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Always, Then, & Now

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David taps his emery board against his lips. He holds his hand a little too close to his face, staring down the nails on his index and middle fingers, determining whether they’re sufficiently identical. “Can I ask you something?”

“You just did.”

David looks up, making sure he has Patrick’s attention before he rolls his eyes. “I’m serious.”

“So am I.” Patrick grabs an undershirt out of the hamper at the foot of the bed, flicking out the wrinkles before laying it down to fold. “You’ve just proven that you are fully capable of asking me things.”

“And are you capable of actually answering me?”

“Only if it’s something I wanna tell you.” 

His voice is playful, and there’s that familiar little smirk on his face, and he clearly doesn’t mean anything by it, but—  

“Kinda bold of you to joke about not wanting to tell me something, don’t you think?”

Patrick stops. He looks at David, the fabric of the shirt pinched tightly in his hands. 

“Yeah,” he says eventually, and his expression softens. “You can ask me anything, David.”

“And will you give me an answer?” David challenges.

Patrick holds his gaze. After a moment, his mouth lifts into the barest hint of a smile. “Let’s find out.”

David presses his lips together. He he doesn’t want to give Patrick the satisfaction of knowing that David likes that answer more than a simple ‘yes’. 

Patrick turns to tuck the folded undershirt into its little spot in the dresser drawer. And before he can turn back, David asks, “Why did you propose to Rachel?”

At first, Patrick doesn’t react. He keeps looking in the drawer, his back turned, his hand running idly along the grain of the wood. He lets out a slow breath, and his shoulders gently fall with it.

It’s been a few days since the dust has settled, on all of that. The breaks have been had, the olive branches have been extended. And they’ve talked about it—as much as they needed to, anyway. They talked about what had happened, and what it meant for them, for the ‘us’ part of them. They haven’t really talked about the Patrick part of it. The Rachel part of it. Patrick didn’t bring it up. And initially, David didn’t want to bring it up either. He didn’t want to risk upsetting their reconciliation. It felt too new, too fragile. 

But he knows now. He knows Patrick can handle it. He knows they can handle it.

And he’s right, because when Patrick turns back to the bed, he’s fine. He’s almost smiling. “I was always going to propose to her. We always knew we would get married eventually, and I convinced myself that it was time.” He goes to the hamper and falls right back into the rhythm of it, plucking out one of his pajama t-shirts like he really believes this is a perfectly normal laundry conversation. 

So David lets himself believe it, too. He settles further into the pillows against the headboard, and he starts shaping his pinky nail, and he keeps his voice casual as he asks, “What do you mean, you always knew?”

Patrick shrugs. “It was always our plan. We’d talked about it since we were teenagers—way too young to be talking about it that seriously, but. It was a distant thing. We always said we would wait until we were ready, whenever that happened to be.” He hesitates, looking down at the sleeve between his fingers with much more concentration than it deserves. “I think it… I think, maybe that’s part of why we kept getting back together. Why none of the breakups stuck, even the times we knew they should have. It was just—” his jaw tightens. “It was the plan for so long, y’know? You spend a decade thinking you’re definitely gonna marry someone, eventually you can’t convince yourself otherwise.” His face starts to fall… 

Then he smiles, and shrugs, and keeps folding. 

David pretends he’s still paying attention to his nails. “What made you decide you were ready? After so much time, what… did it?”

Patrick’s smile twists. A little playful, but maybe a little sad, too. “I ran out of reasons why I wasn’t.” He gets another shirt. “There was always something, some excuse—but I didn’t think of it like that, at the time. It was always just a… a reason to keep waiting. When I was sixteen, I thought we should wait until college. When I was twenty, I thought we should wait until we finished our degrees. When I was twenty-five, I thought we should wait until we’d established careers. And then, when I was twenty-seven, I didn’t know what to wait for anymore. And I thought—I convinced myself that that’s what being ready is. There were no more reasons to not be ready, so that meant I had to be, even if I didn’t… feel it.”

He stacks one folded shirt on top of another, and his smile cracks open. He huffs out a weak laugh and glances up at David. “You know, I haven’t ever… I haven’t said that, before. I’ve never actually put it to words. And hearing it out loud, it—” he laughs again, “it sounds real stupid.”

“I don’t think it does,” David counters. “It’s very logical; ticking reasons off of your little to-do list until it all looked right. It’s very you.” He raises an eyebrow, and lets himself smile a little more sincerely than he should. “Probably too logical for your own good.”

Patrick smiles back at him. “Yeah, I guess that checks out.” He shakes his head, his eyes darting away again. “And it’s not like—I mean, I really did want to get married. And I thought I wanted it to be with her. So to some extent, I didn’t think it mattered? That I didn’t feel ready? I always knew I wanted it, so it wouldn’t be a big deal if the timing was a little off. I thought if I gave in and finally did it, it would all… fall into place.”

“God, I hope that wasn’t your opening line for the proposal.”

Patrick chokes on a laugh. “I figured I’d save that for my vows. No, the proposal was actually pretty nice. I can be slightly romantic, when I want to be.” He looks up at David with one of his pitiful attempts at a wink. 

(David rolls his eyes, to make sure it doesn’t look like he thinks it’s charming.) 

After a moment, he nudges. “And then?”

Patrick’s smile falters. “And then, nothing. I hoped proposing would make it fall into place, and it didn’t. I’d spent almost half of my life building up to this one inevitable thing, this thing I wanted so badly. And when it finally happened, it wasn’t right. And eventually I… I realized I couldn’t keep waiting anymore.” He drops the last t-shirt on the stack with an air of finality. “I always wanted to get married, but I knew that what I wanted wasn’t that. I knew that wasn’t what it’s supposed to be.” He takes the stack, and goes to put it away in the drawer.

