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The next week, Patrick was finally cleared to drive, and that turned out to be exactly what he and David both needed. Patrick had the freedom to take himself to physical therapy and resume the normal vendor runs he’d done every few weeks since they’d opened the store, and David was free from having to chauffer Patrick to Elmdale three days a week, which gave him more time to work on the store.

Restocking and making sure that everything was “correct” was a task that David was happy to do, because it gave him something to focus on as his anxiety over their grand reopening started to build. He knew that some of the thoughts popping up in his head were ridiculous -- like wondering whether or not anyone would show up, or if there would be some disaster that would put them right back where they started. But some of them weren’t so far-fetched, like worrying that being up and around and at the store all day would end up producing yet another setback for Patrick. David knew what it was; it was his brain trying to conjure up things to worry about, just like it had always done. Like it couldn’t function without a generous dose of distraction in the form of catastrophizing, overgeneralization, or any one of the dozen or so ‘unhelpful thought patterns’ his many therapists had pointed out over the years. But now, he felt like he could talk to Patrick about it more freely, and he did -- emptying out his fears and worries every night as they settled in for bed, while Patrick did the same.

It was nice, being able to say whatever was on his mind, and have Patrick simply squeeze his hand or kiss his temple and tell him he loved him. It was exactly what had been missing from every single relationship he’d had before -- from every moment where he’d tried too hard to be likeable and fun and easy to be with, just so someone would stay. He finally had the security and stability he’d longed for, and he’d found it in the one place he’d never expected, with the last person he’d ever thought would ever be attracted to him.

“Ding ding,” Stevie’s voice startled David out of his thoughts, and he shook his head in an attempt to make himself fully present as he looked up to see his best friend coming through the door.

“I keep forgetting to order a new bell,” he said, setting aside the gift basket he’d been assembling for Patrick’s physical therapist as a ‘thank you’ for putting up with his stubborn, headstrong husband and helping him get back to where he wanted and needed to be.

“Well, I thought about just sneaking up behind you and yelling ‘boo,’ but I figured I’d spare you, since you were holding a glass bottle and I’d rather not have to drive you to Elmdale for stitches today. Or listen to you whine and complain about it after.” Stevie gave him a wry grin as she folded her arms and leaned against the support beam in the middle of the store. “So, when’s the big day?”

“Next Friday. I mean, I know it’s the end of the week, but it’s the earliest we could have everything ready, so… we just went with it.”

“The place looks good.” Stevie looked over her shoulder at the bath bomb display that David had spent the better part of an hour perfecting that morning after Patrick dropped him off.

“Thanks.” David felt a slight flush coming over his cheeks at the compliment. “It’s been a lot of work, but… yeah. It’s finally almost here.”

“And the two of you haven’t killed each other yet. I’m impressed.”

David snorted. “Well, you weren’t here last week. But yeah. I think I’ll keep him, even if he does have a lot of… opinions.”

“And we both know you never have any strong opinions about anything at all,” Stevie deadpanned, her eyes gleaming with amusement.

“Patrick and I have an agreement. He handles the boring, business-y side, and I make the artistic decisions. Pardon me if I don’t think that deciding exactly how to arrange the sock yarn is a business decision!”

David could hear Stevie snickering as his voice rose in pitch, confirming that she was, as usual, only trying to wind him up -- and she’d succeeded.

“Okay, so, did you just come here to harass me, or what?” David asked, picking up the spool of lavender ribbon in an attempt to go back to what he’d been working on when Stevie had so rudely interrupted.

“Just thought I’d check in, since I haven’t seen you in person for a few weeks now.” Stevie shrugged and walked over to the counter, running her fingers over the corner of the brown kraft paper David always used for gift-wrapping.

“And whose fault is that, Ms. Jet-setter, always off on one business trip or another?”

“Can’t I stop by to see my best friend without any presumptions of ulterior motives?”

“If you were literally anyone else, maybe.”

“Oh, okay. I guess I’ll just take these cronuts from Dominique Ansel Bakery back to the motel and see if Roland wants them, or maybe that really creepy couple who checked in--”

“Um, excuse me,” David interrupted, dropping the ribbon so he could gesture with his hands. “But you are most definitely not giving Dominique Ansel cronuts to Roland.”

“Well, I’m not giving them to you either, until you apologize.”

“Fine.” David tipped his face up toward the ceiling briefly, rolling his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“For…?”

“For presuming you were just here to hassle me, even though that is literally all you’ve done since you came in here.”

