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birth is a curse (and existence a prison)

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Once upon a time, in a land far, far away—you’re familiar with the concept—there lived a Prince, who was very handsome and very vain, and a Princess, who was very beautiful and very selfish.

They had a family, of course—their father, the King, was known throughout the land for his acumen in gathering wealth and wisdom; and their mother, the Queen, was an enchantress who could create illusions beyond compare.

And this is how things were for a long, long time—until the handsome Prince fell under the spell of a powerful sorcerer who demanded many things from the Prince: riches, connections, power, promises, faith, glory.

But then one day, the Prince realized he had been deceived by the wicked sorcerer and cast him out of the kindgom. The sorcerer sought his revenge with a curse so dark and so complete that all the world forgot the splendor of the King and Queen and the Prince and Princess entirely. In an instant, their names were forgotten, their kingdoms shattered, and their wealth scattered to the four corners of the world.

This is where their story begins.

::

None of the Rose family really remembers arriving in Schitt’s Creek. One day they’re living in palaces of unspeakable splendor, gilt and golden and glitz, with every luxury at their fingertips, and the next—

The next they’re in a waking nightmare full of motel-room smell and extremely used mattresses and lukewarm brown water and absolutely no towels to be found anywhere.

Also, apparently, some kind of curse?

When David asks the woman who keeps the towels about the curse, she cackles.

Literally cackles, like a witch.

::

(Her name is Stevie and while she’s not actually a witch, she is vaguely demonic and refuses to answer his questions in any way that isn’t dripping with sarcasm.

David’s not going to admit he’s totally into it.)

::

“You’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, David.” Alexis is trimming her nails again. They seem to be growing faster than usual, like David’s hair, which is a thing he is not going to dwell on.

“The Emma Watson vehicle?”

Stevie scoffs. “Are you claiming to have never seen the original Disney masterpiece? Because that’s bullshit, David Rose.”

“Okay, excuse me for not remembering an early 90s cartoon like some kind of manual for living or something—”

“Anyways, this is that. You’re trapped in an enchantment of your own fuck-ups. Congratulations.” Stevie throws her hands wide like some bastardization of jazz hands.

“And by the way? Thanks so much for this whole look,” Alexis snaps. “Hopefully there isn’t like a time limit on you managing to trick someone into loving you just as you are or we’re all doomed. I mean: woof, David.”

“Suck screws, please,” he shoots back. Then glances down at his hands, which are hairy and vaguely paw-like and very problematically unmanicured. “Wait—am I Dan Stevens in this situation? Because that’s not going to work. Like, at all.”

::

Turns out being cursed goes like this: the Rose family wakes up. The Rose family eats. The Rose family breathes. The Rose family fights. The Rose family drinks. The Rose family sleeps.

The town and its inhabitants don’t care if the Rose family is cursed; they don’t care if the Rose family was powerful.

The Roses are novel and they are interesting, but they are not important.

It’s around this point that David begins to suspect that he might be...lonely.

::

They’re definitely highish, so that’s an improvement over his general state of being lately.

And when he and Stevie tumble into the ridiculous room with the mirrors and the velvet bed hangings and the tang of really old sex spells, maybe his mind goes to all the fairy tale cliches he’s been saving for a rainy day.

Which is definitely not the only reason he leans into Stevie’s too-warm body.

“True love’s kiss breaks curses, right?”

Her cackle makes his chest feel tight. “Not that kind of curse, dumbass,” she says, but kisses him anyways.

The next morning he discovers that he can add “haver of bad ideas” to “former royalty” and “still totally cursed” on his list of skills.

::

And about being totally cursed: it fucking sucks. Which David discovers when he attempts to drive away from Schitt’s Creek and everything goes black and swimmy before he comes to behind the wheel of a vehicle that is inexplicably pointed back the way he came.

When he runs out of gas, he starts walking—only to find himself somehow turned around and back at the abandoned truck.

Fucking magic, he thinks.

::

Sometimes, he thinks maybe the whole thing is just blown out of proportion.

He thinks about the words Sebastian Raine had shouted at him that dark night in the land far, far away, and the silence that came after and here is the real riddle in all of this:

Which came first: the loneliness, or the curse? Is David Rose unlovable because of the curse, or is David Rose cursed because he is unlovable? Does it all start where it ends, or something?

