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(not quite) a random thought

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*

The first time it comes up, they’re standing side by side in the bathroom, David on step six of his night-time routine and Patrick briskly brushing his teeth in their respective mirrors. For fear of his various skin care regimes being rushed by errant husbands, David’s top priority on moving into the cottage had been a full bathroom remodel, with his-and-his sinks number one on the wishlist. It’s become habitual, bumping his shoulder against Patrick’s as they carry out their ablutions, and they rarely feel the need to talk much, aside from the odd, ‘you missed a little moisturiser, honey’.

Tonight, though, Patrick spits neatly into his sink, rinses his mouth and pats it dry with a monogrammed towel before turning to David and asking, “What if I got a piercing?”

David pauses with his ring finger midway through dabbing serum under his eye. “I’m sorry?”

Patrick folds his arms, a close second choice for those occasions where he doesn’t have pockets to bury his hands in. “What if I got a piercing?” The same question, but a little less sure of itself.

David takes a beat to respond. “I mean. I… wasn’t aware that was really your thing.”

David watches in the mirror as his husband does an odd little shrug, arms still crossed. “Yeah. You’re right. Just a random thought, I guess.”

With that, Patrick smacks a kiss to the back of David’s neck and pats his ass fondly before leaving him to the rest of his skincare. David frowns at his reflection, the conversation sitting uncomfortably on his shoulders. It’s not like he laughed in Patrick’s face or anything, but he wasn’t exactly supportive. Patrick’s tone when he brought it up was nothing if not casual - David would go as far as to say flippant - but sometimes, sometimes that can be a front. A thin, carefree veneer over something that’s actually important to him. David’s practiced at spotting it; it’s unusual for him to accidentally step on Patrick’s feelings. 

But it’s not every day one's polyester-wearing, business major husband, who made a detailed pro-con list the last time he even considered changing his haircut (and ultimately decided against it), expresses a sudden interest in body modification. He was caught off-guard!

As he painstakingly works through the last few steps of his routine, he considers probing further, making it clear he’d be fully on board with (almost) anything Patrick wants to do to his body. But Patrick seems to have closed the book on it;  indeed, when David joins him in their bedroom, he’s already opened his actual book, his adorable little reading glasses perched on his nose as he stifles a yawn and throws back the covers for David. He looks sleepy, and they have an early start in the morning. David leaves it alone.

For now.

*

“So, I was thinking about what you said, the other day.”

It’s an achievement, really, that David has resisted bringing this up for three entire days. He figured he’d wait until Patrick voiced it himself, but he’s shown zero recollection that the half-conversation had even happened. His apparent nonchalance would usually be enough to convince David to drop it himself, but he can’t stop dwelling on the disappointment that flitted over Patrick’s face as he’d left the bathroom. David doesn’t know a lot of things, but he knows his husband.

Patrick glances up from his eggs. “What did I say?”

“‘What if I got a piercing’.”

“Well, you’d look very sexy.”

David rolls his eyes. “Obviously. I did in 2003, and I would now. But that’s not what I meant.”

David ignores Patrick’s transparent eyebrows quirking their curiosity at him, in favour of the tentative softness beneath; the shyness he so rarely sees in his husband.

“I know you said it was just a random thought, and it’s fine if it is, obviously, but if it’s not, I wanted you to know I’m not against that. At all. In fact, I would be very supportive. You just surprised me, and step six requires a lot of brain capacity, so... I think my response was, um, lacking. Somewhat.”

Realising he’s taken neither a breath nor a bite of his waffles in quite some time, David stuffs his mouth so he can’t say anything else, looking expectantly across the booth at Patrick. His mouth is doing that thing, the upside-down thing, and he rubs his hand over his jaw absently, the way he did the day they met. 

“I, um. I first thought about it in college.”

David swallows a frankly obscene quantity of waffle and whipped cream. “Ah. Not quite a random thought, then.”

“Not quite, no.” 

Patrick weaves his fingers together where his hands rest on the table, restlessly twisting them, eggs momentarily forgotten. David, no such fool, steams ahead with his own breakfast, but his attention is wholly (...okay, at least 87%) trained on Patrick.

“I really wanted to get one, at one point. But I never had the balls to go through with it. I think I figured it’d be too… out there for me.”

Finding it frankly endearing that a young Patrick, who most likely dressed exactly like the almost-40-year-old in front of him, thought a single piercing would make him too out there, David lovingly nudges his foot against Patrick’s under the table. Patrick hooks his own around David’s ankle.

“I think, uh - I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back, I probably meant it would be too gay. Or - um, too queer.”

David has to scrunch up his face against how much he wants to kiss him, or pinch his cheeks, or do something with the sudden well of affection in his chest. ‘Queer’ is a relatively new word in Patrick’s vernacular, something he’s recently discovered fits him comfortably. Patrick loves to soak up knowledge, which means he loves listening to David talk about things like inclusive language for hours on end, god help him, and it’s all so wholesome David can’t bear it sometimes. 

“You’re fine, honey. Go on,” David says, with a warm wave of the hand.

“The only guys I knew who had them were gay, or bi. And it’s not that I thought that was a bad thing, you know? But it was for other people. Not for me. And I was kind of scared people would… assume things.”

“Yeah. I get it.” They’re still detangling that heteronormative mess of half-formed ideals and insidious standards which Patrick dragged with him into adulthood. It’s a work in progress, but the knots loosen easier with two sets of hands.