Stevie pulled a small paper bag out of her messenger bag and dangled it in front of David.

“Okay! I’m sorry for not believing that you would come here just to see me.”

Stevie set the bag down on the counter between them, nudging it toward David as she worried her lower lip between her teeth. “Actually, I came here because I wanted to check on you… see how you were doing.”

“I’m fine.” David looked at Stevie, his eyebrows pinching together as he tried to read her face, to see what he was supposed to be freaking out about that he hadn’t thought of yet. “What? Am I not supposed to be fine?”

“No, I know you’re fine… now, anyway. But I know that none of this has been easy for you, and with the ten new acquisitions we’ve got going down in the states, I… well… I know I haven’t been around much. Or very… available. So...”

“Um, you replied to my 3 a.m. text messages when I was freaking out about not being able to do anything to help Patrick. And you brought his car back to the house when my mind was in so many different places that I hadn’t even thought about it yet. And you sat with me at the hospital when I didn’t even know if he was going to be okay.” Gradually, David’s voice lowered to a whisper as he spoke, his emotions continuing to build as he remembered that long afternoon in the emergency waiting room at Elmdale General. “You got me through that day. And I’ve never…” David paused and took a deep breath in an effort to keep his voice from breaking. “No one has ever cared enough about me to do that before. Okay, now I’m starting to think you came here fishing for compliments.” David laughed wetly as he wiped his eyes, clearing away the tears that were threatening to fall.

“I’m proud of you, okay?” Stevie blurted out, sounding as if the words had been yanked out of her by force. “You… you really stepped up. I mean, I know you had Marcy and Clint, and all the people who helped clean out the store--”

“Mmm… this is starting to sound less and less like a compliment.”

“Shut up and let me finish. You had people helping you, yes, but you are the one who pulled it all together. You took care of Patrick, and you did what you needed to do to keep the store running, even when you couldn’t be here. You did all of this.” She gestured behind them to the now-full shelves, mostly organized and ready for reopening. “You made it all happen.”

David’s eyes followed Stevie’s as she looked around the store, taking it all in -- all of the new products he’d had time to research during their time away, and the new ways he’d found to display old favorites. The store that was so familiar and yet felt different now, but not in a bad way -- just different, and perhaps even better for the experience, just like he and Patrick were.

“I hope Patrick knows how lucky he is,” Stevie said, giving David a small smile as she pushed away from the counter and pulled her messenger bag further up onto her shoulder.

“I’m pretty sure I’m the lucky one.”

***

The morning of their grand reopening, David’s eyes snapped open at far too early an hour, with all of the now far-too-familiar thoughts of potential disaster floating through his head. Patrick had taken a much more active role in helping with the preparations in the last week -- making almost all of the vendor runs, then insisting on helping David unload everything, no matter how many times David told him to sit down and rest. Thankfully, the fact that Patrick was still basically one-handed at least limited the amount he could carry, but David still wasn’t sure he was entirely comfortable with Patrick doing everything he’d chosen to take on. He knew he had to trust Patrick’s judgment -- after all, they’d just talked about that -- but that was hard to do with David’s anxiety-prone brain.

He tried to focus his attention on the comforting weight of Patrick’s head resting against his shoulder and the soft rise and fall of Patrick’s chest against his side, using the pace of Patrick’s breathing to help keep his own breath calm and even. He’d just about drifted off to sleep when another thought he’d been entertaining quite a bit over the last week flitted through his mind -- whether or not he should have reached out to Patrick’s parents to invite them to the grand reopening.

More than once, his finger had hovered over Marcy’s contact in his phone as he debated with himself, remembering Clint telling him how much they both wished they could have been there for the first grand opening, but then at the same time, not wanting to pressure them to have to take more time off of work and spend hours traveling when they’d already spent more than two weeks there. David would forever be grateful for the help his in-laws had provided in those first days after the accident, but a tiny part of him still struggled with feeling worthy of the trouble -- and that was the part that kept him from making that phone call.

Now, it was far too late to extend any sort of invitation, but that didn’t stop his brain from poking at him, telling him he should have just asked. David shifted slightly onto his side, just far enough to be able to squint at the alarm clock on Patrick’s side of the bed and see that it was just after six; he still had two hours to sleep, and one hour before Patrick would be up and moving around, getting his usual early start to the day.

David closed his eyes, feeling Patrick settle just a little bit more into his embrace, without waking. He focused once again on the rhythm of Patrick’s breath, letting it lull him back into a fitful sleep, where he tried his best to let go of the myriad of anxious thoughts that refused to leave him alone.

