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You are the only, only, only

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Patrick locks his dorm room door behind him and walks down the hall to the stairwell. His feet are anxious to get going, and he has to slow himself down so that he doesn’t actually run the entire way to practice. He’s already going to be at least forty-five minutes early; he doesn’t need to get there over an hour ahead of time.

At the bottom of the stairs, he readjusts his equipment bag, shifting it over his head onto his opposite shoulder so that the weight is distributed across his body, and allows himself a brisk walking pace once he’s outside in the sunshine. Anyone looking would hardly know anything was out of the ordinary; would never guess that Patrick is bubbling with excitement inside like he’s six years old again and going to his very first game at SkyDome.

He was thrilled to get into SUNY Seneca Falls, and he knows he’s here for an education, but getting recruited for baseball and having the athletic department help him apply for academic scholarships at a school that was already his first choice for its business program was the icing on the cake of a pretty spectacular senior year of high school.

The transition to college has been a little bumpy in the way that Patrick thinks—hopes—is typical: the scramble to make friends, the frenzied first few days of freshman orientation with no classes but plenty of parties and freedom, the rude awakening about exactly what tiny fish they are when the rest of the students returned, the anxious anticipation before the heavy work really set in.

And baseball.

He’s been on campus for almost three weeks, counting down the days until the first practice. It’s only Division III ball; he’s not expecting to go pro. But compared to the fields he’s been playing on for his whole life, a university baseball field is practically the majors, or at least the minors. He’s been dreaming all summer of what it will be like to walk out onto the dirt, to smell the fresh-cut grass, to feel the tightness on his cheeks from his eye black and the sweat on his skin from the warmth of the sun. To play on a team full of guys who are just as obsessed with the game as he is.

Which is why he can’t help but snort at the voice he hears—well, he doesn’t want to call it screeching, but it’s definitely close—as he walks down the short corridor that leads from the stadium entrance to the field.

“Excuse me? Hello? When was the last time these batting helmets were sanitized? Because I refuse to catch lice from a disgusting communal helmet just because some underpaid assistant coach was too lazy to spray them.”

He walks towards the home dugout. There’s a taller guy with dark hair—the source of the temper tantrum, apparently—facing away from Patrick, hand resting defiantly on his hip, a batting helmet dangling from two fingers as if he can hardly stand to be touching it at all. The unfortunate recipient of said outburst is a shorter woman with long dark hair pulled into a low ponytail under a green Seneca Falls baseball cap. Her arms are crossed across her chest, and she’s wearing a dangerous smirk on her face that would make most people want to apologize for simply deigning to exist in her presence.

“Oh, we have a no-spray policy here. Organic batting helmets are very important to us. We feel strongly that the lice were here first, and who are we to tell them not to exist in their natural habitat?” She blinks up at the guy.

“Can I ask you something?” the guy says.

“Shoot.”

“I think you’re kind of rude.”

“Is that a question?” Her face remains impressively impassive.

“Here’s a question,” the guy fires back. “Who around here can actually help me?”

“Oh, that would be me. Stevie Budd. I’m the student equipment manager.”

“Okay, so who around here will actually help me?”

Stevie shakes her head in what is clearly faux-contrition and says, “Ooh, sorry, that I can’t tell you.” She looks up and catches Patrick’s eye. “But maybe he’ll help you so that I can get back to work.”

Patrick stiffens at being acknowledged, but a moment later he’s glad that the muscles in his legs were already tensed in preparation for fight or flight, because when the guy turns around, Patrick goes absolutely weak in the knees. He’s gorgeous, with strong eyebrows, currently furrowed in annoyance; dark stubble peppering a sharp jaw, currently set in...annoyance; and full, pink lips, currently pursed in, well, annoyance. Okay, so he’s clearly annoyed.

“Hey!” Patrick tries, smiling brightly and walking towards the guy, hand outstretched for a shake. “I’m Patrick.”

The guy takes it tentatively and gives it a surprisingly weak shake, considering how strong his arms look. “David.”

“Nice to meet you, David. I’m a freshman. What about you?”

“Sophomore. But, um, this is my first year here. I just transferred.”

“Oh yeah? Where from?”

