Patrick tried to give them space on nights like this. Stevie arrived on their doorstep well after dark with a six pack of cheap beer and red rimmed eyes. He could hear her sniffling, between trading barbs with David that didn't land. They burrowed into his heart, prickling uncomfortably. Patrick was raised to take care of the people he loved.
"Hi," he said, poking his head around the door frame. They were holed up on opposite ends of the couch. Stevie had one knee tucked to her chest, the other foot dangling over the floor. David was perched on the edge of the cushion like he wanted to reach for her, but wasn't sure how.
"Hi, honey," David said, shooting a furtive glance at Stevie, "maybe now's not the best time." Patrick ignored him, because Stevie looked like she was unraveling, tension pouring off of her in waves.
"Stevie," Patrick said instead, "can I sit?" He nodded at the cushion between them. Her face twisted up like she wasn't sure whether she wanted to cry or curse.
"It's your fucking couch, Patrick," she said wetly. That was as good an invitation as he was going to get.
"I suppose," Patrick said, because David was the one who picked out most of their furniture, but it didn't seem like the right time to remind her of that. "I want to hold you." he said, in the same straightforward tone he used when David acted like Patrick was afraid of his sharp edges. "Can I hold you?" Patrick asked, holding his arms open and waiting. He stayed still a beat longer than was comfortable, watching her resolve crumble.
Stevie let out a single shaky breath before leaning in. Patrick took it from there, tugging her against his chest. She buried her face in his neck, chest heaving with the force of her sobs. "David," he said softly, as he ran a hand over her back, "come here, please."
David shifted to settle behind him on the couch, his large frame providing something for Patrick to lean against. David curled an arm around his shoulder, running it in soothing motions through her hair.
“I should go,” she said, after she had calmed, but made no move away from them. David was half asleep, draped over Patrick’s back, his face tucked in his shoulder.
“You’re always welcome to sleep here,” Patrick said. He didn’t want her driving this late, not as wrung out as she was. Stevie didn’t respond except to shift to a more comfortable position on his chest.
“I want Stevie to stay,” Patrick said, lying next to David in the dark.
“She’s in her room, honey,” David said, words muffled against his pillow. He reached blindly for Patrick’s hand. This wasn’t the time to start this conversation, but Patrick wouldn’t be able to sleep otherwise.
“No, David, I want her here, with us,” Patrick said. He ran his thumb over David’s rings. “She still has feelings for you. And I know you love her.”
“I love you , Patrick,” David said and it filled Patrick’s heart to hear him say it so easily.
“I know you do,” Patrick assured him, “We’re okay, David.”
“But Stevie’s not,” David said, tone colored with understanding.
“And we love her.”
“We do,” Patrick said, feeling the smooth metal of David’s rings until he fell asleep.
Stevie was gone when they woke up. David gathered the empty beer bottles while Patrick made their morning drinks. He pressed a kiss to David's cheek and a mug into his hand. They settled on the wicker rattan on their sun porch.
"This isn't like with Ken?" David confirmed, "or Jake?" Patrick watched his eyebrows furrow. David needed to understand that this wasn't a matter of Patrick trying to give him something he thought he wasn't capable of. Patrick knew he could give David everything. Stevie would give him more still.
"No," Patrick said, taking a sip of his tea while he tried to find the words. "It's not that."
Once, Alexis had painted his nails wild indigo, "ooh, I found the perfect shade of blue, Button."
It had been. The color had gone well with every outfit in his wardrobe; Alexis thought it was convenient that he had such a clearly defined color palette. Thirteen days after their spa night he was washing his hands in the bathroom of the store, admiring his soft cuticles and moisturized knuckles. His hands were labor of love, Alexis and David teaching him to care for himself the way they did. He caught sight of the color, flashing among the bubbles, and realized they were purple.
It didn't make them any less blue, but they were purple now too, when he looked at them in a different light. Alexis had let him keep the bottle.
"She's already such a good partner to you, David." Patrick ran his thumb over David's wedding bands. "It's breaking her," Patrick said, "to never be chosen." He looked David in the eye, "We're strong enough to bring someone we both already love into this relationship.”
“Okay,” David said with an air of finality. He turned so he was leaning against Patrick. Patrick wrapped an arm around his waist, pressing a kiss to his hair. They watched the sun come up, warm mugs cradled between their palms. There was room on the other end of the rattan and extra water in the kettle.
Stevie glanced up from the computer, sliding the strap of her bag over her head as she eyed them warily, “Did you rob a flower shop on the way here?” David rolled his eyes, holding out the bouquet of wildflowers from Patrick’s garden.
“These are for you,” David said, leaning in to press a kiss to her cheek as she took them. Her hand was shaking. There was a flowchart; they were going to do this right.
“David,” Patrick said instead. David glanced back long enough to catch the expression on his face. He turned to Stevie, sliding an arm around her waist and cupping her jaw.
