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There’s a light tap at his bedroom door, and David instantly knows who it is. It doesn’t matter that seconds ago he was sound asleep; his brain snaps to attention immediately. The door cracks open and a figure slips inside followed by the soft padding of small socked feet. Wordlessly, he lifts the covers and scoots to the side to offer space, and his little sister crawls in beside him.

“Another nightmare?” he murmurs. She nods minutely, her huge blue eyes staring up at him as if he could fix all her worries. David wishes more than anything that he could do that for her.

It’s her third nightmare this week. They’re all the same — Mom and Dad abandoning Alexis is an unfamiliar place, leaving her all alone and afraid. David has let her sleep in his bed each night after she awakens, whispering reminders that she’s okay and she’s not alone until she drifts back to sleep. Alexis always falls back to sleep fairly quickly, while David lies awake, watching over her small, vulnerable frame. He’s neglected to tell her that when he was five years old — the same age she is now — their parents forgot him in Paris.

It had been late at night when his dad got an important business call — David never was too clear on the details — and his parents had already flown home before they remembered that they had left David asleep in the adjoining room of their hotel suite. David suspects that it was actually Adelina who noticed his absence. She had been at home with Alexis, who had been barely a year old at the time, and she had been the one to wrap him up in a hug when the driver dropped him off at the house a full day later.

David had told Adelina that it had been kind of fun flying alone in the private jet, that he dozed in the car back from the airport, that it really wasn’t that big of a deal. But in reality, David vividly remembers the crushing terror in his chest when he realized his parents had left him in Paris. He remembers the hollow ache of realization that he didn’t matter enough to be remembered, the confusion and fear of being escorted by a stranger to the jet that had been arranged to take him home. He vows to never allow his little sister to feel that way. Her fears of being abandoned by their parents will remain contained to her nightmares.

The first time she had the nightmare this week, Alexis had burst into David’s room sobbing. She had told him how one moment Mom and Dad were there, and the next they weren’t, and she was surrounded by a sea of strangers. No one would answer her when she asked where her parents were. She ran and ran through endless unfamiliar hallways, crying and afraid but no one cared. David hadn’t told her how close her dream was to what he had actually experienced.

“What if Mummy and Dad do forget me one day?” Alexis had asked, bottom lip quivering and eyes shining with fresh tears. David had been prepared to tell her that would never happen when Alexis spoke again. “Sometimes I think Mummy doesn’t like me very much.”

David feels so angry now just remembering when Alexis had posed that question because he knows — he knows — exactly what Alexis had meant. He gets so mad at their parents sometimes. David feels at times like Mom doesn’t really care and like Dad barely remembers he’s there, but he’s seen the way Mom treats Alexis. He has heard her say that she wishes Alexis had been a boy. It makes him want to shout or break things or run away.

Parents aren’t supposed to be like this. Parents are supposed to love and take care of their kids. Why do their parents not care? Why do their parents always pass them off to other people or leave them alone? David knows he’s difficult sometimes. He has overheard people saying it plenty of times. But Alexis is still so young. She hasn’t done anything wrong yet. She deserves to feel safe and loved. She shouldn’t have to worry about being abandoned by their parents.

Sometimes it feels like Adelina is the only one who cares. David wishes that Adelina could be their mother. Mom and Dad probably wouldn’t even mind, and Adelina loves them. David never doubts that Adelina loves and cares about him and Alexis. Maybe he can talk to her tomorrow. Who knows — maybe she’ll want to adopt them. That’s not such a crazy idea, is it?

David is starting to feel sleepy now, but he wants to keep watch over Alexis to make sure he’s there for her if she has another nightmare. His mouth opens in a wide yawn, and it’s getting harder to keep his eyes open. David hasn’t slept much this week. Someone has to be awake for Alexis. Someone has to be there to make sure she feels safe.

Alexis makes a small snuffling noise in her sleep, and David pulls the covers tighter around her shoulders. She never has to feel alone as long as David is there.


David is standing at the sink in his ensuite bathroom running water over Alexis’ gorgeous white Isabel Marant dress. The water is starting to run pink, but the stain has set in and David doesn’t know what to do. Alexis has been gone for a long time — Adelina has undoubtedly taken Alexis’ request for tampons and turned it into a long-winded lecture on her “maturing body.” David remembers receiving a similar mortifying and exceedingly detailed talk from Adelina a few years back, so it’s only fair that Alexis should have to endure the awkward conversation too.

