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David was standing at the counter at the cafe -- waiting on his burger and fries, along with a tuna melt and a side salad for his pragmatic, sometimes health-conscious husband -- when he heard it.

A godawful screeching noise, then a crash and a murmured, “Oh my goodness,” from the old woman at the table by the front window, followed by a much more urgent and substantially less well-mannered, “Holy shit,” from Ronnie, who had been having lunch with Jocelyn on the other side of the restaurant.

By the time David had turned to look over his shoulder toward the windows, Ronnie was halfway across the cafe, her jog quickly turning to a dead run as she pushed her way through the door and headed straight for Rose Apothecary, which now had what appeared to be half of a sensible, beige sedan sticking out of one of the front windows.

David blinked twice, just to make sure that what he was seeing was real and not some bizarre nightmare of a hallucination, and when he opened his eyes a second time and the world had still not righted itself, he felt his fight or flight instinct take over. His heart pounded in his throat as he ran across the street without even checking for traffic, his racing thoughts focused on one thing and one thing only: Patrick.

Patrick had been on a stepladder by that very window, dusting the shelves and stocking the bath bombs, when David left to pick up lunch. David had teased him about his choice of a side salad instead of fries, asking him if he was trying to stave off the “marriage fifteen” now that they’d tied the knot and settled into their perfect little cottage in the country. Patrick had rolled his eyes and said, “No, I happen to like vegetables, because they’re good for you. You should try them sometime.” David had jokingly threatened to order him fries anyway, justifying it by saying they’d just be fat and happy together, as he’d left the store, maintaining eye contact with Patrick as long as possible on his way out the door, watching his husband shake his head and smile as he went back to dusting and stocking.

Now, the stepladder was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Patrick, as David neared the front of the store they had both poured so much of their hearts and souls into over the past couple of years. David careened toward the door -- or what was left of it -- at full speed, crashing into Ronnie, who intercepted him and held him back, her hands gripping his wrists tightly.

She said something to him, but her words failed to compute amid the melee in David’s head, which was currently feeding him one catastrophic scenario after another at breakneck speed as he struggled against her. All he wanted was to get inside the store, so he could find Patrick and see that he was okay. So he could feel Patrick’s arms around him, a calming presence assuring him that everything was going to be alright. So Patrick could take charge, in the way he always did, and David could breathe again.

Then, he caught a glimpse of brown hair with the slightest tinge of auburn, and all of the air went out of his lungs. Slowly, as if he was afraid of what he might see -- and maybe he was -- his gaze traveled down from the familiar coif of short curls that he’d run his fingers through that very morning, to Patrick’s face. His eyes were squeezed shut, brows furrowed and lips pressed tightly together in an expression of obvious pain as a small trickle of blood made its way across his forehead and down his temple. He was breathing hard, clenching his jaw, and seemed to be trying to open his eyes but was apparently unable to do so for more than a second or two at a time. Broken glass, remnants of shelving, and ruined inventory were scattered around Patrick’s head, shoulders, and torso, while the bottom half of his body appeared to be under the front end of the car.

“Patrick!” David’s voice came out shrill and desperate, his throat straining to put out the volume he needed to get past the sounds of the pandemonium around him -- urgent voices and sirens and the engine of the goddamned car that had just driven through the front of their store.

David continued to fight against Ronnie, even more desperately now that he could see Patrick and knew that he was in pain and needed help.

“It’s -- not -- safe!” Ronnie’s words, spoken through clenched teeth as her fingers dug more deeply into David’s forearms, finally broke through his consciousness just as Patrick’s eyelids fluttered open one more time, this time managing to stay that way.

Patrick’s eyes darted around, seemingly taking in the scene around him before settling on David, who felt like he might as well have been miles away from his husband instead of only a few feet. Patrick lifted his right arm and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger as he closed his eyes briefly, the muscles of his jaw twitching beneath his skin as he breathed. He opened his mouth like he wanted to speak, but all that came out was a pained moan.

“The firefighters are coming,” Ronnie said, her mouth mere inches from David’s ear as she adopted a calm, even tone that David knew was probably supposed to help calm him as well, though there wasn’t much of anything that could have calmed him in that moment. Ronnie loosened her grip on his wrists just slightly, but didn’t let go, and she didn’t move out of his way. “They’ll be able to make sure the building’s stable, so they can get him out. He’s breathing, and he’s moving his arms. That’s good. Those are good signs.”

David felt like the world was spinning around him, colors and objects blurring into one another as sounds blended together into a cacophony of chaos that only seemed to be getting louder and louder inside his head, when the only thing he wanted to hear was the one thing he couldn’t -- Patrick’s voice. His chest felt tight and tears pricked at the corners of his eyes, and he didn’t even realize he was gasping for air until he heard Ronnie’s voice in his ear again: “Breathe, David. Nice and slow. That’s it. There you go.” He felt her tug him away from the door and down the sidewalk a few feet, her touch now much more gentle, but still firm, with no room for escape. He wanted to fight her, to stay right where he was and somehow break free so he could get to Patrick, but he felt like every ounce of strength had drained out of him in the last several seconds. (Or were they minutes? He couldn’t tell.)

“Let’s sit down,” she said, her voice still steady and calm. “They’re almost here. I can hear them. It won’t be long now.”

It wasn’t until Ronnie had lowered him to the bench that he realized he was trembling, and that his face felt damp. He’d barely managed to take another slow, shaky inhale and exhale when Stevie’s voice broke through the bedlam.

“Oh my god, David! Are you alright? What happened? Were you in there? Where’s Patrick?”

Stevie’s barrage of frantic questions -- far more words than she usually spoke at one time -- pelted against David’s consciousness, bouncing around in his brain as his grip on reality became more and more precarious by the second. Giving in to the panic wasn’t an option, though; he had to stay strong -- stay present -- for Patrick. He wanted to answer -- to tell Stevie that yes, Patrick was in there, and he was hurt -- but he couldn’t make his voice work, and trying to speak only made his breathing speed up again. His heart was still pounding in his chest as a fire engine came screaming around the corner, sirens blaring and lights flashing, only adding to the overstimulation of David’s senses and making him want to curl up into a ball to get away from it all, even though he knew he couldn’t, because Patrick needed him.

David wasn’t sure of exactly when Ronnie’s hands had transitioned to Stevie’s, running lightly up and down his biceps, grounding him as his best friend crouched in front of him, concern clearly etched on her face as she glanced back and forth between David and the firefighters gathered at the front of the store.

“Is Patrick still in there?” she whispered, as if she was afraid of the answer.

David closed his eyes and nodded, bowing his head as he tried to just fucking breathe against the heavy weight that seemed to have set up permanent residence on his chest, making that simple task all but impossible.

“Oh god,” Stevie murmured as she moved to sit beside David on the bench, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him into a hug.

She sat there and held him for what felt like an eternity as the sounds of power tools screeching and grinding melded with urgent voices shouting to one another.

“Just a little bit more!” one voice said.

“We need to stabilize that beam first!” said another.

More thumping and hammering and sawing followed, and David still couldn’t bring himself to look. It wasn’t the fact that their livelihood -- their pride and joy -- was being destroyed. That didn’t matter. What he didn’t want to see was his husband’s face through the window, screwed up in pain as firefighters and paramedics worked frantically to get him out.

Stevie’s arms around David kept him grounded; kept him from spiraling out inside his own head, following worst-case scenarios down a never-ending rabbit hole of death, despair, and destruction, uninhibited by the fact that he’d literally just seen Patrick with his own eyes and knew that he was breathing and moving around. A lot could happen in just a few short minutes where trauma was concerned. David knew that. He’d watched enough rescue shows on television to know that every second counted and things could turn on a dime, especially if there were internal injuries. He tried to push those thoughts away, knowing that he couldn’t go down that path because he’d probably never find his way back, and instead chose to focus on the feeling of Stevie’s body against his own, holding him close, as he breathed. Slow and steady. In and out.

He focused his attention on counting each inhale and exhale, and he’d just made it to 29 when Ronnie’s voice broke through his awareness once again.

“They’re in,” she said. “But it’s going to take them a little while to get him out from under the car. He’s asking for you. You can sit with him if you want, until they get him out, but you’ll have to wear this.”

David raised his head and focused his gaze on the firefighters’ helmet in her hand. Under normal circumstances, there was no way in hell he’d be caught dead with a dirty, yellow plastic hat on his head, probably full of sweat and germs and god knows what else, but these were not normal circumstances. With still-shaking hands, he accepted the helmet and put it on, trying not to think about what was mingling with his hair or what he must look like, but at the same time finding that he didn’t actually care, if it meant he could be with Patrick. Touch him. Know that he was okay.

Ronnie’s arm guided David through the gaping hole at the front of their store where the door had once been, almost holding him up as his legs trembled, threatening to buckle under his own weight.

Patrick’s lips turned up into the tiniest of smiles when he made eye contact with David, the ever-present warmth in his whiskey-colored eyes still tinged with pain.

“Hey,” Patrick whispered, his voice gravelly. “I’m alright.”

David huffed out a wet laugh as he knelt down carefully beside his husband, trying to avoid as much glass and debris as possible. “You most certainly are not alright,” he said, the corner of his mouth twisting upward into an ironic smirk. “Nothing about this is alright.” He waved his hand in a circle, gesturing toward the ruined shelves and the broken jars to their right, and the car that still concealed the lower half of Patrick’s body. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re under a car, and there is a car inside our store.”

Squeezing his eyes shut for a moment, Patrick sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth before letting it out slowly and shakily, blinking his eyes open again, this time with a sheen of unshed tears. “I know,” he breathed. “Believe me, I know.”

A paramedic on Patrick’s other side clipped a pulse-ox monitor to his right middle finger and said something to him in a low voice that David couldn’t quite hear, before she slipped a cervical collar around his neck and clipped it shut, adjusting the straps as Patrick closed his eyes and breathed through what looked like another wave of intense pain.

“You can feel your legs, right?” David whispered, almost afraid of the answer.

Patrick tried to nod and couldn’t, responding instead with a breathy, “Yeah. A little too well.”

David let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, as Patrick reached his left arm up to wrap his fingers around David’s. The paramedic continued monitoring Patrick’s vital signs while a pair of firefighters moved closer to them, jacks and jack stands in-hand. David couldn’t miss the way Patrick’s eyes widened when he realized what they were about to do, so he elected to continue trying to keep the mood light, for Patrick’s sake.

“You know, I leave you alone for five minutes…” he teased, giving Patrick the wry grin that never failed to make him laugh or at the very least smile.

“Well, Twyla’s tarot cards failed to predict this one,” Patrick said, through gritted teeth as the firefighters slid one of the jacks under the car in a position that was very, very close to Patrick’s right hip.

“If I’m remembering correctly, you told me those cards were, ‘Hooey,’ and I immediately asked you if I’d married an 85-year-old man by mistake.”

“What can I say; I grew up in the sticks, with June Cleaver for a mother.”

“I’m pretty sure your mom is way more progressive than June Cleaver. And I bet her chocolate chip cookies are better too.”

Patrick laughed, then grimaced. “Fuck, that hurts.”

David tightened his fingers around Patrick’s, stroking his thumb over the back of Patrick’s hand. They both watched the firefighters for a few moments, silently observing as the floor jacks were operated in tandem, moving the car upward at a glacial pace, stopping after every inch to further examine the situation and make sure Patrick was doing okay. David’s gaze was aimed at the slowly growing gap between the car and their beautiful hardwood floor -- trying to get a good look at Patrick’s legs while attempting not to catastrophize based on what he could or couldn’t see -- when Patrick’s voice suddenly drew his attention back.

“You know, the hat’s a good look for you. Very… rugged chic. You should ask if you can keep it.”

“Mmm… I’m well aware that this look is all sorts of incorrect, thank you very much. But I did it for you.”

“Your noble sacrifice is greatly appreciated,” Patrick deadpanned, drawing a laugh from David that honestly, they both probably needed. “You know,” he continued, a mischievous grin playing at his lips, “I would totally… you know...” He let his voice trail off, but the twinkle in his eye told David exactly what the rest of that sentence would have been, were they not in what Patrick would term “mixed company.”

“Are you seriously coming on to me, when the required extremity is categorically inaccessible right now? Need I remind you that you are currently under a car?”

“Not for much longer,” one of the firefighters cut in, causing David’s cheeks to warm slightly at the idea that he might have overheard the rest of their exchange.

“Did you hear that?” David asked, knowing full-well that he was pointing out the obvious, which made him cringe a little, but he wanted to distract Patrick in whatever way he could. “They’ve almost got it.”

“Good,” Patrick grunted, before closing his eyes and taking a few pained breaths. “I feel like I’ve been here forever.”

At that moment, the car moved upward a few more inches and one of the firefighters shone a spotlight toward Patrick’s legs, illuminating what looked like quite a bit of blood on Patrick’s Levis, particularly the right leg -- the lower half of which laid at an angle that was rather disconcerting, to say the least. Patrick tried to sit up and look too, but the paramedic quickly yet gently pushed him back to the floor and onto the backboard that she’d already placed under his upper half before David got there.

“I need you to stay still,” she said calmly, keeping her hand on his shoulder. “I promise we’re going to take good care of you.”

Patrick closed his eyes and took another unsteady breath, prompting David to squeeze his hand one more time. “I’m right here,” David murmured. “I’ve got you.”

Patrick kept his eyes closed the entire time they were sliding the backboard the rest of the way under his body, squeezing them shut just a little bit tighter and groaning through clenched teeth when they got to his lower legs and inadvertently jarred the right one a bit.

“Sorry, sorry,” another paramedic said. “I know it hurts. We’ll be able to give you something for the pain once we get you out of here.”

Patrick swallowed hard, and David reached out to smooth Patrick’s hair back off of his forehead, which was sticky with sweat. “You’re okay,” David said softly, choosing to ignore the fact that that was absolutely a lie, in favor of continuing to offer comfort to his husband in whatever way he could. “You’re gonna be okay.”

Patrick didn’t respond verbally, but he did squeeze David’s hand, and that was enough.

Seconds later, they had Patrick completely out from under the car and were transferring him to a stretcher and taking him out of the store while David followed, his legs still more than a little unsteady. He hadn’t realized just how many people had gathered on the street outside until they all gave a collective cheer as Patrick emerged from the store on the stretcher, moving and breathing and just fucking being alive.

A part of David wondered what had happened to the driver, who was nowhere to be seen, but he knew no one would be able to tell him anything anyhow, so he shook his head and chose to focus on Patrick -- on holding his hand as they loaded him into the ambulance, and keeping him calm. Stevie had tears on her cheeks and in her eyes as she stood close by, chewing on the edge of her thumbnail. David gave her a tight smile, and she nodded -- both of them participating in a wordless conversation that conveyed a simple message: “It’s going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

David sat in a jumpseat and held Patrick’s hand the whole way to Elmdale, noting that the trip really didn’t seem to go any faster in an ambulance with lights and sirens going than it did in Patrick’s Corolla on their weekend trips to Costco and the Italian restaurant they both loved. The paramedic who’d been monitoring Patrick the whole time started him on a morphine drip shortly after getting him into the ambulance, and he seemed to be feeling much better, if a bit sleepy, save for the moments when they were all suddenly jarred by one of the many potholes on the highway.

They cut open the leg of Patrick’s jeans, revealing a sizable wound through which David was fairly sure he could see bone, though he didn’t look long enough to be certain before returning his gaze to his husband.

“How bad is it?” Patrick asked, his words slightly slurred by the pain medication, though his obvious anxiety about the situation was still coming through loud and clear. “It felt really bad.”

“Let’s just…” David paused and exhaled, trying to gather his thoughts while simultaneously attempting to make himself sound confident and reassuring when his own anxiety was running much higher than it had in months -- maybe even since he’d met Patrick, who somehow always found a way to anchor him when his thoughts tried to pull him into a riptide. Now, he had to be Patrick’s anchor, in a situation with a lot of unknowns, and he couldn’t afford to be falling apart. “Let’s wait until we get to the hospital, okay? Let a doctor take a look at it first.”

Patrick swallowed and closed his eyes. “Okay,” he breathed.

This was a moment when David wished he knew something -- anything -- about sports, so he could have distracted Patrick with some smalltalk about his favorite baseball team. But that wasn’t to be, so David just continued holding Patrick’s hand and tried to give him reassuring smiles whenever they made eye contact, although he wasn’t sure how reassuring they actually were.

“Not much longer now,” the paramedic in the driver’s seat said, after what felt like the thousandth mile and the millionth pothole between Schitt’s Creek and Elmdale.

Patrick’s only response was a frustrated groan.

“I know, honey. We’re almost there,” David said, still squeezing Patrick’s hand and giving him a smile, though the peaceful, encouraging facial expression he hoped he was pulling off didn’t at all match what was happening inside his head. He could feel his smile starting to crack, probably revealing the worries and fears that had been circling in his brain for over an hour now.

“What about the store? I couldn’t really see much from where I was, but--” Patrick’s slurred mumble was cut off by a pained grunt and a harshly sucked-in breath as the ambulance hit another particularly hard bump.

“Patrick Brewer, you are more important than the store. And I don’t want you worrying about anything. I’ll figure it out, whatever there is to figure out. But we’re taking care of you first.”

Patrick’s grip on David’s hand relaxed a little as he took a couple of deep breaths, closing his eyes again. “Yeah,” he whispered.

“I know you’re scared, and believe me I do know how much it helps to focus on something else, but the store is not that thing right now, okay? And it’s not going to be for a while. You’ll just have to take up knitting, or… painting your nails, or something.” David gestured with the hand that wasn’t holding Patrick’s, realizing how good it felt to work out a little bit of his own nervous energy that way -- the way it always had.

Patrick chuckled, this time managing to laugh without grimacing, which seemed like a good sign. “I’ll get right on that.”

Thankfully, David didn’t have to come up with any more distractions for Patrick; they pulled up to the emergency room doors at Elmdale General Hospital just as he opened his mouth to suggest that Patrick take this time to step up his skincare routine, which still needed some serious work.

For the next several minutes, David felt like they were caught in a whirlwind, between all the doctors and nurses examining Patrick and all of the people asking David questions about Patrick’s personal details and medical history -- at least, what limited knowledge David had of the latter. He hated to refer them back to Patrick for any of it, because he felt like these were things he should know about his husband, but it just wasn’t something they’d talked about. Or honestly even something he’d thought they would have to worry about at all until much further down the road. Definitely not less than a year into their marriage.

But, things happen. Life is unpredictable. David Rose knew that all too well. Even so, he’d felt like his very long string of bad luck had finally come to an end when he’d met Patrick, but their current set of circumstances was making him feel like the safety and security he’d found there was being shaken. And that was enough to make the anxious buzz that always ran in the background of David’s thoughts start to amp up. But he still couldn’t give in -- not if he wanted to be the partner Patrick deserved, and the partner he wanted to be.

After they brought Patrick back from radiology, the two of them were left alone in the room, waiting for a doctor to come and go over the results. Thankfully, things had calmed down considerably, which helped David slow his brain down a bit too. That meant he could focus on Patrick’s needs -- making sure he was comfortable, that he had water, and a blanket when he got chilly, and that the pillows under his right leg weren’t too high or too low.

Thankfully, the neck brace was gone now, which seemed to do a lot for making Patrick more comfortable, since he could now move more than just his eyes. That small detail also did a lot to make David more comfortable, since it was essentially a wordless confirmation that there was no injury to Patrick’s spine. They’d already taken care of the small cut just above his left eyebrow, cleaned the blood off his face, and helped him take off his now-very-dirty button-up and what remained of his jeans, putting him in a clean hospital gown that David thought sort of made him look like a little kid, because it was about three sizes too big. Now, they just had to hope that whatever was broken could be easily repaired, with no lasting effects.

Patrick had closed his eyes and nearly fallen asleep while David idly rubbed a thumb over the back of his hand -- the one without the IV giving him pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection from setting up in the open wound on his leg -- when the doctor finally arrived.

Patrick’s diagnosis -- an open compound fracture to the tibia and fibula, along with some minor damage to the soft tissues in his knee -- sounded just as scary as it looked, and the treatment plan wasn’t any better. He needed immediate surgery to clean out the wound, repair the ligaments in his knee, and stabilize the fractures with an assortment of hardware, including plates, screws, and a rod that would apparently run the length of his tibia, inside the bone, and probably stay there for the rest of his life. But there was no head injury and no other broken bones -- just some bruised ribs that would probably be painful for a while, and the cut on his forehead, of course.

“I’ll have to start calling you the bionic man,” David teased after the doctor left, trying to lighten the mood as much for his own benefit as Patrick’s.

Patrick, however, didn’t respond. He was staring toward the end of the bed, at his leg and foot in the temporary splint that had been applied to help with the pain more than anything.

“Hey,” David said softly, reaching out to take Patrick’s hand in his. “You’re gonna be okay.”

“I’ve never had surgery before.” Patrick’s voice was barely above a whisper, and he still wasn’t looking at David. “Not the kind where they actually put you under and cut you open.”

“Never?”

Patrick shook his head, finally making eye contact with David as tears welled up and threatened to spill over. David knew that the tears were likely a side effect of the pain medication more than anything, but he could also feel the slight tremble in Patrick’s hand, which told him the fear was very, very real.

“Well, it’s not so bad, to be honest.” David tried to keep his tone bright and cheerful, even though it felt strange and a bit dishonest, and a significant part of him wanted to cry right along with Patrick. “They’ll give you the anesthesia, and you’ll fall asleep, then you’ll wake up what feels like a second later, good as new. And they’ll give you some really great drugs, too.”

Normally, Patrick would have had some sort of a snappy comeback for most of what David had said, especially the part about the great drugs, but instead, he was quiet, his gaze having moved back to his bandaged leg. And for take-charge Patrick, the silence spoke volumes.

“They do these things all the time,” David continued, his voice earnest and a bit quieter this time as he reached out and cupped Patrick’s face, gently turning it back to face him. “I mean it. You’re going to be just fine.”

Patrick nodded and swallowed hard, and David leaned down to give him a gentle, tender kiss, savoring the small bit of connection he could have with his husband before a nurse appeared in the doorway, ready to start preparing Patrick for surgery.

“I love you,” David said softly, giving Patrick the first genuine smile he’d been able to muster all afternoon. “I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

He squeezed Patrick’s hand, then brought it to his lips and kissed Patrick’s fingers, before letting the nurse who had offered to show him to the surgical waiting area lead him out of the room. He hated to leave Patrick’s side, but he didn’t have a choice. They passed through the ER waiting area on their way to the elevators, and David was surprised to see not only Stevie, but also Jocelyn and Ronnie.

All three were up out of their chairs as soon as they saw him. Stevie ran to him and threw her arms around his neck, holding on tight. “Is he okay?” she breathed, once she’d loosened her grip a little and pulled back to look at David’s face.

David swallowed and nodded, looking back and forth between Stevie, Jocelyn, and Ronnie. “His leg’s broken. It’s pretty bad. A compound, open fracture I think it was? Kind of gross, actually, but I didn’t want to scare him with that. His knee is messed up too. They’re taking him to surgery now. But he’ll… he’ll be okay.”

Saying the words out loud to someone other than Patrick -- for whom they were necessary reassurance regardless of whether or not he was sure they were completely true -- brought a flood of relief to David. In a way, it was like confirming that they were true, and Patrick was going to be just fine. He was sure there was probably a long recovery ahead of them that had yet to be discussed, but there was no head injury and no paralysis, and what was wrong with Patrick was fixable. The doctors were in the process of fixing it right then.

Stevie tightened her arms around David and leaned her head against his chest, and David felt her breathe her own sigh of relief. “Thank god,” she murmured. “I was so scared.”

“Me too,” David whispered.

The nurse cleared her throat softly, and Stevie reluctantly let go of David, stepping back and wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her flannel button-up.

“Do you mind if we wait with you?” Jocelyn’s earnest voice broke in, a bit more gentle and less perky than usual. “If you’d like some company.”

Ronnie stood silently behind Jocelyn, straight-faced and subdued as usual, but the look of relief in her eyes said everything that needed to be said. There had never been any love lost between Ronnie and Patrick, but she loved David, and she knew that David loved Patrick, and that was apparently enough for her to want to be there too.

David nodded and offered Jocelyn a small smile of appreciation. He didn’t particularly want to be alone with his thoughts at that moment, so her offer was more than welcome. Together, the four of them followed the nurse through a maze of corridors to a small waiting room tucked into a corner on the second floor of the hospital. There were only a couple of other people there, so they mostly had it to themselves, which was nice. The last thing David wanted to feel like was a spectacle, with a bunch of strangers privy to his every move, particularly while his emotions were very much on a hair trigger.

Sitting next to Stevie, staring blankly at the television mounted in the corner, close to the ceiling, with its never ending news crawl and 30-minute rotation of video clips, David still had a lot of time to think. Over and over again, his thoughts kept returning to just how easily he could have lost Patrick. If the car had been going faster, or if he’d been a few inches farther in one direction or another, or if whatever had cut his forehead had been bigger or hit him at a different angle… the what-ifs were endless. And David didn’t want to think about what it would have been like to have to move on without Patrick. To mourn his husband of less than a year. To go back to their cottage in the country by himself every night. To sleep in their bed alone, with Patrick’s side permanently empty. To never again feel Patrick’s lips place a gentle kiss on the side of his neck or his strong arms around David’s torso, pulling him in close. To never again smell the familiar combination of vanilla body milk and the pleasant, musky scent that was just Patrick.

That wasn’t a world David wanted to be in.

He’d meant every word of his wedding vows, especially the part about how safe he always felt with Patrick. David had never felt that way before in a relationship. Every relationship he’d been in before Patrick had ended abruptly, without any sort of warning, and somehow David always felt like it was his fault. Like he just wasn’t good enough, or worthy of someone else’s affection. Patrick had spent a lot of time showing David that he was good enough -- that he was worthy of love. In the beginning, he’d had to spend quite a bit of that time assuring David that he was there to stay, but eventually, David had accepted that and leaned into the security it provided him. Security he’d never really had before, and a sense of safety that he’d come to depend on. He truly had no idea how he would go on without it, and he’d come within inches -- or seconds, depending on how you looked at it -- of having to figure that out.

“Hey… you okay?” Stevie’s quiet voice brought David back out of his thoughts, and the sensation of her hand gently squeezing his forearm gave him a welcome and necessary bit of grounding.

David took a deep breath and nodded, not quite trusting his voice not to tremble if he tried to speak.

“I just got off the phone with Twyla,” Jocelyn said as she came back into the room, at which point David realized he didn’t even remember her leaving, making him wonder just how long he’d been out of it. “She’s bringing some food over from the cafe. If there’s anything specific you want, I can text her and let her know.”

David shook his head numbly, still not wanting to speak. His throat felt dry, and his stomach was in knots. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but the last thing he wanted was food.

“I called your mom and dad,” Jocelyn continued. “They send their love, and your dad said to let him know if there’s anything he can do to help. It sounded like they were going to try to book a flight as soon as they could. I don’t have the Brewers’ number, but if you’ll give it to me, I’ll call them too, so you won’t have to. I know it’s been a hard day.”

David shook his head again, moving his eyes downward to stare at a scuff on the tile floor a few feet in front of his sneakers. In all of the chaos, he’d totally forgotten to call Patrick’s parents, and as much as he didn’t want to make that call himself and appreciated Jocelyn offering to do it for him, he felt like he should be the one to let them know. Clearing his throat, David reluctantly tested out his voice, relieved when it came out sounding relatively normal, and not bearing any of the strange mix of emotions that were swirling inside his head.

“No,” he said. “I’ll call them. I can’t believe I forgot. Fuck, I should have called them hours ago.”

“There was a lot going on,” Jocelyn reassured him. “They’ll understand.”

David pushed himself up to stand on still-unsteady legs and reached into his pocket with trembling hands to pull out his phone as he walked out into the hallway, so he could have at least a modicum of privacy. He took a couple of deep breaths that were much shakier than he would have liked, before hitting the call icon on Marcy Brewer’s contact page on his phone.

It took her a few rings to answer, giving David time to rehearse what he wanted to say, but as soon as his mother-in-law said, “David, dear, how are you?” his mouth suddenly felt dry as a bone, and he couldn’t make his tongue move.

“David?” Marcy’s voice, small but still as caring as ever through his phone’s tiny speaker, was now tinged with concern as she repeated his name. “Is everything okay?”

He took another breath before forcing the words out in a rush: “There’s been an accident.”

Chapter Text

“I mean, Patrick’s okay, mostly, but…” David stopped and took a breath, still trying to gather his thoughts and figure out how to tell Marcy that her son was in surgery, and that he’d been hit by a car inside their store.

Before David could make heads or tails of the chaos in his head, Marcy spoke, her shock and unease clear in her voice. That ratcheted up his own anxiety a little, especially since his mother-in-law was almost always a calm, steady, caring presence, no matter the situation; Patrick had inherited that quality from her.

“Are you… Is he… What happened? Are you both alright? Tell me you’re both alright.”

She sounded so desperate that David hated to have to tell her no, but anything else would have been a lie. So he launched into the explanation instead. “A car…” He started, then stopped, taking a deep breath to steel his resolve to get through this call without breaking down. “A car drove through the front of the store. I was across the street at the cafe, but Patrick was at the store, and he was hit.”

When Marcy didn’t say anything in response, David took another breath and plowed on, just trying to get out everything he needed to say.

“He’s got a broken leg and some damage to his knee, and he’s in surgery for all of that now, but... they said there was no head trauma.” David paused as a shiver ran down his spine at the thought of what life would have been like had that happened, finding once again that he didn’t want to think about it. “No other broken bones. He’s got bruised ribs, and a cut on his face, and he’s probably going to be really sore for a while, but they think he’ll be okay.”

Marcy let out an audible breath on the other end of the line. “Thank god,” she said. An awkward silence settled between them for a few seconds before she spoke again. “Is there anything either of you need?”

“There’s not really anything anybody can do right now.” David held the phone with his shoulder and started unconsciously toying with the golden engagement rings on the fingers of his right hand. “We’re just… waiting.”

“Clint’s at work right now, but he should be home any minute. We can drive out there... if you want us to.” Marcy sounded oddly hesitant, as if she wasn’t quite sure how to navigate something that would have been a given before “just Patrick” became “Patrick and David.”

“That would… That would be good. I think he’d like that.” And so would I, David added silently to himself.

“Okay, that’s settled then.” David could hear the easy smile in Marcy’s voice, although it was still tinged with nervousness. “I’ll let you know when we’re on our way. Take good care of him. I know you will. And when he wakes up, tell him we love him.”

“I will.” David couldn’t help but smile too, hearing the warmth and sincerity in Marcy’s words. He could imagine her gentle eyes -- the ones her son inherited -- giving him the fond look that she always did any time they were together, and that, paired with her comforting voice, made David feel like he was wrapped in a warm hug. Maybe that was her intention.

“Love you, my other sweet boy. See you soon.”

“Love you too,” he said softly, still smiling to himself as he soaked up the warmth that he could hear through the phone. “Bye.”

David ended the call, noticing that his hands were still shaking a little as he moved to put the phone back in his pocket. How long had it been since they’d taken Patrick back for surgery? How long was this surgery supposed to last? Would he be able to be with Patrick in recovery, or would he have to wait until they had him admitted to a regular room for the night? How long would that take? Suddenly, all of the questions David felt like he should have asked but simply hadn’t thought of came flying into his brain one after the other, and he had to shake his head to keep from getting caught up in the spiral of uncertainty and worst-case scenarios that lurked at the back of his mind, ready to pull him under at the first sign of weakness.

Still feeling a little numb, like he was the one who was in shock instead of Patrick, David walked back into the waiting room, returning to his seat next to Stevie. Her expectant look wordlessly asked him if he was okay, and he nodded.

“They’re gonna drive out here as soon as Clint gets home from work,” he said, smoothing a nonexistent wrinkle out of his jeans just to have something to fidget with.

“I’ll text Roland and have him block out a room for them at the motel,” Stevie said, already moving to take her phone out of her pocket. “Not that I think we’re gonna sell out or anything, since it’s a Tuesday, but… just in case.”

“No.” David shook his head. “They can stay with us. Well, with me, I guess, for now. I’d rather have them there. And if my parents come… we’ll figure something out. I just… I feel like the Brewers should stay at our place.”

Marcy and Clint would be the first official houseguests at the Brewer-Rose home, actually, since David hadn’t seen his parents or Alexis in person since they left for California and New York, respectively. He’d hoped that their first visit to his and Patrick’s new home would be under happier circumstances -- perhaps a birthday or a holiday or just a weekend getaway -- but he was glad to host them just the same. And if he was being honest, he didn’t relish the thought of going back to the house alone that night, so having the Brewers with him would be a comfort.

Twyla showed up about twenty minutes later, her arms loaded down with bags full of food from the cafe, including David’s favorite chocolate cake, but even that couldn’t tempt him. He was still too caught up in his thoughts -- the new and totally irrational guilt that he should have been the one on the stepladder instead of Patrick, alongside all of the what-ifs he’d already run through at least a thousand times over. He knew he should have been hungry, but the only sensation he felt in his stomach was the sickening weight of simply “not knowing” -- not knowing how any of this was going to work out. Not just with Patrick, but with the store, too. Mostly Patrick, though.

Sure, the store was their livelihood, and they’d invested nearly everything they had into it, but at the end of the day, it was a “thing,” and it could be replaced. Patrick couldn’t be.

Once upon a time, David’s material possessions had been what meant the most to him in life. But he was different now, at first out of necessity, and then out of choice and the hard-won realization that investing his time and energy in people -- albeit a select few people -- instead of things, brought him so much more joy. It was a hard lesson to learn, and it was one he was still learning, in many ways.

But the store felt like more than just a material thing, because it had brought him Patrick. If it hadn’t been for Wendy and the job she gave him at the Blouse Barn, he never would have gotten the money to start Rose Apothecary, which meant he wouldn’t have met the love of his life. David knew that phrase sounded cliched, but it was true -- he had never loved anyone else as much as he loved Patrick. Before Patrick, he hadn’t even known what that felt like. And now he couldn’t imagine life without it.

The store had sentimental value to both of them. Memories. So many snapshots and snippets of the past two years that would pop up in his mind’s eye at random moments to make him smile, and sometimes tear up. He knew he’d always have those memories, no matter what happened with the store itself, but it still made him sad to think that this might have been their last day in Rose Apothecary as they knew it. That whatever happened from here on out would be different -- the “after” to what they hadn’t even realized was a “before.”

Suddenly, David felt a hand on his shoulder, pulling him back out of his thoughts. When he looked up, he saw Ronnie, giving him a small smile that held a tinge of regret.

“I have to go,” she said. “I’m supposed to be giving an estimate on a bathroom remodel in Elm Valley in an hour. But call me if you need any help. With the store, or anything else.”

David nodded, a little surprised at Ronnie’s broad offer of assistance, especially considering that most of the likely options would include helping Patrick too. But, then again, she loved David, and David loved Patrick, so maybe that was all it took. “Thanks Ronnie,” he said, his voice slightly hoarse. “I’m… I’m glad you were here. And that you were… there, too.”

“You’re welcome, David. I would say, ‘Anytime,’ but I think we can both agree that we hope nothing like this ever happens again.”

“Yeah,” David whispered, barely even able to hear his own response as Ronnie squeezed his shoulder and walked away.

David spent the next god-knows-how-long drifting back and forth between the present moment -- where Twyla and Jocelyn were engaged in an animated conversation about some atrocious-sounding hard rock medley that the Jazzagals were working on -- and all of the thoughts and anxieties that were swirling in his brain. He was used to that white noise; it was a constant for him, and it had been since he was a kid. But that didn’t make it any easier to fight back against the tide of frightening scenarios that his brain always seemed to conjure up. A niggling thought in the back of his mind kept poking at him, making him wonder exactly how long this surgery was supposed to take, and how long was too long, but he swallowed it back before he could say it out loud. Somehow, Stevie seemed to feel it, though, and she reached over and took his hand in hers without saying a word.

David had completely lost track of time, so he had no idea how long it had been, but that lack of awareness didn’t dampen the odd combination of relief and unease that he felt when the same doctor who had briefed them on the surgery plan stepped into the room and started walking toward him. The doctor’s face was completely neutral, which David knew was a “thing” as far as doctors were concerned, but it certainly wasn’t doing anything to make David feel better.

“David Rose?” he asked, raising an eyebrow that made David wonder for the first time all afternoon just how awful he must have looked, but he didn’t have the brain space to think about that at the moment, so he chose to let it go for now.

Stevie’s fingers tightened around David’s hand as he looked up and nodded. “Yes… that’s me.” David could hear his voice rise and tremble a little with the anxiety that had been brewing inside him all day with nowhere to go. He took a deep breath, trying to maintain control.

The doctor sat down in the chair directly across from David and leaned forward, elbows on his knees and hands clasped together. “The surgery was a success,” he said, looking David directly in the eye with a sincerity and earnestness that was a little uncomfortable for David, likely because he’d spent the entire afternoon trying not to freak out, and it felt like this guy was staring straight into his soul. “Everything went well. No complications, and I’m happy with how everything looks. As always, there are no guarantees, but I’m confident he’ll make a full recovery.”

Jocelyn chimed in first, exclaiming, “That’s great news!”

Stevie let out an audible sigh of relief, and Twyla’s face lit up with a wide smile, but David’s own relief manifested itself in his body slumping back into the chair as all of the tension he’d been carrying suddenly -- blessedly -- drained out of him. He let out a long, slow breath. “Thank god.”

“We’ll keep him overnight for observation, but I’m thinking he’ll be able to go home in the next day or two, depending on his pain levels. We’re probably looking at about two weeks of bed rest, and then he can start outpatient physical therapy, but it’ll probably be at least six or eight weeks before he’s able to put any weight at all on that leg. Probably around six to eight months before it starts feeling more normal again.”

About half of what the doctor said went in one ear and out the other for David, because all he really cared about was the fact that Patrick was going to make a full recovery. He didn’t care how long it took; they had the rest of their lives to wait. He was just thankful that Patrick was still with him, and he was going to be fine.

The doctor left after assuring David that a nurse would be down to get him once Patrick was out of recovery and settled in his room. As soon as he was gone, David’s stomach let out a long, low growl, as if it somehow knew that the danger had passed as well. Twyla gave him an encouraging smile as she held out the small styrofoam box that David knew contained the chocolate cake. It wasn’t exactly the most nutritious of way-too-late lunches, but then again, David had never been known for his healthy food choices. That thought brought him back to the last words he’d exchanged with Patrick before he left for the cafe, and just how grateful he was that the last words he’d spoken to his husband hadn’t been teasing him about ordering salad. He’d always envisioned that their last words together would come far, far down the road. He imagined them both as octogenarians, perhaps with one of them holding the other’s hand as they whispered sweet nothings and reminisced about the life they’d shared together. David was well aware that the entire scene was straight out of a romance novel and rarely -- if ever -- happened in real life, but it was a nice thought anyway. Much nicer than threatening to order his husband fries against his will.

Not too long after that, Twyla was headed back to the cafe and Jocelyn had gone to pick up Roland Jr. from her mother’s house before her weekly jaunt to the bingo hall, leaving David and Stevie alone in the waiting room. In less than a minute, Stevie had invoked her familiar, sarcastic brand of humor as she made fun of the newscasters on the 24-hour cable network that was still playing on the TV in the corner, clearly with the intention of distracting David by enticing him to join in. It worked, and the next thing he knew, he was halfway through a full dissertation comparing the female anchor’s absolutely tragic black-and-yellow polka dot jacket to something a demented bumblebee would wear, when a nurse appeared in front of them, ready to escort him to Patrick’s room.