He's always felt wrong, so...

So maybe he’s not even cursed; maybe this is just how things...are, now.

::

“Oh, you’re absolutely turning into a monster,” Stevie tells him over their third bottle of wine. “You’re like 90% fur at this point. Your father got trapped in room 6 yesterday because his antlers got tangled in the curtains. I have literally seen your mother scream paint off town hall, and your sister has shredded fourteen towels. You’re all turning into monsters.”

“What the fuck,” David replies.

“But what do I know? Maybe you’re not cursed,” she continues. “I bet your family has always been like this. Naturally.” She’s got the blank face of a shit-stirrer and the soul of a blackened saucepan. He loves her terribly, which is something.

“Thanks. I mean, compared to your whole thing I’m sure we’re completely fine.”

“Are you sure it isn’t something in the water?”

“It kind of feels like I should be worried that you’re putting something in the water.”

Stevie grins an evil grin. “Oh, I wouldn’t want to detract from what’s already in there.”

::

He asks Alexis about the curse, if it bothers her.

“Prince Harry once gave me his number while I had braces, David. So this is like taking gold bullion from the Kremlin.”

::

He has been cursed for over two years when Stevie brings up the future.

“Your curse isn’t going to let you leave, so why not go hard in the other direction? Just do Schitt’s Creek. Lease the store. Buy a house. Marry a random. Pop out fourteen kids. Name all of them Roland.”

“Why are you reciting my absolute worst nightmare like that at me?”

“Obviously it’s the most disgusting thing I could think of. But it’s either that or you keep spending your Friday nights blacking out in front of the Welcome to Schitt’s Creek sign trying to escape this curse-house town.”

“...I’ll think about it.”

::

Life goes on, regardless of the curse.

Perhaps Alexis’s nails do look like talons now, and perhaps his mother’s voice tends towards hair-raisingly shrill more often than not, and perhaps David’s sweaters cover a horrifying amount of what might be called fur, and maybe his father has, like, horns or something, but.

There’s something not entirely terrible about considering tomorrow, even if it is in Schitt’s Creek. So things aren’t actually that bad. Comparatively speaking.

::

“Today’s going to be important,” Stevie intones one morning when he’s trying to steal some candles from her to cleanse the general store he’s now apparently in charge of.

“Did you let my mother scry for you again this morning?”

Stevie glances up from her computer and flicks a finger at the calendar she’s stapled to the back wall. “No, because you have to go file your fucking paperwork. Jesus, David.”

“...I knew that.”

“I’m sure there’s no way that you knew that.”

“Was there any other reason that today might be important?” he asks when she goes back to her solitaire. “I mean, since you brought it up.”

“Yeah, you’re going to help me change the sheets today.”

“What? No. No, I’m not.”

Stevie raises her eyebrows without even looking up. “You are if you want the candles.”

He agrees to meet her at noon, steals double the number of candles he actually needs, and also takes a cinnamon roll for the road.

::

(Don’t tell Stevie, but yeah—it’s an important day after all.)

::

When the paperwork is finally filed and David has escaped from his startling attraction to someone who apparently doesn’t understand that the Rose family is very, very cursed, he lets himself imagine—a different sort of fairy tale.

One with a handsome prince with great hair and radiant skin. And there’s a—a striking peasant, perhaps. Or maybe he’s a farmer, all sun-streaked and sturdy from lifting farm...things. But whatever he is, he has rich, dark eyes and a sharp tongue and an obnoxious amount of confidence for a man who wears moth-eaten trousers. There are absolutely incorrect trousers in this story. For reasons. And there are no spells, or curses: the handsome prince meets the striking peasant while out on...business. For the kingdom. Something easy and not magical at all. Sparks fly. Hands touch. Earths move. Whatever. It’s romantic and heart-rending and emotionally touching, especially when their love is challenged and they're nearly torn apart but overcome because romance.

They, of course, will live happily ever after because this isn’t some half-assed story.

::

Alexis scrunches up her nose when she meets Patrick.

“I could just eat him up,” she coos. It’s unsettling with all the teeth he can see in her mouth.