Nevertheless, David does feel slightly bad for his sister. From his limited knowledge, periods sound truly horrible, and her dress really is beautiful, so he’s determined to fix it for when she gets back. David is gently dabbing at the red stain with a washcloth when he’s startled by a throat clearing behind him. David jumps and spins around to face Adelina, who is wearing a fond smile.

“Cold water, dear.” Adelina adjusts the tap and gently takes the dress from David’s hands. “Don’t worry, mi anjinho, I’ve never met a stain I couldn’t defeat. The dress will be good as new in no time.”

David breathes a sigh of relief and nods, relaxing in the knowledge that Adelina is always there to take care of him and Alexis.

“Thanks, Adelina,” David mumbles and picks at his cuticles, feeling both grateful and awkward. “Is she… how is… um— ”

“She’s in her bedroom, dear.” Adelina pats David’s cheek and he understands the unspoken request to accompany Alexis.

David finds Alexis sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor staring morosely at a basket teeming with pads and tampons. David sits down across from her and inspects the basket from Adelina. Along with the period products, David spots a heating pad, several pamphlets, and a bar of chocolate.

“You get chocolate?!” he exclaims. “My basket just had condoms and deodorant.”

Alexis lets out a shocked laugh. “How did I not know you got one of these too?”

David shrugs and reaches for the chocolate, only to have Alexis smack it from his hand.

“Adelina is going to get the stain from your dress.” David flips through a pamphlet in an effort to avoid eye contact, realizing belatedly that he’s holding a guide on the proper insertion of a tampon. He tosses it back in the basket with a grimace, hating how out of his realm he feels.

He’s been taking care of his baby sister since he can remember, but gone is the wide-eyed little girl who trusted David to solve all her problems. Sitting in front of him is a gangly teenager who has been spending increasingly more time away from home. He’s constantly worried about Alexis, and taking care of her is no longer as simple as comforting her after a nightmare.

Just a few months ago, she had returned from Hong Kong — even though she had said she was going to the Philippines — with a lower back tattoo. A tattoo that looked to be infected. David had cleaned the tattoo as best he could and prayed to Mariah that this was the worst thing that had happened to Alexis while she was away. She had certainly seemed just as relaxed and annoying as always when she returned, so surely nothing truly horrendous happened, David had reasoned.

“Can we watch a movie in your room?” Alexis interrupts his thoughts, and David is surprised to see how uncertain she looks. She’s clutching at her abdomen with one hand and picking at a spot on her chin with the other.

Alexis had breezed into the house when returning from Hong Kong, chatting happily as David cleaned her tattoo. But now — now she seems to be curling in on herself, uncomfortable in her own body in a very un-Alexis manner. David suddenly knows exactly what to do. He can help with this.

“Grab the heating pad and go to my room. Bring the chocolate. And stop picking at that! You’ll damage your skin. I’ll go steal some face masks from Mom, and we can watch a movie after we put them on.”

Alexis smiles, and David feels a burst of warmth in his chest. Maybe he can still take care of his little sister.

Alexis falls asleep mid-way through My Best Friend’s Wedding — further evidence that they should have gone with Notting Hill, David thinks privately. She spilled globs of face mask and smears of chocolate on his bed sheets because Alexis is and always has been a total slob, but she also laughed so hard soda came out her nose when David told her about his puberty and sex talk with Adelina, so David considers the night a win. He pulls the covers up to her shoulders and rolls over to the other side of the bed.


David’s out of his bed before the front door even latches. He races down the stairs as Alexis stumbles through the foyer, kicking her stilettos off as she goes. She’s singing loudly and off-key and crashing into various pieces of furniture. She makes it into the kitchen before even realizing that David is following her.

“Daaaaa-vid!!” she screeches and attempts a limp-wristed smack on his arm but instead loses her balance and topples over.

David steadies her and tries to assess just how bad the situation is. Her pupils are completely blown, her makeup is smeared, and she’s swaying on the spot. She doesn’t look physically hurt, so David sighs and wraps an arm around her, dragging her toward the stairs.

