further incident. “Are you,” he enunciated carefully, “Fucking kidding me?”

“I told you,” David said, his knees apart and a natural fit for Patrick to move in close, his hands on David’s thighs. “And you thought I couldn’t—“ he made a face. “Pull.”

“Oh, I didn’t think you couldn’t,” Patrick admitted, mouth loose and honest the way he kind of hated to be, but David dragged it out of him every time. “I just don’t like that you did.”

“Really?” David splayed his legs a little wider. “What didn’t you like about it?”

Patrick was aware, distantly, that they were at a hotel bar surrounded by the same people he was going to have to interact with tomorrow. That making out with his fiance — his fiance — and rubbing him through his jeans until he forgot all about brunette Cersei was a bad idea.

So instead he said, “Come with me.”

*

“And then he dragged me into the men’s bathroom,” David says, his hands clapped over his cheeks. “At the hotel bar.”

Stevie snorts laughing so hard beer goes up her nose. “No fucking way,” she says, but Patrick is about the same color as the ketchup bottle. “Patrick Brewer, you slut.”

“Look, I am not proud of myself—“ which is a total lie, she can tell.

*

“This is wildly unprofessional,” David gasped, but his hands were carding restlessly through Patrick’s hair as Patrick dropped to his knees.

“Whatever,” he muttered. “Lock the door.”

“You sure you want me to?” David asked, and Patrick was able to multi-task, unzipping David’s pants and glaring up at him at the same time. “I mean, seems to me you’re hoping somebody sees this—“

“The only one I want to see this is you,” Patrick said, again with that too-much-honesty that made his palms sweat. So he shut himself up and slid his mouth down David’s cock, David’s laugh turning into a groan.

Patrick loved this; loved how David would twitch into his mouth, his thighs tensing and relaxing under Patrick’s hands. He’d make these noises — like he was making now — soft exhales that were better than all the uncomfortable grunting Patrick would mute when he’d tried watching gay porn, trying to figure out if this was turning him on, if he was just wired wrong and nothing would work. But David worked; David worked for him. David worked so good for him.

“Fuck, Patrick, your fucking mouth, honey please, yes, so gorgeous, fuck fuck—“ David came, his fingernails scraping along Patrick’s scalp. Patrick took it all, greedy, and he could feel David laughing as much as hear him, blissful and sweet and joyous.

*

“And what exactly did you do in the bathroom?” Stevie asks, blinking a couple of times to convey her innocence at what two grown men still embarrassingly hot for each other might get up to.

David grins, mashing the straw of his milkshake around his half-empty glass. “I’m not the type to kiss and tell,” he says. “Or get a really incredible, like, mind-blowing—“

“Ahem ahem,” Patrick says, actually saying the word “ahem.” He hasn’t gotten any less red.

“I just hope you washed your hands,” Stevie says, and this time Patrick snorts beer up his nose.

“Anyway,” David says. “So then we went upstairs and—“ he waves his hand around. “You know. The end.”

“Oh, it wasn’t the end,” Patrick says, recovering. “Because it turns out, my fiance is a filthy cheater.”

David presses a hand to his heart. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

*

“You’ll have to get your key out,” David mumbled against Patrick’s mouth, pressed against the doorframe to their room. “The only one I have is—“

“Shut up,” Patrick said, so turned on he could barely think. Room key, yes. He couldn’t fuck his fiance against the wall in the middle of a hotel hallway. He wanted to. He wanted everyone on this floor, in this building, in this city that David belonged to him and no brunette Cerseis in suits and ties were getting a turn. “God, David.”

David was smiling against his mouth again, his arms tight around his neck. “You still need to give me back my rings,” he said, and finally Patrick got his room key out of his pocket and David took it out of his hand after the fourth failed attempt and they were inside, the lights off but the bed close enough to fall into. “Patrick, fuck me, I want—“

“I’m not the one who was—“ but Patrick couldn’t remember what he was mad about, because here was David, underneath him, smiling up at him, like he never wanted to be anywhere else. “God, David.”

