Many thanks to whetherwoman for agreeing to be my sensitivity beta, for the infectious enthusiasm for this project, and for oodles of encouragement and insight along the way. To RhetoricalQuestions for the beautiful banner. And to NeelyO for being my beta, cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, and all-around wonderful person. Thank you for all the “fuck you! That hurt my feelings” you threw my way. 😘
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The loss is immeasurable.
But so is the love left behind.
It’s just after midnight when the call comes in. David’s phone rattling around on his bedside table rouses Patrick from his sleep. David, of course, is blissfully oblivious. Patrick reaches over his husband—David could sleep through a freight train rolling through their bedroom—and grabs the phone. His brow furrows when he sees Alexis’s name on the Caller ID.
“Alexis? You okay?” Patrick mumbles, putting David’s phone to his ear. He stretches and yawns. He realizes Alexis hasn’t responded. “Alexis?”
A quiet sniffle, a muted whimper. Then he hears his sister-in-law sobbing on the other end of the line.
“Alexis? What’s wrong?” Patrick puts the call on speaker and reaches over to gently shake David awake. David groans and slaps Patrick’s hand away, burrowing further under the covers. “David!” Patrick gives up on gentle and gives his husband’s shoulder a shove. “David, it’s Alexis. Something’s wrong.”
David is awake instantly, sitting up and reaching for his phone, fingers fumbling as he takes it from Patrick. He takes it off speaker and cradles the phone between his shoulder and his ear.
“Alexis? Where are you? What do you need?” David is out of bed already, stumbling around in the dark. Patrick hears him in the closet, the soft rustle of fabric, the quiet zrrrp of a zipper. “What? No that’s...B-but I just talked to him last night. He...I…”
Patrick strains to hear, but David has gone very quiet. All Patrick can hear are whispered ‘okays’ and ‘I knows’ and ‘we’ll figure it outs’.
David emerges from the closet, dressed in a pair of soft, grey sweatpants and a black hoodie. He sets his leather duffle down on the bed. His expression is blank. Neutral. His phone hangs loosely from his slack hand at his side and Patrick reaches out to take it before it falls. They can’t really afford to replace David’s screen again this year.
“Everything okay?” Patrick asks softly. He already knows the answer, but he needs to ask. “Is Alexis—“
“My dad died,” David says, his voice a flat monotone.
Patrick blinks. He swallows. Did David just...did he just say… “Oh my God.” Patrick’s throat constricts, he can feel a tingling in the back of his jaw, a tightness that’s a precursor for the tears he knows are coming. He reaches out to David, kneeling awkwardly on the edge of their bed and pulling David into his arms. David returns the hug, but it feels perfunctory, like his heart isn’t really in it. Patrick pulls back, gently cupping David’s face in his hands. “Oh my God, David! W-what...How...Are you okay?”
David nods, eyes downcast, mouth set in a tight, crooked line. “Yeah, I just—“ He clears his throat, “—I have to go. Do you know where my passport is? I checked and there’s a flight to Toronto from Elmdale that leaves in two and a half hours, so…”
Patrick nods, thumbs gently scraping over the scruff on David’s jaw. “Okay. Our passports are in the safe at the store. Give me ten minutes to pack a bag and we’ll swing by on our way to the airport.”
He sees David’s eyes widen, the line of his mouth twitches. “W-we?” he asks softly. “But the store…”
Patrick shakes his head, leaning in and tilting David’s head down so he can kiss the deep V that has formed between David’s eyebrows. “We’ll figure out the store. I’ll put a sign up for now and Jocelyn has a key for emergencies.”
“I’m coming with you.”
David shakes his head. “I, um...I think it should just be me. My mom...She’ll need all of my attention. I’ll need to look after her.”
“And who is going to look after you?”
David’s lower lip wobbles and he blinks rapidly. “I’ll be fine,” he says softly, and Patrick thinks David almost believes it.
David shakes his head. “I’ll only be gone for a day. I just need to get my mom and bring back my dad’s—“ He breaks off with a quiet choking noise in the back of his throat and his eyes dart down to his duffle. He fiddles with the zipper and clears his throat. “He wanted to be buried here. So I’m just going to bring him...bring him home.”
“At least let me drive you to the airport,” Patrick pleads. Every bone in his body is telling him this is wrong, David will need him, he should go. “Is Alexis going to go to LA too?”
“She was already there for work, so I’ll just bring her back with me,” David says, still not meeting Patrick’s gaze. “Um, can she...can they…”
“Of course.” Patrick kisses David’s trembling lips and pulls him into a hug. “Of course they can stay here.”
He feels David relax against him, just a bit. Patrick rubs firm, soothing hands up and down David’s back. “Thank you,” David whispers against Patrick’s neck.
“Anything, sweetheart. Anything you need,” Patrick assures him. He gives David one final squeeze. “Let me just put some clothes on and I’ll drive you to the airport.”
“Okay.” Patrick kisses him again, because David looks like he needs it, and maybe Patrick needs it too. Then he hops off the bed and heads for the closet, pausing to hand David his phone. “Book your flights. I’ll be ten minutes.”
I know this is kind of a heavy topic, and we’ve all had a pretty tough year. But this has been rattling around in my mind for months and I guess I just needed to write something that shows that, even in the darkness, there can be light. When we lean on the people around us, when we let them in, we can see how resilient we really are. It doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to hurt or grieve. But we don’t have to do it alone. I suppose that is what I wanted to show here.
We’ve got a few chapters before we get there. Things will be rough. There will be feelings. It won’t always be comfortable. If this story isn’t for you, I absolutely understand. But for those of you who, like me, have been grieving the loss of our regular lives in so many ways—COVID, wildfires, the insanity of a world that struggles to recognize that equality should be a right, not a privilege—maybe you can find comfort in expressing your grief with me.
Hold on tight. We’ll make it through.
I have been working on this story for a while. It is mostly finished and will be updated every Friday. I’d love to hear from you, so please shine a little light my way and let me know what you thought, how you’re doing. I’d love to hear from you.
The ride to the airport is quiet. For the first time since Patrick has known him, David doesn’t commandeer the radio or insist on his Divas playlist. Instead, he sits in the passenger seat, hands clasped tightly in his lap, looking out the side window.
Patrick’s mind whirs with things he should be saying, words he should offer David to make him feel better. But they go unsaid. Because ultimately, Patrick knows that nothing he can say can fix this. There are no words to make this better. So he drives, and he worries, and he glances at David. And then he worries some more.
The road is empty at this hour, and the drive to Elmdale goes by so fast. Too fast. Soon, Patrick is pulling up to the curb outside the small Departures terminal of Elmdale Regional Airport. He puts the car in park and turns off the engine. David is still staring out the window.
“David?” Patrick reaches out to place a hand on David’s arm, trying not to take it personally when David flinches at his touch. “Baby, we’re here.”
David’s head swivels slowly, and even in the dim light from the dashboard, Patrick can see his dark eyes are red with fatigue and worry and pain. He can’t help but notice that David hasn’t shaved and his stubble is dark and thick against his skin, which looks waxy and far paler than usual.
“Oh. Okay,” David says. His voice is missing all of its usual verve and sparkle. The same monotone he used all those years ago to tell Patrick that he needed some time, and just an hour ago that my dad died. He unbuckles his seatbelt and reaches around to the backseat for his duffle bag. Patrick watches his slow, measured movements, so unlike the familiar, frenetic motions that Patrick is used to. With his duffle settled on his lap, David turns to Patrick. “Um, I’ll call you when I get to LA.”
“Okay,” Patrick says. He doesn’t say what he wants to say. He doesn’t say that it will all be okay, because it would feel like a lie. Instead he reaches into the centre console and pulls out David’s passport, handing it to him. “You sure you don’t want me to come? I grabbed my passport too, just in case you changed your mind.”
David swallows, and the click of his throat is loud in the quiet of the car. Patrick berates himself for not stopping to get David something to drink on the way, a coffee or at least a juice. He knows from experience there’s nothing but an ancient and unreliable vending machine in the airport boarding lounge.
“No, it’s better this way,” David says, closing his eyes and leaning back against the headrest. “My mom...she’s not going to be…” He lets out a heavy breath and then sits up straight again, busying himself with tucking his passport into the outer pocket of his duffle. “It’ll be better with less of an audience,” he explains softly. “I know you want to help, but I need...I need you to be here. I can’t worry about what’s going on here when I’m there. I’ve got too much to do. Convincing my mom to come out of her closet will be hard enough. So…”
David looks over and offers what Patrick thinks is supposed to be a smile. It looks strained and uncertain, and foreign on David’s beautiful face. It’s so small and fragile and it does something to Patrick’s heart. He needs to do something to let David know that he’s here, and he’ll be here as long as David needs him. He places his hand on David’s cheek. “I love you.”
“I love you too. Thank you for driving me.”
That ache is back in Patrick’s jaw, a fierce and steady pulse. He wills himself not to cry. “Of course. David, of course! Anything you need, sweetheart. Anything, anytime. Okay?” Patrick feels like a broken record, but he doesn’t care. He’ll repeat this mantra for David as many times as it takes, until David just knows, deep in his bones, that it’s true.
David nods. “Okay.”
He leans in and pecks Patrick on the lips, and then Patrick is alone, watching the love of his life disappear through the tinted glass doors of the airport.
All of the things Patrick should have said, should have done, flood his mind the moment David is out of sight. He turns the key in the ignition, puts the car in gear and pulls away from the curb, heading for home, because that’s what David needs from him right now.
He makes it about thirty seconds—barely out of the parking lot—before his vision blurs and his chest heaves and he realizes he’s crying so hard he has to pull over. He can hardly see the road in front of him.
It’s still early when Patrick pulls up in the alley behind the store. He’d taken the scenic route home, stopping for a coffee and a breakfast sandwich and trying to pull himself together before the long drive back from the airport. He walks around the front of the building and puts his key in the lock. It’s not dark out now, not really. But it’s not fully light. The edges of the sky are just beginning to glow with a soft, grey light tinged with pinks and oranges. It’s going to be a beautiful sunrise. Patrick shoves the door open and locks it behind him.
He doesn’t turn on the lights. He could find his way through the store with his eyes closed. He makes his way around the counter and into the back room. It’s almost pitch dark back here when he draws the curtain closed behind him. Pulling his phone from his pocket, Patrick collapses into his seat at the desk. He glances at the slew of texts he’d sent David when he’d finally calmed down enough to wipe away the tears that blurred his vision.
Fuck. Patrick tosses his phone onto the desk and slumps forward, resting his head on the desk. He’s supposed to be helping David, not badgering him while he’s flying across the continent to bring his father’s body home.
He just...he has no idea what to do. And he has no one to talk to, because this is David’s family. It’s their pain. And he just, he can’t mess this up.
Patrick picks up his phone, flipping through his contacts. He needs to talk to someone. And the someone he wants to talk to right now is several thousand feet in the air and his phone is on airplane mode. Patrick chooses the next best thing and presses his thumb to the contact. He hears it ringing.
“Hello?” His mother’s sleep riddled voice comes across the line, and that’s it. That’s all it takes. Patrick feels his emotions welling up inside him again.
David calls mid-afternoon. He landed safely. He’s at his parents’—no, his mother’s place now, he corrects himself—with Alexis. They have almost coaxed Moira out of the closet. Patrick can hear the exhaustion in David’s voice.
There are so many things Patrick wants to say. “Did you eat?” he asks, because unlike when he was younger, nowadays David forgets to eat when he’s stressed.
“Alexis ordered pizza,” David replies. Patrick notices that David doesn’t say whether he’d eaten any.
Silence descends between them and Patrick hates it. He wants to fill the void with soothing words, but he can sense that David wouldn’t appreciate that right now. He needs to be strong for his mom and sister. And Patrick prodding at his sensitive underbelly wouldn’t be helpful.
“Um, I talked to Ruth,” David says finally, and Patrick breathes a sigh of relief that the silence is over for the time being.
“She’s organizing a private jet for us tonight. And a car service to bring us back from Toronto.”
It angers Patrick, that his first thought is that the return flights David had booked this morning are non-refundable. And now he’s not even going to use them. He hears David sigh in his ear.
“I can get the money back for the return flights, Patrick,” he says. He doesn’t sound angry, just deflated. And so, so tired. “I just have to wait for the death certificate.”
Fuck. Patrick has one job. Only one. Be supportive. And he can’t even do that properly right now. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know that shouldn’t be a priority right now—“
“It’s fine,” David interrupts, and Patrick knows it’s not fine. “You’re the numbers guy.”
Patrick closes his eyes and cradles his forehead in the palm of one hand. “How’s your mom? How’s Alexis.”
He can practically hear David shrug. “They’re fine. We’re all fine.”
“Okay, David,” Patrick says. Because what else can he say?
“Ruth said The Rosebud Motel Group will be sending out a press release, plus Roland and Stevie already know. Just...if people stop by the store or call with questions, you can answer them if you want. Or you can talk to Ruth and she’ll take care of things.”
“You talked to Stevie?”
“I called her while I was waiting for my flight in Toronto,” David replies, and Patrick can hear the emotions creeping back into his husband’s voice. “She’s um...she’s flying back from Ohio tonight. She’s…” David's voice trails off. Patrick can hear him sniffle on the other end of the line. “We might need to make room for one more at our place. I don’t want her to be alone.”
“Of course,” Patrick agrees. “Baby, of course. We’ll make room.”
David sniffs again and sucks in a deep breath. “I, um...I have to go,” he says, and Patrick has never wanted to hug his husband more than he does in this moment. “I have an appointment with the Bereavement Liaison at the hospital. Apparently bringing a body across the border requires, like, a lot of paperwork. I’ll let you know when Ruth gets back to me about our flight.”
“Sure,” Patrick says, wishing he could say more. “Let me know if you need anything from me, okay?”
David is quiet for a moment, and Patrick can hear his breath tremble. “Thank you, Patrick,” he says, and Patrick closes his eyes to hold back the tears he knows are coming. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too, David,” Patrick says. “I’m here for you.”
“I know,” David says. And then the call disconnects.
Patrick sighs and pockets his phone.
Again, thanks to whetherwoman for the sensitivity read through and cheerleading, and to NeelyO for all the love she showed this story. And thanks to you for reading. I hope you’re well.
How about those Emmys? What a wild night!!
Roland and Jocelyn arrive at the store later in the afternoon. Roland’s eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, and he stumbles into the store and pulls Patrick in for a hug that lasts far longer than Patrick is comfortable with. He keeps muttering “I can’t believe he’s gone,” and “he was so young at heart,” while he awkwardly pats Patrick’s back. Patrick peers over Roland’s shoulder at Jocelyn who is hovering in the doorway, a tight smile on her face and a casserole dish filled with something violently orange in her hands.
“Uh, thanks Roland,” Patrick replies, patting the other man on the shoulder and trying to extricate himself from Roland’s weirdly strong grasp. “I just...I um, I’m going to close up the store early. I think...I think people will understand.”
“They will,” Roland agrees, and Patrick has to put a hand to Roland’s chest to avoid being pulled into another hug.
“We just wanted to make sure that you and David were doing okay,” Jocelyn says. She sets the casserole on the counter with a smile. “In times like these, it’s always nice not to have to worry about food, so just you let me take care of that, okay?” She pats the casserole dish fondly. “This is my Dorito Tuna Casserole, and I’ve already got people signed up to bring meals to you boys over the next few weeks. I’ll have your freezer filled with good, home cooked meals in no time!”
Patrick glances down at the dish on the counter, his stomach already churning. It smells awful. But he knows that Jocelyn’s heart is in the right place. “That’s very kind of you, Jocelyn. Thank you,” he says. “But, um...my folks will be coming up tomorrow, and I think my mom is already planning on cooking up a storm for us. But we really appreciate the gesture.”
“Oh, you can never have enough home cooking,” Jocelyn presses. “And I know how much David loves to eat, and you’ll probably have a full house for a while. This baby—” she pats the casserole dish again, “—is one of Rollie’s favourites, and Bob always requests it on potluck nights.”
“Well...I can’t argue with that,” Patrick concedes. He really, really wishes that he could.
In the end, Patrick does decide to close up the store early. No one is buying much, they’re just there to gawk and gossip. He’s glad David isn’t here to witness it. While Patrick is able to smile and deflect, he knows that David would have had a few choice words for the folks who came for no reason other than to satisfy their curiosity.
After tidying and restocking, sweeping and cashing out the register, Patrick begrudgingly picks up Jocelyn’s lurid orange casserole and gets into the car. The casserole goes in the trunk where he doesn’t have to smell it.
He goes to Brebner’s to stock up their pantry. His mom had sent along a preliminary list of things she’ll need to make some of David’s favourites. They are going to have a house full of guests for the next few days and he wants to have ingredients at hand for the comfort food he knows his husband and his family will crave.
When he gets home, he puts away the groceries and stashes Jocelyn’s casserole in the deep freezer out in the garage. There’s a frozen brick of his mom’s meatloaf languishing in the freezer and Patrick has to pause at the memories that suddenly come flooding to the forefront of his mind.
His mom had made it while the Brewers and Roses were all gathered together late last spring here at the cottage. She’d asked what Johnny and Moira’s favourite foods were, wanting to make sure there was something for everyone, and David had informed her that the way to his dad’s heart was meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy. So she’d whipped up a double batch of meatloaf, setting one loaf down on the table in front of Johnny with a flourish, and carefully wrapping the other up to be frozen. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth as he remembers the look of pure delight on Mr. Rose’s face when he’d taken that first, all-important bite.
Patrick sets the meatloaf back in the freezer, letting the lid drop heavily as he makes his way back into the house. He looks around, desperate now for an escape from the feelings that are prodding gently at the edges of his chest, pushing up into his throat.
So he starts getting the house ready for guests. He puts fresh sheets on the bed in the guest room, tidies up the office where the old love seat from his apartment can be pulled out into a bed for someone. He makes sure there are clean towels in all the bathrooms and then he mops the floors and vacuums the carpets.
He makes himself some grilled cheese and tomato soup—his own go-to comfort food—and eats it at the breakfast bar in their kitchen. Then he washes and tidies away his dishes and pours himself two fingers of whiskey before he collapses onto the couch, legs stretched out in front of him and his heels resting on the coffee table. He knows that feet on the table is incorrect, but David isn’t here to chastise him. He’s worn out. Running on next to no sleep, and a day spent putting on a brave face as what seemed like the entire town came to the store to ask if it was true, if Johnny Rose was really gone.
Those feelings begin to creep back into the edges of Patrick’s consciousness, and now he’s too bone tired to fight them off. He grabs the remote and flips through the channels on the TV, settling on baseball highlights that he can easily ignore in the background. David texted a few hours ago saying that he’d call when they landed in Toronto. Should be any time now.
He sips his whiskey and lets his eyes go soft and out of focus. The sounds of the TV swirl nebulously around in his head. He hears an announcer shouting excitedly about a particularly impressive double play, and suddenly he’s sitting on David’s old bed at the motel, and Johnny is sitting on the other, and they’re watching the game together.
Patrick had been nervous when Johnny had poked his head into the room that day. He’d felt tongue-tied and awkward, trying to find something to say to his then-fiancé-now-husband’s father. Sure, he’d spoken to Mr. Rose before that, but never on his own. Never just the two of them.
