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After all these years

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1997

Patrick ends up taking the bus to Forest Hill and walking the last few blocks through the unfamiliar neighborhood. The family car is already full of boxes and he hadn’t wanted to interrupt his mom’s semi-frantic packing process just to ask her to go to a party. Now, seeing the mansions on David’s street, he knows he would’ve been ashamed to be seen in their minivan, and then he feels ashamed for feeling ashamed. 

David’s house is about fifteen times the size of the rancher Patrick and his family are about to leave behind. How had he never mentioned just how rich he was? They’d spent all summer at creative writing camp sharing their truths (he’d thought), and while he’d known based on his clothes and casual cultural references that David exists in a different social stratosphere than the Brewers, he’d never imagined this

Then again, he thinks ruefully as he walks up the neat front path, maybe being rich isn’t part of David’s truth. Maybe it’s just a fact of his life, like having feet or getting cold. Not worth mentioning, most of the time, and sometimes outright annoying. He has a hard time imagining being unhappy when you have this much , but he knows David, has learned a lot about him these past few months, and he knows unhappiness is part of David’s truth, most of the time. Maybe unhappiness doesn’t care how rich you are. 

He fully recognizes he’s panicking a little, but he can’t help but be nervous. He hasn’t seen David since camp finished last Friday, and it’s felt like the longest four days of his life. It might also be the last time he ever sees him. 

He rings the doorbell and stuffs his hands as deep into his khakis as they’ll go, to hide the shaking. 

A kindly woman in an apron answers the door - David’s mother, he thinks for a second, and straightens his spine, but then he realizes that people who live in houses this large don’t answer their own doors. 

The woman smiles, then calls over her shoulder, “David!” She gestures for Patrick to come in, so he steps tentatively into a foyer as large as their school gymnasium. He fights back a gasp as he takes in the chandelier, the pair of twining marble staircases, the tapestries and paintings. 

And then David is there, with his asymmetrical haircut and a suit that looks uncomfortable. (Patrick is wearing a sports jacket his dad had bought for all the bar and bat mitzvahs last year; he’d wanted to look good today, for some reason.) 

“Hey,” David murmurs, smiling shyly at him, and his voice is so quiet in this giant hall that Patrick misses him already. They haven’t moved away yet, he’s standing here with David, but he misses David, misses the way visions and dreams and frustrations would tumble out of him during their brainstorming sessions at camp. 

I think I’ll miss you for the rest of my life , he wants to say. 

“Hey,” he says instead. 

“I thought - I thought you couldn’t make it.” 

“Yeah, I can’t say,” Patrick shrugs apologetically. “We’re moving - we’re leaving in, like, an hour,” he adds, catching sight of the time on an ornate clock on a table under the chandelier. “So I have to get right back. It looks like you’re not short on company, though,” he chuckles, nodding towards the hubbub issuing from whatever room David had emerged from. 

David glances in that direction and flushes, his shoulders creeping up a smidge. “Oh. They’re not, I mean, they’re not really here for me . I guess they are, in name, but none of them - honestly, they probably don’t even notice I’ve left.” 

Patrick feels even worse now; maybe he can call his mom and ask if they can move tomorrow, just so he can stay with David and distract him from his terrible friends. Even as he thinks it he knows it wouldn’t be fair, but he wishes . “Anyway, I wanted to see you, and wish you a happy birthday, and say, um...” 

David seems to feel it too, the way he sways forward and looks away, clearing his throat. “It really sucks that you’re moving.” 

“Yeah,” Patrick laughs bitterly, looking at his scuffed sneakers on the likely handwoven carpet. “It sucks more than anything.” 

“You should, um, call me when you get there,” David offers. He says it like it’s an imposition, like he’s embarrassed to even suggest Patrick would want to call, when Patrick has felt ready to tear his own heart out these last four days, just for a chance to hear David’s voice. “Our number should be in that booklet thing they handed out at camp-” 

“Right, I’ll see if my mom still has that.” He knows she doesn’t, but it doesn’t matter; he’d cut out David’s family’s contact information weeks ago and glued it to the back of his signed Joe Carter photograph. “Hey, man, I should get going, but I, uh, I made you something.” 

He fishes it out of his jacket pocket and lets it dangle between his fingers for a second, wondering if it’s stupid. But David’s never called anything he’s made stupid before, not even those godawful acrostic poems they’d done so many of. David only ever sees potential. 

“It’s not much,” he hedges as he passes it to David, who clearly has no idea what it is. “It’s, uh, for when you write. You were always complaining about how the ink, when it’s a really good pen, would smear all over the side of your hand while you wrote, and then that would end up on your clothes or your face, so it’s -- it just slips over two of your fingers and along the side of your hand and then - no smear.” 

“Patrick, this is--” David is blinking a lot, which Patrick isn’t sure how to interpret. “This is not ‘not much.’ Is this - is this leather? You know how to make things with leather?” He looks up at Patrick, smiling a little. “Do you whittle, too?” 