The next time he awoke, it was to Patrick planting light, gentle kisses over his collarbone, then working his way up David’s neck and across his jaw, until their lips finally met in a kiss that was much longer and included a lot more tongue than Patrick’s typical “good morning” kiss.

“Mmm… morning,” David mumbled, once their lips had separated. He blinked his eyes open to see Patrick looking up at him as he kissed his way back down David’s bare chest, one hand already starting to stroke at the hair on David’s stomach.

“I love it when you fall asleep like this,” Patrick uttered softly, between kisses.

“Like what? Half naked?” The only reason David wasn’t wearing his usual designer pajamas was because they’d spent a good chunk of the previous night with their hands and their mouths wandering over each other’s bodies, connecting with one another in a way that they’d both missed. Patrick, apparently, still hadn’t gotten enough.

Patrick hummed, his lips now following the trail of dark hair that spanned the distance between David’s navel and the waistband of the boxer briefs that were currently the only piece of clothing on his body. “I wish you knew how beautiful you are,” Patrick whispered.

David let out a soft sigh, his back arching involuntarily as Patrick’s lips inched their way down, until Patrick’s fingers were easing his underwear down, eventually engulfing him in warm heat that led him quickly to an overwhelming feeling of white-hot pleasure as Patrick expertly tipped him over the edge -- touching him in all the right ways that no prior lover of his ever had, because Patrick cared. Patrick loved him. Patrick wanted him to enjoy it. To Patrick, David would never be just another fuck -- a quick route to an orgasm (and probably a free bar tab). To Patrick, David was everything. Sometimes David still struggled to wrap his mind around how easily that had happened, and how Schitt’s Creek -- nightmare that it was at first -- was the best thing that had ever happened to him. All it had taken was another nightmare to show him just how powerful that was.

“Hey.” Patrick’s soft voice drew him back, along with the soft touch of Patrick’s fingers tracing a random pattern over his chest. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” David whispered, blinking back the tears he hadn’t realized were building in his eyes. “Oh, I guess I should--”

Patrick cut David off just as he started to shift further down on the mattress to reciprocate. “No, David, it’s… That was just for you.” Patrick paused, both his tone and the tiny wrinkle between his eyebrows making it clear how unsure he was about what was happening. “It’s just that you don’t usually cry after you come, so…”

“I was just… thinking.” David stopped and cleared his throat, moving his gaze up toward the ceiling as he tried to gather his thoughts.

“About…?”

A few seconds of silence settled between them before David found his voice again, the emotion of the moment still overwhelming him and making it difficult to put into words exactly what he was feeling. “About how glad I am that we both ended up here. That we… found each other here.”

Patrick nestled his head back into the space on David’s shoulder where it seemed to fit just perfectly, then took David’s hand in his, weaving their fingers together as he let out a contented sigh. “I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being grateful for that stupid town sign that made me laugh so hard that I just had to stop here for the night… or for Ray’s job posting on the bulletin board at the cafe that made me say, ‘What the hell, maybe I’ll give this place a try.’ This place changed my life. And if I had to go through this… I’m glad it was with you.”

Patrick shifted a little on the bed, pushing himself up to press his lips to David’s. When he drew back, though, David couldn’t miss Patrick’s slight wince and soft grunt as he repositioned himself again.

“Wait, are you… Is everything okay?” Almost immediately, David’s mind started drawing him down into thoughts of setbacks and more doctor’s appointments and it taking even longer than it already was to get Patrick back to normal.

“I’m fine, David.” An easy smile spread over Patrick’s face, and David studied it to make sure it was real and not a way for Patrick to mask something else. “My ankle’s just stiff this morning. Once I’m up and moving, I’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Remember what we talked about.”

“I know, but--”

“Trust me, David.” Patrick took David’s face between his hands, pressing one last kiss to David’s lips before sliding out of bed. “I’m fine. Now c’mon… We’ve got a store to open.”

***

As they pulled into the alley behind the store, David could feel how clammy his palms were -- another physical manifestation of the nervousness that had his heart feeling like it was about to beat out of his chest. Patrick was in the driver’s seat -- demonstrating just how “fine” he was -- for which David was thankful, because driving and feeling like he wanted to crawl out of his skin had never been a good mix for him.

“Hey.” Patrick reached across the console and wrapped his fingers around David’s, as if he was somehow able to read his thoughts. “We’ve got this. Just like every other day we’ve opened the store.”