He’d been so caught up in his own thoughts that it had taken him an inning and a half to realize that Johnny had come into the room with a purpose. He wanted to talk about David. He wanted to talk to Patrick about David. And he’d been just as nervous as Patrick, fumbling for the words, waiting for the perfect moment. But two years with David Rose at his side had taught Patrick that there were no perfect moments, not unless you grabbed the moment you were in, embraced its imperfection, and made it perfect yourself.
David had been doing that for their entire relationship, grabbing those moments, flipping them on their end, and turning Patrick’s world on its head. From their first kiss that Patrick had almost let slip away, to carrying him up a mountain and making the proposal that Patrick had planned out so carefully—that had been on the verge of falling spectacularly apart—into something so perfectly imperfect that, looking back, Patrick wouldn’t have any other way.
Looking over at Mr. Rose, Patrick knew that it was his turn. He needed to be the brave one, to seize this moment and make it as perfect as possible. For David.
“I love your son,” he’d said, feeling his chest tighten as he watched Johnny’s eyes mist over with emotion, “And I will always do everything I can to respect him, and to protect him from all of the things in life that can set him off.”
They’d shared a chuckle at all of the many, many things that could set David off. And then Mr. Rose had looked at him, eyes shining, as he confessed that was all he’d ever wanted for his son. For someone to respect him the way that he knew Patrick did.
Patrick shakes his head, pulling himself back to the present. There’s an ache in his chest now. He realizes it’s been there all day, but he’s only now letting himself really feel it. He feels regret. He never got to know Johnny Rose as well as he should have. From that fateful afternoon, there had been only a few weeks before he and David were married and the Roses were gone. There were phone calls and semi-annual visits, but it was never really the same.
Patrick’s heart constricts, because if he’s feeling this way, how must David be feeling? It’s been months since he’d seen his father in person—those few days here at the cottage with his mom’s meatloaf—and now…
He swipes at his eyes. The only sounds in the room are the faint chatter on the TV and the clinking of ice in his glass. It’s soothing, the quiet. The calm before the storm the next few days will bring. Patrick drains his glass and sets it on a coaster on the table, then he leans back and closes his eyes. He’s just going to rest here for a bit. He’s not going to sleep. He’ll just sit here with his eyes closed for a few minutes.
The sound of car doors slamming and bright lights flashing through the sheer curtains of their large front window rouse Patrick from his sleep. The house is dark, save for the glow of the TV screen. He grabs his phone and winces as the display flares to life, overly bright against his sensitive retinas. It’s 1:47 AM. He has three missed calls from David.
Footfalls crunch against the gravel drive, voices get closer. Patrick stumbles to his feet, disorientated in the dark, with a phone screen shaped rectangle of white etched into his field of vision. He gets to the front door and pulls it open just in time to see Moira, supported by Alexis, being led up the stone steps.
Patrick thinks back to the week Moira had ensconced herself behind the rickety accordion-fold door of the closet in her motel room. She had been distraught, for sure. But Patrick was also very aware that she was on during the moments she emerged from the closet. It was like a piece of interactive performance art for which the audience was meant to feel grateful to have been allowed to participate. She had been playing a character in mourning, an over-the-top version of a caricature of herself.
But now...he would give anything to see that Moira again. Because the Moira slowly ascending the steps looks so tiny, so frail. Her hair is limp and unstyled and she wears no makeup. She makes it to the top of the stairs and Patrick reaches out to take her hand, guiding her across the threshold.
“Hi, Mrs. Rose,” he says softly. So softly. He doesn’t want to break her.
She looks at him with watery blue eyes set in sunken sockets. “Oh, Sweet Pat. Hello, dear,” she gives his hand a gentle pat. “I’m so weary.” She turns to Alexis, who looks pale and exhausted. “Shepherd me to my chamber please, won’t you, Alexis?”
Alexis smiles wanly at Patrick as she guides her mother down the hall toward the guest room. He watches as the door closes behind them, then he turns and peers out the front door. David and the driver are wrestling large suitcases out of the trunk of the SUV and Patrick shoves his feet into his sneakers and runs lightly down the stairs to help them.
“Do you want some help with these into the house, Mr. Rose?” the driver asks, heaving the last of the suitcases onto the gravel drive.
David looks up sharply, his eyes wide. Patrick swallows hard around the lump wedged tight in the back of his throat. He hadn’t thought of that, how it would feel to hear David called Mr. Rose, and from the look on his face, neither had David. “Um...yes. I think, yes please.” David’s voice is raw and his shoulders are slumped. He radiates waves of fatigue and anxiety and unimaginable sadness. Patrick can feel it from where he stands at the foot of their front steps.
“Here, let me help,” he says, grabbing the handle of an enormous suitcase in each hand and doing an awkward shuffle-drag toward the house. He gets one suitcase up the steps and goes back down for the second, David and the driver following. And then they’re standing in the front hallway, suitcases standing like the Stones of Stenness in a circle around them. The driver drops David’s duffle and a garment bag on the bench beside the door, nods at them, wishes them a good night, and leaves.
Patrick closes the door, setting the deadbolt and flicking off the porch light. He turns to David, who is staring down at the oversized bags taking up most of the floor space around them. He looks drained and burdened and a little bit lost.
“Hey,” Patrick says, climbing over one of the suitcases to share the small square of free floorspace with his husband.
“Hey,” David replies. He’s trying to smile, but it’s not really working. It looks more like his mouth is trying to convince his face not to give up entirely. Like if he didn’t try to smile, he might forget how.
“I’m sorry I missed your calls.” Patrick puts a palm softly on David’s cheek. David nods.
“It’s fine. I figured...you had a long day too.”
Patrick brings his other hand up, framing David’s face with his palms. “What do you need, David?”
David closes his eyes, inhales a sigh. His lower lip wobbles. Patrick thinks sadly that this might be the first time since David left him sitting at the curb outside the Elmdale Airport that someone has asked David what he needs. It hurts his heart in ways he can’t even begin to explain. “I think...can I have a hug? Please? Patrick, I need a hug.”
“Oh, baby,” Patrick croons, opening his arms and pulling David into his embrace. David is bigger than him—taller, broader—but he feels so small and fragile in Patrick’s arms. Fragile or not, David is still the strongest person he knows.
He can feel David’s arms around his neck, his face nestled into that little nook where his neck and shoulder meet. Patrick rubs soothing circles up and down his spine, whispering all the words of love and comfort he’d been desperate to say to David all day. He feels the moment that his husband lets go, when he just can’t hold himself up anymore, can’t be the strong one. He’s been so strong all day, for his mom, his sister. His dad.
And it’s okay. Because Patrick has him. He’s got him, in his arms, right where he’s supposed to be.
Thank you for coming back for more of this story! Much thanks once again to whetherwoman and NeelyO for their support and care with this story. And for putting up with needy little me.
All of the lovely comments I’ve received have been so wonderful. I’m so glad you’ve chosen to come on this journey with me.
Patrick hears David drop his shampoo bottle again. That’s three times now in the last few minutes. He knows it’s the shampoo, because it’s fuller than the conditioner. David uses a lot of conditioner and always runs out of it far more quickly than the shampoo. Not that Patrick is complaining. Running his hands through his husband’s soft, silky hair when he’s fresh out of the shower, combing out the tangled strands into the curls he loves so much, sits very near the top of the mental list Patrick keeps of all the things he loves about David. About being married to David. No one else gets to do that, and Patrick is fairly certain no one else ever has. It is his rare privilege to have that part of David all to himself.
He had learned, early on in their relationship, that David was well versed in sex. Sex was something he knew, and knew well. But casual intimacy had been like a foreign language to him. Holding hands, cuddling after sex, cuddling before sex—cuddling in general—had all been things that David had very little experience with.
Patrick thinks back to the early days of their relationship, to sitting in the cafe and the look of surprise on David’s face when Patrick reached for his hand across the table. Or the way David stiffened the first time Patrick set his palm to the small of David’s back while he was dealing with a particularly cantankerous vendor over the phone. The way David’s face flushed when Patrick’s arm curled around his waist, introducing him to friends on his baseball team. The way David had lain so still, that first time they’d cuddled together on Ray’s couch watching a movie, as if any movement would have had Patrick shoving him away. Patrick smiles fondly. David may have taught him about how to enjoy sex, but Patrick likes to believe he taught David about embracing intimacy. It’s a fair trade, he thinks.
He tucks his bookmark between the pages of his novel and gets up from the bed where he’s been waiting for David. He knocks softly on the bathroom door. “Babe? You okay?”
David’s voice is quiet. Patrick can barely hear it above the rush of water in the shower. He presses his forehead against the door, hand poised over the doorknob, not sure if he should go in, or if David needs this time alone. He’s been around other people all day, in crowded airports and at the hospital. Even on the best of days, David detests crowds and germs, two things that he has had to endure in abundance for the last twenty four plus hours. Even Patrick, who generally likes most people and isn’t particularly bothered by crowds, would need a few minutes of quiet time on his own to reflect after a day like today. Nevermind the underlying reason behind David’s stressful and emotional travails.
But the need to do something—to be useful—is nearly overpowering. “Baby, can I please come in and help you?”
For a long moment there’s nothing but the sound of running water. Then: “Yes. Yes please.”
Patrick sighs with relief. He pushes open the door. The air is warm and thick with the scent of the almond and jasmine soap they carry at the Apothecary. He quickly strips off his clothes and pulls back the shower curtain, stepping into the tub behind David. He wraps his arms around David from behind and feels him lean back into his embrace and he smiles, pressing a kiss to David’s shoulder.
He closes his eyes and savours the moment. David is home. Things are far from okay, but this moment is good. He cradles his husband in his arms, swaying him gently from side to side. He wants to hold on to this moment for as long as he can.
“What do you need, baby?” Patrick murmurs against David’s water-warmed skin.
Wordlessly, David reaches for the bottle of shampoo. He takes Patrick’s hand in his, holding it palm up and squeezing out a dollop of the thick, viscous liquid. Patrick rubs his hands together to create a lather while David returns the bottle to its place in the shower caddy, then he begins to run his hands through David’s hair, using the tips of his fingers to massage his scalp, just the way he knows David likes.
He starts at the crown of David’s head, slowly moving forward to his widow’s peak, then down around the sides. He scritches at the spot just above his ears, where he gets tension headaches, and feels gratified at the low hum of approval from David. Then he works his way around to the back of his head, gently kneading at the nape of his neck, carefully digging his thumbs into the soft tissue at the base of his skull where he knows David carries so much of his stress. That earns him a groan and an “oh, fuck,” so he does it again, spreading his fingers out on either side of David’s head and raking them forward and back.
“Oh my God,” David sighs. “Patrick.”
Patrick can’t help but smile. He kisses David’s shoulder again and maneuvers him under the shower spray to rinse away the lather. Then he picks up the conditioner, pouring out a generous amount and repeats the process on David’s scalp.
By the time the conditioner is spiraling down the drain, David seems looser, more relaxed. “Thank you,” he says.
“Not done yet, sweetheart.” Patrick picks up the loofah and scruffs it against the soap, then begins to scrub at David’s back, up over his shoulders, down his backside and the backs of each of his long, lean legs. Then, with hands on David’s shoulders, he turns him and starts to work on his front. He swirls the loofah over his chest, across his stomach, around his hips and thighs, knees and shins. Then he gathers some soap in his hand and gently washes David’s cock, his balls. It’s not sexual—neither of them has the energy for it tonight—and Patrick knows that now is not the time. He smiles softly up at David as he does it.
David looks back at him, his beautiful dark eyes liquid with an overwhelming torrent of emotions. He blinks and a tear falls, blending with the droplets of water trickling down from his hair until it’s gone, washed away with the rest of David’s long, arduous day.
Patrick rinses his hands under the spray then reaches to turn off the water. He gets out and wraps a towel around his waist, grabbing another for David. He extends a hand, helping him out of the tub, then dries him with all the careful attention his husband needs. He fluffs David’s hair with the towel, then wraps it around his shoulders and leans in to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth.
David’s lip trembles against his, and there’s a catch in his breath that wasn’t there before. And then another. And another. And then his chest heaves and his face crumples and his lashes overflow with the tears he’s held at bay all day. Patrick’s own chest aches and he can feel a wetness on his cheeks that has nothing to do with the shower they’ve just shared. He takes David’s face in his hands, thumbs rasping against his thick stubble.
“I know,” Patrick murmurs. “I know, baby. I'm so sorry. I am so, so sorry, David.” He can hear the waver in his own voice. There’s nothing he can do to stop it. He’s seen David cry a thousand times over romantic movies, or a picture or a song that moves him in some way. And that one time over that commercial with the sad dogs that David refuses to watch anymore, changing the channel as soon as he hears the first strains of Angel by Sarah McLachlan.
But this is different. David is hurting. Really, truly hurting. And it’s a hurt so deep that there is nothing Patrick can do to fix it. So he wraps David up in his arms and he holds him while he cries—while they both cry—messy, ugly, gasping sobs. David’s arms around his shoulders are so tight, so fierce, like he’s afraid if he lets go, Patrick will disappear like a wisp of smoke on the wind.
So they cling to each other until the cool air on their damp skin chills them and sends them shivering into the bedroom in search of their pyjamas.
Sleeping with David is like sleeping with the world’s most affectionate cephalopod. Patrick loves it. He loves the weight of David’s body on his, the way his head fits into the notch of Patrick’s shoulder. The comforting pressure of their arms and legs tangled together.
Patrick has been dozing off and on for the better part of an hour. David was asleep the moment he curled himself around Patrick. He can feel the slight dampness where David is drooling on the front of his shirt, and his arm is tingling with pins and needles where it’s trapped under David. He rakes the fingers of his free hand through David’s hair, strokes down his neck, his shoulder, down his arm to his hand, which is clenched tight around a fistful of Patrick’s t-shirt. Patrick lets his fingertips skim over David’s fist, over and over until David’s grip slackens, relaxes. Patrick laces his fingers with David’s, his thumb caressing the back of David’s hand. David snuffles against Patrick’s chest, letting out a sigh and another driblet of drool.
Patrick closes his eyes against the soft gray light coming through a gap in the curtains—God, is it almost morning already?—and rests his cheek on the top of David’s head. He can feel himself drifting off, the slow, steady cadence of David’s peaceful breaths lulling him to the edge of sleep. The gentle tapping against the closed bedroom door is jarring in the dark and quiet, and he starts, glancing down at David to ensure he’s still asleep—he is, thankfully—before uttering a soft, “Come in.”
The door opens on hinges that Patrick has been meaning to oil for weeks, and he cringes. But David sleeps on. He looks up to see a familiar face framed by curtains of long, dark hair, poking through the door.
“Hey,” Stevie says.
“Hey, Stevie,” Patrick says, offering her a tired smile.
“I, um...I just wanted to let you guys know I was here. I’m sorry if I woke you.”
“No, no. It’s fine,” Patrick assures her. “I wasn’t sleeping.” He smoothes a hand down David’s back, then up into his hair again.
“I didn’t know where...I assume Mrs. Rose is in the guest room. And Alexis—“
“She said she wanted to spend the night with her mom. I figure we can sort out the sleeping arrangements tomorrow. Or, later today. I guess.” Stevie nods along with his words, her expression blank and tired. Patrick knows the feeling. “Are you...how are you?”
Stevie’s face gets that pinched look—Patrick thinks she must have picked it up from David—where she’s fighting to keep her features under control, but she’s on the verge of losing the battle. “I’m, um...I—“ She cuts herself off, ducking her head and hiding her face in the shadows cast by her hair. Patrick hears her draw in a sharp breath, followed by a soft whimper. A hand disappears into the darkness beneath her hair and comes away glistening with a shimmer of tears.
Patrick’s heart bleeds for her. Johnny was David’s dad, yes. But he was a father figure to Stevie. A mentor. And a friend. “Stevie,” he breathes, trying to will away the prickle he can feel growing behind his own eyes. He doesn’t think he has it in him to cry again tonight. This morning. “Stevie, come here. Come on.”
He indicates David’s side of the bed. It’s practically empty, as the two of them are mostly on Patrick’s side.
“Door open? Or closed?” Stevie sniffs, and Patrick appreciates the attempt at humour. He smiles at her.
She closes the door as quietly as she can, grimacing in apology at the squeak before the latch catches. Then she shrugs out of her flannel and shucks off her jeans, climbing into the bed in her underwear and t-shirt. She snuggles under the blankets, plumping up David’s pillow and inching her way closer to where the two men are tangled together.
Patrick extends his hand, and Stevie takes it in hers. He gives her fingers a squeeze and their joined hands come to a rest against David’s ribs.
“What time is it?” Patrick asks.
“Almost five,” Stevie says. She wiggles closer, spooning up behind David and letting her forehead rest against the back of his head. “How are they?”
Patrick sighs. “Mrs. Rose hasn’t...she went to bed as soon as they got here. So did Alexis. So I don’t...as well as can be expected, I guess.”
Stevie looks up at him over David’s head. “And him?” She nods down at the man sandwiched between the bodies of his husband and his best friend.
“He—“ Patrick’s throat constricts. He presses a kiss to David’s forehead. “We haven’t really talked about it yet. Overwhelmed, I think. Devastated, obviously. They all are.”
Stevie lets out a quiet, breathy whine, sinking back down into David’s pillow. “Yeah,” she whispers. She squeezes his hand again. Patrick closes his eyes, listening as Stevie’s breathing slows and evens, until she’s in perfect syncopation with David. Patrick closes his eyes and lets the hypnotic rise and fall lull him into a dreamless sleep.
Happy Friday everyone! Thank you for coming back for more of this story. I have loved hearing from you all, so please feel free to leave a comment!
I’m going to wish a pre-emptive Happy Thanksgiving To all my fellow Canadians. Despite the state of things, there is still a lot to be thankful for. Best wishes and warmest regards to you all!
Many, many thanks to whetherwoman for all the cheerleading, and to NeelyO for the handholding, for being my emotional support friend, and for just generally being the best.
The next time Patrick opens his eyes, the bedroom is bright. And he’s alone. He checks his phone. It’s early yet, for David to be up. He wonders what could have enticed his very not-really-a-morning-person husband out of bed so early. And then he hears it. Raised voices coming from downstairs. Patrick slumps back against his pillow, scrubbing his hands over his face. His eyelids feel like they’re made of sandpaper and his head aches, and he does not want to deal with whatever is going on down there.
Heaving a sigh, he throws off the blankets and puts his feet on the floor. The hard wood is cold. He can feel it even through the rag rug he chose for his side of the bed. With a groan, he gets to his feet and stumbles to the bathroom. The voices downstairs are still going strong when he emerges, having relieved himself and splashed a few handfuls of cold water over his face in a vain attempt at waking himself up.
He shoves his feet into a pair of thick socks (thick ugly socks, David has corrected him many a time) and pulls on a hoodie before joining the fray down below.
“—not even, like, super Jewish, David. I don’t know why you’re being so stubborn about this.”
“Maybe we aren’t super Jewish, Alexis. But Dad was. Or, at least he used to be, back when we lived in the city.” David pauses, and Patrick can hear him take a sip of his coffee. “God, of course you don’t remember. You would have had to be around once in a while.”