“It’s stupid, but sometimes I wonder… what if I’d gone for it back then. Just walked into a studio and took the plunge. Maybe nothing would have been different, but maybe - if I’d taken the chance, maybe I would have realised…”

“Mm-mm. Mm-mm.” David shakes his head decisively, reaching across the table to clasp Patrick’s fidgeting hands. “Don’t do that. You don’t deserve to do that to yourself.”

Patrick exhales shortly, hanging his head for a moment. “I know, I know - my journey is valid, it takes as long as it takes, I shouldn’t punish myself for following my own path - I get all of that.”

“I see I need to expand my Queer Feelings phrasebook.”

That makes Patrick laugh, which makes David smile. “It’s just hard,” Patrick says, detaching one hand from David’s to pick at his eggs. “All those years I lost being unhappy. All the mistakes I made.”

“Okay, listen, that is… it’s okay to mourn all of that. Really. If anyone knows anything about making mistakes and losing years of your life, it’s me.” Patrick looks at him as if he wants to climb over the table and hug him, which is relatable, right now. “And maybe you’re right, y’know? Maybe you would have gotten a - an eyebrow pierced, or whatever, and suddenly woken up knowing you’re queer the next day. But I feel like there was… more than that, that you needed to work through.”

Patrick nods slowly. “You’re right. Thank you, David.” He gently lifts David’s hand to press his lips to his knuckle, intimate and sweet. “I wouldn’t really want any of it to change, now. I wouldn’t wanna run the risk of not ending up here.”

Pressing his lips together, David turns his attention to his waffles, trying in vain to hide the tinge of pink on his cheeks. “Well. That - that is a healthy way of looking at it.”

A comfortable silence falls over them as they eat, and when David peeks up again, Patrick’s shoulders are sloped comfortably, his smile easy as he finishes off his plate.

So,” David says, breaking the intimacy of it all with a shimmy of his shoulders. “What are you getting pierced?”

Patrick barks out a surprised laugh. “Um - I - I don’t know. I don’t know if I will.”

“Well.” David walks his fingers across the tabletop, over Patrick’s hand and as far up his arm as he can reach. “If you decide to enter into the world of body mods, just promise me you’ll go to someone slightly more trustworthy than a random guy with an eyepatch in Jared Leto’s ensuite.”

Patrick nods seriously, clearly fighting the urge to laugh again. “Mm. Sage advice."

It’s forgotten after that, for a while.

*

“More tea, sweetie?”

“Oh no, I’m good, Marcy, thanks - but, um, if there happen to be more of those cookies…?”

“Way ahead of you.”

David clasps his hands together in delight as she passes him a plate with not one, but two double-chocolate-chip cookies on it.

As she takes her seat next to David again, in front of their two matching easels, Marcy’s eyes crinkle at the corners in the same way Patrick’s have started to in the last couple of years. He sees a lot of Patrick in her eyes; that unmistakable twinkle of mischief, in a whole pool of open, trusting fondness. 

She leans over into his space to observe his work, giving a pleased hum as she watches his brush play over the canvas. 

“Oh, that’s beautiful, David. You can add a little more water to the page - that’s it. You have such an eye for colour.”

David glances pointedly at his all-black outfit. “This is me we’re talking about, yes?”

Marcy just chuckles, shakes her head, and falls into time beside him. 

A few vacations ago now, David had come upon Marcy serenely painting out on the porch; as welcoming as ever, she had patted the seat next to her, and let him quietly watch. Eventually, David shyly mentioned the half-realised pencil sketches in the back of the notebooks he’s too embarrassed for even Patrick to see, and asked stumblingly if she would maybe - possibly - if she had time - consider teaching him to paint with watercolour like she does. 

Looking back, David’s glad of that awkward, fumbling conversation; this routine they’ve built is comfortable and homely, and it broke down that wall between a polite in-law relationship and one that felt like family. Not long ago, David would be consumed with anxiety at the prospect of spending a few days at the Brewers’ without Patrick - would have taken any steps possible to avoid that specific nightmare, in fact. But when Patrick mentioned the conference he’d accidentally double-booked with their trip to West Canthor, David was… excited to have this time.

The thought of his husband does make David wonder, however, if he’d ever shared this with Marcy, too.

“Did Patrick ever?” David asks. “Y’know, paint, or draw, or anything? As a kid?”

“Oh, Lord no. He hated arts and crafts. Poor little duck, he’d get himself into such a mess - sequins glued to his fingers, paint in his hair, you name it. He’d get so frustrated that whatever was in his head wasn’t working out on the page.”

David tucks a smile into his cheek, remembering his husband cursing colourfully over their floor plans before they opened the first RA store. “That is a shocker.”

Marcy giggles, in that conspiratorial, guilty-but-not-really way she has whenever they talk about Patrick in his absence. “He didn’t mind projects where he had clear instructions - what to make, how to make it. He liked… logical things. Science, math. Even music. I think that’s why he took to learning instruments so easily; it’s step-by-step, you know? You place your fingers just so, you follow the notes on the sheet, and if you practice enough, it works.”

David nods. “Yeah. That’s one of the first things I learned about him. I kind of thought maybe I’d be, um, too not logical for him, at first.”

Marcy smiles knowingly, eyes on her painting. “Oh, sweetie. I think you’re the most straight-forward thing in the world to him.”