Apparently taking that as her cue, Stevie stood up and nervously wiped her hands on her jeans, biting her lip. “So, I guess I should go… get back to the motel, and make sure Roland hasn’t burned it down yet.”

David let out a chuckle and gave Stevie a wry grin. “I’m not so sure that wouldn’t be an improvement.”

“Your dad would kill you if he heard you say that, you know.”

“Doesn’t make it any less true.” David raised an eyebrow as the left side of his lips still tilted up into a smirk.

Stevie stood in front of him awkwardly for a couple of seconds before taking a sudden step forward and wrapping her arms around his torso. She had her face buried in his chest, and David could have sworn he heard a sniffle just before she murmured, “I’m so glad he’s okay.”

“Me too.” David’s voice wobbled a bit as he fought to keep control over his own emotions. “I don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t.”

Chapter Text

The nurse led David through yet another maze of hallways to an elevator, which took them up to the fourth floor. A sign on the wall outside the elevator doors denoted that floor as the surgical step-down unit, but for the most part, it appeared to be a poorly decorated, very boring hallway lined with about a dozen identical doors. An ugly mauve plastic handrail ran the length of the wall in between said doors. David tried to pay attention to where she was taking him, in hopes that he might be able to find his way back out later without getting lost, but that was easier said than done. Especially since the apprehension that had been lurking in the back of his mind since their last moments at the store was only continuing to build with each additional moment that he was separated from Patrick.

“He’ll probably sleep for most of the evening,” the nurse said, as they walked down the hall. “When the nerve block on his leg wears off, he might be in a lot of pain, so we’ll keep an eye on that and adjust his medication as needed. We’ll give him a sedative later to help him sleep through the night.”

David nodded numbly, still feeling a bit overwhelmed with the situation he and Patrick were in. Mostly Patrick, he supposed. David still had so many unanswered questions, but he couldn’t grab hold of a single thought for long enough to actually manage to ask any of those questions, so he stayed quiet and hoped that the nurse would tell him what he really needed to know, and he could worry about the rest later.

Finally, they made it to room 401, all the way at the end of the hall. The lights in the room were dim, and the curtains were closed. The head and foot of the bed were each inclined a little, and Patrick’s right leg, now in a different splint than the one he’d had in the emergency room, was propped up on a pillow. His eyes were closed, his breathing was deep and even, and his facial expression was peaceful and relaxed -- much the way it had been earlier that morning, when they’d both been blissfully unaware of the turn their lives would take just a few short hours later.

“Did you have any questions for me?” the nurse asked, keeping her voice low.

David still couldn’t make enough sense of the chaos in his head to ask anything coherent, so he shook his head and focused his energy on trying not to look like a deer caught in headlights.

“Okay,” she said softly, her hand lightly touching his arm just for a moment. “If either of you need anything, the call button is lying on the bed, next to his right hand.”

“Thanks,” David whispered, finally able to make his voice work. He lingered for another moment in the doorway before taking a hesitant step inside. When Patrick didn’t stir, he took another, then another, gradually making his way to the chair closest to the bed before lowering himself down into it slowly and carefully, trying not to make any noise.

As soon as David’s sweater touched the back of the chair, however, Patrick’s eyelids fluttered open, and he breathed a heavy sigh. Once his eyes met David’s, though, the corners of his mouth turned up into a soft smile.

“Hey,” Patrick whispered, his voice raspy.

“Hey.” David couldn’t stop the matching smile that spread across his own lips as he heard his husband’s voice, nor did he want to stop it. “How do you feel?”

“Like I got hit by a truck.”

“It was a Ford Taurus, actually. So, a mid-sized sedan.” David’s automatic tendency to tease his husband slipped out with a familiar ease and comfort, even though it felt highly inappropriate given the situation. He bit his lip to stifle a smirk, because the last thing he wanted was for Patrick to think he was making fun of him. Especially not while he was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an assortment of wires and tubes, with his leg bandaged up to twice its size. “But seriously, how are you? Does your leg hurt?”

“I can’t feel it at all. It’s like it’s not even there.”

“Mmm… the nurse said that would probably wear off soon. I’d suggest you enjoy it while it lasts.”

“I sort of feel like I’m floating anyway,” Patrick mumbled, his eyelids suddenly heavy. “You were right; these are some really great drugs.”

“I’m surprised you remember that.”

“I remember everything you say to me.”

“Mmm… that you do. Even the things I’d prefer you forget.” David twisted one of the pair of engagement rings he’d chosen to wear on the index finger of his right hand today, grateful for the distraction and odd sense of comfort that the small action provided, as it always did. Patrick had a habit of teasing David about the things he’d say without thinking whenever he was in a high-pressure situation -- even if it was only David’s definition of high pressure -- and their present predicament was apparently no different. That, honestly, brought him a little bit of comfort too.

“Especially those.” Patrick smiled again, turning to look at David through hooded eyelids.

“Patrick Brewer, how dare you tease me when you know I can’t tease you back unless I want to look like the world’s biggest asshole, kicking his husband when he’s down?” The pitch of David’s voice rose steadily throughout his miniature tirade, Patrick’s somewhat-loopy grin growing along each new octave. “Well,” David added after a beat or two, his voice having returned to its normal timbre as a smirk tugged at his lips, “I suppose it’s a good thing you haven’t lost your sense of humor. Even if it does usually come at my expense.”

“I’m pretty sure you give as good as you get, David.” Patrick dropped his head back to the pile of pillows behind him, letting his eyes close. He was quiet for a moment, his brow furrowing slightly, before he spoke again, this time with discomfort clear in his voice. “I think maybe that nerve block is wearing off now.”

“Do you want me to call the nurse?”

“Not yet.” Patrick left his eyes closed, breathing steadily in and out as David watched and wondered if he should make an executive decision and call the nurse anyway. He was about to reach for the call button when Patrick spoke. “Sorry I scared you.”

“What?”

“At the store.”

“Me? You were the one who was under a car. That had to be fucking terrifying. I thought you were…” David let his voice trail off, unable to finish that sentence out of fear that, if he acknowledged the thought, it might somehow come true and he’d have to figure out how to mourn his husband after all.

“I thought I was too.” Patrick’s voice was quiet. He opened his eyes to look at David, lids still heavier than usual and his warm brown eyes a bit glassy. “I was up on the ladder, and I looked out to see if you were on your way back yet… and I… I saw her coming. I think she was… having a seizure, maybe. And I tried to get down off the ladder and get out of the way, but it happened so fast. And then I was stuck. I couldn’t move, and my leg was throbbing… and that’s when I heard people screaming and shouting, and I looked around and sort of realized what happened. Then I saw you, and you looked so scared. I… I wanted to tell you I was okay, but I couldn’t, and then I saw Ronnie lead you away, and I…” Patrick was quiet for a few beats, just breathing. “I just hoped you were all right.”

“I was fine. You were the one who was… not fine.”

“David, I’m okay. It’s all…” Patrick paused again and took a deep breath. “It’s all gonna be okay.”

David bit his lip, wishing he could somehow will Patrick’s words to be true, especially since he sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much he was David. Meanwhile, all afternoon, David had been trying to tell himself that everything would be just fine, and it would all work out somehow. But he hadn’t exactly been successful. Still, he had to remind himself, the first part of what Patrick had said was unequivocally true -- he was okay. And that was what really mattered. Everything else, they’d figure out together.

David was still trying to figure out how to respond when Patrick let out another long, somewhat shaky exhale. “I think I’m ready for the nurse now,” he said softly, his words tinged with pain.

David reached out to press the call button, then wrapped his long fingers around Patrick’s right hand, careful to avoid the needles, tubing, and tape that made the simple action a bit more challenging. Less than a minute later, a nurse came in, her bright personality shining through in the way she spoke and in her mop of tight, blonde curls as she went over Patrick’s chart and checked his vital signs, then promised him she’d be right back with something that would help him rest more easily.

Not long after that, Patrick was back to sleeping peacefully, while David watched and tried to keep his thoughts from running away with him. It was a challenging task in the silence, with nowhere to go and no one to talk to, the only available distraction being his phone, with its almost-dead battery that he couldn’t charge, because the adapter was back at the store. The store that would probably be condemned, if the way it had looked when they’d left it was any indication.

He tried not to think about that, but it was hard not to. There was so much to do, and so much to figure out, and David honestly wasn’t sure where to start. He’d have to call the insurance company, and he’d probably need to call someone for an estimate on the repair, if it could even be repaired at all. Then he’d have to find contractors to fix it all, and in the middle of all of that, figure out how they could make money in the meantime, just to pay their mortgage and their bills. It was all very overwhelming, particularly for someone with a well-established tendency to jump to worst-case scenarios.

But, for right now, their insurance agent’s office was closed for the day, Patrick’s parents were on their way, and Patrick was what David needed to focus on. He knew that for certain. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and saw that he’d missed a text message nearly two hours before, from Marcy Brewer.

We’re on our way, it said. Love you both. Be there soon. Text me the address of the hospital so I’m sure I have it right.

David sent Marcy a link to the hospital’s location on his maps app, then leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes, just trying to breathe through the overwhelm, as exhaustion started to creep in alongside it. It had been a long day, and there were still far too many unknowns. But, David reminded himself, there was nothing he could do at that moment. All he could do was stay with Patrick. Be there for Patrick. Feel Patrick’s hand in his and know that he was fine; that he was still there.

He must have drifted off right there in the chair, his hand still clutching Patrick’s, because the next thing he was aware of was the sound of soft footsteps, followed by a whispered, “Oh, my sweet boys.”

David blinked his eyes open and focused his gaze on Marcy Brewer, who was standing in the doorway, tucked into her husband’s side with his arm around her shoulders as they both looked down at their son in the hospital bed. Marcy smiled sadly as she made eye contact with David, then let go of Clint and moved toward the chair where David sat. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and held him close for a moment, and he relished the warmth and the comfort that her hug brought with it -- something that had once been almost foreign to him. But he was finally getting used to it and, honestly, he wished it hadn’t been so foreign.

“How are you?” she whispered, her large eyes full of concern as she pulled back and looked him up and down, her hands still resting on his shoulders.

“I’ve been better.” David huffed out a wet laugh and blinked back the tears that had inexplicably formed in the corners of his eyes as Marcy held him. “We both have.”

“Mom?” Patrick’s voice was raspy, but still effective in pulling their collective attention back to the bed. He reached up and rubbed his eyes with his left hand, looking like he was still fighting sleep and the effects of the sedative he’d been given along with the morphine.

“Hi, sweetheart,” Marcy said, as she stepped forward to brush a stray curl back from Patrick’s forehead before leaning down to gently kiss his cheek.

“What are you doing here?”

“Shit, I forgot to--”

“It’s okay, David, honey,” Marcy gently cut him off. “I’m sure you had a lot on your mind.”

“I was just…” David started, then stopped. “I was so glad you were awake, and that you were okay.”

“How could we not be here, sweetheart?” Marcy asked, now addressing Patrick as she cupped his cheek gently with her hand. “We came as soon as we heard.”

“Hi, Dad,” Patrick said, still sounding drowsy as he looked over at his father, standing on the other side of the bed.

“You doing okay, son?”

Patrick let out of a heavy sigh as his eyes slipped closed once again. “Yeah,” he whispered. “I’m okay.” He paused for another inhale and exhale before murmuring, “Tired.”

“It’s okay, sweet boy,” Marcy said, again brushing a stray tuft of hair from Patrick’s forehead. “Let yourself sleep.”

Patrick appeared to fight sleep for several more seconds, his eyelids fluttering open a couple more times before his face finally relaxed and his breathing deepened once again.

“What can I do to help?” Marcy asked, turning her attention back to David. Her large eyes were so caring and so damn sincere, and for a moment David didn’t really know what to say, because he was too busy thinking about how lucky he was to have married into this family.

Marcy reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, giving it a light squeeze and bringing him back out of his thoughts once again. David shook his head and blinked slowly, in an attempt to clear away the exhaustion that seemed to have overtaken all of his senses in the last few minutes.

“Do you want to go home and get some rest?” she asked. “I can have Clint drive you, and I’ll stay here with Patrick.”

“No,” David said quickly -- probably a little too quickly -- shaking his head more vehemently this time. “I’ll… I’m okay. I don’t want to leave him.” What David didn’t say was the part about how he wasn’t sure he could take being separated from Patrick any more at that moment. Not after spending a good chunk of the day waiting and worrying and wondering.

“Okay.” Marcy smiled her calm, relaxed smile -- the same one David had envisioned earlier during their phone call -- and wrapped her arms around him one more time, holding him close to her chest. Suddenly, it was all David could do to keep control over his emotions, which were feeling more and more raw by the second. The longer he fought for control, the more difficult it became, but in the end, he managed not to cry. Instead, he tried to just lean in to the warmth and comfort his mother-in-law was trying to provide.

“I can go get us all a cup of coffee.” Clint’s voice broke the silence from where he was still standing at the foot of the bed.

“That would be lovely, dear,” Marcy responded as she gently released David and settled down into the chair next to him. Her hand easily found his and gripped it tightly, as if she somehow knew that he needed the anchor.

“David? Would you like anything?”

David asked for coffee with a splash of cream, two packets of sweetener, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, knowing full-well that having caffeine at this hour was only going to make his anxiety worse, and would probably also keep him from sleeping that night. Although he wasn’t sure he would be able to get much sleep anyway, since the only pieces of furniture in Patrick’s hospital room other than the bed and the rolling table beside it were the chairs he and Marcy were currently occupying. And although they were reasonably comfortable for sitting, his back and neck were already sore just from the short nap he’d taken before the Brewers arrived, so he wasn’t exactly looking forward to spending the night in said chair. Part of him wished he could climb into bed with Patrick and cuddle up to his side, with his head resting on Patrick’s chest, listening to the soft thump of his heartbeat. And although Patrick probably wouldn’t mind, David was sure that the hospital staff would be less than impressed.

Marcy made smalltalk with David, asking him about the house and whether or not he and Patrick had any plans to go to California to visit his parents, or New York to see Alexis. He appreciated the distraction, even though he could tell by the way Marcy was looking at him that she was worried about him.

Clint returned soon after that with coffee, which made David feel quite a bit more awake, even though he was sure he probably didn’t look much better. Sitting and talking with the Brewers was a lot like sitting and talking with Patrick, only split into two separate people. He’d obviously gotten his loving sincerity and level-headed nature from his mother, while his teasing, sarcastic side had apparently come from his father. Clint was more soft-spoken than Patrick, but he had the same edge and shared many of the same interests. Those things were yet another familiar comfort to David as they all sat around and talked quietly about nothing, just to fill the silence.

Eventually, though, the conversation slowed and stopped, as fatigue seemed to settle in for all three of them. While it wasn’t really all that late, David felt like it might as well have been midnight. It had been a long time since Patrick’s alarm had gone off at 7:30 that morning and he’d kissed David awake, softly and sweetly before they both got up to prepare for the day -- the day that they’d had no idea would end with Patrick in a hospital bed.

“David, honey.” Marcy’s soft voice broke the silence as her fingers gently stroked his forearm. “Why don’t let Clint drive you home so you can get some rest? I’m sure you’re exhausted.”

“I don’t…” David started, then stopped, hoping he wasn’t going to sound as dumb as he felt. What kind of grown adult couldn’t stand to be apart from his husband for one night? “I just… I really don’t want to leave him here alone.”

“I’ll be okay, David.” Patrick’s voice joined the exchange, his words still a bit slurred from the effects of the painkillers. “You don’t have to stay.”

“And what if I don’t want--”

“David.” Patrick cut him off, and David could tell he was trying his best to put on his no-nonsense, take-charge voice, but its impact was substantially lessened by how drunk he sounded. “I’m fine. Go home and get some sleep.”

“And just how am I supposed to sleep, when you’re… you’re here and I’m there? I can barely get through the night when you’re in Toronto at one of your boring conferences!” David’s voice steadily rose in pitch as he spoke, and he could feel his anxiety starting to bleed through, giving his words an urgent, desperate quality, despite his efforts to remain calm. His hands were gesturing wildly, seemingly of their own accord, and he knew Patrick would recognize that behavior for what it was -- David’s body trying to find some way to modulate amid the chaos. He hadn’t slept well alone in a while; that was why he’d spent most of his nights at Patrick’s, even before they were married. But now, the thought of being separated from Patrick was making David feel physically ill, and neither his body nor his brain knew how to deal with that feeling.

Patrick reached out for one of David’s hands, stilling it in the air and pulling it down to the bed. “Please,” he said, his expression softening as he looked David in the eye. He suddenly sounded a little more sober, too. “Do it for me. Go home, take a shower, and get some rest.” Patrick’s eyes started to twinkle a bit as a smile played at his lips. “Besides, no one wants to hear you complain about missing your evening skincare routine, or the state of your clothes from sleeping upright in a chair.”

David rolled his eyes, wanting to argue but at the same time knowing it was useless. Patrick knew him too well, and he’d just had a peek into exactly how much this whole fucked-up situation was affecting David. He’d responded exactly as he usually did when he could tell David was struggling -- with a sincere plea, followed by a joke to lighten the mood and try to make David laugh. And, as usual, it was clear that Patrick had made up his mind. When that happened, there was never any room for objection -- not even if one had a good reason, like, oh, perhaps not leaving one’s husband alone in the hospital for a night when he’d just had a near-death experience.

“I can stay with you, sweetheart,” Marcy said.

Patrick shook his head. “No; I don’t want any of you sleeping in a chair. You’re all going back to our house, and I’ll see you in the morning. I’m gonna be asleep anyway.” He inhaled a sharp breath and winced as he shifted a little in the bed. “And I think I want some more of that sedative.”

Marcy rose to stand and laid a gentle hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “Okay,” she said, her tone as soft and tender as her touch. “Do you want me to call the nurse?”

“No,” Patrick grunted, still shifting around like he was trying to find a comfortable position. “I’ve got it.”

Marcy leaned down and kissed Patrick’s forehead, cupping his cheek with her palm. “Love you, my sweet boy,” she murmured. “Pleasant dreams.”

“We’ll see you in the morning, son,” Clint added.

As Marcy gathered her things and started toward the door, David stood up and took a deep breath, still not wanting to go, but feeling like he had no choice. Patrick had made his wishes clear. David knew it wasn’t personal -- in fact, it was the opposite, and sending David home was Patrick’s way of caring for him in that moment -- but the thought of going back home without Patrick still weighed heavily in David’s gut, making him a bit nauseous.

“I love you,” David whispered, trying his best to paste a smile on his face for Patrick.

“Love you more,” Patrick mumbled, already looking like he was drifting off again as his eyes slid shut.

David kissed Patrick’s hand and placed it gently on the bed, then followed his in-laws out of the room. They stopped by the nurse’s station to ask someone to check on Patrick, in case he’d nodded off before he managed to press the call button, then started toward the parking garage, where Clint’s SUV was parked. David programmed his and Patrick’s address into the GPS and settled into the back seat, leaning his head against the headrest and closing his eyes as the computerized voice guided them onto the highway that would take them to Schitt’s Creek.

Chapter Text

Marcy woke David with a gentle hand just as they pulled into the driveway in front of the idyllic country cottage he and Patrick called home. He unlocked the door and led them inside, too exhausted to give them the tour that he’d once been so excited to give to his in-laws the first time they saw the house. All of the furnishings were carefully curated, of course, and David even had stories for a handful of the antique pieces he’d found on one of their long weekend trips to Amish country. But he couldn’t manage to muster up any of the enthusiasm he’d once pictured himself having the first time they hosted the Brewers in their home.

Marcy -- bless her -- tried to get him talking about one of the paintings in the living room, while Clint marveled at the baby grand piano Patrick had insisted on putting in one corner, but David barely managed to say two words to either of them in response. A part of him was afraid if he started talking, all of the anxiety that had coalesced into a roiling mass in his gut would come spilling out, and he’d end up having a panic attack in the middle of the foyer -- definitely not the way he wanted to welcome his in-laws.

He managed to hold himself together long enough to give them a brief tour of the essentials -- where they kept their dishes and utensils in the kitchen, which closet in the upstairs hallway contained the linens, and the location of the guest bedroom and bath, with instructions to help themselves to anything they needed. His voice was tight, and he heard it waver on more than one occasion. He hoped Marcy and Clint hadn’t noticed, but the knowing looks Marcy gave him said otherwise. They parted with brief hugs in the hallway, followed by Marcy giving David a gentle nudge in the direction of the master suite.

“Take care of you now, David,” she said, her voice kind and strong, despite its soft tone. “If there’s anything I can do, I’m right down the hall.”

David nodded, managing to utter a small, “Thanks,” as he turned to go into the bedroom he and Patrick shared. He stood for a moment in the doorway, staring at their bed in the dim light from the full moon outside. It was neatly made, just the way Patrick had done it that morning while David was in the shower, and some small, highly irrational part of David hated to disturb that. But the more rational part of him knew he had to get some sleep, and being under the comforting weight of the duvet would be the best way for him to do that. First, though, he needed a shower.

The vision that stared back at David in the mirror of the master bathroom as he stripped off his sweater was frightening to say the least. He had dirt smudged on one cheek, and his hair was flattened on the side, likely from the helmet he’d had to wear to be allowed back in the store. His eyes were glassy and red, framed by dark circles, and even his normal five o’clock shadow somehow seemed darker than usual. He shuddered at the thought of how many people he’d interacted with looking like that. As he shook his head, though, he heard the echo of Patrick’s voice in his mind, speaking familiar words of wisdom combined with mild annoyance: “No one cares, David. Sometimes other things are more important than how you look.”

David still wasn’t sure he fully believed those words, but the more Patrick said them, the more David started to buy in. Even so, his clothes -- the last vestiges of his previous life -- would always be his armor, because they made him feel safe. He felt comfortable in his soft, fluffy sweaters with long sleeves that he could pull down over his hands when he felt anxious, while his skirted pants and tight jeans made just enough of a statement that David Rose wasn’t a book to be judged by his cover. He took pride in his appearance, and he refused to apologize or feel shame about that, although that pride -- which sometimes bordered on obsession -- did make it difficult to shut down his inner critic at times.

David’s inner critic seemed to be extra loud that night, feeding his anxiety about how people must have perceived him earlier that day and making his hand tremble a little as he turned on the shower and waited for the water to warm up. Once it finally did, he stepped under the pounding spray, letting it wash away the grime of the day. He tried to remind himself that he’d been in crisis mode, and that everyone he’d been with that day had known that, regardless of whether or not they actually knew him personally. But thinking about that only brought his attention back to Patrick, who was all alone in the hospital, 45 minutes away in Elmdale. David shook his head as he started to soap up, remembering that he was home right now because Patrick had insisted, and that Patrick was fine.

He stood under the spray until the water started to cool, then turned off the shower and grabbed one of the monogrammed towels Stevie had given them as an engagement gift. They were much nicer and more plush than the towels at the motel, but they’d still come from Stevie, and that made them David’s favorite towels.

As he started the steps of his nightly skincare ritual, David welcomed the distraction and comfort that came along with the familiar routine. With each new product taken out of the evenly spaced lineup he kept on their bathroom counter -- the one Patrick liked to tease him about on a regular basis -- he started to feel more like himself. More put together, at least on the outside. It helped with the inside too, making him feel like he had a stable anchor for the time being. He tried to latch onto that feeling, in hopes that he might be able to fake it until he made it, even though he knew that was a long shot.

When David finally crawled into bed, the first thing he noticed was how empty it was. He hadn’t spent a single night by himself since they’d moved into the house, and doing it with no advanced notice felt even worse. He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, wishing this was a night when he could cuddle up to his husband and lay his head on his chest, twining their fingers together as they both fell into a peaceful slumber. But he couldn’t do any of that, because Patrick was in the hospital, and David was alone in their bed.

Sure, his in-laws were just down the hall in the guest room, so he wasn’t completely by himself, but he still felt incredibly alone, with Patrick’s side of the bed cold and empty.

As David lay there in the darkness, the miasma of thoughts that had been swirling in his mind for the last twelve hours or so started to get louder and louder, until he felt a familiar tightening in his chest and throat, and tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. He tried to take deep breaths, counting to four, slowly, with each inhale and exhale, but instead of getting steadier, each breath seemed to only get shakier and shorter. He kept counting, closing his eyes and willing his heart rate to slow down, because this panic was pointless, and he knew it. It was nothing more than a side effect of having to hold everything back for so long; just like always, his anxiety was forcing its way out, whether he wanted it to or not.

1… 2… 3… 4… David counted silently to himself as he inhaled, then repeated the same slow count on the exhale, wishing he could just keep his breath steady, but instead, it kept hitching, totally out of his control.

He heard the soft click of the doorknob to the guest room just down the hall, followed by footsteps that were so light that they had to belong to his mother-in-law. David tried even harder to make his breath as quiet as possible, so as not to be heard, but an ill-timed near-sob gave him away just as Marcy passed by the open door to his and Patrick’s bedroom.

“David?” Marcy asked, sounding unsure, though her concern was clear. “Are you alright, dear?”

David took a deep breath and tried to steel himself to answer her with a steady voice, but cursed inwardly when his, “Fine,” ended up sounding as tearful as he could tell his eyes were, even squeezed shut in the dark.

He heard Marcy’s footsteps cross the room, and felt the mattress dip as she sat down on the edge of the bed. “Can I touch you, sweetheart?” she asked, sounding so sweet and sincere that David wanted to cry just from the knowledge of how loved he was by this woman, who only knew him because he was in love with her son.

David managed to give a small nod, and felt Marcy’s hand come to rest on his forearm. She gave it a squeeze, and even with his eyes closed, David felt like he could see her gentle, peaceful smile. He didn’t even need to see her to know that was the expression she had on her face. So full of understanding and caring and love.

“Breathe with me,” she said softly, taking over the count as she inhaled and exhaled, slow and deep, tracing soothing patterns with her fingertips across David’s arm.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, David’s breath began to smooth out and slow down, and his thoughts started to slow down along with it, enabling him to make at least some sense out of what was flowing through his brain.

“Talk to me if you want to,” Marcy said, her voice still calm and comforting and so warm. “Whenever you’re ready. I’ll stay right here as long as you want me to.”

David squeezed his eyes shut tightly again and tried to force the tears back, but found that he couldn’t stop one from falling and making its way silently down his cheekbone. He felt the gentle touch of Marcy’s thumb wiping away the tear, and he could picture her sad smile in his mind’s eye even though he still couldn’t physically see her.

“It’s okay, sweet boy,” she cooed. Normally, David would have bristled at being talked to like he was a small child, but in this moment, he found it incredibly comforting. “Let it out.”

As if on cue, a loud sob forced its way out of his throat as the dam let go and his tears began to flow more freely. Marcy stayed right there, her hand continuing to trace a constant, gentle pattern up and down his arm as his body shook and all of the emotions he’d been holding back all day came pouring out of him, unchecked. He didn’t often cry like this; usually, he tried to keep it all inside as much as possible, because he didn’t like feeling exposed. Vulnerable. But sometimes, it was just too much. This was one of those times.

David wasn’t sure how long he laid there with tears streaming down his face, gasping for breath against the sobs that were wrenching their way out of his chest and throat, but Marcy stayed the entire time -- the strong, steady presence that he needed. The presence that Patrick normally provided in David’s life, coming from the woman who had more than likely taught him that skill, be it consciously or not.

When David’s sobs finally quieted and he was able to catch his breath, Marcy’s kind voice broke the uncomfortable silence.

“Can I give you a hug?”

David nodded in the darkness, still not sure he trusted himself enough to speak, and pushed himself up to a somewhat-upright position in bed -- just enough for Marcy to wrap her arms around him, enveloping him in a warm embrace. In that moment, it was hard not to cry again, and David could feel the tears in his eyes and the lump in his throat both starting to build as she moved the palm of her hand gently back and forth across his shoulder blades.

“It’s okay,” she said softly. “I know you’re scared. It’s okay to be scared.”

That small bit of validation was enough to push David over the edge again, and he felt the tears in his eyes start to fall as he buried his face in Marcy’s shoulder. This time, he wasn’t gasping for air, but he could feel his breath hitching with each rough inhale and exhale, as his mother-in-law traced comforting circles over his back.

“I thought he was dead,” David whispered, hearing his own voice shake and catch on the final word -- the word he was finally acknowledging out loud.

Marcy didn’t say anything; she just held him closer, apparently sensing that he needed to get some of this out.

“I feel like it was my fault. I was the one who asked him to stock the bath bombs, because I knew that shelf was dusty, and I hate dusting. But I knew if he saw it, he’d do it and I wouldn’t have to. I was the reason he was up there on that ladder. It should have been me.”

“David, sweetheart… There’s no way you could have known what was about to happen. It was an accident. It wasn’t your fault.”

On some level, David knew that she was right, but the irrational part of him kept coming back to taunt him, making him feel guilty for having been too lazy to dust the damn shelves himself. For essentially setting a trap for his husband that he knew would work.

“But I basically manipulated him into getting on that ladder!” David pulled back a little so he could look Marcy in the eye. He could hear his voice rising, but there was nothing he could do about it, because his anxiety was in the driver’s seat now. “If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have been there!” His hands were flailing, and he could feel them trembling as well.

Suddenly, he was right back to being on the verge of that panic attack he’d been fighting all night. Marcy seemed to sense that too, and she wrapped her arms around him again and held him close. The movement of her breath was steady and deep against his chest, giving him a guideline to follow, even though she wasn’t saying a word.

When David’s breath finally slowed enough for him to speak again, another one of the anxious thoughts that had been bouncing around in his brain all night suddenly rose to the surface and bubbled out.

“What if he’s mad at me?” David whispered. “What if he thinks it was my fault?”

“David, he doesn’t think that, and he isn’t mad at you.”

“But how do you know?” David’s voice was barely audible now, and he was fully aware that the words coming out of his mouth made no sense at all, but he was powerless to stop them. “You can’t know that for sure.”

Marcy pulled back just enough to be able to look David in the eye. He had to fight not to look away, because it made him uncomfortable -- likely because he knew that everything he was saying was an exaggerated lie being cooked up by his anxiety. But he managed to hold her gaze, which was just as sincere and kind as ever, even in the dim, blue-grey glow from the moon outside.

“David, I know my son,” she said, her voice steady and strong, “and I know that you’ve made him happier than I’ve seen him in a long, long time. Maybe ever. There’s no way he would hold any of this against you, no matter what happened or what led to it. Things happen sometimes. They don’t have to be anyone’s fault.”

Marcy’s last sentence took a few seconds to fully absorb into David’s consciousness, because they were words he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard spoken to him before, and they were certainly not what he’d experienced for most of his life. He was used to being blamed for things, or feeling like everything was his fault whenever one of his relationships fell apart. He’d tried so hard for the past two years not to lump Patrick into that same category, but here he was, feeling like the shoe was ready to drop on this particular relationship too, and just like always, it would be his fault. He knew that thought was completely irrational, but since when was anxiety ever rational? As Marcy looked at him, her gaze patient and warm and so full of unconditional love that he wasn’t sure he deserved, he could hear the words of one of his many former therapists echoing in his head: That’s your anxiety talking. It might say whatever it has to say, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen.

David took a deep breath, letting it out in a slow, measured way as he let his eyes close for a moment, reminding himself again that the catastrophic thoughts in his head were nothing more than anxiety talking, and he didn’t have to listen. He didn’t want to listen. And that meant he had to fight. But he was so, so tired -- not just physically, but mentally.

“You should get some sleep,” Marcy said softly, her hands still resting on David’s shoulders. Her warm touch provided him with just enough grounding to make it possible for him to nod and take another deep, steady breath, then finally speak without his voice breaking.

“Thanks,” he said, matching her soft tone. “I… I think I just needed to say it all out loud.”

Marcy nodded and gave him a kind, knowing smile, moving one of her hands to cup his face the same way she had Patrick’s when she’d kissed him goodbye. “Anytime, sweet boy.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek, then patted his arm as she shifted to the edge of the bed and stood up. “If you need me again, I’m right down the hall, okay? Promise me you’ll come wake me up. I don’t mind.”

David pulled his lips into his mouth as he nodded his silent promise to her, although he really, really hoped he wouldn’t have to disturb her sleep any more than he already had.

“And don’t worry about waking Clint,” Marcy added, a familiar mischievous twinkle in her eyes, “he could sleep through a hurricane.”

David let out a chuckle as a much-needed smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “Patrick too.”

“You don’t have to be okay all the time, you know,” Marcy said, her expression tender and sincere as she paused on her way to the door. “I used to have to tell Patrick that a lot when he was growing up. That it was okay to not be okay. To not be in control. I know he tries, but… sometimes things are just out of your control. What happened today was one of those things. Don’t forget that.”

With those words, Marcy smiled at him one more time -- this one warm and reassuring -- as she left the bedroom and continued on down the hallway to the guest bath. Less than a minute later, David heard the shower turn on, and he focused his attention on the spatter of the water against the ceramic tiles, letting the constant, somewhat rhythmic sound lull him to sleep.

Chapter Text

David woke to the familiar smell of coffee wafting up from downstairs, and for a moment or two, his mind drifted to fantasies about his husband in their kitchen, cooking them both pancakes or french toast or some other carby, sugary deliciousness to enjoy before heading downtown to open the store. But the final two words of that thought brought reality crashing in, reminding David that there was no possible way that Patrick was downstairs cooking pancakes, because Patrick was in the hospital. Because he’d been hit by a car, inside their store.

Those words had been running through David’s brain like a twisted mantra, repeating themselves over and over -- a constant, unwelcome reminder that his entire world had been turned upside down in the last 24 hours. David wished more than anything that he could somehow turn back the clock and change things. If only he’d ignored his growling stomach for a little while longer, he would have been able to usher Patrick into the stockroom at just the right moment, putting them both out of harm’s way when the car careened through the window. Sure, it still would have destroyed half of their store, and lost them thousands of dollars worth of inventory, but Patrick would be safe, and that was all David wanted. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something he could have.

He rolled over and looked at the clock, groaning when he realized it was only seven o’clock. He wasn’t sure what time he’d finally managed to fall asleep, but he did know that he’d been up multiple times during the night, each time struggling to remind himself that Patrick was fine, and that none of this was anyone’s fault. That it was just an accident. Marcy’s words had played over and over in his head, helping him with that, and he fell back asleep each time to the echo of her voice telling him again: It’s okay to not be okay.

That was a much better mantra to have, because David felt anything but okay, even in the fresh light of a new day. His eyes felt gritty and swollen from crying, and he was sure that he probably had dark circles to rival the ones he’d had the night before, since he hadn’t gotten a whole lot of sleep. Needless to say, he didn’t exactly relish the thought of being seen by anyone that day, but he also didn't have a choice.

David still wasn’t a morning person by any stretch of the imagination -- that was why Patrick had to coax him out of bed most days with the promise of homemade breakfast -- but he did want to get to the hospital as soon as possible, so that made him a little more motivated to get out of bed. Mostly, he just wanted to see Patrick, although he also hoped to establish some sort of direction for what Patrick’s recovery might look like, just to get rid of some of the unknowns that continued to circle in his brain and conjure up various scenarios, some of them far more disastrous than others.

Worrying about how they were going to get Patrick upstairs was one of the thoughts that had kept David awake for large chunks of the night. Once Patrick was upstairs and in bed, David would be able to make sure he had easy access to everything he needed without having to go back down unless it was an absolute emergency, but the thought of getting him up there made David wish that they had something even resembling a bedroom on the ground floor of the house. The closest thing they had was the “study” -- the room where Patrick often sat at his desk to go over spreadsheets and statistics for their business, and where David would occasionally sit in his fluffy armchair by the window with a cup of tea and a good book. But there wasn’t a bed -- nor was there room for one -- and he didn’t want Patrick to have to sleep on the couch in the living room. So they’d have to figure out a way to get him upstairs, because there simply weren’t any other options. (Except maybe the motel, but David had sworn he would rather live in the back of the Apothecary before taking up residence at the Rosebud Motel ever again. If he had to do it for Patrick, though, he had to admit that he probably would.)

David was busy trying to keep his mind from going down the rabbit hole of all of the things that could possibly go wrong whenever they brought Patrick home, when the distinct scent of cinnamon and vanilla joined the smell of coffee in the air, providing further encouragement for him to finally get out of bed. He rolled over and sat up, gingerly placing his feet on the fluffy shag rug that framed their bed and helped ease the transition from warm sheets and soft blankets to hardwood floor. Scrubbing his hands over his face, David closed his eyes and tried to steel himself for the day ahead, wishing once again that it could be just a normal day -- a day when Patrick would tease him for a particularly unique fashion choice, or when he’d catch a glimpse of Patrick from across the store with the tiniest hint of a smile on his face as he gazed fondly at David. It didn’t seem to matter if David was helping a customer, restocking, or merchandising a new display -- any time Patrick stole a glance at him, the look in his eyes always made David feel seen. Loved. David loved those days.

But that so-called “normal” day wasn’t happening, and the store that they’d built together was now in an indefinite state of limbo. That thought felt incredibly heavy -- almost suffocating. Especially as David realized that today was the day when he’d have to call their insurance agent so they could start a claim. That was a task that Patrick normally would have taken care of, but David knew he couldn’t ask Patrick to do it right now. He felt guilty enough for being the reason -- whether directly or indirectly -- that Patrick had been on that stepladder near the front window of the store. The last thing he wanted was for Patrick to have to lift a single finger to take care of any of this, so that meant David would be flying solo -- at least, once he figured out what the fuck he was doing.

With a resigned sigh, David pushed himself up to stand, then shuffled out of the bedroom and down the stairs, his eyes only half open. As he entered the kitchen, he had a fleeting thought about the likely horrific state of his hair (and his in-laws seeing him like that) but by then it was too late to care, because Marcy was already pulling out a chair for him at the table and pressing a fresh cup of coffee into his hand.

“Morning, David,” she chirped. “How’d you sleep?”

David wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question, especially since the honest answer was, “terrible,” but thankfully, Marcy didn’t wait for him to respond. Instead, she turned back to the stove, where she was tending to a pan of what looked like french toast.

As David sat and watched, trying to bring his brain to some semblance of full consciousness as he sipped the cup of coffee that Marcy had somehow known how to make just right, he saw exactly where Patrick had gotten his way-too-cheerful “morning person” tendencies. Marcy was humming to herself as she flipped each slice of bread over in the pan, and she had a spring in her step that was distinctly missing from anything David could possibly pull off in the morning. She wasn’t overbearing about it, though; she was just… happy. At first, David wasn’t sure how or why she wasn’t just as worried as he was, but then he remembered how Patrick often dealt with worry -- he would do almost anything to draw attention away from whatever was worrying him and create a distraction instead, mostly for his own benefit. Making french toast and otherwise playing Susie Homemaker in David and Patrick’s kitchen was likely Marcy’s distraction.

“I hope you were able to get some rest,” Marcy said, glancing over her shoulder at David as she started to plate up the first few slices of toast.

David gave her a small nod and took another sip of his coffee. “A little.”

“Good.” Marcy smiled as she brought David the plate she’d just assembled, setting it down in front of him and nudging the butter and syrup that she’d already placed on the table a little closer.

David looked down at the plate and inhaled the rich aroma that would no doubt get his mouth watering on any other day, but on this day, he wasn’t sure how much he could eat. He was still too worried about Patrick… about the store… about everything, really.