“Ugh. Don’t be so mean, David,” Alexis snaps back. “Mom and Dad have been living in LA for seven years, and he never mentioned going to temple one time!”
“Ohmygod,” David groans. “Just because he never mentioned it to you doesn’t mean it wasn’t still important to him!”
“Um, yes it does,” Alexis counters crisply just as Patrick steps into the kitchen.
“Don’t you remember the fuss he made when Bubbe died?” David continues, earning an eye roll from his sister. “He wanted to give her the service he knew she wanted. And I—we—can’t give that to him here. There’s no temple, there are only two half-Jewish people in this town right now, and we’re both in this room, so we don’t have a minyan for a proper Kaddish, and there isn’t a rabbi within 300 kilometres of this place.” David’s hand gestures are getting wilder and wilder as he talks, and Patrick watches the coffee sloshing around in his cup, dangerously close to splashing over the edge. “I mean, there are so many things we can’t do for him here. I just...I just think Dad would have liked to know that we tried.”
Alexis and David are facing off over the kitchen island. Stevie is standing at the far end of the island and raises her eyebrows at Patrick when he enters.
“Morning,” he says, rounding to David’s side of the island and planting a kiss to his very grumpy looking face. Apparently this argument has been going for some time now, judging by the tense atmosphere in the room.
“Morning,” David grumbles. He takes a sip of his coffee and sets his mug back down on the counter, fingers toying with the little ceramic handle.
“Morning, Patrick,” Alexis says, offering a tired smile.
Patrick grabs the coffee pot and fills a cup for himself, all the way to the brim. He has a feeling that lots of caffeine will be required to get through today. He stands beside Stevie and the pair of them watch as David and Alexis pointedly avoid one another’s glares.
“You missed all the fun earlier,” Stevie whispers. “Mrs. Rose said she only wanted David to come with her to the funeral home, and that’s how all this started.” She nods toward the siblings. “She went back to bed with a headache about twenty minutes ago. So, things have gotten better. But also kind of worse.”
“Right,” Patrick sighs, then claps his hands together in the best approximation of enthusiasm he can muster this morning. “Who’s hungry?”
“Ooh, I am!” Stevie says, with far more pep than she usually has for anything. Patrick appreciates her so much.
“I’m making pancakes. Blueberry ricotta.”
“I said I’m fine,” David says with far more snap in his tone than just his usual morning grumps.
Patrick frowns. David looks like he feels, so tired he can barely stand, and already one hundred percent done with this day. And it’s not even eight-thirty.
He grabs the carafe and refills David’s mug. David offers a half-hearted smile in apology for his churlish tone and Patrick presses a kiss to his stubbled cheek. Then he gets to work making pancakes. Stevie comes to stand beside him, cracking eggs into a bowl while he measures out the dry ingredients, then the ricotta, sugar, vanilla and blueberries. David and Alexis continue to sit in malcontented silence.
He’s just ladling batter on to the cast iron pan his aunt had sent them as a wedding present, when he hears Alexis rekindle their dormant conversation.
“It's just that, like, I talked to Dad a lot more than you did,” she says. David must have made a face, because Alexis goes on the offensive. “You know it’s true, David! You talked to Stevie about your little motel bathroom business-y things. Not Dad. I was closer to him. You only talked to him when Mom made you.”
“Th-that's not...I talked to him, Alexis!” David’s voice sounds raw. Defensive. Patrick knows that David talked with his parents regularly, but that Moira more often than not commandeered their conversations. It was rare for David to speak to his father one-on-one. Even when it came to their business arrangement, Alexis was right. They usually dealt with Stevie, or Johnny would reach out to Patrick. He shares a look with Stevie before glancing over his shoulder. David’s eyebrows are drawn together, and he looks like he’s not sure whether to scream or cry. “I...I just…” He trails off, dropping his chin to his chest and staring intently at his coffee cup. His chest is heaving, his breath ragged, and Patrick knows he’s trying hard to keep it together.
Stevie nudges him with her elbow, and Patrick turns his attention back to the pancakes, which are a little more done on one side than he’d like. But he flips them on to two plates, and sets one down in front of Alexis, the other in front of David.
“Maybe we can table this conversation for a little later,” Patrick says, accepting the syrup that Stevie has grabbed from the microwave and handing it to Alexis. “Eat up while they’re still hot.”
Alexis pours syrup over her pancakes and pushes the little jug across the island to David. “Don’t sulk, David. You’re going to get wrinkles.”
“Fuck off, Alexis,” David mutters, but there’s no heat to his words.
“Guys,” Patrick interjects again, a warning note in his tone. “Please. Just eat your pancakes.”
“I’m not the one being stubborn!” Alexis goads, eyeing her brother and bringing her fork up to her lips.
“Alexis.” This time it’s Stevie who echoes Patrick’s warning.
“Okay, what?” Alexis shouts with a mouthful of pancake, tossing her fork down onto the counter. It clatters and jumps, falling onto the floor. “I don’t get a say? David just gets to steamroll over my ideas? He was my dad too! I should get a say!”
“I’m not trying to steamroll anything, Alexis!” David shouts, banging his clenched fist on the counter. “I showed up yesterday and literally nothing had been done! And I—“
“And you just swooped in, taking over everything, as usual!” Alexis crosses her arms tightly over her chest, glaring at her brother.
“Mom asked me to!” David shoots back, throwing his arms in the air in frustration. “Fuck, Alexis. You asked me to!”
“I couldn’t think about all the little things! I was grieving, David!”
“And I wasn’t?”
David’s eyes drop down at his plate, his mouth twisted up into a tight little knot. His eyes are brimming with tears, and before Patrick can think of something to say, David pushes away from the island and yanks open the back door, storming out and letting it slam shut behind him. The sound reverberates loudly in the otherwise silent kitchen, making Patrick wince. He places his palms flat against the counter, letting his head hang down between his shoulders. He lets out a long, low breath.
He realizes he has no idea what to do. He doesn’t want to take sides. Yes, David is his husband, and he will always have his back. But he’s seen this before. He remembers when his grandfather passed away. His mom and her sister argued about everything, from the funeral to his estate, fracturing their formerly close relationship to the point where they didn’t speak to one another for years. They are only now mending the wounds inflicted during that tumultuous time. He doesn’t want that for Alexis and David.
He feels a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll go talk to him,” Stevie says softly. He nods and watches as she picks up David’s forgotten coffee cup and slips quietly out the back door. Then he turns to Alexis.
She’s picking at her pancakes with her fingers, avoiding his gaze.
“Alexis,” he says, keeping his voice even, but firm.
She wipes her hands on her napkin and looks at him with pleading eyes. “He’s always been closer to Mom,” she explains, anxiously twisting a strand of hair between her fingers. “And I...Dad and I have always been…” Her aqua eyes go liquid, a tear slipping down her cheek. “I just don’t want it to be me against them, you know? Him and Mom.”
Patrick softens, stepping closer and putting an arm around her shoulders. He pulls her into his side and she rests her head on his shoulder. “Come on,” he says, giving her a gentle squeeze. “Let’s go sit in the living room. We’ll be more comfortable there.”
Alexis gathers up her phone and her coffee and follows Patrick into the living room, curling up on their big, plush couch with her feet tucked up under her, exactly the way David does when he’s upset or needs comforting. She holds her mug between her hands. Patrick settles in beside her, not touching, but close enough that she knows he’s there.
“When he—when it...happened,” Alexis says, her voice low and far away, “Mom was...she was a mess. Sh-she couldn’t make a decision, wouldn’t talk to the doctors. The whole time, when she wasn’t crying or hysterical, she just kept asking for David. And I…” She swallows, and her lower lip trembles. “I was right there, but she didn’t want me. And I felt...I felt so useless. And when we got back to the apartment, she just locked herself in the closet and the only time I’d hear from her was when she asked when David was going to get there.”
Patrick puts a hand on Alexis’s knee. “I’m sorry, Alexis. That must have been hard.”
She nods, wiping at her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. “I sat on the floor outside the closet all night. But she wouldn’t talk to me. And when David...when he got there, he was just so, like, I don’t know. So bossy and picky about everything. Like he had a list in his head and was just checking things off. Like it didn’t matter to him that Dad...that he—“ She cuts herself off with a sob, and an enormous tear rolls down her cheek.
Patrick gives Alexis’s knee a squeeze. “Um, I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that it mattered very much to David,” Patrick says. “You mattered to him. You and your mom matter so much to him, Alexis.” She nods, wiping at her nose with the sleeve of her robe. “And so did— does your dad.”
“I know,” she says. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Patrick slides an arm around her slim shoulders, pulling her into a tight hug. “It’s not me that needs to hear your apology,” he says and Alexis sighs and nods grudgingly. “Please...don’t push him away. He needs you, Alexis. He needs you so much. And I need you. Okay? I need my sister too.”
”Patrick! You really are just the sweetest little thing, aren’t you?”
Patrick grins at her. “Um, thank you?” He laughs. Then he schools his expression into something more serious. “So, is your objection to doing...whatever it is that David wants to do, is it because you genuinely believe your dad wouldn’t have wanted it? Or is it because you don’t want David to get his way?”
Alexis sighs. “Ugh. Well when you put it that way,” she grumbles, elbowing him gently in the ribs. “David is right. It’s really annoying when you’re all logical and reasonable all the time.”
”Can’t say that I’m particularly sorry,” he teases.
Alexis hums, leaning against him. “Just don’t let him get how he gets, Patrick. Like, don’t let him get all David about everything.”
Patrick smiles, kissing the top of her head. “Oh, I don’t know. I kind of like it when he gets all David about things. I wouldn’t have married him if I didn’t.”
Alexis gives a single chuckle and swats affectionately at his arm. “Ew , Patrick.”
They sit that way, cuddled together on the couch, alternately wiping away tears and sharing soft laughter. Alexis drinks her coffee and Patrick gets up and fetches his own forgotten mug from the kitchen, and they sit and hug and cry some more as their coffees go cold.
Patrick is just about to suggest they go back to finish making breakfast, when there is a loud crash and an ear-splitting scream from the guest room.
“No! Nooooooo!” Moira’s voice is piercing and slightly hysterical. “Where is it? Where is it?!”
Patrick shares a worried look with Alexis, then they’re both on their feet, and Patrick pushes open the door to the bedroom. It’s absolute chaos. Clothes and shoes and wigs are scattered across every available surface, upturned suitcases piled up in the corner. Moira sits in the centre of the bed clutching a bundle of curls that Patrick vaguely remembers is named Lorna. Her eyes are wild and frantic, and when she sees Patrick and Alexis, she flings herself back on the bed and curls on to her side.
“David! I need David!!” she wails. “David!!”
Alexis looks at her mother, then back to Patrick. “See?” she says. Then she sighs and her shoulders slump. With a final dejected look at Moira, she turns to go. “I’ll go get him.”
Patrick shakes his head, putting an arm across the doorway, blocking her exit. “Stay with your mom. I’ll go.”
Alexis smiles wanly, then reaches up and boops the tip of his nose. He watches as she carefully picks her way through the debris on the floor, sitting down beside her mother and gently sweeping the hair from her face. Moira moans softly and curls into Alexis’s side.
Patrick pulls the door closed behind him, giving Alexis and Moira a moment of privacy. Then he heads through the kitchen and opens the back door. He can see Stevie and David sitting on the bench he'd gotten David for their fifth anniversary. It sits under the lone cherry tree in the small orchard they inherited with the cottage.
Patrick slips his feet into the gardening clogs he keeps by the back door and crosses the lawn, the morning dew catching at the heel of his socks, soaking through the thick wool and causing a shiver to run up his legs. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his hoodie to stave off the morning chill.
“How’s it going out here?” he asks, sitting down on the bench in the spot vacated by Stevie. She gives him a slight nod and a sad smile, then trudges back toward the house without a word.
“I’m sorry,” David says, not looking at Patrick. His fingers are curled around his coffee cup, and Patrick can’t help but think how cold his hands must be.
“Not me you need to apologize to,” Patrick says, nudging his husband gently with his elbow. “Although I am highly offended you didn’t eat my pancakes.”
David huffs out a soft laugh. “Oh, you mean that charred monstrosity? Was I supposed to eat that? I thought it was a coaster.”
“Okay,” Patrick says, smiling and leaning against David’s side, resting his head against his shoulder. “What I’m hearing is you’re volunteering for pancake duty for the foreseeable future.”
David hums softly in either agreement or dissent. Patrick’s not entirely sure which. He lifts his head from David’s shoulder, kisses his cheek and stands, holding out his hand. David takes it, and Patrick was right—his fingers are freezing. He brings David’s hand to his lips and blows out a slow, steady, warming breath. “Let’s go inside. Your mom was looking for you.”
David nods, and follows Patrick back to the house. Patrick holds open the back door, ushering David in ahead of him. He takes David’s mug and sets it on the counter before he takes David’s face in his hands.
“Hey,” he says, letting his palms warm David’s cheeks, “I love you.”
The barest hint of a smile ticks at the corners of David’s lips. “I know. I love you too.”
Leaning in, Patrick brushes his lips against David’s, then let’s his hands fall to his shoulders, his arms, his fingers, little affirming squeezes as he goes. David rests his forehead against Patrick’s and closes his eyes. They stand there for a moment, just breathing into the small space between them. Then David pulls away and heads toward the guest bedroom.
Patrick follows him down the hall, Stevie on his heels. David knocks in the door, then pushes it open. Moira’s voice rings out, strident with a slight edge of panic.
“David! There you are! And what have you been doing? Gorging yourself on your morning repast? Meanwhile, Alexis and I have spent our time upending my luggage and scouring it into disarray!”
“I can see that,” David says flatly.
“Um, excuse me! What do you mean Alexis and I? I didn’t do this! Also, like, this is my luggage too!”
David sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. “What are you even looking for?” he asks, bending and picking up a pearl necklace that had been flung to the floor. He sets it on the dresser and looks expectantly at his mother.
“The suit, David!” Moira cries. “Your father’s best suit!”
“Mom asked you to pack it David, and it’s not here,” Alexis chimes in. Peering over David’s shoulder, Patrick sees her petting at her mother’s shoulder and looking just a little bit too pleased at the idea of her brother messing up something so important. “You didn’t forget it, did you, David? Because that would be like, super not cool.”
“Okay, so everybody needs to just chill for a minute,” David says. “I have Dad’s suit. I—“
“You?!” Moira crows, shaking Lorna’s curls accusingly in his direction. “David! You cannot simply purloin the possessions of other people, like some common pickpocket!”
“And to think, we two have been vexing ourselves, haven’t we, Alexis?” Alexis nods enthusiastically. “When all along it was you who absconded with the nullibiquitous item!”
“Ohmygod!” David throws his hands up in the air. “I didn’t abscond with anything! I packed it in a separate garment bag in LA like you asked me to, and hung it up in my closet last night! I was going to steam it this morning before we...for the—“ David pauses, sucking in a breath and crossing his arms tightly over his chest. “—f-for Dad.”
Silence hangs thick and heavy in the air. Patrick puts a hand on the small of David’s back, feeling the tension in his muscles, the way his spine ripples with irritation, anger, grief.
“You want me to—“ Patrick begins, but David shakes his head.
“No. I’ll get it,” he grumbles. “Wouldn’t want you to be accused of absconding with it, too.” He turns on his heel and stalks toward the stairs, muttering under his breath as he thunders up the steps. The door to their bedroom closes a little louder than necessary. Patrick sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Then he looks up and narrows his eyes at Alexis. She tugs on her earlobe and averts her gaze, staring at the mess of belongings strewn all over the floor.
“What?” she says, her tone petulant.
“You know what,” Patrick snaps. He closes the door to the bedroom, leaving Alexis and Moira to their mess. Stevie hooks her arm through his elbow and puts her head consolingly on his shoulder.
So here we are at the halfway point of the story. Thank you all for sticking around and coming back week after week. I have been absolutely floored by the lovely and supportive comments. Thank you so, so much. This is a tough story, and the words you send back to me are so comforting and uplifting.
Thanks again to wherherwoman for all the support and enthusiasm. And to NeelyO for being the best beta ever, and also being the human equivalent of a warm hug.
“Here,” Stevie says, dumping a bundle of old sheets onto Patrick’s lap. He looks up from his phone and the text chain with his mom and frowns at her.
“Um, thanks?” he says, “For digging out all our old sheets? For no reason at all? I appreciate it.”
Stevie just rolls her eyes at him, her own arms laden with bedding that has been shoved deep into the recesses of their linen closet since they moved into the cottage. “It’s for covering the mirrors,” she says. As if that explains everything.
“Right. Okay.” He gets up and follows down the hall to the small powder room where Stevie is on her tiptoes trying to snag the edge of a black and white pillowcase that Patrick remembers from David’s old bed in the motel over the upper corner of the mirror. “So, let’s pretend that I have no idea what you’re talking about and explain to me why we’re doing this?”
With a huff, Stevie sinks back down to the soles of her feet. She pushes her way past Patrick and heads for the kitchen, returning momentarily with the wooden step stool David had gotten for Patrick on their fifth wedding anniversary as a joke, so he could reach the top shelves in the kitchen. The joke had been on David, in the end, as Patrick had used the stool without any qualms at all, eschewing David’s attempts to hide his favourite cookies—the ones he hated sharing, even with his husband.
Narrowing his eyes at the stool, Patrick watches as Stevie sets it down on the floor of the powder room, steps up and easily hooks the edge of the sheet over the mirror, first on one side, then the other. “I’ll let David worry about making it pretty,” she says, stepping down and dusting her hands.
Patrick’s confusion must still register on his face. Stevie heaves a sigh and bends to retrieve the stool, carrying it with her to the guest room, along with her slightly diminished pile of sheets.
“Didn’t he mention it to you?” she asked, kicking aside a few items of Moira’s detritus that hadn't been picked up before the Roses left for the funeral home.
“Uh, no. No he didn’t,” Patrick says, watching as Stevie flings a white sheet over the free-standing, oak-framed antique mirror they had picked up at a flea market six months ago to, as David put it, tie the room together.
“It’s one of the things they were fighting about,” Stevie says, giving the sheet a tug so it cascades down to the floor, covering the mirror in its entirety. “Apparently it’s a thing? Covering the mirrors after someone has...has died.”
“Oh.” Patrick grips the bundle of sheets in his arms tighter. David hadn’t mentioned it to him. He’s trying very hard not to be resentful of the fact that David had mentioned it to Stevie. He’s doing okay at camouflaging his annoyance, hurt—whatever these feelings are—he thinks. But when Stevie turns to look at him, she frowns. Maybe he isn’t doing as good a job of covering up his emotions as he thought.
“I only know because he and Alexis were screaming at each other about it for fifteen minutes before you came downstairs this morning,” she says, picking up the stool and brushing past him, heading for the living room. “Don’t make it a big thing,” she calls back over her shoulder. He resolves not to, and follows her down the hall. He finds her standing in front of the huge mahogany framed mirror over their mantle piece, looking thoughtful.
“So they agreed then? Before they left?” Patrick asks. Stevie shrugs in response.
“Kind of? I mean, they seemed like they’d made some kind of peace with one another.” She grimaces. “God knows how long it will last, so I figure it’s best to take advantage of the temporary cease-fire while we can. This was actually Alexis’s idea,” she says, gesturing to the mirror. “She said she wanted it to be a surprise for David. Some kind of olive branch, I guess.”
