This thing with Patrick is a problem.
It’s been a few days since the… the lice situation. (David still can’t even think the word without an accompanying full body internal shudder.) The conversation with Stevie about preferences and Bill Gates keeps reverberating in his head, and David finds himself studying Patrick every chance he gets, looking for clues. Is there a tell somewhere in Patrick’s behavior that might indicate his feelings for David are anything other than professional? David watches for a slip in the way Patrick speaks to him, the way he acts around him, the way he looks at him. As far as David can tell, Patrick’s invitation to crash at his place wasn’t anything more than one business partner offering another business partner a platonic port in a storm.
The problem, though, is that the seed has been planted. Stevie plopped it in a cup full of dirt and stuck it on a windowsill and watered it, and now David has a tiny little seedling of feelings growing inside him, and ew, that metaphor got gross.
Even though David can’t find any evidence that Patrick could be into him, he can finally admit (if only to himself) that he wants him to be. David likes Patrick, with his polyblend button-ups and his stupid braided belt and his sassy, smart mouth, and now he can finally admit how much he wants Patrick to like him back. David gets distracted, sometimes, with watching Patrick for clues, and pretending he’s not, and waiting for Patrick to throw him a freaking bone, which so far he hasn’t done and probably won’t ever do because David is likely the complete polar opposite of whatever Patrick’s type is.
Patrick isn’t David’s type either, too sincere by half even when he’s teasing. But David’s starting to think he might have had the wrong type this whole time. So, yeah, it’s a problem. Especially when David gets too distracted with his seedling of feelings to realize that Patrick is trying to talk to him about something. Like right now.
“You already forgot, didn’t you?” Patrick is saying in response to whatever look is currently on David’s face.
David winces. “No?”
“David.” Patrick looks amused rather than annoyed, so David figures whatever he forgot can’t have been that important. Patrick has brought out a box of product from the back, and he places it between them on the center display table. “I’m leaving early today. For that meeting I told you about. In Elmdale?”
“Oh, right. The meeting. No, yeah, I didn’t forget.” David does not recall mention of a meeting in Elmdale.
“Hmm,” Patrick says doubtfully. He uses the little box cutter that he insists on carrying around in his pocket like a dork to open the box before sliding it over closer to David.
“Remind me,” David says casually as he starts pulling out the product and setting it on the table in neat little rows, “what the meeting is for again.”
Patrick is smiling fondly at him now, and David has to focus on the rows in front of him to avoid doing something stupid. “I don’t remember telling you the first time,” Patrick says in that teasing tone of his, “but it’s a club for fellatelists.”
David drops the jar of honey lavender hydrating cream on the floor and scrambles to pick it up.
“It’s… um,” he says.
“A fellately club,” Patrick says again, a little louder and clearer, as though possibly David hadn’t heard him the first time. David had heard. But he can’t… he hadn’t… that can’t be what it is, right? Like. It sounds like… but. Patrick cannot be saying what it sounds like he’s saying. He can't be saying he's joining some kind of blow job club. Right?
David’s face must be doing a thing again, because Patrick’s turns admonishing.
“Don’t give me that look,” he says, pointing a stern finger in David’s direction. “I know what you’re going to say. But there wasn’t much of a scene for it in my hometown, so I’m actually really excited that there’s a club that meets in Elmdale.”
David nods. He wonders at how Patrick could’ve known what he was going to say, because even David doesn’t know what he was going to say. He keeps nodding, unable to stop, like those little chihuahuas that people put on their dashboards. He feels a bit like a chihuahua: anxious, needy, and entirely too fixated on one person.
“A club that meets for…” he starts.
“Fellately, yeah,” Patrick says again, as casually as if they were discussing the weather, and David nods some more. “I’ve got to say,” Patrick goes on, “I’m really looking forward to being in a room with a bunch of guys who are as into it as I am. Not that girls can’t be into it, too,” he says seriously, catching David’s eye. “That’s not what I’m saying. Fellately may not be everyone's favorite pastime, but it attracts all kinds. It’s just usually mostly men, at these types of things.”