Though he doesn’t say it, David doesn’t think that’s quite right. Patrick sees every part of him; the disorganised jumbles of ideas, the high-strung dramatics, the anxiety and the existential dread and the precise way he likes his pancakes in the morning. Even now, Patrick still works tirelessly to figure him out. David knows that, and he’s so thankful, because he doesn’t make it easy. Patrick can’t possibly think he’s straight-forward — but that’s what he loves about David, David’s pretty sure. He loves who he is, at his core.

“What else did he like to do as a kid?” David asks instead, neatly folding those bubbly, warm feelings away with the same care he shows his most treasured knits.

Marcy gives him a curious look. “He’s not told you a lot?”

David wince-smiles, not wanting to drop his husband into trouble. “Well - he’s not exactly the most forthcoming.”

Marcy just rolls her eyes good-naturedly, and nudges her elbow into David’s arm, like they’re sharing a secret. “That’s a Brewer-men thing,” she stage-whispers, and David laughs softly, the casual affinity of the moment wrapping around him like a cosy blanket.

“Well, let’s see... he loved dress-up.”

“Like... pirates, cowboys, that kind of thing?” David smiles. What Patrick has told him is how many school and community theatre productions he was involved in, acting and singing from not long after he could walk and talk. That his husband would have a penchant for costumes doesn’t surprise him.

“Oh, yes. All of that. And he’d get into my jewellery boxes, too, the little tyke.”

That gives David pause, his brush stalling on the canvas with a patch of darker blue slowly bleeding outwards from the tip. Consciously, David doesn’t have a particular image of Patrick as a child. He had no specific expectations when he asked the question. But this, he realises, is far from what he would have anticipated. To his surprise, he’s harboured a deeply-embedded assumption of Patrick as a typical boy’s boy; all monster trucks and football and muddy knees. 

“He wore your jewellery?”

Marcy gives a fond laugh, her eyes sparkling as she turns over the memory in her mind, her hand gently correcting David’s to stop him from obliterating his entire painting. “Oh, absolutely! As soon as I’d put it away, he’d be back in there again, rummaging for his favourites. He’d come downstairs draped in the whole kit and caboodle - five necklaces, bracelets all the way up his arms. He hated not being able to wear my earrings, so I bought him a pair of those clip-on plastic ones. Purple, they were. He loved them. Wore them everywhere.”

Unbidden, that falsely-casual, shyly hopeful question posed in the bathroom of their home floats to the surface of David’s mind. What if I got a piercing?

Patrick’s tale of himself at college, unsure of his identity and too afraid to explore it with something as simple as a metal bar or ring, was enough to make David’s chest swell with a fierce, protective sadness for him. The thought that this was perhaps something Patrick has been pressing deeper and deeper down since he was a small child, remaining stoic and pleasant on the surface… that’s a lot.

“I didn’t know that,” David says quietly, stuck for words for a second and falling back on a ramble more focused on himself. “I was the same, with my mom’s jewellery. Except I actually had my ears pierced from, like, age three, so I got to wear the real ones.”

Marcy raises her eyebrows almost imperceptibly. “I’m surprised you were allowed to get your mitts on all those… jewels.”

“Oh, I wasn’t. But Adelina let me.” David shrugs, tilting his head at the canvas and then down at the palette where he’s mixing a stubborn shade of turquoise. He clears his throat. “My mom was… around, but not really around, if you know what I mean.”

Marcy probably doesn’t, not fully, but she pats his arm with such a warm, gentle touch; and she does it so easily, something it took his family decades to learn.

“So… when did that stop? The jewellery thing,” David asks, trying to sound as casually curious as possible. He gives an exaggerated flourish encompassing the silver chain around his neck, bracelet at his wrist and rings glinting on his fingers. “I mean, clearly I never grew out of it.”

Marcy chuckles, eyes shining with something like pride as she looks over him. “You always look so put together, David. You’ll have to take me jewellery shopping some time. I never know what to buy.”

David can’t help smiling; a real, toothy grin. “Any time.”

“I guess he was… maybe nine? It was almost overnight. If I even suggested playing with the jewellery box, or wearing the clip-ons, he’d get in a whole snit over it, bless him. So I dropped it pretty quickly. You know how it is, kids and their phases.”

Wordlessly, David wonders what those ‘snits’ felt like to Patrick; what confusing feelings he was keeping at bay by pushing away something he once found enjoyment in. David didn’t have anyone to confide in when he faced those feelings alone, either, but he was so outwardly different that he never really had a chance to hide them, and he didn’t try hard. He’s struck now by a shattering, frightening urge to step through time and protect that nine-year-old; tell him it’s okay to wear the purple clip-ons.

If he can’t do that, at least he can love his husband now, for everything that he is and wants to be.

*

The day passes in an unhurried meander, and David's excitement at Patrick's impending arrival simmers away patiently, secondary to the relaxed enjoyment he finds within the walls of this home. At the familiar creaking crunch of Patrick's weary old car on the drive, though, David can't stop his heart from skipping. He expected that feeling to fade long before this point; instead, it's somehow stronger each time.

When Patrick lets himself in, Marcy gets to him first. She's a whirlwind of movement, bundling him in her arms and pinching his cheeks and fussing over his jacket all at once. "Hi, sweet boy."