Patrick smiles at her. “Thank you, Stevie. I don’t know what I would have done without you this morning.”
Stevie waves off his thanks with the flap of her hand. “Yeah, yeah. Anyway...don’t thank me yet. We still have to talk about sitting shiva, which is another thing they were arguing about at the crack of dawn. Or maybe covering the mirrors is part of that? They weren’t really clear, what with all the yelling and the name calling.”
“Sitting...oh. Um. Okay.” Sitting shiva. The words sound familiar, but in a far away kind of way. Like he’s heard it mentioned, offhandedly. Maybe in a movie. Maybe by David. He has a vague idea that it’s funeral adjacent, for Jewish families. But he’s not sure exactly what it entails.
“Yeah,” Stevie says, setting the stool on the floor in front of the fireplace. “He said it’s like a ritual way to grieve together?” She gets up on the stool and gestures at Patrick to hand over one of his sheets. He dutifully unfurls a grey sheet he recognizes from the bed in his old apartment. It had come from the Bed-in-a-Bag set his mom had sent him as a housewarming gift. “Thanks.” Stevie rises up onto her tiptoes, teetering precariously on the stool as she reaches for the top edge of the mirror. “Yeah. He said it’s basically like, people come and hang out with the family, and they eat and cry together.”
Patrick grimaces as Stevie and the stool wobble slightly. “Can I...God, Stevie. Please let me do that. You’re gonna give me a heart attack.” Stevie harrumphs at him, but steps down from the stool, handing the sheet to Patrick and standing with her hands on her hips, watching (and smirking) as he attempts to reach for the mirror. He finally does on his second attempt, and he steps down to reposition the stool on the other side of the fireplace. “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. Sounds kind of like a regular funeral reception.”
“Except it’s not. Because a funeral reception is like, a couple of hours? This is seven days,” Stevie says, just as Patrick is about to get up on the stool. He misjudges the distance and stumbles, like going upstairs in the dark, thinking he’s on the top step when actually, there’s one more. He pitches forward, thankfully bracing himself with his hand on the lip of the mantle.
“S-seven? Seven days?” Patrick exclaims. Jesus. That’s...that’s a lot of days. A lot of days with their house full of grieving Roses. And other people. God, the whole town will be in their house. Roland will probably be camped out in their living room. For seven days.
All he can think is that he didn’t buy enough food.
Once the mirrors are all covered, Stevie goes back to her apartment to unpack from her trip and gather some clean clothes to bring back to the cottage. Despite her offer to give them some space and stay at her own place, Patrick knows that she doesn’t want to be alone. He doesn’t want her to be alone either, and he knows David wants her around. So after some performative back and forth, she agrees to come back to the cottage later in the afternoon.
After refolding the sheets they didn’t use and putting them back in the linen closet, Patrick sinks down onto the couch and pulls out his phone. During his sleepless night, he’d made a mental list of things he could do to help out David and his family. Ways for him to feel useful. And now that he knows about sitting shiva (he works hard to shove aside the lingering resentment that—once again—this is something David had chosen to disclose to Stevie instead of him), he feels like they could probably use some extra chairs, maybe a table for food.
His first order of business is to call the town hall to see about borrowing some chairs and a few folding tables. He dials the number, crossing his fingers, eyes and toes that Ronnie isn’t on phone duty today. He’d much rather have this conversation with Bob. Or even Roland.
“Schitt’s Creek Town Hall. Ronnie speaking.”
“Oh, um. Hey Ronnie. It’s Patrick. Patrick Brewer?” It comes out as a question and Patrick feels like an idiot. But Ronnie always does this to him, sets him on edge, makes him feel off-kilter and just a little bit stupid.
“Oh, Patrick Brewer,” Ronnie drawls, and he can practically hear the smirk on her face. “And here I thought it was one of the thousand other Patricks we have in this little town that was calling.”
Patrick pulls the phone from his ear to cover the mouthpiece and muffle his groan of incompetence. “Yeah, no. Just me,” he says, trying to keep his voice light. To avoid the downtrodden and exhausted tone from translating over the phone.
“Well, Patrick. What can I do for you?”
“Um, so you heard about Mr. Rose?” he asks. Ronnie makes a sympathetic noise in response. “Well, I was wondering if we could maybe borrow some chairs from the hall? Maybe...maybe a couple of tables? I have no idea how many people to expect, and I just want to be prepared, so I thought—“
“How many you want?” Ronnie interrupts, her tone brusque.
“Oh, um. Maybe a dozen chairs? And two—no, three tables?”
“Mmm. Okay. I think we can swing that,” she says. “And you want them when?”
Patrick leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, trying to work out how to get his hands on a truck, and how soon he could stop by the hall to pick them up. “Um, I’ll have to talk to Roland about borrowing his truck. So maybe, I dunno, later this afternoon?”
There’s silence on the line for a minute. Patrick pulls his phone from his ear to make sure the call hasn’t disconnected. It hasn’t. Finally, Ronnie speaks. “I’ve got my truck with me today. I can drop them off around three o’clock.”
Patrick’s eyebrows shoot up. “Oh! No, you don’t have to do that!”
“I know I don’t have to,” Ronnie says sharply. When she speaks again, her tone is much softer. “I want to. I would like to help. Moira is a friend. And Johnny is—was—a decent guy. A little presumptuous sometimes. Kind of a know-it-all. Liked to poke his nose where it didn’t belong. But I liked him. So let me help.”
“Okay,” Patrick says softly. “Thank you Ronnie.”
“I’m not doing it for you,” she clarifies, but now he can hear a grin in her voice. “I’m doing it for your family.”
“Of course you are,” he replies, for old time’s sake. “Well, my family appreciates it very much.”
“Mm,” Ronnie grunts and then hangs up on him.
Heaving a sigh, Patrick checks that hurdle off his mental checklist. Then he pulls up the number for the café. Twyla’s cheery voice comes over the line after two rings.
“Twyla’s Café Tropical! This is Twyla! How can I help you?”
“Hey, Twy. It’s Patrick.”
“Patrick! Oh my gosh! I heard about Mr. Rose yesterday, and I’ve been meaning to stop by, but we’ve been so busy here and I didn’t want to intrude. I remember when my mom’s boyfriend’s cousin’s uncle died, the whole family didn’t want any visitors. Mainly because his death was like, super suspicious, and they thought CSIS was trying to like, infiltrate the funeral to get information on family members.”
Patrick blinks, thankful that they’re having this conversation over the phone and he doesn’t have to keep the bewildered look off his face at Twyla’s wild story. “Well. Nothing like that here,“ he assures her.
“So what can I do for you, Patrick? Want me to whip up a tray of sandwiches? Mr. Rose always liked my sandwich trays.”
Patrick vividly recalls watching Mr. Rose scrape heaps of excess mayo off Twyla’s sandwiches. “Uh, no. No thanks. I was actually wondering if you had an extra coffee maker? We only have a small one here because I don’t drink it.”
Twyla hums thoughtfully. “I think I have one of those big, industrial stainless steel ones. It’s old though. Probably needs a good clean. But it’s yours for a few days if you want it.”
Patrick offers to come around after lunch to pick it up, but Twyla insists on bringing it over to herself. “And I’ll make sure to send along enough coffee for a few days. I know how much Mr. Rose loved the coffee here at the café. It’s the least I can do.”
He’s just setting his phone down on the coffee table when he hears a car pull up in the driveway. He gets up and peers through the curtains to see David unfold his long legs from the driver’s seat of their car, Alexis and Moira emerging from the back seat. He opens the front door for them and accepts a nose boop from Alexis, a pat on the cheek from Moira, and a long, world weary hug from his husband.
“How’d it go?” he asks, hands rubbing soothing lines up and down David’s back.
“Fine,” David mumbles against Patrick’s neck. “I just…it was intense. I just need a few minutes.”
“Okay,” Patrick says, giving David a gentle squeeze. “Why don’t you go sit on the porch? I’ll make you some tea.”
David whines, low and quiet in the back of his throat. “Sit with me? Please?”
Patrick breathes in the familiar scent of his husband. He thinks maybe he could use a few minutes of quiet alone with David after a tumultuous morning. “Okay, David.”
David lifts his head from the crook of Patrick’s neck and smiles at him. His eyes flick over Patrick’s shoulder and he frowns.
Patrick turns to see what David is looking at, and his eyes land on the grey sheet covering the mirror over the fireplace. And Alexis, standing beside the fireplace, bouncing on the balls of her feet, her hands clasped in front of her. “Surprise, David!” she says with a wide smile.
David looks from his sister, to Patrick, then back to his sister. “I don’t...what? I thought—“
“A little button may have helped me see that I was being ‘unreasonable’,” Alexis said, putting air quotes around the last word and directing a conspiratorial two-eyed wink in Patrick’s direction.
David turns to look at Patrick. “You did this?” he asks softly.
Patrick shrugs. “I mean, Stevie said it was what you wanted. What you thought your dad would have wanted. So…”
David’s eyes glisten and he tucks his lower lip between his teeth, nodding his head. “Thank you,” he finally manages, his voice a little wobbly, a little wet.
“Um, you’re welcome, David,” Alexis snaps, rolling her eyes.
“Ohmygod, Alexis. Ugh. Fine,” David snaps, wiping at his eyes. “God. Thank you.”
“It was my pleasure,” she replies, closing the distance between them and reaching out a finger to boop her brother’s nose. David swats her hand away.
“So does this mean...what does this mean?” David asks, batting at Alexis’s hand as she attempts to come in for another boop.
Alexis sighs and withdraws her hand. “It means...I think Dad would have liked to know that we sat shiva for him.”
One side of David’s mouth ticks up in the barest hint of a smile. He pulls Alexis in for a hug, and she wraps her arms around David’s back, holding him tight. “Thank you, Alexis,” David whispers, his voice gravelled with emotion.
“You’re welcome, David. And...and I’m sorry.”.
“I’m sorry too,” David says. He pulls her tight, holding her closer. He looks at Patrick over her shoulder, extends a hand to him, pulling Patrick into their hug. Patrick goes willingly, wrapping himself around them both.
Their tender moment is interrupted by a shriek from the guest bedroom.
“David! How am I supposed to gaze upon my visage when you have enshrouded all of the mirrors?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you about sitting shiva,” David says, accepting the mug of tea Patrick hands him.
“It’s okay, David,” Patrick says, taking a seat on the porch swing beside his husband.
“It’s just...Alexis made such a big deal about not doing it, that I thought—.”
“David, seriously. It’s okay.”
David looks at him warily. “Are you sure? Y-you’re not mad?”
Patrick shrugs off his earlier annoyance. “I’m not mad. If it’s what you both want to do for your dad—what you think he’d want—then I support you.”
David leans in and kisses Patrick, and it’s full of gratitude and love. Then he tells Patrick about the visit to the funeral home. Aside from his wish to be buried in Schitt’s Creek, Johnny had left little to no instructions, no last wishes. It was up to the three of them to decide, and the choices were myriad and overwhelming.
“Of course, Mom wanted the most expensive, flashiest coffin. But Alexis and I didn’t think...we agreed that wasn’t what Dad would have wanted,” David confesses. “He...even after they got the Rosebud Motel deal, Dad never wanted to go back to their old life. Sure, he and Mom are—were—more comfortable than they’d ever been while they were here. But they lived in a pretty modest condo, by their old standards. They had a practical car, and a wardrobe budget. Dad wouldn’t have wanted to blow a small fortune on a box that’s just going to be buried in the ground.”
“Sounds reasonable, Patrick agrees.
“Yeah, well when we expressed our opinions to our mother, she reacted like we’d just suggested she set her wig collection on fire.” David closes his eyes and sighs.
Patrick makes a sympathetic hum. He slides his arm around David’s shoulders, pulling him closer and nuzzling at his jaw with the tip of his nose.
“Promise me, Patrick. I need you to promise me.”
At David’s words, Patrick pulls back, resting his chin on David’s shoulder.
“Promise what, baby?” he asks.
“When all this is over, we will make a plan. For both of us.” David reaches for Patrick’s hand, lacing their fingers together and bringing their joined hands to his lips. He kisses each of Patrick’s fingers in turn, then the back of his hand. “I can’t do this again. Not for you. I need to know what you want. And I need you to know what I want.”
Patrick kisses David’s shoulder. “I promise, sweetheart,” he vows.
David hums, then he turns his head and kisses Patrick’s forehead. “Thank you,” he says, his lips lingering against Patrick’s skin, warm and familiar. “And not just for—“ he gestures between the two of them, indicating the conversation they’ve just shared, “—but for all of it. I would be a mess without you. I mean, I’m a mess anyway, but I’d be way worse if I didn’t have you.”
“David—“ Patrick raises his head so he can kiss David's mouth, closing his eyes. “I...you don’t have to thank me for any of that. Of course I’m here for you. Where else would I be? I just, I want to be helpful. Anything you need from me, baby. You only have to ask.”
David nods, chewing thoughtfully on the inside of his cheek. He brings his tea to his lips, then sets it back down again on the small table at his side. “Can I tell you something?”
Patrick smiles at him, reaching out and taking his other hand, so both of David’s are held tight and safe between his. “Baby, of course you can. You can tell me anything. You know that.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” David admits softly. He closes his eyes, scrunching up his face in frustration and grief and pain. “And I...I’m so scared I’m going to fuck it all up.”
“This is the last thing I can ever do for him, Patrick! The last time I can make up for being such a crappy son for so many years, and—“
“Hey!” Patrick interjects, giving David’s hands a shake. “You were not a crappy son.”
David laughs mirthlessly. “Oh no. I very much was. I was a shitty, ungrateful, asshole of a son for a very long time.” His brows crease and he blinks away tears, and Patrick can see his jaw working to keep himself together. “But at the same time, he wasn’t the greatest dad for a lot of my life.” Despite his efforts, the tears are falling, unchecked, now. David doesn’t even bother to brush them away. “He was never there, Patrick. And when he was, he only wanted to spend time with me when we were doing things he liked. Like Little League. He never…he never made an effort to meet me on my terms. He’d just write me a cheque for whatever infatuation I had that month and tell me to have fun. And then I would hardly see him again for weeks.”
Patrick doesn’t know what to say to that. It’s not the Johnny Rose that he knew, who hovered over everything David and Alexis did, buzzing around like a helicopter parent on steroids. But he only knew David’s father after they’d moved to Schitt’s Creek. After the loss of their fortune had forced them to spend the time to get to know and appreciate and love one another. He holds David’s hands, giving his fingers a gentle squeeze.
“And when I was older—when he finally deemed my presence worthy of his attention—I didn’t want it. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed him away.” David wrestles his hands from Patrick’s grip, covering his face and letting out a long, shuddering sob.
“I know he loved me. I know that,” David finally says, mumbling into his hands. “But it didn’t feel like that for most of my life. When I was a kid, all I wanted was for him to pay attention to me. To tell me just once that he was proud of me.” He sniffles and wipes at his eyes with the back of his hand. “I was over thirty years old the first time my dad actually said he was proud of me. Actually made me feel like something I’d done was worth his notice. How sad is that?”
Patrick leans over and puts his head on David’s shoulder. “But he did tell you,” Patrick affirms, and David huffs noncommittally. “I know that your dad loved you, David. And that he was proud of you. Maybe you never saw it, but I could tell by the way he looked at you. And the pride in his voice when he talked about you.”
“Patrick,” David whimpers, his voice trembling.
“It’s true,” Patrick continues. “And maybe it wasn’t always like that, but it was in the end. David, you are a good son. And your dad knew it. And he loved you.”
David makes a low, whining noise in the back of his throat. Then he chuckles wetly, wiping at his face and shaking his head. “God, you are such an asshole. Look what you did!” He gestures to his tear stained face. “I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry anymore today.”
So I’m going to preface this by saying that, like Patrick, I had no real idea of what shiva meant. I lived in a small town and there were no Jewish families in the area. So I had no notion of it until I saw it in a movie.
Thanks to whetherwoman for providing sage advice and guidance on Jewish funeral customs, and what would be reasonable to assume that David would understand and find important to do for his dad. Any errors or factual inaccuracies are my own.
Thanks again to NeelyO for all the flailing and love. For patiently holding my hand through many, many, many rewrites of this chapter. You are simply the best and I adore you to the moon and back.
Thank you all for sticking with this story so far. I so appreciate each lovely comment you send my way. They are little nuggets of joy and comfort for me.
Be safe. Take care of yourselves.
“Where do you want these?” Ronnie asks, by way of a greeting when Patrick opens the front door. He looks over her shoulder at her truck parked in their driveway, laden with the chairs and tables he’d asked for.
“Oh, um...maybe we should take them around to the back? We can stack them up on the porch for now so they’re not in the way.”
Ronnie grunts, turning on her heel and stalking back down the steps, heading for her truck. She yanks open the back gate and begins to haul out a stack of folding chairs. “Little help?” she yells over her shoulder, glaring at Patrick.
“Yup. Coming,” he says, slipping into his runners and following Ronnie out to her truck. He takes the chairs from her and carries them around the side of the house and up the back steps, where he deposits them on the slatted wooden porch, right up next to the house so they’re out of the way. As he’s making his way back for another load, he passes Ronnie making her first trip with an armful of chairs.
Between the pair of them, Ronnie’s truck is quickly unloaded. As they slide the last table into place, tucked in behind the stacks of chairs, the back door opens and David pokes his head out.
“Honey? Twyla’s here with some kind of hideous coffee thing she said you asked for, and...oh. Hi Ronnie.”
“David,” Ronnie nods her greeting, wiping her hands on her jeans and reaching out to shake his hand. “I was really sorry to hear the news about your dad.”
David attempts a smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes, and he withdraws his hand, folding his arms over his chest. “That’s very kind of you. Thank you, Ronnie.” His gaze travels over the new additions to their porch and he looks up at Patrick. “What’s all this?”
“Oh, um,” Patrick says, his hand going automatically to rub at the back of his head. “I just thought...I didn’t know how many people to expect. I thought we could use some extra seating. Just in case.”
David bites his lip, an unreadable expression on his face. “Okay,” he says softly. Then he looks to Ronnie. “My mom thought she heard your voice. Would you like to come in and say hi? I know she’d like to see you.”
Half an hour later, Ronnie and Moira are ensconced in the living room with mugs of tea, while Twyla and Alexis are sitting in the kitchen catching up. Twyla had given Patrick a quick tutorial on how to use the ancient coffee maker before Alexis monopolized her attention. So now Patrick is standing with his hands on his hips, staring at this thing on his dining room table. It’s a huge stainless steel cylinder, which is clearly a misnomer, given all the stains covering the surface. It reminds Patrick of the coffee maker that was ever-present at functions held in the church basement when he was a kid. The coffee it made was somehow both watery and overwhelmingly foul-tasting at the same time. Thinking back, Patrick is fairly certain that that coffee maker is the reason he started drinking tea. He’s kind of regretting borrowing the thing, but it’s here now, and he figures he should make the most of it.
David is sitting at the other end of the dining room table, scribbling in his journal. He looks up at a particularly frustrated sigh from Patrick, and sets his pen down, marking his place, and stands, coming around to stand behind Patrick. He wraps his arms around Patrick’s waist, his chin settling on Patrick’s shoulder.