He’s practically carrying her by the time they reach her ensuite bathroom. Alexis has stopped spouting semi-coherent gossip and has gone limp and quiet in his arms. David tries to prop her up against the bathroom sink, but Alexis drops to the floor like a ragdoll.

David assumes that she’s just passed out, so he leaves her on the floor while he fills a glass with water. He kneels beside her with the glass.

“Come on, Alexis. You need to drink this.” David nudges Alexis, but she remains unmoving. “Ugh, come ON! You can pass out after you’ve drunk some water. What the fuck did you even take?”

When David splashes some water on her face and Alexis still doesn’t stir, David begins to panic. He shakes her harshly. “Alexis! Fucking wake up!”

A thousand scenarios run through David’s head as he thinks of every drink he’s been offered, every drug he’s taken, every skeezy guy he’s met in a club. She’s only seventeen. He can’t even imagine what she’s consumed over the course of the night and how much. Surely she hasn’t taken anything David hasn’t taken himself at some point. Their mother has taken every drug on the face of the planet, and she’s still alive. Alexis is okay. She just needs to sleep it off. Right?

David’s heart is thumping so fiercely he thinks it might jump right out of his chest. It’s his responsibility to take care of his little sister. He can’t let her… can’t let her… fuck. He dumps the entire glass of water over her head, and Alexis jolts in his arms.

Her eyes are bleary and unfocused, but she’s awake and David could weep. Alexis retches and lurches toward the toilet. The subsequent splattering sound is disgusting music to David’s ears because it means his sister is alive.

“Good, good. Get it all out. That’s good.” David knows that he’s soothing himself more than he is Alexis.

He refills the water glass and passes it over silently when she finally pulls her head out of the toilet bowl. She accepts it with shaky hands and sips tentatively.

“What did you take, Alexis?”

“I… I’m not sure.” Her voice is rough and broken. “A couple cocktails, some shots… um… Demetri had something. He said it would make me feel good. I can’t really remember what it was, but Kaylee took it too! And I’m sure it wasn’t anything bad! I just maybe drank a bit much or something. David, don’t be mad!”

“Shit.” David rubs a hand over his face. “Alexis, you have to be more careful! You can’t just— ” The rest of his sentence is cut off when Alexis retches again and leans over the toilet bowl. David sighs and decides to save the lecture for later. He pulls her hair from her face and twists it into a loose braid, his fingers moving without hesitation despite not having braided her hair in years.

David sits with her on the bathroom floor until she has completely emptied her stomach’s contents, forcing her to drink water and wiping her sweaty forehead with a damp washcloth. He counts his breaths, forcing his heart rate to slow and his mind to stop racing. She’s safe. Everything is okay. He can relax for now.

“Wash your face. You can shower tomorrow. I don’t trust you not to fall over right now.” David feels calmer when barking orders, pretending he’s irritated rather than terrified. “I’ll grab some pajamas for you to change into.”

He closes the door to the bathroom and busies himself with pulling back the covers to Alexis’ bed, laying out her comfiest pajamas for her to change into. It’s nearly 5:30 a.m. and he’s fucking exhausted. He just wants to collapse in his bed and sleep for 12 hours, but Alexis opens the bathroom door and shuffles in, her long gangly legs wobbling unsteadily like Bambi on ice. She has washed her face haphazardly, leaving smears of mascara rimming her eyes. He passes over the pajamas and turns to face away as she changes. They can deal with her skincare regimen tomorrow. David turns back around when he hears the mattress creak as Alexis lies down.

“Alright. You good?” She looks so young lying in bed with the covers up to her chin, her eyes drooping closed.

“David,” she whispers. “Stay?”

Alexis shuffles over to the other side of the bed and pulls back the covers in offering. David sighs, but he already knows he’ll say yes.

“Like hell I’m sleeping on the side closest to the toilet. Move over, I’ll take the other side of the bed.”

Alexis gives a small grin and rolls back over, allowing David to slip in on the side furthest from the bathroom. She falls asleep almost immediately, snoring softly, and David tucks the blankets tighter around her shoulders. David knows he can’t wrap her up in blankets and keep her safe forever. He knows that she’s getting older and more independent and will inevitably put herself in many more dangerous situations. He rolls over to face the wall, allowing the adrenaline to finally slip from his exhausted body and drift toward sleep. He won’t be able to protect her from everything, but for now he can rest knowing she is wrapped up safely beside him.


