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Something Tells Me I Could Fall in Love with You

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i.

The thing about Patrick is that he listens. Like, he really listens. And David has never had that before, someone who actively listens, who isn’t just nodding along because they want his money or his body. And he realizes — he has no idea how to stop talking, doesn’t want to stop talking. So he tells Patrick everything. Well, not everything, but enough. 

Sitting on the floor of Rose Apothecary, their backs up against the counter, he lays himself bare to Patrick. He tells him about Sebastien first, whose vaguely menacing text that afternoon had sent David spiraling in anger. He doesn’t regret a thing — he got his, and spared his mom from humiliation. But Sebastien and his fucking texts. How many of these vicious texts had he endured? 

“He told me he was ‘disappointed to see how much I had changed’,” David spits out. “He’s an asshole. He always has to have the last word.”

He’s furious, and he could dwell, but instead he just plows through, telling Patrick story after story. He tells him about people who have left him, people who have used him and disappeared into the night — sometimes literally. He tells him about his fear of heights, how he’d thought he might die in that windstorm, and how the last thing that would’ve happened in his life would have been yet another person dropping him like a bad habit. 

“By the time I came to Schitt’s Creek, I’d stopped trying to connect with anyone,” he says.

And then Stevie had come along. He’d had no idea what to do with Stevie, who was a friend to him in the days and weeks and months when he had to face the reality that he didn’t have a single real friend in the world. He’d almost ruined everything, would certainly have made the wrong choice in his old life, desperately chasing some out-of-reach connection.

He explains how he’d told Stevie she’d made his life survivable, and how she’d thought he was brushing her off. How she hadn’t understood that survivable was a fucking miracle to David, who hadn’t been sure life was survivable for years. The only time he has to fight back tears is when he tells Patrick how fucking grateful he is that they’d figured it out, that he doesn’t know what he would have done without Stevie in his life. 

He doesn’t tell Patrick the worst of it, the people who broke pieces inside of him he didn’t know he had, afraid that revealing his darkest corners would push even kind-hearted Patrick away. 

But he tells him enough. He talks until his mouth runs dry, until his brain starts to sputter, until he realizes he doesn’t remember the last time he paused to take a breath. Patrick has been silent for what feels like hours. David’s heart hurts. He’s nervous he’s said too much, has messed up this fragile, beautiful thing between them that he’s desperate to cling to. 

When David finally turns his head, Patrick looks pained, like listening to him talk about his past has physically hurt him. David is sure he’s never had that before, someone who so freely gives of their empathy and care. He steels his resolve for the dozenth time, determined to curb this useless pining, because he almost fucked this up with Stevie, and he refuses, refuses, to risk losing Patrick.

He used to ache for someone like Patrick, someone giving and open and just - nice . But he let go of that fairy tale years ago, left it behind with unfaithful and manipulative exes, each one chipping away a piece of the illusion, unearthing the lie underneath. The truth, he’d learned the hard way, is that he’s too damaged to love. But he thinks he can be a good friend. He’s learned how to do that much, at least. And being friends with Patrick isn’t a consolation prize. It makes him feel warm, and full, like nothing bad can come to him. Like just being in Patrick’s orbit will keep him safe.

“David…I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine...it sounds like it’s been really hard.” 

David lets out a deep sigh, grateful to Patrick for breaking the silence. 

“It um…it hasn’t been great. Yeah.” 

They’re silent again, both staring ahead, lost in their thoughts. David pulls his knees up to his chest and wraps his arms around them. He wonders what Patrick is thinking, how much his opinion of David has soured after this confessional.

"The worst part is, I don’t think I ever loved any of them.” It comes out before he realizes he’s going to say it, like Patrick’s silence was an invitation to keep talking that his mouth had RSVP’d to before his brain could catch up.

Patrick turns his head. 

“What?” he says a little incredulously. “No one?”

“Um, I don’t really…do emotions?” he says, aware of how it must sound, after he’s opened his veins and let all the pain bleed out until he feels empty and thinks he can see red on the hems of Patrick’s pants, irrevocably coloring his image of David. He elaborates.

“I wanted them, and I wanted them to love me, and I cared about some of them, but…no, I don’t think I loved them.” 