::

Patrick Brewer, the brown-eyed boy from somewhere outside Schitt’s Creek, doesn’t believe in magic, apparently. He shrugs when David asks about it, bent over a spreadsheet made entirely of formulas and logic. Not a single sigil in the entire thing, somehow.

“There isn’t any evidence it’s real,” he says.

David is multiple months into a cursed existence in the middle of nowhere, which explains his frustration. “Okay, but, haven’t you ever seen a casting? Like, some small town wizard who spells the first crops of the season?”

“Superstition.”

“What about those little charms you can buy at supermarkets? For, like, finding spare change or keeping your shoes tied?”

“Luck.”

“What about—”

“David,” Patrick says with a huff. His voice is careful but kind, warm in a way that makes David feel itchy and soft. “None of it’s real.”

“But, like, curses, Patrick.”

“Right, curses. I’m sorry. I thought we were talking about actual real things, like this budget I’m creating or the insurance you’ve failed to get for the third day in a row.”

He wants to shout that yes, curses are real because he’s real and he’s cursed, obviously, but the words tangle on his tongue and he can’t push them out of his mouth. "I'm...sorry?" he manages instead.

Patrick’s smile goes small and crooked; David’s chest feels like it’s about it cave in on itself.

::

At one point Patrick mangles a quote from a Christina Ricci movie at him like it’s going to override 30-odd years of actual experience with magic or something. “It’s not the power of the magic, David, it’s the power you give the magic,” and how the fuck does David find this man attractive?

::

So here’s the deal: maybe David is really, really cursed. Maybe his vindictive ex-boyfriend sorcerer threw down some dark magic that cursed him and his whole family. Maybe he is being punished for—something. For wanting too much, for giving too little.

But maybe the curse doesn’t mean anything when he’s standing in the store he’s building for himself, carefully whispering the words of his mother’s protection enchantments over his stock, over the door lintels, over the counter and the shelves and the corners he wants to see filled to the very brim.

Maybe the curse doesn’t matter when his mother and father are in the motel room next door and his sister is never not underfoot and the word family holds a certain sort of importance that’s new and special and isn’t perfect but is still somehow better.

Maybe the curse doesn’t matter when Patrick laughs at him, glancing up from under a wreath of dark lashes, mouth soft and pink. Maybe it doesn’t matter when David bites his lip and thinks about how business partner fits between his teeth. Maybe it doesn’t matter because no curse can feel any worse than the space he can’t seem to close.

Maybe it doesn’t matter because David hasn’t learned a goddamned thing: he wants all of this and more, and he’s not going to give a single thing up.

::

“So are you going to undo the curse thing, or what?” David asks over a tumbler of whiskey and sixteen minutes of shame. “I mean, this whole revenge performance is highly overdone.”

Sebastian looks smug as fuck. David wishes he knew enough magic to make male-pattern baldness just happen to asshole exes who really, really deserve it.

“This experience has broadened you,” Sebastian says, attention on his phone. “But as always you’ve only understood your individual truth in all of this.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” David has to ask when Sebastian doesn’t bother to finish his explanation.

“Your curse—” Sebastian waves a lazy hand. “Is a cage of your own making.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“David. A true magician, even one as powerful as I, cannot know all the corners of destiny. When I did this magic for you, its ramifications became part of your fate. Even if I could undo it, I wouldn’t. It would deprive you of a journey the universe has decided is important.”

If nothing else, Sebastian’s bullshit makes it easy for David to feel nothing but triumph when he steals back his mother’s focus. He steals one of Sebastian’s charms for clear skin, too, because he deserves it.

::

“So what do you have against magic?” David asks one afternoon when the store is quiet. He’s refacing the shelves while Patrick looks impressed by numbers. He’s also drinking David’s juice, but there are bigger issues to deal with, first.

“Why does it matter?” Patrick doesn’t even look up from his calculator.

“I’ve never met anyone who just… doesn’t like magic. So I’m curious. About why you don’t.”

At this, Patrick stops his adding or dividing or whatever and actually studies David as he fidgets across the room. “It’s because, if magic existed, it’d be a—a shortcut. A cheat.”

“To...making things happen?” David prompts when it falls silent, focused on getting the soaps exactly in line with one another.