“Cornell.”

Patrick’s eyebrows shoot up. Cornell is a Division I school. “Wow, they, uh, they have a really great baseball team. Did you play there?”

“Yup.” David presses his lips together in a tight line.

“Why did you transfer, then?”

A muscle in David’s jaw twitches as he clenches his teeth. “Excuse me, I was under the impression that we just met. How is that any of your business?”

Patrick holds up his hands in surrender. “Hey, sorry. I was just making conversation. It’s good to meet you, David.”

“Mmm. I’m not sure I can say the same of you yet.”

Something hot flashes in Patrick’s brain, igniting the same place that lights up when he’s facing down a full count or next up to perform for an open mic; the place where adrenaline and excitement and determination mingle. “Oh, I’ll win you over,” he says, letting his words drip with self-assurance.

“We’ll see about that.” David raises an eyebrow, and Patrick’s heart races. He’s never found eyebrows sexy before, but on David...well, it seems like just about everything on David is sexy.

Patrick clears his throat and looks around the empty field. “Well, since we seem to be the only ones who got here this early, do you want to warm up? Play some catch?”

“I was here because I wanted to get some uninterrupted batting practice in.” David looks Patrick up and down, and Patrick’s skin burns under his appraising eye. “But sure, I could play some catch.”

“Great.” Patrick grins, and David’s lips twist into a shape Patrick can’t decipher. It’s not exactly a smile, but it’s not exactly not a smile. And there’s definitely—oh god—there’s definitely a deep dimple on David’s left cheek that had been hiding until now.

David turns away from Patrick to retrieve his glove from his equipment bag, which is sitting on the bench in the dugout, and Patrick follows his lead, dropping his own bag on the ground and bending to unzip it. He pulls out the glove that he has been using for the last few years, ever since his dad gave it to him when he made varsity his sophomore year of high school.

When Patrick stands up, David is already sprinting past him; his long legs, clad in black athletic joggers, striding smoothly across the dirt of the infield until he reaches second base. The muscles of David’s back shift under his white t-shirt, and the mid-afternoon sunlight casts highlights and shadows that accentuate the pull of the fabric across David’s broad shoulders and the loose fit at his trim waist. It takes Patrick a moment to react and run after him, heading towards third on legs that he knows are strong and powerful, but not nearly as graceful as David’s. As he turns to face Patrick, David pulls on a baseball cap that Patrick hadn’t noticed in his hand. Patrick is surprised to see the Blue Jays logo (even if the hat is a monochrome black-on-black number that seems to fit with David’s exacting standards, this isn’t exactly Jays territory), but he doesn’t have time to ask about it before David hurls a throw so fast and strong Patrick almost misses it.

Luckily, years of practice as a catcher have made his reflexes lightning fast, and the ball smacks into the cradle of his glove with a satisfying thwack. David’s eyebrows raise just slightly, and Patrick hopes that means he’s impressed, but his face doesn’t give anything else away. Patrick returns the throw with equal strength—another thing years of catching have taught him—and David’s arm is pulled backwards slightly with the force of it. He smirks and tosses the ball back, casually this time. They don’t speak for a long while as they pass it between them, nice and easy, just getting reacquainted with the feel of being out on the field and the familiar motion of playing a simple game of catch.

Patrick has checked out countless guys out of the corner of his eye over the years. At first, he’d thought he was just curious about his teammates who seemed to be able to build muscle faster than him; thought he was just considering what his own body might look like one day. In his quest to decipher why kissing Rachel Covington at Seth Brookner’s pool party the summer after ninth grade felt like a whole lot of nothing, though, he’d started really letting himself look. He’d been able to make a pretty well-educated guess quickly after that, and kissing Seth Brookner at Patrick's own sixteenth birthday party the following May (and a whole lot of other times that summer) had confirmed his suspicions with overwhelming certainty. But Patrick has never been quite this distracted. He can’t stop watching the lines of David’s body, the ease with which he grabs the ball out of the air and fires it back. It’s beautiful to watch.

“So what’s your major?” David’s voice interrupts Patrick’s thoughts, and Patrick forces himself to focus on having an actual conversation and not just on ogling David.