He pauses, takes a deep breath, and says — “I mean, this is pretty pathetic, but I’ve only ever said ‘I love you’ three times, and once was at a Mariah Carey concert.”

Why can’t he shut his fucking mouth?

At that, Patrick cracks a small smile, the first David has seen since the start of his rant. 

“And the other two?”

“Oh, those were to my parents? But they coerced it out of me, so.”

Patrick laughs, and it inexplicably fills David with a warmth from head to toe. He’s so fucked. 

“Your parents coerced you into say ‘I love you?’”

“I don’t know, you’ve met my mother!” he says a little wildly, but he’s smiling a little now. How does Patrick always manage to make him smile? “Touchy-feely isn’t really the Rose way.” 

Patrick lets out a long whistle, but his eyes are distant.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in love, either,” he says, staring straight ahead again. “I thought I was, for a long time. I wanted to be. I tried really hard to be, and I kind of…lost myself in that. I think I worked so hard to convince myself I was in love, I didn’t ever figure out who I was. Not until recently, anyway.” 

David waits for more, prays for more, betrays himself and his resolve, hoping Patrick will give him something — anything —to tip him off, to let him know if he has a chance. But Patrick stays silent. David almost asks, his tongue at war with his head, almost asks who and where and when and what about me?

But he stops himself, because he really has learned his lesson. He’s learned that you can push past the hurt until it doesn’t hurt quite so much, until you both love each other differently, until you’ll buy terrible lingerie to help the other one get a job and go to a funeral home for someone you didn’t know, only to scatter their ashes in a goddamn parking lot, because that’s what people who love each other do. 

“Thank you, Patrick.” 

“For what?” 

“For listening. Um…I’ve never talked about some of that. Alexis was there for a lot of it, so she knows, but she doesn’t know , you know? So. Anyway. Thank you.” 

Patrick smiles the most sincere smile David thinks he’s ever had directed at him. It makes his chest clench. He can’t believe he’s going to have to learn how to have this be enough. 

“You can talk to me any time you’d like,” he says, and David realizes he means it. It’s not just a throwaway line, not just a we should do this again sometime or it’s so good to see you. 

David smiles back, betrays himself again, because he’s sure his feelings are plastered all over his face, uncontrolled after two nights of stripping himself bare, his body for Sebastien and now his soul to Patrick. The eye contact is intense, bordering on intimate, and David doesn’t know how much longer he can take it, how much longer he can look at Patrick’s face and not kiss him. He lets go of his knees and stands, hoping to break the tension. He offers Patrick his hand without thinking.

And then they’re standing close, far too close, close enough that David could lean in and kiss him, their hands still clasped. David thinks he sees it then, a glint of something in Patrick’s eyes, something he hasn’t seen in a long time. But it’s gone in a flash, and David isn’t sure if it was ever there, just the ghost of a hope he once had for his life. 

They lock up in silence and step outside before either of them speaks again. 

“Let me walk you home,” says Patrick.  

David’s brain goes blank and the silence between them lasts an eternity. He must have misunderstood, this couldn’t possibly be— 

“I...uh...need that vendor paperwork. For your pickup tomorrow? I need to fill it out.” 

Oh. Right. He nods.

“Um. Okay, yeah, sure. You can just...walk me home.” His voice is strangled, throat clenched from the adrenaline.

He keeps nodding long after he’s finished talking, a little dazed. He tries to tamp down the thrill of twenty more minutes with Patrick. The sky is clear and they’re walking slowly, too slowly, and David begs his heart not to read anything into it. He focuses instead on how cold it is, a sudden shift in temperature making him wish for last night’s leather jacket, even though he’s vowed to retire it, and everything it stands for, for good.

“Ugh, I fucking hate when the temperature drops like this,” he says with an exaggerated shiver and shake of his shoulders, because his best coping mechanism for the cold has always been to complain until he’s convinced himself that he’s exaggerating. 

“It’s barely chilly,” says Patrick, bemused, turning his head to look at David. He considers him for a second. “Wait...do you actually wear those sweaters because you’re cold?”

David stops in his tracks, appalled.

“Of course I wear them because I’m cold! Did you think I just spent my days drenched in sweat underneath these because I was too stubborn to wear a shirt instead?” He gestures at his own body in one long, sweeping motion. 