"Hey, Mom. Dad," Patrick laughs, with a restricted nod over Marcy's shoulder at Clint, who chooses to sit back from the chaos, giving Patrick a warm smile from over his crossword, as usual.

David hovers nearby, arms crossed tightly over his chest to stop himself reaching out as he lets Patrick and his mom have their moment. Patrick’s eyes move to him, and David knows that instant softening of his features so well; he feels it mirrored on his own face, disgustingly gooey. When Marcy finally releases him, Patrick gravitates to him immediately, and David pulls him into an embrace by his shoulders, sighing as Patrick's lips find their long-claimed spot on his neck.

“Hi.”

Hi.

Despite Marcy bustling around them and Clint’s unmissable presence, the words are quiet and private, just for them. David heard that same syllable through the phone just hours prior, before Patrick set off for the drive, but it sounds even better now.

Perhaps David's a little overzealous, squeezes him a little too tight, because Patrick tenses slightly in his arms. It's only a fraction of a second of stiffness, but still David opens his mouth to ask if he's okay. But then Marcy's flapping her hands and tsking at Patrick for not leaving his boots by the door, and Clint shares an amused look with David, and David clean forgets what he was going to say.

"How was the conference?" he says instead, and Patrick blinks at him.

“Oh, good, yeah.”

David wrinkles his nose. He was expecting his husband to launch into excruciating detail about the new strategies he’d learned, or regale him with anecdotes from the, uh, wild small business owners’ nights out. “...Just good?”

“Mm-hm.” 

Patrick drops a kiss onto his mouth, a little off-centre, and raises his eyebrows as if to say, what?

David’s chest tightens. He’s hiding something. He’s avoiding the subject. Did something happen that he doesn’t want to tell David about? What if he —

Before David can get swept away on a wave of anxieties, Patrick anchors him with two gentle fingers at his jaw, guiding David’s restless gaze back to his eyes. There’s a playful spark of mischief there, but not a drop of malice. Patrick’s lips quirk, just once. He leans in close, lips to David’s ear. “I’ll tell you all about it when we’re alone.”

All his apprehension vanishes, replaced by a cautious curiosity. David has no idea what the Elm County Bi-Annual Small Business Owners Conference has to do with the sudden appearance of that sultry tone, but whatever it is, he’s on board with it. “Okay,” he manages, with a wobble of his head. 

Patrick grins, taking David’s face in both hands and kissing him decisively on the mouth, close-lipped but hard and lingering. David’s hands flutter at Patrick’s shoulders, taken by surprise. 

“Jeez, kiddo, let the man breathe.” Clint’s amused rumble floats over from the table, and David’s cheeks flame beneath Patrick’s palms. He moves to step back straight away, but Patrick rolls his eyes, and deliberately keeps him there for another quick kiss. 

“Oh my god —” David laughs as Patrick pecks him every time he tries to speak, fingers wrapped firmly around the back of his neck. “Y’know, he has — a point —”

“What? I missed you.”

“Mm, you enjoy embarrassing me.”

“Both?” Patrick says, with a gentle brush of his thumb over David’s bottom lip that makes him melt a little.

It definitely should be mortifying. David’s more than willing to pretend that it is, scowling and flapping his hands at Patrick. In reality, while he’s certainly flustered, nothing about this actually feels uncomfortable. Somewhere along the line, he stopped fearing being the butt of the joke around Patrick’s family and friends, and realised he was in on it instead; that they can laugh and tease together, freely and harmlessly.

Patrick was awkward around them too, initially. After finding out on Patrick’s birthday how accepting Marcy and Clint were of their relationship and Patrick’s identity, David had been a little blindsided on their first visit here, when Patrick shied away from holding his hand, or when he froze up under David’s touch if they were near. Patrick would apologise tearfully to him each and every night, worrying that he was pushing David away and feeling helpless against his own mental blocks. David couldn’t pretend it didn’t sting a little, sure, but he also recognised that it was an adjustment; not just for Patrick’s parents, but for Patrick himself, who had spent so long perfecting his facade that he didn’t quite know how to be without it. 

David loved that unsure, scared man as he worked out how to exist as himself, and he loves the one in front of him now, inhabiting his identity so confidently. As Patrick smacks another kiss onto his lips, David grins with a fierce surge of pride.

“Pattycakes? Put David down for a sec and come help me peel some veggies.”

David bursts out into a laugh at the same time as Clint snorts. 

“Listen to your mom, Pattycakes,” David says solemnly. This time, it’s Patrick’s turn to blush as he slopes off to the kitchen.

*

David is certain he’ll never cease to be enthralled by Marcy’s cooking. His reactions have always been so exaggerated, it took Patrick a while to believe he wasn’t faking them to get into her good books (“C’mon, I’ve never seen you get that excited over my cooking before.” “...Aw, honey.”). 

He’s practically bouncing in his seat when Marcy’s oven-mitted hands set down a truly gigantic lasagne in the middle of the table. The crust is golden and it crunches satisfyingly as Clint portions it out, plumes of steam curling up from the dish with the first slice, and bringing with it a warming aroma of cosy winter nights.

By now, Marcy and Clint aren’t quite as taken aback by David’s ecstatic Food Sounds; his enthusiastic groan at the first bite, coupled with a complicated, happy head movement, only makes Clint chuckle to himself. The rich flavour of the beef and prosciutto - prosciutto! - filling bursts on his tongue. The sharpness of the fresh tomatoes in the ragu is laced with basil and thyme, while the white sauce perfectly compliments everything, smooth and creamy. 