“Did I give you too much?” Marcy raised her eyebrows as she continued to give David an easy, warm smile. “I thought I remembered Patrick telling me you had a particular affinity for sweets in the morning.”

David shook his head and tried to smile back at his mother-in-law, so she would at least know how much he appreciated her efforts, because he did. But when anxiety tied his stomach in knots, it was sometimes difficult for him to eat, despite his intense and undying love of food -- the same love that Patrick was fond of teasing him for. “No, I’m just… I don’t have much of an appetite right now, I guess. But this looks delicious.”

“You just eat whatever you can, okay, sweetheart? You have to keep your strength up.”

“Me? I’m not the one who--”

“Yes, you.” Marcy gently cut him off. “Patrick isn’t in this by himself. He’s got you, and you’ve both got me and Clint, and your parents, and Alexis, and Stevie, and the rest of your friends here in town. It sure is a whole lot easier to get through something like this when you’ve got the right support. But that also means you have to take care of yourself, got it?” While Marcy’s tone was still kind and soft, it had a distinct no-nonsense tone to it that David knew better than to argue with. He’d heard it from Adelina growing up, and he’d actually heard it from Patrick, too, although his version was usually followed by a bit of sarcastic, good-natured ribbing.

David nodded as he thoughtfully chewed his first bite of french toast, noting the slight hint of orange peel alongside the prominent vanilla flavor, which made him wonder how on earth she’d known not only to make him french toast for breakfast, but also what his favorite kind was. Although he supposed it made sense that it might have been something she’d made for Patrick growing up, since it was Patrick who had made David fall in love with the recipe one lazy Sunday morning in his tiny studio apartment.

Clint joined them in the kitchen just as Marcy finished cooking and turned off the stove, and David was grateful for the momentary distraction of being able to watch his in-laws’ easy rapport with one another -- the way they seemed to just fit together, and the way they anticipated each other’s every move. He supposed that was a benefit of their 40-year marriage, which looked quite a bit different than the one his own parents shared -- primarily due to his mother’s eccentricities -- but at the same time shared many similarities because how much they cared about each other was clear in almost everything they did. David hoped that he and Patrick would have that same effortless comfort with one another when they reached that point someday, assuming they were lucky enough to get there. In many ways, David was still getting used to thinking in more certain terms when it came to relationships, although he had to admit that Marcy’s reassurance the night before had been very helpful. She did know her son, perhaps better than anyone else, and if she said Patrick wouldn’t blame him or be angry with him for what had happened, David had to try to believe her. That meant pushing away the catastrophic thoughts that continued to niggle at the back of his mind, and the echoes of past partners and ex-friends who had made him believe he wasn’t good enough.

David was also grateful that Marcy and Clint both seemed to sense that he wasn’t up for conversation, instead allowing him to just listen and try to focus on his breakfast as they discussed a phone conversation Clint had just had with his manager at work, and Marcy’s text chain with a couple of neighbors who would be picking up their mail and taking care of their beagle, Sadie, while they were gone. It was a nice, idle conversation that mostly kept David’s thoughts out of any potential disaster spirals while he tried to eat as much french toast as he could stomach. He managed to eat a little more than half of what was on the plate, more because it was so delicious than because he was actually hungry, but it was more than he thought he’d be able to eat, so that was a victory. When he reached the point where he felt like he couldn’t possibly eat another bite, he thanked Marcy for the breakfast and excused himself from the table, so he could go back upstairs and get ready for the day.

He’d been right about the dark circles, and the overall pallor of his skin was still every bit as disturbing as it had been the night before, with the unpleasant addition of bloodshot eyes from the previous night’s emotional outburst. He knew he’d needed to get it out, and he didn’t regret a single moment of the conversation he’d shared with Marcy, but he really wished that the evidence of said conversation wasn’t clear in his eyes and on his face. Patrick would see it and probably feel bad, and David didn’t want Patrick to feel bad. Patrick needed to focus on getting better, and that meant that David had to try to not be so needy. He had to figure out a way to be the in-control, take-charge guy for once, so Patrick wouldn’t have to be. David knew that would be a tall order, but he had to make it happen, because, once again, he didn’t have a choice.

For now, though, he could put on his armor -- washing and styling his hair, completing all nine steps of his morning skincare regimen, and putting on one of his favorite Rick Owens sweaters with a pair of skirted pants and black high-top sneakers. Because even if he didn’t feel mentally ready for the day, he could at least look ready. Again, faking it until he made it.

It had taken several drops of Visine and a larger than usual amount of eucalyptus under-eye serum, but eventually David got to the point where he felt like he at least didn’t look too much like he’d spent the better part of an hour sobbing in his mother-in-law’s arms the night before. He wished that he had time to do an eye mask as well, but he really did want to get to the hospital, and he was sure the Brewers did too. So, once he’d managed to blow dry his hair into submission and throw a few emergency skincare supplies into his bag, he went back downstairs, where he found the Brewers standing at the sink together, washing dishes. They were tag teaming in exactly the way he and Patrick sometimes did -- at least, on the nights when Patrick could convince David to get his hands wet. The nights that David now wanted to happen more often, if he was being honest, just because it meant more time spent with Patrick.

He jumped in to help dry the few remaining plates and forks -- which included his and Patrick’s long-forgotten dishes from breakfast the previous morning -- then prepared himself another cup of coffee in his travel mug while the Brewers finished getting ready. Not long after that, the three of them were in Clint’s SUV once again, headed to Elmdale. David sat in the back seat, mostly staring out the window as he tried not to fall asleep. He took big gulps of his coffee in an effort to stay awake, but he could already feel the jolt of caffeine amping up the anxious buzz inside his brain, and he knew that wasn’t a good thing. He made up his mind that he wasn’t going to follow any of his thought spirals down the rabbit hole of destruction and despair, but that meant he had to fight, and the lack of sleep made that very, very difficult.

David was still a bit lost in his thoughts when they finally arrived at the hospital, but the second he laid eyes on Patrick, it was suddenly much easier to shift his focus back to the present moment -- adopting the “caring, put-together husband” role, as opposed to the “anxious mess of a partner” role he felt he occupied the majority of the time, whether he wanted to or not. That was just his nature; he was a worrier. He was a caretaker, really, and most of the time he just wanted to make sure the people he cared about were safe. But that also brought with it a lot of worry, and a lot of self-assigned responsibility for crosses that were probably not his to bear. This situation was no different, but David was determined to do whatever he could to help, while doing his best to keep his shit together in the process.

When David and the Brewers walked in, Patrick was sitting up in bed, picking at a partially eaten plate of eggs and toast on the tray table in front of him. There was also a bowl of fruit that appeared to be completely untouched. Just seeing Patrick automatically brought a smile to David’s face, which Patrick tried to return, but it was easy to see that his was tinged with discomfort.

“Morning,” David whispered, as he bent down to kiss his husband on the lips for the first time since he’d gone into surgery the day before. “How’re you doing?”

Patrick pushed his plate away and settled back into the pillows with a sigh. He swallowed hard, his eyes closing as his brow furrowed, his fair skin somehow even paler than usual. It took him several seconds -- and at least two more hard swallows -- to speak. “Just really nauseous this morning,” he murmured, his voice strained, as if even pushing out those few words made it difficult to keep his breakfast down. “But I want to go home, and if I want to do that, then I have to eat, and I have to be able to get up and make it to the bathroom on my own. I asked, and that’s what they told me.”

“Sweetheart, you can’t rush these things.” Marcy’s kind voice joined the exchange as she reached out to smooth back an errant curl that had fallen over Patrick’s forehead. “I know you want to go home, but if staying here for another day is the best thing for your recovery, then that’s what you need to do.”

Patrick squeezed his eyes shut even tighter as he swallowed again, his skin now starting to take on a distinct greenish pallor. David held his hand, weaving their fingers together in an attempt to give his husband silent support -- to let him know that he was there, one-hundred percent, for whatever Patrick needed. David was still trying to figure out exactly what that might be when the doctor who had performed Patrick’s surgery came bustling into the room, tapping away on the tablet he held in the crook of his arm.

“Good morning, Mr. Brewer,” he said, without looking up, still scrolling through something on his tablet -- presumably Patrick’s medical records.

“Morning,” Patrick gritted out, managing to open his eyes, although David could clearly see the pain and frustration in them. David squeezed Patrick’s hand, running his other hand over Patrick’s forearm in what he hoped was a comforting gesture.

“In case you don’t remember me, I’m Dr. Singh, and I performed your surgery yesterday. I assume everyone here is family?” The doctor finally made eye contact with Patrick as he finished his question, tucking the tablet under his arm.

Patrick nodded, but didn’t say anything. Instead, his lips were clamped tightly shut, as if he was still trying to keep his breakfast down.

“How are you feeling this morning?

“Okay I guess.” Patrick choked out after a beat or two, his voice strained. It was obvious that he was most definitely not okay, but refusing to be anything but okay was most definitely very Patrick. David fought not to roll his eyes, instead choosing to tighten his grip on his husband’s hand.

“How’s the pain?”

Patrick shrugged and winced, wrapping his other arm around his sore ribs as if even that small movement had aggravated them.

“If you need more of--”

“I’m fine.” Patrick cut the doctor off, the muscles of his jaw twitching as he gritted his teeth and swallowed again. “I just… I really want to go home.”

“You haven’t eaten much this morning,” the doctor observed, ignoring Patrick’s request as he glanced at the picked-over plate on the tray table.

“Kind of nauseous, I guess,” Patrick grunted, still looking and sounding like he needed to keep his portions of the conversation as brief as possible so as not to lose what little bit of food he had eaten.

“I can prescribe you something to help with the nausea.” Dr. Singh pulled the tablet out from under his arm and started tapping away at it again. “And I also want to encourage you to not try to tough out the pain. The more we can stay ahead of it, the better. Now, I’d like to take a look at your incisions…” He let his voice trail off as he rounded the bed and laid his tablet down on the table beside the untouched bowl of fruit. David moved back out of the way, thankful he could still hold Patrick’s hand, because he could feel how clammy and cold it was, and he was pretty sure Patrick was shaking, though whether it was from pain or nervousness, David didn’t know. The doctor started to loosen the bandages on Patrick’s leg, which was a long process and involved a lot of wincing and sharp inhales on Patrick’s part, mostly followed by knowing looks with raised eyebrows from the doctor.

Eventually, Patrick’s leg was completely bare save for the molded form that ran along the underside of it from mid-thigh all the way down to the ball of his foot, keeping everything in just the right position. There was a four-inch incision along the outside of Patrick’s ankle that was being held closed by a row of tiny metal staples, which David had to admit looked not only ugly, but also very painful. The wound that had been created when Patrick’s leg bone had poked through his skin was also stapled closed, and there were a handful of smaller incisions near his knee with two or three staples each. Dried blood was clearly visible on all of them, although David tried not to look at that for too long. When he looked back at Patrick’s face, there was a deep crease between his pale brows, and he looked very much like he was trying not to cry every time the doctor’s fingers touched his leg.

After about a minute of gentle poking and prodding -- accompanied by suppressed grunts and groans of pain from Patrick -- the doctor tapped out a few more notes on his tablet before lifting his gaze to meet Patrick’s once again. “Everything still looks good,” he said. “No signs of infection that I can see, although I’d like to keep you on an antibiotic for several more days just to be safe. But I’m not sure that your pain levels are where I’d like them to be before I send you home. Let’s see if we can get ahead of that a little better, then we’ll work on transitioning you over to what you’ll be taking when you do go home. Trust me when I say that this isn’t the time to try to show how tough you are, okay?” Dr. Singh paused and raised an eyebrow, waiting for Patrick to acknowledge him before continuing. “This is a painful injury, and the recovery process can be quite long. I know you’re ready for this to be over, but the truth is that it’s far from it. Please let us help you manage your pain, so you don’t end up setting yourself back before you get started.”

Patrick gave a small, reluctant nod and closed his eyes as he let out an unsteady breath. David stroked his thumb over the back of Patrick’s hand, laying his other hand on Patrick’s shoulder in another gesture of silent support.

“Is there anything else I can answer for any of you?” Dr. Singh looked between David and Patrick before turning to Marcy and Clint, who had been standing silently along one wall, overlooking the entire scene as they just tried to stay out of the way.

“How long do you think it’ll be before I can go home?” Patrick grunted, his obvious pain as present in his voice as it was in his eyes, which were wet with tears.

“Let’s try for tomorrow,” Dr. Singh said, his uneasy tone making it clear that he wasn’t quite sure tomorrow would be the day either. “And if not tomorrow, then Friday. But I do think we can get you home before the weekend. We’ll talk about next steps when you’re ready to be discharged.”

Patrick nodded again and blinked a few times, clearing the tears from his eyes before they could fall.

“I’ll send a nurse in to change the dressings, and I’m going to make some changes to the dosage on your pain medication. Remember, we need to get ahead of it now, so we can stay ahead of it.” Dr. Singh gave Patrick a kind smile as he closed the cover on his tablet and tucked it under his arm again. “I’ll be back tomorrow morning to see how you’re doing. In the meantime, if anything comes up, let one of the nurses know so they can page me.”

“Thanks,” David whispered, his full attention still focused on Patrick, who was clearly trying to breathe through something at that moment. David ran a gentle hand up and down Patrick’s arm, being careful not to put too much pressure on it, so as not to add to any of his pain.

“Thank you, Doctor.” Clint stepped forward and extended his hand to Dr. Singh, who shook it before turning to Marcy and giving her a nod and a smile as he left the room.

Patrick let his free hand drop to the bed and huffed out a loud sigh, clearly frustrated with the whole situation.

“I know,” David said softly, still rubbing Patrick’s bicep. “I know. I want you to be able to come home, too, but not until you’re ready.”

“I don’t like being here,” Patrick grumbled. “Feeling stuck.”

“It is what it is, son,” Clint said. David easily recognized Patrick’s take-charge tone in his father’s voice. “Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to speed things along. Some things just take time. You know that. I know you don’t like it, but you do know it.”

David had a feeling there was more to this story, as he watched the muscle in Patrick’s jaw twitch a couple of times as his father spoke, but he didn’t get a chance to ask, nor did Clint get an opportunity to continue before a nurse came in with a small stack of bandages and two vials of liquid that she injected into Patrick’s IV line.

“Let’s give that about twenty minutes,” she said, already moving on to her next task of cleaning and bandaging Patrick’s wounds, “and if you’re still hurting after that, I can give you more.”

Patrick gave a resigned nod this time, as if the pain had drained all of the fight from him for the time being. While the nurse continued tending to Patrick’s leg, David kept rubbing a gentle hand up and down Patrick’s arm.

“You’ll be home before you know it, honey,” David whispered, as he watched Patrick’s eyes drift closed once again. He just hoped those words would come true sooner rather than later.

Chapter Text

David spent the better part of the morning and early afternoon simply sitting beside Patrick’s hospital bed, holding his hand while he slept. He knew that Patrick was annoyed with sleeping all the time -- he’d said as much during one of his brief stints of wakefulness -- but the nurses had assured both of them that rest was the absolute best thing for Patrick’s body at the moment. After all, it had been through a lot.

If Patrick noticed David’s still-slightly-red-and-puffy eyes, he didn’t mention it, although he did seem fairly distracted by pain and discomfort most of the time when he was awake. Not as much as he had been earlier in the morning, but it was definitely still present, and David was beginning to realize that this could be a hint of what was to come. He didn’t like seeing Patrick in pain, and he wished he could fix it somehow, even though he knew he couldn’t.

Thus far, all he knew about Patrick’s recovery was that it would likely be a long process, and that wasn’t doing anything to help quiet David’s anxiety. Patrick did a lot of the heavy lifting at the store -- both physically and on the financial side -- and David wasn’t sure how he’d fare trying to take over both of their roles for as much as six months. Of course, that was assuming he even managed to put the store back together again.

The store.

Shit. He’d forgotten to call the insurance agent.

Slowly and carefully, David unwound his fingers from Patrick’s, trying not to wake him. Patrick stirred a little, but he didn’t open his eyes as David stood up slowly and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Marcy and Clint had gone out to pick up lunch, so David hated to leave Patrick all alone in the room, but he knew he needed to make this phone call before he forgot about it again.

As expected, David fumbled his way through the call, knowing basically nothing about their policies, their account numbers, or anything else he was asked. Why hadn’t he paid more attention to those things? Why had he simply relied on Patrick to take care of it all? As he wrapped up the phone call, David tried not to sound too frustrated with his own tendency to let go and give Patrick carte blanche over certain tasks, just because they weren’t particularly exciting or interesting to him. Even with his limited knowledge, though, he’d managed to start a claim and been assured that an adjuster would be out to take a look at the store the next day.

Suddenly, he realized he had no idea what had happened to the store after they’d gotten Patrick out and the two of them had left in the ambulance. Was the car still sticking out of the front window, or would someone (The fire department? Or the police?) have taken care of it? At that point, he wasn’t sure what would be worse -- the car still being there, or a gaping hole where their window had once been, inviting in looters and whatever other sorts of hoodlums wandered around Schitt’s Creek, looking for trouble. Not that there was much of anything left to loot, considering that the car had taken out the majority of their body and face care section, which housed some of their most expensive products. And most criminals probably weren’t interested in loose leaf tea and hand-knitted scarves, or goat cheese. Although some of the wine in the fridge and the back room could likely fetch a pretty penny on the black market, and David still wasn’t totally convinced that Mr. Hockley’s joshua tree tea wasn’t really marijuana…

A strong hand on David’s shoulder pulled him back out of the spiral he hadn’t even realized he’d descended into, and he shook his head to further clear away the destructive thoughts that had so easily pieced themselves together mere seconds before.

“Everything alright, son?” Clint Brewer asked, with enough clear concern in his eyes to make David wonder what exactly he must have looked like at that moment.

David could feel his heartbeat thrumming along a little too fast as he blinked and tried to give his father-in-law a reassuring smile that probably came out looking more like a grimace. “Just calling our insurance agent. Trying to get everything started with that.” Not that I know what the fuck I’m doing, he added silently to himself, still wishing he’d paid more attention to all of the nuts and bolts of the business that Patrick normally took care of, in favor of David focusing more on the creative side. He still remembered when he’d planned on handling the store completely on his own, and shuddered at the thought of what a disaster it would have been had Patrick not taken it upon himself to apply for grants and ultimately joined David as his business partner. How fortunate that day at Ray’s had turned out to be, even though it hadn’t seemed like it at the time. Not only had it ensured the success of his business, it had also changed his life.

“Is there anything I can help with?” Clint’s voice brought David back to the present again.

David shook his head. “They’re sending someone out tomorrow to look at it. I guess I’ll see what they tell me, and try to figure it all out after that.” He cursed the way his voice broke, wishing he sounded more sure of himself, the way Patrick always managed to. But he wasn’t Patrick, and while David Rose was confident in a lot of things, this was well outside his area of expertise.

“Well, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here. Don’t hesitate to ask. Now, come and eat. Marcy bought way too much food, as usual.”

Clint smiled at David, the playful twinkle in his eyes identical to the one David loved to see in Patrick’s, and David couldn’t help but smile back. “Thanks,” he whispered, as Clint’s strong arm came around his shoulders to usher him back into Patrick’s room.

Patrick was awake, his eyes following Marcy as she bustled around the bed, unpacking brown paper sacks full of takeout boxes.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d want, but I thought a milkshake might help settle your stomach,” she said, pulling a styrofoam cup out of the fully-loaded drink tray she’d set down on one end of the tray table and handing the cup and a straw to Patrick. Patrick’s expression could best be described as skeptical, mixed with a small bit of confusion as he watched his mother flit around the small room, trying to sort out food and having a conversation more with herself than anyone else, it appeared.

She lifted the lid on one of the takeout containers to peek inside, then shoved it in David’s direction. “I know I always like comfort food when I’m stressed,” she said, “so I got you a grilled cheese, and there’s a cup of vegetable beef soup somewhere around here.”

“Um, thanks,” David said, hoping he sounded more grateful than dubious as he shot a questioning look at Patrick, who shrugged his shoulders -- making the movement much smaller this time -- and shook his head.

“Marce, I think you got enough to feed the entire floor of the hospital,” Clint interjected with a chuckle.

“Well, if there’s extra, we’ll share, but I wanted to make sure the boys had enough to eat.” Marcy smiled at Patrick and David, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she looked at them fondly.

The milkshake did seem to agree with Patrick’s stomach, and he managed to drink about half of it before nodding off again. David, meanwhile, only got about half of the grilled cheese down before his own stomach started to churn, matching the neverending parade of what-ifs that continued to churn in his brain, sucking out all of his energy and making him feel a bit dizzy and lightheaded.

He wasn’t sure if meeting with the insurance adjuster -- and finally having some answers, hopefully -- would help settle his mind or crank his anxiety up to eleven, and the sheer anticipation of it was making it difficult to focus on anything else.

Marcy, of course, noticed. All afternoon, she kept giving David knowing looks and kind smiles, and her attempts at keeping the conversation light and interesting were much appreciated, even though David didn’t feel much like talking. He texted back and forth with Stevie for a few minutes at one point, ending their conversation with a promise to keep her updated and to let her know if he needed anything, even though she was, by her own admission, “the least dependable person on the planet.”

Patrick, meanwhile, spent the afternoon drifting in and out of consciousness, and David tried not to worry too much about that, especially since the nurses kept patiently assuring him that it was normal every single time he asked. After Patrick made his best attempt at eating dinner -- a very unappetizing looking grilled chicken breast with vegetables and roasted potatoes, which he ate a little more than half of -- Clint gently suggested that they head back to the house to let Patrick get some rest.

Patrick tiredly agreed, although David could see in his eyes how much he wished he was going home with them. David leaned down and kissed Patrick on the lips -- lingering perhaps a bit longer than was appropriate in front of one’s in-laws -- then squeezed his hand as he whispered, “I love you.” He tried his best to memorize the grateful smile Patrick gave him so he could use that memory to help him get through another night alone in their bed, then followed the Brewers out of the room and down to the parking garage one more time.

David didn’t fall asleep in the car this time, mostly because the wheels in his mind were already turning, trying to predict all of the possible outcomes for his meeting with the insurance adjuster the following day. He knew that letting his mind run away with him probably wasn’t the best choice, but allowing it to run off in that particular direction kept him from worrying too much about Patrick.

When they got back to the house, the first thing he noticed was that Patrick’s car was parked in the driveway, which made him realize that he’d completely forgotten about it. Patrick had parked it in the alley by the back door of the Apothecary -- just like he did most every day -- and that, understandably, had been the last thing on David’s mind as firefighters extricated his husband from their destroyed store. Still, he wondered what else he’d forgotten about while his mind had been preoccupied with thoughts of broken legs and condemned buildings and wondering how the fuck he was going to take care of all of this on his own.

He figured Stevie must have grabbed the spare keys from the house and brought the car back, and his suspicions were quickly confirmed via text message when she replied to his question with a simple thumbs-up emoji followed by a heart. She’d left the keys on the kitchen counter, next to a wrapped plate of cinnamon buns -- presumably leftovers from that day’s “continental breakfast.” They were the one thing (aside from Stevie) that David actually missed about the motel, so that small gesture was quite possibly one of the nicest things she could have done for him. In David’s already-raw emotional state, though, it was almost overwhelming, and he found himself blinking back tears, just because he wasn’t used to feeling so... cared for.

Not wanting to be alone just yet, David sat at the kitchen table and watched while Marcy made them dinner -- a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs, with garlic toast made from the loaf of Italian bread Patrick had brought home from Brebner’s on Monday night. David only managed to eat about as much as he had at breakfast before quietly excusing himself and going upstairs, where he went through the motions of his bedtime routine without paying much mind to them, his brain swinging from one thought to another, pulling him in what felt like a million different directions. He was exhausted, but he couldn’t stop. He wanted to stop, but his brain just… wouldn’t.

Standing in the shower, inhaling the aroma of Patrick’s favorite sandalwood and vanilla goats’ milk soap, David tried to imagine that his husband was there with him, his arms wrapped around David’s torso, water running down both of their bodies as their lips met in a sensual kiss. He missed that physical contact so much already, and knowing that it would probably be awhile before he and Patrick could resume their normal lives together was yet another heavy thought, weighing down David’s consciousness and making him even more tired than he already was.

David thought back to what the doctor had told Patrick earlier that morning, about this whole ordeal being far from over. Honestly, David wanted it all to be over too, so they could get back to normal. But the doctor was right -- “over” was a long way away. And if David was being honest with himself, he had to admit that he didn’t even know what “normal” would look like, or if things would be back to the way they were before ever again. He didn’t like to think about that, but there it was.

He went through his post-shower skincare routine, trying to focus his attention solely on each step as he completed it, in an attempt to keep his mind from wandering too far into dangerous territory. Once he was finished, he climbed into bed and turned out the light, curling up on his side and hugging Patrick’s pillow to his chest. It smelled like Patrick’s shampoo and the moisturizer that David had practically had to force him to start using on his face, and that made it just a little bit easier to continue imagining that Patrick was right there with him as he closed his eyes and settled in for what he hoped would be his last night alone for a long, long time.

The next morning, David’s alarm went off much too early for his taste, but it was a necessary evil, because he was supposed to be meeting the insurance adjuster at the store at 8 a.m. So he made himself get up and go through the motions again, this time styling his hair and dressing in something he didn’t mind getting a little dirty, since he had no idea what condition the store was actually in at that point. Idly, he wondered if every day was going to feel like Groundhog Day for the foreseeable future, with the same old routine repeating over and over again while David wished more than anything that he could break free and move forward.

When he got downstairs, Marcy and Clint were both already there, having coffee and finishing up their plates of scrambled eggs and toast. Marcy offered to make David some breakfast as well, but he still didn’t have much of an appetite, which made him wonder exactly how long that was going to continue. For as long as his brain was constantly racing in a million different directions, he supposed -- or at least for as long as things with the store were entirely up in the air.

He made himself a cup of coffee to go and wrapped up one of the cinnamon rolls in case he got hungry, even though he doubted that he would, thanks to the sinking feeling that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in his stomach.

When Marcy and Clint left for Elmdale, David headed to the store. The normally short drive felt like it took forever, and the sense of dread in the back of David’s mind seemed to grow exponentially with each passing minute. By the time he rounded the corner onto their block, his heart was racing, and the sheer anticipation of not knowing what he was about to see made him want to stop, turn around, and never go back. But he couldn’t do that. He had business to take care of. Patrick was counting on him to take care of this.

He halfway expected to see the car still there, half-in and half-out of their storefront, but instead, there was a large piece of plywood where the window to the left of the door used to be, and a makeshift door had been erected where their vintage wooden doors had once stood. There was no doorknob or lock, but the store was at least protected from the weather, which was a much better scenario than anything David’s imagination had dreamed up thus far.

Still feeling like he was in a daze, David parked the car and got out, then carefully pushed open the temporary door. He stopped and listened for any telltale sounds that something was unstable or that going inside might be dangerous, but heard nothing. Inside the store, a half-dozen makeshift support posts pushed back against the ceiling beams that had been compromised when the left side of the front wall gave way. The broken glass and cracked plaster that David remembered being scattered on the floor were gone, and the products that had been knocked off of the shelves now appeared to be packed into a half-dozen open boxes sitting in a neat row on the floor in front of the counter.

David looked around, wondering who on earth had done all of this. He figured that the construction portion had likely been Ronnie’s work, but the rest… who? Twyla? Jocelyn? Stevie? Some of Patrick’s friends from the baseball league? He had walked over to the boxes and was starting to sift through their contents when he heard a light knock on the one remaining window and looked up to see Jocelyn smiling and waving.

She pushed the door open and came inside, stepping over the end of one of the makeshift support beams as she approached David. “We thought we’d do what we could to help clean up,” she said. “We knew you were busy with Patrick. How’s he doing?”

“He’s okay.” David’s voice came out as little more than a whisper, and much more emotional than he would have liked. “A little upset that he can’t go home yet, but… okay. Who… who helped you with this?” He gestured around the store, feeling his hand shake a little from the adrenaline that had been coursing through his veins since he’d left the house that morning.

“Oh, everybody pitched in. Me, Roland, Bob, Ray, Stevie, Twyla, Ronnie, the rest of the Jazzagals… Lots of people. We all love you guys, and we really wanted to help. I know you’re kind of particular about things, so I hope we packed it well enough, but we figured, at least it wouldn’t be on the floor anymore.”

David wasn’t worried about the boxes, though; his mind was still stuck on the five little words in the middle of what Jocelyn had said: We all love you guys. In all of his nearly thirty-seven years, David could count on one hand the number of times that someone had done something nice for him “just because,” without expecting anything in return, and most of those belonged to Patrick. Never before had an entire town pitched in to do something nice for David Rose. Much less the town that had been purchased for him as a joke birthday gift, what felt like a lifetime ago.

Another knock on the window pulled David back out of his thoughts, and he looked up to see a woman in a black and white pinstripe business suit standing outside. On a normal day, he probably would have internally critiqued her fashion choices, but at the moment, he was far too distracted by the chaos that had become his life.

When she walked in, she introduced herself as Rosa Lopez, a representative of the insurance company Patrick had hired when David had been too lazy to make the necessary phone call. Jocelyn quickly excused herself, giving David a hug and making him promise that he’d call her if he or Patrick needed anything else at all, then leaving him alone with the insurance adjuster and his continually mounting anxiety.

David held his breath as Rosa took her first look around the space -- at the ruined shelving unit that had been pushed aside against the wall, the missing window and splintered wood frame beneath it, and all of the temporary braces that had been erected to help keep the structure stable despite the gaping hole in the front of the building.

“I see your landlord must have had someone out here already,” she said, making a note on her clipboard as she gestured toward the boarded-up window.

“Oh, um… some friends did that, actually,” David said softly, still not quite believing that was what had happened. “I didn’t know about it until just now.”

“I assume you’ve contacted your landlord as well, though?”

David bit his lip and looked away, a string of expletives running through his head. He’d thought he was doing things right, but apparently he’d still managed to fuck it up, just like any other time in his life when he’d had actual responsibilities.

“Since you lease the space, our primary responsibility is the contents of the store -- your fixtures and your merchandise, mostly,” she continued, obviously taking David’s lack of response as a ‘no.’ “The owner of the building will be the person who handles the structure itself, and they’ll be the ones to decide whether they’d prefer to tear down and rebuild, or repair the damage. Either way, your own losses inside the building will all be covered by your policy; I’ll just take a look around and make some notes so we can update your claim. But you’ll need to contact your landlord so they can start their own claim with their insurance company on the building itself.”

It took a moment for everything Rosa had just said to sink in. David had come there hoping to leave with answers and some sort of assurance of what would happen, or at the very least a direction for the future. Instead, he’d be leaving with the knowledge that he’d gone about all of this the wrong way, and that the actual decision about whether or not they’d even still have a space for their store would be made by someone else entirely. The woman who owned the building lived in Elmdale, and he’d only spoken with her a handful of times and seen her exactly once -- the day he’d signed the lease. Beyond that, their only communication was the rent checks he and Patrick mailed to her once a month. Now, she’d apparently be the one deciding the future of Rose Apothecary, and David didn’t like that at all.

Rosa walked around for another fifteen minutes taking pictures, making notes, and asking David more questions that he didn’t have the answers to, mostly about wholesale versus retail costs -- more information that Patrick dealt with on a regular basis and David didn’t worry much about, but probably should have. Then she shook David’s hand and went on her way, leaving him standing alone in the middle of the store that had once been his and Patrick’s pride and joy, that was now essentially a construction zone.

David needed answers -- he needed certainty -- to help settle the swirl of anxious thoughts creating chaos in his brain, but he hadn’t gotten any. All he was left with were more questions and unknowns. He still had no idea what would become of their store, or what their future would look like. And now, the outcome felt like it was completely out of his hands, igniting a fury of “what ifs” that only served to further ratchet up his anxiety, until he found himself stumbling over to the chair someone had left in the middle of the room and sinking down into it before his trembling legs gave out on him.

He clearly remembered the last time he’d sat in that very chair, probably close to that very spot -- he’d been fresh off of getting high with Stevie, and he’d left Patrick no less than a dozen highly embarrassing voicemails. This time, however, he was very, very sober, which was unfortunate, because marijuana was probably the only thing that would have been able to slow down the endless stream of anxious thoughts that kept swirling in David’s mind, gradually getting louder and louder until they drowned out any shred of practicality he had left.

David felt like someone was squeezing his chest in a vise, making it impossible to get enough oxygen. He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, as he tried desperately to catch his breath and slow down his heart rate. Over and over again, a legion of disastrous possibilities paraded through his brain, one after the other. What if there was more damage hidden behind the wall or the shelves? What if the landlord didn’t want to fix it? What if they decided to tear down the building and not rebuild? What would they do with their business if they didn’t have a storefront? How disappointed would Patrick be in him if their business failed, all because of this? Would they go bankrupt? Would they lose their house? Was he about to lose everything all over again? Could he survive that sort of trauma twice in his life?

He was still gasping for air, trying to focus his mind enough to at least be able to count out long, slow breaths for himself when he heard the door open behind him and the distinct sound of high heels clicking on the hardwood floor, followed by the last voice he ever expected to hear: “Oh my GOD, David!”

Chapter Text

David turned to look over his shoulder, his gaze landing on his sister, who was standing several feet inside the doorway, suitcase in tow and her designer handbag dangling from her forearm as she looked around with wide eyes, her mouth hanging open in shock.

As soon as David looked at her, he felt something snap inside of him, unleashing the torrent of emotions that he’d been trying desperately to keep under some semblance of control, and an ugly sob wrenched its way from his throat as he collapsed in on himself, his breath still coming in gasps that were far too short.

Suddenly, his sister’s blonde hair was directly in his field of vision as she knelt in front of him, bringing her hands to his knees.

“David, what’s going on? What’s wrong?”

Alexis kept firing off questions, but there was absolutely no way David could respond, considering that he could hardly even breathe. David had spent the last two days trying to keep everything he was feeling locked behind a wall, in favor of at least appearing to be the strong one this time, because there was just something incredibly fucked up about Patrick comforting David when Patrick was the one who was hurt. But something about seeing his sister had breached the wall David had so painstakingly constructed, and there was nothing he could do to stop the tears.

“David, what? What’s happening right now?” Alexis’ voice was becoming more urgent, but David still couldn’t speak, and when he tried, he only ended up crying harder. “Is it… oh my god, David, is it Patrick? Is he okay? I mean, I knew he was hurt, but it sounded like he was gonna be alright--”

David managed to nod, effectively stopping Alexis from going down a rabbit hole of her own, because that was the absolute last thing he needed when he was already spiraling.

“Okay, okay…” Alexis regrouped as she shifted positions on the floor, still kneeling in front of David. “Um, so like… this is a panic attack, right? Ohmigod, I remember when I was working for Ted, there was this lady whose dog was super sick, and she like, freaked out, and I...”

David pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes until he saw stars, trying to shut out Alexis’ voice. He knew that his sister was trying to be supportive, but her tendency to just keep right on talking about things that weren’t even relevant was doing more harm than good. Honestly, he just needed her to shut up, but he still couldn’t manage to form the words. He tried to take a deep breath, and his next exhale came out as more of a pained groan, which -- thank god -- seemed to get Alexis’ attention.

“Okay, so like… can you breathe with me?” Alexis reached up and gently moved David’s hands from his eyes, then closed her hands around his in his lap. “Nice and slow. Oh, and I’m supposed to count, right?”

David nodded, squeezing his eyes tightly shut as he tipped his head back, trying to follow the cadence of his sister’s breath while she counted. Somehow, she knew to count to four, and to ask him to focus his attention on the sensation of her holding his hands, and his body in the chair, and his feet on the floor -- even though his extremities felt almost numb. He wondered where she’d learned these things -- and at what point she’d realized that panic attacks were, indeed, real -- but he didn’t have enough brain space to devote to that thought at the moment, so he brought his attention back to Alexis’ slow, steady count. He continued inhaling and exhaling, slow and controlled, all the while trying not to get frustrated when his breath would hitch on the inhale or shake on the exhale.

Eventually, he got the pace of his breath under control enough to speak, although he had no idea how long that took, since time tended to blur into something unrecognizable whenever David was in the throes of a panic attack. He sniffled, his cheeks still damp with tears -- although they were no longer actively falling, thank god -- as he blinked his eyes open and brought Alexis’ face into focus.

“What are you…” He paused and sniffled again, shuddering at the copious amounts of snot he was sure had probably been running down his face along with the tears. Alexis pulled a tissue out of her purse and handed it to him, and he tried to wipe his face the best he could, even though he was sure it was probably puffy and red and generally horrific to look at. “What are you doing here?”

“So, like, Dad called me and told me what happened, and he said that they wanted to come, but Mom can’t get away, and Dad had some really important meeting with a potential franchise person or something. Anyway, I was already going to Toronto for a PR thing, so I just thought I’d, like, swing by on the way. And then I ran into Jocelyn, and she told me you were here, so that was like, super sweet of her.” Alexis shifted again, this time moving to sit on top of a closed box directly to David’s right.

“You’d better not break anything in there.”

Alexis rolled her eyes. “It’ll be fine, David. Besides, looking at this place, I think whatever’s in this box is the least of your worries.”

David let out a breath as he glanced around what was left of the store. “Yeah,” he whispered.

“When Dad told me what happened, I thought he had to be exaggerating or something. But this is really bad, David.”

“I’m aware, thank you very much.”

An uncomfortable silence settled between them for several seconds as they both looked around, taking in the scene -- Alexis for the first time, and David for what felt like the thousandth.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to take care of it all by myself,” David murmured, his voice thick as he tried his best to maintain what little control he had over his emotions. “It’s… it’s a lot. And I just… I don’t feel... qualified.”

“Wait, why would you have to do everything by yourself?”

“Well, Patrick’s still in the hospital, for starters.” David tried not to sound too annoyed with his sister’s inability to read a situation. “So he can’t help, and that just leaves me, so… yeah. Here I am. Just trying not to fuck it all up, even though I’m pretty sure I already did.”

“You’re not going to fuck it all up, David.” Alexis rolled her eyes again. “Remember when I had to testify against that guy from the Chinese mafia, and someone tried to have me snuffed out or whatever, but you express-mailed me one of Mom’s wigs, then basically orchestrated my escape plan, and you weren’t even there? Anyway, that was, like, way harder than this. But you did it. And you were risking the wrath of Mom, because you know how she feels about Cindy.”

“That was different.”

“How?”

“Because you’re… you’re my sister. You’re family. You’re sort of… stuck with me, no matter what. Even if I do fuck everything up. But Patrick isn’t. He could…” David let out a shaky breath, really not wanting to say the words that his brain had already formed, out of fear that giving voice to them might somehow make them come true. “He could decide it’s not worth it,” he whispered. “That I’m not worth it.”

“David, you don’t fuck everything up. And Patrick isn’t going to leave you. Have you seen the way he looks at you? It’s like, so romantic it’s almost gross. David, he loves you. All of you. He’s not going anywhere.”

Several more seconds of silence passed as David tried to process everything his sister had just said, fighting back against the resistance that his brain always seemed to form so easily -- the little voice that always told him he wasn’t good enough.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to do all of this alone, you know?”

“You’re not alone, David. Look around. Jocelyn told me what they all did -- that everybody pitched in to, like, help clean up. You’ve got this whole town behind you. They’re basically like your family now, too.”

“Okay, you’re gonna make me cry again, so if my face is all splotchy and red, I’m blaming you.”