Patrick has stopped now too, turned back to face him, and rakes his eyes over David. He feels an involuntary shiver down his spine that has nothing to do with the cold.

“Well...yeah,” Patrick says, and laughs a little. 

“Oh my god!” David throws up his arms in mock indignation, but he can’t stop himself from laughing, eyes locked with Patrick’s. 

And then, before David can process what’s happening, Patrick is unzipping his blue hoodie and shrugging it off. He makes to hand it to David. 

“Here, take this. I like the cold.” 

David’s brain short circuits. He can’t wear Patrick’s sweater. It’s too intimate, too much of Patrick on his skin, skin that’s burning for Patrick’s touch. It’s too much to handle.

“Oh, um, blue doesn’t really go with this outfit, so…” he manages to choke out, his voice barely above a whisper. Their continued eye contact feels like it’s boring a hole in David’s brain. Patrick smiles and shakes his head, and before David can stop him— but would he have stopped him, really?, he thinks—he’s draped the jacket over David’s shoulders, and flipped the hood over his head.

How is a real person this smooth?

David glares, mouth twisted to one side as he fights a grin, and Patrick laughs again. He wishes he could wrap himself in the sound of Patrick’s laugh, sure it would keep him warmer than any sweater ever could. Their faces are so close again, Patrick’s hands still gripping either side of the hood, practically cradling his face. David can’t convince himself he’s imagining the want on Patrick’s face. 

But he blinks and it’s gone again, Patrick’s hands back at his sides, too far from David.

Patrick turns back ahead and they walk, hands occasionally bumping. David foolishly fantasizes about Patrick pulling the old teenage trick, testing the waters. As if a grown man would ever do something that ridiculous. And still, his hand itches to take the risk, to catch Patrick’s and see what happens. Reason, mercifully, prevails. 

Too soon they’re at the motel, and David ruefully gives Patrick back the sweater. He dips inside for the paperwork, and when he comes back out, Patrick looks nervous. 

“Everything ok?,” he asks, handing off the folder.

Patrick is silent and...gazing. He’s gazing at David, there’s no other word for it, and David’s breath catches, like his entire body is afraid even an inhale will scare off whatever this is between them. He could kiss him, he thinks for the third time tonight. It would be so easy. Patrick clears his throat. 

“Well, I’d better get going. I’ve got some paperwork to catch up on,” he says, lifting the folder up.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.” 

Patrick gives David a small wave and heads back to the main road. He watches Patrick’s retreating form for as long as he thinks he can get away with. 

Back inside, he pulls off his own sweater, realizing as he does that Patrick’s scent has permeated the fabric. He hates the thrill that shoots through his entire body, like he’s right back on the sidewalk with Patrick’s hands bracketing his face. David is infamous for his self-destructive behavior, has made some shockingly poor decisions when he was interested in someone, and still somehow laying the sweater against his pillow feels like the most reckless thing he’s ever done.

He tries not to think too hard about it as he settles into bed, can’t bring himself to wage war with the cascade of emotions washing over him. As he drifts off to sleep, his brain unwittingly plays back scenes from tonight: Patrick pulling the hoodie over his head, Patrick bumping his hand, Patrick listening. He lets the fantasy play out, thinks about his own admission that he’s never been in love. He wonders, despite himself, if maybe this time will be different.


Patrick lays in bed, wired, replaying the day on a loop. He feels like he has emotional whiplash. 

The day had started with David in the best mood Patrick had ever seen—happy, cocky, extra flirtatious. It had been just the confidence boost he needed – he was going to ask David out.

He’d spent twenty minutes at the cafe waiting for their takeout, crafting his plan. Options were limited, but still, anywhere had to be better than Cafe Tropical. He’d have to find somewhere in Elmdale. Pizza, maybe. David loved pizza. But he’d walked back into the store to find David’s mood completely soured. 

David had spent the rest of the day somewhere between “cartoon character with their own personal storm cloud” and “Oscar the Grouch.” Patrick knew better than to push, knew it would just send David retreating, but he wanted to do something, anything, to make his friend feel better. 

He stalled all day — he’d gotten so good at stalling recently — waiting to ask David if he wanted to talk. It wasn’t until David had his hand on the door that Patrick had pushed his nerves down and opened his mouth. 

“Hey, I don’t know what happened today, but you can talk to me about it…if you want.” 