Patrick ducks his head, grinning. “I’ve been known to have at the old wood from time to time.” Then he winces. “Not - I mean - literal wood , like from a tree, not-” He’s gesturing to his own lower body and he forces himself to stop. 

“This is a very sweet gift, Patrick,” David says quietly, apparently not thrown by Patrick’s unintentional innuendo. “Very sweet, and personal, and impressive. All I have,” he continues, voice rising in volume and octave, “are these stupid eggs which my mom thought would make a good party favor , which is insane -” 

He grabs a funky, glossy egg covered in rainbow gems and thrusts it at Patrick. The egg is heavy, heavier than a real egg, Patrick registers, but he’s mainly focused on the way their fingertips brush. 

“Thanks,” he manages to get out. 

“You can do whatever with it,” David sighs, waving his hand. “It’s not what I would’ve chosen, but. No one listens to me.” 

I’d listen. I’d listen all day to what you want for party favors. 

The clock struck the half-hour and Patrick’s stomach clenched. 

“I should go,” he says reluctantly. 

David’s mouth twitches like he wants to say something, but then he’s pulling Patrick into a hug. They’ve never done this, not even when they said goodbye at camp last week, and Patrick is too stunned to fully appreciate it, but he’ll remember long after that David feels good against him, warm and solid and right

“Good luck with the move. I hope you make some nice friends, or whatever,” David mumbles as they finally separate. 

“Thanks,” Patrick smiles. “They have baseball in rural Ontario too, so I’m sure I’ll find someone to hang out with.” 

David rolls his eyes, his mouth pulled to one side in a little smirk; he’s made his opinions on sports clear, but he seems to find Patrick’s obsession with them quaint

“Goodbye, David.” Patrick clenches his jaw against the pressure behind his eyes. 

“Goodbye Patrick,” David whispers. 

He walks to the third-nearest bus stop to give his tears time to calm and dry. 





2017

David set out a list of attributes he would bring to his new business endeavor, and second on the list was patience , so when he walks into Ray’s office/studio/house to find Ray clearly busy when they had an appointment , he takes a few deep breaths and takes the ticket as instructed. 

“David Rose?” 

The businessman taking B13 is beaming at him with far too much exuberance, even for someone who works with Ray, and David holds the proffered hand a beat too long, trying to place him. 

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” 

The man’s smile doesn’t falter; if anything, he looks even more amused. “It’s Patrick! Patrick Brewer. From Power of Words? Toronto, 19...1997, or so?” 

Another of the attributes David had listed was composure , but he cannot reasonably be expected to remain calm and collected when he’s assaulted with so much of his past during what was supposed to be a routine business transaction. He’d prepared for this meeting, but he hadn’t prepared for this

Patrick must read the panic on his face, because he glances at Ray and then gently takes David by the elbow, guiding him towards the hallway. “Why don’t we talk on the back porch? We can get to that license a bit later.” 

David goes through at least twenty-seven emotions, sitting on Ray’s orange Adirondack chair and looking at Patrick, who leans against the porch railing. He’s shocked, he’s nervous, he’s delighted - but somehow, the emotion that forces its way out of his uncooperative lips is anger

“You never called,” he blurts out. 

Patrick’s thin eyebrows tick upwards in surprise, but then he just looks sad. 

“I did call, David,” he says gently. It’s the second time he’s said David’s name, but it’s the first time David really registered it, and he can hear the cadence of the younger man he’d known. “I called every day for a month. You never answered.” 

David wants to protest this rude disruption to the narrative truth of one of his defining traumas, but then he remembers. 

“Oh my god, oh fuck ,” he swears, rocketing to his feet. “I never - my mom got a bit part in some made-for-TV movie and she took Alexis and me with her - I missed the whole first half of Grade 9. Josephine might’ve taken a message from you while we were gone, but they let her go when they sold the Forest Hill house, and then--” He stops pacing and looks at Patrick, covering the bottom of his face with both hands. “You called every day for a month?” 

Patrick nods, and David envies him the openness of his face, the fearlessness with which he admits something so devastating . “I still have that egg you gave me. I cradled it in my lap on the whole ride to our new place. It’s, uh, kind of the most valuable thing I own.” 

“Well, yeah,” David scoffs, “it’s Faberge, it’s worth at least-”

“I meant a different kind of value, David,” Patrick interrupts. 

 David’s heart is throbbing but he barrels onward. “Well, let’s just put it this way, everyone else who was at that party sold their eggs for, like, $6000 a piece.” 

“Are you still writing?” 

“Sometimes,” David admits. “My stuff got, um, very dark for a while? Especially a few years ago, when things were particularly turbulent for my family, which is saying a lot, for us. Your little hand-protector invention doesn’t fit anymore, though,” he adds. 