There’s a gorgeous man between his legs, rubbing at him through his jeans and teasing at the button. Mike, or maybe Micah — or was it Sam? — pulls David’s jeans down to his knees and mouths hotly at the head of his cock through his briefs. Distantly, David hears his phone going off — ringing at first, followed by several pings indicating texts. David ignores the sounds and focuses on the fingers curling in the waistband of his briefs and beginning to tug downwards.

The phone begins ringing again and David glances down at where he tossed it on the couch beside himself. The screen is flashing with a name — Alexis. He grabs the phone without thinking.

“Alexis?” he shouts into the phone. It’s been weeks since he’s seen or heard from his sister.

“David.” Her voice is weak, barely above a whisper, and David’s heart begins to race. Something is wrong.

“Alexis, where are you?” David bats at Mike — possibly Micah, possibly Sam — shoving him away from his cock and yanking his jeans up.

“The fuck?” The man yells, but David just flaps a hand at him impatiently.

“Um, Jakarta,” Alexis says hesitantly.

David blinks, desperately wishing he hadn’t had so much to drink at that club.

“The fuck is your problem, man? That your girlfriend? She doesn’t have to know. I can fuck you and be gone and she won’t even know.”

“Would you just shut the fuck up and get out of here?” David snaps at whatshisname and presses the phone closer to his ear. Alexis’ voice sounds so faint and weak. “Jakarta? As in Indonesia?”

“Yeah, um, turns out Mansur has a pretty bad temper and also some drug issues… so, yeah. I… David, can you help me?”

“Come on, you promised me that pretty ass.” The random from the club sounds really angry now.

“I didn’t promise you shit.” David is cramming things into a bag, barely paying attention to what he’s grabbing. He checks to make sure he has his passport and opens the door. He puts Alexis on speakerphone and books the first flight he can find.

“David, I need you to bring money. He says he’s not letting me go until he gets $10,000, but, like, that’s barely anything. He just needs a fix and then he’ll let me go. It’s no big deal. But, you know, just in case, can you...” David knows his sister nearly as well as he knows himself. Her faux-casual tone isn’t fooling him. David suddenly feels completely sober. Alexis has gotten herself in a lot of dangerous situations, but this is the first time he hears a note of legitimate fear in her voice.

“Do you at least have any coke?” David spins on his heel and blinks at the random.

“What the fuck are you still doing here? Get the fuck out! Or don’t! I don’t fucking care.” David slams the door behind him, leaving Mike/Micah/Sam in his apartment looking on the verge of a tantrum. David really doesn’t care if the random robs him blind. The call with Alexis has abruptly ended, and David is trying — and failing — to not fear the worst.

He manages to reach the airport and board his flight in record time, largely by shouting and throwing money at anyone in his way. David is certain he’s been having one long, continuous heart attack for the past 24 hours, his mind flashing from one horror to the next as he imagines what could happen to his sister. He doesn’t sleep or eat the entire journey, running entirely on caffeine and wild panic. By the time he finally makes it to his sister — after passing off the cash to her very shady, and admittedly very attractive, boyfriend — David feels on the verge of collapse.

When he sees Alexis, David gasps aloud. Her hair is limp and greasy, her clothing wrinkled, and there’s an enormous bruise across her right cheek.

“Alexis,” he breathes.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, David, I promise. And he only hit me the one time, and— ”

David cuts her off by taking her in his arms, hugging her to his chest.

“Fuck, Alexis. I’m just so glad…” David clears his throat. “We’re getting out of here. Now.”

He pulls out his phone and begins searching for flights, but Alexis plucks his phone from his hand.

“Okay, David, we are so not getting on a flight right now. You’ve been traveling for a day and obviously haven’t showered — woof — and neither of us have eaten. Plus, I really don’t need anyone else seeing me like this. We’re getting a hotel room, getting room service, and sleeping. Then tomorrow we need to buy me a new phone because Mansur smashed mine because he is honestly such a baby, David, you wouldn’t even believe. And I’m going to need some clothes and some concealer obviously. Actually, you know what, we should just go shopping. Then we can fly back home. Just let me take care of it. I’ll book the hotel room and flights, and what do you want to order anyway? You wouldn’t believe the food— ”

Alexis continues chattering, her fingers flying deftly across the keyboard of David’s phone. She’s putting on a valiant display of normalcy, but David can hear the exhaustion in her voice and decides he really shouldn’t bother arguing with her.