He rested his hands back on the counter to stop himself from crossing his arms, painfully aware of his tell. He waited. 

One hand still on the door, David’s whole body turned toward Patrick, jaw tense and limbs rigid. He looked like a deer in headlights. 

Patrick kept his eye contact steady, despite his racing heart, willing David to believe his offer, to want to talk. 

“Oh…you don’t have to…I’m fine, seriously.”  

“Really convincing there, David. Listen, you don’t have to, but my offer is open.” 

David’s shoulders dropped. Patrick lowered himself to the ground, leaning against the counter, legs outstretched. It was an old habit, one he thought he’d lost. He and Rachel used to do that, sit side by side, and workshop their problems. It was a long time ago, before they’d started dating, before…well, before.

It felt like the right thing to do now, get on the floor where the secrets felt less heavy, where the distance you could fall from the weight of your own words was shorter, less daunting. 

David hesitated, but finally gave in when Patrick patted the ground next to him. He crossed the room and slid down to meet Patrick, shoulders barely touching. Patrick felt his heartbeat pick up again, alarmed to find that such a small amount of contact through four layers of fabric could jolt him. 

Staring straight ahead, David had launched into a story about an ex who was in town, who had hurt him so badly that the intervening years hadn’t fully healed the wound. He was here, David said, to exploit his mother, to take advantage of the…delicate situation they found themselves in. He knew it would destroy Moira. 

“Sebastien is just so good at getting under my fucking skin,” he said, and it took Patrick a second to realize he was talking about the text. “It felt so good to get my own, you know? But he still managed to get the last word,” he said. “And,” David said after a beat, almost as an afterthought, “he was a worse fuck than I remembered.” 

Fuck.

Patrick’s chest was heavy with dread. Of course. He tried to keep the jealousy at bay.

And then David had talked about other exes, stories punctuated with names Patrick thought he recognized, people with a lot of money, from a life David once had that Patrick hadn’t bothered to learn much about, so lost in their here and now. He’d talked about Stevie, and Patrick’s nagging fear was confirmed. They’d been together, and Patrick wondered, not for the first time, if she and David were still together, in the way exes sometimes are. If David had loved her then, still loved her now. Patrick couldn’t compete with an ex, no matter how messy. He knew what exes hanging around your life meant, how that story always went.

David’s story tapered out, and Patrick thought maybe he’d never talked about this before, the way the words just came crashing out of him. It was agonizing, listening to him tell story after story of people who had hurt him. Patrick wished he could show David he could be cared for, and safe, and loved. That he was enough. 

David didn’t think he’d ever been in love, and Patrick understood that. But he couldn’t tell him about Rachel. He couldn’t tell him about the hurt he’d caused, not after David had unloaded this pain. Patrick couldn’t bear to have David look at him like just another villain passing through his life.

And then David thanked him, actually thanked him, for listening, as if he didn’t know that Patrick would happily sign up to spend the rest of his days and nights listening to David talk. 

Even if David doesn’t want him, Patrick can still be here for him. Patrick wants to be his friend. Having David as a friend sounds like it might be enough to sustain him from here until the end of time. 

David helped him up, and they’d stood so close. Just staring. He could have leaned in to kiss him. It was agonizing. He never wanted it to end. 

So his flimsy excuse for needing the contract worked, buying him twenty more uninterrupted minutes with David. He selfishly draped David in his hoodie, to see him in his clothes, if only for a minute, if only to pretend. He’d seen the look then, with his hands framing David’s face. 

He still didn’t kiss him. He’s gotten really good at stalling.

But it did embolden him. He bumped David’s hand while they walked, like he was right back in high school, like he did to Rachel when he thought what he wanted was to hold her hand. He couldn’t believe he’d stooped so low, but David hadn’t jerked away. 

They talked and they talked and they talked, and then on the motel doorstep, David had looked at him again. Patrick had frozen. He still hadn't kissed him. 

He walked away with nothing but the hoodie and paper-thin pretense.

When he was sure the shadows beyond the motel lights had swallowed him whole, he lifted the hoodie to his face. It had smelled like David, like the shampoo they’d stocked for the store, that sort of magical smell Patrick occasionally gets a whiff of if he gets too close. 