David frowns at the back of his head. “You still thought you wanted it? That? Even after…” he shakes his head, searching for the words. He’s always heard about people like that, people who know what they want, people who know they want to get married like it’s some easily achievable goal, something you can just pencil into your bullet journal. David’s always known they exist, but he’s never met one in the wild. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s someone like Patrick. 

He wrinkles his nose. There’s a taste creeping up the back of his throat, and he doesn’t think he likes it.

Patrick isn’t fazed. He goes back to the hamper and starts sorting out briefs, making a pile in front of him on the bed. 

(David watches him pick through a tangle of clean underwear, just a few inches away from David’s feet, and he feels some sort of way about it. He’s used to seeing underwear get tossed into hampers, but he’s never been around to see the other side of it. It’s… it’s something. It’s definitely something.)

Patrick starts to fold. “I’ve wanted to get married for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted it.”

David frowns. “Why?”

“C’mon, David,” Patrick smirks up at him. “A relationship that comes with its own legal paperwork? That’s exactly my type of shit.” 

David laughs before he can stop himself. He tosses his head dismissively, to try and balance it out. 

“I’ve just always liked it, I guess,” Patrick continues. “Maybe part of it is because my parents have always been really good together, so I had a good example, but.” He shrugs. “Something about the partnership, being a team. Even after Rachel and I got together, and I realized that you can have the partnership without the actual marriage, I still… I don’t know. I like things that are official. I like the, the gesture of it. Having the ring, and the certificate, and the title. I’ve always thought being married sounds… really good.” 

His movements slow for a moment, hands hesitating along an elastic waistband. “When I, um. When I figured out… things, about myself, I realized that I had been—I hadn’t only assumed I was straight, I had also assumed the whole life that goes with it. It wasn’t just a wife; it was a wife, and kids, and a corporate job, and a house, and.” His mouth quirks up. “And when I realized I didn’t want the one specific part, I got to rethink the rest of it, too. When I finally let myself think about what I really, actually wanted, most of the old picture wasn’t there anymore. But marriage still was. Still is. That part of it never changed. Even when we were engaged, and it wasn’t right, I still… The problem wasn’t marriage, it was the. The relationship. The reality of it, I guess, that didn’t hold up. I still thought ‘married’ sounded so good, but when it was—When I thought about having a wife, it didn’t feel the same, I didn’t get the same… it just. Didn’t sound right.”

That taste is getting stronger in David’s mouth. It’s acid, rising from his stomach, churning and twisting into horrible knots in his chest. They’ve been tip-toeing, creeping closer to something, and now David feels himself nearing the edge. This is too much, and he should be bolting out the door right about now, and the worst part is that there’s a piece of him that still wants to push, to tug the thread until the whole thing unravels in his hands.

David swallows down the taste of his fear, and he asks, “How about having a husband?”  

Patrick doesn’t look up, but David can still see. He watches Patrick’s mouth spread into a warm smile, watches his eyes go so soft they look like they might melt right down his face. He nods, barely enough to be perceptible. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “That sounds pretty great.”

Then he looks up, with his soft, unbearable face. “What about you?”

David feels himself on the edge, and he’s losing his balance. “Hm?”

Patrick asks, “Do you want to get married?”

And David falls. 

He looks to the door, but there’s shoes, and a half-packed bag, and he doesn’t have an excuse, he doesn’t have anywhere to run, this town is too small for that, and the blood is pumping in his ears too goddamn loudly for him to fucking think— 

“David.” Patrick grabs his ankle, smiling one of his smug, dimpled smiles. “Breathe. I’m not proposing.”  

David makes himself breathe.

He tries to make himself breathe.

God, fuck, he knew this was a bad idea. It’s why he was hesitant to bring all of this up in the first place. Because he fucking knew that asking Patrick about Rachel would mean asking him about marriage which would mean Patrick doing this, would mean David sweating in his Saint Laurent because he can’t, he can’t have the person he’s dating say this at him, ask this of him, he can’t, he— 

Patrick gives his ankle a squeeze. Warm, and reassuring. Steadying. “Hypothetically, David. Not about us, not about me. Just as a concept. Conceptually, what do you think about marriage?”

David swallows. “Why?”

“Because it’s what you do.” Patrick goes back to his laundry, goes back to folding his fucking underwear like he didn’t just corner David halfway into a panic attack. “When you’re in a relationship, at some point, you gotta have The Talk. It’s not a plan; it’s just to see if you’re on the same page.”

David sniffs, hoping it comes across as unimpressed. “Sounds fake.”

Patrick smirks. “Even so. You still do it. ‘Cause if you have wildly different opinions, it’s better to figure that out now, than to wait until someone is proposing and someone else is saying ‘fuck no’.” 

David narrows his eyes. Patrick’s little ‘distract David by swearing so he doesn’t notice we’re talking about something terrifying’ trick may work sometimes (much more often than it should), but it’s insulting for him to think it’s going to work now, with something like this.  

But Patrick waits him out. He folds the last of his briefs, and starts matching up pairs of socks. Still with that mild, easy smile.

David presses his lips together. He takes a deep breath. 

This is what they do now, isn’t it? They talk. They… say things. They tell the truth. And it’s awful and uncomfortable and makes David very much want to die, but… apparently it’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s how they can avoid another barbecue, another disaster. They talk about things. They tell the truth, even when they don’t want to. 

David sighs. He hates when Patrick is right. 