“No. To doing things. Like, if I could do magic, and I liked someone, I could just… make a coffee for them appear. Or dinner. Or—whatever.”

David stops and turns, trying to keep his face neutral. “Okay, but. Those all sound like really nice things to do, for someone you like?”

Patrick’s expression is fierce. “Yeah, those are nice things but what’s the point if I’m not putting in the effort to give those things to—to the person? If I can just wave my wand—” Here, he makes the most ridiculously stereotypical Harry Potter gesture David has ever seen. “—and poof, here’s a coffee for you, would that somehow be more impressive than if I made time in my day to go to the Café before opening to place an order for a caramel macchiato with skim and a sprinkle of cocoa powder and then walked it over here myself?”

David’s going to literally die from choking on his heart because the thing is lodged in his throat and is also pounding like a fucking drum.

“Oh. Um. Yeah, I guess I can see what you mean. About effort.”

Patrick rolls his eyes and picks up David’s juice. “I just think that some things are worth it, you know?”

David has the fleeting thought that prolonged eye contact with a passionate Patrick Brewer is enough to kill a weaker man. “Well, okay, but—”

“But?” And now he’s drinking David’s juice, and making a whole show of it, the fuck. He almost wants to say something, but the whole thing about magic is, like, a lot.

“But magic is more than that? It’s—it’s remembering the cocoa powder. And that tiny little instant where you can’t help but think of the...someone, and you get that zing that goes down your spine. Magic is...is a thousand little zings that coalesce into the big thing.”

Patrick arches his eyebrows. “So you’re a romantic now, huh? Who knew?”

“Look who’s talking, Mr. Effort.”

His business partner fucking winks at him. “Oh, I’m worth the effort, David.”

::

“Do you know how to break the curse?” Stevie asks him the night he spends at her place, breathing in the smell of incense and roses. He thinks of all the space inside him that has been filled up with new, scary things and wonders if he’s stronger because of the curse or in spite of the curse.

“Yeah,” he answers and maybe it’s the truth.

::

Ultimately, it is Stevie who points out that it’s the three year anniversary of the night the Rose family appeared in Schitt’s Creek. Which she does via a fucking ecard, which David didn’t even realize were still a thing in this forsaken hellscape.

“What are we celebrating?” Patrick asks over his shoulder, and David slams his phone down so hard he’s sure the screen is now in nine million pieces.

“Oh, my god. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like nothing to me,” Patrick says, expression bemused but clearly not buying David’s lie. “Looks like something really special. I think there were balloons involved.”

“It’s—nothing; it’s just—the three year anniversary. Of our arrival. In Schitt’s Creek. Apparently.”

“And are you doing anything fun? To celebrate?” Patrick is busy messing up all the body milks, shifting the bottles around like he’s trying to rile David up intentionally.

“Only if you consider recreational drug use and depressive episodes fun?”

“How about, instead—let’s get dinner. At the Café. I hear it’s exactly the sort of establishment that caters to events like this.”

“...involuntary relocations akin to an abduction?”

Patrick’s grin goes wry, but the body milks have been put back in their correct places. “Yes. Exactly that sort of event. A venue for elite bodysnatchers, some have said.”

“Fine. Sure. Yes. Let’s do dinner. It’ll be—hopefully more palatable than the last hostage situation I was involved in.”

::

David goes home and digs out the sweater he paid a fortune to have woven of threads imbued with luck charms and love charms and he absolutely does not acknowledge Alexis’s smirk as she adjusts her own spelled necklace over her little graduation gown.

“Good luck tonight,” she says, and it’s probably the curse that makes his chest clench like that.

::

“This is a date,” Stevie hisses across the table at him while Patrick is in the bathroom. “He is on a date with you right now.”

“Why would he be on a date with me?” he hisses right back. She reaches across the table and twists the fur on the back of his hand until he’s basically growling at her.

“Because, you idiot, he wants to kiss your stupid beast-y face off!”

“So?”

“So! Kiss him back! Maybe it’ll break the curse! Maybe you can live happily ever after like Emma What’s-her-name and the furry one!”

“You said it wasn’t that kind of curse!” he half-shouts at her. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Twyla and her hands having some kind of minor meltdown at his volume.