“Well,” Patrick chuckles, looking every word David says is profoundly amusing, “I can make you a new one.” 

“Are - are you? Writing still?” 

“I am,” Patrick nods. “Songs, mostly, now, instead of poetry. I took up guitar and piano at my new school and found I was actually pretty good at both. I could make you a mixtape.” 

“Alright, child of the 90s, calm down,” David admonishes. Offering a mixtape sounds a lot like flirting but it’s been twenty years and besides, Patrick is- he’s almost definitely - “Are you, like, married now? To that redhead?” 

“Rachel?” Patrick frowns, clearly thrown, then his eyes widen and he stares at David with unbridled delight. “Did you stalk me, David?” 

No ,” David lies, “your - your Instagram was public, and I would get high in college and go on deep dives into my past-” 

Patrick crosses his arms and tilts his head, eyes actually fucking sparkling. “Wow. You looked me up .” 

“Don’t flatter yourself!” David splutters. 

“I don’t need to, you’re doing it for me.” 

David has been teased his whole life, but this feels different. It’s always felt different with Patrick . “You are very sure of yourself. I don’t remember that.” 

“Threw you a bit of change-up there, huh?” 

“Yeah, I still don’t watch cricket,” David mutters. This makes Patrick throw his head back with a bark of a laugh, his shirt straining against his chest with the motion, and oh god I’m still in love with him

“I’ve missed you, David,” Patrick sighs, still chuckling, as he takes one of the seats. David slowly sits back down as well, wondering how Patrick can just say things like that, like it’s easy. “And no, Rachel isn’t in the picture. Hasn’t been for a while. As I said, I’ve figured a lot of things out about myself.” 

Maybe it’s being thrown back into a time when he kept all his angst a bit closer to the surface, but David finds himself asking, “Do you think it’s pathetic to fall for someone because they, like, see you?” 

Patrick considers him for a long moment, eyes steady in a way that makes David’s skin burn and fingers itch to reach across the space between them. “No,” Patrick answers, quiet, sure. “I think that’s a really healthy reason to fall for someone, as long as they treat you right.” 

“Good,” David laughs nervously. He can’t take this sincerity, but he’s in too deep with this conversation, so he’ll have to make a joke of it, if he can. “Because I’ve kind of spent the last twenty years worrying that I’d only had a crush on you because you were the only person who was actually nice to me, and that felt kind of pathetic, but-”

“Well, you were never nice to me and I still had a crush on you, so.” He’s teasing, and David can’t even be offended, because Patrick had had a crush on him . “Really, it kind of -- oof.” Patrick lets out a shuddering breath, looking bowled over by emotion - this older, buffer, unflappable Patrick Brewer properly flapped for the first time. “It kinda feels like fate, doesn’t it? All of this?” 

“You need to stop saying what I’m thinking,” David laughs wetly. Patrick is looking at him so kindly , like tears are a normal reaction, or like it doesn’t matter if they’re not. “You - you had a crush on me?” 

David ,” Patrick says. “Are you serious? I pined . I called you every day for a month.” 

David looks away, tucking his lips in between his teeth, feeling like Patrick’s words are erasing every lonely moment of his long, lonely adolescence. Somewhere, while he’d been lonely, Patrick Brewer had been pining for him. 

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Patrick jabs gently, his tone saying flattery becomes you, you beautiful creature

The front door opens and closes; they both listen as Ray ushers the photoshoot couple out to their car, as he goes back inside and starts taking down his equipment, humming a bit. David doesn’t want this business meeting to ever end. 

“Do you still think having a crush on me is pathetic?” Patrick asks quietly. 

David closes his eyes, smiling softly. He and Patrick could heal each other, he thinks; they always did. “No,” he replies, with uncharacteristic certainty. “I think it might be the smartest thing I’ve ever done.” 

“Well, in that case - listen, David, I’m sure we only have about thirty seconds more of privacy before Ray comes to check on us, and this might be inappropriate since I’m supposed to process your license application, but I know your birthday is coming up - we should do something. Like, uh, dinner, at the cafe.” 

“How do you know when my birthday is?” David demands. 

Patrick shrugs. “There are some things you don’t forget.” 

“Mhm. Um, well, then, yes, dinner would be nice, because knowing my family they will completely forget it’s my birthday. As you might imagine I’m still wildly beloved, so I really only have one other person I’d want to invite, my friend Stevie -” 

“Actually, I was thinking more just us. One on one.” Patrick raises his eyebrows expectantly, but David’s brain is still not accepting the clarifications, so Patrick supplies, “A date.” 

“Ah.” Thirty-four year old David, as well as fourteen-year-old David and every other David in between and yet to come, feels a liberating lightness flow through him. “I, um, like that idea. Of a date. That’s. Yes, let’s do that.” 

Patrick just smiles, and stands, and offers him his hand. “Well, Mr. Rose, why don’t we help you with that license...”