But the truth is that he doesn’t have a goddamn thing to say about marriage. The truth is that he’s never had a conversation like this in his life. The truth is that no one has ever put ‘marriage’ and ‘David Rose’ in the same sentence before, even hypothetically. The truth is that he’s never let himself think about it long enough to put words to it. And David doesn’t want to have to say that. It should be obvious. Patrick knows him; he knows more about David than he should, really. David shouldn’t have to say any of this for Patrick to get it. There’s nothing new here, there’s nothing worth saying about this— 

Oh. 

Hm. 

“I’ve always liked weddings,” David says, carefully. He keeps his voice light, like a nonchalant tone is enough to make this conversation bearable. “I’ve always wanted one. I mean,” he makes a flippant gesture, “obviously. It’s a big, elegant party, with beautiful clothes, and the whole point is everyone making speeches about how wonderful I am—because, naturally, both sets of vows would be about how much we love me.

“Naturally,” Patrick echoes, smirking down at a pair of socks as he tucks them into a ball. 

David rolls his eyes. Balling up socks is deeply incorrect, and he doesn’t have the patience to explain all the reasons why, so he just scoots down the bed and takes matters into his own hands. He un-balls the poor socks and folds them properly. Patrick gives him a look, but he doesn’t protest as David continues to correct the rest of the horrible sock monstrosities he’s made. 

“That was actually—hm.” David sets another folded pair next to the first, starting a neat little row. “Weddings were one of my main sources of entertainment when I was little. Like, pre-Alexis little. I’d pick out a fancy dress, and I’d steal this—my mom had this one lace robe I’d always use as a veil. Of course, I eventually realized it was actually a negligee, but.” He tosses his head, and Patrick laughs. “I’d get all dressed up, and I’d make Adelina marry me to my stuffed animals. I had some really lovely ceremonies over the years. Very tasteful.”

“I’m sure.” Patrick rolls another pair of socks into a ball, shamelessly watching David watch him, grinning like the bastard he is.

David snatches it out of his hand to correct it. “But the thing was, back then I literally had no fucking clue that weddings and marriage had anything to do with each other. A wedding was just a party where I got to look pretty and eat cake.” He bites back a smile. “I still remember, eventually Adelina showed me my parents’ wedding picture, and she toddler-explained to me that the wedding is what made them married, like, it was how they became husband and wife. And I—” a laugh bubbles up in his throat, cutting between his words. “I was fucking devastated, I was outraged. That my perfect, beautiful wedding meant I would turn into my parents. I was inconsolable. I just wept, for days.”

Patrick fights down a laugh. “That must have been very traumatic for you.” He makes another sock ball.

David un-makes it. “It was awful.”

“Did you still want a wedding after that? Or was your dream completely killed?”

David looks at the socks in his hands. He runs his thumb along the seam at the toe. He wants to say that yes, that was all, that he put his ‘veil’ away in Moira’s closet and never looked back. He thinks it would be easy enough. He thinks Patrick would let the conversation end, after that. He thinks… 

He thinks about a three-ring binder, currently buried at the bottom of a box of his least favorite pants, tucked away with the rest of his overflow clothing storage in the attic of the motel. A book that he took the time and effort to grab from under his old bed at the Rose mansion as everything was falling apart. 

They’re being honest; that’s the whole point. They’re telling the truth.

David sets down the last pair of socks. 

“I still like weddings. I still wanted my own, for a while, when I was younger. But when I got old enough to accept that the marriage is an integral part of it, I realized it wasn’t going to—” he stops. He moves back to his spot at the head of the bed, retrieving his emery board from the pillow. It’s easier to feign disinterest when he has something else to look at. “In my twenties, I assumed I’d eventually have a PR marriage. Maybe dad would want some positive Rose-related headlines in the news, or some has-been’s publicist would think it was a good financial move, or my publicist would want me to look like less of a slut.” He tilts his head playfully, but the joke doesn’t land. He clears his throat. “It seemed like a good setup. A contract, a couple years, a pre-negotiated divorce, and I’d finally get my wedding. My perfect, beautiful wedding, just how I always wanted.”   

He looks down at his nails, his heart pounding in his ears. 

He hums, as bright as he can manage. “But it didn’t happen. And then we moved here, and it’s not like it was an option anymore, so.” He arches an eyebrow, and makes himself smile. “Guess I missed my chance.”

Patrick doesn’t smile back. Or, maybe he does. It looks like he’s trying, but David’s not buying it. He starts putting away piles of socks and underwear in his dresser. “And what about now?”

“What about now?” David repeats.

“What do you think about marriage, now?”

David watches him. He watches the shift of Patrick’s shoulders, the movement of his arms as he puts away his laundry. David watches, and waits to feel the panic again, the twisting and the acid and the terror of being asked this question by someone he’s dating, by someone who cares about the answer, by someone who invited David over on laundry day, someone who wants to talk about this, to talk to him, while he folds his underwear. David waits for the horror of it to catch up with him. He waits.

And he waits.

He watches Patrick close the drawer, and he decides to tell the truth.

“I don’t know,” David says.

Patrick looks at him. His mouth tucks into a small smile. “Okay.”

David frowns. “Is it?”

“Yep.” Patrick grabs the empty hamper from the foot of the bed and sets it back into its corner of his closet. “I asked if you have an opinion on marriage, and if you don’t, you don’t. You answered the question.”

“Not… helpfully.”

Patrick’s smile splits into a grin. “It was a conversation, David, not a plan. Remember? We just needed to talk about it.” He kneels on the bed, gently nudging David’s legs apart until he has space to crawl between them. 

David tries—and fails—to shove his smile to the corner of his mouth. “Excuse you? What do you think you’re doing?”