“I know… It’s just…” David exhaled, letting his voice trail off while he tried to make sense of the cacophony of thoughts running through his head. “It feels big.”

“It is big. But we’ve still got this. The first chapter of the rest of our lives.” Leaning over the armrest, Patrick briefly pressed his lips to David’s. “So let’s do it.”

In some ways, this felt exactly like their grand opening had -- the initial jitters and just plain not knowing what was about to happen -- but in others, it was completely different. This time, David knew exactly what Patrick’s intentions were, and they had rings on their fingers -- vows they’d made to love and protect one another. Vows they had truly put to the test, less than a year into their marriage.

They went through the opening tasks together -- retrieving the change bank from the safe, counting down the drawer, and making sure everything was as ready and prepared as possible for their first in-person customers in months, before David flipped the sign and unlocked the door, letting in the line of people that had gathered outside.

David was busy explaining the merits of proper moisturization to one of Twyla’s cousins when the bell above the door rang again and a familiar voice caught his attention.

“Oh my god, David, look at this place!” Alexis exclaimed, her handbag swinging on her arm as she gestured around, hands drawn in toward her chest. “And all these people!”

“Alexis?” David put down the tube of lotion in his hand, effectively abandoning poor Melissa in front of the skincare section so he could go hug his sister. “What are you doing here?”

Alexis rolled her eyes as Patrick came out from behind the counter to greet her. “Like I would’ve missed this,” Alexis said, still looking around before her gaze came to rest on Patrick’s single crutch. “Aww, you look like Tiny Tim.” Alexis gave Patrick a simpering smile as she reached out to boop him affectionately on the nose.

Patrick looked back and forth between David and Alexis, obviously confused, while David tried for a few seconds to look offended on Patrick’s behalf before he lost the battle to stifle his own laughter. “Well, he is family,” David said, shrugging as he continued trying to suppress a grin.

“I’m not even gonna ask.” Patrick smiled and shook his head, wrapping an arm around David’s waist. “Thanks for coming, Alexis.”

“Mom and Dad wish they could have been here too, but you know what the Sunrise Bay shooting schedule is like. Anyway, they did want me to show you this…” Alexis trailed off as she swiped a thumb across her phone screen, scrolling around until she’d found whatever she was looking for and held her phone out for both of them to see.

On the screen, Johnny and Moira sat together on a cream-colored sofa, the phone apparently propped in front of them on the coffee table.

“Hi boys,” Johnny’s voice came through the tiny speaker.

“And fond salutations,” added Moira, a sincere smile spreading across her bright red lips.

“We just wanted you to know how proud we are of both of you and what you’ve built together. We wish we could be there for the grand reopening, but--”

“--alas, the television business beckons, and I must heed the call,” Moira chimed in, cutting Johnny off.

“Anyhow, we can’t wait to see it the next time we’re in town. We miss you and we love you. Good luck today; I’m sure it’s gonna be great.”

The video ended with Johnny waving and Moira blowing a kiss, followed by Johnny’s finger poking at various places on the screen until he finally figured out how to stop the recording.

David cleared his throat, blinking the wetness from his eyes as Patrick’s fingers tightened on his waist.

“I’m proud of you, big brother,” Alexis said, this time booping David on the nose while he made a futile attempt at swatting her hand away.

“I’m proud of him too.” Patrick looked up at David, beaming as tears gathered at the corners of his eyes. “Actually, could I have everyone’s attention?” he asked, a bit louder, waiting until the din of conversation in the store had nearly ceased and all eyes were on him. “I just want to say, on behalf of David and me, how thankful we are for the support you’ve shown us over these last few months, whether through helping David whenever he needed it, or cleaning up the store when I was in the hospital, or continuing to support us through online orders when we couldn’t be open.”

Patrick paused and cleared his throat, and David reached out to drape an arm over his husband’s shoulders, tugging him in close.

“When I first came to Schitt’s Creek, I felt like I hadn’t truly belonged anywhere I was, no matter how many family and friends surrounded me, because I didn’t know who I was. But then I met David Rose, purely by chance, when he came to apply for his business license to open Rose Apothecary.” Patrick looked over and gave David an affectionate smile. “I’d never met anyone like him before, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. I wanted to get to know him better, and he helped me get out of my own way so that I could. Finding David made me feel whole. And even more than that, this place brought me all of you, too. So thank you, for everything. For welcoming me with open arms. For your support and your friendship. For helping me feel like I could finally be my whole self. For giving both of us a family that goes beyond blood. I’m proud to call this town my home. Thanks again for coming out today. This means the world to us.”