Later, he waits until he’s turned the lights off to slip out of bed, like he’s afraid of catching himself, and grabs the sweater. He falls asleep with it next to his pillow. 


David doesn’t know how he’s fallen so hard, so fast. He knows this feeling, this spinning out of control. It has never served him well.

He hates how hopeful he still gets, hopeful over nothing, hopeful over his business partner who he has to see every single day, who does not– could not –reciprocate. Patrick makes throwaway jokes about David’s sloppy mouth, oblivious to the shock it sends right through him, to the ache in the pit of his stomach, to how badly David wants to show Patrick just how sloppy his mouth can get. He has to stop, has to stop before he cracks, or says something he regrets, before he brings it all tumbling down around him like he’s done every time he’s had something good in his life. 

David admitted he’d never been in love, but he didn’t tell Patrick the second half, his shameful secret — no one had stayed long enough to give him the chance. But Patrick won’t leave, is tethered to David as long as the business doesn’t crash and burn. 

David knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’s absolutely fucked. 

But Patrick makes him feel warm, and cared for, and important, and he’s never felt those things before. Not like this. So he decides to lean into it. He’s always dreaded unrequited love, but if this is what it feels like, maybe it isn’t so bad. 


David had turned down his offer of a place to stay to escape the lice in lieu of staying with Stevie. 

His ex.

Who he’d admitted having complex feelings for. 

God, they were probably still sleeping together. Patrick must've been misreading the signals, so desperate for a chance that he’d projected his feelings onto David’s actions. He had to get a grip.

But he remembers the night he walked David home, and the looks, and it centers him. The store is so close to opening, and Patrick manages to counter David’s nerves with as much confidence as he can muster. 

David tells him he has a clean mouth, and he knows he’s not misreading that. He manages to render David speechless by talking about his sloppy mouth, and he doesn’t think he’s ever been this turned on in his life. He goads David into making a dick joke under the guise of their soft launch, can barely stop himself from laughing out loud, watching how flustered it makes him, how flustered he makes him.

This man is going to ruin him. 

All he can think about is David, and David’s smile, and David’s decidedly not-sloppy mouth getting sloppy as hell, David’s hands over Patrick’s decidedly-not soft cock, David moaning his name into his ear. His head is caught on a loop, just a constant hum of David, David, David.

It takes everything he has to maintain his composure, takes him more hikes in a month than he normally takes in a year to settle his thoughts. Patrick knows he’s never felt this before, not with Rachel or the handful of other girls he slept with in between. He’s never wanted anyone or anything so badly, never knew you could miss someone when they were still in the room. He bends over backwards just to see David smile, pulls out every stop just to hold his attention. He has to stop stalling. 

He finds his in on an unexpected birthday, and hopes beyond hope that this will be it. 

 

ii.

David had forgotten about Stevie, forgotten there was anything and anyone but Patrick. It had only taken 30 seconds.

He trades his disappointment for relief, relief that she was here, that she would save him from his own recklessness. He doesn’t know what he would have done after an hour of wine and Patrick in that goddamn sports coat and his two open buttons. David has made a lot of foolish decisions in his life when he’s let hope get the best of him, but he won’t ruin this friendship, this partnership, over a silly game of footsie or an accidental hand grab. He refuses. 

But then Stevie is telling him she’s crashing a date, and he thinks she’s deluded but she’s right, there’s a gift and Patrick has scampered off to the bathroom but David cannot get his hopes up. His untethered hopes have ruined his life before, soaring too high only to come crashing back down into reality. 

But Patrick framed the receipt, and it’s…the nicest gift anyone has ever gotten him, and the room is empty again except for Patrick, and the terrified look on his face, and the tiny smile when David thanks him, and the eye contact that never wavers. It makes David feel more seen than he’s ever felt in his life. 

And then it’s actually just the two of them, sharing terrible mozzarella sticks and easy conversation. David knows he owes Patrick the next move, needs to make sure Patrick knows that they are absolutely on the same page. Under the table, he nudges Patrick’s foot with his own, the boldest move he’ll allow himself, never breaking conversation as he does. And Patrick, infuriatingly, winks, actually winks, and taps him back. How the fuck did he recover his swagger so quickly?

They play footsie the rest of the night. Patrick offers to drive him the absurdly short distance back to the motel, and David doesn’t hesitate, will do anything for more time with Patrick, only regrets the drive is so short. 