“Positive reinforcement,” Patrick says plainly. “We had to have an important, uncomfortable conversation, and you handled it very well. And I think that deserves a reward.” He puts his hands on David’s thighs, fingers splayed, palms warm even through David’s joggers. 

David smiles, thoroughly against his will. But then he makes a thoughtful sound, and forces his features into a frown. “Mm, I’m actually very busy right now?” He taps his emery board against Patrick’s forehead. “The care of my nails is far too important to be interrupted.”

Patrick’s hands slide up to David’s hips. “I didn’t say you had to stop.”

David tips his head back and lets himself laugh as Patrick’s nimble fingers work through the knot of his drawstring. He laughs, and he feels the tension bubble out of him with each gasping breath. And no, he won’t be able to complete a decent manicure mid-blowjob, and yes, he thinks there’s a terrifyingly real chance that Ray will come crashing back home before this is over, and fuck, he shouldn’t be getting hard so quickly after that conversation but… 

But for now, he’s going to trust Patrick. Patrick’s hands smell like fabric softener, and he pulls David’s joggers down his thighs with such delicate care, and he said that this was it, and David chooses to trust him. He chooses to trust that they’re done, that this was it. David decides that he’ll never have to think about this again.

 

-

 

Patrick is in love with him, apparently. And it makes David think.

By the time Patrick drifts off to sleep, he’s already said it like, fifty times? A hundred? And that was just in one day, so. He’s probably pretty confident about it. Pretty sure of himself, and his feelings and… it. And David— 

He rolls onto his side. Patrick is lying on his stomach, one arm under the pillow, the other sprawled out toward David. He’s snoring a bit. There’s a string of drool starting to slip out the corner of his mouth. David wrinkles his nose, because it’s gross. But he doesn’t look away. He watches Patrick sleep. And he loves him. 

He doesn’t know why he thinks about it, right in that moment. Why now, of all times. But they’re here, in Patrick’s bed, and they’re in love, and that’s… 

David’s never gotten to this point. He’s never made it this far. He never thought he would, either. Yeah, he can admit that he’s seen it coming for a while—it’s not like being in love snuck up on him this afternoon—but it’s a different experience to have heard it, and said it. To share it, or whatever. David wrinkles his nose, because he’s being gross. But it’s the truth. This is something he’s never had. It’s different, and it feels different. 

And he can almost, kinda… see it. Having this, for longer. A lot longer. He watches Patrick drool and snuffle in his sleep, and it almost makes sense. It’s a step closer, anyway. A step real-er? A step closer to being real. 

You love the person you marry. Or, you marry the person you love. Or both, or, something. Love is part of it—it’s supposed to be part of it. And now, David has that. He has one part of it, which is sure as fuck more than he’s ever had before. So now it’s easier to go… farther. Now, in the dark, in this bed, David almost thinks he could imagine—  

Patrick’s hand fumbles across the mattress. The backs of his fingers brush David’s chest. He sighs, softly, thick with sleep. He keeps snoring. 

And David thinks, for the first time, that he might want to marry this man someday. 

 

-

 

Moira is in Bosnia, and Johnny is decomposing. 

At first, it’s disgusting, because David assumes it’s a typical case of an adult man not knowing how to function without The Woman there to keep him alive. But by the three day mark, it’s painfully clear that on a basic-needs level, he’s functioning just fine. 

So now it’s disgusting because apparently he just misses her. It’s thoroughly uncomplicated. Forty goddamn years, and he can’t survive a week away from his wife without missing her so much he might literally die of a broken heart. It’s ridiculous. It is deeply, deeply pathetic.

It’s kinda cute.

At the start, anyway. By the second week, the neediness and the clinginess and the lingering visits to the Apothecary and the endless family dinners—so. many. family. dinners—have worn David’s patience down to the last thread. 

“Can you and the rain cloud over your head please go literally anywhere else for once? We’ve already mopped today.”

Patrick shoots him a warning look from behind the counter, but David holds his ground. 

Johnny, inexplicably, bafflingly, manages to not take the hint—even though it wasn’t a hint, it was a fucking demand. He keeps puttering through the fridge with the same blissfully ignorant, dead-eyed smile he’s had since the moment Moira’s flight left. “Oh, I’ll get out of your hair in a minute, David, I was just looking to—ah ha!” He turns around, triumphant. “I just wanted to pick up some of this smoked salmon, for your mother. It’s her favorite.”

“It’ll expire before she gets back!”

“Well,” Johnny nods sagely as he sets it on the counter, “No harm in being prepared.”

David throws up his arms as Johnny gets out his wallet. Patrick smiles as he rings him up, openly engaging with Johnny’s stuttering, long-winded small talk. David holds his hands behind Johnny’s neck and pretends to squeeze, right at throttling-height

“Say! I don’t know if you boys have any plans for tonight, but I was thinking of stopping by the Cafe for dinner, so, if you want—”

“Dad, we’ve had dinner with you a thousand times this week. We’re not doing it again.”

Johnny’s eyebrows tilt in that horrible Sad Dad way, but the rest of him stays disgustingly perky. “Well, that’s—that’s fine, David, fine. I’ll just…” he clasps his tote in both hands. “Maybe I’ll see what Alexis is up to—”

“Oh my god, Dad!” David snaps. “How are you not embarrassed that you’re a grown man who literally can’t function by yourself for two fucking weeks?!

That— 

Fuck.

David lets out his breath. Because that was… a bit much. But he sets his jaw, because it was also valid.

Johnny looks at him for a moment. The Sad Dad eyebrows are gone. He’s surprisingly composed. “Am I supposed to be embarrassed that I miss my wife when she’s not here?”

David recoils. Because that’s… not what he expected. “I—you, you don’t—” he shakes his head. “There’s a difference between missing someone and being too miserable to survive without them.”