In the hotel room, after showering and eating as much room service as they can possibly stomach, David inspects the bruise on Alexis’ face. He’s grateful he had the wherewithal to snag some of his skincare products as he was hastily packing. He dabs carefully at the delicate skin, barely able to contain his rage.

“I’m fine, David. It’s honestly not such a big— ”

“Dammit, Alexis! It is a big deal. He was hitting you and starving you and holding you fucking hostage!” David knocks the pot of skin cream over onto the bedspread with his wild gesticulations. Alexis calmly picks it up and screws the lid back on.

“Oh my GOD, David! He wasn’t starving me. I just didn’t really like the food. And would you really call it a hostage situation when it only lasted 24 hours? I’m fine!”

“Ugh, Alexis, you’re so fucking infuriating!”

“Ugh yourself, David!”

“Fine, whatever, you’re fine. Let’s just go to bed. We both need to sleep.” David stomps over to the other bed and flings himself face down into the pillow, his eyes slamming shut almost instantly. There’s a soft sound of footsteps approaching the bed, so he forces his eyes open to squint at Alexis.

“David, can I sleep in your bed?” Alexis’s voice is quiet and she’s twirling her hair around a finger. “It’s just that you spilled that cream all over my bed, so…”

David nods, and she crawls into the other side of the bed, turning so her back is to David. David pulls the blankets up, making sure Alexis is tucked in before rolling over to face the other direction.

“Thanks, David,” Alexis whispers.

“Goodnight, Alexis.”


David is trying to remember when was the last time he and Alexis hugged. They definitely did as children and he remembers the occasional hug when they were teenagers, but somewhere along the line they just… stopped. David has sent passports and money, contacted foreign embassies and arranged flights, and worried himself sick over Alexis. But they don’t hug. Except for now apparently.

“Did you get new bedding?” Alexis asks.

“Um, yeah, I did. But it’s a write off, so I… Anyway.” They haven’t hugged in years, but now David doesn’t want to let go.

As they have gotten older, David has seen Alexis less and less frequently. The time between her visits home kept increasing until eventually she stopped coming home altogether. David’s interactions with his sister became phone calls or emails when she needed something. Eventually, she seemed to stop needing him at all. David sometimes liked to tell himself that Alexis was no longer getting herself into dangerous situations, but the more likely explanation was that she just became more adept at negotiating her own way out and keeping things from him. Sporadic, snarky texts became their new normal.

But then they lost everything. Since moving to Schitt’s Creek, David has seen more of his family than he had in years. He shares a fucking room with his sister now. Things have definitely changed, and sometimes — only sometimes — they are able to share a conversation without it devolving into an argument.

But hugging Alexis feels strange and uncomfortable. David wraps his arms around his sister more tightly and feels tears prick at his eyes. Yes, this is extremely abnormal, but also he loves her so much there’s an ache in his chest. Alexis is independent and optimistic and always gets what she wants. David isn’t quite sure how to handle this fragile and heartbroken and uncertain Alexis.

She finally pulls away from the hug and David feels both relief and regret. They each sit back down on the ends of their respective beds. Alexis usually fills the silence in any room, but right now she’s just staring at a spot on the floor and twirling a strand of her hair. David feels like he should say something, but he cannot fathom what it might be.

“So, the mall pretzels are making a bit more sense now.” Alexis pets her hair over her shoulder and stares blankly at the floor. “Is this… David, is this what it’s always like? Does it always hurt like this?”

“Um…” David isn’t really sure how to answer that. Most of the people he’s dated or fucked haven’t really meant that much to him. He didn’t let all of them know him the way Alexis let Mutt, but it has always hurt. All his life David has thought there was something wrong with him — something wrong that made his feelings so intense and his heart so fragile. While Alexis has felt nothing after each breakup, David has always felt too much. He’s wondered before if he hasn’t spent his life repeatedly breaking his own heart. So, yes, it has always been mall pretzels and Bridget Jones’ Diary for him. It has always been wallowing in bed for days or burying the hurt in drugs or food or another person’s body.