Jocelyn clapped her hands from the far corner of the store, pausing to wipe her eyes with a wadded-up tissue as others joined in. David pulled Patrick into his arms, feeling the slight shudder of his husband’s breath as he fought back tears. That was when David felt a hand on the small of his back and looked up to see the face of Marcy Brewer, who was dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.

“My sweet boys,” she said, her voice wobbling as her large, kind eyes glistened with tears.

“Mom?” Patrick whispered, pulling away from David and wiping the back of his hand over his own eyes as he sniffled, his gaze ultimately settling on Clint, who was standing behind his wife, his hands resting on her shoulders. “Dad? What are you doing here? Wait, how long have you--”

“Long enough.” Clint smiled as he stepped out from behind Marcy, opening his arms to give his son a hug.

“We didn’t want to interrupt,” Marcy added, before accepting a hug of her own. “But I’m so glad you found each other here, too.”

“Oh my god, this is… David, did you do this?” Patrick asked, his eyes still wide with disbelief as David exchanged hugs with the Brewers.

David shook his head as Clint reached out to put an arm around Alexis, pulling her in closer. “Actually, it was this young lady who gave us the heads up.”

“Please tell me it was a very, very brief conversation, and also the only conversation you’ve ever had outside of my presence,” David said, already cringing at the thought of his sister talking on the phone to his in-laws.

Alexis rolled her eyes again, letting out an exasperated sigh. “David, stop acting like you don’t trust me or something.”

“Oh, I’m not acting.”

“We had a lovely talk, didn’t we, Alexis dear?” Marcy chimed in, as she laid a placating hand on David’s forearm and gave it a gentle squeeze. “And I’m so glad she called.”

“I thought about calling, but you’ve already done so much, and you were here for so long,” David said, mentally kicking himself for not being able to push past his anxiety for long enough to extend the invitation. “I guess I didn’t want to make you feel like you had to.”

“It’s okay, David,” Marcy said sweetly, her hand on David’s arm still a grounding presence. “We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

“Thanks, Alexis,” Patrick said softly, his voice thick with emotion that he clearly didn’t want to be experiencing outwardly, given how often he was clearing his throat and swiping at his eyes.

“Anytime, Button.” Alexis grinned as she touched the tip of her finger to Patrick’s nose one more time before flitting off toward the face and lip care section. “Oooh, new lip balms!”

“No free samples, Alexis!” David called, rolling his eyes at the fact that some things about his sister never changed.

“Ugh, don’t worry, David! I can actually afford to buy it this time!”

“Well, we should let the two of you get back to your customers,” Marcy said, reaching out to give both David and Patrick another brief hug. “I want to check out some of the new yarn you’ve gotten in; it’s getting close to Christmastime, you know.”

With that, Marcy turned to walk toward the yarn display, tugging Clint along behind her as she threw one last proud smile over her shoulder at David and Patrick.

By the time they finally locked the door nine hours later -- more than thirty minutes after their posted closing time -- David and Patrick were both exhausted. It was a good kind of exhausted though -- the kind that was born out of a successful business day spent with the person they each wanted to stand beside every single day for the rest of their lives.

“I’m pretty sure we saw every single person who lives in Schitt’s Creek today,” David said, as he grabbed the dust mop out of the back room and started sweeping the floor. “And probably half of the rest of Elm County.”

“I think you’re right,” Patrick said, examining the tail end of the sales report he’d just printed from the register. “This is actually our best day yet. And I have a feeling it’s only the beginning.”

Leaning the dust mop against the wall, David stepped behind the counter to give his husband a brief kiss, draping his arms over Patrick’s shoulders. “Oh? What makes you say that?”

“Just that my husband has put together an amazing thing here.”

“Well, he had help.”

“But all the best parts of it… You did that all on your own, David. And I really am proud of you.”

David felt warmth come over his cheeks as he bit his lip and looked away for a moment before settling his gaze back on his husband’s. “So, our best day ever, huh?”

“Uh huh. It’s like people in this town actually like us or something.” A wry grin tugged at the corner of Patrick’s lips as he looked up at David, his warm brown eyes melting David’s heart in the same way that they always had and always would.

“I think they do,” David said, smiling as he leaned in to press his lips to Patrick’s in a tender kiss. “But mostly, I’m just really glad that we still get to do this here. That we’ve got our store back. And that you’re with me, safe and sound.”

Patrick settled into David’s embrace with a soft, contented sigh. “So am I, David… so am I.”