Johnny smiles. No teasing, no awkwardness, just smiling. “I don’t know what to tell you, David. I’m happier when she’s around. That’s why I married her.” He raises his eyebrows, and that has a hint of playfulness, maybe even a little challenge. 

And when David can’t think of anything to say, Johnny’s smile twists into a grin. “Well. Let me know when you two want to do dinner again.” (When, not if, when, David can’t believe the audacity.) He opens the door with a horrible little wave. 

“Sure thing.” Patrick waves back—the traitor. “See you, Mr. Rose.”

The door closes, and David turns on him.

Patrick is unrepentant. “What? He’s got a point.”    

Excuse you?! You can’t side with my dad, you’re supposed to be loyal to me!”

Patrick laughs as he closes the drawer. “I don’t know, David. I think it’s nice. After this much time, your parents don’t just love each other, they still like each other, too.”

David frowns. He doesn’t have an argument for that. “Ew.” 

Then he shakes his head. “But, like, this is a lot, though,” he waves his hand at the door. “I mean, if I left for a couple weeks, you wouldn’t be pathetically wallowing around town like a Victorian ghost, would you?”

“Nah, I’d love a break from having to put up with you,” Patrick quips easily. But then he looks up, and his smile is so much warmer than it should be. “But I’d be a hell of a lot happier when you got back.”

David— 

He frowns. It’s… it’s a fair point. It’s a nice thought. It’s nice that his parents are still sickeningly happy together. It’s bullshit that it ends up causing so many problems for David, but, that’s a separate issue. The fact that they’re still here, after this much time, the fact that their marriage is the most stable thing either of them have ever had, it’s nice. It’s nice to know that it can work, sometimes. For some people. For Moira, for someone who’s so… much. It’s a strange sort of comfort to know that someone loves Moira Rose enough to still like her a lifetime later. It makes it seem possible. Attainable. Mom and Dad are living proof that it’s possible for someone to find happiness in being married to a Rose, and.

Well. If they can pull it off, maybe that means they’re not the only ones.

David pulls back his shoulders. “I don’t like when you’re right.”

Patrick doesn’t look up from the card reader. “That’s too bad.”

David rolls his eyes, and busies himself with straightening out all the bags of coffee that Johnny touched for no reason. 

It takes him a few minutes to realize, with absolute horror, that he’d just mentally compared himself to his parents, albeit in a hypothetical, roundabout sort of way. He’d compared them to his parents. 

It takes him a few more minutes to realize, with even deeper horror, that that’s not actually horrifying at all.

 

-

 

Patrick wants to live with him, and David is… surprisingly okay. 

It’s unexpected, sure. David assumed Patrick would have made them have a Talk about it first, one of their awful adult relationship conversations. Or, at least, David would have assumed that in a parallel universe where David would ever imagine Patrick wanting to live with him in the first place. 

But Patrick wants to live with him, now, out of basically fucking nowhere, and. Yeah. It’s okay. 

And what the fuck is up with that?

Yes, there are some butterflies. There are some background anxieties and a long list of logistics that need to be addressed (Patrick had better not think he’ll be taking any of Ray’s terrible furniture with them), but that’s all… fine. It’s normal—probably. David imagines this is the type of stuff everyone worries about when they move in with their significant other. It’s just nerves, it’s not panic. David didn’t panic. 

He didn’t panic.

Patrick asked David to move in with him. And David said yes. He was surprised, but he didn’t think twice. David wants to live with him. And it’s not because he wants to escape dusty carpets and a twin bed and Alexis—well, it’s not not that, but it’s not only that, either. He wants to live with Patrick. He wants them to live together. 

David sits back. He takes a breath. He pokes around in the usual places: his stomach, his chest, behind his eyes, the back of his throat. He looks for the fear, the doubt, the thing telling him it’s a mistake, it’s going to fall apart, that if he lets himself hold this too tight, it’ll shatter in his hands. He tries to find it. 

And he doesn’t. He can’t, because it’s not there. 

David wants to do this. He wants to take this… step. He wants to take the next step with Patrick. He doesn’t question it. He doesn’t worry himself out of it. He just wants it. And for once, that’s all there is to it. 

 

-

 

Okay, so Patrick doesn’t want to live with him, actually. And David is— 

Well he’s embarrassed as fuck, for a start. He may be accustomed to heinous misunderstandings in relationships, but ‘accidentally thought you want us to move in together’ is definitely a new low for him, dignity-wise. 

But, also, he’s… fine. It was awful, and David wanted to die about it, and then, yeah. He recovered. An hour ago, he wanted to melt into a puddle of hot shame and be absorbed into the floorboards, and now he’s sitting at Ray’s kitchen table, his chin resting on Patrick’s shoulder, watching him scroll through the IKEA website and quietly vetoing all of his horrible selections. Patrick rests his free hand on David’s thigh, wandering slowly, fiddling with the hem of his skirt. He hovers the mouse over a hideous excuse for an armchair—

“Absolutely not.”

Patrick smiles. “Of course not.” He scrolls away.

And it’s fine. Patrick doesn’t want to live with him, and it’s fine. Which is the most unbelievable part of this whole thing. They talked, and David gets it, and it’s fine. Patrick doesn’t want to live with him right now. He wants some time on his own. After these years in Room 7, David can certainly understand that desire, especially for someone like Patrick who hasn’t lived alone before. 

It’s a timing thing. It’s not that Patrick doesn’t want to live with him, it’s that Patrick doesn’t want to live with him yet. But he will; he does. 

