Patrick was dying.
“David, for the last time, I’m not dying.”
He was hallucinating and delusional, the illness taking him.
“It’s a cold, David.”
David was not prepared to become a widower so soon.
“You do not have to sit vigil by my bedside. And take off the surgical mask.”
Patrick stared at David long and hard through his sickly haze. He had caught some sort of cold because, unlike David, he insisted on shaking hands with strangers at the harvest festival. (“It looks bad if you immediately pull out hand sanitizer after you shake someone’s hand, David.”) David had been spared from the fatal illness that was surely going to take every citizen in Schitt’s Creek and then it was going to be an I Am Legend situation with zombie vampires or whatever those things were, and David was not ready for that.
He sat in a chair next to their bed wearing all black and latex gloves, holding Patrick’s hand.
“We’re going to get through this together,” David said, trying to be strong for Patrick. Patrick rolled his eyes.
“Honestly David, the DayQuil is working fine.”
“It is not working fine, Patrick!” he argued. “If it was working fine, you wouldn’t be on your deathbed right now!”
Patrick let out a loud, hacking cough.
Over the years they’d been together, Patrick had learned David tended to catastrophize everything and was extremely germaphobic. Patrick once started coughing from drinking water and David refused to kiss him for two days, afraid he would get whatever he had. He only believed he wasn’t sick once Ted wrote him a clean bill of health.
This was definitely an actual illness that Ted couldn’t diagnose.
There was a soft knock on the bedroom door. It opened, and Stevie popped her head in.
“I brought that soup you asked for – oh my god, David, what are you wearing?” she asked, suppressing a chuckle.
“I’m taking necessary precautions as I watch my husband of only two years die in our marital bed,” David explained. “I don’t think I’d ever be able to sleep in this bed without him. And we spent a lot of money on this mattress.”
“Right, because that’s the thing you should be worried about,” Stevie said wryly. She approached the bed, untying the plastic bag surrounding the soup container. “They didn’t have chicken noodle, but Twyla swears by the minestrone.”
“Thank you, Stevie,” Patrick said hoarsely. He then coughed loudly again. It’s phlegmy and sounded like a bad muffler starting. Stevie took a step back in alarm. David sat up, noticing Stevie’s concern.
“What? What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.
“Patrick, I really hate to tell you this, but that definitely sounds like more than a cold,” she said.
“No, no, it’s just a cold,” Patrick argued. “I’ve just got to rest and do the DayQuil/NyQuil rotation and I’ll be fine.”
“Which you’ve been doing for nearly a week now and you haven’t gotten better.”
“I’m fine,” he assured them as he pushed himself up from the nest of pillows David had arranged around him.
“Where are you going?” David asked.
“To the bathroom, David,” he said. “I’m not using the jug you bought me because I’m not dying—” As he pushed himself off the bed and onto his own two feet, he wobbled and grabbed David’s shoulder to steady himself.
David stiffened. This was how he got infected.
“Oh boy,” Stevie said, putting the soup down on the dresser and rushing over to help him back into the bed. “Yeah, this is way worse than a cold. You gotta take him to the hospital in Elmdale.”
“Is he dying?!” David asked, officially panicking.
He hated the hospital. His dad had suffered a minor heart attack a few months earlier and while he was fine now, it was very frightening. He spent a week in the Elmdale hospital where by the time he was discharged, his mom succeeded in corralling the nurses and doctors to perform in a little show for all those infirmed. Johnny wasn’t going to die, but that brush with mortality was enough to shake David. While Moira put on a good face, David and Alexis knew she was scared.
Patrick was there the whole time, supporting David and making sure he slept.
“I’m not dying, David!” Patrick said, raising his voice slightly, but doing so causes another coughing fit.
“I’ll help you take him to the car,” Stevie said.
David wrapped an arm around Patrick’s waist and held him close. Stevie looped her arm with Patrick’s on his other side, and together they hauled him out to the car.
All that movement, as little as it was, made everything worse for Patrick. His coughing and shaking only grew worse with every mile they drove to Elmdale. He leaned against the car door and stared out the window, looking utterly miserable.
David kept glancing over at his husband. Patrick started absently rubbing his chest. Suddenly, David saw flashes of his father grabbing the front of the motel counter and falling to the floor, and his mother rushing to his side.
He took a deep breath and peeled off the glove on his right hand. He reached over and took Patrick’s hand, lacing their fingers together. Comforting his husband was more important than whatever illness he might also contract.
Patrick didn’t smile like he normally did when David held his hand.
Thankfully, there weren’t any sheriffs with speed trackers out that day.