“I bet,” David says, his voice strained and reedy with the effort not to ask, just, so many questions. His mouth is suddenly too dry, and is it, like, really hot in here? He tries to subtly clear his throat.
“Yeah,” Patrick is still not done talking about this, apparently, “hopefully, there’ll be some older guys there I can learn from. There’s still so much I don’t know.”
David bites his own lips, hard, to keep from offering to teach Patrick anything he wants to know. This has to be a joke, right? Patrick is fucking with him. Or… or it means something else. It probably means something else. If David can keep it together long enough, Patrick will probably explain what it means.
“Um, so what usually happens, at these meetings?” David asks. There. That will clear some things up, right?
“Oh, it varies,” Patrick says. “Usually there are at least some materials for everyone to look at. If you want to trade, there’s usually someone there willing to take you up on the offer.” David makes a choked noise at this, but Patrick doesn’t seem to notice. “Sometimes there’s a presentation about how much different things are worth. Stuff like that.”
Oh, god. Is Patrick… paying for this? Is he… charging for it? Is he going to this meeting to—to trade with someone?! David is going to die. He is going to crawl under this table and die, right now.
“Oh-kay, so this is… you. Um.” David casts around for something to say that isn’t wildly inappropriate. “How long do these meetings usually go?” He has never heard his voice sound like that in his life.
“I don’t know, I’m guessing like an hour or two? But I want to get there early, have a chance to talk to some people, get to know a few of the members, you know?”
“Mm!” Do not tell him you have a member he can get to know. Do. Not.
“Yeah,” Patrick goes on, oblivious to the cardiac event that David is currently experiencing a few feet away, “I know we talked about going over some of those projections tonight, but that can wait until tomorrow, right? It’s just, I don’t think I’ll be worth much once I get back from the meeting.”
“No, yep. Got it,” David says in a rush. “You should go.”
“I mean, I don’t have to leave for another twenty minutes,” Patrick points out. “I can—”
“Nope, now. You should go now,” David practically shrieks, and at the strange look Patrick gives him, he takes a calming breath. “You don’t want to be late,” he tries, voice thankfully coming out a bit less deranged. “You might hit traffic.”
Patrick nods at that, seeming to see the merit. “Okay. If you’re sure?”
“Mhmm, yes. Go. Enjoy your meeting.”
“Okay, I will. Thanks, David.” Patrick smiles at him sunnily. He gathers up his things and slips out the door a few minutes later with a peppy little, “See you tomorrow!”
David slumps against the table the second Patrick is out of eyesight. What? What? That… well. It’s possible he may have just learned a few things about what Patrick’s preferences are. A million images of his business partner in various compromising positions and scenarios flip through his mind at an alarming rate. David allows himself two minutes to indulge in the idea of Patrick—sweet, salty Patrick—belonging to some kind of sex club. Okay, five minutes. Then he goes looking for the last place he laid his phone.
“He told you he was in a blow job club?” Stevie’s voice is way too loud, even crammed as they are in the back booth at the Café. If David had known she was going to make such a scene about this, he never would have called her and forced her to meet him so he could tell her absolutely everything.
Okay, no, he still would have called her.
“I… don’t... know?” David tears at his paper napkin. “He said. He said he was in a club.”
“For blow jobs,” Stevie says flatly.
“It was definitely something about fellating?” David sweeps the napkin shards to the side with a huff. “Okay, I’ll admit I was having trouble focusing after the first time he said it. He was very cavalier about the whole thing!" he adds, waving his hands. "I was a little rattled.”
Stevie sips her drink, eyeing him inscrutably. David is prepared, he thinks, for whatever hedonistic suggestion she’s about to make, now that she knows that Patrick is… that Patrick likes… now that she knows about Patrick.