Patrick throws the ball back. “Business administration and management. You?”

Thwack. Throw.

“Art history.”

Thwack. Throw.

“Huh, that’s unusual. I don’t think any of the guys on my high school team were really much into art.”

Thwack. Throw.

“I contain multitudes.”

Thwack. Throw.

“You know, I’m a musician. I sing and play guitar. I sometimes write my own stuff.”

Thwack. Throw.

“How fun for you.”

Thwack. Throw.

Patrick grins. “It is fun. Thank you, David.”

Thwack. David holds onto the ball this time. “You’re a little snippy, aren’t you?” Throw.

“I don’t know, I’ve always preferred to think of myself as charming.”

Thwack. Throw.

David snorts. “Sure.”

Thwack. Throw.

“So where are you from?”

Thwack. Throw.

“New York City. You?”

Thwack. Throw.

“Alexandria Bay. I’m surprised you’re a Jays fan. I would have thought you’d follow the Yankees.”

Thwack. Throw.

“I was born in Toronto. We didn’t move to New York until I was fourteen.”

Thwack. Throw.

“No kidding? I was born in Canada, too.”

Thwack. Throw.

“I figured. I caught your accent when you said ‘sorry’ before.”

Thwack. Throw.

“Fair enough. You sound American, though.”

Thwack. Patrick holds onto the ball as David huffs a laugh at his observation, and Patrick does a dance inside at the tiny victory.

“If you met my mother, you’d understand. She’s an actress, and she’s kind of picked up little bits of accents from everywhere she’s been. My sister still says ‘sorry’ and ‘tomorrow’ like a Canadian, but she spent significantly less time with my mother than I did, since I’m the only one trained to handle her wigs.”

Patrick blinks. “Handle her wigs?”

“Like I said, if you met her, you’d understand.”

“Huh. I’ll have to take your word for it, I guess.”

“I guess so.”

“So what position do you play?”

“Right field. And you—” David’s eyes flick over Patrick’s body again, and he feels his face flush as his gaze lingers on Patrick’s thighs before glancing back up “—are a catcher.”

It’s Patrick’s turn to laugh. “Guilty. Is it the thighs?”

“Mmm. In part. Those, and your whole...thing.” He waves his gloveless right hand around in the air, apparently trying to gesture at some mystery quality Patrick can’t parse.

“Thing?”

“Yeah, you know. Confident. Assertive. Big...take-charge...energy.”

Patrick feels his face go from pink to crimson in an instant, and if the smirk on David’s face is any indication, he definitely noticed.

“Hey!” Patrick is saved by a voice calling from across the field, as they both look away to find the source. A muscular guy with light brown hair peeking out from under his Seneca Falls cap is jogging across the infield towards them, waving. “You guys must be new!” He comes to a stop and sticks out a hand. “I’m Ted. First base, and team captain. I’m a junior.”

Patrick reaches to shake. “Patrick. Catcher. I’m a freshman.”

David just waves. “David. Right field. Uh, I’m a sophomore.”

Ted smiles broadly. “Cool! Glad to have you both! You’re going to love the team. We’re base-ically family.” He laughs at his own joke. Patrick chuckles politely, but he hears a quiet groan of disapproval from David, and he can’t help but smile.

The rest of the team starts to trickle in, greeting old friends and introducing themselves, and Patrick’s head is swimming with names, nerves, and exhilaration as he immerses himself in the familiar rhythms of practice.

Coach Lee has them doing speed drills and dynamic stretches for the first half hour, and as much as he tries to concentrate, he catches himself searching for David’s black cap and long legs more than once. Unfortunately, Coach Lee catches him, too.

“Brewer! If you’d rather watch than run, there’s a nice spot on the bench for you right over there.” She points to her right while staring straight at Patrick, raising an unimpressed eyebrow. Shit.

“Sorry, Coach!”

“Don’t let it happen again!”

Patrick gives her a thumbs up in response. Coach Lee rolls her eyes and crosses her arms, and returns to scanning the group.