But Alexis? He doesn’t quite know what Alexis is feeling. He thinks she may be experiencing true heartbreak right now — something different from the pain David’s own damaged heart puts him through. David feels ill-equipped to handle such sincere emotions from his sister. Sincerity is something David and Alexis left behind long ago, a long-forgotten relic of their childhoods.

David isn’t sure when was the last time he allowed himself to get involved in a relationship consisting of genuine emotions. His pain after each breakup has been real — David knows that — but he also knows that the relationships were shallow at best. What Alexis had with Mutt was deeper than that, and salted dough seems insufficient for getting her through this heartbreak. David chews on the inside of his cheek.

“It… hurts a lot at first,” David finally says. “But it’ll get better.”

When Alexis looks up at him, her eyes are wide and swimming with tears and she looks so, so young. David may only be a few years older than Alexis, but right now he is feeling every second of his role of older brother. He just wants to protect Alexis from anything that hurts her and make it all better. He knows he can’t make all the pain go away, but he can sure try his damnedest. He clears his throat and throws his shoulders back like preparing to enter a battle.

“Mm, well then. We can’t get pretzels anywhere around here, unfortunately, unless we want to brave the café, and I know you’re suffering right now, but the situation is not so dire to justify stooping to that level.” David sweeps his hand through the air and gives Alexis a meaningful look, hoping to get a laugh out of her. She smiles weakly. “Mkay, so, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to order pizza and we can do face masks while watching trashy reality TV.”

Alexis perks up slightly. “Ooh, okay, but we have to watch the Kardashians because Kendall said Kim got some really tragic extensions and…”

David smiles to himself and allows Alexis to gossip without interruption. He gathers the face masks and some nail polish for good measure — Alexis has always liked it when he paints her nails — and puts in an order for some pizza. He hears Alexis switch on the television and turns around to find her snuggled under the covers in David’s bed.

David raises an eyebrow. Alexis widens her eyes and bats her eyelashes at him. David hates that Alexis thinks she can manipulate him that easily. He hates it even more that she’s right.

David sets the face masks and nail polish on the bedside table and shoves Alexis’ shoulder.

“Scoot. I get this side.”

Alexis beams at David and he thinks he would probably do anything to bring that smile to his sister’s face. He settles in beside Alexis, pulling the covers up around her shoulders and purposely elbowing her in the ribs.

“Ouch, David! Rude!” Alexis flips her hair in David’s face and smacks him on the arm. David grins broadly. “‘Kay, so, this one is called Pirate’s Booty and the contestants are stranded on an island and there’s challenges each week given by the parrot and you’re eliminated if you’re the last one to find the buried treasure, but then — David, are you listening? David!"

David rolls his eyes and nods, unscrewing the lid from the tub of his favorite face mask. He knocks a shoulder against Alexis’ until she faces him so he can begin applying the cream.

“And in the final week, the pirate gives everyone a message in a bottle and one person will have a ring in their bottle and their message is a proposal!” Alexis concludes with a limp-wristed flourish.

“That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. Now, stay still so I can apply this!”

David knows that Alexis will get pizza grease on his sheets and get the mask stuck in his eyebrows when she applies his. He knows they’ll bicker all evening, and she’ll hog the covers all night. But David also knows he will do it all again the next time Alexis needs him.


David has no idea how much time has passed before he can no longer stand to listen to Alexis shout and pound on the adjoining door and he finally gets up to let her in. He knows that it’s dark outside now. He knows that he has devoured the entirety of the stupid fucking four months cookie. He knows that his tears have run dry, but his hands are still shaking. And he knows that he hurts — he hurts so fucking badly. There’s shockwaves of pain shooting through every cell in his body. Lightning bolts of grief and betrayal and anger are striking the tattered shards of his heart with every traitorous beat.

He’s staring vacantly at the blank television screen. He must have turned it off at some point, but he doesn’t remember. He also doesn’t remember at what point he ended up sitting on the disgusting floor of the motel room. He can only remember Patrick’s face — the tortured expression on his face when he tried to explain himself, when he tried to tell David that David made him feel right. His stomach churns remembering those words and the way Patrick’s face had looked at that moment. How dare he say such beautiful things after so thoroughly breaking David’s trust.