“So you’ve said,” David breathed. “Please, come on.”

“Yeah,” said Patrick, “Yeah.” He tried to get off the bed — but David still had hold of him. “Your bag is in the bathroom,” he explained, even though he was probably missing a few key parts of that explanation — the lube was in the bag, for one.

Except David had it in his hand. “Under the pillow,” he said, pulling Patrick down for a kiss with his other. “I wanted to be prepared.”

“I’m marrying a Boy Scout,” Patrick realized. “Neat.”

Taking David’s pants off again felt downright Sisyphean— “What?” David said, propping himself up on his elbows.

“Siffisianan.” Patrick tried again. “Fissleian. Saphusinean.”

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” David muttered, and pulled off his own pants and underwear and made short work of Patrick’s, shoving Patrick onto his back once he was done. “Lie back and stop talking.”

Patrick was okay with that; the room wasn’t quite spinning but it definitely felt about six inches off to the left.

“I’ll give you six inches,” David said, and the next thing Patrick knew David was sinking slowly onto him, around him, all his. Patrick groaned and thrust up, into the wonderful warmth of David, David who was here in his room with him, nowhere else, not with anybody else, and he was going to marry him and every night they could get in bed together and do this, or do something else, or not do anything at all, and it would still mean that David was his and he was David’s—

“You are so embarrassing when you’re drunk,” David said, laughing, and Patrick watched him stroke himself while he moved his hips, fucking himself on Patrick’s cock, the most beautiful thing Patrick had ever seen.

*

“So — afterward,” Patrick says, brushing aside what Stevie can only assume was some very clumsy drunken sex, “David is, of course, getting up to fold our clothes—“

“That sweatshirt is a Versace, and also you’re the one who gets all snippy when your little button-ups get wrinkled. And you were the one who grabbed my pants—“

“—because I had every intention of burning that room key,” Patrick says. “Which is when I found out the depths of my fiance’s depravity.”

David just smiles, his shoulders scrunched around his ears.

*

David caught sight of what he was doing, going through David’s pockets. “Oh, honey,” he said, falling back down onto the bed and… giggling.

“What? What?” Patrick said, kneeling up. He’d finally gotten the key out, still in its little paper slip.

“Look a little closer,” David said, fucked-out and laughing and beautiful, all his.

Patrick pulled the room key out of its little paper slip—

*

“And it wasn’t a room key,” Patrick says, finishing off his beer. “It was a business card, I’m assuming hers, and on the back it said something like—“

“Oh don’t worry, I kept it,” says David, pulling his wallet out with another slight wince and opening it up.

Stevie takes the card. Sarah’s last name turned out to be Nowicki. “‘David would like you to sing “Whatta Man,”’” she reads, and resists the urge to sigh.

“Yeah, except the bet was that you get her room key, and this—“ Patrick says, plucking it out of Stevie’s hand and waggling it at him, “Is not it.”

“Oh, it’s not an instruction for you,” David says, pure evil in his smile, and Stevie’s got to wonder why she was ever friends with this asshole. “It’s an instruction for Stevie.”

It’s almost worth it, to see Patrick’s jaw drop onto the table. “Pardon?” he says.

“Stevie wagered I couldn’t get you to have sex somewhere other than our hotel room,” David says, all smugness. “And she foolishly bet me—“

“A nice dinner,” Stevie admits, “And a karaoke session.”

David claps his hands together. “So! Next weekend we’ll all have a fun road trip to see the Elm Valley—“ he points at Patrick, who sighs, “Common Loons,” and continues, “And then Stevie will treat me to a very nice dinner — Patrick, I’m sorry, you’ll have to pay for yourself — and then we can have a nice, long night of expressing our feelings through the power of music.”

“Oh, I’ll be expressing some feelings all right,” Patrick says, but he’s grinning like an idiot, and bumping shoulders with Stevie, and honestly, she’s going to let David take the win this time.