David Rose is having trouble sleeping. It isn’t the first time. His insomnia ebbs and flows, worse on those nights when he can’t get out of his head. But it has been better, much better, with Patrick around. He meant it when he said that he had never felt as safe as he does with Patrick. Patrick is his safe space, his secure base. David spent most of his life unmoored, awash in fear and anxiety, grasping for purchase anywhere he could. Inevitably, whenever he thought he had found a sliver of security and let out the breath he had been holding, the floor was ripped out from under him and he was back out at sea, treading water and searching for the next thing to cling to. And so he built up his defenses, layer by layer, lover by lover. There was no shortage of people who wanted him, or thought they did, but all they really wanted was something from him. But Patrick wants him, all of him. Patrick loves puzzles and delights in taking apart David’s defenses, piece by piece, like some kind of reverse game of Tetris. But the walls left scars, and so even in the safety of Patrick’s love, there are times when he can’t get out from under his own thoughts.
It’s a rainy evening and David is leaning against Patrick’s shoulder, wrapped in a soft blanket, while Patrick reads the news on his phone. Every day for the last several days, he has felt himself slowly start to unravel, each small interaction pulling out another thread. The last two nights, he has tossed and turned for most of the night, occasionally accidentally pulling Patrick out of his own sleep. So tonight, completely exhausted, David is trying to quiet his mind after a long day at the store but nothing he has tried so far has helped. He isn’t above self-medicating, but even that is only a temporary fix. He tries to focus on the softness of the blanket, the sturdiness of his husband’s shoulder. His whirlwind of thoughts is periodically interrupted by Patrick’s occasional small noises of agreement or annoyance.
It gives David an idea.
He sits up, gazing at his husband, bottom lip between his teeth. Patrick glances up from his phone and smirks a little.
“Something I can help you with, David?”
David hesitates, playing with the sleeve of Patrick’s t-shirt.
“Can you read that to me?”
Patrick eyes him, puzzled.
“It’s the sports section, David.”
David sighs, flopping his hands in his lap.
“I know it’s a dumb idea, you don’t have to, I just thought it might…help. With the, you know. Not sleeping.”
David knows Patrick loves him but still has trouble asking for things like this, in case he seems too needy. Even though Patrick has shown time and time again that he will protect David at his most vulnerable, David still struggles to lay bare his anxiety for fear it will become too much, that he will be too much.
Patrick’s expression softens. He’s spent long enough on the complex puzzle that is David to know that David knows what he needs, even if he doesn’t know how to ask for it. He pats his leg, an invitation for David to lay down. David flashes him a small smile and lays across the couch with his head on Patrick’s lap
“Are you sure you want me to read this? I know how you feel about sports.”
David doesn’t reply, just waves his hand dismissively, not ready to explain that he’s pretty sure that it’s not the content that matters, just the fact that it’s Patrick’s voice. Patrick gives a soft chuckle, leans down to plant a tender kiss on David’s temple, and begins to read.
“The Toronto Blue Jays won their last regular-season game against the Houston Astros last night with a score of 4 to 3, surprising supporters of both teams. The Astros have had a good season and were the favorites to win, particularly since Blue Jays center fielder Lucas Tremblay was out due to a calf strain during the Blue Jays previous game against Oakland.”
David certainly isn’t interested in the article, beyond the fact that Patrick will be pleased the Blue Jays won. But he finds that the timbre and cadence of Patrick’s voice acts as a balm, soothing the raw edges of his nerves. He can feel the expansion of Patrick’s stomach as he inhales at the beginning of the sentence, feel the vibrations of his voice rumbling through his body. Patrick reaches the end of the paragraph and stops, rubbing small circles on David’s shoulder with this thumb.
“Is that enough or do you want me to keep going?”
“Mm, keep going.” David replies and closes his eyes, making a small, involuntary hum of contentment. Patrick loves all of David’s sounds, loves finding ways to discover new ones, but this is one of his favorites, pulling hard at his heart as he watches his husband. David cracks open one eye and huffs out an impatient noise. “Keep going, please.”
“The Astros took an early lead, with rookie Daniel Garcia getting a run in the first inning, but Toronto was able to make a comeback with several strong defensive plays.”
For the first time in several days, the racing torrent of thoughts in David’s mind starts to fade, eased by the steady, even tone of Patrick’s voice. Comfortable and content in the safe cocoon of Patrick’s love, David finally drifts off to sleep.
When he wakes up, he’s confused. As best as he can remember, when he fell asleep, it was dark and rainy, and he was on the couch. Now, sunlight is streaming in through the blinds, he’s in bed, and Patrick is gazing at him with a sweet smile on his face.
“You slept,” he says, leaning over to kiss David softly on his forehead.
“Mhmm. I think so. But how did I get here? Oh my god. Did you…?” David is equal parts mortified and smitten by the thought of Patrick carrying him upstairs to bed.
Patrick chuckles. “Yes, David, I did carry you upstairs. I just didn’t want to wake you up since you were finally able to fall asleep.”
David snuggles up against his husband. “I appreciate that. Just hope I didn’t hurt your li’l arms.”
“My arms are not little!”
“Mm, yes, I know.” David replies, squeezing Patrick’s bicep and licking his lips lasciviously, which makes them both laugh.
After a minute, Patrick says, “I knew you weren’t into sports, David, but I didn’t know you found them so boring, it would literally cure your insomnia.”
And David sighs, knowing that he is going to have to be vulnerable for a minute. He could deflect, play into what Patrick said and laugh about how boring sports are, make a joke about falling asleep at Patrick’s next game. But he stood in front of his family and the town and told them all how safe Patrick made him feel. He made a promise to himself that day, too, that he wouldn’t go back to the way he was before Patrick. That he would give all of himself to Patrick, every day, for the rest of their lives
And so David takes a deep breath, and says, “it’s not the sports. I mean, yes. They are boring. But that’s not the point. You could have read the label on the moisturizer and it would have helped.”
Patrick looks confused, so David continues.
“It’s your voice, it’s you. You make me feel so safe, so grounded that it gets me out of my head. You’re literally the only person that can stop my stupid brain from spiraling. Your sweet l’il voice just makes me feel so calm and happy.”
David ducks his head a little and buries it in Patrick’s neck, embarrassed. “It really isn’t a surprise by now that you married someone so broken.”
Patrick wraps his arms tighter around his husband and kisses the top of his head. “I told you before, David, you are not broken.” David mumbles something into Patrick’s neck that sounds like “Incorrect.” and Patrick just laughs. “I’ll read to you any time you like.”
David smiles into Patrick’s neck and they stay like that, comfortable and still, for a long time.