“Marcy, this is insane,” he gushes - after swallowing, because obviously, talking with a full mouth is incorrect.

“I’m glad you like it, honey.” Marcy leans over the table and winks. “The secret is four different types of cheese.”

David blinks. “Oh my god. I love you.”

Patrick laughs heartily at that - although David was being deathly serious - and he gives David’s leg an affectionate squeeze under the table. 

As delicious as the meal is, and as much as David has no issue wolfing it down and accepting the gracious offer of seconds, he’s still distracted. 

Something is up with Patrick, that’s plain to see. Or - for David to see, at least. Marcy and Clint didn’t seem to notice the way Patrick sucked in a sharp breath as he slipped past behind David while they set the table, or the somewhat ginger way he held himself as he took his seat for dinner, as if mindful of every move he made. 

David finds himself stealing mildly concerned glances at him throughout the entire meal, expecting to spot some kind of injury, even as the lasagne rightfully demands most of his attention.

But Patrick looks… fine.

Well. He always looks damn fine. But that’s beside the point.

As a stuffed-full David begrudgingly moves to join the table-clearing efforts, Patrick shakes his head at him, grabbing David’s plate before he can get to it and nudging him back in his chair. David rewards him with a pleased smile, reaching up to pat his chest appreciatively, but Patrick steps back smartly before David can make contact.

David frowns. “Okay, what is going on?”

As if somehow in on the apparent ruse to keep David in the dark for as long as possible, Clint approaches at that moment and claps Patrick on the shoulder. 

“You know your mother will have a fit if she sees you’ve left your bags down here. I’ll create a diversion; you save yourself.” Clint gives a confidential wink as he takes the dishes from Patrick’s hands, and Patrick groans. 

“Alright, alright, I’ll take them up.”

Clint nods decisively, then raises his voice to a booming decibel as he strides to the kitchen. “Marce? Remind me what Sandra from spin class told you the other day, about Joanie and that delivery guy?”

David catches Marcy’s excitable, “Oh!” before she launches into a story he guesses Clint’s heard several times recently. While David’s admittedly intrigued as to what exactly Joanie got up to, he’s more concerned with Patrick.

Before David can get a word in, Patrick jerks his head at him and says, “Help me with the bags?”

David groans, clutching his stomach and sticking out his bottom lip. “I’m so fuuuuullll.”

“David.” Patrick raises his eyebrows. “Come help me with the bags.”

Ah.

The chair scrapes on the floor as David clambers gracelessly to his feet, nodding reflexively as he tails Patrick to the foyer. He takes a second to weigh up which bag is the lightest, which makes Patrick mutter a disbelieving oh my god, but then he’s on Patrick’s heels, following him up the stairs and into Patrick’s old room, where they’re now accustomed to staying.

David shuts the door pointedly, drops the bag, and spins around to face Patrick, who looks like he’s trying not to laugh.

“Are you going to tell me what the fuck is going on?” David demands, his voice high.

Patrick does laugh, then. “Okay, okay. Listen, it’s nothing bad, alright? I’m fine, everything’s fine. I just… have a surprise for you.”

David pulls his face into a grimace. “You know how I feel about surprises.”

“Anything not on the David-approved list of potential surprises should be undertaken with extreme caution, and any consequences for going off-list are solely my responsibility. I know, babe.”

“Exactly.” David purses his lips to keep his smile at bay. It… sort of works.

“I was going to wait until we went to bed, but I know you’re going crazy, and… I’m kinda impatient to show you, anyway.”

David waits, lips pressed together now, tucked between his teeth. Patrick gazes at him for a beat, huffs out a self-conscious laugh, then looks down as he… as he starts to unbutton his shirt. 

“Um, not that I’m not appreciative of you taking your clothes off, but… I think I need at least thirty minutes after dinner?”

Patrick rolls his eyes - David sees it in the tilt of his head, even if he doesn’t actually look up - and just keeps going, taking his time twisting each button slowly through its opening, the slip of pale skin opening up a tiny bit wider with every one. 

Then, he takes both sides of the shirt in hand and opens it fully, and David’s jaw hits the fucking floor.

Patrick’s chin is jutted high and proud, almost defiant as he watches for David’s reaction. He’s probably dying for David to say something, anything, but right now his tongue is useless. 

He stares. A lot.

Then, they speak at the same time. 

“Uh, are you gonna —”

“That is a fucking nipple piercing, Patrick!”

Okay —” Patrick hurriedly shushes David’s shrill exclamation, eyes darting to the door at David’s back, like a teenager scared of getting caught. “Do you, um...” Patrick clears his throat. “Do you like it?”

Like it,” David repeats incredulously, still gaping at him. When Patrick had talked about piercings, of course David let his imagination wander through all the tantalising possibilities, but ultimately he figured Patrick would play it safe; an ear, or maybe an eyebrow. This is… completely unexpected.

Patrick’s left nipple is a deep shade of pink, compared to the soft rose of its counterpart, and the bud is maybe a little swollen. It reminds David of how it looks when he’s had his mouth on it for a while, making Patrick twist and gasp beneath him; except it’s not because of David. It’s because of the shining metal bar-bell through it. The small, steel balls on either end of the bar frame his nipple so beautifully, two gleaming adornments just begging for David’s attention, as if they’re showing him exactly where he needs to be. He doesn’t know how he’s ever going to look away.