“Seriously, David, you need to stop it with the whole ‘no one loves me’ crap. It’s like, really insulting to people who like, fly halfway across the country to check on you.”

“New York isn’t halfway across the country.”

“Well, still... Patrick loves you. We all love you. So maybe it’s time for you to put your big boy pants on and take care of things, because we all know you’re more than capable of doing it.”

“God, you’re such a bitch sometimes,” David whispered, his voice wobbling as tears started to build in his eyes again. He knew Alexis was right, but somehow hearing it all said out loud brought all of his emotions back to the surface, whether he wanted them there or not.

“Thank you,” Alexis said matter-of-factly, smiling as she stood, brushed the dust off her dress, and flipped her hair back over her shoulder, then reached out to boop David on the nose with her fingertip. “Now, let’s go see your Button.”

*****

David wasn’t sure if the ride to Elmdale seemed shorter or longer with Alexis in the passenger seat, regaling him with tales of some of the more famous contacts she’d made since arriving in New York, including some that she apparently wasn’t supposed to name, but did anyway because she just couldn’t help herself. She controlled the radio, too -- scrolling through the six FM stations one could pick up on the road between Schitt’s Creek and Elmdale until she found a staticky signal from a top 40 station out of Elm Valley, then proceeding to dance and sing along in the passenger seat while David tried to focus on the road.

David hoped that Patrick would be feeling at least a little bit better, otherwise he wasn’t sure how well a visit from Alexis was going to go, but she had insisted on coming along. They were hardly out of the elevator, however, when Alexis’ phone rang and she excused herself to take the call, leaving David to approach Patrick’s room alone, which he had to admit was probably for the best.

David held his breath as he walked down the long hallway, unsure of what he was about to walk in on. But as soon as he stepped through the doorway, the anxiety that had been tying his stomach in knots suddenly dissipated at the sight of Patrick, standing on one foot alongside the bed, his hands tightly gripping the handles of a walker.

“Hey,” Patrick said, looking up at David to give him a smile that was still just a touch loopy.

“Hey.” David felt his lips turn up into a smile of his own -- the Pavlovian reaction he seemed to have almost every time he laid eyes on his husband. “You’re up.”

“I am. And look at this.” Patrick turned his attention back to the walker and the floor in front of him, his brow furrowed in concentration as he moved the walker forward just a few inches, then hopped forward to meet it. “I’m mobile. And I’m on my way to the bathroom. And I finished my breakfast this morning, so… you know what that means.”

“This one is gunning really hard to go home,” the short woman standing alongside Patrick chimed in, laughing. David assumed her to be a physical therapist, given that she had one hand just behind the small of Patrick’s back, apparently ready to grab the wide, braided belt that was around his waist should he start to lose his balance. “We’ll have to wait and see what the doctor says, but so far I’m liking what I see here.”

“Stubborn as a mule,” Clint chuckled from his seat in the corner of the room. “He always has been. Once he’s made up his mind about something, that’s it. It’s gonna happen, no matter what.”

“You don’t say?” David smiled fondly at Patrick, remembering how confident Patrick had been about being able to get the grant money to help him open the store. Yes, Patrick was stubborn, but oddly enough, it was one of the things David loved the most about him.

Patrick returned the smile, seemingly reading David’s mind. “Well, when going home means I get to be with my husband, I’ve gotta say, that’s pretty motivating.”

David blushed and looked away, still not quite used to hearing things like that, even though Patrick said them all the time. Once again, it was that little voice inside his head that always seemed to give him pause, but Alexis was right -- he needed to learn to ignore it.

“Oh my god, yay, Patrick!” Alexis breezed through the doorway then, cell phone in hand. “Look at you!”

“Um, hi Alexis…” Patrick glanced at David, clearly as confused and surprised by Alexis’ sudden appearance as David had been earlier. “What are you doing here?”

Alexis rolled her eyes. “Why does everyone keep asking me that? It’s like you’re all so surprised that I would come to visit my button of a brother-in-law, after he almost, like, died.”

“Uh, I’m not sure I’d say that, Alexis,” Patrick said, shaking his head as he gave David another confused look, this one seeming to silently ask, What did you tell her?

“We’re all just really glad he’s alright,” Marcy chimed in, ever the peacemaker. She gave Alexis a kind smile and gestured for her to come and sit in the empty chair to her left. “Why don’t you come and tell me how things are going in New York, dear? I bet you’re just setting the world on fire.”

Seconds later, Alexis was happily chatting with the Brewers about everything she’d already told David at least twice in the car, while David watched Patrick hobble across the room. He was clearly deep in concentration, working to keep his balance and focus on the task at hand. Even though it was slow going, it was steady, and it was huge, huge progress compared to the previous day, when Patrick had barely been able to hold his eyes open. David could still see pain etched on Patrick’s face, in the furrow of his brow and the set of his jaw, but he was up and moving, and there was hope that he might be able to go home, which was exactly the sort of positive news David needed.

Patrick made it to the bathroom door, then carefully turned around and hop-shuffled his way back toward the bed, a little bit more slowly than he’d been going a few minutes before. The muscles in his jaw were starting to jump as he clenched and unclenched his teeth, and David knew that meant Patrick was probably in more pain than he was trying to let on. The physical therapist, however, saw it too, and she moved her hand closer to Patrick’s back, her fingers actually touching the belt this time, just in case.

“Okay,” she said, smiling as Patrick finally reached his destination. “I think that’s enough for right now. Let’s get you back into bed so you can rest a bit, and I’ll be back later this afternoon to check up on you again. Maybe we’ll even venture out into the hallway next time, if you’re up to it.”

“Do you still think I’ll be able to go home?” Patrick asked, his tone eager yet cautious, as if he was afraid he might be disappointed if he got his hopes up too high.

“Like I said, it’s really not my decision to make -- it’s Dr. Singh’s -- but I’m happy with what I saw just now, so you’ve got my stamp of approval. Now, you just need his. So that means rest up, listen to your body, and don’t push, okay?”

Patrick nodded as the physical therapist guided him to sit on the edge of the bed, then helped him get situated and settle his right leg on the pillows again before she left with a smile and a wave. Once she was gone. Patrick let his head fall back to the pillows and closed his eyes.

“You okay?” David asked quietly, still hearing Alexis a few feet behind him talking the Brewers’ collective ears off. The distraction provided David with a private moment with his husband, though, so he wasn’t about to complain.

It took Patrick a few breaths to answer. “Yeah,” he said, speaking just as softly as David had been. “Just really tired now. How were things with the insurance adjuster?”

“Don’t worry about that right now. I’m taking care of it. You should sleep.”

“I’ve been sleeping for two days.”

“You heard what the nurse said yesterday. Rest is the best thing for you right now. Your body needs it. Give it what it’s asking for.”

“It’s asking to go home, too.” Patrick opened his eyes and gave David a pleading, desperate look that nearly broke David’s heart. “I don’t like sleeping alone.”

“I know, honey.” David stepped forward and took Patrick’s hand in his, gently rubbing his thumb over the back of Patrick’s hand. “I want you home, too. All the more reason to rest now, so you’ll be in good shape when the doctor shows up.”

Patrick nodded lazily, his eyes drifting shut again. David brought their joined hands to his lips and kissed Patrick’s fingers before returning his hand to the bed.

“Love you,” Patrick mumbled, his voice barely even a whisper by that point.

“Love you too. Now get some rest.”

Patrick didn’t respond, but his breathing soon became deep and steady, indicating he was either asleep or close to it, which was a miracle given how loud Alexis was being over in the corner with the Brewers. David turned and held his finger to his lips, ignoring the indignant look and the eye roll Alexis gave him. She did lower her voice, though, thankfully, after David’s exaggerated gesture toward a now-very-relaxed Patrick in the bed behind him.

Alexis finished her story -- something about a B-list Broadway actor who’d hired her to be his publicist after some sort of minor scandal -- just as an alert went off on her phone. “Ohmigosh,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was like, getting so late. I’d better get to the airport before I miss my flight to Toronto, but it was like, so nice seeing you guys again.”

“Do you need a ride?” Marcy asked. “Clint could take you.”

“Oh, uh… sure,” Clint said, in reality seeming anything but sure, not that David blamed him. In any case, he stood up and started fishing his keys out of his pocket.

“No,” David cut in, really not wanting to subject his father-in-law to his sister without at least being able to run interference. Alexis was… a lot. David knew he was a lot too, and Clint seemed to like him anyway, but some small, probably irrational part of David was afraid that unrestrained exposure to Alexis might somehow jeopardize that. “I’ll go.”

“Great, okay,” Clint said, a split second of obvious relief passing over his features before he managed to school his expression into a more neutral one as he sat back down next to his wife.

“Um, like… whatever…” Alexis looked back at David, clearly confused and a bit insulted. “If you’re taking me, then let’s go I guess.”

The fact that Alexis had apparently liked the idea of having twenty minutes alone in the car with Clint was more than a little bit disturbing to David, but he tried to put that thought out of his mind as he turned to take one last look at his husband, still resting peacefully in bed.

The ride to the airport was the complete opposite of what the ride to the hospital had been, with Alexis staring quietly -- almost wistfully -- out the window as David drove.

“Do you miss it?” David asked softly, after ten minutes of very uncharacteristic silence from his sister.

“Yeah,” she said, her own voice just as soft. “I kind of do.”

They fell back into a comfortable silence for the rest of the drive, and Alexis didn’t complain about David’s Mariah Carey playlist, either, which was nothing short of a miracle. As David pulled up to the small building that passed for an airport terminal in Elmdale, he turned to face his sister and took a deep breath.

“So, um… thanks for coming and checking on me. I think… I think I needed it.”

“Anytime, big brother,” Alexis said, giving him one of her trademark not-quite-winks. “Just remember… you can do this. And if you need someone to, like, remind you of that, I’m only a phone call away.”

“Love you,” he whispered, silently promising himself that he wasn’t going to get emotional, even though he could feel the lump in his throat and a familiar pressure behind his eyes that signaled tears were close at hand.

“Love you too.” Alexis smiled and gently touched her index finger to David’s nose. “Take good care of your Button. And remember, he loves you more.”

Chapter Text

The drive back to the hospital was a little too quiet -- and thinking too much was dangerous, given everything David felt like he had bearing down on him -- so he turned the radio up to a volume he knew Patrick would have complained about (“You’re going to go deaf before you’re forty,” he’d say.) and pretended he was singing karaoke, belting out Mariah tunes as he sped down the highway. He was about halfway back to the hospital when he suddenly remembered that he still needed to call their landlord. It wasn’t a call he wanted to make, mostly because he was still afraid of what the ultimate outcome would be, but it was one he knew he needed to make. Alexis was right. It was time to put on his big boy pants and get things done, even though the sheer thought of it was enough to drive his anxiety through the roof.

David took a deep breath and let it out slowly before pausing the music and asking Siri to call Patricia Smith, the owner of the building that housed Rose Apothecary. As the phone rang, a part of David prayed she wouldn’t answer so he could just leave a voicemail, because for some reason, that was less anxiety-provoking for David than talking to an actual human being, despite his history of leaving less-than-professional voicemails while under the influence. He was sober this time, though, so he felt better about his chances of being able to leave a message that at least contained a complete thought.

His hopes of leaving such a message, however, were dashed when she picked up on the fifth ring.

“Hello, David,” she greeted him. “How are things going with the store?”

“Um… not… not so great,” he stuttered, still trying to switch gears from the voicemail message he’d already been mentally rehearsing. He took another deep breath to try to collect his thoughts before speaking again. “So, um… there was an accident.”

Having this conversation wasn’t much easier than the similar one he’d had with Marcy two days before, even though this time it wasn’t Patrick he was talking about -- it was just the store. David was too caught up in his own thoughts to really pay much attention to whatever reaction Patti had. He kept right on talking, just trying to get through it all, as he told her about the car driving through the front window and Patrick being hit, and the damage that had been done to the building.

Fortunately, Patti was far more concerned about Patrick than about the building, and, like everyone else, wanted to know if there was anything she could do to help. She did promise to contact her insurance company to have someone come out, and while it still wasn’t a real answer as to what might happen with the store, it did give David a small sense of peace. Even though she was clearly worried more about Patrick, she sounded very committed to making sure that everything that needed to happen on her end would be done, so that was one small victory, and one small step in proving that his sister’s faith in him wasn’t unwarranted.

When David got back to the hospital, he found Patrick alone in his room, scrolling lazily through something on his phone.

“Um, hi,” David whispered, once again unable to stop the smile that always seemed to spread across his lips immediately upon making eye contact with his husband. “Where are your parents?”

“Hi. They, uh… they went back to the house. To get things ready.”

Patrick was clearly stifling a grin, so David played along, the right side of his own mouth tilting up into a teasing smirk. “Oh? Ready for what?”

“I’m going home this afternoon.” With that, Patrick’s face lit up with a broad smile of relief mixed with joy, and David could see the beginnings of happy, relieved tears forming at the corners of Patrick’s eyes. “Fuck,” he muttered, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. “I swear, being on this medication is like being on an emotional rollercoaster. Everything’s just… right there.”

“Well, it’s good news, honey.” David stepped forward and took Patrick’s hand in his, then leaned in and kissed him. “It’s okay to be emotional right now. There’s a lot going on.”

That seemed like the world’s largest understatement, considering that David felt like everything was happening all at the same time, and a significant part of the breakdown he’d had in front of Alexis was due to sheer overwhelm. In many ways, David still felt like he was caught in the same whirlwind that had swept them both up the second that car had driven through the window. And he still wasn’t one-hundred percent sure that he’d land on his feet whenever it finally let him go, but he was trying. That was all he could do.

“Yeah,” Patrick sniffled, his voice thick. “I guess you’re right. I’m just so happy to know it’s finally happening.”

“Me too.” David squeezed Patrick’s hand. A tiny part of him felt a little guilty because his in-laws were apparently back at their house, doing things that David probably should have been doing, but he tried to remind himself of Alexis’ words from earlier that morning -- that he wasn’t alone. That people were doing nice things for both of them because they cared about them -- not out of obligation or because they expected anything in return.

“God, I’m still so tired,” Patrick mumbled, letting his eyes close briefly as he exhaled. “But I feel like all I’ve done is sleep.”

“Repairing bones is a lot of work.”

“I just don’t remember being this tired back when I broke my arm in grade four.”

“I’m thinking part of that was because you were ten years old, and unless you broke your arm because you were hit by a car, I’m also thinking stress and trauma probably have a little something to do with it.”

Patrick huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, no. I fell off the monkey bars during recess. Mom had to come pick me up from school and take me to the hospital, and as soon as she saw my arm, I swear I thought she was going to pass out. She made me sit in the back seat so she wouldn’t have to look at it.”

“And here I thought Marcy Brewer was the perfect mom.” David smiled as he continued holding his husband’s hand, just glad to be able to have what felt like a relatively normal conversation with him again.

“Oh, believe me, she has her faults.” Patrick laughed as he returned David’s smile. “But yeah, I guess I am pretty lucky to have her.”

“We both are.” David squeezed Patrick’s hand again, choosing to ignore the questioning look in Patrick’s eyes that made it clear that he knew there was more to this story than David was letting on. “So, when are you breaking out of this joint?”

“I’ve still got to do another PT session, this time to work on ‘walking’ a little farther, and maybe trying the crutches instead, and then Dr. Singh has to officially sign off on everything.” Patrick paused and let out a breath. “I can’t wait to sleep in our bed tonight.”

“Yeah,” David said softly. “Me either.”

The two of them spent the next hour watching the small television that was mounted in the corner of Patrick’s hospital room, making fun of what appeared to be an absolutely ridiculous storyline on a daytime soap opera, involving a staged murder, a kidnapping, and a baby of questionable parentage. The Sunrise Bay reboot hadn’t started airing yet, but David was sure that both of them would have a great time not only watching Moira in her element, but also pointing out all of the plot holes in whatever crazy storyline the writers had dreamed up. Bantering back and forth with his husband on the couch, feet in each other’s laps, just laughing together, was one of David’s absolute favorite pastimes now. Even though this wasn’t exactly the same -- thanks to Patrick being stuck in a hospital bed -- it still felt like a small bit of normalcy, which David desperately needed. It was nice to sit with his husband and laugh and smile again, even if a few of those laughs ended in a groan or a wince from Patrick, thanks to his sore ribs.

The episode had just ended when the physical therapist came in again, this time holding a pair of crutches that she wanted Patrick to try, even though she was fairly sure that the walker would be more comfortable for him to use, at least while his ribs were still healing. David took on the role of cheerleader, trying his best to push the “chronic worrier” part of his personality aside as he watched Patrick take halting, obviously painful steps forward on just his left leg. He wanted to be the encourager instead of the needy one, for once, and he felt like he pulled it off, if the grin Patrick gave him each time he reached another distance goal was any indication.

They worked on standing and sitting, and getting in and out of bed with minimal or no assistance, then she declared Patrick officially ready to, in her words, “blow this popsicle stand,” pending the official sign-off from his doctor.

After his second PT session, Patrick was just as exhausted as he had been after the first, and spent the next hour or so lightly dozing while David tried to keep himself sufficiently distracted with his phone, so that his mind wouldn’t wander too far down a path of worry or negativity. David kept stealing glances at Patrick, whose eyes were closed and his jaw slack, his brow occasionally wrinkling slightly with what David could only assume was pain. Each time that happened, David would gently squeeze Patrick’s hand, stroking his thumb over Patrick’s fingers, and every single time, Patrick seemed to relax just a little bit.

David had no idea what going home would hold for either of them, but he was sure it wasn’t going to be an easy road for Patrick, based off of what he was seeing and what they’d already been told. Still, it would be nice to share a bed with his husband again, even if they couldn’t quite cuddle the way they were accustomed to.

As David tried to pass the time, he ended up exchanging a very long series of text messages with Stevie, who actually was doing much more to help settle his mind than she usually did. Under normal circumstances, she often drew an obscene amount of pleasure from winding him up, but he was thankful that this time, she was choosing to take on the role of the understanding, supportive friend, and any sarcasm in her messages was directed at herself and never at him or Patrick. David hated feeling so… fragile… but he absolutely knew that now was not a time when he could withstand teasing, even if it was good-natured. He was too stressed out, and too many aspects of his life were up in the air at the moment. He needed this upside-down existence to right itself soon, because he wasn’t sure how much he could take without having a full-on breakdown, which would certainly not be a good thing.

Alexis’ voice echoed in David’s head again, reminding him that he could do this -- that he was capable. He took a deep breath and tilted his head back, squeezing his eyes shut as he exhaled. He just hoped he could prove her right.

A soft knock on the open door pulled David back out of his thoughts, and he looked up to see Dr. Singh standing in the doorway. Patrick awoke quickly, blinking sleep out of his eyes as his face took on a hopeful expression.

“Looks like you’re getting your wish, Mr. Brewer.” The doctor leaned casually against the door frame, his arms crossed, with his trusty tablet tucked under them. He had a kind smile on his face, and he seemed much more relaxed than he had the last time David had interacted with him the previous morning. David was grateful for that too, because he would take all of the calming presences he could get.

Dr. Singh spent the next several minutes giving Patrick and David instructions as he checked Patrick over one last time, and not long after that, David was pulling the car around to the front entrance of the hospital to pick up his husband. A nursing assistant helped Patrick transfer from the wheelchair to the car while David loaded all of Patrick’s necessary equipment into the trunk, and then they were on their way.

Patrick sat in the back, since he needed to be able to keep his leg elevated, and David kept stealing glances at him in the rear-view mirror. Every time Patrick blinked, David could see how heavy his eyelids were as he continued to fight sleep, his head leaned against the driver’s side rear window as he sat sideways in the seat.

“You should sleep if you’re tired,” David said, making eye contact with Patrick in the mirror. “You don’t have to fight to stay awake.”

Patrick didn’t even argue; he just nodded slowly and let his eyes drift closed, which told David exactly how shitty Patrick felt. David, meanwhile, tried to focus on the road and getting both of them home safely, while avoiding as many potholes as possible. Finally, after what felt like forever and a day, David pulled into the driveway of their cottage in the country. He’d texted Marcy as they were leaving the hospital, so he wasn’t surprised to see her waiting by the window as he pulled up.

After he shifted the car into park, he sat there for a moment, looking up at his husband’s reflection in the rear-view mirror. Patrick was still asleep, his head leaned against the seat now. His perfect lips were parted just a tiny bit, and his cheeks held a slight flush of pink, just the way they usually did when he wasn’t feeling well. When David saw the kitchen door open and his in-laws emerge, he turned around to lay a gentle hand on Patrick’s left knee.

“Hey,” he said softly. “We’re home.”

Patrick blinked his eyes open and looked around, seeming disoriented for a second or two before his gaze landed on his mother, who was smiling broadly as she reached for the car door.

“Hi, sweetheart,” Marcy said, her own voice just as soft as David’s had been. “We’re so glad you’re home.”

Patrick nodded in agreement as he started to shift his body toward the open door, wincing in pain as he did.

“Easy, son,” Clint admonished from behind Marcy. “Take it slow. We’ve got all night.”

David retrieved the walker from the trunk and unfolded it, setting it up beside the car for Patrick. He stood beside his in-laws and watched as Patrick made his way out of the car at a glacial pace, scooting forward an inch or two at a time until he got his good leg to the ground. He held his right leg out in front of him as he leaned forward to grip the handles of the walker and pushed himself up with a low grunt.

Once he was upright, Patrick seemed to need a moment to steady himself, tipping his head downward and closing his eyes. David stepped forward and hesitantly reached out to hold Patrick’s arm.

“You okay?” he asked, keeping his voice low and gentle as he fought back the voice in his head that was telling him that perhaps Patrick coming home today might have been a mistake.

Patrick swallowed and nodded, keeping his head down. “Yeah,” he whispered. “Just got a little dizzy.”

“Maybe we should have rented a wheelchair, just to--”

“No,” Patrick cut David off, his voice sounding just a tiny bit stronger, although it was still gravelly. He raised his head and opened his eyes, and David recognized the expression that came over Patrick’s face as his ‘extra determined’ look. The one that meant nothing and no one was going to stand in his way. “I can do it.”

David stuck close by Patrick as he made his way across the few feet of driveway that led to their kitchen door, moving the walker forward a few inches at a time and hopping forward with each step -- making slow, steady progress. It wasn’t until they were almost at the door that David realized there was now a small wooden ramp covering the two steps that led to the door.

“What…” David started, then stopped. “Who did that?”

“It’s not quite done yet,” Clint said. “I still want to add hand rails. But I figured it would at least help take a few of the stairs of the equation, for now. Make things easier.”

Patrick gave his father a tight smile as he continued to inch toward the ramp and the open door. “Thanks, Dad,” he grunted.

David wasn’t exactly loving the visual effect that unfinished plywood and the slightly greenish hue of treated lumber added to the overall aesthetic of their home, but he bit his tongue and tried to focus on Patrick. After all, his father-in-law had done something really nice that David would never in a million years have been able to pull off.

Slowly but surely, Patrick made his way into the house, through the kitchen -- where a delicious scent wafted from a large pot on the stove -- and into the living room. When he got there, he took one look at the staircase that led to the second level of the house and immediately turned and started inching his way toward the couch instead, where he sank down heavily. Marcy was right there to gently help him get his right leg up onto the cushions and reposition the throw pillows to make as comfortable a nest as possible.

“Doing okay, son?” David could clearly see the concern in Clint’s eyes as he looked at Patrick, and that told David all he needed to know about how much the scene playing out before them was ‘not like Patrick.’

“I just need to rest for a minute,” Patrick said, breathing heavily as he laid back onto the pillows and closed his eyes.

“I’ll get you some water,” Marcy said, before turning and walking briskly back to the kitchen. When she returned with a glass, Patrick sat up for long enough to down half of it before collapsing back into the pillows with a groan.

David was starting to kick himself for not making an executive decision to stay at the motel for a couple of weeks, at least until Patrick got a little stronger, since it would be all one level and they could park right outside the door. But Patrick seemed to read his mind and reached out for David’s hand, gripping it tightly. “I’m alright,” he said, his breath starting to slow down. “I’ll get there. I just didn’t want to get stuck halfway up.”

When the thought first popped into David’s mind, he didn’t even know if he should bring it up, because he wasn’t sure if it was actually a viable solution or not. But after a couple more minutes of mental waffling as he watched Patrick struggle to collect himself, he finally blurted it out.

“So, um… I could… If you don’t think it would hurt, I could piggyback you. After all, I’ve done it before, so…” David let his voice trail off, still doubting whether or not he should have said anything at all, but there was no way to take it back now. “But if it’s a dumb idea, that’s okay, you can tell me, and I really don’t want to hurt you, so, yeah, it’s probably not--”

Patrick tightened his grip on David’s hand, effectively stopping him from spewing any more of the embarrassing word vomit he was so prone to when self-doubt started to get the best of him. “I don’t see why we can’t try it,” Patrick said, already pushing himself back into an upright position. “Worst that can happen is it doesn’t work, and we find a different way.” He paused again, and David saw a familiar spark of mischief begin to form in Patrick’s eyes. “Are you sure you’re up for it, though? I mean, the last time it happened, I know it was sort of a struggle for you--”

“Well, we had already been hiking for an hour at that point, so I was tired, thankyouverymuch,” David said indignantly, interrupting Patrick just as the wry smirk started to play at his husband’s lips. “And you’d lured me there under false pretenses by telling me we were going on a picnic, so I expected food sooner rather than later. But in case you’ve forgotten, we did make it to the top, even though I hadn’t yet had my requisite allowance of cheese.”

“We did.” A wistful smile slowly replaced the smirk on Patrick’s face as he gazed up at David, his big, brown eyes full of the love and fondness that never failed to make David’s heart flutter. “And I’m really glad you didn’t listen to me when I said we should just turn around and go home.”

“Me too.” The corner of David’s lips quirked up into a shy grin as his cheeks warmed. He tried not to get too lost in the blissful memory of the exact moment when he’d turned around to see Patrick down on one knee at Rattlesnake Point, but he knew it was one moment in his life that he would never forget. This moment would probably be another, but for a very different reason.

“So, how should we do this?” Patrick scooted forward to the edge of the cushion, his bandaged leg balancing precariously close to the edge as well.

“Careful,” Marcy said.

“I’m fine, Mom. I’ve got it.”

Out of the corner of his eye, David saw Clint and Marcy exchange a knowing look that made David wonder if they were all starting to enter dangerous territory when it came to Patrick and his “take charge” nature.

“Um, I guess we could do it just like we did last time,” David said cautiously, wanting to cut the sudden tension as much as he wanted to help Patrick. “Only with you sitting on the couch instead of on a rock.” And you with a badly broken leg instead of a sore foot, he finished silently to himself, still not quite sure if this was a good idea or not. But Patrick seemed to want to try, so David just hoped he could manage to pick Patrick up without hurting him.

Hesitantly, he sat down in front of Patrick on the couch, so that Patrick was straddling his hips from behind. Patrick wrapped his arms tightly around David’s shoulders while David tried to find a good way to hold Patrick’s legs, especially since the right one needed to be kept as still as possible throughout the entire process.

“Is this okay?” David asked, as he wrapped his right hand around and under Patrick’s right thigh as gingerly as possible.

“It’s fine.” David could feel Patrick’s breath on the back of his neck, and as much as he still wasn’t sure about what they were about to do, one thing he was sure about was how much he’d missed physical closeness with his husband. Having Patrick pressed against his back, hugging him close as he held on tight, was enough to start the butterflies in David’s stomach that often arose whenever Patrick would sneak up behind him at the store and wrap him in a warm, affectionate hug. But now wasn’t the time to be getting caught up in sentimentality; he had to focus and pay attention, so he could hopefully get Patrick up the stairs without incident.

“Okay, so… I’m gonna stand up on three,” David said, trying his best to keep his voice from shaking and showing how nervous he was to be attempting this. His brain was already throwing worst-case scenarios at him and oh-so-helpfully providing suggestions for every possible way that this plan could end in disaster, most of which involved Patrick ending up much more badly hurt than he already was.

Gripping Patrick’s left leg tightly as he maintained a gentle-yet-stable hold on the right, David slowly leaned forward and pushed up to stand. It turned out that Patrick on his own was much lighter than Patrick plus two fully-loaded backpacks, which meant David could focus more on keeping Patrick’s right leg out of harm’s way than on merely keeping his own balance, the way he had been as they’d finished the hike that ended in their engagement.

Going up the stairs was still dicey, though, and David had to fight to keep his breathing under control as he carefully navigated the staircase, making sure to keep Patrick’s right foot clear of both the wall and the handrail. He heard a sharp intake of breath in his ear as he reached the top of the stairs and had to shift Patrick’s weight a bit, which only served to ratchet up his paranoia even further. But Patrick, apparently able to read David’s mind as always, had merely whispered, “I’m okay. Keep going.”

Luckily, their bedroom was the first door on the right at the top of the stairs, so it only took a few more very cautious steps to get Patrick to their bed, where David carefully lowered him down to the mattress.

“I told you you could do it,” Patrick said, his voice low and tinged with the slightest bit of pain -- pain that David had to work hard to convince himself he hadn’t caused. David got up and tried to help Patrick adjust his position in the bed as best he could, but it was hard to watch his husband wince with each movement, knowing that there was no one there with a medical degree to help them if something went wrong. Patrick had a sizable supply of pain medication to be taken at regular intervals, but David knew it wasn’t anywhere near time for the next dose -- he still had a couple more hours to go.

Finally, they got Patrick settled in bed, and Marcy went downstairs to check on the soup, while Clint headed back outside to work on adding a handrail to their new ramp, leaving David alone in the bedroom with Patrick. David was perched on the bed, a hesitant hand resting on Patrick’s thigh as Patrick leaned back into the pillows and let his eyes close again.

“Do you want me to leave you alone so you can sleep?” David asked, giving Patrick the option even though he really didn’t want him to say ‘yes.’

Patrick shook his head almost imperceptibly, then patted the empty space on the bed between them, all without opening his eyes. “Lie down with me for a minute,” he breathed, his voice so soft that David could barely hear him.

“Are-- Are you sure?” David stuttered, unable to stop the tremble in his voice that would no doubt be a dead giveaway for how anxious he was -- especially when the person he was trying to hide it from could always read him like a book.

True to form, Patrick blinked his eyes open and frowned, the tiniest of wrinkles forming between his eyebrows as he looked at David with clear concern. “David, what’s wrong?”

“I’m just…” David let his voice trail off, looking everywhere except Patrick’s eyes as he tried to figure out how to finish his sentence without letting on exactly how many unsettling thoughts were currently churning in his mind.

Patrick reached out and wrapped his fingers around David’s, giving them a gentle squeeze. “I’m fine, David. You did great. It would’ve been a lot harder to get up here without your help.”

“But, you… I just don’t want to hurt you.” David’s voice dropped to a whisper, and he inwardly cursed himself for still managing to be so fucking needy, even in a moment when Patrick was clearly the one in need. Sometimes he hated himself for his apparent inability to function without some sort of reassurance or validation from someone, be it family, a friend, or even a stranger. But it was what it was, and Patrick knew him, more deeply than anyone else ever had; he’d see it no matter how skilled David was at hiding it.

“You won’t.” Patrick’s voice was tender now, and he tightened his grip on David’s hand, tugging him closer until he had no choice but to lie down. “I promise. My leg just… aches. Sometimes it’s dull and sometimes it’s sharp. It’s constant. It’s not anything you did.”

David nodded and bit his lip. “Okay,” he whispered, as Patrick wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in even closer, until David’s head was resting on his chest. David focused on the rhythmic sound of his husband’s heartbeat, and the gentle rise and fall of Patrick’s chest as he breathed. But it was still hard to let go of the anxiety and the fear -- fear that one wrong move would end up making Patrick’s pain worse. “Is this… Are you sure this is okay? I mean, your ribs--”

“It’s perfect,” Patrick murmured, the tips of his fingers tracing a lazy pattern across David’s bicep as his eyes drifted closed once again. “It’s home.”

Chapter Text

David didn’t even realize he’d nodded off until he heard a loud groan and felt the mattress shift, followed by a muttered curse word from Patrick. It took David a moment to reorient himself and bring his brain back out of the post-unplanned-nap fog, and by the time he did, Patrick was in the middle of what appeared to be an attempt to stand -- and not a very successful one, considering that it ended in Patrick plopping unceremoniously back to the mattress.

“Wait, what…” David pushed himself into an upright position, shaking his head in an attempt to bring himself back to some form of full awareness. “What are you doing? Where are you going?”

“Bathroom,” Patrick grunted, taking a deep breath before tightening his grip on the handles of the walker and pushing himself up to stand again, more successfully this time, although not exactly pretty or the way he’d practiced it several hours earlier at the hospital.

Not quite sure what to do, David scrambled to get out of bed just as Patrick started to inch forward toward their master bath. “Um, do you… Do you need help?”

Not that David had any fucking idea what to do or how to help -- all he knew was that he wanted to help. That he should help. But he’d never been here before or done anything like this, because he’d never had the opportunity to be the supportive partner to anyone in his past life. Patrick had already been right there with David through a whole series of ‘firsts’ -- many of which Patrick hadn’t even been aware of, because David still kept a lot about his past to himself -- and being a caregiver was about to be another.

“I’ve got it.” Patrick’s voice was strained, and he neither sounded nor looked like he ‘had it,’ but David knew better than to step in and help when said help wasn’t requested -- just because this was Patrick, self-admitted ‘take charge guy.’ So David stood back and watched, trying not to hover or look too nervous, although he noticed the fingers of his left hand involuntarily wandering over to twist the engagement rings on his right -- an action that normally made him feel calmer and more centered, or at the very least distracted him from whatever was ratcheting up his anxiety at any particular moment. But it didn’t really work this time, except to occupy his hands and keep him from reaching out for his husband while his thoughts kept right on racing.

David was standing and watching Patrick’s slow progress -- and trying his damndest to keep his hands to himself -- when Patrick caught the toes of his injured leg on the edge of their big, fuzzy rug and his weight suddenly pitched to the right. The next few seconds were like an out-of-body experience for David, who somehow managed to get to Patrick just before he completely lost his balance.

“Hey, whoa,” David said, as most of Patrick’s weight sagged against him. What felt like about a million different thoughts ran through David’s head in the span of less than a second, each one of them ending in some sort of injurious disaster for Patrick. David tried to keep his wits about him as he struggled to keep Patrick upright, because the last thing he wanted was to be going back to the hospital because Patrick had a concussion from hitting his head on the footboard of their antique four-poster bed.

Patrick, meanwhile, was clinging to David like he was his last lifeline, hugging him close against his torso. David could feel Patrick’s breath against his shoulder, coming in short little gasps as he leaned into David. Then, David felt wetness against the side of his neck, where Patrick’s cheek was pressed. He wanted to pull back enough to be able to look at Patrick’s face, but considering that he was the only thing holding Patrick up at the moment, that seemed like a bad idea.

“Honey, are you okay?” David whispered, still wishing he could see his husband’s face so he could better evaluate the situation. “Do you need to lie back down?”

David looked around frantically, tightening his grip on Patrick’s shoulders as he realized that he had no idea how he would get Patrick back to the bed on his own, especially with the position they were both in at the moment. He doubted he had the strength to pick Patrick up from standing, not to mention the fact that he was absolutely certain he would end up hurting him if he tried. So they were stuck, at least until Patrick recovered enough to be able to move again under his own steam. And that, of course, hinged on figuring out what the fuck had just happened.

After several more heavy breaths, Patrick managed to nod against David’s shoulder, putting him on the spot to figure out some sort of a way to get Patrick back to the bed. Slowly and carefully, David unwrapped one arm from Patrick’s shoulders and reached for the walker, pulling it closer to both of them and turning it back around so that it was angled toward the bed again. “Okay,” he said, trying to sound calm and collected, even though he felt anything but. “Do you think you can grab the walker? I’ll stay right here with you.”

He really, really wished that he could just sweep Patrick off of his feet like he was rescuing his own personal damsel in distress, but that wasn’t an option. All David could do was exactly what he’d said -- stay there with Patrick, ready to support him should he start to fall. Slowly, Patrick loosened his own grip on David, reaching out for the walker with one hand, then the other as he pivoted on his good leg, turning back toward the bed. David stayed right behind him, hands at the ready in case he needed to catch Patrick again.

“I’ve got you,” David whispered, ghosting his palm against the small of Patrick’s back as he moved back toward the bed using a move that was more of a shuffle than a hop. With each step, Patrick squeezed his eyes shut and let out a shaky exhale.

When they finally made it back to the bed, David helped support Patrick as he lowered himself down to the mattress. “Can you--” Patrick gritted out, needing to stop to take a sharp inhale, followed by another trembling exhale. “Can you help me get my leg up here?”

David swallowed and nodded, knowing that this was dangerous territory when it came to not hurting Patrick. But he had to do it. Still, he moved as slowly as possible, trying to ignore the small whimper that came from his husband’s lips as he finally settled his bandaged leg back on the pillows. He tried to remember the words Patrick had spoken earlier: It just… aches. It’s constant. It’s not anything you did. But instead, David’s anxious brain jumped straight to ever-so-helpfully reminding him that if he’d just stepped in to help Patrick in the first place, Patrick wouldn’t have tripped, and also probably wouldn’t be lying in bed in extreme pain right now.

This was a moment when David could have used Patrick’s reassurance just to settle his mind, but Patrick appeared to still be struggling just to take a steady breath, so now definitely wasn’t the time to be needy. Now was the time to be the strong, supportive, put-together one in this partnership.

David took a deep breath to steel himself, wanting to reach out for Patrick’s hand, but at the same time a little afraid to touch him, for fear of causing more pain. “Can I… Can I get you anything?”

“Please tell me it’s time for my meds,” Patrick gritted out, still breathing in very unsteady inhales and exhales.

Glancing at the clock, David cursed under his breath. Not only was it time for Patrick’s meds, but it had been two hours ago. David felt like he'd dropped the ball, especially since no one else knew the schedule at that point except him and Patrick, but there was no fixing that now. Apparently they should have set an alarm, but he really hadn’t intended to fall asleep, so--

“David?” Patrick's still-strained voice brought him back out of his thoughts.

“Oh, yes, um… yeah.” David glanced around the room, looking for the overnight bag Marcy had packed for Patrick the previous day, which was where David had stashed smaller items -- including Patrick’s medications -- as they were packing up to leave the hospital. He was fairly sure he’d seen Clint carry it up the stairs and deposit it in the chair in the corner of their bedroom, but that chair was empty. Brow furrowed, David turned toward their closet -- which he knew he’d left open earlier that morning -- and saw that it was closed, and when he turned back to look at the bedside table again, he saw three prescription bottles lined up in a neat little row next to a full glass of water. Apparently Marcy -- angel that she was -- had taken care of things while he’d quite literally been sleeping on the job.

Trying to keep his hands from shaking and giving away exactly how much adrenaline was flowing through his veins, David reached for one of the bottles -- the larger one that was a sobering reminder of just how much pain the doctor had expected Patrick to have. He opened the lid and shook out two of the pills before handing them to his husband along with the glass of water. Patrick swallowed them quickly, then let his head sink back into the pillows with a noise that was part sigh, part groan.

“Is your leg okay?” David said softly, after several seconds of silence and more than a few still-unsteady breaths from Patrick.

“It’s getting better.” Patrick’s voice was very strained, belying his words. He swallowed hard and took another shaky breath before continuing. “But I think that might have hurt worse than when it actually happened.”

