David was the larger of the two men. His shoulders were broader, he was two inches taller, his hands and feet were bigger. Everything about David was more sizeable. But Patrick knew that David needed to be protected. He knew it in the way that David sometimes used him as a kind of human shield and leaned over behind him, holding on to his shoulders, to avoid confrontations or conversations he just didn’t want to have. For David it was easier to hide and make himself small, rather than do or say something that made him uncomfortable. And there was a lot that made David Rose uncomfortable.
At night when they were ready to sleep David would always curl up on his side, back toward Patrick, with his knees tucked up as high as they could go and his arms wrapped protectively around his middle, as if to take up as little space as he could. It was one of the first things Patrick noticed about David when he started sleeping over regularly. He barely covered a quarter of their queen size bed. However, in his waking hours and the light of day, David had such a presence. He was beautiful and perfectly groomed. His black and white clothes were striking and different from everyone else, except maybe his mother, and he carried himself with an air of confidence that made most people believe his ruse. The nights gave David away. He couldn’t control his body once he was sleeping. All of his perfectly trained and composed movements, all the gestures and false bravado, all the faces and witty comebacks melted away once David fell asleep. He curled into himself and took up as little space as his large frame could get away with. Had Patrick been anyone else this might have been overlooked or even celebrated as a selfish opportunity for more space. For Patrick, it meant he worried.
David talked in his sleep. Okay, maybe talk was an exaggeration. But he definitely mumbled and made deep, sad, broken noises. Mostly Patrick couldn’t make out what David mumbled but when he could his heart hurt so badly he had to force himself to breathe. David would run his arms over the sheets and whisper, “please stay”, “just one night”, “don’t leave”, and then he would let out a strangled noise like a wounded animal and fold himself back into a tiny ball-shaped version of himself. Patrick knew David would very likely die of embarrassment if anyone ever found out about his sleep habits and David would also very likely stop staying over if Patrick mentioned it to him and he really wanted David with him always. But…Patrick needed to say something, anything. The thought of David dreaming of being left or forgotten or hurt in his previous relationships was breaking him a little more each night.
“Please…,” David mumbled. “I’m sorry…. I can do better.”
Patrick’s eyes snapped open in the dark. He reached for David, but the expanse between them was cold and he was so far away. “David?” Patrick called out tentatively.
“Hmm? What’s wrong?”
“David, were you having a bad dream?” Patrick couldn’t not talk about it any longer. He needed his boyfriend to know he was there for him. He scooted closer to David.
“A bad dream?” David asked, voice thick with sleep and embarrassment. “Um. No? I’m fine…?”
Patrick didn’t really want to push him, but he needed to do this for David. So David would know he was there for him. “You can talk to me.”
“You should go back to sleep… It’s nothing.”
“David, you’ve been talking in your sleep for the last two weeks. Every night. It’s not nothing.” Patrick felt David’s entire body tense up. “I’m here for you,” he whispered gently, rubbing David’s back.
“Are you sure you weren’t the one dreaming? I don’t talk in my sleep. Everything’s fine,” David lied.
“Everything’s not fine, David! I’m worried about you. Please turn around and look at me.” Patrick could feel David’s back muscles tense up again but David turned over onto his other side, knees pulled up, a mirror image of how he was moments before. Except this time Patrick could see David’s face in the faint moonlight and pale yellow glow of the street lamp outside the bedroom window. David’s fascinating face with his angular features and thick eyebrows. David’s exquisite face with his long lashes, damp from the tears he’d been trying to hide.
“David…” Patrick breathed, as he reached out to wipe away the tears.
“I’m fine. Everything’s fine,” David lied again trying to sound so confident as he turned his head into his pillow to dry the tears he knew were there.
“Well, I’m not fine. I’m not fine with you crying in your sleep. Or with your heart breaking every night…. I hear you David. Every night. Every night for the past two weeks.” Patrick had definitely not planned on saying any of these things to David and certainly not in the middle of the night. But now he’d started and he just couldn’t stop himself. “I’m so sorry that they hurt you. And I’m so sorry that they left you, but please don’t cry for them.”