He kisses Patrick. It’s all he’s wanted to do for months. The kiss fills him up inside with a terrifying hope that he’s trying to let himself feel because just once, god damn it, David, don’t fuck this up


Patrick wakes up in a pleasant haze, and clicks his phone. 5:02 AM. 

He thinks inexplicably of high school, of waking up before his alarm the days he had to leave early for a baseball game or for a road trip to an amusement park. The first few minutes of unplaced euphoria as you came to, excited over something you couldn’t remember…

David. 

For a fleeting second, he worries it was a dream. It wouldn’t be the first time, months of David weaving in and out of his restless sleep. But no, last night had happened. He’s smiling in the dark, can’t stop smiling, plays the kiss over and over again in his head, grasping for the last wisps of adrenaline that shoot through him from the memory of the night. All these weeks of chasing David, of trying so hard to kiss him and he didn’t realize...had no...how could he have...holy shit.

Sleep is lost to him, because how could he sleep now that he’s on this side of the night, just hours away from seeing him again?

He hikes up the mountain again to think about David. But this morning it’s different. This morning it’s real. His mind wanders as he climbs, but instead of filling with fantasies, he’s filled with possibilities, of real futures where he gets to keep touching David, kissing David, holding David.

He thinks of all the ridiculous romcoms he and Rachel watched as teenagers—rented at Rose Video with his employee discount, no less—all the hopeful looks and giddy smiles. He’d thought it was all fiction.

At the top, he tries to take in the view, but the valley is underwhelming compared to the feeling in his chest. 

He has to be careful, needs to take it easy before he spins out of control. He’s bad at being out of control, he knows it, but he gives himself this pass. That kiss was momentous, it was…Earth shattering, has the potential to completely alter the course of his life.

He thinks, not for the first time, that this could be it. 


David tries to hide it, from Patrick, from his family, from himself. But it’s seeping out of him, and he’s not sure how much longer he can keep it in. 

He knows what this is, this feeling consuming him, but he won’t admit it. He tries to stop the words from even forming in his head. He pushes them away over and over, tucking them back into the dark corner of his mind where he’d put so many of his hopes and dreams over the years.

But brains are not as easily controlled as mouths, and try as he might, it keeps creeping back in. Patrick sings his favorite song, the one he’s sure he’d only mentioned once, one day at the store when they were working late and it came on shuffle. He’d made Patrick stop to listen to the words, really listen, because no one ever fucking listened. 

He wouldn’t have dared do it now, he couldn’t be that exposed in front of Patrick, not over a song he’s romanticized since he was a kid. But it had been early on, when Patrick’s touches and glances and kindness were just Patrick being nice, David desperately clinging to the thought that he couldn’t fall in lo— He stops himself again, keeps stopping himself, because he can’t go there.

But Patrick sings to him in front of everyone, and it’s just them in the room again, like in the booth at the cafe. It’s only ever the two of them when Patrick looks at him like that, like he’s never going to stop, like he never wants to stop. David locks the feeling up, because he can’t be the first one to say it. He’s terrified enough that he’s the first one to think it.

This has never, ever gone well for him. 

David is sure everyone knows what he’s hiding. His façade is weak—complaining about anniversary gifts as if David doesn’t live for fanfare, as if he would not have luxuriated in the presents from every single partner who came before Patrick. 

Patrick. 

Patrick can’t buy him flowers and send him cookies and let his whole family know, because then David will have to be honest, and David can’t be honest. Not yet. So he has to stop the gifts, stop the fucking Renaissance festival, and yes he hears himself, he knows he called a fucking cookie a festival, but if he doesn’t stop it the lies won’t hold up for much longer. 

But then there’s a barbecue and a fiancée and it turns out he wasn’t the only one hiding something. 

David knew, he knew, he knew, he knew.

He hears Patrick, hears his admission, but it doesn’t matter. David has been here before, he knows what this means. If it isn’t her, it will be someone else. David is just a stopgap, an experiment, a way to pass the time. He’s recovered before, he’ll recover again. 

Except this time maybe he won’t, because he knows the truth that he’s been pushing down and swallowing over and over again, except it’s pouring out of him now, tastes like bile in his throat, an unbidden litany he can’t seem to quiet — 

I love you, I love you, I love you.