Those words made David cringe, because he knew what a broken leg felt like, thanks to an unfortunate (and not very graceful) incident involving a curb when he lived in New York. And that had just been a tiny, barely-there fracture down by his ankle -- practically a sprain, according to the doctor in the ER. He couldn’t imagine what having both bones broken in his leg would have felt like, much less recovering from surgery at the same time. He’d had access to all manner of drugs at the time -- both prescription and more… illicit -- so he’d kept himself in a pretty good mood throughout, and he still remembered struggling to fall asleep for the first few nights because his leg and foot were throbbing.

“Shit,” Patrick muttered, his eyes still closed. “I still have to pee.”

“Let’s just rest here for a minute.” David made his suggestion softly and cautiously, keeping a watchful eye on his husband.

“Yeah,” Patrick breathed, blinking his eyes open and then patting David’s empty side of the bed again. “C’mere… lie with me.”

Hesitantly, David rounded the bed and sat down, then slowly and carefully rotated his body so that he was lying down next to Patrick. No sooner had he gotten there than Patrick was reaching out for his hand, twining their fingers together.

“I’ll try not to fall asleep this time.” David let out a nervous laugh as Patrick tightened his grip on David’s hand.

“It’s okay if you do,” Patrick mumbled, sounding half asleep himself. “It’s been a day.”

“Yeah,” David whispered, before drawing his lips into his mouth. His brain was still processing all that had happened that day -- from meeting with the insurance adjuster to Alexis’ surprise visit and the pep talk from his sister that he hadn’t known he needed. He still hadn’t shared any of that with Patrick, and he figured it would probably be a while until he did. He wanted Patrick to be able to focus all of his energy on recovery -- which appeared to be taking up all of the energy Patrick had at the moment, quite frankly.

David focused on the feeling of Patrick’s hand in his -- the warmth and security that being within touching distance of his husband had always brought him -- as he stared up at the ceiling, taking slow, deep breaths that he hoped might slow his brain down. He glanced over at Patrick, whose eyes were closed again, his chest rising and falling with deep breaths of his own that appeared to be getting smoother with each passing second. David tried to follow the pace of Patrick’s breath, bringing their inhales and exhales into almost perfect sync as he focused his attention on the fact that Patrick was safe, and he was home. They were together again, and neither of them would have to sleep alone tonight -- which David had a feeling was just as needed for Patrick as it was for himself.

“Knock, knock.” Marcy Brewer’s kind voice pulled David back out of his reverie. He blinked as he turned to face the door, taking in his mother-in-law’s smiling face, her expression every bit as warm as her voice. “I just wanted to let you boys know that I made rolls, and the soup is ready whenever you want it. I can bring some up to both of you. You can have dinner in bed.”

Part of David felt like he should probably be a better host and join his in-laws downstairs, but the bigger part of him didn’t want to leave Patrick alone. Marcy must have read his mind, because her smile grew just a touch broader as she added, “Clint and I already ate, so don’t worry about us. It’s all up to you boys. Do you think you feel up to eating, sweetheart?” She took a couple of steps toward the bed, addressing Patrick directly.

Patrick blinked slowly, taking a couple more deep breaths as if to evaluate before nodding in response.

“Okay.” Marcy’s smile grew even more, crinkling the corners of her eyes this time. “Bread, too?”

“Yes please,” David said quickly, his own lips twitching up into a shy grin as he heard Patrick let out a soft laugh alongside him.

“Better bring him at least three of those rolls.” Patrick’s voice was still a tiny bit strained, but the familiar teasing lilt came through clear as day. “He always eats a whole loaf of bread by himself when we go to Cafe Bellissimo in Elmdale.”

David rolled his eyes, feigning annoyance even though the teasing, honestly, brought him a very-much-needed bit of normalcy. “I’ll have you know that their bread is the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted, thankyouverymuch.”

“And how many for you, hon?” Marcy asked, completely unfazed by their exchange, although her eyes twinkled with amusement in the same way Patrick’s always did when he teased David.

“Just one for now… I’ll start with that.” Patrick paused and swallowed. “See how it goes.”

“Sure thing. Be right back.”

Once he heard Marcy’s footsteps descending the stairs, David rolled over onto his side to face Patrick, propping himself up on his elbow and wrapping his other hand around Patrick’s. “You doing okay?” he asked, keeping his voice soft. “Want to try the bathroom again?”

Patrick nodded, biting the inside of his lip in the way he always did when he wasn’t sure about something but was going to agree to it anyway and try to act confident about it. Once again, Patrick didn’t ask for help as he slowly started to push himself up to a sitting position, but this time, David didn’t bother asking if he needed it; he just stepped in and did it, and Patrick didn’t object. David helped Patrick lower his bandaged leg down off the bed, then supported him with an arm around his torso as he pushed up to stand -- this time the way he’d been taught by the physical therapist. Keeping his hand on the small of Patrick’s back, David walked alongside him as he hobbled toward their master bath, breathing a silent sigh of relief as they passed over the transition between the rug and the hardwood floor, smoothly and safely this time.

Eventually, they made it to the bathroom, and David made sure Patrick was steady before stepping back into the bedroom and closing the door to give his husband some privacy, even though he really hated not being there at the ready, should something happen. David distracted himself by changing into his favorite set of pajamas while the anticipated set of sounds happened in the bathroom -- without incident, thankfully. About a minute after the faucet was turned off and the toilet stopped running, Patrick pushed the door open and emerged from the bathroom, then made his way back to the bed, once again with David close by his side.

David helped him get settled in the bed -- this time feeling much less nervous about it, now that he’d done it once -- then climbed back in on his side of the bed before turning to face Patrick. “You know, I could really get used to having a personal chef,” he said, one side of his lips turning up into his signature smirk. “And dinner in bed.”

“Don’t get any ideas.” Patrick returned the smirk, and David was grateful for yet another small shred of ‘normal’ in this time that felt anything but.

David didn’t have time to formulate his next witty retort before Marcy was standing in the doorway again, this time with a tray in her hand containing a steaming bowl of soup and a plate with three perfectly golden, homemade yeast rolls that looked positively amazing. Clint was behind her, holding a matching tray that he brought over to Patrick’s side of the bed, helping him get everything arranged before stepping back and following his wife back to the door.

“If you need anything, just give us a shout,” Marcy said. “I’ll be downstairs making a grocery list, so if there’s anything you want me to pick up tomorrow while I’m out, let me know and I’ll be happy to do it.”

“Thanks, Mom.” Patrick’s voice still sounded tired, though David could see Patrick trying to give his mom as sincere an expression as was possible through a haze of pain.

“Anytime, sweet boy.”

Clint gave both of them a wave and a smile as he and Marcy left the room, and David hardly gave them a chance to get out of the doorway before he was taking a huge bite out of one of the rolls, his eyes rolling back into his head as he let out an almost orgasmic moan.

“Fuck, that’s delicious.”

“It’s my grandmother’s recipe,” Patrick supplied, staring down at his bowl of soup as he traced a figure-eight pattern in it with his spoon, watching the steam rise off its surface. “People fight over them every year at Thanksgiving.”

“I can see why. I may need to employ your mother as my personal bread baker now.”

Patrick snorted. “No need; she’ll bake anything you want for free.”

“Well, that sounds dangerous… and also amazing.” David tore off another hunk of bread and popped it into his mouth, tilting his head back and groaning again. “I’m seriously gonna need a freezer full of these. Or else we need to visit a lot more often.”

Patrick chuckled, but it was half-hearted. “I doubt she’d complain about either one of those things,” he said, his voice suddenly sounding more tense as he finished his sentence.

David put down his roll and turned toward Patrick, who was staring down at his soup with wide eyes, still running the spoon idly through the bowl of broth, chicken, and vegetables but not making any moves to take a bite. “What’s wrong?”

“Kind of nauseous again… I know I need to eat, but...”

“You’ve got meds for that too, honey,” David said gently, really wishing he could somehow rid Patrick of his tendency to try to tough out everything without any help at all.

“I know but--”

“Take them.” David kept his voice soft, but he hoped Patrick would listen. “You need to eat.”

Sighing, Patrick reached for the prescription bottles on the nightstand, picking through them until he found the one he needed. “It’s not instant, you know.”

“I know, but it’ll help.”

Patrick gave a resigned nod as he took a swig of water to swallow the pill, then tilted his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes again.

“Just rest for a few minutes, honey,” David said quietly, laying a hand over Patrick’s, which lay curled on the mattress alongside his thigh.

“I’ve been resting for days.” Patrick’s words were slurred and he sounded unbelievably tired, which was ironic given the fact that he seemed to be arguing against the idea of doing the very thing that would help him feel less tired.

“Well, you need more. And it sounds like it’s going to be that way for a while. Listen, if you’re trying to tough this out because of me, I’m fine. The store’s fine, too. I’ve got it. You need to take care of you right now.”

“You never did tell me what happened with the insurance adjuster,” Patrick mumbled, his words starting to become unintelligible.

“Don’t worry about that right now.” David tried not to sound annoyed, though he wasn’t sure he’d succeeded. “Like I said, I’ve got it. You’re practically falling asleep right now, so… let yourself. You can rest. It’s fine.”

Patrick let out a low, frustrated groan, but he did seem to relax a little -- his shoulders dropping down away from his ears as he leaned back further into the pillows that were stacked against the headboard. David carefully reached over to grab Patrick’s tray and set it aside, then watched his husband’s breath slowly even out. Once he was sure Patrick was either asleep or very close to it, David went back to his dinner, savoring every bite of both the bread and soup, which he decided were two of the most delicious things he’d ever tasted.

David loved Marcy’s brand of caring for her people -- by feeding them delicious comfort food and giving them warm hugs and encouragement, free of judgment. He was glad she was there, even if experiencing it all firsthand left him just a tiny bit jealous that Patrick had grown up with that sort of care, while David and Alexis had mostly been left to their own devices, save for what little bit of normalcy Adelina had been able to lend to their younger years.

As if she’d been summoned just by David thinking of her, Marcy appeared in the doorway no more than two seconds after he had taken his last bite of soup.

She leaned against the door frame, smiling sadly as she gazed at her son, who was now snoring softly, half sitting up and half lying down. “This is really taking it out of him, eh?” she said, keeping her voice soft.

“Yeah,” David whispered. “I’m just glad I finally got him to rest again.”

“Clint wasn’t kidding when he said Patrick is stubborn as a mule.” Marcy laughed under her breath as she came closer and picked up David’s tray, then added his empty dishes to Patrick’s tray, which still held his as-yet untouched bowl of soup and a single yeast roll. “He never gives up, even when it’s to his own detriment. Anyway, I’ll put his soup in the fridge. I can reheat it later when he wakes up. Is there anything you need, sweetheart?”

David’s heart warmed at Marcy’s pet name for him, which he’d heard more times in the last two days than he had in the entire time he’d known the Brewers thus far. Even so, he didn’t think he’d ever tire of hearing it. David shook his head as his lips pulled to one side of his face into a shy smile.

“No,” he murmured. “I’m good.”

“Okay,” Marcy said, returning his smile. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

David nodded as he slid down further between the sheets alongside his husband, reaching out a tentative hand toward Patrick’s, then weaving their fingers together as gently as possible. Patrick stirred a little but didn’t wake up, so David carefully scooted his body across the few inches of mattress that had separated them, until the sides of their bodies were almost completely touching, save for Patrick’s broken leg resting atop the pillows. He nestled his head into the space where Patrick’s arm and shoulder met, letting out a contented sigh as his eyes drifted closed.

Patrick was right -- it had been a day. But they’d both survived it. All of it.

As sleep started to take over and David’s own breathing began to deepen, his last waking thought was that surely tomorrow would be better. It had to be.

Chapter Text

Tomorrow wasn’t any better. Neither was the next day, or the day after that. By the time they hit day five, David was grateful that Patrick’s first checkup with Dr. Singh was scheduled for that afternoon, because Patrick had spent the majority of every single day since he’d left the hospital either asleep or in severe pain that nothing seemed to make much of a dent in. The nausea had also returned with a vengeance, and nothing seemed to be helping that either. Patrick was short-tempered, grouchy, frustrated, and oddly emotional -- very much not like himself -- sometimes at different times and sometimes all at once. In short, he was miserable, and it hurt David to watch his husband be in so much pain and discomfort, and to know that there was nothing at all he could do about it.

More than once, David had found himself wondering if Patrick coming home a day early was a mistake -- if he’d needed more time to get his pain fully under control, or more time to just… recover. If he’d pushed too hard to get what he wanted, and now he was paying the price. Patrick seemed to be having a difficult time accepting that getting “back to normal” would be a long time coming, and David also wondered how much of Patrick’s foul mood could be attributed to the fact that every bit of this situation was out of Patrick’s control.

Lack of control was the one thing that truly bothered Patrick, who was normally pretty even-keeled and therefore the ideal partner for anxious, easily agitated David. But when Patrick couldn’t take charge of a situation well enough for his liking, he got… moody, to say the least. And sometimes that was enough to trigger David’s anxiety, which meant he had to constantly remind himself that Patrick’s irritation wasn’t directed at him, but at the situation. On a rational level, he knew that, but there was still that irrational part of him that would poke at his subconscious until he was questioning everything that he knew to be true. He’d made up his mind not to fall into that particular trap this time, though, so he’d just have to keep reminding himself not to take anything personally, even though that was just as exhausting.

Meanwhile, when it came to the store, David was stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for a call from Patti to let him know what her insurance company had said, and what her plan was for the building. So that was yet another thing contributing to David’s overall sense of unease, and another situation in which he had to actively keep himself from spiraling.

David was nearly as tired as Patrick, but he had to try his best not to let that show. Not that he felt Patrick would have noticed -- he was far too wrapped up in his own problems at the moment, and rightfully so -- but it would have made David feel guilty just the same. So he pushed through, sleeping when he could and trying to be a caring, loving partner the rest of the time.

Having Marcy and Clint there had been a huge help, because it meant David didn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning, or doing much of anything around the house, really. The Brewers freed David up to focus his attention solely on Patrick, which he was grateful to be able to do. Still, he knew that couldn’t last forever. They would have to go home eventually -- returning to work and to their normal lives, three hours away in Patrick’s hometown. David knew that meant he would need to go it on his own sometime soon, but he preferred not to think about that just yet, lest he find himself in a completely different anxiety spiral. One day at a time, he reminded himself, invoking the old adage he’d heard years ago when a friend back in New York had dragged him along to a court-mandated 12-step meeting. Even though he’d never been to another meeting after that -- despite probably needing them at several points in his twenties -- he’d found that the saying had served him well when he needed to slow down his speeding thoughts and focus. He could do anything one day at a time.

They made it through the morning -- with Patrick griping and groaning and generally being the world’s worst patient -- and then David had to drive him to Elmdale for his appointment. The waiting room at the doctor’s office was full of people with walkers and other various mobility devices, many of them as young as Patrick, and some even younger. As they sat and waited, David flipped through a six-month-old Hollywood gossip magazine while Patrick just tried to stay awake and alert. Every once in a while, he’d carefully shift positions in his chair, and David would see him grimace out of the corner of his eye. David still wanted to fix it -- and still knew that he couldn’t -- but he also knew that they were in the right place. Hopefully, they’d leave with some solutions, or at least a better plan for getting through the next several months.

Months. That length of time was a sobering reminder of just how big of a complication this unforeseen event would be in their lives -- and in their young marriage. As difficult as the first few days had been, David wasn’t sure he wanted to think about months. But he had to. He still remembered what Dr. Singh had told him at the hospital -- that Patrick would be looking at around a six month recovery time, at least. And as much as David knew Patrick wanted to be ahead of the game -- a “model student,” so to speak, if such a thing were possible when it came to broken legs -- that didn’t seem to be what was happening. But, again, it was out of their control.

Patrick shifted uncomfortably in his seat, unable to hide his grimace when the movement also jostled his leg atop the second chair David had pulled over in front of him. Without saying a word, David set his magazine aside and reached out for Patrick’s hand, twining their fingers together atop the armrest that connected their chairs.

“This sucks,” Patrick muttered, apparently unable to come up with anything more articulate. Not that David blamed him.

“I know, honey,” David said softly, squeezing Patrick’s hand a little tighter.

“I just… I have to wonder if something’s wrong, you know?” Patrick’s voice sounded strained, making his pain obvious, despite his attempts to conceal it. “This… this seems like more than what he warned me about.”

David had just opened his mouth to respond when a nurse opened the door on the opposite side of the waiting room and called out, “Patrick Brewer?”

Slowly and carefully, Patrick moved to stand, using the crutches he’d opted to use that day because they were “faster,” and the extra assistance of David’s steadying hand on his arm. The nurse led them down a short hallway to a room full of x-ray equipment, where David had to wait outside for about five minutes before being reunited again with his husband. Then, both of them were taken to an exam room, where they waited for the doctor for what felt like an eternity. David tried to make Patrick as comfortable as possible, but it was challenging without the plethora of pillows and blankets they had at home.

When the doctor came in, Patrick was lying back on the exam table with his eyes closed while David sat quietly, just watching him -- keeping an eye out for anything he could do to help, even though he knew that there likely wasn’t anything.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Brewer,” Dr. Singh said. “How are things going so far?”

Patrick blinked his eyes open and pushed himself up to a sitting position, wincing as he did so. “Okay, I guess… a lot of pain.”

David wondered what had happened to what Patrick had mentioned to him in the waiting room -- that he was afraid something was wrong -- but he also wasn’t surprised at his husband’s refusal to admit the true severity of the situation. After all, that would have meant also admitting that he wasn’t in control.

Dr. Singh hummed as he took a seat in front of the computer, typing and clicking until he brought up a very scary looking set of x-rays on the screen. The outer bone of Patrick’s ankle had been put back together with a handful of screws and a metal plate, while his shin bone was now home to a large metal rod, held in position by two screws at each end. David had never seen anything like that before, and just seeing it on x-ray made him cringe. No wonder it was painful. Part of him wondered what the x-ray had looked like when Patrick had first been taken to the emergency room, but he figured it was likely a good thing he hadn’t seen it. Seeing the blood and the broken skin on Patrick’s leg had been more than enough.

“Everything still looks good,” Dr. Singh said, rotating his stool around so he was now facing Patrick and David. “You mentioned pain -- can you tell me how severe? And have you been keeping to the schedule with your medications?”

“Um, it’s…” Patrick bit his lip and looked down at the floor, brow furrowed as he considered his answer to the doctor’s questions. “It’s pretty bad. And yes, I’ve been taking them, but… it’s like it’s not enough. The only relief I really get is when I’m asleep, and even then, the pain wakes me up after a while, so…”

“And you’ve been sticking with the bed rest as much as possible, correct?”

“Yeah, I have.”

“This is the first time he’s been out of our bed to go anywhere except the bathroom,” David added, remembering what a circus it had been to get Patrick down the stairs so they could go to this appointment. It was a good thing they’d started early, because it had taken about fifteen minutes to get him down, between Patrick, the crutches, David, and Clint. But they got there eventually. It made David wonder, though, just how long it would be before every little movement wasn’t so much of a struggle for Patrick.

“I just… it’s been making me wonder if something’s wrong,” Patrick said, finally expressing the doubts he’d shared with David a few minutes before. “I mean, I broke my arm when I was a kid, and I don’t remember it ever hurting this much. And I’m still just completely wiped out all the time. I thought that would get better, but it’s not.”

The doctor hummed again, clicking around on the computer for a few seconds before he spoke. “I can write you a prescription for a stronger painkiller, but I do want to make sure that you understand that this is a severe injury, and it has a long, challenging recovery period. Rest is very important. I can’t speak for the broken arm, but I can tell you that the type of injury you had to your leg is permanently life-altering for most people. Some of the pain may stick around for a long time, if not forever.”

An uncomfortable silence settled between the three of them after Dr. Singh said those words: if not forever.

“So...” David hesitantly broke it, picking out one of the million questions flying around in his head. “Uh, how long do you think it might take before it’s at least a little bit better?”

“Generally, after a couple of weeks, the pain does improve as the healing process gets further along. But there might be things you did before with no problem that will be a little harder from now on. And, as I said, some of this pain might still be around for a long time to come. Are you a fairly active person, Mr. Brewer?”

Patrick nodded, and David caught him shifting positions just slightly on the exam table, although he had to wonder if some of the discomfort this time was mental as well as physical.

“Okay,” Dr. Singh continued. “What sorts of activity are you wanting to go back to? Not right now, but down the road.”

“Um, I like to hike… Sometimes I like to go for a run if I’ve got excess energy I need to burn off. I play in a community baseball league, and I was thinking about joining the hockey league next winter, but I guess that’s--”

“My goal is to get you back to all of those things.” Dr. Singh cut Patrick off, leaning forward to give Patrick that same earnest, staring-straight-through-to-your-soul look that he’d given David in the hospital waiting room right after Patrick’s surgery. “But I need you to have patience, and to trust me -- to trust that if you do what I’m telling you to do, you’ll get there.”

“But when?”

“I can’t give you any guarantees, but, like I’ve mentioned before, six to eight months is a good ballpark figure. It’s going to be a while. I know that’s not easy to hear, especially not when you’re young and active, but it’s the truth. If there’s one thing I pride myself on as a physician, it’s that I’m always honest with my patients; I don’t sugarcoat anything. So I won’t do that with you, either. Right now, I need you to listen to your body. If it’s telling you to rest, then rest. It’ll pay off in the end. Now, let’s see if we can get those staples out.”

Dr. Singh stood and approached the exam table, busying himself with the task of unwrapping the many layers of elastic bandages that surrounded the splint on Patrick’s leg. When he finally got it unwrapped, David found that it didn’t look much different than it had the morning after the surgery. The only real difference he noticed was the presence of a mottled dark purplish-gray and greenish-yellow bruise across Patrick’s shin and down the side of his ankle, spreading across the top of his foot as well. It looked like it hurt, although probably not as badly as the dozen or so metal staples that held Patrick’s skin together.

David had barely gotten his head around what he was seeing when he heard Dr. Singh say, “You might feel a little pinch or a tug,” about a half-second before he took hold of the first staple with a tool that resembled a cross between a pair of scissors and a pair of pliers. When he squeezed the handles on the tool, it caused the staple to bend in such a way that the ends came right out. Patrick’s only reaction to the first staple was a surprised blink, but a few of them did draw a slight grimace. David held Patrick’s hand through most of it, once he figured out what was happening, and they both watched as Dr. Singh finished up, then cleaned Patrick’s wounds again.

“I will say you’re a quick healer,” he said. “That’ll probably work out in your favor. Your incisions look great. So, given that, I think I’d like to go ahead and transition you to a hard cast. We’ll recheck in two weeks, but I think in the meantime, the hard cast will be lighter and make things a bit easier for you. I’m also going to clear you to begin in-home physical therapy, so we can get you up and moving a bit. That’ll help too. Someone will be here shortly to take you to the casting room. In the meantime, did you have any more questions for me?”

David felt like he had dozens of them swimming in his head, but he was still trying to process everything that had just been said, so he chose to shake his head and defer to Patrick rather than sound like an idiot by asking something that had already been answered. Patrick didn’t have any questions either, so Dr. Singh bid them both farewell with a handshake, then left them alone in the exam room once again.

“So, I guess that’s something. You’ve graduated to a cast,” David said, trying to keep his voice upbeat as he attempted to fill the silence, because he knew that too much quiet -- and too much time to think -- would only drive up his anxiety about the whole situation. He could also see Patrick’s own sense of unease in the way his shoulders were drawn up toward his neck, and in the set of his jaw.

But Patrick didn’t say anything. Instead, he was staring down at his leg -- at the still-fresh wounds now starting to form tender pink scars as they healed. Part of David wanted to know what was going through Patrick’s head, but another part of him felt like he already knew -- and that it likely wasn’t anything good, judging from the look on his face.

“You’ll be good as new in no time,” David added, hoping he was successfully pulling off his attempt at being Patrick’s cheerleader and not just being annoying. David wished Patrick would say something -- anything -- just to give him some sort of a hint as to what exactly his husband needed in that moment. But he still said nothing.

Thankfully, before David could say anything else that might involve sticking his foot even further in his mouth, there was a light knock on the door. A man in scrubs pushed it open a second later, wheelchair in-tow. He introduced himself as Jerome, then helped Patrick into the chair, assigning David to carry Patrick’s crutches as they made their way down another hallway to a door labeled ‘Casting.’

It was a large room with four different exam tables -- one in each corner -- and countertops full of various sizes of fiberglass wraps in a rainbow of colors. David’s eyes were drawn to the navy blue, since he assumed that was probably what Patrick would choose, given that it would match approximately ninety-nine percent of his wardrobe.

Jerome helped Patrick onto one of the tables and set to work casting Patrick’s leg, moving quickly from one step to another, until he was asking Patrick to choose a color for the outer layer. As predicted, he chose the navy blue, and soon, they were on their way to the checkout desk, where they set up Patrick’s next appointment before heading home.

Patrick had been suspiciously quiet throughout the entire casting process, reacting only when his leg had to be manipulated into a particularly sensitive position, and even then, only with a barely-there wince that David could tell he was trying his best to mask. The drive back to Schitt’s Creek was more of the same, with Patrick in the back seat, staring out the window with heavy eyelids, looking like he was caught somewhere between being deep in thought and falling asleep.

“Doing okay back there?” David asked, mostly to fill the uncomfortable silence they’d fallen into once again. At the same time, he hoped it might prompt Patrick to give him a peek into his thoughts.

Patrick’s answer, however, was nothing more than, “Yeah, I’m okay,” followed by a quiet sigh as he continued to look out the window at the elegant scenery of rural Elm County -- mostly farm fields and dilapidated houses and barns.

It was obvious from the look on Patrick’s face -- a combination of frustration and resignation, mixed with pain and discomfort -- that he wasn’t okay, but David chose not to press any further. They’d have plenty of time to work it all out, and he knew Patrick had a lot to process. Hell, David felt like he had a lot to process after that doctor’s appointment, so he could only imagine what it was like to be in Patrick’s head at that moment.

David was just as ready as Patrick for all of this to be over -- to return to their normal lives, whatever that would look like now. But he knew they couldn’t rush it. Everything would happen in its own time. Not necessarily the greatest thing for David’s anxiety or Patrick’s impatience, but that was how it had to be. No matter how long it took or how hard it was, David knew one thing for sure -- that they’d get through it all together. And that gave him something to hold onto.

Chapter Text

By the time they arrived back at the house, nothing more had been said between them -- David had turned up the radio to help give himself at least a little distraction, while Patrick continued staring out the window. After parking the car, David quickly got out, intending to help Patrick, but he shrugged David off with a grunted, “I’ve got it.” So David stood by and watched as Patrick struggled to his feet -- apparently with something to prove, although David wasn’t sure what or to whom -- then started the slow journey up the ramp to the back door.

Patrick did seem to be moving a bit more easily with the new cast, which held his leg at a slightly different angle than the splint had, with more bend in the knee, so he didn’t have to work so hard to hold his leg up off the ground. David was glad for that; he was all-in for anything that would make this easier on Patrick.

When they got into the kitchen, Marcy was sitting at the table, surrounded by stacks of foil pans and recipe cards, while Clint appeared to be rearranging the contents of their freezer.

“Oh! You’re back!” Marcy said brightly, pushing her chair back to stand, so she could give both of them a hug. “How’d your appointment go, honey?”

“Fine,” Patrick replied, not quite meeting his mother’s eyes as he tried to step around her. “He said everything looks good.”

“That’s great, sweetheart!” Marcy’s voice was still full of enthusiasm -- the complete opposite of Patrick’s flat tone. “I see you’ve got a new cast. I guess that must mean the staples are out?”

Patrick nodded, finally managing to make it around Marcy to get closer to the door that connected the kitchen to the living room. “Yeah, I’m just… Sorry, but I don’t feel much like talking right now. I’m really tired.”

Without waiting for a response, Patrick continued into the living room, heading straight for the stairs. David quickly laid Patrick’s appointment reminder card and the new prescription on the table before trailing behind his husband. He cast his in-laws an apologetic look as he left the kitchen, still not quite sure whether he should try to help Patrick up the stairs or not. David stayed close as Patrick used the handrail on one side and both crutches under the opposite arm to raise himself up to the level of the first step, repeating the action again and again until he was halfway up. When he got there, he paused and leaned against the wall with his eyes closed, seeming to need a moment to catch his breath.

“So, um…” David began hesitantly, standing just a few steps below Patrick. He kept his voice soft in hopes that Patrick wouldn’t react too poorly -- especially since his stomach was already in knots and he could feel the telltale buzz of anxiety creating static in his brain and making it hard to think. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Patrick shook his head, keeping his eyes closed for a few more seconds before he pushed away from the wall, setting himself up with the crutches and the handrail again, then hoisting his body up to the next step. It was slow going, but in the end, Patrick made it completely under his own steam. However, he looked more than a little unsteady as he made his way to the bed, collapsing onto it with a loud exhale. He struggled a bit more to pull his casted leg up onto the mattress -- and that action appeared to be painful as well -- but again, he shrugged off David’s attempts to help.

Once Patrick finally had his leg settled -- after another painful-looking struggle -- he leaned back onto the stack of pillows that were propped against the headboard and let out a ragged breath as he closed his eyes.

David looked around to take an inventory, making sure everything Patrick might need -- water, medications, a book, a protein bar in case he got hungry -- was within arm’s reach. But he wasn’t sure exactly where to go from there. Sitting down gingerly on the edge of the bed, David picked at his fingers for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and deciding to make one more attempt at getting Patrick to let him in.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked softly, hating how meek he sounded and the slight tremble in his voice that, as usual, gave away how uneasy he was feeling. Under normal circumstances, that would almost always result in Patrick wrapping his arms around David and flipping the script on him, reassuring him and trying to get him to talk through whatever he was anxious about.

But this time, Patrick’s reaction was completely different, coming in the form of an exasperated sigh as he muttered, “No, not really.”

“I want to help you,” David said, hesitantly reaching out to lay a hand over Patrick’s. “Tell me how I can help.”

“David, there’s nothing you can do.” Patrick sounded impatient. Annoyed. And that made David involuntarily draw back as the anxious thoughts started flying around in his head again.

“Well, let me try,” he whispered, trying to keep his voice steady even though he could already feel the tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. “I can listen, at least. We should talk about this.”

“David, I said there’s nothing, and I meant it. You can’t fix this. I just… I need some time, okay? I’m tired, and my leg hurts, and my incisions itch, and I… I just want to be alone.” David could hear the unsteadiness in Patrick's voice alongside the annoyance, which he knew meant Patrick was close to losing control.

“Honey, let me help you.”

“David, please stop.” Patrick closed his eyes again, but the irritation in his voice was clear.

“I need you to talk to me, so I can help--“

“I said, leave me alone!”

Patrick’s voice came out strained, breaking a little at the end. And, well, he hadn’t said that before -- not exactly. But David got the message that time, loud and clear. Blinking back the tears that he really didn’t want to be welling up in his eyes, David got up from the bed, resisting the impulse to cling to his husband’s hand and plead with him to just talk to him -- to tell him how he was feeling so they could both be on the same page, so David could support him.

“Okay,” he said softly, hearing his own voice break as he turned to go. “I’ll leave you alone.”

David swiped at his eyes with the back of his hand as he walked out the door and down the hallway, nearly running into Marcy only a few steps from their bedroom. She gave him a sympathetic smile as she used her thumb to gently wipe away a tear that had slipped down his cheek.

“It’s not you, sweet boy. I promise,” she said, making David wonder how much she’d heard and where she’d gotten her miraculous ability to read all of his anxious thoughts, even when he wasn’t sure he could put them into words. “There’s a plate of cookies on the counter in the kitchen. Clint went to get that new prescription filled. Why don’t you go downstairs and take a break for a few minutes? I’ll talk to him.”

David nodded numbly as Marcy gave his arm a gentle squeeze.

“I’ll come join you in a bit,” she said, still smiling that soft, sincere smile that made David feel warm. Loved. “Save me some cookies.”

Part of David wanted to linger in the hallway to eavesdrop on the conversation, just to see if he could pick up any tidbits that might help alleviate the pit that had developed in his stomach. But the irrational part of him was afraid of what he might hear, so after a few seconds of hesitation, he slowly made his way back downstairs and into their kitchen, where there was indeed a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies sitting just to the right of the stove.

David took a cookie and sank down into one of the chairs at their kitchen table, laying the cookie on a napkin, where he stared at it while his stomach did somersaults and his brain supplied no less than a half dozen different scenarios for the conversation that was happening upstairs. The relative silence on the drive home had already made him uneasy, and Patrick’s refusal to talk to him wasn’t helping in the least.

Trying to keep his breathing under control because he did not want to have a panic attack while his mother-in-law was busy comforting her own son, David closed his eyes and tried to slow down his thoughts to match his measured, careful breaths. He couldn’t hear any raised voices coming from upstairs, so that seemed like a good sign. David hoped that Marcy could provide whatever Patrick needed, since he clearly hadn’t been able to, no matter how much he wanted to.

It seemed like every turn and every moment of the past week had only left David wishing he could turn back time and make the accident not happen, returning their lives back to the way they were before a random beige sedan had shattered their comfortable existence into pieces -- pieces he was struggling to find a way to put back together. But the pieces were jagged, and some of them were missing, leaving David feeling lost and confused.

His mind wandered back to Alexis’ surprise visit and just how much he’d needed a vote of confidence from someone who truly knew him, but the longer he had to wait for news on the store, the harder it got to continue believing he could manage all of this on his own. Especially when Patrick seemed to be struggling just to get through every day.

Alexis’ words echoed in David’s head: You can do this. And if you need someone to remind you of that, I’m only a phone call away.

His fingers had found their way to his pocket, taking his phone out as he considered making that very call, when he heard the creak of their screen door opening behind him, and Clint Brewer walked in. He had a small bag from the tiny pharmacy in Schitt’s Creek in his hand, which he deposited on the counter next to the plate of cookies.

David swiped at his eyes with the back of his hand again, guarding against the presence of any rogue tears that might have sneaked out while he was busy getting caught up in the overwhelm that seemed to be his new normal.

“Everything okay?” Clint asked, his eyebrows drawn together in confusion. His whole facial expression reminded David so, so much of Patrick, and it was all David could do to maintain control and not break down in front of his father-in-law. Not today. Not now. Not when he was trying to be the strong one.

David didn’t even realize he hadn’t responded at all until Clint pulled out the chair next to him, pushing aside a stack of empty foil pans and taking a seat as he said, “I’ll take that as a no.”

The left side of Clint’s mouth was drawn up into the same rueful smile that David was used to seeing on Patrick whenever David was particularly worked up about something, and he honestly wasn’t sure he’d ever tire of trying to pick out the pieces of Patrick that Marcy and Clint had each passed down to their son. It also made the encounter feel suddenly familiar, and that was probably why he ended up spilling his guts -- telling Clint everything that had happened after they’d gone upstairs.

“She’ll be able to talk some sense into him; don’t worry,” Clint said, once David had finished his story -- thankfully without any tears.

David nodded and pulled his lips into his mouth, staring down at his still-uneaten cookie, because a small part of him was still afraid that he might cry if he looked Clint in the eye.

“He’s always been like that,” Clint said. “Headstrong. Downright obstinate, actually. Won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Once he’s made up his mind about something, he’s making it happen, come hell or high water. And if he can’t make it happen, because it’s out of his control, well… look out. But I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.”

The left side of David’s mouth quirked up into the tiniest hint of a smile at that, because Clint was right -- David was intimately acquainted with Patrick’s never-ending desire to control everything, in an effort to get what he wanted. And also with the way he’d almost pout when he didn’t get his way. But that didn’t make it any easier for David to deal with having that mood directed at him.

“Has he told you the story about when he broke his arm in grade four?”

“He told me it happened, but not really the story, no. Unless it’s about Marcy making him ride in the back seat so she wouldn’t pass out from having to look at his broken arm.”

Clint chuckled. “Well, there’s more to it than just that. He broke his arm a few days after he turned ten, and we’d gotten him a brand new bike for his birthday -- a ten-speed. He was so thrilled with that bike. So he was mad that he wasn’t going to be able to ride it for a while. The first week or so, I think the pain took care of any potential temptations he might have had, but once he started feeling okay again, he was just more pissed off than anything -- and bound and determined that he was going to ride that new bike to his buddy’s house on the other side of the neighborhood. He stood there in the kitchen with his little hand on his hip and told Marcy and I that he felt ‘fine’ and he could ride his bike with no problem, nevermind the fact that his left arm was in a cast that went past his elbow.”

“That sounds about right.” An amused smile started to play at David’s lips as Clint recounted the story.

“Believe me, Marcy and I tried every way in the world to convince him not to go, but he wouldn’t listen. So we thought, okay, maybe we just need to let him try it. He’ll see that it won’t work because he can’t really reach the left side of the handlebars, and he won’t get too far before he turns around and comes home. Well, we were wrong. He made it all the way to the end of our street -- steering the bike one-handed, mind you -- before he lost control and fell off the bike and into somebody’s yard. Thankfully, he only ended up with some minor scrapes and a bruised ego, but it was enough that he didn’t try to ride that bike again until the cast was off.”

“I bet he still wasn’t happy about it, though.”

“You’re right; he wasn’t. But that was the thing that always got him in trouble as a kid. He’d push and push, trying to get what he wanted, and he just had to be right -- but it was often to his own detriment. He didn’t care though -- the hard way was the only way he’d learn, it seemed. I’m not sure he’s changed much since those days.”

David huffed a laugh. “No, I don’t think he has. But I think…” He paused and took a breath, thinking of how so many of his favorite moments with Patrick were the result of Patrick’s refusal to give in or give up. “I think I kind of like that about him. I need that sometimes.” Honestly, Patrick’s confidence and stubbornness were a big part of why they’d ended up business partners, and ultimately, life partners.

“So, as I’m sure you already know, when he can’t make something happen, he doesn’t handle it well. And it sounds like that’s exactly what’s happening right now. Marcy has had a lot of experience in talking him down when he gets like this. She’s a great peacemaker, too; she’ll get it smoothed over.”

David looked down at the table again, his finger tracing the edge of the napkin that held his cookie. “I just want to help him,” he said softly, more to himself than to Clint.

“Oh, believe me, I know all about that feeling, too. And feeling powerless when you can’t, especially when he wants so badly for it all to be different. He just needs some time to come around… and maybe a little tough love from his mother.”

A chuckle slipped from David’s lips at the thought of Marcy Brewer giving out anything other than warm hugs and understanding smiles.

“Trust me, she might look all sweet and nice on the outside, but you really don’t want to piss her off.” Clint gave David a smile and a wink, as if he’d been reading David’s mind. “Patrick got a little bit of that from her, too. Just let her work her magic. He’ll be fine.”

David nodded again, briefly closing his eyes this time before whispering, “Okay.”

He could see Clint out of the corner of his eye, giving him a fond, reassuring smile that looked just like Patrick’s. David basked in that warmth for a few seconds, already feeling a little better about the situation, even though the anxious part of his brain was still poking at him, trying to make him doubt himself. Taking another deep breath, David reminded himself that Clint knew Patrick very, very well -- probably just as well as he did, only in a different way.

“Now, if you’re not gonna eat that cookie…”

David looked up to see a familiar teasing glint in his father-in-law’s eye, and he couldn’t help but smile as Clint gave him another wink. He was about to tell the man to get his own cookie when his phone started to buzz on the table, and the name Patricia Smith lit up on the display.

He took a deep breath, not particularly liking how much it shook. “That’s our landlord,” he murmured. “For the store. I should--” His voice broke, and his next inhale had a very distinct hitch in the middle. “I should take that.”

