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None of His Business

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3x10 Sebastien Raine

 

On the Saturday following his first few visits to what will eventually become Rose Apothecary, Patrick walks by the store-in-progress again on his way - well, on his way nowhere, actually, and it was really more walking to the store than walking by the store, but he’s still half lying to himself about that because at this point, he hasn’t totally figured out his excuse for being there. Checking in while passing by the store is a totally reasonable thing for a new business partner to do, isn’t it? It seems like a much better explanation for his presence than that he can’t seem to stay away due to the inexorable and totally unprecedented pull he feels toward the owner of said store, right? It’s probably better to tell David that he wants to see if the new shelving units have been delivered than that Patrick just really likes looking at his face.

Anyway, none of it matters, because David isn’t even there. Patrick thinks the way his stomach sinks and his entire mood dampens is a little bit of an overreaction, but maybe he’s just hungry, so he turns on his heel and walks to the cafe to get a turkey sandwich. Nine minutes later, he’s sitting in front of an untouched sandwich that somehow manages to look soggy and stale at the same time and trying not to reach for his phone to text David, who’s probably just taking a well-deserved day off. David’s been working around the clock getting the store ready; his work ethic is very attractive, actually. Or impressive, whatever. Patrick shouldn’t bother him, especially since he won’t actually have any real updates on the grants until Wednesday at the earliest. Even if he had a key to the store (Patrick makes a mental note to add getting a key copied to his to-do list), he can’t really set anything up without David there to approve of exactly where it should go, down to the centimetre.

Patrick puts his phone back in his pocket and asks if he can take his sandwich to go. Twyla brings him a plastic grocery bag with a hole in the bottom.

On his way home, the sandwich falls out of the bag at the exact same moment that Patrick receives a text from David, which would seem like a bad omen if he believed in that sort of thing. He lets the sandwich fall in order to fumble for his phone, frowning at the message.

Won’t be at the store this afternoon. Just in case you were thinking of coming by again or whatever.

Three little dots appear, disappear, and appear again.

Something came up.

Patrick replies no worries, see you tomorrow?, then goes home to worry well into the evening when David never responds.

~~~

Patrick does see David the next day, as it turns out. David is at the store surprisingly early the next morning, and he seems distressed. To be fair, in the short time Patrick has known David, he’s noticed that he seems to hover somewhere on the scale between mild anxiety and full blown panic at all times, though Patrick can’t be sure whether that’s from the stress of starting an ambitious new business or if that’s how he is all the time. Generally speaking, though, at least some of his agitation is a little performative, often inspired by an “unsightly” typeface or some other small calamity.

This feels different.

David isn’t passionately gesticulating or twisting his face into fascinating expressions or saying things out loud that most people only said in their heads. Instead, he greets Patrick with a tight-lipped smile that doesn’t reach his eyes and barely speaks throughout the morning, responding to Patrick’s careful attempts at conversation with one word answers in place of his usual glittering banter. It doesn’t seem like he’s angry, exactly, just distracted and maybe a little sad. Patrick finds himself distracted too, by the wrinkle between David’s eyebrows that’s begging to be eased out by Patrick’s thumb -

Patrick coughs loudly and quickly puts a stop to that train of thought.

“Hey, do we have any more disinfectant wipes?” Patrick says, a little too loudly, heart still pounding in his ears.

Maybe if he talks he won’t think so much.

David hums affirmatively.

“In the back,” he says without looking at him.

“Thanks,” Patrick says at a more normal volume.

He ducks into the back room dejectedly and gives a frustrated huff as he goes through the motions of searching for cleaning products he doesn’t really need. Patrick hates feeling helpless. He’s always preferred problems with solutions, even imperfect ones. It’s why he majored in business. It’s one of the reasons he and Rachel used to fight, because she said he always wanted to fix things, and sometimes she just needed him to listen and be there.

Patrick can’t listen if David isn’t talking, but he can be there for him, in his own way, as a business partner and maybe even as a friend. He takes a break to go to the cafe and brings David his coffee, getting his complicated order just right. He lifts boxes until his back aches and his shirt sticks to the small of his back. He doesn’t complain when David changes his mind about the configuration of two very heavy reclaimed wood tables exactly six times. He intercepts a curious tourist who wants to ask a seemingly endless number of questions about a store opening up in a town to which she’ll likely never return. He tries to make David’s life just a little bit easier in any way he can think of. It doesn’t fix anything, but maybe Rachel was right and being there is enough, because David’s shoulders seem a little less tense by the end of the day.

He tosses Patrick a subdued, but genuine smile when he leaves, and Patrick thinks about it later that night, staring up at his ceiling in the dark.

~~~

David still seems a little bit delicate the next morning, but he’s lighter too, quick to smile, teasing Patrick about his leather belt and reacting delightfully to Patrick’s purposefully ignorant questions about his obviously expensive sunglasses. Before they leave for the day, he gives Patrick the key to the store so that he can get it copied, without Patrick even having to ask. Patrick still reminds him for the fifth time to call the electrician, which yields an eye roll and a scowl that quickly turns into a poorly suppressed smile when Patrick mimics him.

Patrick still doesn’t know what was wrong yesterday or how it got fixed, but it’s ok. He doesn’t need to know, as long as that smile is back on David’s face. He knows it’s really not his place to wonder why a relatively new acquaintence and co-worker is having an off day. For now, while they’re still getting to know each other, David’s personal life is none of his business. But one day, Patrick promises himself without knowing quite what it means, one day, it will be.