“Why did you get this thing anyway?” he asks, and Patrick leans back against him, turning his head so he can nuzzle his forehead against David’s cheek.
“We only have that little coffee maker. And I thought—in case lots of people stop by—I just wanted to make things easier for you.”
David hums softly and tightens his arms around Patrick. “You don’t have to do that, you know. I’m fine.”
Patrick closes his eyes and presses a kiss to the hinge of David’s jaw. They both know it’s a lie. David is far from fine. But they’ve both already had such an emotional and contentious day that he lets it go for now. He doesn’t want to fight, he doesn’t want to push. He just wants David to know that he’s here, and he’s ready to help, in whatever way David needs, whenever David is ready to let him.
“I love you, baby,” he whispers against David’s skin. “And if you...if you’re ever not fine, I’ll be here for you, okay?”
A small, wounded sound escapes David’s throat. He presses his mouth against Patrick’s shoulder. “Thank you.”
David squeezes him, then lets go, and Patrick misses his warmth. He goes back to fiddling with the coffee maker while David retreats back into his journal. They each work in relative silence, the scrape of David’s pen against paper and Patrick’s softly muttered curses the only sounds in the room.
Car doors closing outside catches their attention, and they look up from their respective tasks and share a smile.
Patrick’s parents have arrived.
There are few things that Patrick loves more than watching his parents and his husband together. It was a novelty at first, David as skittish as a startled kitten at any sign of affection from Marcy and Clint Brewer. It’s different now, but no less satisfying. So when his parents’ familiar car pulls up in the driveway, it’s no surprise to Patrick that David is the first out the door to greet them.
“Oh, David. My poor, sweet David,” Marcy coos as she pulls David into a hug. It’s a skill she has, and Patrick has yet to figure out how she does it. As tiny as his mother is, she always manages to completely engulf whoever she’s gracing with one of her hugs. Maybe it’s the inordinate amount of love she has to offer. Whatever it is, it causes a lump to form in the back of Patrick’s throat, seeing his tall, lanky husband go all soft and gooey in the arms of Marcy Brewer.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” he hears David say softly. Marcy murmurs a response that Patrick can’t hear, and then she’s reaching for him—for Patrick—pulling him into the circle of her arms while David moves on to say hello to his father-in-law.
“Hi, mom,” he says.
She leans back and takes his face in her hands. “My poor boys. You both look exhausted.”
Patrick smiles tiredly and rubs a hand over his eyes. “It’s been a long couple of days.”
“I bet it has,” she says, concern etching her features. She pinches his cheek affectionately, and then she claps her hands together, suddenly all business. “Now, we have things that need to be unloaded from the car, and then I need to get some food into you boys. I bet neither of you has had a proper meal today.”
They dutifully head to the trunk of the car, where foil pans and baking sheets are stacked high alongside two small suitcases. Patrick’s heart stutters for a moment—are his parents staying here? With them? His mind whirs with the logistics of finding a place for everyone, when his dad puts a hand on his shoulder. He must have seen the look of sheer panic on Patrick’s face.
“Your mom called ahead while we were on the road. We’ve got a room at the motel. We figured you’d be full to overflowing with houseguests for the next little while and didn’t want to impose.”
“I’m sorry,” Patrick says, gathering up an armful of trays. “I should have...I’ll see if Stevie can comp you the room. You shouldn’t—“
“Son, it’s alright,” Clint says kindly. “I’m sure you’ve got more than enough on your mind as it is. And we’re grownups. We can make our own arrangements.”
Patrick frowns, falling into step beside his dad as they make their way up the driveway. “If you’re sure...”
“We’re sure,” Clint says.
They get everything into the house and there’s a flurry of greetings. Moira graciously accepts condolences, while Ronnie excuses herself, bidding farewell to Moira, who nods and waves a distracted hand in Ronnie’s direction. Apparently having a fresh audience to play to makes Ronnie expendable, Patrick thinks uncharitably.
“I should probably go too,” Twyla says, slipping past the crowd toward the front door.
“Thanks for stopping by, Twyla. And thanks for the coffee...thing.”
“You’re welcome, Patrick!” she says, with her customary cheer. “Oh! Before I forget, don’t leave it plugged in for more than an hour at a time. The wiring is a little sketchy.” At Patrick’s panicked expression, she rushes to assure him. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. I’ll see you tomorrow!”
She pulls Alexis into a quick hug, then waves at Patrick as she disappears out the door.
“Don’t leave it plugged in for more than an hour,” David says quietly beside him. “Don’t get it wet. Don’t feed it after midnight…”
Patrick rolls his eyes and turns to David, who smirks back at him. Honestly, as annoyed as Patrick is about the whole coffee maker...thing, he’s glad to see something resembling a genuine smile—or a smirk, as the case may be—on his husband’s face.
He reaches up to draw his thumb gently over the quirked corner of David’s mouth, then leans in to kiss him, a chaste peck on the lips.
“What was that for?” David asks when they pull apart.
Patrick shrugs. “I felt like it,” he says, and he leans in and kisses him again. “And it’s nice to see you smile, even if it is at my expense.”
David twists his lips into an amused little bow. “It was at the coffee thing’s expense, actually,” he says.
Patrick grins. “If you say so.”
“So I was thinking baked potato soup,” Marcy says over her shoulder as they enter the kitchen. She’s already been through the pantry, pulling out ingredients and pots, cutting boards and knives, and spreading them out in disarray all over the counter. Patrick has to work to suppress a smile. His mother is a wonderful cook, but she’s a whirling dervish of chaos in the kitchen when she really gets going. “David, I know you’re Jewish, and I usually put bacon in this recipe, but I can—“
“Bacon is good. I like bacon,” David interjects. Off Marcy’s look, he continues. “Alexis and I are half Jewish. And the non-Jewish half of me is very excited about bacon.”
Marcy chuckles and pats his cheek affectionately. “Well, you won’t mind cutting it up for me then,” she says, handing David a pack of bacon. David holds it by one corner, pinching it delicately between his thumb and index finger, his face working overtime to conceal the look of horror and repulsion at the prospect of touching slimy, raw meat.
“Um...that’s more Patrick’s thing,” he says, turning to hand the bacon to Patrick. “I’m more comfortable in a supervisory role.”
“Well, I’m more comfortable with you in a more hands-on role,” Marcy volleys back, with a sly smile in Patrick’s direction. “So maybe you could wash and peel some potatoes for me instead. And then I need you to dice some onion, carrots and celery.”
“Ooh, manual labour, David,” Alexis crows with glee.
“And Alexis, if you could grate some cheese and slice some scallions for me, that would be so helpful.”
David makes a simpering face at his sister behind Marcy’s back, and she smacks his arm with the back of her hand. “Don’t, David,” she hisses, but dutifully picks up the block of cheese from the counter. “So, like, I usually get the kind that comes pre-grated? That’s like, totally a thing now,” she informs Marcy.
“Not in Marcy Brewer’s house it isn’t,” Clint chimes in from the hallway. He grins at his wife. “Why pay extra when you can do it yourself for much cheaper?”
Alexis looks at Patrick, her eyes wide, then back down at the cheese. “So, do I like, just tear it up with my hands? Or do I have to cut up all those little bits of cheese with scissors?”
Patrick laughs out loud at that, then grimaces in apology to Alexis. “Here,” he says, reaching into a drawer for the box grater. “I find this is much more efficient.”
Alexis accepts it from him with a hint of uncertainty on her face. David rolls his eyes at her. “Ohmygod, Alexis. Just pretend the cheese is your foot and the grater is a pumice stone. It’s not rocket science.”
Alexis shoots him a narrow-eyed glare. “And when did you become an expert with this?” she asks, brandishing the grater in his direction. “It can’t have been that long ago, David.”
David sniffs primly. “That’s neither here nor there,” he says, taking his potatoes to the sink to wash them. “The point is that I do know how to use it.”
Patrick looks over at his mom, who is watching David and Alexis bicker with a fond look on her face. Her smile broadens when she catches his eye, and he just loves her so much. He loves that she loves his husband, and by extension, the rest of the Rose family.
His chest gets a little tight when he remembers why they’re all here. The Rose family is now permanently one member short. He has the sudden urge to gather everyone in his arms and never let them go. Not his parents, not Alexis. Not even Moira, who has retreated back into her room now that Ronnie is gone. And David. Definitely not David. Patrick will never let him go.
He rounds the island to stand behind David and press a kiss to the back of his neck.
“I’m just gonna get my dad to help me move some furniture around so we have some more space, and there’s a few things I want to take care of in the yard while he’s here. Okay?”
David glances at him over his shoulder. “I told you, I’m fine,” he says. He bumps his backside against Patrick’s hips, which...that’s not playing fair. Not when his mother and David’s sister are right there . “Go on. Marcy will look after us, won’t you, Marcy?”
Marcy beams at David from across the kitchen.
The furniture in the living room has been repositioned to accommodate some of the folding chairs from the town hall, and now, “There’s just this fence that needs to have a few boards replaced,” Patrick explains to his father as they traipse outside. “I could probably do it myself, but it’s always easier to do with a little help.”
His dad looks at him. “David couldn’t help?”
Patrick grimaces. He doesn’t want to give his dad the idea that David isn’t helpful, or that David wouldn’t help if he’d asked. “It’s not...he would help, if I asked. I just...it’s not his thing.”
Clint shrugs. “Fair enough.” He smiles at Patrick. “Gives us a good excuse for a little father-son time, so I’m not going to complain.”
They grab the new wooden slats from the garage, and Patrick leads his dad out to the section of fence that needs some work. The fence is older, and this particular section sits under an old maple tree, and the leaves and the damp have led to it rotting prematurely.
“I know we’re eventually going to have to re-do the entire fence,” Patrick says as sets down his toolbox, “But the neighbour’s dog keeps getting into our yard through this opening and I don’t want him causing trouble while we have a house full of people this week.”
Clint nods, and gets to work removing the old slats and nailing in the new. It’s quick work, between the two of them, and before long, the job is done. Patrick and his dad stand back, admiring their handiwork.
Patrick glances at Clint out of the corner of his eye. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Um, okay. I…” He sighs and kneads at the back of his neck. “How do I know if I’m doing enough? For David? I just...I feel like I should be doing more. But h-he keeps telling me he’s fine, and I feel like I should back off, because I don’t want to make things worse for him. How, I mean, you were there for Mom when Grandpa Nick died. How did you know what to do?”
Clint rubs thoughtfully at his chin. “That’s a good question, son,” he muses. “Your mom is such a strong lady. And she takes a lot on herself. And when her dad died—“ He pauses, crossing his arms over his chest and rocking back on his heels. “When he died, I think your mom felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. I tried to carry some of it, but in her grief, I think she thought that by offering to help, I was suggesting that she couldn’t do it on her own. It...it was hard, watching her struggle like that and not be able to do anything about it.”
“I don’t remember that,” Patrick murmurs.
“No, I don’t imagine you would. Even with everything going on, your mom worked hard to make sure that she didn’t pass her pain on to you. She knew how close you were with your grandfather.”
They stand in silence for a few moments, each of them lost in their thoughts.
“My advice to you,” Clint says quietly, thoughtfully, “Is to help David when he asks for it, and give him space when he doesn’t.” He turns to Patrick, placing his hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “When it’s all over, that’s when he’ll need you the most. When there’s nothing left to distract him.”
“This looks so good, Mom. Thank you,” Patrick says, taking a seat at the dining room table between David and Stevie, who has returned from her apartment. A steaming bowl of hearty soup sits before each of them and there’s fresh cornbread and a salad on the table for everyone to share. Family style.
His mom smiles at him as she takes her seat. “Well, I can’t take all the credit,” she says, laying a napkin across her lap. “David and Alexis were very helpful.”
Alexis beams proudly and David smiles shyly at his mother-in-law. Moira laughs sharply.
“My children? Capable in the kitchen?” She takes a sip of wine and then picks up her spoon, stirring the contents of her bowl. “I never thought I’d see the day.”
Patrick watches the proud smiles slip from David and Alexis’s faces. He reaches for David’s knee under the table, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“Yes, well. I find if people are given a chance and a little nurturing encouragement, they are capable of far more than they are given credit,” Marcy says, her tone light, but her eyes are hard as flint as she watches Moira poke dubiously at the soup before spooning up a mouthful. Moira swirls the soup around in her mouth—as if she’s tasting a fine wine—then swallows, setting her spoon back down on the table and reaching for her wine glass.
“Mmm. Well, I always encouraged my children to pursue less pedestrian activities,” she says. “But I suppose there’s something to be said for down home cooking.” Coming from anyone else, that might be a compliment. But there’s a condescending tone to Moira’s words that Patrick doesn’t like. He can feel his mother’s hackles rising from across the table.
“Um, so how was your drive, Mr. and Mrs. Brewer?” Stevie says. She catches Patrick’s eye, and he can see her desperation to try and steer the conversation into less contentious territory.
“Oh, it was great,” Clint says, with a warm smile in Stevie’s direction. “Marcy made sure we left early enough to avoid the morning rush hour, and of course the drive is so scenic.”
Stevie nods her head. “Yeah. Yes. So scenic,” she parrots mechanically, her eyes shifting between Moira and Marcy, who are studiously avoiding eye contact with one another. “Mrs. Brewer, this cornbread is delicious.”
Marcy tears her eyes away from her soup and glances at Stevie. “Thank you, dear. It’s an old family recipe. Clint’s mother showed me how to make it. Said she wouldn’t let her son marry a woman who didn’t have a good cornbread recipe.”
Patrick can’t help but grin. He knows his mom’s cornbread comes from a box. All she has to add is oil and eggs. But the story is sweet, and the loving wink his dad gives his mom is worth the little white lie.
“John, dear. Can you pass the salad?”
Silence falls upon the table like a blanket of thick, pristine snow. Someone drops a spoon, and the sound it makes as it hits the floor is like a roll of thunder in the startling quiet. All eyes focus on Moira, who blinks back at them.
“Um...Mom?” Alexis’s voice is small, a timid whisper.
Moira looks at her daughter. It’s painful to see the recognition dawn on her face, as she finally realizes what she’s said. “Oh, I...David. I meant David.” She picks up her wine glass, but her hand is shaking, and she quickly sets it back down and folds her hands in her lap. Something resembling a smile tugs at Moira’s lips, but her eyes are wide and her mouth is tight, and there’s no humour in it.
“Oh David,” she says softly. “Your countenance is so very like your father’s that I forgot myself. I...I thought it would bring me comfort, but I suddenly find it so distressing.”
Patrick’s eyes go back and forth between Moira and David. His husband has gone pale, his mouth a thin, hard line, and his brows arch higher than Patrick has ever seen them.
“W-what do you want me to do, Mom? I can’t change my face.”
Moira shakes her head, reaching for her wine again. There’s no tremor in her hand this time. “No, I suppose not,” she says with forced casualness. She takes a sip. “But I can hardly be expected to enjoy my repast with the ghost of your father sitting across the table from me.”
David gapes at her, and out of the corner of his eye, Patrick can see the shocked looks on the other faces around the table. He can feel waves of irritation, frustration and hurt radiating off David like heat from a furnace. He places a calming hand between his shoulder blades in an attempt to soothe David.
It doesn’t work.
”Y-you want me...you want me to go?!” David’s voice is high and getting higher and louder with every word. He drops his spoon into his bowl with a clatter. A little of his soup splashes onto the tablecloth. He throws his hands in the air, making a wild, sweeping gesture and nearly knocking over Patrick’s wine as well as his own. “May I remind you that this is my house?”
Moira simply shrugs her shoulders and takes another sip of her wine.
“I...you…” David sputters. He tips his head back, closing his eyes. Then he snatches the napkin off his lap, crumpling it into a ball and tossing it onto the table. He shoves his chair back so hard that Patrick is sure if he were to look, he’d see a set of deep grooves marring the hardwood floor that David is always so careful of. Leaving his soup practically untouched, David storms out of the dining room. Moira has the good grace to look at least a little chagrined. She reaches out a hand toward Alexis.
“Alexis, you’ll join Mommy after dinner? We have much to discuss for tomorrow. Oh, and David?” she shouts after David’s retreating back, “You’ll do the eulogy, yes? I can’t bring myself to speak in public about your father. And I imagine poor Alexis won’t be able to either.”
David’s only response is the sound of his feet stomping up the stairs and the slamming of the bedroom door behind him.
Patrick looks at Moira. He’s working very hard not to scowl at her, but he fears it’s a losing battle. He’s never seen her quite like this before. She’s always been demanding and tends toward thoughtlessness for the feelings of those around her, but this is a whole new level of insensitivity that he’s never seen in her before. He knows she deserves some leeway—she’s just lost her husband, but—
Understanding lands like a cartoon anvil, crushing him under its weight. Johnny isn’t here. And without Johnny, there is no one to temper Moira’s less savoury traits, no one to gently lead her back toward more socially acceptable behaviour. He suddenly feels a deep well of sympathy for Moira. Losing her spouse, her partner, the love of her life is hard enough, but she’s also lost her moral compass. He wonders how much more difficult life is going to be for Moira, going forward. How much more difficult she is going to make it for herself.
Patrick wipes his mouth with his napkin and places it on the table, pushing his chair back and standing. “I’m just going to…” He trails off, pointing upstairs. He looks at his mom, who smiles sadly back at him. Then he looks to Moira, who won’t meet his eyes. He places a hand on Moira’s shoulder, his fingers squeezing gently as he passes behind her chair.
He goes upstairs, treading quietly up the steps. He knocks softly on the bedroom door before opening it. David is lying on their bed, curled up on his side, his back to the door. He sniffles softly as Patrick closes the door behind him.
He kneels on the edge of the bed, easing himself down on his side, snaking an arm around David and pressing himself up against the curve of his spine. He kisses the nape of his neck.
“You okay?” The short hairs on the back of David’s head tickle his lips.
“Fine,” David mumbles into his pillow. He sniffles again, and Patrick can hear his breathing catch, sharp and painful, in the back of David’s throat.
Slipping his hand up under the hem of David’s sweater, Patrick lets his palm come to rest on David’s chest. He can feel his heart beating so fast—too fast—and, combined with the shallow, erratic breaths and the clamminess of his skin, he knows David is teetering on the edge of a panic attack. He rubs slow circles against David’s chest, scratching his fingers lightly through the coarse hair. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t refute David’s claim of being “fine”. He just flutters light kisses against his skin, and scratches and rubs and soothes with his hands until David’s breathing evens out and his pulse slows.
“I’m fine,” David whispers, and it seems more to himself than to Patrick. “I’m fine. I’m fine.”
Patrick pulls him closer and silently pleads with God or whoever out there might be listening that it’s true.
Immense gratitude to whetherwoman for the sensitivity read-through, and to NeelyO for all the flailing, for weeping with me, and for not letting me delete huge sections of this chapter because of my self-doubt.
And thank you to those of you who are still with me. Only a few chapters left to go! I hope you are still getting something from this story, that it hurts in just the right way. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to come say hi on Tumblr @delilah-mcmuffin or leave a comment here.
I wish you all the very best this week. Take care of yourselves, friends.