Clint laid his hand over David’s and gave it a squeeze. “Whatever happens, David… know that it’ll all work out in the end. You’ve got each other, and that’s really all you need.”

Chapter Text

When David answered the phone, his heart was pounding so hard in his ears that he could barely discern Patti’s voice. But when she said, “I’ve got a contractor scheduled to start work at the store on Thursday,” he let go of a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, and an almost overwhelming sense of relief washed over him.

“Okay, great,” he whispered, looking up at the ceiling as his shoulders relaxed down from his ears just a tiny bit. “So, um, do they… Do they know how long it might… take?”

“About a month or so, maybe. So not too long. I wish I had someplace you could operate out of temporarily, but I don’t.”

“Oh, um, that’s… that’s okay. I mean, Patrick’s still recovering, and there was a lot of damaged merchandise, so… I don’t know if I could, really...”

“Oh, yes, of course, of course. Patrick definitely comes first. Although I’m sure with your creativity and eye for innovation, you’ll come up with a great way to make sure your customers can still get what they need.”

Patti’s comment reminded David of yet another thing he’d been meaning to think about but simply hadn’t had the brain space to consider yet -- how they were going to make money while the store was closed. They had a small savings -- mostly due to Patrick’s insistence that they put at least a little something away every week, just in case -- but it wouldn’t be enough to live on for more than a month, especially if they weren’t bringing in any money at all. Maybe it was time to get serious about the possibility of opening up online ordering -- something they’d been thinking about for several months now but had yet to iron out the logistics of. But the thought of trying to keep up with all of that while trying to simultaneously take care of Patrick and oversee the construction at the store was overwhelming, to say the least.

“Anyway,” Patti continued, pulling David back out of his head and into the present, “I just wanted to let you know that they did ask that you pack up whatever merchandise you have out front and move it to the back room, so it’ll be out of the construction dust and such. I know it’s kind of short notice, and I’m sorry, but I did want to get things moving as soon as I could. You’re great tenants, and I hate that this happened to you guys.”

“Thanks,” David said softly. “I… I really appreciate it.”

“Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for either of you, David. I mean it.”

David thanked her again before hanging up, still not quite sure he’d ever get used to people being so nice.

“Well, that sounded like good news,” Clint said, raising his eyebrows in yet another very Patrick-like expression.

David recounted what Patti had just told him, watching his father-in-law’s easy smile broaden when he got to the part about them being good tenants and how she wanted to make things right for them. “So, um, now I just have to pack everything up and move it to the back,” David said, pulling his bottom lip between his teeth as he realized just how much work that would be. A decent chunk of it was already done -- thanks to half the town pitching in to help before he’d even been able to make it back to the store -- but he knew there was still a lot left to pack up and put away. And, frankly, physical labor had never been David’s favorite thing.

“I’ll help you.” Clint didn’t hesitant for even a second, and it became immediately clear to David just where Patrick had gotten his easy willingness to jump in and assist anyone who needed it. “Should we go ahead and get started tonight, or do you think we can get it all done tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow’s good,” David said, trying not to doubt the split second decision as his brain started to run through a quick mental inventory of everything that was left in their store that would have to be organized and boxed up. He knew that getting a head start would probably be a good idea, but he was also exhausted from what had already felt like a very, very long day, and he honestly wasn’t sure he could trust himself to be in the store right now and not burst into tears of anger, frustration, and overwhelm. That definitely wasn’t something David wanted to do in front of his father-in-law, especially not when he felt like they were just now really getting to know each other. “Thanks,” he added, his voice barely above a whisper.

“Anytime, David. We’re family. Family helps each other.”

When David looked up at his father-in-law, there was a wide, sincere smile on Clint’s face, and David felt the corner of his own lip start to pull up into a shy grin. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get over how good it felt to be considered a part of a family that was always so warm and loving, without the side of bizarre drama and constant missteps that were common with the Roses.

David was still struggling to find words to respond when Marcy finally came back down the stairs.

“He’s asleep,” she said, keeping her voice low as she joined them at the table.

“Is he…” David let his voice trail off, not quite sure what exactly he was trying to ask, or whether or not he actually wanted the answer.

“He’s okay,” Marcy supplied, giving David a comforting smile as she reached over to lay a hand over his. “Just having a hard time getting his head around how long all of this is going to take. Sometimes he just needs to get his frustration out of his system. I’m just sorry that he took it out on you.”

“It’s okay,” David said softly, turning his gaze to look down at the table. “I shouldn’t have pushed.”

“This is stressful for you, too, sweetheart,” Marcy said, gently running her thumb over the back of David’s hand. “And I know you were only trying to help. Now, what’s your favorite comfort food? I’d love to make it for you tonight. Patrick’s always telling me how much you enjoy Italian. So, tell me… spaghetti and meatballs? Lasagna? Fettuccine alfredo?”

“Oh, I’m… Whatever you want to make is fine. Or we can…” David paused for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts enough to stop stumbling over his words. “I can go pick something up at the cafe. You’ve done so much already.”

“It’s no problem at all, sweet boy. Just tell me what you’d like, and I’ll make it for you.”

“Um, well… I do love lasagna. Or really anything with pasta, sauce, and cheese.”

Marcy laughed. “Lasagna is what Patrick always requests, too.”

“Oh?” David couldn’t hold back the smile that spread across his lips at the memory of Patrick -- high as a kite after having his wisdom teeth removed -- asking David to make him a lasagna. Of course, the conversation had devolved from there into Patrick telling David he wanted to make a baby with him, of which Patrick thankfully had no recollection and hadn’t really meant at all. But apparently the request for lasagna had been grounded in truth.

“Yes, he just loves my mother’s lasagna recipe. I have to make it for him every year at Christmas. Of course, I haven’t gotten to do that for a few years…” Marcy paused and took a deep breath, leaving her sentence unfinished. “Anyway, I’d love to make it for you. Actually, I was planning on making some to freeze for you boys to have after we go home, so I’ll just go ahead and make it now. We’ll have some for tonight, and I should still be able to freeze a second one for you two to have later.”

With that, Marcy was up from the table and moving around the kitchen, gathering ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator that David knew they hadn’t owned that morning. Clint excused himself by saying he needed to run to the hardware store to pick up a few things, while Marcy handed David a box grater and a block of mozzarella cheese, instructing him to make himself useful (with a wink, of course). The next thing David knew, Marcy was teaching him how to make homemade marinara sauce -- something he never in a million years thought he’d be able to do, or even have the confidence to try. But something about Marcy Brewer made him feel… comfortable, which David knew was a tall order as far as he was concerned.

He’d spent most of his life feeling like a big ball of nervous energy, with anxiety sapping his confidence at every turn. Sure, he always tried to project an image of confidence -- especially when he was around people he didn’t know very well -- but most of the time, it was exactly that: an image. Inside, there was always an undercurrent of self-doubt whispering in David’s ear -- reminding him that he was a fraud, or a failure, or whatever negative attribute du jour was appropriate for the situation. That vulnerability was something he’d always tried desperately to hide, but he’d found in the last few years that there were at least a handful of people that he could truly be himself around, without fear of judgment. Patrick, of course, was number one, with Stevie a very close second -- edged out only by the fact that Patrick was his husband and therefore probably should take precedence. But Marcy Brewer was quickly working her way up through the ranks.

Making the lasagna turned out to be exactly the distraction David needed -- giving him something to focus on so he wouldn’t be worrying about Patrick or getting too lost in repetitive thoughts about the events of the afternoon. David tried not to think about the inevitability of the Brewers heading back home, because right now, he was really enjoying the comfort and security of having both of them around.

David did most of the assembly tasks on both lasagnas, following Marcy’s instructions carefully while she supervised, giving him reassuring smiles at just the right moment whenever he started to get nervous.

Once they had the first lasagna in the oven, Marcy helped David finish the last few layers of the second before covering it with a large sheet of foil, labeling it, and sticking it in their newly organized freezer. Marcy picked up one of the recipe cards from the table and sat down, already starting to jot down the recipe. There were only a few blank cards left, as most of them were already covered in Marcy’s neat handwriting and sorted to match up with sets of two or four empty foil pans.

“I wanted to be sure I left you boys with plenty to eat,” Marcy said, setting the finished recipe card aside. “And I wrote down all of the recipes for you, so if you find any new favorites, you’ll know how to make them again. I meant to make you boys a recipe box as a part of your wedding gift, but I ran out of time. Better late than never, I suppose.”

“So, um…” David began, wanting to change the subject so the anxious chatter inside his head reminding him of the Brewers’ imminent departure wouldn’t get any louder. “Did you and Patrick… cook together a lot, when he was growing up?”

Marcy looked up at David, her eyes crinkling at the corners as her lips turned up into the warm smile that David was really starting to love seeing. “Some,” she said. “He helped me more in the kitchen when he was younger, but once he hit high school, he was all about baseball and hockey and hanging out with his friends. I kind of missed him being with me in the kitchen, but I figured it was a part of him growing up, you know? I just hoped it would stick with him, and that he’d rediscover the love he had for it again someday.”

In his mind’s eye, David envisioned a young Patrick -- the one he’d seen in a few photos that Marcy had texted to him at various points in the last few years -- helping his mother with the marinara sauce, or carefully spreading ricotta cheese over the noodles. Spending his childhood doing all of the things that had been missing from David’s.

“He did, you know,” David said softly. “He’s actually a really good cook.”

Marcy let out a breathy laugh. “And to think, he once told me he was afraid his cooking wouldn’t measure up to what you were used to.”

“Well, considering that by the time we met, I was eating two or three meals a day at Cafe Tropical, I think that bar was set fairly low. And none of the chefs Mom and Dad ever hired were all that great, either. Honestly, all of the dishes I remember growing up were Adelina’s recipes.”

“She was your nanny, right?”

David gave a small nod, his lips pulling themselves into a knot on one side of his face. He wasn’t sure why talking about his unconventional childhood still made him uncomfortable after all these years, but it did. Marcy, however, was right there, as always, with an understanding nod and that same warm smile, continuing the conversation by asking him what his favorite things were that Adelina made and just plain taking an interest in him and his past. David still wasn’t used to that, even several years removed from all of the vapid so-called friends and acquaintances he’d once surrounded himself with.

They were chatting easily -- David recounting memories while Marcy sorted recipes and made a grocery list -- when David heard the hardwood floor upstairs creak, indicating that Patrick was up and moving around, probably heading for the bathroom.

Marcy laid a hand over David’s, giving it a squeeze. “Why don’t you go check on him, sweetheart?” she suggested, her gaze incredibly warm as she looked across the table at him. “I’m just going to get started on making a salad and some bread.”

Taking a deep breath as he got up from the table, David tried to use the encouraging smile Marcy was giving him to steel his resolve, reminding himself that this was Patrick they were talking about. His husband. Definitely not someone he needed to be afraid of.

“It’s all going to be fine, I promise,” she said, apparently reading David’s mind yet again. “Here, take these up to him.” Marcy reached for the pharmacy bag Clint had brought home earlier and handed it to David. “He’ll probably be needing them soon.”

David nodded as he turned and started up the stairs, trying to push down the slight sense of unease and trepidation he could already feel starting to build in his gut. He wasn’t sure he could take being snapped at again -- or worse, being ignored completely -- so he had to hope that Marcy’s promise was correct. Or at least, that a nap and a little time and space to think had substantially improved Patrick’s mood.

When David got to the bedroom, Patrick was in the bathroom with the door closed. David heard the toilet flush, followed by the water running in the sink for a few minutes and the familiar sounds of water splashing against the bowl that indicated Patrick was probably washing his face or brushing his teeth, or both.

After another minute or two, Patrick finally opened the door, a split second of surprise crossing his face before a mixture of remorse and resignation settled in. “Hey,” he said, giving David a pained half-smile before returning his gaze to the floor as he hobbled toward the bed.

“Hey,” David whispered. “I’ve got your new pain meds… if you need them.”

Patrick’s only response to that was a grunt and a soft “thanks,” though he was clearly distracted by the monumental task of trying to get back to bed. David stood and watched as Patrick carefully lowered himself down to the mattress and leaned the crutches against the wall. David wanted to step in to help, but was still feeling more than a little gun shy after the events of that afternoon. The last thing he wanted was to make Patrick feel like he was hovering, so he kept his hands to himself, busying them by running his fingers over the neatly folded top of the paper bag in his hand while Patrick pulled his legs up onto the bed and leaned back into the pillows.

“Can you get me some water?” Patrick said softly, sounding quite a bit more subdued than he had the last time he and David had spoken. “Please.”

David nodded, grateful to have a task to help himself keep busy so he wouldn’t say or do the wrong thing. Once he’d filled up the glass and returned it to the bedside table, however, an uncomfortable silence settled between them once again. David was about to awkwardly excuse himself to go back downstairs when Patrick spoke up, his voice still soft and shy -- very much not like himself.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” he said, chewing at the corner of his lip as he regarded David with a regretful look that almost bordered on shame. “I… um… This is… this is a lot. All of it. I think maybe…” Patrick paused and took a deep breath, then swallowed hard. “I think I kept hoping that somewhere along the line, the doctor’s predictions would be wrong, and I’d end up having some sort of miraculous recovery. So today… Today kind of felt like I got the rug pulled out from under me.”

Gingerly, David lowered himself down to sit on the edge of the bed before reaching for Patrick’s hand, savoring the warmth and the physical contact. “You’ll get there, honey,” he said, weaving their fingers together as he spoke. “You just have to be patient.”

Patrick snorted. “Not exactly my strong suit, in case you haven’t already figured that out.”

One side of David’s lips quirked upward into a bashful grin. “That’s actually one of the things I really like about you.”

“What, that I can’t be patient?” Patrick looked up at David, an amused grin playing at his own lips.

“That when you want something to happen, you make it happen.”

“Sometimes I can’t, though,” Patrick sighed, his frustration clear as he closed his eyes, a deep crease forming between his eyebrows. “This is one of those times.”

“Sometimes things just take a little longer,” David said, giving Patrick’s hand a comforting squeeze. “But trust me, that only makes it even sweeter when they finally happen.”

Chapter Text

David and Patrick fell asleep that night with their bellies full of homemade lasagna and their arms wrapped around one another, and for the first time since the accident, David finally felt like things were starting to right themselves in their world. Sure, it was still far from perfect, but Clint was right -- they did have each other, and that was really all they needed.

David’s alarm went off far too early the next morning, signaling that it was time to get up and get ready to pack up what was left of their merchandise so construction could begin. Grateful for the silent alarm on his smartwatch that prevented him from waking Patrick, David slipped out of bed and started his morning routine -- showering and moisturizing and everything in between, before putting on a pair of distressed jeans and an old t-shirt from Patrick’s side of the closet. It was a well-worn black-and-white ringer tee with faded screenprint from his university’s drama club production of Macbeth -- and one of the few things in Patrick’s wardrobe that matched David’s usual color palette.

This wasn’t the first time David had borrowed Patrick’s clothes, but he typically did it when Patrick was out of town for a meeting or a conference and David wanted a way to feel close to him even when they were apart. In a way, though, maybe this was the same -- a way for David to feel comforted by Patrick’s presence on what would likely be a difficult day for many different reasons.

After he dressed, David sat down to put on his high-tops, sneaking a glance at Patrick, who was still sound asleep in their bed, snoring lightly despite the presence of his “nose thingy.” He was wearing a practically threadbare but oh-so-soft gray t-shirt and knit pajama shorts -- one of about six different pairs Marcy had purchased for him because they fit over his cast more easily than his pajama pants. Patrick had spent the past week living in pajamas or basketball shorts, depending on the time of day, although David supposed it didn’t matter much what he wore, since he was still spending most of his time sleeping. David hoped that would get better soon, not only because it would mean Patrick was in less pain, but also because he missed his husband -- even the times when Patrick would tease him relentlessly about his many hang-ups and peculiarities.

Without waking up, Patrick rolled toward his right side -- a very slight movement that was about as much as he could manage with his right leg propped up on two pillows and that also seemed to stop the snoring, at least for the time being. David wanted to kiss him, but he also didn’t want to wake him up, so he settled for a whispered “I love you” as he slipped out of the room and headed downstairs.

Marcy and Clint were already in the kitchen, just as they had been most mornings when David woke, with a plate of homemade apple cinnamon muffins and a bowl of fruit salad in the center of the table and steaming cups of coffee at each place setting. Marcy now knew David’s entire preferred coffee preparation -- right down to the sprinkle of cocoa powder -- and she had his cup waiting for him, looking and smelling absolutely perfect.

After they finished off most of the muffins and fruit salad -- saving some for Patrick, of course -- Clint and David set out for downtown. Clint drove, so they’d have more cargo space if they needed to bring anything back with them, and that gave David a little more opportunity to think. Normally, that would be dangerous, but thinking wasn’t so scary today for some reason, and David had a feeling that Patrick’s first peaceful, relatively pain-free night had something to do with it.

David had gotten used to being awakened around two or three in the morning by Patrick groaning in his sleep, before the pain built to a crescendo that demanded his attention and woke him up, even if it wasn’t yet time for another dose of his painkillers. David had spent a good portion of those nights just holding Patrick, gently rubbing his shoulder or resting Patrick’s head against his chest, carding his fingers through Patrick’s hair in the dark as he whispered words of comfort that probably weren’t very comforting.

As they neared the town square -- home to most of the businesses in Schitt’s Creek, including Rose Apothecary -- David’s thoughts shifted to how they might be able to start taking and fulfilling online orders. He knew that their point-of-sale system had a built-in website interface as well -- that had been one of its main selling points for Patrick when they’d chosen to upgrade a few months before. But they weren’t using it yet, because they’d been busy with the new house and a big increase in foot traffic at the store and hadn’t wanted to add the complication of packing and shipping to the mix just yet. Now, however, in-person shopping wouldn’t be a thing for at least a month or so, and that meant it was time for David to figure out how to pack and ship orders, as well as how to activate the online ordering capabilities on their website, which David barely had anything to do with beyond the selection of the color scheme and visual design elements.

Alexis had designed the website for a very reluctant David and a far-too-excited Patrick back when the store was only a couple of months old, but Patrick maintained it, including uploading the blog entries that David wrote (likely a little too infrequently) and creating pages that advertised their key product lines. In fact, David wasn’t even sure he knew the password to the admin interface, although he did know that Patrick kept all of the necessary logins for the business in a secured file on his laptop, for which the password was David’s birthday.

“So you won’t have an excuse to forget what the password is,” Patrick had said, on the day he’d shown David where the file was. “If something ever happens to me, you’ll need all of this stuff. You should know where it is and how to access it.”

David had scoffed, saying something about just how unlikely that was, given that Patrick was the most careful, conscientious person David knew. Not to mention the fact that he really hadn’t wanted to think about something happening to Patrick. But now, here they were -- with Patrick out of commission, at least temporarily, and David needing to figure out how to operate the business by himself so Patrick could focus on his recovery.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Clint’s voice brought David back just as they pulled into the parking space at the back of the store where he and Patrick had parked almost every morning for the last few years.

“Oh, nothing,” David said quickly, shaking his head. “Just working through some… logistics, I guess. Realizing just how much Patrick does that I don’t really know anything about.”

“Is it anything I can help with?”

“Not unless you’re an expert in e-commerce, or... packing and shipping.”

Clint chuckled. “Well, I won’t say I’m an expert, but I do know a few things about packing and shipping.”

“Good, because I kind of don’t… unless it’s storing knits, or packing up wigs.”

An amused smile spread across Clint’s face as he took the key out of the ignition. “Your mother’s? The wigs, that is.”

David nodded, pursing his lips as they pulled to the left into a somewhat-embarrassed expression, because he was well aware of just how uppity his next sentence was about to sound. “She actually had me trained on it, once upon a time, by the woman who owned the shop where she bought most of them. And for some godforsaken reason, I actually still remember it all. But if we’re going to start taking online orders for the store, and I really don’t think we can opt out at this point... Let’s just say I’ve got a lot to figure out.”

“Well, packing up lotions and soaps probably isn’t quite the same, but I think we can maybe translate your knowledge into something useful.”

“Let’s hope. I wouldn’t hold your breath though.” David huffed out a laugh as they got out of the car and made their way to the back door. He unlocked the door and pulled it open, flipping the switch for the lights to the back room, which thankfully were on a separate circuit from the ones at the front of the store and therefore still fully operational.

The back room was the only thing about the store that was still in order, really -- with their backstock carefully organized onto wire shelving that Patrick had installed as they prepared for their soft launch. One box of body milk -- the one David had been unpacking on that fateful morning -- sat open on the floor, but the rest of their inventory was neatly stored in labeled canvas bins for easy access. There was a small desk in the corner of the room that held Patrick’s laptop, which was still open even though it had long ago turned itself off. The vintage desk chair they’d picked up at a charity shop in Elmdale still had the jacket Patrick had worn to work that morning draped over the back, and in a way, the whole room looked like they’d merely stepped out to lunch. The other side of the curtain, however, was a very different story.

David followed Clint into the main part of the store, which still looked exactly the same as it had the last time he’d been there. Open, partially filled boxes were scattered across the floor, mostly in front of the counter, each one neatly labeled with what David recognized as Jocelyn’s “teacher handwriting.” Plywood covered the hole where the front window had once been, and strategically placed two-by-fours were helping prop things up. Thankfully it was a sunny day, so it wasn’t too dark in the store, even with most of the lights out of commission for the time being, and the late spring morning was cool, so it wasn’t too hot, even without the air conditioning.

“So, where should we start?” Clint stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his hips, looking around. “And do you have extra boxes in the back? I stopped by the liquor store yesterday while I was out and picked up a few they were getting ready to throw out; they’re in the back of my car if we need them.”

Right then, David knew exactly where Patrick had gotten his tendency to plan ahead for absolutely everything -- even the things David hadn’t thought about or didn’t want to. And it was a good thing Clint had stopped by the liquor store, because Patrick had taken the boxes from their latest shipment to the recycle bin already, so there were only a few spares, broken down and stashed between the desk and the wall “just in case.”

Most of the time, David found Patrick’s “in case” planning to be slightly overbearing at best and downright annoying at worst, but that day, he was thankful for it, because it meant they wouldn’t run out of boxes, and David wouldn’t end up looking like an idiot in front of his father-in-law.

“David?” Clint’s voice jolted him back out of his thoughts. He shook his head again, trying to will his mind to stop wandering and just focus for once. He knew he was about as good at that as Patrick was at being patient with himself, but he had to try, because there was a lot that needed to be done.

It was hard not to get overwhelmed, looking at the shelves and tables full of inventory. Hand-knitted sweaters and yarn from the alpaca farm a few miles down the road, Mr. Hockley’s tea, handmade jewelry, hand-carved wooden ink pens, and dozens of other types of carefully curated merchandise still filled the undamaged half of the store, and David honestly wasn’t sure where to start.

“How about we start with these?” Clint was standing next to the soy candles when David realized he’d zoned out yet again. Thank god there’s at least once person in this store who has their shit together, David thought to himself, knowing if he’d said it out loud, that Clint would probably have argued with him, just like Patrick would have. Patrick liked to tease him, sure, but he also knew when to be serious, and when David needed support instead of sarcasm.

This time, David managed to bring himself back before Clint spoke again. He nodded in response to Clint’s question, taking a deep breath to try to settle his racing thoughts, which were still running in about a thousand different directions. “I’ll go get the boxes,” he said, hoping that a minute or two in the back to collect himself would be all he needed.

Clint had already started moving candles to the counter as David disappeared behind the curtain, wishing he had enough time to just sit down and breathe for a few minutes -- to try to get control over what was happening inside his head. But he couldn’t do that without making Clint wonder what was going on, and David wasn’t quite sure he was ready to broach the chaotic mess that was the inside of his brain with his father-in-law just yet.

He had just carefully pulled the boxes out from behind the desk -- trying his best not to knock down Patrick’s gigantic paper wall calendar where he wrote all of their important dates for the store -- when his phone started buzzing in his pocket. David pulled it out and looked at the display, not the least bit surprised to see that it was his father calling. He’d been checking in every couple of days ever since Alexis’ visit, and David could tell he felt guilty about not being able to be there in person. Even with as annoying as David sometimes found his father, he actually found the calls to be comforting, because they reminded him that his family did care, even if their way of showing it was sometimes a bit... unconventional.

David answered the phone, holding it between his ear and shoulder as he dragged the stack of boxes out onto the sales floor and disappeared into the back room once again to look for the packing tape and the rest of the tissue paper Patrick had over-ordered at Christmas, when they’d decided to offer free gift wrapping as an incentive for people to do their holiday shopping at the Apothecary. It hadn’t been as popular as Patrick had anticipated, so there was a large box of red and green tissue paper hidden somewhere behind their backstock, so its contrast wouldn’t spoil the sand-and-stone color palette that David loved so much.

As usual, Johnny didn’t have much to offer on his phone call, other than to let David know that he would be happy to help in any way he could -- except that, with him in California and David in Schitt’s Creek, there wasn’t really much of anything he could do. They wrapped up their call just as David finally uncovered the box of garish colored paper, which he dragged out to the counter after putting his phone safely back in his pocket.

“Was that your folks?” Clint asked, plucking out a piece of red tissue paper and starting to wrap one of the soy candles while David used the tape gun to reassemble the first box.

“My dad,” David corrected. “Trust me, my mother would have absolutely nothing helpful to contribute in this situation.”

Clint laughed and shook his head. “She’s a character, for sure.”

“That’s putting it kindly.”

“So how are things going for them out in L.A.? Patrick mentioned your mom’s latest show is supposed to start airing this summer.”

Grateful for the shift in topic, David filled Clint in on everything Moira had been up to since the wedding -- most of which David had learned about via social media, which he only used to keep in touch with his family and promote the store. They continued their light conversation -- including his and Patrick’s future plans for the house, and whether or not they might consider spending the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday at the Brewers’ house this year -- as they boxed up all of the soy candles, then the yarn and the knitted items, and Mr. Hockley’s tea. They’d just moved on to the display full of wooden jewelry boxes and beaded earrings when Clint let out a loud sigh and said, “Sometimes I just wish he would have come to us sooner, you know?”

“Hmm?” David was confused, although he had an inkling he knew where this conversation was headed, and it was a much more serious topic than what they’d been discussing. One he honestly wasn’t sure he was ready for, either.

“When you guys got together,” Clint said, confirming David’s suspicions. “I still hate that he was afraid to come and talk to us about it. It feels like there’s a lot we missed out on. I mean, he told us about it after the fact, of course, but we wish we could have been here for some of it, you know? The grand opening we knew about, only because he finally reached out after nearly two months of no contact outside of a text message here and there to let us know he was still alive. Although he insisted the opening wasn’t a big deal and we shouldn’t come. We almost did anyway, but Marcy convinced me to respect his wishes, because she was so scared that if we didn’t, he’d stop calling, and it would be two more months before we heard from him again.”

David stayed quiet, biting his lip as he focused on carefully removing a dozen pairs of earrings from the hand-carved decorative tree that doubled as both a display and a saleable piece of merchandise.

“I know she was probably right, but sometimes I wonder, if we’d come down here that weekend, if we would have noticed, you know? If we would have seen that there was something more happening between you two. If we could have saved him from having to tell us.”

“I’m not sure there was much to notice at that point.” David finally looked up at his father-in-law, who was staring into the box they’d just finished packing with a faraway look in his eyes. “I mean, I was pretty oblivious to his advances, because I figured there was absolutely no way he was interested in me, even if my sister was right and he was gay. Which, well, she turned out to be right, and I was wrong, but, I mean, I did invite Stevie on our first date, so…”

“He told us about that,” Clint said, a fond smile playing at his lips. “How he knew he should have been more clear about what his intentions were, but he was scared you would have turned him down if you knew, and how he’d nearly lost all of his nerve when she showed up.”

“Stevie actually saved the date for him. And me. And that…” David paused and took a breath. “That was… how it started.”

“He said you kissed him, and it was like all of the pieces he’d been struggling to fit together his whole life finally fell into place.”

David felt his cheeks flush, and he had to look away again as a memory rose to the surface -- of Patrick pleading with him at the motel, in the middle of the ruined four-month anniversary barbecue. You make me feel right, David. How those words had warmed his heart and torn it in two at the same time.

“I just wish we’d seen how unhappy he was,” Clint said. “Looking back now, it’s crystal clear, but back then… I don’t know, I guess we thought it was wedding jitters or something. Well, I guess it was, in a way. Just not how we thought.”

“I’m glad he came here,” David said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“So are we. Because he met you.”

David bit his lip, blinking back the tears that had formed in the corners of his eyes.

“You make him really, really happy, David.”

“He makes me really happy too,” David whispered, still not able to look his father-in-law in the eye, mostly because he was losing the battle against the tears that were now starting to blur his vision.

Clint came closer, putting down the folded scarf he had in his hand before reaching out to pull David into a hug. As always, David spent the first few seconds feeling stiff and awkward before he finally leaned in, relishing the comfort and security that Clint’s strong arms provided.

“I’m glad you found each other,” Clint said, once he’d released David, who now had tears -- happy ones -- running down his face, despite his best efforts to remain in control. “And I also want you to know how happy Marcy and I are that you’ve joined our family.”

“Me too,” David breathed, not sure he trusted himself to say anything more without bursting into full-on tears. Even so, there was a distinct wobble to his voice and a strangled sob that escaped from his throat the moment he met Clint’s gaze and took in just how much genuine love was there. “I’m really glad you guys are here.” David laughed wetly as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, making at least a cursory attempt to collect himself. “Even if you are making me ugly cry right now.”

Clint gave David a soft smile as he opened his arms again, drawing David in for another hug that this time, somehow, felt instantly like home.

“We wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else.”

Chapter Text

David and Clint spent the entire day at the store, save for a long lunch break at the cafe, during which Twyla told Clint no less than a half-dozen unsettling anecdotes about her family as she took their orders, brought their food, and refilled their drinks at various points. Roland tried to invite himself to join them, but Jocelyn mercifully urged him on toward a booth at the opposite end of the cafe, casting David an apologetic look over her shoulder.

Stevie showed up shortly after they got back from lunch, with a pastry box from David’s favorite Italian bistro in Elmdale tucked under her arm.

“Wait, what… what are you doing here?” David stammered, setting aside the bin of goats’ milk soap he’d been wrapping and reorganizing.

“Nice to see you too,” Stevie deadpanned, setting the box down before leaning against the counter and crossing her arms.

“No, I meant… How… how did you know we were here?”

“Um, I texted your husband to see how he was doing, and he told me you guys were here packing stuff up.”

“He’s awake?”

“Either that, or he’s become an expert in sleep-texting. And if he has, I’ll have to ask him to give me some pointers, because that would be super helpful the next time your dad forgets about the three-hour time difference and just has to get something off his chest at 3 a.m. Anyway, if you don’t want help, I guess I’ll just take this box of cannolis and be on my way…” Stevie let her voice trail off as she picked the white box back up from the counter and started toward the door.

“Um, excuse me, drop the cannoli, please.” David stepped in front of her, blocking her path to the door.

“Nope, I only bring comfort desserts to people who seem to appreciate my presence, so if you don’t mind, I’ll just be going now.”

“Fine,” David sighed, rolling his eyes and giving his head a little shake as he tilted his head toward the ceiling. “Hi, Stevie, I’m so glad you’re here,” he said, voice dripping with sarcasm, before shifting his tone to one that was just slightly more sincere. “Oh, what’s that?” He paused and gave an exaggerated gesture toward the box in her hand. “Is it a treat for me?”

“I’ll pretend that your limited enthusiasm was more about me and less about the cannolis.”

David heard Clint chuckle at the other end of the counter, and caught him out of the corner of his eye, shaking his head as he taped up the box they’d just finished filling.

“Also, you’d better be nice to me in front of your father-in-law,” Stevie said, shoving the box toward David as she turned to wave at Clint. “Hello, Mr. Brewer.”

“Hi, Stevie. And please, call me Clint.” With that, Clint picked up the box he’d just taped shut and carried it through the open curtain to the back room, leaving David and Stevie alone at the counter.

“Sounds like Patrick’s feeling a little better,” Stevie said, as she watched David stuff half of a cannoli in his mouth at once. “Jesus, have you not eaten all day?”

“No, we just got back from the cafe, why?” David was speaking through a mouthful of cannoli, which he knew was inappropriate, but this was Stevie, who was more than used to the slightly less couth side of David Rose.

“Because you’re eating that cannoli like a dying man in the desert who just found water.”

“Um, did they fill these at the restaurant?” David asked, examining the remaining half of the cannoli as he held it between his finger and thumb.

“Um, yes, David, they filled them at the restaurant.” Stevie rolled her eyes. “What were you expecting, for me to fill them for you?”

“Okay, it’s just that they typically fill them right before you eat them, or else they get kind of mushy, and--”

Stevie snapped the box shut with her hand, snatching it up off the counter again. “Well, since you can’t manage to appreciate a nice gesture, I suppose I’ll just take these back to the motel and give them to Roland. I’m sure he will appreciate them. Or at the very least not complain about a gift.”

David stuck his lower lip out into a pout as he grabbed at the box in Stevie’s hands. “Okay,” he sighed. “Thank you very much for the kind gift, Stevie; it’s much appreciated.” He knew he still sounded simpering and insincere, but that was kind of his and Stevie’s communication style. In any case, it worked, and she relinquished the box of cannoli to him once again with a quick roll of her eyes.

“Just for that, though, I’m taking one,” she said, already plucking a cannoli from the box and taking a bite.

“What about me?” Clint chimed in as he emerged from the back room, carrying another empty box from the liquor store. “Don’t I get one? I mean, I am doing most of the heavy lifting here.” David could hear the teasing lilt to Clint’s voice -- and just how much he sounded like Patrick in that moment, needling him, but lovingly.

“Oh, I think you definitely deserve one,” Stevie said, nudging the box toward Clint. “Or two. Or most of them. Here, take as many as you’d like.”

“You know, I’m starting to think that these weren’t really a gift for me after all,” David said petulantly, crossing his arms.

“God, you’re so easy to fuck with.” Stevie shook her head and laughed, then clamped her hand over her mouth when she apparently realized what she’d said. “Oops, sorry Mr. Brewer.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Clint chuckled. “I’ve heard that word before… even used it myself on multiple occasions. And again, call me Clint. ‘Mr. Brewer’ makes me feel old.”

The three of them finished off the cannoli, then settled into an easy conversation about Rosebud Motel Group, the upcoming accountants’ conference in Elmdale, and the atrocious variety of casseroles Jocelyn kept sending with Roland for lunch while they finished packing up the store. It made the afternoon go by quickly, and soon they were standing among bare shelves and empty credenzas, with all of the merchandise safely tucked away inside dozens of boxes stacked up in the back room.

They’d discussed the website briefly, while Stevie tossed out more than a few barbs about David’s overall lack of technological prowess -- resulting in David surreptitiously flipping her off when Clint’s back was turned. In the end, they decided to separate out a small amount of inventory from their most popular product lines into the back of Clint’s SUV, so David could at least attempt online sales. He didn’t particularly like the idea of operating Rose Apothecary out of their kitchen or garage, but he also didn’t have a choice.

Clint had promised to help him get set up before they had to head back home, which David learned would be in just a few days. He wasn’t sure he was ready for that, but again, he didn’t have a choice. The Brewers had lives of their own that they needed to get back to, even if David and Patrick’s lives were still in a state of upheaval that felt like it had no end in sight.

After Clint carried the last box to the back room and headed out to start the car, David closed Patrick’s laptop and shoved it into the small attache case Patrick always carried it in, taking one last look through the curtain at the now-empty store, with its bare walls and the floor completely clear, save for the few pieces of trash and debris scattered around. It hadn’t looked like that since the day David had sat in a chair in the middle of the sales floor and left Patrick all those embarrassing voicemails -- the ones that had ultimately led to their partnership, both in business and in life.

“You okay?” Stevie asked, her hand already on the light switch as she stood by the back door.

“Yeah. Just… thinking.” David shook his head -- yet another effort to pull himself out of his head and just fucking stay present. To not let himself get overwhelmed by thoughts about this being the last time he’d ever see the store exactly the way it was. That the next time he saw it, it would be... different.

“It’s gonna be okay, David.” Stevie’s tone was serious and sincere, verging on sensitive -- a rarity for her. “I promise you can do this. And if you need help… I’ll be right there behind you.”

David took a deep breath and nodded as he closed the curtain, grabbed Patrick’s jacket off the back of the chair, then followed Stevie out the door.

***

When David and Clint got back to the house, the kitchen was dark and the dozens of foil pans that had been lined up on the counter that morning were gone. A variety of smells lingered in the kitchen, making it impossible for David to pick out any one dish that Marcy might have made, though the scent of overall deliciousness already had him looking forward to eating out of the freezer for a very long time to come.

Then, David heard the sound of Patrick laughing upstairs -- a glorious sound after the general misery of the past week.

“Sounds like the party’s up there,” Clint said, smiling as he gestured for David to lead the way.

As David reached the top of the stairs, he could hear Patrick’s voice -- his words a tiny bit slurred by the pain medication, just as they had been in the hospital -- followed by more laughter, this time from Marcy. When he got to the bedroom door, he saw Patrick sitting up in bed, holding a spoon in one hand and what appeared to be a mug of soup in the other, while Marcy sat in the armchair in the corner, holding a mug of her own.

“Oh, hello!” Marcy said brightly. “I wasn’t sure when you two would be back, so I went ahead and put the rest of the soup in the fridge, but I can go warm some up. I’m sure you boys are hungry.”

Before David could even move to object, Marcy was already up and on her way out of the room. Clint said something about going to get changed and followed her out, leaving David alone with Patrick.

Hesitating -- even though he really didn’t have a reason to today -- David took a seat on his side of bed, angling his body so that he was facing Patrick. “How are you feeling?” he asked, still cautious and a little afraid that the answer might be more of the same, even though the scene he’d just walked into seemed to indicate differently.

“Wishing I’d gotten those painkillers the first time,” Patrick said, sounding more than a little drunk as he set his now-empty mug aside.

“I’m glad they’re working.” David gave Patrick a soft, sincere smile as he reached for Patrick’s hand, out of sheer, simple desire to make contact.

Patrick seemed to need it just as much, and squeezed David’s hand in return. “Sleep helps too.”

Pursing his lips, David regarded his husband with a fond half-smile. “Indeed.”

“How was the store? Did you get everything packed up?”

“Yeah, and I don’t know what it is about Brewer men and making me ugly cry, but, well… that happened.”

Brow furrowed, Patrick tightened his grip on David’s hand, sitting up a bit. “Wait, what? What happened?”

“Nothing.” David looked away for a moment, his lips pressed together. “Just… you hit the ‘dad’ jackpot, that’s all. The parental jackpot, actually.”

Another squeeze to his hand pulled David back to the present moment, and he met Patrick’s gaze, which was warm and sincere. “They both really love you, you know,” Patrick said softly.

“I know,” David whispered, feeling his cheeks start to flush. “I love them too.”

“I’m glad you guys had a good day.” Patrick paused, his lips turning up into a slight grin that made his eyes sparkle mischievously. “I also really like that shirt on you.”

David’s cheeks warmed even more as he glanced down at his shirt, suddenly remembering what he was wearing and why. “Oh, um… I just…” he stuttered, as his brain tried to think of what to tell Patrick other than the truth.

“It’s fine, David.” Patrick cut him off, his grin softening into a loving smile. “It looks good on you. Besides, we can’t have you doing too much manual labor in Givenchy.”