Honey. Oh my god. Oh my fucking - Jesus - you look so - this is so fucking hot, Patrick.”

“Yeah?” Patrick grins, and bites his lip. David very much wants to bite it for him.

Yeah, obviously yeah, you fucking know it is!” David flails his hands a little, unable to process the image in front of him. 

“Well, I hoped. Now I know. You really know how to stroke a guy’s ego.” Patrick lets the shirt go, the fabric hanging loosely against his skin, and his hands move to rest on David’s hips.

David cups Patrick’s face gently, rubbing his thumb over his stubble. “Hey. Do you like it?”

The barely-contained excitement lighting up Patrick’s face is akin to the expression he wore when he found out he could bulk-buy receipt paper for a fraction of the price, which should answer the question in itself, but David has to ask. This means so much to Patrick - today, in college, at nine years old - and David knows better than most that sometimes when you want something that bad, the finally getting it can struggle to live up to the dream.

“I like it,” Patrick says, and David breathes a pleased sigh. “I really do. It’s definitely weird, but it feels… right.”

“Good. Then I like it even more. When did you even…?” David’s eyes widen. “Stop. Do not tell me you got a drunk piercing at the conference thingy.”

Patrick gives him a patient smile. “David, there wasn’t a conference. I just wanted to get it done and give it a few days to at least stop hurting so much before I surprised you with it.” It turns into a sly, cocky grin. “Y’know, because I knew you wouldn’t be able to control yourself when you saw it.”

“Um, excuse me, I’ll have you know I have an abundance of self-control, and I’m extremely respectful of piercing aftercare! I haven’t even tried to touch it yet, so.”

“You want to, though.”

Patrick’s tongue swipes quickly over his lower lip, probably automatically, but it’s still sexy as fuck. Between that, the closeness after several days apart, and the fucking piercing through his husband’s nipple, David doesn’t think he can be blamed for the curl of arousal deep in his stomach.

David swallows. “It… looks sore.”

“That’s not a no.”

Oh, so Patrick is evil.

“Oh my god, it’s — okay, yes, I want to, but the whole thing will be a lot less sexy when it inevitably gets infected and starts... oozing everywhere.”

Patrick snickers, but is otherwise apparently unaffected by that visual. He cocks his head, shifts a little closer. “I want you to touch it, too. I’ve been thinking about it. Can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Patrick,” David groans in frustration, thunking his head onto Patrick’s shoulder. “You’re going to give me a fucking aneurysm.”

Patrick reaches for David’s hand on his shoulder. David initially resists, thinking he’s going to pull him over to the freshly-pierced nipple - but instead, Patrick presses David’s palm to his crotch, molding his hand to the bulge of his dick through the tight denim. He’s already hard.

David grabs Patrick’s neck and yanks him into a messy, urgent kiss, so far removed from the sweet presses of their lips downstairs. It’s dirty and uncoordinated, Patrick’s tongue eagerly sliding over David’s parted lips and leaving them spit-slick. David’s own cock jerks in his drop-crotch sweats.

“Fuck,” David pants, “fuck, how long... how long until it’s healed?”

“Nine to twelve months.”

“Nine to twelve—?!” David practically shrieks, catching himself partway through the sentence as Patrick laughs at his wild-eyed disbelief. “That - that has to be excessive, surely, there’s no way —”

“That’s what the pamphlet says,” Patrick murmurs, biting at David’s ear, and how the fuck does he make the word pamphlet sound like liquid sex, dripping off his tongue?

David whines pitifully. He can’t make it that long. He can’t. He can practically feel the heat radiating off the abused site of the piercing, like it’s calling out to him, drawing him in. His mind replays the stiff way Patrick held himself earlier, now knowing how torturous every slide and drag of his shirt must have been against his nipple. David wants to pinch and squeeze until he finds out just how tender it is, wants to take it into his mouth and taste the steel on his tongue…

David squeezes Patrick’s cock through his jeans, smiling into another kiss at the way Patrick’s hips drift forward habitually. As he starts to rub his palm over him, fingers finding his balls and cupping them with each sweep downwards, Patrick moans and presses closer. “C’mon, David…”

“You’re a fucking menace,” David hisses into his ear, then gently pushes him back, mindful to avoid his chest. “Take your clothes off and get on the bed. I’ll be one minute.”

Patrick positively beams at him and trips over himself in his hurry, which makes David laugh fondly. Cautiously, he pokes his head out of the door, checking the coast is clear before making a bolt for the bathroom at the end of the hall. He washes his hands thoroughly, even scrubbing under his nails, until he’s satisfied enough to scurry back to Patrick’s room.

David flips the lock behind him (mentally thanking the Brewers for allowing their teenage son some privacy back in the day), and casts an approving eye over Patrick, who’s laid back on one elbow, completely naked, languorously stroking his cock. A tinkling laugh from Marcy carries easily up the stairs with Clint’s answering rumble and the low hum of the TV, a timely reminder of exactly where they are.

“Have to make this quick,” David says, unnecessarily. It’s not exactly their first rodeo. 

“I know, just c’mere.”

Despite the urgency, David takes his time stalking over, lapping up the hungry look on Patrick’s face. He throws a leg over Patrick, settling himself over his hips and gazing down at him, unprepared to risk laying his whole body over him and putting any weight on the piercing.