And that’s fine. That’s actually almost… nice, maybe. Knowing it’ll happen, at some point. That little confirmation that there’s more. There are still steps ahead of them. There’s a future. And in that future, at some point, they’ll be living together. In the future, it’ll still be them. 

David tilts his head, tucking himself into the crook of Patrick’s neck. Patrick gives his thigh a gentle squeeze. They keep scrolling through furniture. And it’s okay. It’s nice. Patrick clicks on another chair—

“Oh god, no.”

 

-

 

David is starving. And it’s not like Patrick actually made it to dinner, so.

It’s a bit late, but they head to the Cafe. Patrick looks adorable in his Date Night look (or, technically, his almost-a-date-but-then-not look). David doesn’t know whether to feel jealous of Ken for almost getting to see the marvel of Patrick’s ass in these unreasonably tight jeans, or sorry for him that he missed out on it. 

They walk slower than they need to. Patrick bumps his fingers against David’s, again, and again, and again, until David finally says “Oh my god,” and takes his damn hand already, ignoring the way Patrick laughs as he tangles their fingers together.

Twyla is only slightly passive-aggressive as she hands them menus so close to closing time. David apologizes as sincerely as he can manage with his stomach rumbling. He reminds himself to leave her a very impressive tip. Patrick orders them mozzarella sticks—which is a little on the nose, in David’s opinion, but. He doesn’t complain.

The platter is placed between them, and David says, “So. Earlier.”

“Earlier,” Patrick repeats.

David feels his mouth twist to one side. “I said something. About some years. I said something about five years, specifically.”

Patrick nods. “I seem to recall that.”

“And you didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”

David bites the inside of his cheek. Even after all of this, Patrick can’t make one fucking thing easy for him. David folds his hands, rests them on the table, and swallows back his discomfort. “If I ask you something, will you answer me?”

“Let’s find out.”

David takes a breath. 

And then, another.

“Do you think we’ll still be together, five years from now?”

Patrick smiles at him. Soft, and so, so warm. “Of course I fuckin’ do.”

David tucks his lips between his teeth, trying (and failing) to not reward that with a smile. He tilts his head. “Okay, but I don’t think you get to say it like that? Because, if you recall, when I said it earlier, you mocked me for it.”

“I teased you,” Patrick corrects. His smile lifts all the way into his eyes. “C’mon, David. It’s been a year and a half; you know how this works.”

Hm.

David supposes that’s true. 

Still, it’s not like he’s going to admit that. 

He rolls his eyes. “I don’t know why I put up with you.”

Patrick ducks his head and laughs, far too pleased with himself. He picks up a mozzarella stick, and he looks at David. “Hm?”

David scoffs, muttering “Nerd” under his breath. But he takes a mozzarella stick anyway. 

They tap them together, and Patrick smiles at him. Under the table, he knocks his foot against David’s. After a moment, David laughs.

The mozzarella sticks haven’t gotten any more palatable in a year and half. David wonders if they’re always going to taste like this. If they’ll be the same in another year. Or another five. Or ten. Or more. 

He supposes they’ll just have to wait and find out.

 

-

 

Stevie is reorganizing the motel attic, and David is trying to be a ‘good friend’, or whatever.

So he spends his day off—he spends his one day off—sorting through boxes. Because he’s a good friend. He’s a fucking saint.

And sure, it’s all his stuff. The attic is roughly 5% motel supplies, 5% washing machine, and 90% David’s clothes. But, still. It’s very generous of him to agree to do this in his spare time, out of the goodness of his heart.

Though, if he’s being honest, it’s almost kind of enjoyable. 

Or, maybe that’s a little strong. 

Cathartic. It’s a cathartic, cleansing experience. It’s very Marie Kondo of him. David sorts through his overflow clothing storage, and he feels some things. He re-discovers old pieces that need to be put back into rotation. He finds a stash of lingerie that he honestly thought hadn’t made it out of the Rose mansion with him (and he makes a plan to acquaint Patrick with it, first chance he gets). And, much to his surprise, he finds a few things he doesn’t like. Things he’d forgotten about and hasn’t missed, things that are disgustingly out of style, things from experimental phases that he doesn’t care to return to. He can still appreciate the nostalgia, the memory of the boutique or designer’s studio where they became his; the experience of owning it. But some things honestly don’t look as good in his hands as a couple hundred bucks would in an incoming eBay bid.     

For example, all these goddamn pants from that time in his late twenties when he thought wearing warmer colors might trick people into thinking he had a warm personality. He digs through a stack of wool and silk that had once felt elegant, but now just feels so horribly beige, and he— 

Oh. 

He moves aside a pair of McQueen chinos and pulls out a well-worn, overstuffed three-ring binder. And he smiles.

It’s sure been a hot second, hasn’t it?

It starts with a few cursory glances, flipping a few pages. Making sure it’s still intact. But soon enough, David is perched cross-legged on the washing machine (the only thing in the attic that is clean enough to sit on), with his Wedding Dream Book spread out across his lap.

It’s a lot. David feels pricks of ego as he sees some of the more… well, the choices he made. But he stands by them, stubbornly, and with bruised pride. After all, they were very tasteful in their own time. It’s not his fault that there’s so much gaudy lacy applique in the pages from the 90’s, so much poof, so much… anything from the early 2000’s. His taste was excellent, but society marches on. He refuses to feel shame about the passage of time. 