“The horror.” David pursed his lips, letting them draw to one side into an amused expression.

Letting out a loud sigh, Patrick let go of David’s hand so he could reposition himself, wincing slightly as he did. “I’m getting kind of tired of being in bed.”

“You heard what the doctor said, honey.” David kept his voice soft and patient, knowing how frustrated Patrick was with being incapacitated, even temporarily.

“I know,” Patrick sighed.

“The physical therapist comes tomorrow, though, right?”

“Yeah.” Patrick let his head sink back into the pillows and closed his eyes.

“That should help.” David tried to sound optimistic, even though he knew that wasn’t exactly his strong suit. “Get you up and moving around a little bit, maybe.”

“I wish there was something I could do to speed it all up, you know?”

“I know, honey.” David took Patrick’s hand again, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You can’t though. We can’t rush this. Bones take time to heal. There’s no way around that.”

Patrick gave a resigned nod, still not opening his eyes.

“Look at me.” David reached out and gently touched a hand to Patrick’s cheek, waiting for him to open his eyes before continuing. “I know this sucks, and I know you want to do more. You like to take charge; you like action. But right now, you need to rest. Sometimes you have to slow down and let things happen on their own.”

“I know, David.” Another frustrated sigh escaped from Patrick’s lips. “And I promise I’m going to do what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just hard. Really hard.”

David let his hand trail down Patrick’s neck, coming to rest on his shoulder, where he stroked a thumb over the surface of Patrick’s soft t-shirt. “Good,” he said, smiling. “Because I need you to get better, and that requires you to do exactly what Dr. Singh tells you to do. No exceptions. No excuses.”

Patrick gave David a half smile, and his expression seemed to relax just a little. “Okay, David.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

David leaned in for a kiss, savoring the slight taste of chicken broth on his husband’s lips and tongue before he shifted closer in the bed and moved to lie down, his head resting alongside Patrick’s on the pillows. “So... what kind of soup was that?”

“Chicken noodle. Pretty sure Mom was cooking all day. She said she stocked the freezer.”

“Mmm… It’s like she thinks I can’t cook.”

“David, you can’t cook.”

“Fine; see if I share with you the next time I make macaroni and cheese.”

“You make it sound like you're doing so much more than just boiling shell pasta and pouring a pouch of Velveeta on it. And I think you’re also forgetting the time that you turned on the wrong burner and set the empty box on fire.”

David gave Patrick a playful swat on the arm and an indignant look. “Hey, I’ll have you know that I made most of that lasagna yesterday, and I managed not to fuck it up.”

“You made that?”

“Yeah… your mom taught me.”

Silence settled between them for a few seconds before Patrick spoke again. “You two have really been getting along well, huh?”

“Yeah,” David said softly, his voice almost wistful. “I’m gonna miss them when they have to go home.”

“We should go visit them more often.” Patrick’s voice was just as soft as David’s. Just as wistful, with the slightest tinge of regret.

“We should.” David rolled to one side and propped himself up on one elbow, so he could see Patrick’s face. “And when you’re better, we will.”

“Yeah,” Patrick breathed. “That just feels like it’s a long ways away.”

David stroked a hand up and down Patrick’s arm, rubbing it gently and hoping it was comforting. “It’ll be here before you know it.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“I’m always right.” Giving Patrick a wry grin, David waited for a response, which came in the form of an eye roll and a smirk.

“Yeah, sure,” Patrick deadpanned. “Whatever you say, David.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault that I am the very picture of perfection…” David gave his shoulders a little shimmy -- at least, as much of one as he could give while lying on his side in bed -- then brought Patrick’s hand to his lips, kissing his fingers. “But seriously, honey. You’ll get there. And I’ll be right here beside you, the whole time.”

***

The next couple of days were infinitely better than the previous week had been, with Patrick’s pain finally managed and both he and David getting some good, uninterrupted sleep as a result. Patrick’s first in-home physical therapy appointment seemed to help him feel at least a tiny bit better, even if it did leave him exhausted that night. She gave him homework, too -- stretches that David could help him with every morning and evening, which helped them both feel like they had something productive to do.

Marcy kept running back and forth to Brebner’s and continuing to stock their freezer with all manner of soups, stews, and casseroles, while Clint did what he could to help make things more accessible for Patrick, including the installation of a handheld shower head and a bench in the master bathroom. Neither of those things were a good fit for David’s carefully constructed aesthetic for their home, but, like the ramp, he knew they were necessary, at least for the time being.

Clint also helped David set up a “shipping station” in the garage using the stock they’d brought back from the store, and assisted with figuring out where to source shipping supplies and finding a way to print labels. Once the physical logistics were taken care of, they tackled the technological side, with Clint helping David fumble through setting up a test site with a handful of items. They did have to get a small amount of help from Patrick -- who was already familiar with the ins and outs of the website software -- but David didn’t mind that, because he’d seen the sudden brightness in Patrick’s eyes when he’d brought the laptop upstairs. He could tell how happy Patrick was to feel useful for a little while -- despite still being very tired and spending a lot of time sleeping -- so he thought he might find more ways to do that, if he could manage it without igniting Patrick’s need to be constantly productive, which would definitely not be a good thing. Once the site was set up, all David had left to do was design a shipping label and start taking orders -- two tasks he decided to save for after the Brewers were gone, because he knew he’d need a distraction.

Sunday came around much too quickly, and soon David was helping the Brewers pack their SUV so they could head home. They’d said their goodbyes to Patrick upstairs, and there were more than a few tears shed that David pretended not to see, because he felt a bit like he was intruding on a private moment. Then, David had followed them down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out the back door, where he stood awkwardly in the driveway, not quite sure what to do or say.

Of course, David also had no idea what he was going to do with the Brewers gone. All of a sudden, it was like he was right back to sitting in that hospital waiting room, wondering what was next. Then, he’d made a phone call, and in came the Brewers to save the day -- and David. Now, though, he and Patrick would have to figure out how to navigate the remainder of this journey on their own.

“So, um…” David stammered, trying and failing to get control over his racing thoughts. “Thanks… thanks for coming. I don’t know what I would have done without you guys here.”

“Oh, you would’ve been fine.” Marcy smiled, and David realized how much he was going to miss that, too -- the way she could suddenly make him feel capable and supported with a simple shift in expression. “I’m glad we were able to come, though. I just wish we could stay longer.”

“We’re just a phone call away if you need anything,” Clint added. “We’ll be happy to do whatever we can.”

“Thanks,” David said softly, still trying to maintain control over the anxiety that was starting to make his chest feel tight. He did, however, manage to smile back, though he was sure that his overall expression likely belied his nervousness about the situation.

“Remember, sweet boy, you’re not alone in this. You’ve got lots of people in your corner.” Marcy reached out and took David’s hand, then pulled him into a hug. “Don’t be afraid to call on them when you need them.”

David nodded, blinking back the tears he could feel pricking at the corners of his eyes. “I know,” he whispered.

When Marcy pulled away, David wanted to hold tighter, but he didn’t. He knew he had to let them go, so they could get back to their lives.

“We love you both, so very, very much,” Marcy said, her hand lingering on David’s arm.

“Thanks for everything, Marcy… Clint.” David heard his voice break, and he swallowed hard in an attempt to keep his emotions at bay.

Moving her hand up to cup David’s cheek, Marcy looked up at him with warm eyes and a sincere smile. “David, I know we’re not your parents, but… If anything has proven that we’re family now, I would say it’s been the last couple of weeks. So, if you’re comfortable with it, we’d really love it if you called us Mom and Dad.”

“Okay,” David whispered, having to work even harder to keep the tears still building up in his eyes from falling. “I’d really love that too.”

Chapter Text

The first week after the Brewers left went better than expected, with David splitting his time between keeping Patrick company upstairs and using the still-frequent times when Patrick was asleep to work on the Rose Apothecary website. David wasn’t sure he’d used Patrick’s laptop this much in the entirety of the time they’d known each other, but he kept pleasantly surprising himself with what he was able to figure out on his own -- from designing their shipping label to uploading pictures of products, and ultimately taking the online store live. They hadn’t gotten very many orders yet, since not many people knew the website was up, but that was why David was sitting at Patrick’s desk on a Wednesday afternoon, waiting for a webinar on social media marketing for small businesses to begin.

David was proud of himself for doing the necessary research to fill in the gaps in his knowledge, and honestly, attending the webinar made him feel… professional. Like he knew what he was doing. Like he was actively trying to better himself. The thing hadn’t even started yet, and he was already beginning to see why Patrick liked going to conferences so much.

He knew construction had started at the store because Twyla had texted him a handful of pictures over the last several days, but things didn’t look much different from how they had for the past month, at least to David’s eye. The main new addition was a large dumpster sitting in front of the store that appeared to be full of their ruined shelving, broken ceiling tiles, and a lot of splintered wood. The front window was still boarded up, and David couldn’t stop seeing the image in his mind’s eye of the back end of a car sticking out of that window, with its front end covering the lower half of Patrick’s body. It was still hard for him to look at, so he hadn’t lingered too long on the photos, instead sending Twyla a quick thumbs up emoji and a “thanks.” He really did appreciate people looking out for them and keeping him updated -- especially given that he would be spending most of his time at home, at least for the next little while -- but he felt like he needed to limit how much he took in, just to keep from getting overwhelmed.

Patrick’s second follow-up appointment with Dr. Singh was now just a couple of days away, and David supposed they’d find out more then about what the following month or two might look like. For the time being, though, Patrick was still on bed rest except for bathroom trips, showering, and physical therapy -- something that David knew was difficult for his action-oriented, take-charge husband.

The less tired Patrick got, the more antsy he was to get up and do something, but he couldn’t do that safely -- at least, not yet. David had a feeling, though, that had he not been there, Patrick would not have been following the doctor’s orders in the slightest. Even so, David watched as Patrick pushed himself -- hard -- every time the physical therapist came to the house, always asking her if there was anything he could do to speed things up. She’d laugh and remind him that recovery was a process that took time, but David wasn’t sure she understood exactly how serious Patrick was when he asked those sorts of questions.

David tried his best to keep Patrick busy by bringing a television into the bedroom (incorrect, but unfortunately necessary for the time being) and making sure to keep him fully stocked on library books. Patrick kept asking questions about how the website was coming along, and David knew that he really wanted to help, but at the same time, David wanted to prove to himself that he could do this on his own -- just like he’d set out to do with the store, in the beginning at least. He couldn’t deny that Patrick had, indeed, helped the store grow into the success that it was, and that David had really had no idea what he was doing when he’d first signed the lease for the building. But he wasn’t that person anymore. He’d learned what his strengths (and weaknesses) were, and together, he and Patrick had built something nice. Something stable. And as nervous as David was to be navigating all of this by himself, he was also hungry to prove that he could do it -- that Alexis and Marcy and Clint and his father and everyone else who believed in him weren’t wrong.

So David sat at Patrick’s desk with a cup of coffee and a brownie -- one of a dozen that Marcy had individually wrapped and frozen for them -- ready to focus on learning how to make this next stage in their business a success. He took notes and participated in the group discussion, and even though he did leave feeling like he had a bit of an information overload happening in his brain, he had a lot of great ideas bouncing around in there too. He just needed a little time to process and make sense of it all. Most of all, though, he felt invigorated -- ready to try something new. And for once in his life, he wasn’t petrified of it. David wasn’t sure when that had shifted, or why, but it was a good feeling. One that he hoped he could find again in the future, assuming he was successful with this.

Later that night, when he climbed into bed and curled himself around his husband, being careful not to put any pressure on Patrick’s broken leg or his still-sometimes-tender ribs, his brain was still abuzz with what felt like a million thoughts. But instead of the anxious thoughts with which he’d become so well acquainted, these were excited thoughts. He probably needed to get out his journal and try to write some of it down, just to calm the buzzing in his head, but the feeling of Patrick’s fingers softly stroking his shoulder made him want to stay right where he was. Instead, he tried to focus on Patrick’s touch as a way of ground himself to the present moment, relaxing into how good it felt to be sharing physical affection with his husband -- and how great it was to feel like they were reclaiming a tiny part of themselves at the same time. A tiny bit of “normal,” and a small assurance that maybe everything really would be okay, after all.

***

By Friday afternoon, David had listened to no less than a dozen different podcasts about viral marketing and maintaining a successful social media presence for your business -- a useful distraction that had kept him from anxiously pacing the house looking for things to do -- and he had a notebook full of ideas and strategies he wanted to try. He’d been the primary curator of the store’s social media accounts from the beginning, but that had really been all about aesthetic, and Patrick had always taken care of the marketing side, since that was his area of expertise. The further David got into this, though, the more he saw how the two could be intertwined to create something even more effective, by translating Rose Apothecary’s curated immersive experience into digital form and marketing it as something people could create in their own homes, using their products.

“Are those online orders?” Patrick gestured briefly with one hand toward the front seat of the car as he lowered himself into the back seat, which was still the only place he could ride comfortably with his cast.

David nodded as he took Patrick’s crutches, sliding them between the passenger door and the seat for safe keeping for the ride to Patrick’s appointment in Elmdale. There were a half-dozen boxes stacked up on the seat and the floor, each one featuring the Rose Apothecary shipping label David had designed. He was pleased with how the label had turned out, but he really couldn’t wait for the custom rubber stamp he’d ordered to arrive, which would enable him to brand the boxes as well.

“The labels look nice,” Patrick commented, as if he’d been reading David’s mind.

“Thanks.” A shy grin pulled at one corner of David’s lips as he closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side, then climbed in and started the car.

“Did you get the whole online store up and running?” Patrick’s second question came just as they turned onto the main highway, after a few minutes of silence.

“With everything we brought home, yeah. Which, it’s definitely not everything, but… I guess it’s enough, for now. It’ll let us make some money.”

They rode in silence for another minute or so, before Patrick let out a loud sigh.

“You okay back there?” David tilted the rear-view mirror so he could see Patrick’s face, not surprised to see his husband staring wistfully out the window again, his brow furrowed.

“I just feel so fucking useless.” Patrick ran a hand over his lips, huffing out a frustrated breath.

“You’re not, honey.” David wished he could make eye contact with Patrick through the rear-view mirror, but Patrick was still staring out the window.

“It’s just... You’re having to do all of this by yourself, and you shouldn’t have to do that. We’re partners. We’re in this together.”

“And you’ve got more important things to focus on right now. It’s fine, really. I’ve got it.”

“There’s gotta be something I can do to help, though.”

“I want you doing what you need to do to get better.” David paused and gave the mirror a pointed look, waiting for Patrick to meet his eyes. “I’ve got the store covered.”

“I know you do, it’s just…” Patrick paused and let out a breath. “I’m kind of going stir crazy here. I don’t… I can’t just stay in bed. It’s not who I am.”

David couldn’t help but chuckle at that, given how accurately he’d predicted what Patrick would struggle with the most.

“What?” Patrick asked, his brow furrowed again, this time in confusion. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing.” David shook his head and tried to rearrange his face into a more neutral expression, because the last thing he wanted was to look like he was making fun of Patrick when he definitely wasn’t. “I know it’s not who you are, honey… but it’s who you have to be right now. You don’t have a choice.”

“I know I don’t, but… I guess I’m really hoping that after this appointment, I might at least be allowed to venture downstairs to the couch. You know, for a change of scenery.”

“Are you saying my meticulously curated bedroom aesthetic isn’t to your liking?” David smirked at Patrick in the mirror, his grin only growing wider when he saw a smile spread across Patrick’s lips.

“Your bedroom aesthetic is lovely, David. It’s just--”

“Is it, now?” David interrupted, his wry grin turning suggestive as Patrick started to turn red in the back seat.

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“Look, honey, I know this is hard, but it’s temporary. We know that. And the more time you spend resting now, the faster you’ll be able to get back to what you really want to do. Keep your eye on the ball, so you can hit it out of the park... or something like that.”

Now Patrick was the one stifling a grin. “David Rose using a sports metaphor… Clearly, you must mean business.”

“No ifs, ands, or buts.” David tried to level Patrick with a serious look in the rear-view mirror, but he couldn’t keep from smiling as he made eye contact with his husband. “I really am fine, though. With the stuff for the store, I mean. I don’t mind. I’m kind of… I’m enjoying it, actually. It’s fun.”

“I just don’t like being a... spectator, you know?”

“I know you don’t, but…” David paused, taking a deep breath. “Patrick, you were hit by a car. You had surgery. You have a rod in your leg. It was really, really bad.”

“I’m aware of that, David. I was there.”

“I thought you were dead!” David cut Patrick off, his voice breaking as the emotions and frustrations he’d been holding back for weeks came rushing out. “It was scary, and I… I just want you to be okay.” By the time David finished speaking, his voice was barely above a whisper, the road ahead of them blurred slightly by the tears welling up in his eyes. “I need you to be okay.”

“I’m okay, David.” Patrick’s voice was softer this time, and his earlier sarcasm had vanished.

“It’s just that… I need you to stay that way, so… You have to do what the doctor tells you to do, okay? Even if you don’t like it.”

“I know.”

“Even if that means more bed rest.”

“I know.”

“And that means letting me take care of the store for now, okay?”

Patrick nodded, but didn’t say anything. David saw him scrub his hand over his lips and jaw a few more times over the remainder of the ride to Elmdale, although he didn’t express any of it out loud. When they got to the doctor’s office, Patrick was Mr. Independent as usual, insisting on doing everything himself with little or no assistance from David.

The waiting room was absolutely packed this time; either they were running behind, or Friday was a very popular day for orthopedist appointments. Patrick signed himself in, then led the way across the room to a pair of empty chairs in the corner. He was still unusually quiet, and David wondered what he was thinking about, although he was fairly sure he had an idea, and that it wasn’t anything good.

David knew Patrick was frustrated with the slowness of the recovery process, and now that they were in the thick of it, he had a feeling it would be something they would both be fighting against every single day. Honestly, that was extra stress that David didn’t need, but he knew that it was an even bigger struggle for Patrick, and one that he didn’t envy.

One thing David couldn’t help but notice, however, was how much more comfortable Patrick seemed now -- physically, anyway. The last time they’d sat in that waiting room, Patrick had been gritting his teeth through pain the entire time, just trying to stay still, because even the slightest movement hurt. Now, David had still dragged an extra chair over to prop Patrick’s leg up, but Patrick no longer looked like he was struggling to steady his breath, and the obvious tinge of pain was no longer present in his eyes.

After about fifteen minutes, Patrick’s name was called, and once again they found themselves being guided through a maze of hallways to a room with a large x-ray machine, where David had to stand outside and wait for several minutes before Patrick and the nurse rejoined him and they continued on their way to an exam room.

This time, David was a lot less preoccupied with keeping Patrick comfortable, which gave him more time to look around at the assortment of various skeletal models on shelves and the counter. He found them fascinating -- how all of the parts and pieces fit together perfectly to form movable joints -- and he was busy studying a small replica of a knee when two light knocks came at the door and Dr. Singh walked in.

It only took the doctor about five seconds to realize how much better Patrick was feeling, and his question about pain management sounded more like a statement than a question this time, because it was very, very obvious how much better Patrick’s pain was managed. He sat down on the stool in front of the computer and clicked around until he brought up the new x-ray -- still just as scary looking, but now the jagged crack in the middle of Patrick’s shin bone had started to soften, filling in with what looked like a very light grey on the image.

“I’m happy with what I’m seeing here,” Dr. Singh commented, bringing up another x-ray image from a slightly different angle. “You’re healing very nicely. Still a fast healer, in fact.”

“Thank god,” Patrick said, sounding like he was letting out a breath he’d been holding for a while.

“Now, that doesn’t mean that everything is good and we’re returning to normal,” the doctor said, smiling and already sounding like he knew Patrick very, very well, just from the handful of times they’d interacted. “But I do think I’m comfortable with transitioning from the cast to a removable boot at this point, so I can clear you to start passive range of motion exercises with your physical therapist. The more we can keep everything moving, the easier recovery will be later.”

“So, does a boot mean I can walk on it? At least some? With the crutches, I mean.”

Dr. Singh chuckled, shaking his head. “I meant it when I said at least six or eight weeks non weight-bearing. We’ll check again in two more weeks, and if I’m still seeing good progress then, I’ll consider it. But it won’t be much, and it’ll be extremely limited.”

“Does it at least mean I can get out of bed?” Patrick’s expression was hopeful, though there was still a distinct note of frustration mixed in.

“As long as that means still being seated, and resting, with your leg elevated, yes. I need you to listen to your body -- it’ll tell you when something is too much. If it hurts, don’t do it. If you’re tired, rest. You can remove the boot to shower, but I don’t want you putting any weight on that leg, period -- boot or no boot.”

“Yes, sir.” Patrick nodded, his voice taking on the tone that David recognized as being the one Patrick used when there was something to be gained by being extra respectful toward someone.

“So, if we’re in agreement on all of that, I’ll have someone come in to remove your cast and fit you for a boot, and you’ll be on your way until we meet again in two weeks. Did you have any more questions for me?”

Patrick shook his head and thanked the doctor as he left the room, leaving the two of them alone in the exam room again.

“So, this seems like good progress,” David said, half-statement and half-question, mostly to fill the uncomfortable silence before his brain could run away with him.

“Yeah,” Patrick replied, still far too quiet and sounding very distracted.

“Sounds like you’re gonna get that change of scenery you wanted.” David smiled at Patrick and reached up to take his hand, weaving their fingers together. “And hey, you’ll be able to take showers now without having to get out the duct tape and the garbage bags.”

Patrick tried to return David’s smile, but it was small and tight, containing none of the amusement David expected to see from the joke he’d made. David gently stroked his thumb over Patrick’s, watching as Patrick’s eyes flitted through a wide range of emotions before landing on resignation.

“You’ll get there, honey,” David reminded Patrick, for what felt like the hundredth time. “And if it takes a while, that’s okay. We’re in this together. I’m not in a hurry. It takes however long it takes.”

“Yeah,” Patrick sighed, his resignation as apparent in his voice as it was in his eyes.

David squeezed Patrick’s hand, wishing he could do more to physically demonstrate just how “in this” with Patrick he was. “All I want is you here with me, and for you to be okay… no matter what that looks like, or where we are.” He kept his voice soft, reaching up with his right hand to cup Patrick’s cheek, brushing the pad of his thumb over Patrick’s jawline. “I hope that’s all you want, too, honey.”

“It is.” Patrick’s voice was close to a whisper, and David could hear the emotion stirring behind those two short words.

“I love you,” David whispered, leaning in to press his lips to Patrick’s, his hand still cupping Patrick’s face and neck, feeling his husband relax into the gentle touch.

“Love you too. And thank you.”

“For what?”

“For putting up with me. I know I’m not an easy partner right now.”

“I’d say you’re entitled to be a little bit difficult at the moment. You know, broken leg and all...”

Patrick shook his head, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. “That’s not an excuse. You’re doing so much for me -- for us -- right now, and I’m doing absolutely nothing to show you how much I appreciate it. So thank you.”

“Hey, it’s what you do when you love someone, right?” David gave Patrick a shy grin, the left side of his mouth pulling up just slightly. “You take care of them.”

“Yeah,” Patrick breathed, leaning in to close the gap between them until they were kissing again. “Thanks for taking care of me.”

Chapter Text

When they got home, Patrick took advantage of his newfound freedom almost immediately, choosing to park himself on their sofa as David selected one of the many casseroles in their freezer, setting it on the counter to thaw a bit while he preheated the oven. David wasn’t sure he’d ever been as grateful for anyone in his life as he was for his mother-in-law at that moment, because she had definitely saved him a lot of blood, sweat, and tears -- both literally and figuratively -- over the past few weeks. Plus, having a hot, homemade meal almost every night was like a warm hug, in a way -- reminding them both of how loved they were.

While he waited for the oven to heat up, David walked into the study, grabbing Patrick’s laptop before coming back out into the living room and settling down next to him.

“So, I’m definitely still doing just fine on all of this, and I want you to focus your energy on getting better... but I thought…” David paused, taking a breath. “I thought you might like to see what I’ve been working on.”

David clicked around on the laptop until he’d brought up the Rose Apothecary website, then clicked on the brand new “shop online” link at the top. That led him directly to the category page that he’d designed and taken the photos for -- many, many photos until he had the look and the lighting just right.

“Wow,” Patrick said, shifting slightly to get closer to David. “That looks nice.”

“Thanks.” A shy smile tugged at the corners of David’s lips as he clicked on the category that housed the goat milk soaps and lotions from Heather Warner’s farm. He’d spent most of an afternoon carefully staging bars of soap and bottles of lotion on their stone fireplace mantle and taking pictures with his phone, but he’d finally gotten exactly the shot he had envisioned in his mind, with a handmade loofa and a wooden soap dish included for extra aesthetic effect.

“You did all of this by yourself?”

“Well, your dad helped me with some of the tech stuff, after you got us logged in, but… yeah. Most of it.”

“It looks really good.” Patrick reached over and pulled the laptop a little closer, moving his fingers across the touchpad to navigate between categories.

“And if you go to our Facebook page, we’ve got a new contest going on, with a giveaway.”

“Wait, what are you giving--”

“Don’t worry; it’s small. It’s literally a bar of soap and a lip balm, and you have to like the page and tag a friend to be entered to win. I went to this webinar the other day, on social media marketing--”

“You what?” Patrick looked up at him, eyebrows drawn together in a combination of surprise and confusion.

“I signed up for a webinar on social media marketing,” David repeated, the left side of his lips pulling up into an amused smirk at Patrick’s predictable disbelief. “Anyway, I learned a lot. Honestly, I’m still trying to make sense of it all, but this seemed like a good basic strategy to start with, and we can expand from there. I’m also thinking about doing a monthly giveaway to our ‘top fans,’ to encourage people to keep engaging with our posts, because that means they’ll show up in their friends’ feeds as well, so… yeah. The longer they remain a ‘top fan,’ the better reward they get… gifts with purchase, that sort of thing. Lots of new things to try. And now we can sell to anyone, anywhere, so our potential customer base is huge now.”

Patrick stared at David for another second, his mouth slightly agape, before turning his attention back to the store’s Facebook page, and a post that already had more than 200 “likes” and almost as many comments.

“So, I read that free shipping promotions are really popular, even if you sort of build the shipping cost into the price up front. I mean, the customer doesn’t know that, so they still feel like they’re getting something for--”

“No, I know that,” Patrick interrupted, his gaze now focused on the screen as he scrolled through the comments on David’s contest post, full of people tagging their friends to get a chance to win. “That’s definitely a good idea; let’s do that. I can run the numbers, and--”

“I’ve already done it, actually.” David’s voice grew soft as he chewed at his lip. He’d known this would be the part where Patrick would try to jump in. “Free shipping on orders of $25 or more. And we got six new orders just this afternoon, while we were in Elmdale. I promise that I managed to preserve our profit margin, too.”

Patrick took a breath, nodding his head. “Okay… so… is there anything at all I can help you with?”

“You can focus on getting better, so you can stand next to me at our grand re-opening, on your own two feet.” David reached over and closed his fingers around Patrick’s, giving his husband a fond smile.

“David, you really don’t have to do everything on your own. I’m feeling a lot better; I can help.”

“If there’s something I really can’t figure out, I promise to ask you, but right now, I…” He paused and took a deep breath, brushing his thumb over the back of Patrick’s hand. “I think I just want to do this one on my own. I’ve never really had the chance to do anything like this on my own, you know? Even when we started the store, I had you helping me, and I’m not saying I don’t appreciate it, or that I didn’t desperately need it, because I do, and I did, but… I need you to let me have this one.”

He braced for an argument from Patrick, but, surprisingly, there was none. There was only silence, and Patrick’s fingers curling just a bit more tightly around his, and a deep sense of understanding in Patrick’s eyes that reminded David all over again why he’d fallen in love with the man.

“Okay,” Patrick said, his voice breathy as he gave a small nod. “I can do that.”

“Okay,” David echoed, a shy grin tugging at his lips. “Thank you.”

David heard the oven beep in the kitchen, signaling that it was preheated and ready, so he left Patrick with the laptop, still exploring their new online store, as he went to put the pan of chicken and broccoli casserole into the oven. When he came back, Patrick had already set the laptop aside on the coffee table and was resting with one arm extended across the back of the couch, like he’d created a space just for David. David took the invitation, nestling himself into his husband’s side.

“It really does look great, David. You did a nice job.” Patrick paused and took a deep breath, shifting just enough to be able to look him in the eye. “Thank you for taking the lead on that… you know, when I couldn’t.”

“I was happy to do it, honey.” David reached up and looped his fingers through Patrick’s, which were resting on his shoulder. “I still am.”

***

Over the next couple of weeks, David and Patrick settled into a good routine, with David helping Patrick come downstairs in the morning, then getting him settled on the sofa with everything he might need, while David went out to the garage to fulfill online orders. David would head to the post office every afternoon, stopping to grab them some lunch or a few pastries at the cafe on his way back, and they’d spend the rest of the afternoon and evening enjoying each other’s company.

Even though having their store partially destroyed and Patrick seriously injured wasn’t the way David would have preferred to do it, he had to admit that the break was nice. It gave them more time to slow down, and more time to spend with each other, which they just didn’t get when one or both of them were at the store six days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. There were still plenty of times when David had to remind Patrick to take things slowly and rest more often, but overall, Patrick seemed to be doing pretty well with being at least a tiny bit more patient with himself and with the process.

Patrick got his wish at his next doctor’s appointment -- the ability to very briefly bear a small amount of weight on his right leg only while under the supervision of his physical therapist, and a shift from in-home physical therapy to outpatient. That meant David had to drive Patrick to Elmdale three days a week, so he shifted to mailing everything from the post office there while Patrick was at his appointment, and then they’d stop for lunch before going home so Patrick could rest.

Physical therapy still exhausted Patrick, and there were times when he’d insisted he was fine to stop and eat before they headed back to Schitt’s Creek, but had ended up spending most of the meal looking like he was about to nod off at the table. Overall, though, both the physical therapist and Dr. Singh seemed very pleased with Patrick’s progress and said he was right on track.

Good progress was being made at the store, too, with new windows and doors installed, the front wall repaired, and the ceiling and drywall currently being finished up. The construction crew had been slowed down a bit by a few days of early summer thunderstorms, but David was still impressed with the speed at which they’d gotten everything done. All that would be left after that was fresh paint and a deep cleaning, and they’d be able to start reordering merchandise and planning for their grand reopening. David still remembered when that had felt like it was eons away, so it was hard to believe that they probably had just weeks to go before getting back to “normal,” or at least some semblance of it.

David knew it was still going to be a long time before Patrick was completely back to normal, and he hated that for his husband, because he knew it was harder than Patrick let on most of the time. Patrick would often go for a morning hike on his day off because he said it was meditative -- a chance to reconnect with his mind and his body at the same time. David knew Patrick missed the quiet time in nature, but returning to hiking was still a long, long way off. He was missing out on the baseball season now, too, and David could easily see the combination of longing and frustration in Patrick’s eyes every time one of his teammates would call to give him an update on what had happened in the previous night’s game. But all David could do was try to support Patrick however he could -- finding new movies and television shows to binge watch together, and also giving him space when that seemed to be what he needed.

Patrick started helping David with the online orders on the mornings when he wasn’t too sore from the previous day’s therapy appointment -- sitting at his desk, printing the packing slips and signing the custom “thank you” cards that David had thought would be a nice touch to include inside each box. He fell back into some of his usual tasks too, balancing their budget and sending emails to vendors to place additional orders for merchandise that had sold out. David was willing to let him have those things, because he knew that Patrick needed to feel “normal” just as much as David needed to feel capable, and they seemed like safe tasks. Even so, David was keeping a close eye on the situation, knowing that each new step Patrick took toward “normal,” the more likely he was to try to push just a tiny bit further, increasing the risk that he’d push things too far and end up setting himself back instead of continuing to move forward.

On the first day of Patrick’s third week of outpatient therapy, David got a call from their landlord, asking him if he’d have time to stop by and pick out a paint color for the repaired wall where most of their shelving had once stood. They’d been on the way to Elmdale for Patrick’s appointment when she called, so he wouldn't be able to do it until that afternoon, but thankfully Patti didn’t seem to mind and agreed to meet him at two o’clock.

After leaving Patrick’s appointment and warming up some leftover lasagna for lunch at the house, David got Patrick settled in bed for an afternoon nap and headed to the store. He hadn’t driven by for a few weeks since he and Patrick had started spending most of their time in Elmdale, but Twyla had continued to keep him updated with pictures at least once a day. David felt like he knew what to expect when he pulled up in front of the store, but it felt better than he could have imagined it would to see their store looking “put together” instead of falling apart.

Patti had chosen to replace both front windows as well as the doors so the look would be consistent, and David was grateful to have a landlord who apparently paid as much attention to detail as he did. She’d even replaced their “One of a Kind” and “Locally Sourced” graphics on the windows, and the Rose Apothecary sign appeared to have already received a fresh coat of paint. Even though the doors were new, they were still wood, with large windows and a vintage look to them, which David also appreciated, since he didn’t think a more modern glass-and-metal door would go with their overall aesthetic at all.

David was still trying to take it all in when Patti opened the doors and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

“So, what do you think?” she asked, eyebrows raised and a proud grin on her face.

“It looks great,” David said, looking up one more time at the repainted sign. “Like it never even happened.”

“That was the goal… get it back to how it was before, if not better. How’s Patrick?”

“He’s okay… better. It’s slow, but... he’s getting there. He can sort of walk now, still with the crutches, and not for very long before his leg starts to hurt, but it’s something.”

“Good,” Patti said, smiling. “I’m glad to hear it. Well, shall we go inside?”

David nodded as Patti reached for the door, holding it open for him. The lights were back on, and all of the dust and debris that David had almost gotten used to seeing on the floor was gone. The fixtures that he and Clint had moved into the far corner of the store were now in their rightful places, ready for new merchandise and displays, and the shelving that had been destroyed had been replaced as well. For all intents and purposes, the store looked new, while still retaining the vintage feel that David loved so much.

“I hope I got everything in the right spot.” Patti’s words brought David out of his reverie. “Although I know you won’t be shy in making sure it’s exactly the way you want it. I know you guys probably want to reopen as soon as possible, so I figured the more I could do to help you get ready for that, the better.”

“No, it’s… It all looks great. Thank you.” David continued taking in the scene around him, grateful that he could finally be in their store and think about something other than the horrible vision of Patrick pinned under the front end of a car.

“So, I’ve got a few colors here that I thought might go well with your decor,” Patti said, as she laid several paint swatches out on the counter. “Or if you have something else in mind, I’ll see what I can do.”

Everything she’d chosen matched David’s carefully selected color palette, with various shades of white, grey, beige, and brown. He ended up selecting a very light grey that he thought would be bright but not too bright, before leaving Patti with a handshake and another series of ‘thank yous’ that he hoped expressed the deep sense of gratitude he felt for how quickly she’d gotten everything put back together, good as new.

As David drove back to the house, his mind was buzzing with thoughts of reordering merchandise and designing new displays, maybe adding a few new product lines if they could swing it. Patti had said that the paint would be done by the end of the week, and after that, the store would be all theirs again.

It felt so different now, making plans to reopen the store with Patrick as his husband, rather than his brand new business partner whom Alexis insisted had the hots for him. Everything back then had felt so up in the air, with David anxious to prove his business idea could be successful, while at the same time trying to figure out what Patrick’s true intentions were. Eventually, though, they’d found solid ground with the store as well as their relationship, and with that came a sense of stability that David had needed in his life, more than he realized. Now, he was ready to find that stability again, and he finally felt like it was within their grasp.

When David got back to their cottage, he went straight upstairs to see if Patrick was awake, eager to share his good news that the store was almost ready, but when he walked into their bedroom, he found the bed rumpled but empty. The bathroom door was open as well, the room dark and unoccupied. He hadn’t seen Patrick downstairs anywhere either, but maybe he’d missed him -- although that didn’t make much sense, given that it was a small house. It also would have been strange for Patrick not to call out to greet him if he was anywhere within earshot.

Already feeling his heart rate beginning to pick up a tiny bit, David took a deep breath as he started back down the stairs, trying to tell himself that he had nothing to worry about -- that Patrick had probably dozed off while reading a book in the study, and he simply hadn’t heard David come in. That was all. But when David got to the study, it was empty as well, with Patrick’s laptop sitting open on his desk, the screensaver twirling its way around the display.

Almost immediately, David’s brain started to entertain about a thousand different explanations for Patrick’s absence, none of which were good. David had no idea where on earth Patrick would have gone, much less how he would have gotten there, since David had taken the car, and Patrick wouldn’t be able to drive until he was totally free of the boot. So Patrick leaving under his own steam would have been basically impossible, unless someone had stopped by and picked him up… but why? And who? Maybe Stevie? Surely one of them would have texted David, though.

David was on his third pass through the lower level of their house -- now pacing restlessly as much he was actually looking for Patrick -- when the door to the garage suddenly caught his eye. It was closed, just as it always was, and David had absolutely no idea why Patrick would be in the garage, but that was the only place left that he hadn’t checked, so Patrick had to be in there. And if Patrick wasn’t in the garage, then both he and Stevie were about to receive angry phone calls. And if he wasn’t with Stevie, well… David wasn’t sure he wanted to think about that.

David’s brain continued to feed him possibilities, but he tried to push them out of his head, reminding himself how unlikely it was that their lives had somehow become a plot in a horror movie, or that his husband had been kidnapped from their bedroom as he slept. He stopped again to take another deep breath to center himself before he opened the kitchen door and walked down the ramp, traversing the short sidewalk that led to their detached garage. He could already feel his hands shaking as he turned the knob and pushed the door open, revealing Patrick, sitting on the top rung of their stepladder, his bad leg extended out in front of him, his pinched expression one of clear discomfort.

The momentary relief that had flooded through David upon seeing that Patrick was right there and safe was quickly eclipsed by a sense of disbelief and confusion, mixed with anger.

“What the actual fuck do you think you’re doing?”

Chapter Text

There were at least a half-dozen phrases vying for airtime inside David’s head: Why are you in the garage? What are you doing out of bed? Why are you on a ladder? But that had been the only one he’d managed to sputter out: What the actual fuck do you think you’re doing?

Patrick stared down at his leg, brow still furrowed and the muscles in his jaw twitching as he took shaky breaths. David’s anger began to mingle with worry, wondering what on earth Patrick had done to himself, but for the moment, anger was still winning out.

“I woke up from my nap, and I felt really good,” Patrick gritted out, while David bit his tongue to keep from pointing out the irony of Patrick’s current posture and expression, given what he’d just said. “And I saw that we’d gotten a few more orders, so I thought…” He paused and shifted his leg a little to the side, sucking in a breath through his teeth and wincing as he did so. “I thought I’d come down here and pack them up, so you wouldn’t have to do it tomorrow.”

David’s eyes swept over the assortment of open boxes on the workbench, each one with a printed packing slip alongside, some with items already wrapped and sitting inside.

“I was just trying to help.” Patrick’s voice was small and tinged with pain. “You’ve been doing so much, and I thought…” He paused again, taking another shaky breath, still looking down. “I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to do something useful.”

As much as David wanted to yell at Patrick for risking his health and well-being to do something completely unnecessary, Patrick’s words and his tone of voice were making it very, very difficult to stay angry.

“Hey,” he said softly, taking the few steps to close the gap between himself and his husband. With a gentle hand, he cupped Patrick’s jaw and tilted his face upward so they were making eye contact, revealing the sheen of tears in Patrick’s eyes, which ratcheted up David’s concern. “What’s going on? We talked about this. I’m fine. It’s all fine. You don’t need to do this.”