“Here’s what’s going to happen.” David’s words come out in a husky, rough whisper. “I’m going to give you what you want. But I’m going to be very, very careful about it.”

Patrick gulps. His cock, flushed and full, twitches eagerly where it lays on his belly.

“You’re going to stay nice and still, so my fingers don’t slip. If you move, I’ll stop. Straight afterwards, we’re gonna get some salt, and some warm water, and we’ll get you thoroughly cleaned up. Are we clear?”

“Yes,” Patrick whispers instantly, with a clumsy nod. 

David licks his lips, notices how his hips are rocking of their own accord, the head of his cock trailing over the soft inner fabric of his sweats, straining towards the firmness of Patrick’s body beneath him. He glances down, and Patrick’s gaze follows, along with his hands; he effortlessly tugs the drawstring loose, tucks the waistband under David’s balls, and then his hand is on him and god, David missed this the last few nights. 

“Yeah, honey, jerk us both off. You can fit us both in your hand, can’t you?”

David grabs Patrick’s wrist and licks lewdly over his palm, his tongue wriggling between his fingers and getting his hand sloppy-wet. For all his care and attention in making sure his hands were clean, he forgot to locate the fucking lube, but there’s no way he’s moving now. This will have to do. Patrick whimpers softly, smears his wet hand over David’s length and his own, then wraps those thick, strong fingers around them both, and strokes firm and slow.

“Fuck, that’s it, that’s - that’s so good. Fucking gorgeous hands, Patrick, oh my god.”

David will admit, he’s momentarily distracted. Patrick’s cock is blood-hot against him and the head catches tantalisingly on David’s every time David thrusts forward. As David’s cock glides against Patrick’s, it drags Patrick’s foreskin up and down; David is transfixed, watching the way his pretty pink cockhead slides in and out. Having Patrick do the work here was a practical decision, honestly - David needs his hands clean for what he’s going to do - but it’s definitely a bit of a perk, too.

“Okay. You gonna stay still, baby?” David murmurs, and Patrick nods frantically, reaches up to grab the headboard with his free hand as if to stabilise himself. The muscles in his arm stand out as he holds on tight, and fuck, if that isn’t a picture.

Torturously slow, David trails his fingertips down the side of Patrick’s neck. Patrick’s breathing quickens straight away, his bottom lip pure white with how hard he’s biting it. He wants it real bad.

“Please. Please, please…”

“Shhh.”

He’s not that loud, but David can’t resist admonishing him for how much more desperate it makes him. Patrick bites back a whimper and squirms as David’s fingers skirt around his nipple and drag through the patch of hair on his chest instead, following it all the way down to his stomach, where the muscles jump under the touch.

“Fuck, David, come on.”

Patrick’s wriggling impatiently, his hand squeezing and pulling more urgently at their cocks, and David arches an eyebrow. “I told you to stay still.”

“You’re not anywhere close to the piercing yet!”

David rolls his eyes, even as he pumps his hips in little motions to fuck his cock against Patrick’s. Teasingly, he dances his fingertips all the way back up his body, stopping to toy with the unpierced nipple until it’s almost as flushed as the other, before slowly, slowly wandering to the other side of his chest. Patrick’s gasping, his chest heaving up and down. David stops when he’s near his destination, shooting his husband a pointed look, and Patrick sucks in a breath and lets it out shakily, his whole body drawing taut with the effort of being still.

“Good boy,” David whispers. Patrick squeezes his eyes shut at that, breaths coming harsh through his nose. He’s so, so hard against David now. David can feel him throbbing.

David lets his hand hover in the air just above Patrick’s nipple for a few long moments, lets Patrick stare needily at his fingers as if he can move them with the force of his mind. It’s a tease for himself, too; his body is thrumming with the want to touch, to feel how hot and tender the skin is.

It’s the most gentle, barely-there touch, when David finally makes contact; the pad of his finger just scarcely grazes the tip of Patrick’s nipple, feather-light and fleeting - and Patrick moans, rough in his throat, his dick jerking against David’s and dribbling out a little pre-come. Fascinated, David repeats the motion. Patrick throws his head back, the tendons in his neck standing out starkly as he strains against the urge to move.

“Fuck, you’re sensitive,” David breathes out.

“Yeah - oh god, do it again, please do it again. David, please, I —”

“Does it hurt?”

“Yeah, a little, feels fuckin’ good, don’t stop - please do it again do it again —”

David does it again. Patrick whimpers and arches his back, and fuck, it’s so tempting. It’d be so easy just to let him press himself into David’s hand, to pinch and rub and tease at the shining metal that glints enticingly in the light. But David pulls back sharply, not letting his fingers brush the piercing sites either side of Patrick’s nipple. 

Patrick lets out a pathetic little, “No,” that makes David’s cock twitch.

“I told you to stay still or I’d stop.”

“Sorry, sorry - I’ll keep still, I promise, I swear, come back, I’ll be…”

Patrick takes a shuddery breath, and David smirks expectantly. “You’ll be what?”

“I’ll be good,” Patrick whispers. David wishes they were somewhere else, somewhere private enough that he could make Patrick scream those words until he’s hoarse.