Until next time,
When Patrick wakes the next morning, a pale golden light shines through a gap in the curtains indicating that it’s morning, if only just. He checks the time on his phone. 5:28 AM. He rolls over and reaches out a hand. David’s side of the bed is cold. He heaves a sigh and scrubs his hands over his face. Pushing himself up to a seated position, he looks around the bedroom. It’s empty. A thin strip of light filters out from under the door leading to the walk-in-closet, causing Patrick’s brow to furrow. Had they left the light on last night? He doesn’t think so.
He gets out of bed, shivering when his feet hit the cold floor, and tiptoes to the closet, trying not to let his feet linger too long on the freezing hardwood, and slowly pulls open the door. There, sitting propped up against a chest of drawers, his head resting against a stack of neatly folded sweaters on top of his cedar chest, is David. His journal lays open on his lap, his pen on the floor beside him, just out of reach of his sleep-slackened hand.
Patrick’s heartstrings pull taught in his chest. He thinks of Moira locking herself in her closet, and something akin to fear rumbles deep in his gut. He crouches down beside David and glances down at the journal, then quickly away. David’s journal is private. Yes, sometimes he’ll share snippets or little sketches, but Patrick has never read it without David’s permission. And he’s not about to start now. Instead he picks up David’s pen and tucks it between the pages before flipping the journal shut.
Placing a hand on David’s shoulder, Patrick gives him a gentle shake. “David? Baby?” David emits a groan and nestles himself further into his sweaters. “Come on, sweetheart. You can’t sleep here.”
Dark brown eyes blink open and peer owlishly up at him. They’re rimmed red with exhaustion, and Patrick can see the tracks from tears that have long since dried on David’s cheeks.
“Wh-what?” David mumbles, closing his eyes once more. “Patrick?”
“Hey, baby,” Patrick soothes, running his fingers through the wild tangle of David’s curls. “What’re you doing in here?”
David yawns, reaching up to scrub his hands over his face. “I was...couldn’t sleep. I kept...the eulogy. My dad’s eulogy.”
“Okay,” Patrick says, scratching softly at David’s scalp. “But that doesn’t explain why you’re sleeping on the floor of our closet.”
“I didn’t want to wake you.” David lets out a sigh and leans into Patrick’s touch. “Alexis is in the office, and Stevie is sleeping on the couch downstairs. I didn’t want to bother her by turning on the lights. There was nowhere else for me to go.“
Patrick has the sudden urge to scoop David up in his arms, carry him back to bed and just hold him. Hold him until this has all passed. Instead he places a hand on David’s cheek, leans in and presses a lingering kiss to his temple.
“You know you’re not a bother. Stevie wouldn’t have minded. I wouldn’t have minded.”
David makes a small noise in the back of his throat and snuggles in closer to Patrick.
“Come on,” Patrick says, getting to his feet. “Let’s get you back to bed. You need your sleep, baby.”
“No!” David whines. “No,” he says again, firmer this time. Less plaintive. “No, I have to...I’m not done. I have to finish.”
“Okay, well, can you finish in a more comfortable place than the floor of our closet? You’re not your mother.” Patrick winks at him, aiming for levity. David scowls in response, but it’s not a real scowl. It’s the scowl he puts on when he feels like Patrick is seeing too much of him. It’s not a scowl he’s seen often, not lately. Not since they were married. “Let’s get you back into bed. Get you nice and warm and comfy, okay?”
“But I’ll just fall asleep,” David argues, although Patrick can tell it’s just for show. David is losing steam, his eyes are blinking tiredly out of sync, and his body is desperately telling him to rest.
“I mean, would that be the worst thing to happen?” Patrick says, smiling fondly at his husband and stroking a finger along his unshaven jawline. “Come on. You need your beauty sleep.”
“Rude,” David mutters. “It’s rude to tell people they need beauty sleep, Patrick.” But he allows Patrick to pull him to his feet anyway. He picks up his journal and lets himself be led back to bed. By the time Patrick has him tucked under the covers, David is already asleep. Patrick carefully pries the journal from his fingers and sets it on his bedside table. Then he crawls in beside him and just watches the steady rise and fall of David’s chest until their breaths are in sync and his eyelids have grown so heavy that, entirely without his permission, they close and he is lost to sleep.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” Marcy says when Patrick walks into the kitchen a few short hours later. The sun is bright in the cloudless sky. It’s going to be a beautiful day. His mom had texted him not long ago, saying that she and Clint wanted to make breakfast for everyone and while Patrick had insisted that she didn’t need to do that—they could fend for themselves—he was so very grateful for the solid, loving presence of his parents at the start of what was most likely to be another long and emotional day.
“Morning, Mom,” Patrick says, kissing her cheek and accepting the cup of tea she hands him. “Morning, Dad.”
His dad looks up from his newspaper and smiles at Patrick over the rim of his reading glasses. “Morning, son,” he says. He folds the paper back on itself and hands it to Patrick. “The funeral home wrote a nice obituary for Johnny. It’s in the paper this morning.” He points it out to Patrick, who lowers himself slowly into the seat across the island from his dad, eyes fixed on the paper.
Jonathan Daniel Rose
It is with great sadness that the Rose family announces the passing of Jonathan (known as Johnny) Rose. He passed away unexpectedly at his home in Los Angeles on September 23rd. He was 75 years old.
He is survived by his loving wife of 46 years, Moira, and their two children David Rose (Patrick Brewer) of Schitt’s Creek, Ontario, and Alexis Rose of New York City, NY. Johnny was a family man and an entrepreneur, formerly of the formidable Rose Video franchise, and more recently, of the Rosebud Motel Group. A private burial for family and close friends will be held at the Schitt’s Creek Cemetery on September 26th, and the family will sit shiva at the home of David Rose and Patrick Brewer. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a charity in Johnny’s name. Please contact Elm Valley Funeral Home for details.
Patrick hands the paper back to his dad. “That’s nice,” he says. “Thanks for showing me.”
Having accepted the paper, Clint sets it beside his empty plate, and takes off his readers, placing them on top of the paper. He looks appraisingly at Patrick over the rim of his coffee cup. “Rough night?”
Patrick smiles ruefully. “How could you tell?”
“Well, aside from all the, uh, drama last night,” his dad says, making finger quotes around the word drama, “The bags under your eyes are a dead giveaway.” Patrick sighs and presses his thumbs against his eyes, willing the tired, sandy feeling beneath his eyelids to go away. “You alright, kiddo?”
“Yeah. Yes,” Patrick tries to assure his dad. “Just, David was up most of the night trying to write Johnny’s eulogy. While sitting on the floor of our closet.”
“You poor boys,” Marcy says, placing a plate of bacon, eggs and toast in front of Patrick. “Is he coming down for breakfast? Stevie already ate and went back to her place to find something appropriate to wear to the burial today, and Alexis and Moira are still in bed.”
“I should take some coffee up to him,” Patrick says, getting to his feet. He feels a hand on his shoulder, easing him back down onto his stool, and turns to see David standing behind him looking bleary and disheveled.
“It’s okay. I’m up,” David says. He gives Patrick’s shoulder a squeeze, bends to plant a kiss to the top of his head. Then he rounds the island to kiss Marcy’s cheek and accept a mug brimming with coffee. “Morning.”
“Good morning. My God, David. That beard!” She smiles and pats his cheek. “Are you hungry, dear?”
David shakes his head. “No, thank you.” He sits down beside Patrick and leans over, resting his head against Patrick’s shoulder. Marcy frowns at him.
“David, you barely ate anything last night. You’ve got a long day ahead of you,” she says, hands on her hips, her tone gentle but no-nonsense. “I cannot, in good conscience, let you go without breakfast. Not today.”
David groans, but acquiesces. He’s learning, Patrick thinks fondly. Marcy Brewer might look like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but she has an iron will. And she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She smiles and nods, all soft around the edges again, and turns back to the stove to fix a plate for David. She sets it down in front of him and leans in to kiss his bristled cheek before she sits down with her own breakfast.
“So, after the service this afternoon, I was thinking we could have some of your dad’s favourite food for dinner. That might be a nice way to remember him,” she says softly. She takes a bite of her toast, and Patrick can see her eyes are laser focused on the way David is pushing his scrambled eggs around on his plate.
“That would be fine,” David says tonelessly. He picks up a piece of toast and nibbles at the corner before setting it down again and picking up his fork, only to shove his eggs from one side of his plate to the other.
“I was thinking meatloaf. I could do a brisket if I got it in the oven in time. Or Stevie mentioned egg salad sandwiches?”
“David,” Patrick whisper-hisses, nudging his husband with his elbow. David looks up at him, startled.
“What? Huh?” Seeing Patrick’s raised eyebrows and warning look, he winces, then turns to Marcy. “Sorry, Marcy. Yes, that sounds perfect. He loved your meatloaf. And egg salad was a particular favourite of my dad’s. Especially after...especially when...” He trails off, setting his fork down on the edge of his plate. “I’m sorry. I’m just...I’m not very hungry. I think I’m just going to go back upstairs and try to finish the, um, the eulogy. I’m sorry.”
Three sets of concerned eyes watch him go. Patrick sighs and rests his elbows on the counter, putting his face in his hands and letting out a low groan.
“Patrick,” his mom begins. “Honey, he can’t just not eat.”
“I know,” Patrick sighs. “It’s...this is different. For him. I’m used to trying to get him to stop eating when he’s stressed. So I don’t…Let me just finish my breakfast and I’ll take his plate up to him.”
He scoops up a forkful of eggs and brings it to his mouth. His own appetite is suddenly non-existent, but under his mother’s watchful gaze he doesn’t dare leave the table without at least trying to finish half of it before he gets to his feet, picking up both plates and heading for the stairs, offering her an apologetic shrug as he goes.
When he enters the bedroom, David is sitting cross-legged on the bed with his journal open on his lap. He looks up at the creak of the door opening and frowns at the plates balanced in Patrick’s hands.
“I said I wasn’t hungry,” he says, his tone sharper than he’d dared in front of his in-laws. He drops his gaze back to his journal.
“Yeah, well. Neither am I, but we need to eat. It’s going to be a long day.”
Even though his attention is focused on his writing, Patrick can tell David rolls his eyes. And that’s just...that’s just it.
“David, you need to eat,” Patrick says, all cajoling and coddling gone from his voice. “And so-help-me-God, if I have to hold you down and spoon feed you, I will.”
“Oh my fucking God,” David scoffs, snapping his journal shut and tossing it onto the bed beside him. “I am not a child, Patrick.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” The words are out of Patrick’s mouth before he can think better of them, and he regrets them instantly. They’re both exhausted and stressed and emotionally overwrought. He takes in a deep breath, about to apologize, when David is up off the bed, crossing to their en-suite bathroom.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” David snarls, his tone about as far from sorry as it’s possible to get. “Am I not behaving the way I’m supposed to? Is there some guidebook for how to behave when your father has died and your mother doesn’t want to see your face because it ‘distresses’ her, and everyone is coming to you asking, ‘What about this David? Can you take care of this, David? Why are you doing it that way, David? Why aren’t you eating, David? How come you aren’t sleeping, David? Why don’t you just know how to fix this, David?’ And I just...I don’t—”
He pauses, gasping and breathless, tears streaming down his face. “I’m doing the best I can, Patrick. And I don’t need you or anybody else nagging me, okay? So just...just fuck off and leave me alone!”
He slams the bathroom door behind him. The picture frame on the wall next to the door jumps, then settles off-kilter. Hot tears burn behind Patrick’s eyes and cloud his vision. He sets the plates down on the bench at the foot of the bed and sinks down onto the mattress, head in his hands. He gives himself one minute to be upset, to let the shock of David’s anger and his heated words settle somewhere deep in his chest. Then he wipes his eyes, blows his nose, and goes to straighten the frame. He stares at the slip of receipt paper tucked safely beneath the glass. He can hear David crying on the other side of the door and he feels the heavy weight of failure settle in the pit of his stomach. He lingers for a moment outside the bathroom, his hand poised over the doorknob. He wants to knock. He wants to go in. But his father's words from yesterday float through his mind.
Help David when he asks for it, and give him space when he doesn’t.
So Patrick gives him space. He leaves David’s plate on the bench, and picks up his own. Upon opening the bedroom door, he finds Alexis peering anxiously at him from the office across the hall.
“Patrick?” Her fingers twist a strand of hair that has fallen from the knot at the top of her head and her eyes are wide with concern. “Are you okay?”
“It’s fine, Alexis. I’m fine.”
She tugs on her earlobes and her expressive face twists into a worried frown. “Should I...do you want me to talk to him?” she asks. “I know last night must have been like, super hard for him. Because Mom was like, totally not cool at all.”
Patrick tries to affix something like a smile to his face. “Thanks, Alexis. But I think he just needs some time alone.” She nods, her brows still furrowed. He glances down at the plate in his hand, then looks back up at her. “Um, my mom made breakfast. If you want some.”
“Patrick!” Alexis’s face breaks into a wide smile. “Your mom is just the cutest little muffin!” she declares. She loops her arm through Patrick’s and together they go downstairs.
Half an hour later, Patrick and Alexis are chatting quietly around the kitchen island with Marcy and Clint, peeling hard boiled eggs for the egg salad sandwiches Marcy plans on making later. The quiet cough of a throat being cleared has Patrick looking up to see David standing awkwardly in the doorway leading to the hall, his hair damp and hanging in loose curls at his temples from the shower, his mostly empty plate clutched tightly in his hands.
“I, um...can I talk to you? For just a sec?” He asks, eyes downcast, jaw working hard to keep his face from giving too much away.
“You know, my legs could do with a bit of a stretch,” Clint says, standing and putting a supportive hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “Marcy? Why don’t we go for a walk around the block?”
“Oh. Um. Yes, that’s a good...let’s do that,” she says. “And Alexis, wasn’t there something...up in the office maybe?”
Alexis blinks at the pair of them. “Um, no. I’m fine.”
“You could come on a walk with us,” Clint suggests, but Alexis rears back, her hands fluttering around in front of her.
“Ew! I’m still in my pyjamas!”
“Ohmygod, Alexis! Take a hint!” David barks, glancing significantly at Patrick, then back at his sister. If this morning's argument hadn’t upset him so much, Patrick would have found David’s complete lack of chill amusing. As it is, he drops his attention back to peeling eggs.
“God, David. Fine!” Alexis snaps at her brother. “You don’t have to be such a grumpy bear all the time. Ugh!”
They both wait until they hear the front door open and close, and Alexis’s footfalls have trailed away upstairs. Then David slowly makes his way to Patrick, placing his plate on the counter and sitting down on Alexis’s abandoned stool.
“I’m so sorry, Patrick,” he begins, his voice gravelled with emotion, hands clenched tightly on the counter in front of him. Out of the corner of his eye, Patrick watches him twist and pull at his rings, taking them off and putting them back on in different formations on his fingers. He finally settles for two on his ring finger and one each on his middle and index fingers. “I, um. I shouldn’t have...you didn’t deserve to be spoken to that way, and I...God. Patrick, I am so, so sorry.”
Patrick nods, but continues working to peel the eggs. He hears David sniff, choke back a sob. He closes his eyes and lets out a long, slow breath.
“You have to take care of yourself, David,” Patrick says quietly. He grabs another egg from the bowl and taps it gently on the counter. “That is all I’m asking of you. Nothing else.”
“And if you can’t or won’t take care of yourself, then you need to let me help you. Because watching you treat yourself this way is not something I can do.”
David makes a small, broken sound, like he wants to say something, but it’s caught somewhere between his chest and his mouth. Patrick finally looks up at him, and the part of him that was angry melts away at the look of abject sorrow and contrition on David’s face.
“I c-can’t...I can’t do this without you,” he stammers, stumbling over his words. “Please. I’m so sorry, Patrick. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
David buries his face in his hands, his shoulders shuddering with deep, convulsive sobs. Patrick swivels on his stool to face him, pulling him into his arms. David collapses against him, pressing his face into the crook of Patrick’s neck, breathing his apologies into the collar of Patrick’s t-shirt.
“Shhh,” he shushes, bundling David closer, smoothing his hands up and down his back, kneading at the clenched knots of muscle in his shoulders. “Shhh. I know, baby. I know you’re sorry. I’m sorry too.”
“It’s too much, Patrick,” David whispers against his skin.
Patrick closes his eyes and flutters a trail of delicate little kisses from David’s shoulder, up his neck, until his lips are poised over David’s ear. “Maybe it’s too much for one person, baby,” he whispers. “But you’ve got me. I’m here for you, okay? Let me help you?”
He can feel David nodding, hear him hiccuping as he tries to collect himself. Patrick pulls back, taking David’s face in his hands. He’s a gasping, wheezing, snotty mess. His eyes are red and puffy, and his skin is mottled and ruddy, and the stubble on his cheeks is three days too long. And he’s the most beautiful thing Patrick has ever seen.
“What do you need, David?” Patrick asks, kissing the tip of David’s nose, the point of his chin, the jut of his jaw.
“I can’t...the mirrors.” David looks pleadingly at Patrick, like he’s supposed to know what that means.
“I don’t...David, you wanted to cover the mirrors!”
“I know,” David sniffles. “I just—Patrick, I can’t make this—“ He gestures to the dark circles under his eyes, his wild nest of unruly curls, the beard that is threatening to overgrow his face ”—presentable if I can’t see what I’m doing!”
“Oh my...David!” Patrick can’t help but laugh. God, he loves this ridiculous, beautiful man. He pinches David’s chin between his thumb and his forefinger, turning his face this way and that, making a show of assessing his features. “Yeah. I guess I can help with this. I mean, it’s not going to be easy. You’re kind of a mess, babe.”
Patrick can see the relief flicker in David’s eyes, as if he wasn’t entirely sure—not until this moment, until they were back to the familiar banter that has always been the backbone of their relationship—that he is truly forgiven for the harsh words he’d spoken. “You really are the rudest man I’ve ever met,” David chuckles wetly. And Patrick absolutely has to kiss him.
He noses at David’s cheek, then presses his lips to David’s in a slow, gentle kiss. When they pull apart, Patrick runs his fingers through David’s hair. “Come on,” he says, standing and pulling David to his feet. “Let’s see what we can do with this.”
David huffs at him, and Patrick can’t help but smile. “You know I like you like this, right? You’re gorgeous, just like this.”
David tears up at this, his emotions apparently just below the surface today, which Patrick completely understands.
“I just...I need to feel like me,” David says quietly. “Like, the me that I let other people see. I...” He trails off, squeezing his eyes shut as he searches for the right words.
But Patrick knows. Of course he knows. Today, more than any other day, David needs his armour. He needs to feel safe and secure beneath his layers of couture and cosmetics. He squeezes David’s hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing the thin gold band that matches the one Patrick wears.
“I love you,” David says softly, and Patrick smiles.
“I know, baby. I love you too.” He gives David one more reassuring kiss, just because he can, and then he tugs him down the hall. “Now, let’s go. I’ve really got my work cut out for me this morning.”
David squawks a protest, but squeezes Patrick’s hand in gratitude as they climb the stairs.
As always, thanks to whetherwoman and NeelyO for all the love. I actually got told “fuck you” for this chapter, so I’m pretty pleased 😄.