Luckily, they break into position groups soon after, so David runs off to practice with the outfielders and Coach Currie while Patrick and the other catchers gear up. Emir is nice enough—funny and sarcastic—but Dane seems like kind of a colossal douche, which is too bad, considering how much time Patrick’s going to have to be spending with him. Coach Butani has them line up behind home plate, and they take turns running blocking practice over and over, making tiny adjustments each time to help them save precious fractions of a second. Emir is great. Dane, unfortunately, is excellent. But Patrick is better. He knows logically that Dane and Emir probably practiced just as much as he did in high school, not to mention that they have one and two years on him, respectively, of playing college ball. But he can't help but feel a surge of pride that the hours of work in the backyard with his Dad starting from as soon as he was old enough to hold a ball, and the missed parties, cancelled dates, and occasional late homework assignments, were all worth it to get him here, on a college baseball field, where Coach Butani is enthusiastically praising his form and his speed.

Practice wraps up an hour and a half later, and after a debrief from the coaches, the group breaks apart to head back to the rest of their Thursdays. Patrick tries to catch David’s eye, but he already has his headphones in by the time Patrick makes it over to the dugout, and he slings his bag over his shoulder and walks away without looking up. As Patrick stands there awkwardly frozen, debating whether or not to run after him, Ted comes up and claps him on the shoulder.

“Hey, bud! Some of us are going to go grab dinner at the dining hall. You in?”

“Um…” Patrick spares one more glance at David’s retreating form, then looks back at Ted. “Sure, man.”

“Cool!” Ted grins widely. “And it’s lasagna night!” he sing-songs quietly, holding his hand up to the side of his mouth like it’s a secret and not posted publicly on the weekly menu.

Patrick chuckles. “Sounds great.”


Fortunately, after that first practice, it feels like Patrick sees David everywhere. Unfortunately, it never seems like the right time to approach him. He’s eating in the dining hall with Stevie, alternating between laughing and looking annoyed; he’s hurrying through the student union building, probably rushing to get to class, when Patrick is standing in line at the cafe; he’s on the other side of the library at a table with three other students, gesticulating wildly over an oversized book that takes up most of the tabletop, opened to a photograph of some kind of artwork; he’s across the quad sitting under the shade of a tree sketching in a black notebook, headphones on, looking impossibly beautiful as the sunlight shines through the leaves, dappling across his face and reflecting off the rings on his right hand like a beacon in a storm.

David still gets to practice early each day, but he usually spends the time sitting in the dugout, legs folded up on the bench, hunched over that same black notebook in his lap. During practice, they’re both busy running drills and working with their respective coaches, and after being called out by Coach Lee less than half an hour into the first practice, Patrick is careful not to get caught watching David anymore, lest he get on her bad side even more than he already seems to be. Patrick always hopes he’ll be able to catch David after practice, but every time, when most of the team is heading to the locker room to shower before getting dinner, David just gives a wave to the group and goes to catch up with Stevie as she gathers up the practice equipment.

After two weeks of Patrick slowly going out of his mind with how desperate he is to talk to David, Miguel, who plays first base with Ted, unwittingly throws him a bone.

When David shoulders his bag at the end of practice on Friday, muscles in his forearms flexing with the weight of it (not that Patrick notices, or reflexively licks his lips, or anything like that), Miguel calls out to him before he can start to walk away. “Hey, Rose! Are you ever going to come have team dinner with us, or what?”

David’s eyes jerk from side to side, as if he’s looking for a way out of the conversation. “Uh, no, I’m just gonna head out.”

“Aw, come on, man,” Miguel insists. “We don’t bite.”

“Unless you want us to,” Jake, a tall and muscular center fielder, chimes in, then nudges Patrick with his elbow and shoots him a wink, which. Well. Okay then.

David rolls his eyes and shakes his head in a movement that looks like “absolutely not,” but there’s an amused smile playing at the corners of his lips. “All right, fine,” David acquiesces, and rolls his eyes again as Miguel and Jake whoop in victory.

Patrick falls into step with David as they follow Miguel and Jake to the locker room. He waits for David to finish texting someone—Stevie, probably—before asking, “Good practice?”

David shrugs, and his bag shifts slightly on his hip and bumps Patrick’s hand. “It was fine. Coach Currie is great with improving our fielding skills, but he had us working on running today, and I don’t know if you’ve seen him run, but he, uh, doesn’t.”