“What the hell do I know about your curse? I lied.”

Because this is how far David Rose has fallen, he puts his head down directly on the sticky diner table and lets out what is basically a baby version of his mother’s eternal shriek.

Stevie’s voice cuts through the end of it, and she’s clearly talking to Patrick who has clearly heard the tail end of David’s screaming and clearly everything is not okay. “Right, well, this was fun but I forgot about a thing. So, bye?”

“Is...everything okay?” Patrick asks once Stevie has disappeared. David wonders if he actually smells sulfur or if that’s just the usual odor from the grill.

When he glances up, Patrick is looking back at him with a little pucker between his eyebrows, expression open and kind and—and dark and sweet, all at once. He wonders if Stevie could possibly be right, if Patrick Brewer, the straight-edged business partner, could truly have meant to intentionally take David Rose, the cursed Prince, out for mediocre food and sharp conversation and intentional glances and all the subtle magics of a date.

He hopes so. He hopes that Patrick means it, and means it hard.

“I, um, see that Stevie found my present,” Patrick offers a moment later. “It’s nothing, really.” And he’s blushing, raw and red and fuck if David wasn’t already cursed this would be a new sort of punishment. Because he wants it all—he wants it desperately and messily and indiscriminately.

“It’s never nothing,” David says instead of what he wants to say, which is I could break this curse myself, if any of this is real.

::

It might be the best maybe first date David has ever gone on. Patrick teases David and David surprises Patrick and there are no awkward silences or ugly comments. It’s easy. It makes something inside David stretch out, achingly careful and shy.

He can hear Alexis’s patronizing Awwws already. Ew.

::

This is the paradox of their first kiss: nothing happens, but everything happens.

David can still feel the sameness of the last few years behind his shoulder blades, a familiar weight that tells him that this kiss has not touched the curse, but—

But that doesn’t really matter because he’s kissing Patrick and more importantly, Patrick is kissing him back. He’s hot and soft and David is certain he’s going to combust like sawdust because of the need thrumming through him.

When he eases away, the look on Patrick’s face is wrenching. “Thank you,” he murmurs, and his voice is—his voice is—

“What for?” David can hear his heart in his ears but this isn’t any harder than living in Schitt’s Creek, or nearly destroying his friendship with Stevie, or opening his store, or being cursed. Because it’s Patrick and it’s like breathing.

“I've never done that before—with a guy. And I was getting a little scared that I was going to let you get out of the car without having done it. So, thank you. For making that happen, for us.”

Once, when David was—younger, he had been invited to a gallery opening in Paris for a piece called Trucs. The space had been advertised as profligate, overstuffed, maximalist. And it wasn’t until you’d pushed through the mismatched furniture and piles of yellowing paperbacks and newspapers and tangled lamp cords and all the other things crammed in there that you realized that at the very heart of the space was a single chair without anything on it or near it. It stood alone, a refuge against the clutter and clamor.

And it’s in this moment, with Patrick’s mouth holding the echoes of ‘us,’ that for the second time in his life David feels that sensation of a desperately desired calm.

“I’m a very generous person, obviously. Which is extremely lucky for you.”

Patrick smiles, the quiet one that’s all secretive fondness. “Can we talk tomorrow? About—all of this?”

David nods and smiles, and keeps nodding. “Yes. Of course. Except, not before ten because it’s the—”

“It’s not the witching hour, David. I’m fairly certain the witching hour is midnight.”

“Um, I don’t think I’m going to listen to someone who doesn’t even believe in magic about when the witching hour is.”

“It’s a very well-known superstition. I could google it for you, if you want.” Patrick’s hands are braced on the steering wheel, and David can’t take his eyes off the spread of them, the curl of his fingers.

“Mm, I’ll pass, but thanks anyway.”

Patrick laughs and then murmurs, “Good night, David,” like it’s a new kind of spell for just the two of them.

“Good night, Patrick,” he says back, and he hopes his voice doesn’t give him away.

::

After more cake than is good for someone who has also consumed an inordinate number of freezer-burnt mozzarella sticks, David pulls out his phone and texts Stevie so you’re right: not that kind of curse, immediately mutes the conversation, and throws his phone across the room.