“I just can’t believe I’ve lived here my whole life and never knew there was a dick sucking club in Elmdale,” she says.
David stares at her.
“Do you think they’ll let anyone join?” she says, blinking innocently at him.
“Don’t,” he warns.
“I mean, my calendar is pretty full with all those meetings for the Society for Handies, but I could probably move some things around—”
“Ugh, enough!” David says, putting his head in his hands.
“Patrick isn’t in a blow job club, David, come on.”
David sighs through his fingers before finally lifting his head. “No, you’re right. You’re right. I'm sure I misheard.”
“Unless…” Stevie says, lifting one shoulder casually.
David’s eyes snap to her face. “Unless what?”
“I mean, who knows what Patrick is into? Anything’s possible.” David can’t tell if she’s still trolling him or being encouraging in her strange little Stevie way. Probably both.
“No, you’re right,” he says again, waving his hands as though literally banishing the thought, “I’m being stupid. It’s probably- it’s probably something else.”
“Maybe he’ll invite you to join him at the next meeting,” Stevie says brightly. “Ooh, or maybe the two of you can start your own little chapter here in town.”
“No, really. You could hold the meetings at town hall. Of course, you’ll probably need permission from Council. Do you want me to call your mom for you?” She picks up her phone like the absolute gremlin she is, and David shoots her his bitchiest face.
“Mmkay. Suck a bag of dicks, Stevie.”
“Not if Patrick beats me to it!” Stevie shoots back, her eyes sparkling with glee. Twyla, blessedly, shows up with their food then.
“Okay, we’ve got a turkey club for Stevie,” she says. “And for David, the short stack with extra sausage.”
David can’t even properly enjoy his pancakes over the sound of Stevie’s laughter.
The next morning finds David walking into the store with all the forced casualty he can muster. Patrick is there already, of course. He greets David with a friendly smile and a soft “hey,” and David is not thinking about it. He spent the whole night vehemently not thinking about it, and he isn’t about to start now. Of course, that strategy works for all of half an hour, before Patrick starts filling David in on how his meeting went. He doesn’t share any details, which David is equal parts relieved and disappointed about, but he says that he had a great time. David tries not to picture, really he does, what Patrick having a great time might’ve looked like, when Patrick mentions how much he’s already looking forward to next week’s meeting.
“There were, like, four or five guys there interested in trading,” Patrick says excitedly, “but I didn’t have anything with me, so I told them we’d do it next time.”
David is so busy trying not to let his eyes bug out of his head at the thought of Patrick trading with four or five guys that his brain-to-mouth filter doesn’t catch him in time, and he says, “Well, I’m just glad to hear you appreciate the importance of using protection.”
Patrick chuckles, but he looks a little confused. “What do you mean?” he asks.
“Condoms,” David clarifies, rolling a hand in the air.
“What?” Patrick’s cheeks are beginning to pink, his gaze flitting around the store before finally settling on David.
“Condoms, Patrick,” David says again, enunciating clearly because wasn’t Patrick the one who literally just said he didn’t do anything at the meeting because he hadn’t brought anything? “You need to be using protection when you’re with all those men.”
Patrick is fully blushing now, brow furrowing cutely in confusion. “What?” he says again after a moment of buffering. David feels that sinking feeling in his stomach, the one that means he’s messed up. He’s missed a cue, somewhere, and ended up in the wrong place. It’s a familiar feeling.
“Your, um, the club that you’re in?” David tries, hesitantly. “The, um, the trading?”
Patrick scrutinizes him. “What do you think the club is for, David?” he asks.
“Um,” David says. Patrick says nothing, waiting patiently for David’s response as he stares at him some more. He looks like he's on the brink of one of his upside down smiles, and it’s this that gives David the courage to say the thing. “…blow jobs?”
“WHAT?!” Patrick yells, nonexistent eyebrows all but flying off his face. “You think I’m in a club for blow jobs?!”
“I don’t… No? No.”