There are more phases than he remembers. There are detailed plans for at least a dozen weddings in here, from extravagant ceremonies in cathedrals, to more romantic affairs in the gardens of Versailles, to exclusive elopements in far-off locales, small and secretive enough to make gossip headlines for months (David feels an odd, mournful pang as he notes the lack of Roses on that particular guest list, carefully curated in his teenaged writing). He flips through ceremonies with wedding parties that are just a collage of various Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls, and he tucks a smile between his teeth. He can perfectly picture Alexis’s outrage at being put into one of these pastel monstrosities, even only in David’s imagination. Stevie in a shapeless spaghetti-strapped tube, or hell, maybe one of the garishly oversized tuxes—god, what was with everyone’s obsession with clothes that were specifically tailored to look like they didn’t fit? It’s already bad enough that Alexis and Stevie will have to share the Maid of Honour title; David can just imagine making Alexis share credit and sticking her in something so unflattering. 

He flips through another few pages, and lets himself giggle. The black and white theme is still gorgeous. The all-white tux, however, might be taking some good energy in a bad direction. He pictures his face on these baggy abominations, pure white from the tails to the shoes to the gloves, and the giggles start to overtake him. He turns a few more pages and—oh no, is Patrick’s hair long enough to spike up his bangs in a stupid duck bill? With frosted tips? If he grew it out, could—fuck—could he get the Timberlake ramen hair?

David is laughing so hard it hurts. It’s getting hard to see through the tears pricking his eyes. Part of him wants to give this book some much-needed updates, and part of him just wants to cut out pictures of all their faces to stick on these awful, awful looks, to revel in the disparity between the ideas in here that could still be allowed at their actual wedding, and the ones that absolutely cannot— 

David’s laughter fades in his chest. 

He turns another page. 

He’s always pictured himself in these images. That was the whole point. But… 

It was just him. It was him, perfect and beautiful, surrounded by placeholders. Empty venues, celebrities cut out of magazines. 

He turns another page. He sees Alexis and Stevie in bridesmaids’ dresses. He sees Johnny in a tux, Moira in—in god knows what, in something David’s imagination can’t conceive of. He sees guests in the seats, at the tables, and they have familiar faces. He sees himself at the front of it all, like he always has. And he sees Patrick there with him. 

Something twists in David’s stomach. Something tightens in his chest. 

There’s… 

There are a lot more boxes to go through. He wanted to be done with this before Patrick closes the store for the night, and now he’s cutting it close. 

David gets down from the washing machine, and he… he shakes himself out. Work. Focus.

When he finally leaves the attic, he takes the book with him. 

 

-

 

Patrick is saying numbers, and David is trying not to die.

The desk in the back room isn’t big enough for both of them, so Patrick stands behind him, leaning over his shoulder to point at certain cells, certain numbers, with an explanation for every goddamn one. David does his best to not pout too visibly, but honestly, come on. It’s not his fault that Patrick gave him the finalized bathroom renovation budget after David had already started looking at tiles. He fell in love with his perfect Romanian marble regardless of superficial details like cost, and it’s not fair that, once again, his espresso machine savings is what’s on the chopping block.   

Patrick says something about needing to prioritize ‘practical’ bathroom considerations (as though beautiful tiles aren’t every bit as important as a toilet), and David lets his eyes glaze over. His gaze slowly falls from where Patrick is pointing, slipping down line… after line… after line… 

David frowns. “What’s this?” He highlights what appears to be small, steadily-growing savings. He may not be intimately acquainted with Patrick’s finance spreadsheet, but he still knows this wasn’t here last time. 

“That’s the wedding fund, David.”

David laughs. “Right.”

Patrick doesn’t. “Right.”

David turns, looking up at Patrick over his shoulder. 

Patrick is smiling, with a little twinkle in his big, dumb eyes. It’s playful, but it’s still…  

David swallows. “Right,” he says softly. 

He clears his throat. “Use the espresso machine money for the tiles.”

 

-

 

Patrick is giddy, and David doesn’t want to ruin that.

It’s not the right time. Tonight wasn’t about him, both in the complicated sense, and in the very un-complicated sense that it was Patrick’s fucking birthday, not his. David doesn’t need to fish for this right now. He can wait. He can— 

Patrick bumps their feet together under the covers. “What?”

David frowns. “What?”

“You want to say something,” Patrick whispers (they’ve been whispering all night, pressed too close together in the dark apartment, sharing a pillow, sharing the breath between them). “What is it?”

David shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s stupid.”

“Say it anyway.”

David tries to give Patrick a look, but it must not work, because Patrick just breathes out a laugh and keeps up his one-sided game of footsie. 

“You know I, I haven’t—” David closes his eyes. “I haven’t done this, the… meeting someone’s parents. I haven’t gotten this far, before,” he whispers.

“I know,” Patrick whispers back. 

“And I know that wasn’t the point—I know the… rest of it was more important, and it was a lot, and probably not a normal parent-boyfriend introduction? But. I still just wasn’t, I didn’t…” David takes a deep breath, and cautiously cracks one eye open. “Did they like me?”

Patrick frowns. “David.”

Fuck.

David squeezes his eyes shut again and shakes his head. “Nope, see? I told it you it was stupid. Nevermind. Don’t—”

“David,” Patrick interrupts. He puts his hand on David’s face, gentle, his palm cradling David’s cheek. And he waits for David to open his eyes. “David,” he says again, and this time David can hear something soft in his voice. “They… Their first impression was you going to fight for me, even if it had to be against them. The first thing they saw of you was—was tonight, all of this, seeing how—” his lower lip disappears between his teeth for a moment. “Seeing how well you take care of me.” He smiles, and shakes his head the tiniest bit, and makes a sound like… like disbelief. “David, they love you. They already love you.”

David blinks, and furrows his eyebrows, because he was absolutely fishing for something nice, but that doesn’t mean he was prepared for— 

He clears his throat. “So soon? Little cringey of them.”

Patrick laughs, his breath warm on David’s lips. He keeps his hand on David’s face. He closes his eyes, and bumps their noses together. 