Patrick snorts. “He kind of perpetually looks like he’s slowing down, even when he’s just started.”

“Exactly!” David’s hands fly up in the air, waving wildly. “It’s basically the opposite of inspirational.”

“A lot different from the practices at Cornell, I guess?”

David’s face darkens, and his left hand falls abruptly to his side as his right closes tightly around the strap of his equipment bag. “Yeah.”

Patrick’s stomach drops. “Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”

“It’s fine,” David says curtly.

Patrick glances over at David, but he keeps looking straight ahead, not making eye contact. Patrick searches for something to say to lighten the mood. “I think I mentioned that I play acoustic guitar, right?” David hums in acknowledgement. “So when I was in high school, I used to do these open mics at the local cafe—”

David’s head snaps over to him. “Oh god, why?”

Patrick grins. “They were fun! And pretty popular, too.”

“Was there nothing better to do? How small is your town, exactly?”

“Oh, small. Can you guess what my most popular song performance was?”

“You’re telling me you did enough of them to have a most popular song?”

“Absolutely! Once a month, for four years.” David cringes; Patrick laughs. “Come on, guess.”

“I don’t know.” David looks up and shakes his head with what Patrick hopes is performative exasperation. “Probably Bob Dylan or Ed Sheeran or something like that.”

“‘Genie in a Bottle’ by Christina Aguilera.”

David freezes halfway up the stairs to the athletic center, and Patrick stops short with him. “You’re kidding.”

Patrick raises his eyebrows and keeps his face as neutral as he can. “Nope.”

“Huh.” David turns to continue up the stairs without adding anything else. Patrick follows.

“What?”

“Nothing, I’m just surprised.” David grabs the door handle and holds it open behind him for Patrick to catch. “You seem...not like a Christina Aguilera guy.”

“I like all kinds of music.” Patrick pauses. “But my second most popular song was ‘Thinking Out Loud’.”

David’s laughter is like music in the empty hallway. “There it is.”

“There it is,” Patrick agrees.

His conversation with David comes to an abrupt halt at the locker room door, where Patrick immediately squares his shoulders, shifting into his learned practice of keeping his eyes to himself as much as possible and holding firm eye contact when he does have to talk to one of his teammates. It’s not that he thinks anyone on this team would care about him being gay, especially since he’s clocked a few of them, including Jake, as possibly queer, anyway. But a locker room is a team’s safe space, their collective home, and not the place for flirting.

As usual, Jake flagrantly ignores all the rules that Patrick trained himself to follow: sauntering around in nothing but flip flops, leaning up against lockers, letting his eyes rove, casually reaching out and brushing others’ bare skin. No one, Patrick included, pays him any mind by this point; that’s just Jake. But Patrick is hyper aware of his fully nude presence today, with his six-pack abs, swaths of tanned skin, and defined pecs scattered with the perfect amount of hair, all of which are staying in David’s orbit for far too long, in Patrick’s opinion. He averts his eyes when he suddenly realizes that he’s tracking Jake and David’s movements, and instead busies himself with grabbing his toiletries and shower shoes out of his locker.

He strips down quickly and wraps his towel around his waist before heading to the showers. They’re just in one of those big tiled rooms with shower heads spaced evenly along the walls, each with a towel hook, soap dish, and liquid soap dispenser that’s filled with that awful 3-in-1 stuff that Patrick grew out of using by the time he was fifteen. He follows the unspoken understanding among all athletes everywhere and finds a spot that’s as distanced from others as possible, keeping his mind purposely blank and respectful as he passes by his teammates who are already showering. He balances his small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash on the soap dish, hangs up his towel, and turns the hot water on full blast, closing his eyes and letting the pressure of the water soothe his sore muscles for a few moments.

Once the relaxation settles into his body, he shampoos and then conditions his hair. He’s just putting the bottle back when he hears David’s voice somewhere behind him.

“Hey.”

Patrick fights the instinct to turn around—he’s definitely not going to do that unless he’s sure David is talking to him—and squeezes some body wash into his palm instead.

“Hey, Patrick,” David says again.

Patrick allows himself a glance over his shoulder, but keeps his eyes firmly trained above the shoulders. “Yeah?”