“How would that even work?” Patrick asks, his voice at a lower volume but still pitched high with incredulity. He begins pacing the narrow distance the store floor allows. “Like, we all go off in pairs and…” he makes a crude gesture with his hands.
“Don’t say it,” David pleads.
“We talk about, like, etiquette? We bring in blow job trading cards and pass them around?”
“Okay, you can stop saying blow job,” David says.
“You said blow job,” Patrick barely slows down long enough to point out. “We bring in a speaker to give a presentation about head throughout history? We set out little penis shaped cookies next to the coffee and lemonade?”
“Oh my god, okay, I am sorry,” David says defensively. “It sounded like you said you were in a fellatio club! I knew that probably wasn’t what it was, but then Stevie said—"
“You told Stevie I was in a blow job club?” Patrick seems more amused than irritated, so David doesn’t feel too bad, but he does feel the need to attempt to explain himself.
“You said you look at materials and… and trade!”
Patrick stops dead in his tracks, turning to face David and folding his arms over his chest. If this stance is meant to make David stop thinking about Patrick and blow jobs, the exquisite forearms on full display are rendering it pretty ineffective. Patrick shakes his head, the hint of a fond smile back at the corners of his mouth.
“Philately is the term for stamp collecting, David,” he says.
They stare at each other for a long moment as David allows his brain to absorb this new knowledge.
“Stamps,” he says. Patrick raises his eyebrows, such as they are. “Like… for the mail,” David feels the need to clarify.
“Yes. Postage stamps,” Patrick says evenly. “Collectors are called philatelists. We meet to look at images of rare finds. And sometimes? We trade stamps that we have? In exchange for stamps that other people have.”
“Oh. Okay, yes. That makes, um, a lot more sense.”
“Mm, it does,” Patrick agrees. He seems to be biting his lip to keep from laughing, so David shoots him a sheepish smile. “I can’t believe you told Stevie I was in a club for blow jobs,” he says, shoulders shaking slightly.
“How were we supposed to know what you’re into licking?” David says, before he thinks better of it. “It just turned out to be stamps instead of dicks.” Patrick looks so affronted for a moment that David worries he’s seriously overstepped. But then he puts on a shocked expression and lays a hand over his heart, pretending to be scandalized.
“Wow, David,” he says, “how dare you suggest that I would lick a rare stamp? That’s a big no-no in the philately community.” Patrick winks at him, kind of, and David should stop there. He should leave it there, and this can just be a funny joke that they can all look back on and laugh.
But David’s brain feeds on chaos, so what he says is, “Oh, but you’d lick a dick, though?”
Patrick blinks hard, his whole face startling with surprise for a fraction of a second before he recovers. He huffs a weak laugh and says, “Wouldn't you like to know?” seeming to aim for joking but not quite landing there. He's uncomfortable, David realizes. David has taken it too far and made him uncomfortable. He’s scrambling to think of something to say to get them back to the casual, teasing banter of a moment ago when Patrick suddenly clears his throat, hooks a thumb over his shoulder. “Well, I’d better…” he says, before heading to the back to mess around with his spreadsheets or whatever he does back there in the mornings. David watches him go, worrying at his rings, but Patrick stops in the doorway and turns back to look at him.
"Blow job club," he mutters, almost to himself, and shakes his head. "Unbelievable." And then he goes.
David bites his cheek in an attempt to contain his relieved smile because he knows, he knows, they’re not done talking about this whole… misunderstanding. Patrick is probably going to hold it over his head forever, and Stevie will hold it over him for even longer than that. He’s still no closer to knowing what Patrick’s preferences are, although there had been a moment where it seemed like Patrick wasn’t unopposed to— no, it’s none of David’s business. What he does know is that his business-partner-slash-friend (slash-inappropriate crush but we don’t talk about that) has a cute little nerd hobby. And he didn't immediately leave town when David accused him of being in a club for blowies. David pulls out his phone and taps into his messaging app.