Patrick has never felt this unhinged. He’s had breakups before. He lost count of how many times he and Rachel split up. He thought he’d felt everything — relieved, upset, happy, sad, angry, nostalgic, inexplicably exposed. 

But never this. 

Never reckless, desperate, completely out of control. It’s a bad feeling for Patrick, the planner, who carefully and meticulously takes charge of every corner of his life. But that was before David.

David, who had caught him off guard with his head in the sky and his weird creative genius and the most beautiful black eyes and his perfect smile that only came out for real when it was earned, really earned, and Patrick was sure he’d fly into the sun just to make David smile.

But he can’t make David smile now. He’s fucked up, maybe beyond repair, and he has no idea what to do. He sends apology texts: offering to watch the store, to let David have all the time he needs, to tell David anything he wants to know. Just please, please, talk to me, he thinks. He leaves off the last part, but just barely. Still, it echoes through his brain, a constant drumming against his thoughts. Please, please talk to me. Please, please come back. 

He sends gifts, the only thing he knows how to do. Wine to the spa hotel—red, because he knows it’s Stevie’s favorite, knows their inside joke, hopes he’ll get a laugh from David. Flowers when that doesn’t work, and fancy chocolates from David’s favorite vendor, ones they don’t even stock in the store. Flowers again, and the bracelet he’d been eyeing, the one that matched David’s necklace, an idea he had squirreled away for the one year anniversary when he was sure they would be having one.

Patrick knew it was different with David, knew it was different than it had ever been before. But he doesn’t know what this is, this agonizing pit in his stomach, this screaming in his head that feels like it’s bouncing off every curve of his skull, bellowing words he can’t make out. His texts to David grow increasingly desperate, his gifts more lavish, running through plans he’d laid out for monthiversaries to come, all to get David back, all to make the hurting stop and to make sense of the noise. I lo— 

No. He doesn’t want to think it, can’t think it. It had crept up on him, hiding in plain sight while he basked in the joy of having a boyfriend, of feeling right for the first time in his life, of experiencing all the things he’d been missing out on. He’d been so preoccupied with making up for lost time, he forgot to watch, to pay attention, to listen to the pounding that had been growing louder and louder and louder. He was sitting in a pot that was creeping to a boil, and he didn’t notice until he felt the blisters on his skin. 

But he has to stop now, needs to back off, because he won’t do this to David, won’t trap him like Patrick has been trapped his whole life, constantly chasing back and forth, never giving each other space to breathe, to figure out what they want. He’ll keep David in his life, keep the store, keep the friend. He’s pushed through a lot in his life, he thinks, he can push through this. He has to. For David.  


Patrick didn’t truly know what relief was until David bashfully admits he’d held back because of the gifts. Patrick is angry, so angry, but the anger is nothing compared to the relief that floods him, like a tidal wave threatening to knock him over. He uses the anger to hold himself upright, grabs David’s face, out of anger, he tells himself, not desperation, not because his skin is burning to touch David properly for the first time in a week. 

Patrick has done this too many times in his life, this “please win me back” dance, his performance so well choreographed at this point that he could do it in his sleep. He’s tired, so tired, but it’s never meant this much before. They’re back together, because Patrick won’t — can’t — pretend for a second that this isn’t what he wants. But he’ll be damned if he isn’t going to teach David a lesson. But then David is dancing, letting go like Patrick has never seen him let go before, and — 

“People can see you, you know.” 

But David doesn’t stop. He’s pure fire, like the sweater he wore when Patrick sang to him, and Patrick can’t stop watching, can’t stop feeling. His eyes are wet, and his heart is full, and still, David keeps on mouthing all the things to Patrick that Patrick had sang out loud to him.

Tonight it’s truly just them in the room, but it had felt like that when Patrick sang to David. Everything fades when David looks at him like that, like he’s stolen the moon for him, like Patrick is the only thing he needs. It’s almost too much, but it’s not enough, never enough, because Patrick needs to feel this forever, needs to wrap himself up in it, carry it with him for the rest of his life.

I love you, I love you, I love you

 

iii.

“Alexis told him she loved him.” He cringes, because what a nightmare, laying yourself out there like that. He could never do it, will never do it, has never been as brave as Alexis. 