“What-” she got out before David drew her in. Patrick expected to feel some jealousy, or fear maybe, but his heart burned with relief. She had tensed initially, eyes darting to Patrick.
“It’s okay,” he said softly. Stevie’s eyes slid closed and she melted into the kiss, flowers dangling from her fingers. When David pulled away, Stevie looked happy. They both did; Patrick’s whole chest glowed with warmth. This was all he had wanted for them. The feeling was compersion, Alexis would explain later.
“Mkay, we were going to do that differently,” David said, running his hands over her arms. He waved a hand in Patrick’s direction. “There was a spreadsheet-”
“Flowchart,” Patrick corrected, laughing at David’s anxious babbling. He grinned at Stevie over his shoulder. She smiled back, automatic, despite her obvious uncertainty.
“Mm, yes, that. There was paperwork.” David said dismissively. His face softened, he gestured at the space between them, “This, was not an impulse decision.” David tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “We want you, Stevie, however it works for all of us.” Patrick couldn’t see his face, but he could hear it in his voice, regret. “I never should’ve left without you.”
Stevie looked a little harrowed, tears welling in her eyes, “I don’t want to come between you two, Patrick-”
“Is the one who asked for this,” Patrick said, moving to stand next to them. He tugged Stevie into his arms. She went easily, winding her arms around his waist.
“Mmm, I for one, would very much like to see you come between us,” David said, grinning. Stevie let out a wet laugh, swiping at her eyes with the corner of her flannel.
“Will you come home with us?” Patrick asked. She tipped her head up to look at him.
“Patrick’s making stir fry,” David added while Stevie searched his face.
“Well in that case, I think I have to,” she said and followed them home.
It wasn’t much different from any other night Stevie came over for dinner, which was kind of the point. She belonged there. Patrick did most of the cooking, Stevie and David cutting up vegetables, far, far away from the stove. They set the table, and poured wine, and lovingly insulted his careful techniques.
“It’s almost like you don’t want us to eat,” David said, gesturing dramatically from his place leaning against the counter.
“You could help,” Patrick said, “you know, if you want to speed up the process.”
Stevie snorted into her glass, “If by speed up the process you mean burn down the kitchen.” She grinned, “have some patience, David.” Patrick nodded, tossing everything together in the pan.
“Oh my god,” David said, “you were just complaining about how long this was taking.”
Patrick handed David a bowl of rice, sliding the meat and vegetables onto serving plates. He passed one to Stevie.
“I hope it was worth the wait,” Patrick said.
Dinner went smoothly right up until the end when Stevie would usually pack up and head home for the night.
“So I should go,” she said, balling her napkin up and dropping in on her plate. “Thank you, for this.” She gathered her silverware and got up to load it into the dishwasher.
“Stevie,” David sighed. He moved to lean against the counter as she washed her hands with agitated motions. Stevie turned, bumping into his chest with a surprised sound. She reached out to steady herself on his waist. David took her face in his hands, leaning down to seal their mouths together.
“Stay,” he said against her mouth, “let’s talk about this.”
“Yeah, okay,” she breathed, staring up at him. Patrick grinned, he knew that feeling, David was magnetic when he wanted to be. They settled on the couch, Stevie tucked between them. David wrapped an arm around her waist, half because David was always touching them and half so she wouldn’t flee.
While David would never press him or ask him to justify his desires, Stevie brought up their wine metaphor with a careful question. David had pointed him in the direction of several queer resources after he came out and Patrick had felt waves of clarity as he read about different types of attraction.
“Sex with women doesn’t repulse me,” Patrick said. He wouldn’t have kept having it with Rachel for fifteen years if it had. “I have my limits and boundaries, but so should everyone else.” He sifted through his thoughts to find the most important things to tell her. They would need to have a much longer discussion before they actually took things into the bedroom.
“This doesn’t always need to be the three of us, but I’m not opposed to it,” Patrick settled on, Stevie’s eyes searching his face for reassurance. “I like the intimacy component. I want to be there the first time you … connect.” He watched David’s hand slide over her side, her pupils flaring.
“He means fuck,” David said in her ear. “He wants to watch me fuck you,” His hand drifted down her thigh, “what do you think, Stevie?” David pressed a chaste kiss to the side of her neck. “Do you want Patrick there? Do you want his hands on you while you come?”
“Fuck, David,” Stevie said, turning her head to kiss him. David let out a pleased hum, brushing his nose over her cheek as he pulled away.
“Mmm, I’m actually going to need you to say yes, though,” David said, squeezing her thigh lightly. Patrick laughed at her frustrated groan as David segued into a conversation about consent, desires, and limits.
Early in their relationship, Patrick had spent countless blowjobs begging David to fuck him. David would press a kiss to his hip bone, careful not to step over any lines while Patrick was delirious with pleasure. Patrick shivered, arousal twisting through him at the memory. He was going to take such good care of them.