He wakes up to seven notifications, the last sent at 1:13 AM: 👌👈🍆💦 Y/Y???

::

The first thing Stevie says when she sees him next is “Are you going to tell him about the curse?” She even puts down the book she’s reading, which means he’s not going to escape with half an answer and an insincere sign-off.

“Yes?”

“...are you asking me or telling me?”

David groans, head thrown back. “It’s just, okay. Don’t you find it a little odd that this is the first time we’re having this conversation after literal years of knowing one another?”

Stevie folds her arms. “Not really? You’re basically allergic to commitment. Who else would you have even thought about telling?”

“I don’t know? You?” David can feel his hands windmilling. Stress is not a good look for him, in any capacity.

“But I already knew about the curse,” Stevie replies automatically before pausing. Her face goes from flat to … intrigued. “Oh. I already knew about the curse.

“Exactly! Everyone else just apparently...figured it out for themselves or something, except Patrick who refuses to acknowledge that there may be more to the world than whatever provincial life dumped him here!”

“Did you just reference Beauty and the Beast in front of me? Are you allowed to be that meta?”

“Not the point! Can we please just focus on the fact that my—my business partner doesn’t realize he’s potentially getting involved with a cursed monster man-beast or whatever it is I am?”

“Aw, he’s your partner in life and in love.”

“Oh, my god: not. the. point.”

“So Patrick is absolutely Beauty in this situation, huh?”

“Stevie! Not the point.”

“Okay, fine. Do you want to tell him?” Stevie asks.

“Yes. No. I don’t know.” He pauses, and paces between the front desk and the door. “I want him to want to be with me,” David says finally, voice small. “And the truth might make him...not want that? But lying to him is—that seems worse, somehow.”

“Um, your emotional maturity is completely destroying my vibe. Can you take it outside and hose it off or something?”

“Just so you know, I came in here to ask you about the dead body in your motel. You’re the one with all the questions about the curse and Patrick and Patrick and the curse.”

“Yeah, the dead body isn’t that exciting, actually.”

“What a surprise. For some reason I expected necromancers to just flock to this establishment. It has that kind of aura.”

“Well, if any stop in I’ll give them your name and room number.”

“I’ll pass, thanks so much. Have a great day with the dead person!”

“Really though,” Stevie calls out as he throws open the office door. She looks as fond of him as she can manage without actively gagging. Her family tree must be comprised entirely of trolls and inappropriate emojis and Satan himself. “Tell him. It’s the right thing to do. Probably.”

::

“So I’m cursed,” David says into the empty air of his store. “I thought you should know before we—before this happens.”

“Oh, you’re cursed,” Patrick repeats. He wraps his arms around David’s waist and pulls him in close. “I didn’t realize you were cursed; I thought you were just upset about the dead guy thing which is why you’re two hours late this morning.”

“Well, that, too, obviously, but—” David pauses, closing his eyes and pressing his forehead to Patrick’s. “But I’m also cursed. And it’s not just me, you know. Although it is my fault, I guess? My whole family is cursed.”

Patrick smiles, the small, crooked one that makes David’s insides sing. “Even if curses were real—which they’re not—I’d want you just the way you are, David Rose” he replies in a firm voice.

It happens in an instant—a twang, a snapping in the air—and David knows that no, he’s not cursed. Not any more. Patrick’s destroyed it with his claim, his steady gaze, his warm hands. Nothing, no one, has any place in this thing between them. It’s over.

He’s finally, finally free.

“Are you sure?” he asks, and he can hear the tremor in his voice, the question he can’t seem to stamp out.

“Easiest decision of my life,” Patrick says instantly, certain and close. “You’re so—”

“So—?”

“Maybe you’re magic,” he murmurs, mouth against David’s jaw. “Because when I look at you, I feel a zing...”

“A zing?”

“Just a tiny little zing. Right down my spine.”

“Yes. Okay, yes; sounds like magic to me.”

Patrick laughs and kisses him and he laughs and kisses Patrick. And he’s so, so happy that it’s boiling up inside him and overflowing as they stand there in the sunshine.

He can’t help but think to himself, And they lived happily ever after.

::

(And they do. They really do.)