David feels trapped in a vicious cycle reliving those moments from today. Patrick telling David to trust him. Patrick kissing him sweetly as they walked around to the picnic table set up outside the motel. Patrick chatting with David’s mom and helping his dad with the grill. Patrick knocking his foot against David’s underneath the picnic table and smiling at him. Patrick’s fiancée approaching the table. Patrick telling David that she — Rachel, her name is Rachel. This woman that his boyf–… that Patrick spent so many years building a life with. Patrick telling David that Rachel has been contacting him for months when David and Patrick have only been together for four months! And Patrick had told David to trust him. The cycle of memories starts over.

He opens the door for Alexis and promptly turns his back on her, flopping face first onto his bed. He hears Alexis’ fingers tapping on her phone. He had heard her phone buzzing earlier, so she is no doubt replying to dozens of messages from all her friends and admirers — and probably Ted, who will undoubtedly be in love with her again because of course he will be. That’s just how things work for Alexis. David squeezes his eyes shut tightly and focuses on ignoring her.

The mattress dips down beside him. “Um, David?” Alexis sounds cautious, hesitant, and David hates it so much. He hates her pity and he wants to wallow in it. He wants her to go away and he wants her to comfort him. She takes a deep breath and when she speaks again, her voice is steady and confident.

“I ordered a pizza with extra breadsticks, and Stevie is going to drop off ice cream and wine, and I stole Mom’s favorite sheet masks and that expensive under-eye cream so we can try to stop those bags under your eyes from getting any bigger. What are we watching? I vote Notting Hill, but I guess we could do Bridget Jones just as long as we only watch it once, David. Okay? Only once. I’m not going to sit and watch it on repeat with you again. David, are you listening? Sit up.”

David rolls over on his side and cracks an eye open at Alexis. He’s not sure what’s happening right now. Alexis has never done something like this for David before.

“Ugh, David! You’re wrinkling your sweater! Okay, you need to change. I’ll get your favorite pjs. Come on. Get up!” Alexis waves her hand impatiently in a hurry up sort of gesture and the frantic cycle of pain in David’s mind halts in the face of his overwhelming confusion. He climbs out of bed and grabs the pajamas from Alexis because he really isn’t sure what else to do.

Alexis nods encouragingly and David wanders to the bathroom to change. David gives his face a cursory wash to wipe away the dried tear tracks, but he avoids looking at his reflection. He changes without even knowing what he is changing into. It’s not until he feels the soft fabric against his skin that David realizes that Alexis has indeed selected his favorite and coziest sweater and his softest sweatpants. David had no idea that Alexis was even aware of which items of clothing he found most comforting.

When he exits the bathroom, Alexis has poured two glasses of wine. Stevie must have stopped by without David even hearing. His brain feels like it’s in a fog. He stumbles toward his bed, and one of Alexis’ arms shoots out to stop him, tugging David toward her own bed with surprising strength.

“I put the ice cream in the freezer and it’s going to be another 30 minutes for the pizza, but we can start the movie while we wait. Sit!” Alexis scoots over to make room and gives the bed a firm pat. “It’s just… your duvet is all gross and wet with snot and tears and plus, um, this way we’ll both be able to see the laptop screen. So, just… just sit here beside me, okay, David?”

David’s poor battered heart warms slightly at his sister’s obvious ploy to force him to share her bed just like he always shares his when Alexis needs comforting. She’s gathering comfort food and face masks and turning on one of David’s favorite movies. She’s repeating everything David has ever done for her in times of emotional crisis, and David suddenly realizes just how much he has underestimated Alexis. She’s doing everything she can to make David feel better and he is overwhelmingly grateful.

David climbs under the covers and slides down low, snuggling into one of Alexis’ pillows and trying not to start crying again. Alexis shimmies her shoulders and blinks several times at David. David recognizes the Alexis code for “You’re okay. I’ve got you.” and he feels some of the tension drain from his emotionally exhausted body. Alexis grasps his hand and gives it a quick squeeze before pulling the covers up to David’s chin.

She presses play on her laptop, and David allows himself to sink into the story of Notting Hill and Alexis’ nonstop commentary on Julia Roberts’ outfits and Hugh Grant’s hair and that time she and Prince Harry made out on that very same park bench. His heart aches and he misses and curses Patrick in equal measure, but for now, David trusts that he is in good hands.