“I do, though.” Patrick’s tone was suddenly strong and defiant, even through the haze of pain. “I need to…” His voice faltered, and David wasn’t sure if it was from pain or frustration, or a combination of the two. “This is our business, David. You shouldn’t have to do it alone.”

“I’m not doing it alone… You’re doing it with me.”

“Not the way I should be, though.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know, David!” The sudden explosion of anger from Patrick made David take a step back. But the anger was short lived, and Patrick’s next words were much softer, this time colored by shame. “Fuck. I’m sorry. I thought I was okay with it, but then I…” Patrick’s shoulders slumped forward as he hung his head again. “I don’t know. I guess I just needed to prove we were still doing it together. And I know that you asked me to let you have this one, and I said okay, but… Fuck, this sounds so stupid.”

David let a few seconds of silence pass, as Patrick ran a trembling hand through his hair.

“You can tell me, Patrick... whatever it is,” David said gently.

“I just… I guess I needed to know that I’m still a vital part of this, you know? The business.”

“You are vital… Why would you think you’re not? I only showed you all of that stuff because I thought you’d be proud of me… not to make you feel like I don’t need you. Trust me, if I was to try to do a budget spreadsheet… Let’s just say we’d be bankrupt in a month.”

David was trying to break the tension, and he expected Patrick to laugh, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued looking down, a blush rising in his neck and moving up to his ears and cheeks. “Like I said, it’s stupid. And I know I fucked up.” He shifted his leg again, drawing in another sharp breath, as if his body was providing evidence to back up his words, whether he wanted it to or not. “Christ.”

“Okay, I think we should get you inside, and then you can tell me what happened… all of it.”

Patrick nodded, letting out a breathy, “Okay,” as he shifted himself forward a bit on the stepladder and grabbed his crutches, trying to find his footing before pushing himself up to stand. David had to steady Patrick while he closed his eyes for a moment, seemingly evaluating whether or not he could walk on his leg, before settling on ‘not.’ Together, they made their way to the door, David with a hand on the small of Patrick’s back, ready to catch him should he start to lose his balance. The last thing either of them needed right now was further injury -- assuming that hadn’t already happened.

Once they’d made it through the kitchen and to the living room, Patrick practically collapsed onto the couch, much like he had on the day he’d come home from the hospital. He wasn’t breathing as heavily as he had been then, but he looked like he was in just as much pain. With careful hands, David helped him shift so that he was lying down, with his leg propped up on a couple of throw pillows.

“Tell me what happened, honey,” David said, perched on the arm of the sofa at Patrick’s feet, keeping his voice just as tender as his touch had been. He still wanted so badly to be mad at Patrick -- to yell at him and demand again to know exactly what he thought he was doing out in the garage -- but seeing the obvious discomfort etched on his husband’s face made that all but impossible. Even so, the full spectrum of emotions -- frustration, confusion, worry, and of course, anger -- were still warring inside David’s head as he tried to piece together the details of the scene he’d just walked into.

“I don’t know, I just… We worked on stairs today at PT, so I guess I was eager to try it out on my own. I got downstairs just fine, and I still felt good, so I checked the site and saw that there were a few new orders. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.” Patrick let out a heavy sigh and closed his eyes. “I know I’m not supposed to be up for that long, but I really did feel fine.”

David fought the urge to roll his eyes at just how not fine Patrick was, only choosing to hold back his sarcastic remark because of the pained look on Patrick’s face at the moment. “So what happened? Did you fall?”

“No, I…” Patrick paused and took a breath. “I was getting ready to use the stepladder so I could reach the foot cream, but my leg was really starting to throb, so I decided to sit down for a few minutes, and that’s when you walked in.”

“And that’s the whole story?”

“Yes, David, that’s the whole story.” Even through pain, Patrick still managed to sound annoyed, and that was what pushed David over the edge, causing the sarcasm he’d been holding back to come pouring out.

“Well, I guess we’re lucky you stopped when you did, then, before you ended up falling off the ladder, cracking your head open, and bleeding to death on our garage floor. A ladder, Patrick? Really? You know what Dr. Singh told you, and what your physical therapist told you. That you walk to get from point A to point B, and then you sit and you rest and you keep your leg elevated.”

“I know.” The shame was back in Patrick’s voice as he blinked up at the ceiling, avoiding David’s gaze.

“When did you last take your pain meds?” David asked, trying his best to shift from being angry to doing something helpful, because no matter how incensed he was that Patrick would so blatantly disregard the doctor’s orders, the only things that would likely help this situation were medication and time.

“Right before lunch.”

David nodded and got up from the couch to retrieve the bottle and a glass of water, figuring they were close enough time-wise for Patrick to be able to take the next dose. He shook out one of the pills and handed it to Patrick, followed by the water.

“Is it any better now that you’re lying down?” David asked, now starting to get a bit concerned that Patrick might have seriously hurt himself, though he was still finding it hard to shake the frustration.

“Not much.” Patrick swallowed hard, letting his eyes close again. “I can feel my heartbeat in my leg.”

“And you’re sure that nothing else happened? You didn’t hit your leg on something? You didn’t almost fall and catch yourself with it?”

“Yes, David, I’m sure.” All of the annoyance was gone from Patrick’s voice now, replaced by the familiar earnestness that he always adopted whenever the conversation turned serious.

“Maybe we should go somewhere and get an x-ray. You know, just to be sure that everything’s still okay.”

“I’m fine, David. I promise. I think I just need some time.”

David took a deep breath and nodded, trying to push down the worries that kept bubbling up in his brain, one after the other. They were so close to getting the store back open -- to getting at least one small piece of their lives back in order -- and he didn’t want to think about what a physical setback for Patrick might mean, especially when Patrick was already so desperate to get back to normal. All he could do was hope that Patrick hadn’t hurt himself, and that whatever was happening now would be temporary.

David spent the rest of the afternoon trying to keep himself busy -- finishing up the orders Patrick had started packing, then loading them in the car, and even cleaning the kitchen, just because he needed something to do with his hands. He kept checking in on Patrick, who appeared to be dozing on the couch, the tiniest hint of a furrow still present between his brows, indicating to David that the throbbing still hadn’t gone away.

He wanted to tell Patrick his good news about the store, but now didn’t seem like the time -- not with Patrick struggling just to keep his composure, and especially not when Patrick was doubting what his role in the business was or should be. The bottom line was that he was vital, and David honestly didn’t think he could have pulled off any of what they’d done so far without Patrick, nor did he want to. But somewhere along the way, David’s own need to prove himself while Patrick was out of commission had apparently made Patrick feel like he wasn’t needed, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

David was on his way downstairs with a basket full of towels, headed for the laundry room -- which showed exactly how desperate he was to keep busy -- when he heard Patrick groan, prompting him to pick up his pace. When he got to the bottom, Patrick was in the process of carefully moving his leg down to the floor, the pinched expression on his face making it clear that he was still in pain.

Before David even managed to ask a question, Patrick grunted, “Bathroom,” then slowly pushed himself up to stand, taking a moment to steady himself before starting in the direction of the downstairs bath. He still wasn’t putting his right foot down, and seeing that was enough to tie David’s stomach in knots, because if anything indicated a setback, that would seem to be it. Patrick had been so happy the day he’d finally been cleared to put even a small amount of weight on his right leg, so there was no way he would willingly choose to backtrack unless something was wrong.

David tried not to hover, choosing to continue on his way to the laundry room with the towels, while keeping an ear open for any unusual sounds coming from the bathroom. Thankfully, there were none, and Patrick emerged from the bathroom just as David left the laundry room.

“So, um, I think I’m gonna take the extra meds tonight,” Patrick said, referencing the second dose of pain medication that he was allowed to use on days when the ache in his leg was particularly bad. “Go to bed and hope it’s better in the morning.”

“Okay,” David whispered, pulling his lower lip between his teeth as he watched Patrick carefully make his way to the stairs. Patrick hadn’t needed that second dose for a few weeks now, so that was yet another indicator that something might be seriously wrong, and another addition to David’s already-building anxiety. “Do you need help?”

Patrick stopped, taking a breath before nodding. “Yeah,” he said, his voice barely audible. “That might be good.”

David stayed behind Patrick the whole way up the stairs, steadying him when he needed it and keeping him from losing his balance. Eventually, they made it to the bedroom, where David helped Patrick change into his pajamas before getting him settled in bed with a fresh glass of water and his medication.

“Do you need anything else? Maybe something to eat?” David asked, his left hand coming up of its own volition to twist one of the gold engagement rings on his right.

“I’m not hungry,” Patrick mumbled, already sounding half asleep.

“Okay.” David bit his lip again as his left hand moved from finger to finger, continuing to fidget with his rings. “If you change your mind, just yell. Don’t try to get up.”

Patrick nodded without saying anything or opening his eyes, and David reluctantly turned to leave the room, turning off the light on his way out.

The remainder of the evening was a restless one, with David unable to focus on much of anything, thanks to the never ending stream of thoughts running through his head about what Patrick might have done to himself and how long it would take to fix. After three hours of stewing and pacing, not really getting anything done or hearing a single word of the podcast he was listening to, he gave up and chose to join Patrick in bed, where he nestled himself against his husband’s side, weaving their fingers together atop Patrick’s chest as he said a little prayer that everything actually would be better in the morning.

***

Things were only slightly better in the morning, with Patrick still pretty much unable to move without causing himself a lot of pain, and his leg much more swollen than it had been for a while. He spent the entire day in bed, sleeping off and on, giving David deja vu of the early days of recovery and making him wonder just how far Patrick had set himself back. David, meanwhile, spent his day trying to make sure Patrick had everything he needed to stay comfortable, while also trying not to think too much about the fact that Patrick was willingly staying in bed without even so much as a verbal argument.

David did manage to tell Patrick that the store was just about ready, although the news felt a bit like it had lost its luster, given that David now had no idea what was about to happen with Patrick. He still wondered if they should call Dr. Singh, but Patrick had vehemently said no. Patrick did, however, promise David he would bring it up at his physical therapy appointment the next day, presuming it wasn’t still obvious by then. And given how bad it was, it seemed like it probably would be.

David spent the entire drive to Elmdale the next day debating with himself on whether or not he actually trusted Patrick to bring up what had happened or tell his physical therapist the whole story. He hoped for Patrick’s own sake that he would, but David had a nagging feeling that he just couldn’t shake, telling him maybe he should stay, just to make sure he himself had all of the information, instead of just the parts Patrick was willing to tell him later.

As they turned into the parking lot, David made a split second decision to pull into a parking space near the door -- utilizing Patrick’s temporary accessible parking permit -- rather than simply dropping his husband off the way he had for every appointment prior.

“What are you doing?” Patrick asked, a look of obvious confusion on his face as he turned to look at David.

“Parking the car,” David said casually, part of him hoping that Patrick wouldn’t ask any more questions, even though he knew that he would.

“Okay, but why? I’m fine, David. You don’t have to be worried about me. I can do this by myself, just like I have been.”

David pressed his lips together to keep the first thought that came to his mind from also coming out of his mouth: Sure, you’re fine. I guess that’s why I had to help you down the stairs this morning, and why it suddenly feels like we’ve taken five giant steps back. Because you’re fine.

“I’m gonna talk to her, David.” Patrick’s voice was suddenly sincere, his signature earnestness chipping away at David’s resolve. “I promise. You don’t have to stay. I’ll tell you what she says.”

“Will you, though?” The words were out of David’s mouth before he could stop them this time. “Are you saying that you’d tell me if she said we should make an appointment with Dr. Singh, and that he might put you back on bed rest?”

Patrick didn’t say anything; instead, he shifted his gaze to the parking lot and sighed, which told David everything he needed to know.

“Okay, I’m going with you,” David said, unbuckling his seat belt and getting out of the car before coming around to the passenger side to help Patrick -- at least, as much as Patrick would let him. Slowly, they made their way to the door while David watched Patrick, already able to see that his motions were much more stiff and stilted than they had been just two days before.

Patrick’s physical therapist, Stephanie, noticed right off, too -- from the moment she came out to the waiting room to get him -- and she wasted no time asking Patrick point-blank what was wrong.

At first, Patrick refused to look at her, closing his eyes as he let out a loud exhale. David reached over and gave Patrick’s forearm a gentle squeeze. After a few seconds of silence, the whole story came tumbling out, with occasional prompting from David when Patrick stalled at the parts he didn’t want to admit. To her credit, Stephanie managed to mostly hide her amused smile as Patrick told her about the stepladder, merely shaking her head and echoing David’s sentiment that it was a good thing he’d come home when he had.

“So, I’m going to guess you’ve got a lot of pain and swelling,” she said, once Patrick had finished.

“Yeah,” Patrick breathed, shifting uncomfortably in the hard plastic chair. “It’s pretty bad.”

“And I’m also going to guess you really don’t feel like being here today.”

One corner of Patrick’s mouth turned up into a rueful smile. “Not really.”

“Nor will will we be able to do much, if the way you were moving a few minutes ago is any indication.”

Patrick looked down at his hands, picking at his fingers.

“So I think today, you might be better served if you go home and rest,” she continued. “Lying down, leg above your heart, okay? Inflammation is going to slow your healing process, and so is too much weight, too soon. I know you well enough at this point to know that you don’t want to set yourself back, so let’s try to avoid both of those things.”

“Isn’t the damage kind of already done though?” Patrick’s voice was soft, as if he didn’t really want to ask the question or hear the answer.

“Not if you take some time to rest. If you don’t, though… if you keep pushing... maybe.”

Patrick nodded, still looking down. “Okay.”

“I’m just sorry you guys drove all this way for no reason,” Stephanie said, her eyes apologetic as she glanced over at David. “If you’re still feeling bad on Friday, let’s skip that one too -- but call me this time. And still do your stretches at home. If it’s not better by then, you should probably make an appointment with your doctor too.”

“Yeah, okay.” Patrick finally raised his gaze to meet Stephanie’s, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. David hoped for Patrick’s sake that it wouldn’t come to that.

“Now, go home and rest,” she repeated, a soft smile on her face. “No pushing yourself, period. And keep that leg elevated! Understood?”

Patrick nodded again, thanking her as they got up to leave, and he and David shared yet another too-quiet ride back to Schitt’s Creek while Patrick stared out the window, chewing on his thumbnail.

They’d just passed the Wobbly Elm when Patrick suddenly spoke up, turning to look at David with tired, sad eyes -- exactly the sort of eyes that would normally cause David to melt and give Patrick anything he wanted, that this time, only made him ache for his husband.

“I’m sorry, David,” he said softly. “I feel like I really fucked this up.”

“You didn’t, honey… You just need to slow down. And I know we’ve said that a thousand times before, but you have to actually do it. You can’t try to jump ahead just because you get a tiny bit more freedom. That’s the only way you’re going to keep getting better.”

“I know. I think I’ve learned my lesson this time.”

“Good, because I really don’t want to have to reopen the store by myself. It’s ours, Patrick. I want to share it with you. I will always want to share it with you. But I want you to be well enough to do that, so you can enjoy it fully too.”

“Yeah,” Patrick said, a small smile playing at his lips. “I want that too.”

Chapter Text

Thankfully, a few days of rest seemed to be all that Patrick needed to get over the detrimental effects of his moment of indiscretion, and by Friday, he and David were back in the car, driving to Elmdale for Patrick’s physical therapy appointment. David stayed again -- this time not because he didn’t trust Patrick to bring up everything that needed to be said, but because he wanted the visual reminder of just how far his husband had come since the accident. And maybe a little because he wanted some reassurance that Patrick was, indeed, okay, and not just trying to push through because he didn’t want to admit that something was wrong.

David sat in one of the chairs that were lined up along one wall of a large room that looked more like a gym than a medical facility. The woman sitting next to him was apparently there with her teenage daughter and was paying more attention to her phone than anything that was happening on the other side of the room. David, however, watched everything Stephanie and Patrick did -- from the initial stretches and range of motion exercises that sometimes made Patrick wince, to the leg strengthening exercises, and finally a few minutes on the stationary bike, where everything came into play all at once. He saw Patrick grit his teeth and clench his jaw on occasion when something was difficult, but overall, Stephanie seemed pleased, so David chose to push away his worry that Patrick might have done permanent damage and continue looking at the bright side of how much progress Patrick had made in the last two months.

They’d come so, so far from the days when it was all Patrick could do to stay awake because the only time he got pain relief was when he was unconscious, and even though the past few days had been a bit harrowing for both of them, it was nice to feel like good progress was still being made where Patrick’s recovery was concerned.

David’s phone buzzed in his pocket just as Patrick was finishing up on the stationary bike, and he unlocked it to reveal a message from Patti containing three pictures of the store -- newly painted and 100% put back together, minus their merchandise. It’s all yours again, the message said. If there’s anything else I can do, give me a call.

David let out a long, slow breath as he closed his eyes for a moment, relieved that everything was finally coming back together again, despite the slight hiccup of the last few days. He smiled to himself, thinking about what it would be like to be in the store again with his husband -- the place that had brought them together and had a starring role in so many of the important moments in their relationship. It would always be ‘their’ space, and David couldn’t wait to share it with Patrick again.

A hand on his shoulder jolted David out of his thoughts, and he blinked his eyes open to see Patrick standing in front of him, leaning on his crutches.

“Hey,” Patrick said softly, bending down to press his lips to David’s, the same way he did when he got in the car on the days when David would pick him up out front after his therapy appointments. “Everything okay?”

Without saying a word, David unlocked his phone and held it out for Patrick, the photos of the finished store still on the screen.

“So it’s done?” Patrick asked, an excited smile spreading across his face.

“It’s done.” David returned his smile, feeling the tension in his shoulders relax even further as he said the words out loud.

“So that means we can reopen whenever we want?”

“Well, once we get everything unpacked, and reorder the things we’re low on, and get all the new displays designed and put up…” David took a deep breath and cast his gaze toward the ceiling, trying not to let the already-growing list of to-dos in his mind overwhelm him.

As if he was reading David’s mind, Patrick reached out to touch David’s cheek, prompting him to lower his gaze again. “Hey, we’ll get there,” Patrick said, his earnest eyes and sincere facial expression easing David’s anxiety. “I can help you. You don’t have to do it by yourself.”

“Are you sure that’s a good--”

“As long as he’s sitting,” Stephanie interrupted David as she walked up behind Patrick, “and he keeps his leg up as much as possible, it won’t be a problem.” She smiled as a slight flush came over Patrick’s cheeks, and David couldn’t help but chuckle at just how well she knew Patrick after just a few short weeks.

“Oh, don’t worry,” David said, putting his phone back in his pocket as he pushed himself up to stand. “He’ll be walking the straight and narrow from now on, if I have anything to do with it.”

“Nice to know you guys are ganging up on me,” Patrick muttered, a smile still tugging at the corners of his lips as he looked down and shook his head.

“Hey, I’m just glad to have an ally in getting you to do exactly what you’re supposed to be doing and no more.” Stephanie turned to Patrick and handed him a sheet of paper. “Here are some more strengthening exercises you can do at home,” she said. “These should help keep the blood flowing too, so you’re not seeing as much swelling when you are moving around, but that doesn’t mean that you get to go back to normal just yet, got it?”

“Got it.” Patrick nodded and took the paper from her, handing it to David for safe keeping before repositioning his fingers on the handgrip of his crutch. “Trust me, I have absolutely no desire to repeat the last few days, under any circumstances.”

“Good,” Stephanie said. “I still say we’re all lucky you stopped when you did. And no more ladders, you hear me? Let’s let David do all the climbing for now.”

“Well, that means there won’t be any climbing…” Patrick paused to look at David, his eyes sparkling with mischief, while David tried to look offended. “But, point taken. No climbing, I promise.”

“Okay, because we need you to be in good shape come Monday; you’re graduating to the anti-gravity treadmill. Just for walking, mind you, but… no boot. Only when you’re on the treadmill though, so we can work on getting your stabilizer muscles back in action without bearing full weight just yet.”

It was impossible to miss the way Patrick’s eyes lit up when Stephanie said the words “no boot,” followed by the tiniest note of disappointment when she confirmed it would be temporary.

“Slow, honey… remember? Baby steps.” David said, reaching out to squeeze Patrick’s shoulder.

“I remember.” Patrick turned to David, his gaze softening as their eyes met. “Don’t worry, I’m okay with it. Patience still isn’t my forte, but… I’m trying.”

“I know you are.” David rubbed his hand along Patrick’s shoulder blade, moving it up to knead the tight muscles at the base of Patrick’s neck with his fingers. “I’m proud of you.”

Patrick’s lips quirked up into the shy grin that never failed to make David’s heart melt. “Thanks,” he said, his voice so soft that David barely heard it.

“I’ll see you Monday, Patrick,” Stephanie said, giving them both a nod and a smile as she left the room to fetch her next patient.

David took another deep breath, looking his husband up and down and noting that both feet were on the ground -- another relief after the events of the last few days. “Well, are we ready to go see the store?” he asked, slightly nervous about the prospect, even though he’d just been in there on Monday afternoon. “If you’re up to it, that is,” he added quickly, already second-guessing whether or not rest might be better for Patrick instead.

“Of course I’m up to it.” Patrick’s grin shifted into a soft smile, his warm, affectionate eyes easing David’s anxiety one more time, the way they always did. “Let’s go to the store.”

***

David hadn’t forgotten that the last time he and Patrick had been together at Rose Apothecary was the day Patrick had been hurt, and all of the emotions that went along with that continued to bounce around inside his head as he drove back to Schitt’s Creek, skipping the side road where their cottage was located and continuing toward downtown.

They were only a few blocks away from the town square when Patrick reached over to lay a hand on David’s thigh, stroking his fingers gently over the tense muscles. “I’m okay, David,” he said, his voice soft, as if he was somehow able to feel the anxiety radiating from David’s body.

“I know you are. I was just… thinking. About that day. How scary it was and how… different… everything is now. Not that it’s bad, but… It’s weird, I guess?”

“How different the store is, or me?”

“Well, the store for sure, but… us too, I guess. We’re different.”

“We’re still ‘us,’ though.” Patrick continued stroking his thumb idly across the fabric of David’s jeans. “Here for each other, no matter what.”

David nodded, biting his lip as he made the final turn toward the store. Unconsciously, he held his breath as he parked the car in front of the Rose Apothecary, with its new windows and freshly repainted sign gleaming in the afternoon sun.

“Wow,” Patrick breathed. “It looks great. Like it--”

“--never even happened.” David finished Patrick’s sentence, then took a deep breath. When he spoke again, his voice was barely above a whisper. “Only it did. And the last time we were here at the same time, we left in an ambulance, not knowing what was about to happen.”

Neither of them said anything for a few seconds, before Patrick broke the silence.

“But it all turned out okay.” Patrick moved to take David’s hand, intertwining their fingers. “We got through it. Together.”

David bit his lip as he blinked back the tears that were starting to blur his view of the front of the store that they’d built together, never anticipating an event like this -- one that would change them both so fundamentally.

“Yeah,” he whispered. “We did.”

“So let’s do this,” Patrick said, squeezing David’s hand. “Together.”

True to Patrick’s word, the two of them walked into the Apothecary side by side for the first time in two months, and it didn’t feel nearly as strange as David had been afraid it would. In fact, it sort of felt… natural. Like home. Like another piece of their lives that had been tossed aside for a while had finally been plunked back into place.

David wasted no time fetching Patrick’s desk chair from the back room, ordering him to sit and prop his leg up in the wooden chair that they normally kept behind the counter. After that, though, things felt comfortingly normal, with Patrick sitting and taking notes while David walked around the store, imagining new displays and spouting out plans for new product lines faster than Patrick could write them down. David kept an eye on his husband, though, and when Patrick’s posture started to slump as his energy flagged, David was quick to step in -- suggesting that they stop by the cafe to grab some dinner before heading home. He blamed the sudden change of plans on his own growling stomach rather than pointing out how obvious it was that Patrick was tired and starting to push without even realizing it, just because it was his default. Thankfully, Patrick seemed to accept David’s excuse without argument, and the two of them got back in the car and drove the 200 feet or so to the cafe, where David went inside to place a carryout order while Patrick waited in the car.

Twyla and Jocelyn asked David at least a million questions about the store and the impending reopening, effectively distracting him from just how long it took George to prepare their food, but after about twenty minutes, he was finally leaving the busy cafe, bearing a paper sack containing his own burger and fries and Patrick’s tuna melt and side salad. It felt a little like deja vu, finally leaving the cafe with the very meal he’d been intending to bring back to the store on the day when their lives had been turned upside down. But, once again, it wasn’t a bad thing -- it was just another small way to get back to normal life.

When David got back to the car, Patrick was dozing in the passenger seat, his head tipped back against the headrest, lips parted just slightly. Patrick slept the whole way back to the house, only waking up when David gently shook his arm after they pulled in the driveway.

“Dinner or bed, honey?” David asked, his palm still resting on Patrick’s forearm.

“Dinner, then bed,” Patrick said, giving David a sleepy smile as he blinked, his eyelids still heavy. “Mostly, though, I just want to be with you.”

“I think I can do that.” David gathered his lips to one side in a shy sort-of grin as he gazed fondly at the man that he was still so, so grateful to call his husband. “I’m glad you’re back.”

Patrick let out a contented sigh and gave a small nod. “So am I.”

***

Getting the store back in order turned out to be a lot of work -- maybe even more than David had been anticipating. He still had to reorder a lot of the merchandise that had been destroyed, and of course there were new displays to be set up, more stock to be reorganized in the back room, and a lot of physical labor that he now had to do all by himself because Patrick was unable to help. Plus, Patrick had his physical therapy appointments to attend to, and he still couldn’t drive, so that meant David was not only trying to put the store back together, but also continue to run Patrick to Elmdale three days a week.

Then there was the obstacle of keeping Patrick from doing too much, especially since he insisted on joining David at the store on days when he didn’t have physical therapy. And while David was grateful for Patrick’s help, trying to keep watch over him only added to David’s stress. Thankfully, Patrick did what he was supposed to do for the most part -- remaining seated and not doing any of the heavy lifting (and, of course, staying off the stepladder).

They were three weeks into putting the store back together when it came time for Patrick’s next checkup with Dr. Singh -- the appointment to which he’d been asked to bring his right shoe, in anticipation of finally being free from the boot.

“I feel like I’m bringing the shoe of optimism,” Patrick joked as they got into the car, executing the now-almost-automatic process of David waiting for Patrick to lower himself into the passenger seat, then stashing his crutches in the back for safe keeping until they reached their destination. They both knew it would probably be a while before the crutches were no longer a part of their routine, but the prospect of being boot-free was exciting for both of them, since it would mean that Patrick was that much closer to being able to drive again -- a very important element of getting back to normal.

“You are, honey,” David said, squeezing Patrick’s hand before shifting the car into gear and starting to back out of the driveway. “But it’s well-deserved optimism, I think.”

“Let’s hope so.”

They spent the drive to Elmdale discussing when they might be able to make it out for a tasting at a potential new wine vendor in Thornbridge, with David relishing just how normal that felt too -- like they were on one of their regular weekend trips to run errands, rather than heading to yet another appointment. It would also probably be a while before regular physical therapy appointments were no longer a part of their lives, but David was grateful to be the one supporting his husband through what Patrick had already admitted was the hardest thing he’d ever gone through in his life. What had once looked like a challenge with no end in sight now had light at the end of the tunnel, with their “after” finally starting to come together.

Just like they had so many times before, they went into the doctor’s office together, holding hands in the lobby while they waited for Patrick’s name to be called. They were led through the maze of hallways one more time to the x-ray room, where David waited outside for a few minutes, until he and Patrick were both escorted to an exam room. David could see the nervous energy emanating from his husband in the way he drummed his fingers on the exam table and in the restless motion of his left foot, rocking back and forth on his heel as if he simply couldn’t sit still.

Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait long this time before Dr. Singh was in the room, bringing up the x-ray on the computer screen just as he had so many times before. The jagged dark line that had once separated the two parts of Patrick’s shin bone was now completely gone, with the only remaining visual reminders being an area of the bone that looked slightly thicker than the rest, and of course the hardware that would probably stay there for the rest of Patrick’s life.

Patrick was staring at the back of Dr. Singh’s head with wide, hopeful eyes, his lips pressed together as he continued tapping his fingers on the table, when the doctor finally turned around to deliver his verdict -- a broad, sincere smile giving it away before he’d even spoken a single word.

“Congratulations, Patrick,” he said. “You’re now officially boot free.”

For the rest of the appointment, David basked in the glow of just how happy and excited his husband was, while Dr. Singh went over expectations for continued physical therapy and fit Patrick for a brace that would allow for more movement while still providing support and helping to limit swelling. They set up Patrick’s next followup appointment for six weeks out, with the knowledge that if all went well then, it could be the last.

“So, one crutch, huh?” David said, still smiling just as brightly as he had been in the doctor’s office as he drove them back toward Schitt’s Creek one more time. “I should buy you a fancy cane, so you’ll look distinguished. I bet one of our wood-carving vendors could--”

“The crutch is fine, David.” Patrick cut him off, chuckling as he shook his head. “I’m just happy to be able to wear two shoes again.”

“If only they were nice shoes.” David squinted, quirking one eyebrow up in his husband’s general direction.

“They’re Nikes, David; they are nice shoes.”

“Mmm… sure. Okay. I’ll pretend you didn’t buy them at the outlet mall, then.”

“They were half price!”

“Your point being?”

Patrick laughed again, his a smile playing at his lips as he looked across the center console at David.

“What?” David asked. “You know my stance on balancing cost and style, and outlet malls are incorrect.”

“Okay, David. I’ll be sure to buy my Nikes at Nordstrom Rack next time.”

David rolled his eyes, knowing full-well that his husband was trolling him at this point and it would be in his best interest to just be quiet. After a few seconds of silence, though, he could still see Patrick at the edge of his vision, looking at him with fond, warm eyes and the tiniest hint of a smile.

“What?” David repeated, unable to stop a matching expression from coming over his own lips, despite his best efforts to act indignant.

“Nothing,” Patrick said, eyes twinkling with amusement. “I just… I missed this. I missed us.”

David reached across the armrest to loop his fingers through Patrick’s as he breathed out a soft, “Me too.”

***

The next morning at the store felt more normal than anything had in a long time, with Patrick’s newfound mobility (and a free hand) making it much faster to get things done. Speed was a good thing at this point, because the reopening date they’d originally targeted was fast approaching, but between running back and forth to Elmdale, trying to restock their entire skin care section, and adding product lines from three new vendors he’d found during their unexpected time off, David wasn’t sure how he was going to get everything done.

David had so many visions for what he wanted the store to look like now -- almost half a notebook full -- but trying to actually put it all into practice turned out to be more challenging than he thought, particularly with newly-mobile Patrick practically hovering over him at every possible opportunity. First, he’d had a whole lot to say about David’s arrangement of the soaps, then when David moved on to setting up the display of hand-beaded earrings after deciding to just let Patrick have the soaps, Patrick had followed him over there in no less than five minutes, practically taking the box out of his hands before horning in on that task too.

At first, David had chalked it up to Patrick being eager to take advantage of not being stuck in a chair all the time, but after Patrick had made his third comment about David’s arrangement of Mrs. Hockley’s hand-dyed alpaca yarn, David needed a break before he actually murdered his husband.

“So, um, since you’ve apparently got this covered...” David began, trying to at least sound patient despite his annoyance with the fact that Patrick was every-fucking-where and into every-fucking-thing. “I’ll go grab us some lunch from the cafe, I guess. Tuna melt as usual?”

“Oh, I’ll go to the cafe!” Patrick said quickly and way too excitedly, already setting aside the box full of pink and purple ombre sock yarn.

David raised an eyebrow at his husband, surprising himself when he managed to not roll his eyes too, even though he desperately wanted to. “Um, are you sure you--”

“I’m fine, David. Besides, I haven’t been in there in ages; it’ll be nice to catch up with everyone.”

David wasn’t sure with whom exactly Patrick wanted to catch up, considering that stopping by Rose Apothecary to see what was happening seemed to have become a mandatory daily activity for about half the town. But by that point, David really just wanted a few minutes without Patrick trying to tell him how to do something, so he simply nodded and told Patrick to get him a club sandwich.

He watched out the window as Patrick walked across the street with his single crutch, which somehow made his slight limp even more pronounced. Stephanie had told Patrick it would probably be a while before that went away as well, but he’d seemed okay with it, as long as he could walk at least somewhat normally. When Patrick disappeared inside the cafe, David turned his attention back to the bottles of body milk he’d been unpacking. Since body milk was their most popular product, David had been thinking about moving it to the shelves along the back wall, rather than putting it back in the front of the store, where it had been before a car took out the entire skincare display. Now that he was starting to think more about marketing instead of just aesthetics, he figured it made sense for their best-selling product to be in an area where people would have to walk past a lot of other products to find it, in hopes that another item might strike their fancy as well.

David was standing back, trying to evaluate just how far apart he wanted the bottles to be for the most visually pleasing presentation, when Patrick returned, paper bag in-hand.

“Wait, isn’t that where the pottery goes?” Patrick asked, hobbling over to the counter and depositing the bag in the small empty space between the register and the open box of yarn. “I think people are pretty used to finding the body milk on the table by the window, aren’t they?”

“Indeed they are,” David said, his voice tight, the annoyance he’d been feeling for hours finally starting to bleed through. He took a deep breath, trying to relax his tense shoulders down from his ears and even his voice back out before continuing. “So that’s why I thought I would move them back here. You know… encourage people to walk past some more of our amazing products to find what they’re looking for. Maybe they’ll pick up a lip balm or two, or one of those new ceramic bowls, and everybody wins.”

David held his breath, watching as Patrick pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows in the way that he always did when he thought he was right and David was being ridiculous. “I just think that since people are used to the body milk being over there, it makes sense not to frustrate our customers by moving the one thing they’re looking for,” Patrick said, shrugging as he started to unload the contents of the paper bag.

“It’s a boutique, Patrick. It’s not like this is some massive superstore, and they’re going to have to go on a hike to the back forty in search of the one thing they’re looking for. You can literally see this shelf from the door.”

“Which means that they can also see the pottery from the door. So why not just keep the--”

“Okay, look, do you not trust me?!” David’s voice was far louder and more shrill than he intended as he whirled around to face his husband. “Is that what this is about? Because every single thing I have done today, you’ve taken over, or else you’ve had a whole lot to say about it. You’ve been telling me since we opened that you wish I would take more of an active role in business decisions, but then when I do, you act like everything I’m doing is wrong.” His hands were flailing now, further punctuating just how annoyed he was. “So which way do you want it, Patrick? Just tell me now, because I can’t deal with this anymore.”

Patrick blinked at David, confusion coming over his features. “I’m only trying to help. Why would you think I don’t--”

“Well, you’re not helping!” David cut Patrick off, his wildly gesturing hands continuing to express all of the irritation he’d been holding back. “What you’re doing is making me feel like I can’t do anything right, and I’m just really stressed right now because we’re supposed to reopen in two weeks, and we’re still losing half of the day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays because we have to go to Elmdale, so that leaves us like, eight days to get everything done.” David let his hands drop to his sides as he finally took a breath, tilting his face up toward the ceiling as he squeezed his eyes shut. He’d said more than he meant to, but he had become so frustrated that there was nothing he could do to stop the words from pouring out once he’d started.

Patrick’s expression shifted as his confusion was overtaken by embarrassment, with the slightest hint of shame. “That’s not what I meant, David,” he said softly, turning his gaze down toward the counter as he pulled his lips into his mouth.

“Well that’s sure what it’s sounding like.” The volume of David’s voice was lower now, matching his resigned posture. “I thought we were a team.”

“We are a team, David. And I know that you’re stressed, so I guess that’s why I…” Patrick paused, letting his words fade out as he took a slow inhale, a slight flush creeping over his neck, ears, and face as he continued staring down at the counter. “I just wanted to show you I’m okay. That I can help you, and even if I’m not back to 100%, you don’t have to do all of this by yourself.”

“I know I don’t, but you don’t need to be doing it all either. I just don’t want us -- or you -- to end up right back where--”

“We won’t, David.” Patrick’s voice was soft as he looked up at David with wide, warm eyes that almost made David believe him.

“How do you know that?”

“I know I haven’t exactly done a whole lot to instill confidence in that, but I promise I’m okay. And the second I’m in pain, or too tired, I’ll go to the back and rest for a while, or I’ll ask you to take me home.”

“Will you, though?”

“I will, David. I swear. But I feel really good today. I need you to trust me on that. And I do trust you. With the business decisions… with everything. I’m sorry if I made you feel like I don’t.”

Silence settled between them for a moment as David considered Patrick’s words, taking a deep breath as he tried to let go of the hurt and frustration that had been building for hours.

“So can you, like… back off a little?” David said softly. “Show me that you trust me?”

“Yeah.” Patrick smiled. “I can do that.”

The two of them sat on opposites sides of the counter -- Patrick in his desk chair that had now almost taken up permanent residence near the register, and David on the new stool they’d bought to make it easier for Patrick to sit and ring people up when they reopened -- as they ate their lunch, enjoying a much easier flow of idle conversation with just the right amount of comfortable silence. David had just finished the last bite of his sandwich and was enjoying one of those silences when Patrick suddenly let out a soft chuckle, shaking his head.

“What?” David asked, already feeling his mouth start to quirk up into a wry grin. “Did I do something funny?”

“I was just thinking… that I guess Mom was right, after all.”

“About what?”

“The day that she had to talk me down, because I was just so pissed off at everything that was happening and how I couldn’t manage to get ahead of it… She told me I needed to talk to you. Let you support me. But I told her no, because sometimes I just worry about you, you know? I don’t want to send you off into an anxiety spiral, so I don’t say anything at all. Most of the time, that’s not a problem, and I can deal with whatever it is on my own, but with as much pain as I was in... I just couldn’t. I couldn’t handle it, and I was just so overwhelmed, so I took it out on you, instead of talking to you about it. I should have talked to you.”

“I don’t want you to feel like you have to be careful around me. I want you to always feel like you can talk to me, about anything.”

“That’s what Mom said -- that we needed to be able to talk, no matter what it was about, and that I needed to trust you to manage your emotions, and not try to manage them for you.”

“You don’t have to worry about me. I’ve lived with this for a long time. It’s me; I’m used to it. I know I don’t always deal with it the way I should, but… I’ll be okay. I’ll figure it out.”

“I know, I just… I want to protect you, I guess. From everything that causes you pain.”

David looked down at the counter for a moment, toying with the corner of his empty takeout box as he wondered how on earth he’d gotten so lucky to have been in the right place at the right time -- to have had the simple action of applying for a business license completely change the course of his life.

“You know, I used to worry all the time that everything was going to fall apart,” David said, his voice soft as he hesitantly raised his gaze to meet his husband’s. “That one day, I would wake up and you’d be gone, just like all the others. And no matter how much distance I got from that time and those people, or how many promises you’d made me, that was the one fear that I still couldn’t shake.”

“David, I would never--”

David held up a finger to Patrick’s lips, shushing him. “I know. Let me finish.” He paused and took deep breath. “What I was going to say is that… I think I’ve come out of this finally realizing just how much love and support I have -- that we have. That I don’t have to wait for the other shoe to drop all the time. That maybe I can relax and lean in, and, you know… be happy… with you. That I can feel… safe.”

“You’re always safe with me, David. Always.”

Chapter Text

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.”