And now David was confused. Who was Patrick talking about? Why did Patrick think he was crying? And then it hit him. And his heart hurt even more. The weight of the truth sat on his chest and made it hard for David to breathe. It made his eyes sting and his stomach clench. Patrick thought David was calling out for his past lovers. The ones that had used him and abused him and dismissed him and thrown him aside for something new. And sometimes they’d thrown him away for nothing. Just to be rid of him. Any tears David had ever shed over his past relationships were long gone. The hurt flared up sometimes, but there were never any tears for them. And yet Patrick wanted to hold him and love him and calm him through tears Patrick thought were for people that probably couldn’t even remember David’s name.
“Pat…rick…I…” David began haltingly. This was not something he was good at. This was not something he could even pretend to be good at. He had literally no experience with this. Being honest and open with someone who so genuinely and freely loved him almost hurt. It was so new and it was such a strange feeling, but he loved Patrick, and it distressed him that Patrick believed he was calling out for his old lovers. He tried again, “Patrick.” Okay, good, got his name out that time. David took a deep breath. He could do this. He needed to do this. He wanted to do this? Yes, he really did. Because he loved Patrick. “Patrick. I love you. And I know what you’re thinking. ‘David Rose sure has a lot of baggage. So much that he even dreams about it.’ But you’re wrong.”
“David, I heard you. I hear you every night…” Patrick’s sweet face was screwed up in confusion.
“But you’re wrong.” He took a big breath to calm himself to just get it all out. “I’m not dreaming about my old lovers.” The word lovers sounded gross and deformed in his mouth and he twisted his face when he said it. This wasn’t coming out right at all! “I’m dreaming of YOU!” David sat up as he was shouting. “Every night I go to bed and every night I dream that you finally realize what a huge mistake you’ve made with me!” David held his ringed hand up when Patrick tried to interject and then put both hands over his face before continuing. “I know I’m lazy and ridiculous. I know those things! I go to sleep every night and dream that you finally realize what a chore it is to be with me! And I didn’t know that I call out for you in my sleep. You could have told me that a little sooner, thanks. But it’s you. In my dreams YOU leave me, not the others. And it hurts more than all of them combined times a million. And it hurts telling you this now because I’m not good with sharing or feelings or relationships. But you asked me and I just can’t have you thinking I’d ever want anyone else. It’s only you for me. Even if I just scared you away.” David peeks out from beneath his hands to see Patrick sitting up, eyes full of unshed tears. “You’re it for me, Patrick.”
“David.” Patrick breathed his name out like a prayer. “David.” He said it again as he moved so he was right next to David. “You could never scare me away, especially by telling me your truth.”
“I don’t think you quite understand… I’ve never had this,” David motioned back and forth between them. “Not with anyone. No one has ever, ever wanted me to… No one has ever wanted me,” he finished that sentence right there because that was his truth.
A tear escaped Patrick’s eye and David looked away. He didn’t want to see what this was doing to Patrick and he didn’t want to be told to get out of his bed in the middle of the night, but it wouldn’t be the first time someone had kicked him out at 2am. “So I should just…go?” It came out strangled even though David was trying to be brave.
“What?! No! I don’t want you to EVER go. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.”
“I’m all kinds of messed up Patrick. I’m even messed up when I’m dreaming. I really do… understand… if you don’t want that in your life. I promise I won’t even be mad at you if you want me to leave.”
“David. No. I want you to STAY. I want to hold you and kiss you and love you. I want to share with you and joke with you. I’ve never had this before either and it scares me too. It scares me to tell you exactly how much I want you because I don’t want you to run off in the middle of the night.” Patrick looked directly into David’s eyes, “I want you always. No matter what.”
David couldn’t hold Patrick’s gaze. It felt like Patrick’s words were clawing open his ribcage to wrap hotly around his heart. He wanted this. He’d always wanted this, but he never ever felt worthy of it. He wasn’t a nice person like Patrick. But he always tried, even when it seemed like he didn’t. David could only whisper, “I want you always, too. Please don’t leave me.”
“I’m not going anywhere without you, David.” And with that Patrick leaned in for a kiss that held a million promises for their future together.