One of the biggest issues of living in the country was that county hospitals were usually overcrowded and understaffed. Once they were admitted, it was only a matter of waiting. Those who were considered emergencies were seen first, and while David argued with the nurse that his husband possibly dying was an emergency, she told him to sit down.
So, they waited in the corner on a bench where Patrick was curled into David, his warm forehead tucked against his neck. It was the only thing keeping David from pacing the room with anxiety. Occasionally a cough wracked through Patrick’s body and David just held him closer. To pass the time, David whispered to Patrick all his comments regarding every single person in the waiting room. The surgical mask provided the perfect cover.
“I can’t believe that woman is actually reading a Chelsea Handler memoir,” he murmured. “Oh, and this one has three kids who definitely all hate him. Step-dad, maybe? There’s this nurse who keeps walking in here with cartoon dogs on her scrubs and there is a very unfortunate pattern issue near her—”
The nurse with the dog scrubs stood in the doorway with a clipboard in her hand, her eyes scanning the room.
“Oh, that’s us,” David called out, then quietly to Patrick, “Alright, babe, we gotta get up.”
“Thank you,” he said meekly as they stood.
They got into an exam room and thankfully the wait was much shorter. Once David got Patrick up on the exam table, he finally had the chance to pace. The doctor breezed in with Patrick’s chart.
“Hello, Mr. Brewer-Rose. I’m Dr. Menowitz,” she said, then looked up to see David as well. She appeared briefly confused before David pointed to Patrick. “And you are?”
“His husband, David Rose,” David supplied, tugging down his surgical mask.
“Alright, well, take a seat, Mr. Rose while I see what’s going on with your husband…” she said calmly. David did immediately as he was told, sitting down in one of the additional chairs. At this point, his worry made him incredibly susceptible to suggestion.
Dr. Menowitz checked Patrick over, asking him minimal questions. It’s as if she already knew what was going on and it was just formalities before telling David his husband only had two more months to live.
“Well, it appears you’ve got acute bronchitis, Mr. Brewer-Rose,” she said simply.
David sighed with relief.
“All of this is just bronchitis?” David asked. “I thought he was dying!” She laughed.
“Well, he’s pretty far along, which is probably why he’s feeling particularly weak,” Dr. Menowitz explained. “But he’s still in the acute phase as it could definitely be worse.”
“So, he’s not dying.”
“No, not at all. Just really sick.” She pulled out her prescription pad, scribbled some illegible words, and passed it to David. “He just needs to take these cough medicines; they’re the best on the market. The surgical mask is a good idea, and you might want to look into getting a humidifier. He should be better within a week or so. Give the hospital a call if he gets worse.”
And after shaking David’s hand, she left.
David turned to Patrick who was still sitting on the exam table in his t-shirt and sweatpants. He stood before Patrick and put his hands on his shoulders.
"Are you ready to go home?" David asked.
Patrick nodded, his eyes closed.
David tugged down his surgical mask and kissed Patrick tenderly on the forehead. Silently, David thanked his lucky stars it wasn't anything worse than acute bronchitis. He wasn't sure what he would have done had it been worse. He didn't even want to invite the thought.
Patrick hopped down off the exam table and clung to David's arm. He slid his hand down David's forearm and laced their fingers together, grinning.
"Let's go home," Patrick mumbled.
"Okay," David said with an adoring smile.
They made it back home with all the things from the pharmacy Dr. Menowitz suggested and got Patrick back into bed. David got him all set up and tucked in. He was already starting to look better.
David scanned the room for anything else he might be missing, and he spotted the neglected soup on the dresser.
“That soup probably can’t be reheated a fourth time,” he murmured. He knew the cafe's soup wasn’t fresh and didn’t want to pretend like it was.
He looked down to his husband staring with bleary eyes up at him. David pulled up the chair and sat down next to him.
“Yes, my dear living husband?”
“Thank you for worrying about me,” Patrick croaked.
David gently smoothed Patrick’s brow and smiled.
“We said in our vows ‘in sickness and in health’ and I meant it,” David replied warmly. “You also promised me at least 50 good years together, so you’re only allowed to die when you’re 85 or older or I have to divorce you.”
Patrick laughed, which turned into a cough. David rubbed his back through it. Then, without being asked, he climbed into bed and curled up behind Patrick, cradling him in his arms.
“I’m guessing you’re going to gloat about being right?” Patrick mumbled.
“Oh, I already texted Stevie and Alexis, so basically the entire town knows.”
Patrick smiled and settled back into David’s arms.