“Yeah you will,” he says instead, pressing his other hand firmly down on Patrick’s shoulder, pinning him to the bed. Once he’s settled, David wanders to the pierced nipple again, letting his fingertip whisper over the flushed peak of it. With his other hand, David toys with its counterpart; he pinches and pulls, twists it and soothes it with a rub of his thumb — everything he can’t do to the other.

Patrick’s letting out a steady stream of noises that hitch and stutter out of his chest; they’re mostly quiet, but occasionally a real moan slips out, and David’s heart jumps in panic every time.

“Oh my god, shut up,” David hisses. “Do I need to keep you quiet?”

“Fuck yes,” Patrick groans, and David laughs and clamps his other hand over Patrick’s mouth, making sure he can still breathe out of his nose. Patrick’s eyes roll back and a violent shiver runs through him, but David allows him that, given the tension in the rest of his body, all his energy channelled into staying still. Being good.

David keeps up those maddening brushes of his single fingertip over Patrick’s swollen nipple. Patrick’s cock is so slick with pre-come now that his fist makes obscene sounds as he jacks them, and it’s so easy for David to thrust into, sliding his dick through all that mess.

“When it’s healed,” David pants, “in nine to twelve fucking months, I am going to ruin you with this.”

Patrick gives a whine behind David’s palm, nodding frantically, but otherwise holding himself motionless. David allows all his lust-driven thoughts to surface in a cascade of hot, hushed whispers.

“I’m gonna lay you out and spend hours touching it, find out exactly how much more sensitive you are now. Gonna tease it all nice and light, just like this, ‘til you’re sobbing and begging me for more…”

There’s a muffled noise which sounds a lot like please, and David grins down at him, the sharp, controlled movements of his hips picking up pace.

“Yeah, baby, I’ll give it to you. When you’re all healed up, I’ll give you everything. Gonna get my mouth on it and suck it just the way you like, honey - make you so sloppy and messy - maybe I’ll use my teeth on it, hmm? Bet it’ll get all puffy and hard for me.”

Patrick’s eyes are wide and wild, and his hips have started to move now; weak snaps upwards, restricted under David’s weight. David watches as Patrick’s stomach muscles start to quiver and tense.

“Then maybe I’ll flip you over - pin you down on your front - oh god, yeah, fuck you so f-fucking hard it’ll be rubbing against the sheets and you can’t do anything but take it… Fuck you’re so gorgeous, Patrick —”

David gasps as he’s almost bucked off Patrick entirely, withdrawing his hand from Patrick’s nipple as Patrick shudders and falls apart beneath him. David glances between them just in time to watch him come, spurt after spurt of it spilling onto the fair hair on his stomach, dripping over his knuckles and all over David’s own cock. He’s brokenly whimpering under David’s hand, and as David smirks smugly down at him, he shivers and pulses out another drop of come.

Jesus,” David breathes out, releasing Patrick’s face and taking himself in hand. His fist is frantic and ungainly as he tugs at his cock, Patrick’s come slicking the way. His own arousal has been an afterthought, kept at bay by the concentration he was pouring into Patrick. Now, it floods to every extremity, tingling in his toes and his fingertips and his fucking scalp, his body suddenly catching up with the intense need and coiling itself tight. 

Shaking, David bites down on the meat of his other hand to muffle the soft moan as he comes, cupping his palm over his cockhead so as not to add to the mess Patrick’s made of himself.

As they both catch their breath, Patrick throws an arm over his face and laughs. 

“So… I guess you really do like the piercing, then.”

*

Patrick winces as David gently dabs the salt-water-soaked cotton bud at one side of his nipple, all around where the bar protrudes from the skin. David hums in sympathy, murmuring, “I know, I know,” and stroking up and down Patrick’s bare, shower-pink arm to distract him.

True to his word, David had tidied himself up in record time and disappeared to pilfer sea salt and a shot glass from downstairs. He’d ushered a lazy, come-stupid Patrick into the shower, made sure it was warm and not hot, and ignored Patrick’s protests about how suspicious it was that they were in the bathroom together (“We’re... literally married.”). When they stepped out, David was ready with the saline solution, encouraging Patrick to hop up on the counter and holding the shot glass to Patrick’s pierced nipple for a strict five minutes.

Now, Patrick gazes down between them, a soft, slightly vacant smile playing at his lips. A peaceful quiet settles in the space they share, David methodically swiping the cotton bud over the other side. He doesn’t really need to — the shower and the solution itself should be plenty, based on his past experience and a quick Google search — but he wants to make sure. Besides, it’s rare that Patrick allows himself to be taken care of; David likes to savour it.

“Thank you,” Patrick says softly, as David finishes up.

“You’re welcome. I mean, it’ll probably still get infected, and that will be entirely your fault, because I was really an unwitting victim in all this —”

“David,” Patrick laughs, kissing his cheek, then his lips. “I didn’t mean… Just, thank you. For everything. Making me feel… safe enough to do this.”

David tucks his lips between his teeth for a moment, shaking his head. “You don’t need to thank me.”

“I do. I wouldn’t have ever done this, if it wasn’t for you.”

David thinks about the little boy with the clip-on earrings, the college bro who didn’t want to be called gay. He thinks about how, since they met, even since they married, David has had a front row seat to watch Patrick grow into himself. Aching with pride, he smiles at the man before him, who wears his identity now like a good tailored suit, confident and unapologetically himself.

“You would have,” David says, squeezing Patrick’s bare shoulders. “It’s all you, honey.”

*