As always, your thoughts/feelings are most welcome (and actively encouraged!) as we near the end of this story. Thank you all so much for reading, for sticking with what I know hasn’t been an easy ride, and for your continued support.
When Patrick comes downstairs again, everyone is gathered in the kitchen, cups of tea and coffee in front of them as they sit around the island. His mom and dad, Mrs. Rose, Stevie and Alexis all look up when he enters, expectant looks on their faces.
“He’s just getting dressed,” he says, grabbing a mug from the cupboard and pouring himself a cup of coffee. He tips a little cream into the mug, watching the liquid go from darkest brown to the caramel colour he prefers on those rare occasions when he chooses coffee over his usual tea. He gives it a quick stir with a spoon and then brings it to his lips, sighing at the rich bitter taste. He doesn’t usually like coffee, but he’s tired and his body could use the jolt. He’s glad he let David convince him to spend a little extra to get the good beans, which they grind fresh every morning.
“You look very handsome, sweetheart,” Marcy says, smiling at him from across the kitchen. He glances down at his suit. It’s the one he wore the day he married David. He grins, rubbing a slightly self-conscious hand over his belly, where the suit is a little more snug than it was the last time he put it on over seven years ago.
“Thanks, Mom,” he says. He glances over at Stevie, who is also wearing the black suit she wore to their wedding. She eyes him up and down, then looks down at herself. They make eye contact and grin at one another.
Alexis wears a fitted black pantsuit with a thin pinstripe of what Patrick initially thought was white, but looking closer, he sees it’s a pale pink. Her hair is slicked back into a long, sleek ponytail and her makeup is subdued. She looks wonderful, and Patrick tells her so.
She smiles and reaches out a long, elegant finger to touch the tip of his nose. “Boop,” she says. From close up, he can see the wetness already building in her eyes, the way her lips tremble slightly around her smile.
“Is that a new necklace?” he asks, trying to keep the conversation flowing, not wanting her to get too bogged down in her emotions. Not yet.
The pendant is of an open hand, with an eye embedded in the palm. Alexis touches it with the tips of her fingers. “It’s actually really old,” she says, letting the pendant lay flat against her chest once more. “It’s a hamsa pendant, and my...my dad gave it to me for my Bat Mitzvah. I mean, he also gave me a pony, which I was like, way more excited about at the time. But eventually, I got bored of the pony, and the necklace is still here, so.” She shrugs. “I haven’t actually worn it for a long time, but I thought today…” She fingers the necklace lovingly, blinking against her tears.
Patrick pulls her close, hugging her tightly. She wraps her arms around his neck—the same way David does—and tucks her forehead against his shoulder, sniffling daintily. “I miss him,” she whispers, low enough so only Patrick can hear.
“I know,” he replies softly, matching her tone. “I do too.”
Over Alexis’s shoulder, Patrick sees Moira using the corner of a napkin to dab at her eyes. He squeezes Alexis once more, then lets go, receiving another smile and a second nose boop. He goes to Moira, handing her a fresh napkin. She accepts it with a trembling smile, touching it to the corner of her eye. She’s put on less makeup today than she usually does, and is wearing a simple black dress and minimal jewelry that—for Moira—could almost be considered understated.
“You look lovely, Mrs. Rose,” he says. “Can I get you anything? Have you eaten?”
Moira pats his hand and crumples up the napkin in her other fist. “Oh, your mother insisted that I partake in a petit dejeuner, lest I waste away in my grief.”
He smiles and gives her hand a squeeze. “Good. I’m glad.”
“Patrick,” Moira says, fingers holding tight to his when he tries to pull his hand away. “I...I must offer my sincerest apologies for my reprehensible conduct yestereve.”
Patrick nods his head, offering her a small smile. “Well, thank you, Mrs. Rose. But...I’m not sure that I’m the one who needs to hear your apology.”
Moira sighs, but nods in agreement. “Of course, dear Pat,” she says. “I shall offer David a most sincere mea culpa, and attempt to comport myself with greater solicitousness for his feelings, and the feelings of those around me. I am, after all, not the only one in mourning here, am I?”
“We all miss him,” Patrick says. To his surprise, Moira opens her arms, inviting him in for a hug. “Oh, um…” he falters, rarely having been on the receiving end of an embrace from his mother-in-law.
She wraps her arms around him, and he tentatively puts his hands on her back. She feels small in his arms. Small, but not frail. There’s a strength to her that he realizes he has never really recognized before. “I’m so glad he has you,” she whispers in his ear, and Patrick feels the prickle of tears behind his eyes. “My son is so fortunate to have found you.”
“I...I’m the fortunate one,” Patrick croaks out in response.
Moira pulls back and puts a hand to his cheek. “Then let us say that you are both favoured by fortune to have found one another, and leave it at that, shall we?”
Patrick smiles and nods. “That sounds like an excellent idea, Mrs. Rose.”
“Ew. Why are you touching my husband?”
David’s voice breaks the tender moment. Moira scoffs, but removes her hand and Patrick turns to see David in the doorway, a small smile tugging at one side of his mouth. He looks gorgeous, in a slim fitting black suit with a crisp white shirt. There haven’t been many opportunities over the years to see David dressed up like this. The skirted suit he’d worn to their wedding was the last time, if Patrick remembers correctly. This is different—sleeker, simpler—but no less stunning. Patrick is absolutely stunned.
“Can you—“ David says, holding out a thin black tie. “I can’t do it without a mirror. I keep making the tail too long.”
“Sure,” Patrick breathes. How his husband can still do this to him, still take his breath away like this after seven years of marriage is beyond him. He wipes his clammy palms on his pants and takes the tie from David’s hand.
He loops the tie around David’s neck, carefully pulling up the stiff collar of his shirt. He doesn’t dare look David in the eye, afraid he will give away all of the emotions that he is trying so hard to keep under wraps. David has his mother and sister—and himself—to worry about today. He doesn’t need any other distractions. As his fingers fumble with the fabric of the tie, he feels David’s hand at his waist.
“You look very nice,” David murmurs, so only Patrick can hear.
He can feel his face flushing with warmth. “Thank you. So do you.”
“Well, I had help.” David’s hand slips around under Patrick’s jacket, to the small of his back. “Thank you, Patrick.”
Patrick knows that David's thanks is not just about tying his tie, or helping him shave his beard back to its familiar five o’clock shadow, or making sure his hair is just so, and not too poofy (“My hair is never ‘poofy’, Patrick. It’s voluminous”). It’s for all the things David didn’t even know he needed.
“There,” Patrick says, folding the stiff collar back into place and smoothing the tie down against David’s chest. “You’re perfect.”
He finally looks up at David, and the sheer volume of the love and trust he sees in his eyes is almost staggering.
“You’re perfect,” he says, the hand at the small of Patrick’s back pulling him closer. David doesn’t kiss him, just closes his eyes and rests his forehead against Patrick’s, the tips of their noses touching. “I love you so fucking much,” David murmurs into the small space between them.
Patrick can feel his chin begin to wobble, and he blinks against the hot sting of tears behind his eyes. He knows David loves him, knows it like instinct, like he knows how to breathe. But David doesn’t often say it first, still after all these years. And when he does it’s like the clouds part and a beam of light shines right into Patrick’s heart, warming him from the inside out. He didn’t realize he needed to hear those words from David today. But David knew, because he knows Patrick. Loves Patrick. He knows when Patrick needs to be told, needs to hear the words that mean he is David’s and David is his.
“Thank you, David,” Patrick manages to croak around the lump lodged solidly in his throat. David nudges Patrick’s nose with his own, then pulls back, wrapping a hand around the nape of Patrick’s neck and planting a kiss to his forehead. Patrick opens his eyes and looks up at David, who looks a little teary-eyed himself, and they smile at one another. Behind him, someone—his mom, he thinks—clears their throat, reminding them that although this is their kitchen, their house, they are not alone. Not today.
They sit around the kitchen finishing their tea and coffee. The conversation is careful. No one wants to be the first one to mention the reason they’re all here, all dressed in somber colours on a beautiful fall day. Patrick notices that David is studiously avoiding looking at Moira, while she tries to sneak glances at her son, as if waiting for a chance to catch his attention. He feels for her. He knows she feels regret for how she behaved, how she hurt David with her thoughtless words, but he also doesn’t want to interfere. David has the right to protect himself—even from his own mother—if he has to. Patrick only hopes that they can patch things up before too long. He would hate for David to lose his father and his relationship with his mother in the same week.
David glances down at his phone and sighs. “Ruth just texted me. The cars will be here in about twenty minutes to pick us up.”
He gets up and picks up a few of the mugs from the counter. Marcy takes them from him and shoos him out of the kitchen, telling him that she and Clint will take care of tidying up, and that David and Patrick should go with Moira and Alexis in the first car. She, Clint and Stevie will ride in the second.
“No, that’s...Stevie can go with my mom and Alexis,” David says quietly, and over his shoulder, Patrick sees Moira’s face fall. She turns and walks away, down the hall toward the living room, head held high.
Patrick sighs as he watches her go. He places his hand on David’s back, guiding him over to the corner where they can talk privately, all the while rubbing slow circles between his shoulder blades. “You sure you don’t want to talk to your mom before we go?” David closes his eyes and tilts his head back, hands clenched into fists at his side. “Honey, you don’t want to look back on today and regret that there were bad feelings between the two of you.”
David shakes his head. “I am not apologizing to her. I didn’t do anything wrong,” he whisper-hisses. Patrick leans in to kiss his cheek.
“I didn’t say you should apologize,” he assures his husband. “I just said you should talk to her.”
David stares back at him, his expression unreadable. He chews thoughtfully at the inside of his lower lip. “Fine,” he says, eventually. “But if she says anything awful to me, you are sleeping on the couch and Stevie can sleep with me.”
“That’s a fair deal,” Patrick agrees with a soft smile. He leans in, and David dips his head down, and they share a kiss. “Now go on. The cars will be here soon.”
David turns to follow his mother’s path down the hall. Patrick watches him go, hoping for David’s sake that Moira makes good on her promised apology.
Fifteen minutes later, Patrick ventures a peek into the living room. David and Moira are sitting on the couch, heads bowed close together, talking quietly. He knocks gently on the doorframe, offering an apologetic smile.
“Sorry to interrupt, but the cars will be here in about five minutes,” he says.
Moira nods at him with a smile. Then she turns back to David, reaching out to place a hand on his cheek. “David, your absolution of my reprehensible behaviour has leavened my heavy heart. Thank you.”
David sniffs and rolls his eyes. “Of course I forgive you,” he says. A small smirk begins to tug at one side of his mouth. “Besides, who else are you going to turn to for an honest opinion on your red carpet looks? Alexis? Please.”
“Um, I heard that!” Alexis calls out from the kitchen.
David grins at Patrick, then focuses back on his mother. “I love you, Mom,” he says quietly.
“Oh, my darling,” Moira says, her eyes going misty and her voice wavering. “I know. I love you too.” She pats his cheek. “Even if I am not always the most efficacious at exhibiting my affections.”
She reaches into her purse and extracts a small black pouch, tied together with a thin black rope. “Here,” she says, handing the pouch to David. “This belonged to your father. I think he would have liked you to have it.”
David’s mouth twists off to the side, his brows creased with the effort of controlling his emotions. “Mom,” he says softly.
“Open it, David. You’ll see.” Moira pats David’s knee, leaving her hand there as he carefully pulls open the pouch, extracting the contents. His eyes fill with tears and he brings a shaking hand to his face to swipe at the moisture trickling down his cheeks. “It was your grandfather’s kippah,” Moira explains. “Passed down to your father when he...when he died. I found it when I was...I found it in the closet, while we were waiting for you to come and bring us home.”
David unfolds the object in his hand. It’s a small, round piece of black fabric, ornately embroidered with gold and silver thread. Patrick watches as David hands it to his mother, then turns in his seat, facing away from her. “Can you? Please?” he asks.
Moira carefully sets the kippah on the crown of David’s head. Then she reaches back into her purse and pulls out a few hair pins, which she uses to affix it to David’s hair. She leans forward and kisses the back of David’s head. “There you go,” she says, and David turns and gathers his mother up into a tight hug.
He whispers something in Moira’s ear and she pulls back from the hug and takes David’s face in her hands. She casts a quick glance in Patrick’s direction, and he sniffs and surreptitiously flicks away the tears threatening at the corners of his eyes before he smiles at Moira. “Thank you,” he mouths. Moira nods graciously in response.
The doorbell rings, and Patrick quickly crosses the room to answer it. A man stands on the front steps. Over his shoulder Patrick can see two sleek black SUVs in the driveway and another man, similarly dressed, standing beside one of the vehicles. “Mr. Rose?”
Patrick stiffens, glancing hesitantly over his shoulder at David and Moira. He turns back to the driver. “Actually, I'm Mr. Brewer,” he says, shaking the man’s hand. “But you’ve got the right place. David?”
David joins him at the doorway. “Hi. David Rose,” he says, shaking hands. “And it’s...it’s just David.”
The driver nods. “Of course, sir. Is your party ready to go?”
They all gather their things and head out onto the driveway, Patrick locking up the house behind them. David, Moira and Alexis are already seated in the backseat of one of the roomy SUVs, and his mom and dad are just climbing into the backseat of the other. He comes up beside Stevie.
“You want to ride with David?” he asks. Stevie turns to him and shrugs.
“I mean, if you want me to, I can,” she says. “But I don’t mind riding with your parents.” She nudges Patrick toward the car with the Roses. “They’re your family, Patrick. They need you right now.”
“They’re your family too, Stevie,” Patrick argues.
She rolls her eyes at him, shoving him toward the car. “Yeah, but your mom has candy in her purse. The good kind, not those nasty little mints my Aunt Maureen always had in hers.”
With a chuckle, Patrick acquiesces and hoists himself up into the backseat. David is sitting beside Moira, one of her hands clasped tightly in his. Patrick sits down next to Alexis in the row behind them and she instantly loops her arm through his and rests her head on his shoulder.
“Everybody in? Buckled up?” the driver asks, climbing into the front seat. His question is met with a chorus of yeses from the back seats. He buckles himself in and slowly begins to reverse out of the driveway.
It’s not a long drive to the cemetery, maybe fifteen minutes. But it is quiet. They are all lost in their own thoughts, the silence interspersed with soft sniffles or the quiet rustle of fabric. Soon, the vehicle turns off the main road, and suddenly they’re there. The cemetery gate looms ahead of them and Patrick feels Alexis’s arm tighten against his, hears Moira let out a muted sob.
Patrick’s chest tightens. A small group of familiar faces has already gathered just inside the gates of the cemetery. He can see Roland and Jocelyn, Twyla, Ronnie, Ray, Bob, and a smattering of Jazzagals. He recognizes Ruth from the trip he, David and Stevie had taken to New York last year, where Ruth had followed Stevie along for a night on the town. She looks out of place in her professional, put-together suit amongst the more casual townspeople who have come to stand beside the Roses as they say goodbye to Johnny.
The car comes to a stop and the driver gets out, coming around to open the door. Patrick unbuckles his seatbelt, but is stayed by Moira’s voice.
“Can we...please, can we just have a moment? Just my family and I?”
The driver nods and steps away. Patrick moves to get out of the car, but Moira places a hand on his shoulder. “I said my family and I,” she repeats, squeezing Patrick’s arm. “That means you too, young man.”
Patrick looks at David, who lets out a stifled whimper, his lower lip trembling. He reaches for David’s hand, lacing their fingers together. “Okay, Mrs. Rose.”
“I know I will not be at my most eloquent later today,” Moira begins, smiling weakly around at David, Alexis, and Patrick. “So I want to say this now, while I still can.” She takes in a deep, shaky breath. “I have not always been the easiest person, as all of you can attest. I can be trying, with my whims and my flights of fancy, my mercurial moods. Each of you has fallen prey at one time or another, and yet here you are, stoically holding me up in this, my darkest hour.”
“Mom…” Alexis says, tears spilling freely down her cheeks.
“My darling Alexis,” Moira says, crooking a finger under Alexis’s chin. “You are my bright, shining star. So full of life and curiosity, not unlike myself when I was still a young ingenue. But you have a practicality in you that I never had. You get that from your father.” She smiles at Alexis and pinches her chin affectionately. “And David. My beloved David,” she says, turning to David and caressing his cheek. “You know how alike we are, but I don’t think you know how very like your father you can be. You have his big heart, his capacity for so much love. He was so proud of you, David. So proud of the life you’ve created for yourself here, the family that you’ve built around you. It’s what he always wanted for you, to finally allow yourself to give and receive all the love you deserve.”
“I...Mom…” David exhales with a shaky breath, his fingers tightening around Patrick’s.
“And sweet Patrick,” Moira says, turning to him. He feels exposed under Moira’s gaze, kind of raw. But also so protected, and so safe. “You have brought such a sense of peace to our family. Your quiet calm is the soothing balm to the maelstrom we Roses have wrought on lesser men. Your steady love for our David has permeated beyond, to encapsulate us all, and for that, I am so thankful. And so was John. We are overflowing with gratitude that you chose to embrace us, with all our many eccentricities and foibles, to see our fragile hearts and hold us close.”
Outside of their wedding day, Patrick has never heard Mrs. Rose speak with such unfiltered emotion. And for it to be directed at him? Just for loving David? For loving them? It’s...too much. He feels his resolve slipping and he lowers his forehead to rest on his hand, still joined with David’s, letting his tears fall unchecked as he heaves and sobs.
“Ohmygod,” he hears David whisper, feels David’s soft hand petting gently at the back of his neck. “Mom, you broke my husband!”
It takes Patrick longer than he cares to admit to pull himself together. He urges the Roses to go, to leave him to collect himself. People are waiting for them. He’ll be fine, he assures them. Moira excuses herself to have a quiet word with Stevie, which sends Patrick spiralling off on another crying jag. He blurts out messy, wet apologies and pleads with David and Alexis to go on, he’ll catch up. Eventually, Alexis does go, under the guise of checking on her mom and Stevie. But David stays, quietly soothing Patrick with gentle touches and tender words.
“Y-you...you should go,” Patrick tries again, only to be shushed by the loving press of David’s lips against his.
“It’s not like they can start without me,” David whispers against Patrick’s lips. He pulls back and gives Patrick a small, playful smirk. “Besides, right now everyone probably thinks it’s me in here having a breakdown. If I go and you don’t come with me, they’ll all know it’s you. And we can’t have that, can we?” He reaches out and strokes the back of a long, elegant finger along Patrick’s cheek. “And we both know that there is only room for one emotionally overwrought diva in this marriage. And as much as I know how much you love to win, this is one area where I just outshine you, honey.”
Patrick can’t help but chuckle. He pulls the package of tissue that he’d brought for David from his pocket and mops up his face. “Thank you, David,” he says, then blows his nose loudly, tucking the soiled tissue into the small plastic zip-top bag he’d stuffed into his other pocket for exactly this purpose. He returns everything to their allotted pockets, closes his eyes and takes in a deep breath, letting it out in a slow whoosh. When he opens his eyes, David leans in and kisses him, soft and quick, and together they get out of the car.