“Um, so I don’t have my shower stuff with me. Because I usually just shower at my dorm.”

“Oh. Uh, okay?”

“And I know it’s probably highly unlikely that you use Innersense Hydrating Hairbath, but, uh” —his eyes flick up towards Patrick’s hairline— “you at least have curly hair like me, so I was wondering if I could borrow your shampoo and conditioner? Just for today.”

David is looking to the side and stumbling over his words, a far cry from the confident, self-assured guy he is on the field. He’s nervous, Patrick realizes. And Patrick can’t help but smile.

“What?” David asks, shaking his head slightly.

“Nothing, I’m just glad you came to me,” he says seriously. “You never know what awful bargain junk is in these dispensers.” David visibly relaxes, which Patrick almost feels bad about as he continues speaking. “Luckily, I use Dove for Men 3-in-1. Great stuff.”

David narrows his eyes and purses his lips. “Mmkay, never mind.”

Patrick breaks, laughing. “Sorry, I’m kidding. I use Odele. It’s not as good as Innersense, but—”

“No, no, that’s great. Pretty much anything is better than this,” David says, gesturing at the dispenser on the wall. “Thanks.”

Patrick grabs the shampoo bottle and turns to toss it over. “Here, catch,” he says, and tosses it gently, trusting that David’s baseball skills will allow him to catch it easily. Which he does, except that Patrick forgot to account for the extra slip that the water and soap on his hands would cause. Almost as soon as the bottle lands in David’s hands, it slides through them to the floor. David growls and bends to pick it up, and without thinking, Patrick’s eyes drop to follow his movement, which gives him an eyeful of every inch of David’s gorgeous body, from the thick, dark hair on his legs, to the shifting muscles in his back, to his round, perfect ass, to—

Patrick snaps his eyes away and faces the shower head again, ignoring the burning in his cheeks and tingling in his stomach, and rinsing himself off as quickly as he can. “Uh, sorry! Slippery hands, you know.” He’s talking way too loudly, but he can’t seem to control the volume of his voice. “I’m all done, so I’ll just leave the conditioner and body wash over here for you.” He turns off the water and wraps his towel around his waist without drying off, and walks away quickly with his eyes trained down on the tile floor. “‘Kay, see you out there.”

“Um, okay,” he hears David say distantly, but Patrick is already out of the showers and beelining for his locker, where he dresses as quickly as he can before pushing out of the door and hurrying down the hallway, heading for the benches outside where the guys going to dinner always wait to walk to the dining hall together.

It takes about ten minutes for the last stragglers to finish up. Patrick tries to focus on his conversation with Ken and Citrus, both shortstops, who are extolling the virtues of yoga for focus and flexibility, but he can’t help keeping one eye on the door, watching for David. Finally, he and Jake walk out together, laughing about something. Another wave of jealousy rolls through Patrick, but he tamps it down as quickly as he can. It makes sense, Patrick reasons, that David and Jake have more of a rapport than he and David do. They’re both outfielders, after all, so they spend most of their practice time together. It’s just that he’d thought he and David had connected, even if it was just as friends, at that first practice, but today is the first day they’ve had any kind of conversation since then, and then Patrick had to go and make things weird by basically running away from him in the locker room.

“Um, Earth to Patrick,” Ken sing-songs.

Patrick realizes he’s been staring into a point somewhere above Ken’s left shoulders. He shakes his head and refocuses. “Sorry, what?”

“I asked if you wanted to come to yoga with me tomorrow. There’s a class at four-thirty at the main fitness center.”

Patrick shrugs. “Sure, why not.” He doesn’t think it’s going to be his thing, but it’s not like he’ll be doing anything on a Saturday late afternoon besides messing around on his guitar or whatever.

“Great!” Ken flashes him a bright smile. He’s cute, Patrick realizes. Not really his type, even if Ken is queer, but cute.

Patrick feels a tap on his shoulder, and spins to find himself face to face with a freshly showered, decidedly more-than-cute David Rose.