“Wow. Well, good for her, it's... it's not easy putting yourself out there like that,” Patrick says, but David brushes it off, because they need to stop talking about love before it gets uncomfortable, before Patrick sees through the ruse, sees what David has been holding in for months. 

But here he is, with his hands on David’s shoulders, and, and, and—“…and I don’t want to add more stress to your day, but I love you.” 

David feels the earth shift under his feet, and this must be a dream, he isn’t awake, can’t be, because that would mean Patrick had really said that, and it’s too much, just too much. 

He tries to say it, but he can’t, because how could he?

He’d imagined this hundreds of different ways, watched every romcom he could get his hands on, knows all the ways this is supposed to be whispered to you in the dark, or screamed at your second floor window, or gasped breathless in an airport after a harrowing run. David was prepared for those, could have handled those, could have played along with those. David could always play the part. It wasn’t supposed to be in the middle of your store on a weekday, when anyone could just walk in and see (because surely they’d see it, written on every inch of exposed skin) how in love David was. 

David knows if he says this, that’s it. There’s no turning back.

Patrick, with his heart eyes and open soul, might be able to recover, might make it through when he realizes his mistake. But David is committing himself. If he says it out loud he’ll never be able to deny it, he won’t have anything to console himself with when this is over and all he has left is a gaping hole where he let Patrick in. 

He can’t, he can’t, he can’t. 


Patrick knew this would happen. He expected it. He’s been swallowing the words for months, afraid of how David would react, of scaring him off. He thinks he has his trust back — knows he has his trust back — but still... He’s afraid of what David might do, or not do, afraid that it’s too much, too soon. He can’t lose David again. But if Alexis could be that brave and face certain rejection, then Patrick could tell David. David loves him too. He’s sure of it. 

David doesn’t say it back, but it’s okay. Patrick will play it off, pretend to be fine, be normal, go about their lives, until David is ready. He’ll wait. 

And then David is there, and he’s kissing him, and Patrick never wants to stop. And god he knows how hopeful he must look, because he can feel the words behind David’s kiss, but he wants to hear them. He needs to hear them. 

He doesn’t know what he’ll do if David doesn’t say it this time. Doesn’t know what to do but wait. He’s sure now that he’d wait until the end of time for David, that David completes him, that this is it for him.

“I love you.” 

And David is crying, really crying, and Patrick is positive his heart has never been this full, didn’t know his heart could be this full, knows he will never want anything like he wants this, like what he now has.  

He loves David so much that he diffuses the tension, makes a crack about tea, and David flies out the door.  Patrick wants to stop him, never wants to stop touching him, but he knows there’s no point. David will go, but he’ll come back, and Patrick has all the days and all the nights to touch him and tell him just how much he loves him. 


They have the motel room to themselves. It isn’t ideal, a twin bed for the two of them when David barely fits as it is, but they take the privacy. It feels like a gift from the universe on a night when solitude should have been impossible to find. 

It’s the dead of summer, too hot for two people to be pressed up against each other, but they stay intertwined, luxuriating in the contact, tacky skin against tacky skin, and nothing has ever felt better. David’s admission had opened the floodgates, like they have to make up for the weeks and months of holding this in, this precious thing between them.  

“I love you.” Patrick whispers it into David’s collarbone, for the dozenth time tonight. He’s said it hundreds of times in his life, but it was never this. He never knew it could be this. He has a lot of time to make up for. Patrick is sure he’s never smiled this much.

David is sure his heart has never been this full. He’d spent his entire life chasing the nebulous idea that he could have this kind of intimacy, in drug-fueled hazes at clubs and three-months-deep in toxic relationships. All he’d been looking for was this. All he’d been looking for was Patrick. Sebastien was right. David had changed. In this godforsaken town, despite everything, he’d somehow learned to open himself up. To this. To Patrick. 

They stay in the tiny bed, arms and legs wrapped together, willing themselves not to fall off by morning. The bed is a life raft, built up with each declaration, suspending them in this perfect night. Patrick tucks up into David, his back arched into David’s torso, clutching the arm wrapped around his waist. He feels sleep coming, has fought it as long as he can, desperate to make tonight last longer, but it’s a losing battle. He nuzzles his head back, hopeful David knows what he’s too tired to say. He feels a kiss just behind his ear, and a whisper.

 “I love you.”