David grips the neck of Patrick’s shirt, clinging a little too tightly, so he can’t be swept away. “But I—um.” He takes a breath. “I suppose that’s fair. Since my parents have always loved you more than they ever loved me.” 

“Good point.”

David’s eyes are closed, but he rolls them anyway. He tilts his face, and even though it’s the slightest movement, they’re pressed so close that it’s enough to brush their lips together. Patrick parts his lips, and it’s not really a kiss, it’s just the feeling of sharing that space, of breathing together, of being here. 

“I don’t know how it happened,” Patrick whispers against David’s mouth. “I have such an amazing family. I don’t know how I got so lucky.”

David hums. “They do seem pretty wonderful.”

“And you.”

“Hm?”

Patrick pulls back, until there’s enough space for David to make out his features in the moonlight coming through the curtains. “My family. That means you, too.” He runs his thumb across David’s cheek, just beneath his eye. “You’re part of my family, David.”

David looks at him. He feels the warmth of his hand, the steadiness of his breath. He sees the certainty in his eyes, the comfort, the ease of it. 

David waits for the fear, the doubt, the panic. He waits for his mind to give him a joke, a deflection he can use to get out of this moment. 

He waits. And he breathes.

And then, he nods. “You’re mine, too.”

Patrick pulls him in slowly. He kisses David’s forehead, his cheek. He tucks himself under David’s chin. David misses the warmth on his face, but he’s grateful to have his own air again. He takes a greedy lungful, holding it, blinking hard. 

Patrick makes a quiet noise. He kisses the exposed jut of David’s collarbone. He kisses David’s chest, turning his face to press his ear to David’s steadily beating heart. He wraps his arm around David’s waist.

David wraps his arm around Patrick’s shoulders, fitting them together. He holds Patrick tight, and he makes the decision, in that moment, that he’s never going to let go.

 

-

 

They’re up on a mountain, and Patrick is down on one knee. And David is ready.

 

-

 

David takes the last pair of briefs out of the hamper.

“What about cupcakes?”

David drops the briefs in horror. “Ew! What’s wrong with you?!”

Patrick laughs as he looks up from his laptop. “Did I just hear David Rose say ‘ew’ to cupcakes? Am I going crazy?”

“No, you heard David Rose say ‘ew’ to wedding cupcakes.” David smooths the briefs out on the foot of the bed. “A completely different subject.”

“Ah, of course.” Patrick tilts his screen a bit closer. He’s sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, with his laptop perched on a throw pillow in front of him (it looks terrible for his back, and his desk is right there, but whatever). “But think of the possibilities, David. We could get as many flavors as we wanted.”

David rolls his eyes as he makes clean, precise folds. “A wedding cake is a sacred thing. I don’t care how beautiful your cupcakes are, or how nicely you present them, they will never have the same impact as a perfect, whole wedding cake.”

Patrick hums thoughtfully. He turns and starts carefully flipping through the pages of the binder lying open next to him. After a moment, he holds it up, batting his eyes with faux-innocence. “So, what’s this, then?”

David looks at the picture of a delicate, gold-detailed cupcake, surrounded by very enthusiastic comments in his ten-year-old handwriting. “That’s in there because of the exquisite rosette piping, not the concept of the cupcake.”

Patrick laughs as he sets the Wedding Dream Book down. “But what if I’ve always wanted cupcakes? What if the one thing I’ve ever wanted in this life is to have hundreds and hundreds of cupcakes at my wedding?”

“Well, then you are welcome to have all the cupcakes your little heart desires,” David picks up a sock and gives it a pointed flick, “but your husband will not be attending.”

Patrick makes a noise, and his face goes all gooey and stupid. He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Tell me more about my husband. I like to hear about him.”

David tries to bite back his smile, but he knows it doesn’t work. He tucks his lips between his teeth to try and hide the worst of it. He hums primly, and picks up another sock. “I can tell you that he’s never going to exist at all if you keep threatening to fuck up his perfect wedding,” he says, as sharp as he can manage. “You can have cupcakes literally any other day.”

Patrick grins. He reaches out, grabbing for a pair of David’s correctly folded and un-balled socks—

David smacks the back of his hand. “No!”

Patrick shakes out his hand. “If these cupcakes are gonna be a deal-breaker, what if we just skip all of that?” He goes back to his laptop, typing while he talks. “Let’s elope. Keep it simple. We can go to Town Hall tomorrow, just the two of us. Have Roland do it.” He looks up—

And he must like what he sees on David’s face, because he laughs, loud and hard, shaking his whole body. “David,” he says, when he composes himself, “Breathe. I’m kidding.”

“How many times do I have to remind you that you are not funny?!”

Patrick shrugs, still grinning. “I can’t help it. I’m excited, but. I might have a hard time waiting all the way until the wedding. Because I really want to marry you, David.”

David looks at him, for a moment. At his soft smile, at his stupid, stupid eyes. The certainty. The ease. David fiddles with the sock in his hand, pretending to adjust the cuff, but, really, it’s just so he has an excuse to look at the gold on his fingers. 

“What about you?”

David runs his thumb across one of his rings. “Hm?”

Patrick asks, “Do you want to get married?”

David looks up. Patrick’s soft smile has gone crooked, his eyes playful and teasing. He knows what he’s doing, he always fucking knows. 

David smiles. “Yeah, I—” 

He catches himself just in time, lips already curling around the next word. Patrick leans closer, grinning, split open with laughter. David rolls his eyes as spectacularly as he can manage, but… he lets himself laugh, too. He folds the last pair of socks, and he and Patrick share their smile, their stupid little laughter. And David says, “I do.”