“Hey, I have your products,” David says, unzipping his bag and pulling out the three bottles, a glint of silver on his hand flashing in the pink haze of the setting sun. David never wears his rings at baseball practice, but he must have put them back on right after he got dressed. Patrick wonders if there’s a story behind them, since they’re clearly important to David.

Patrick takes the bottles, his fingertips briefly brushing David’s palm and sending a jolt of heat up his arm. He swallows and looks back at David’s dark chocolate eyes. “Thanks.” He gives a pointed look at David’s hair, which has been apparently blow dried and styled back into its usual swoop with nary a curl in sight, and then drops his gaze back to David’s face. “Wow, I can really see the definition in your curls now. Maybe you should consider switching shampoos after all.”

David flicks a hand to the side dismissively. “Just because I don’t let my curls run wild and free, it doesn’t mean my hair deserves to be tortured with some mystery concoction that comes from a dispenser affixed to a locker room shower wall. Which you clearly know, since I don’t see you using it, either.” He reaches over and taps on the bottles that are still in Patrick’s hand, raising an eyebrow in challenge.

Patrick chuckles as he unzips his own bag and drops the bottles inside. “Well, make sure to bring your own stuff next time. I can’t wait to see the difference an extra fifteen bucks a bottle makes on hair that’s going to be straightened, anyway.”

David rolls his eyes and huffs out an annoyed breath, and Patrick grins at him.

“Uh, guys?” David and Patrick both turn to look at Ken, who is standing alone about ten feet away. He hooks a thumb over his shoulder. “Are you coming?” Patrick looks past Ken to see the rest of the team already half a block down the sidewalk, headed towards the dining hall.

“Yeah, yeah,” Patrick says, and he jogs to catch up with Ken.

David doesn’t follow with the same urgency, though, and when Patrick turns and gives a questioning look at his sauntering pace, David just shrugs. “Conserving energy. I only run when absolutely necessary.”

Patrick is torn between keeping up this game they’re playing by hurrying to catch up with the other guys and leaving David behind to tease later, or waiting and walking with David. He settles on the middle ground of staying near Ken, moving at a slightly faster clip than David but never actually getting more than fifty feet ahead of him. He glances back every so often, and every time, David seems to be pointedly not looking at Patrick, instead gazing up into the trees or across the quad. When they get to the dining hall, Patrick and Ken get in the infuriatingly long line to swipe their IDs, and thirty seconds later, David is right behind them, pulling his own ID out of his black leather wallet.

“Wow,” David intones, a smile playing across his lips, the dimple on his left cheek just starting to peek through. “You really showed me. Good thing you got here when you did.”

Patrick says nothing, but once they’re in the dining hall and they’ve grabbed trays, Ken turns towards the sandwich station while Patrick and David both head for the pizza. He gets there a fraction of a second before David and gleefully slides the last three pieces of pepperoni pizza onto his plate, eliciting a whine of protest from David.

Patrick sucks air through his teeth. “Ooh, sorry about that. Too bad you didn’t get here sooner, huh?”

“You play dirty.”

“Hey, looks like there’s almost a whole dairy-free pizza there,” he says, nodding to the right. “Plenty of vegetables to make up for the lack of cheese. So you’re not totally out of luck.”

David grumbles and turns towards the pasta bar, instead, while Patrick goes off to find whichever tables the guys have commandeered. He grabs a seat between Emir and Mutt, who are talking about the new Marvel movie that came out a few weeks ago, but which Patrick hasn’t gotten around to seeing yet. A few minutes later, David pulls out the chair diagonally across from Patrick, setting down his tray laden with baked ziti, salad, and approximately seven dinner rolls and jumping into the conversation that Deion and Sebastien are having about some fashion designer Patrick has never heard of. Patrick rips his two remaining slices of pizza apart and wordlessly reaches over to place one on top of David’s tiny mountain of rolls, then turns most of his attention back to the debate over Marvel casting decisions.

Two rolls appear on his tray a moment later. When Patrick looks up, David seems to be listening intently to Deion, his eyes serious, but a smile plays around the corners of his mouth as he bites into the slice of pepperoni pizza. Patrick feels his own lips quirk up to match, and he picks up a roll, soft and still warm, and eats it slowly, ripping off small pieces and savoring them as he settles into the comfortable hum of conversation around him.