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Idle Curiosity

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Patrick knew that having feelings for a man didn’t change who he was as a person in any real, fundamental way. It was his mantra for those first few days, when he was overwhelmed, confused, and unable to stop staring at David’s shoulders: You’re the same person you’ve always been. You’ll calm down. You’ll adjust. Just give it some time.

Meanwhile, the list of things he liked about David was growing by the day.

He’d had a list for Rachel, too—he remembered repeating it to himself over and over again on the school bus the morning before he’d asked her out. She was funny, smart, nice, a great skater, and one of the prettiest girls in school. But what had tipped the scales back then was that all of Patrick’s friends on the baseball team had girlfriends except him, and a lot of those girls were in Rachel’s group. Her best friend was dating Tim, and another one of her friends was dating Ravi. If Rachel said yes, they could all go to homecoming together.

(Patrick closed his eyes. Breathed through the guilt. Took another hike.)

David was beautiful and sophisticated, funny and charming. He was pretentious without taking himself too seriously, sweet without even seeming to realize it.

He was also oblivious, and not just about the Microsoft Office suite.

Patrick had always been pretty good at flirting, and surely hitting on a guy wasn't that different from what he was used to—and yet, something wasn’t translating. David's eyes kept darting away, as if looking around the room for the person Patrick was actually trying to flirt with. Occasionally he flirted back, but then other times Patrick thought David just flat out didn’t know how to interact with other humans, period--because 'sloppy mouth'? Seriously?

Maybe David, for all his sophistication, was terrible at this.

Patrick kept it up. David couldn’t stay oblivious forever.

It was only during their supposedly ‘soft’ launch that Patrick first knew, 100% for certain, that he had a shot.

Because he knew, in his bones, that David had always wanted the launch to be big. He suspected it even as David demurred and insisted on playing it safe, and it was confirmed by the quiet joy he saw radiating from David’s face as they served customers, restocked their more popular items, and were generally overrun by the town’s enthusiasm that first night.

David’s satisfaction was practically visible from space.

So everything David had said before, about exclusivity and whatever the hell Gloop was? About how a small launch was actually better, and how he “preferred a curated, elite gathering”? It had been bullshit, an ostentatious display of low expectations.

Sweeping up the store after the launch, this new facet of David’s personality unfolded in Patrick’s mind. David was scared to want anything too much, too irrevocably. He would sabotage and undercut that want—he’d lie to anyone, including himself—to avoid being hurt by it.

They were almost done cleaning up for the night when David broke the comfortable silence between them. “My sister might stop by for lunch tomorrow,” he said from where he was counting cash at the register, his voice a study in small talk.

Patrick paused his sweeping and gave David his full attention, tilting his head with a hint of challenge: So what?

David kept counting.

“No offense, David, but I don’t think we should encourage her hanging out here too much?” Patrick said after a beat. “I know she’s your sister, but she’s murder on our hand creams and lotions.”

David glanced up at him then, and Patrick saw the surprise bloom on that expressive face before he turned back to his task. “Oh, God, I’m not offended. She’s the literal worst. I just thought I’d mention it, that she might come by.”

“Ok, well... you distract her, I’ll hide the merchandise?”

David’s smile fought its way out into the open. “Hm. You’re better at being distracting, though.”

Patrick barely heard him, but he could see the color rising in his cheeks from across the room. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” he replied, just to make sure David knew he’d heard.

From the corner of his eye he saw David pause for a long moment, hands hovering over the bills he’d just counted. Then, with a huff, he picked them up and started over.

Grinning, Patrick went back to sweeping. This night just got better and better.

Back at Ray’s that night, he couldn’t stop thinking about the hug.

In the moment, he hadn’t been turned on by it. Or he hadn’t gotten hard over it, at least. Obviously. What kind of grown man got hard over a hug?

Well, him, apparently, but it was a delayed response. In the moment he’d just been proud of David, and what they’d achieved together.

Now, though, he remembered a broad chest pressed against his, the familiar scent of cedar and something vaguely botanical sharp at David’s neck. For the first time, he’d been struck by David’s height—Patrick almost had to stretch to his tiptoes to get one arm comfortably over his shoulder.

It had seemed to last longer than a normal hug, unless that was Patrick’s imagination playing tricks. He remembered thinking he ought to let go, and instead he’d slapped David’s back a couple of times like a complete idiot.

But David hadn’t let go, either. His hand had slid up and down Patrick’s back, hot and huge against his shoulder blade.

Patrick closed his eyes and remembered how it had felt, pictured how it must have looked from outside the windows, the two of them holding each other. David’s sweater had been a bit tight—Patrick pictured it riding up a little as they hugged, maybe revealing a sliver of lower back.

He had to palm his dick through his pajama bottoms at the thought.

Fuck, this couldn’t be normal. If just the thought of a small sliver of skin had him half hard, how would he live through it if he ever actually got his hands under that sweater?

Swearing, Patrick fumbled his pajamas down lower.

How would he keep breathing, keep any semblance of cool, if he was allowed to brush his fingertips against David’s bare waist? Or if David’s soft hand tilted Patrick’s chin up until their lips met? David was experienced, and he was rarely polite. He’d probably be confident, forceful—he’d probably take control of the kiss, take Patrick’s mouth however he wanted it. Maybe he’d back Patrick against a wall and lean over him, or lean into him. Press against him.

Shit, yeah. Patrick was panting now, his toes curling.

David’s body pressing his against a wall. And Patrick would be hard, as hard as he was now. And David would want it, want him, and he’d be able to feel it, because David would be hard, too, pushing into him-

Patrick came suddenly, unexpectedly, against the inside of his duvet.

Jesus. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Rachel had always told him—and her mother, and her sister, and her friends—that he wasn’t a romantic. That was why their dates were never spontaneous, and why she got flowers every Valentine’s Day and jewelry on Christmas that her sister always helped him pick out. It was also, apparently, the reason he’d proposed while they were gassing up her car on the way home from a friend’s housewarming party. He’d heard her say so to her mother over the phone the next day. (‘I know, Mom, I know, but he’s just not a romantic, ok? And he had so much anxiety about proposing at all, poor thing, I’m just happy that he finally…’)

But now, suddenly, romance made sense to him. He wanted to see David by candlelight; he wanted to watch David open gifts, if only he could think of something good enough to give him. He wanted to buy him flowers over and over again, different types and colors, until he figured out which were David’s favorite just by watching him react to the bouquets.

And, god, sex. For the first time in Patrick’s life, sex made sense. People on television making stupid decisions because of sex, his friends at school obsessing about it, his Psych 101 professor calling it a basic human need—all at once, he understood. And the more he got to know David, the better he understood. Patrick looked at him now and could hardly stand not to touch him.

You’re the same person you’ve always been. You’ll calm down. Just give it some time, you’ll adjust.

Except… except he wasn’t the same, and he didn’t particularly want to calm down.

Nothing, Patrick decided, smiling into the darkness.

Nothing was wrong with him at all.

Something was finally, finally right.