A hush falls over the assembled crowd as Patrick, David, Moira and Alexis walk up the path through the cemetery to the burial plot set aside for Johnny. A tall, sallow looking man that Patrick assumes must be the funeral director greets each of them with a handshake, ushering them toward a row of chairs lined up alongside the grave. There is a simple pine casket poised on a hoist over the hole dug into the earth, and before taking her seat, Moira reaches out and places a hand on the box, patting it lovingly.
David’s fingers tighten around Patrick’s, and he hears him exhale a trembling breath. Raising their joined hands, Patrick kisses David’s knuckles, then lets him go to take a seat beside his mother. Patrick stands behind him, letting one hand fall to rest on David’s shoulder. Alexis sits on Moira’s other side, eyes focused on her lap. Patrick can see tears falling, small drops landing on her beautiful suit. He reaches into his pocket and extracts the tissues, handing a few to Alexis. She accepts them with a grateful sniff, and Patrick turns his attention back to watch their community, their friends and family, gather around the gravesite. He feels a hand tuck into the crook of his elbow and he smiles at his mom standing beside him. His dad smiles at him over her head, reaching around to give his shoulder a supportive squeeze.
The funeral director—he had introduced himself, but Patrick cannot for the life of him remember his name—takes his place behind the podium at the head of the casket and taps the microphone once with a long, boney finger. The small speakers perched up on tripods placed on either side of the podium let out twin squeals of feedback, and he carefully adjusts the mic before he begins the service.
“Family, friends. Thank you for joining us today as we say a fond farewell to Jonathan Daniel Rose. Husband, father, friend. Johnny played a special part in the lives of everyone gathered here today, and to many others who could not be with us. Let us have a moment of silence for the life of this man who meant so much to so many.”
The silence is deafening. Not even the wind blows. It’s a beautiful day, and the sun warms Patrick’s face as he looks around at his fellow mourners. Roland is openly crying, wiping his nose frequently on a rather soggy handkerchief that he keeps tucking back into the pocket of his ill-fitting suit, only to pull it out again seconds later. Jocelyn stands with her arm looped through Roland’s, her head resting on his shoulder. Patrick thinks it might be the first time he has ever seen her without her habitual smile on her face.
Beside Jocelyn, Ronnie stands stoically in a very flattering black jumpsuit, hands shoved deep into her pockets. She catches Patrick’s eye and nods solemnly before averting her gaze elsewhere, as does Patrick. Out of the corner of his eye, though, he thinks he sees her dash a tear from her face before her hand retreats back into the depths of her pocket.
Patrick looks down the row of standing guests and sees Stevie tucked in between Twyla and Ruth. Twyla has an arm slung tightly across Stevie’s shoulders, tucking her into her side. Ruth has her arm looped with Stevie’s and stands with her head bowed.
“Thank you all,” the funeral director says in a hushed voice. “Now, the Roses have elected to have Johnny’s son, David, say a few words on behalf of the family. David?”
Patrick gives David’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze. He can feel the nerves radiating off of David in waves as he leans in to kiss Moira’s cheek. Alexis reaches across their mother to boop him on the nose, and David lets her—either too nervous or too distracted to bother swatting her hand away. Then he stands and turns to Patrick. His dark eyes are bright with unshed tears. He looks terrified.
“Hey. You can do this,” Patrick says, wrapping a hand firmly around the nape of David’s neck and pulling him close—as close as he can with the chair awkwardly between them—for a kiss. “I’m right here, okay? You’ve got this, David.”
“Okay,” David whispers, his voice barely audible. “Okay.” It’s stronger the second time. Not by much, but Patrick gives him a smile and kisses him again.
The funeral director takes a step back behind the speakers as David walks slowly up to the podium. He fumbles in his inside pocket, pulling out his journal. He opens it and smoothes a hand along the crease, closing his eyes, tilting his head back, and inhaling a deep breath. He blows it out slowly, opens his eyes, then adjusts the microphone and begins to speak.
“Um, hi. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is David Rose. My mother, Moira, and my sister, Alexis, and I would like to thank you all for coming today to celebrate and remember my dad, Johnny Rose.” His voice has a slight tremble to it as he speaks, and his words sound rote and almost robotic. Patrick mentally berates himself. He should have let David practice in front of him, given him the chance to say the words out loud at least once before having to do it in front of all these people.
David looks up from his journal, his eyes wide with trepidation. Patrick smiles and gives him a discreet thumbs up, which seems to give David the boost he needs to carry on. He clears his throat and continues.
“For a long time, um, I didn’t know my dad very well. H-he was this serious man in a suit who came in and out of my life. He was busy running a business. A very successful business.” David looks up again and Patrick nods for him to go on. “A-as a kid, um, I didn’t understand why he was away. I was just mad that he was gone. As an adult, I understand a little bit better. He was taking care of our family in the best way he knew how. By making sure we were financially stable.” David pauses, looking out at the crowd and rolling his eyes in that self-deprecating way he has. “Well, more than stable. He made sure that we had everything we could ever want.
“Because my dad didn’t have that, growing up,” David continues, his voice growing a little stronger and a little more confident with every word. “He was born into a poor family in Sudbury in 1949 and had to get a job really young. He grew up fast, and learned the value of a dollar. And then he spent most of the rest of his life making sure that Mom, Alexis and I never had the same worries that he did as a kid. He wanted the best for us, all the time. Whatever we wanted, he gave it to us.
“Until he couldn’t anymore. Because a trusted friend took advantage of him, and we lost everything. And I do mean everything.” He pauses, sniffling and wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. “Everything except...except this town.” He hesitates again and the microphone picks up his shaky little exhale. “And as traumatizing as it was for us all to find ourselves here, living in two small motel rooms with nothing to our names but our clothes—“ David looks up from his journal again and directs a fond little smile at his mother, “—and wigs—I think we can all agree that coming here...well, it was the best thing that ever happened to us.”
Patrick reaches into his pocket for the tissues, pulling one out and using it to dab at his eyes. He is so grateful that David—that all the Roses—had come to Schitt’s Creek, that they were already here when he moved to town. He can’t imagine his life without them. He doesn’t want to. But he forgets sometimes, that it was a terrible tragedy that brought them here, that allowed them to become part of his life, part of his family. His mom squeezes his arm and hands him a candy from her purse. He chuckles wetly and pops it into his mouth. Stevie was right. They are good.
“Because coming here,” David says, his voice catching with emotion, “losing everything, meant that we finally got the one thing we’d never had. We got each other.” He smiles at his mom and sister, then up at Patrick. “It wasn’t always pretty. Some of you were here then, welcoming these loud, ungrateful people into your town, into your lives, and your homes. You know how we were—”
“Yeah we do!” Roland calls out, followed by an “Oof. Ouch!” as Jocelyn lands a pointed elbow in his ribs.
“Thanks Roland,” David says with a roll of his eyes. “But you also know how we are now. And we are all so much better for all the kindness that was extended to us here.
“This place was the first place I think any of us ever really called home.” In front of him, Patrick can see Moira and Alexis nodding along with David’s words. “And for me,” he pauses, looking directly at Patrick, a soft smile touching the corners of his lips, “it still is home. And my dad...I think he felt that way too. Which is why he wanted to be buried here. He wanted to be in a place where people knew his name, and not just because it was on the front of a building, or because he signed the paycheques. A place where the people he saw every day were his friends. His family. He wanted to be buried here, because all of you made this his home.”
People are openly sobbing now. Jocelyn, Ruth, Twyla, Ronnie. Ray is a mess, and Patrick can’t help but notice he has handed out small packages of tissues with his face and phone number printed on them, along with a list of his many businesses. He shakes his head fondly while wiping his nose with a tissue from his own, Ray-free pack.
David waits for the tears to die down before he speaks again. “Even though business took him away again, it was different this time. I know he stayed in touch with many of you, because your friendships meant so much to him. So on behalf of my dad and our family, I would like to thank you for coming today, and for welcoming us all those years ago, when we had no idea what it really meant to be welcomed, and for giving us a place to call home. Thank you.”
Closing his journal, David turns to nod at the funeral director before making his way quickly back to his seat, his head bowed to hide the tears he can no longer keep at bay. He’s barely situated before Moira draws him in for a hug. Alexis comes around his other side, wrapping herself around his back and enfolding both her mother and her brother in her arms. He can hear David crying now, really crying. He’d held himself together just long enough, done so well, spoken so eloquently. Patrick is filled with the conflicting emotions of pride and sorrow. He wants to hold David so badly that his fingers ache with the need to reach out for him. But it’s not his time, it’s not his turn.
He feels a small hand slide into his and he turns his head to see Stevie standing beside him. She’s a wreck—they all are—and she looks back at him with quivering lips and shining eyes and a runny nose and he knows exactly how she feels. He pulls her close and wraps his arms tightly around her, and she does the same. And they hold one another and cry, then laugh quietly about what complete disasters they are before they start crying again.
The funeral director stands at the podium in respectful silence until the majority of the tears have subsided.
“Thank you, David,” he says, smiling in the direction of the remaining members of the Rose family. Then he turns serious once more. “We will now proceed with the burial.” He nods at another man, who crouches down beside the hoist mechanism and presses a button. The whole contraption judders and shakes, and then the casket slowly begins to lower into the ground. Moira leans heavily against David and lets out a heart-wrenching wail that sends goosebumps marching up Patrick’s arms. Alexis turns her face away, tucking in against David’s neck, seemingly unable to watch. David wraps his arms around his mother and sister, holding tightly onto them as the casket disappears beneath the lip of the grave.
The silence when the hoist comes to a stop is sudden and stark. The funeral director comes toward them, speaking softly to Moira. She nods, and David helps her stand. She takes a small spade from the man and with David and Alexis on either side of her, follows him to the mound of earth beside the grave. She digs in the spade and collects a small pile of soil, tossing it into the grave, down onto the casket. She repeats the motion two more times before passing the spade to David, who adds his three spadefuls of soil, then hands it to Alexis.
David waits for Alexis to finish, then he looks over to Patrick. He gestures for him to join them, and Stevie too. Patrick frowns, uncertain. But he goes, pulling a distraught Stevie along behind him. Alexis smiles at him and hands him the spade.
“Three scoops, honey,” David murmurs in his ear.
“Are you sure? I...I’m not—“
“My dear Patrick,” Moira’s voice is soft but insistent. “How many times must we beseech you to understand that you are part of this family? And this is how our family is honouring John. So.” She gestures to the mound of earth.
He doesn’t dare argue with her, so he dutifully scoops up the soil as instructed, then gives the spade to Stevie who does the same. He feels a hand on his shoulder and turns to see David standing behind him, his features straining with the effort of keeping himself together. Patrick falters...he wants to take David in his arms—hug him, kiss him—but he doesn’t know if that’s allowed. He desperately wants to hold his husband, but he doesn’t want to be disrespectful.
David must see it on his face. He pulls Patrick to him and wraps him up tightly, arms around his shoulders. Patrick sighs against David’s neck, hands finding their familiar place on his back. “You okay?” he whispers against David’s skin. He feels David shake his head, feels his tears on the collar of his shirt.
“No...Yes...I don’t know,” David answers, voice little more than air against Patrick’s ear. Then he unravels himself from around Patrick and offers a tremulous smile. “Got any of those tissues handy? Someone gave me some with Ray’s face on them, but I just...I can’t.”
“Yeah.” Patrick reaches into his pocket and hands David the half-empty pack, giving a little shrug when David raises an eyebrow at how few are left. “What? Your speech was very moving.”
The corner of David’s mouth twitches, and he leans in to kiss Patrick one last time before they retake their places, David, Moira and Alexis in their seats, Patrick standing beside his parents, one hand on David’s shoulder. Stevie stands on his other side, her small hand clasped tightly in his.
The funeral director steps up to the podium once more. “Now, the Rose family have asked me to share that they will be sitting shiva at the home of David Rose and Patrick Brewer. They invite you to join them—starting tomorrow—to share their grief and uplift them by taking some time out of your busy schedules to visit with them and share memories of Johnny.” He takes a pause, then gestures at the Roses. “David and Alexis Rose would like to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for their father. Alexis, David? If you would like to come to the front?”
Alexis stands and smooths her hands down the front of her suit. David kisses the back of Moira’s hand, then gets to his feet and holds out his arm for Alexis to take. They take their places behind the podium and after a beat, begin to recite words that Patrick can only assume are Hebrew. He has no idea what they’re saying, but the words are beautiful, and the intent behind them is easily understood, regardless of the language in which they are spoken.
“Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di-v’ra chirutei, v’yamlich malchutei b’chayeichon, uvyomeichon uvchayei d’chol beit yisrael, ba’agala uvizman kariv, v’im’ru.”
David and Alexis pause, looking up at the assembled people, as if expecting a response. Then they look at one another and shrug, opening their mouths as if they are going to continue, when a small voice fills the silence.
“Amen,” Moira says softly. Patrick looks up at David and Alexis, who both beam at their mother through their tears.
“Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach l’alam ul’almei almaya. Yitbarach v’yishtabach, v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam v’yitnaseh, v’yithadar v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei d’kud’sha, b’rich hu, l’eila min-kol-birchata v’shirata, tushb’chata v’nechemata da’amiran b’alma, v’im’ru.”
They look up, and once again, Moira murmurs a whispered, “amen.”
“Y’hei shlama raba min-sh’maya v’chayim aleinu v’al-kol-yisrael, v’im’ru.”
Another pause. This time, Patrick quietly breathes an amen along with Moira.
“Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol-yisrael, v’imru.”
They look up a final time as several voices respond with “amen.”
David’s eyes fix on Patrick, his mouth twisted into a tight little bow, his eyes shining. He and Alexis return to their seats and Stevie bends down and kisses David’s cheek, whispering something in his ear that makes him smile. Then she presses a kiss to Patrick’s cheek before heading back to stand with Twyla and Ruth once more. David reaches behind him, fingers searching for Patrick’s.
He takes David’s hand in his, threading their fingers together.
NOTE: For anyone interested in a translation of the Mourner’s Kaddish, please click here.
Whew. That was a doozy. I need to give enormous thanks to NeelyO for working overtime on this chapter. There was so much to cover and so many feelings kept happening, and I was a soggy, sobbing mess that needed a lot of head pats. You will all be happy to know that NeelyO yelled “FUCK YOU DELILAH” at me a lot. Thank you friend 🥰.
whetherwoman has been a wealth of knowledge on Jewish burial and mourning practices and customs, in particular what might be doable on short notice in a small and remote town like Schitt’s Creek, and what David and Alexis might feel was the most important in terms of honouring their Jewish heritage. I appreciate your help more than I can express.
I have tried my best to remain respectful and mindful as I interpret these rituals through the eyes of an outsider (myself, as well as Patrick). I hope you can forgive any errors or inaccuracies, for which I take full responsibility.
Lastly, huge thanks to all of you for coming back to this story week after week. Your comments have been so incredibly uplifting, and I cannot thank you enough. We have one chapter left to go (how on earth did that happen?!?) and I am so grateful you have come along on this journey with me.
“Here you go, sweetheart.”
Patrick smiles as he accepts the glass of wine from his mom. She pats his cheek and then bustles off to the kitchen again. A spark of guilt ignites in Patrick’s stomach. His mom is a guest in their house, and he’s out here drinking wine and reminiscing while she is probably elbows deep in dirty dishes. He’s seriously contemplating getting up to join her when he feels a hand on his shoulder.
“She likes to feel useful,” his dad says quietly, nodding toward the hallway leading to the kitchen. “If you go in there and tell her to stop, she’ll just find something else to do to keep herself busy.” He pats Patrick’s arm and smiles. “Don’t worry. She’ll come in and sit down with everyone when she’s ready.”
Patrick nods at his dad, deciding that—for now—he can let it go. But he sets a timer on his phone to remind himself to go and relieve his mom from chores that she doesn’t really need to be doing in twenty minutes.
He leans back into the plush cushions of the couch and looks around the room. Stevie has found a dark corner away from the fireplace to hide with her glass of wine, Moira sits regally in a high-backed armchair that had been a housewarming gift from herself and Johnny. His dad sits in the matching chair on the other side of the fireplace, while Roland and Jocelyn—invited at Moira’s insistence—have pulled a couple of the folding chairs borrowed from town hall into the circle.
Beside him on the couch, David and his sister are talking animatedly and he reaches out to snatch David’s wine glass from his hand before it spills.
“Ohmygod, David! I can’t believe you don’t remember! It was the first time Dad hugged us—like really hugged us—after we moved here!” Alexis cries, her tone a mixture of scandalized and gloating.
“I didn’t say I don’t remember,” David huffs, taking his wine back from Patrick and taking a fortifying sip. “I said it wasn’t that memorable.”
Alexis’s face goes soft and fond and she dances her fingers up David’s arm. “He was like, so happy, remember? Because he found his button? Remember, David?”
“He wasn’t happy because he found his button, Alexis,” David replies, and Patrick can hear the eyeroll in his voice. “He was happy because I gave him money, after you spent everything that he had on raw fucking milk.”
“Excuse me! I gave him something too!”
“Yeah, a card that said ‘sorry you’re poor’ or whatever.”
“Ugh, David! My point is, that was like the first time he hugged us in like, forever. And it was...it was nice.”
David is quiet for a moment, then he says softly, “Yes. It was nice.”
Patrick puts his hand on David’s back, just to let him know that he’s there, and smiles when David leans back against his touch.
“Anyway, that’s like, a nice memory of Dad,” Alexis says, her voice a little shakier than it had been just a moment ago. “Someone else go.”
There’s a knock at the door, and Stevie jumps up from her spot in the corner to answer it, pulling it open and inviting Ruth in. David turns and raises an eyebrow at Patrick. He shrugs in response. Ruth doesn’t know many people in town, and all of the people she does know are in this room. It was actually very kind of Stevie to invite her, and he feels the knot of guilt in his stomach again for not having thought of doing so himself.
“Ruth, hi! Welcome,” he says, getting to his feet while she shrugs off her coat.
“Oh no, please don’t get up!” she insists, offering an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry to barge in on what is clearly a family gathering.” She gives Stevie a significant look.
“It’s no problem,” Patrick assures her. “We already ate, but there’s plenty of egg salad sandwiches and meatloaf left, if you’re hungry.”
She shakes her head and smiles gratefully at him. “No, I ate at the café. But thank you.”
“Here, come sit by me,” Stevie says, dragging another of the folding chairs over into her corner and setting it up for Ruth. “Want some wine?”
“That would be lovely, thank you.”
Stevie disappears into the kitchen in search of more wine and another glass. Ruth smiles awkwardly at everyone.
“We were just sharing some memories of Johnny,” Clint says kindly. “Alexis just finished and I was thinking I might share next, if that’s alright with everyone.”
Patrick is so very grateful for his dad, for his calm, welcoming demeanour. He looks to Patrick and gives him a wink.
“Well, since I’m not hearing any objections, I’d just like to share my first impressions of Johnny.”
Patrick’s stomach twists. It was so long ago, and a lot has happened since then, but he still carries so much guilt about how he had handled (or not, as the case may be) his coming out to his parents. That Johnny Rose had been the one to tell his parents that their son was in a relationship with a man is something he still struggles with. He knows his parents and David don’t hold it against him. They never had, really. The blame and the guilt all comes from inside him.
The room suddenly feels too hot, too small. But then there’s a hand on his knee and David is looking at him like he knows exactly what’s going through Patrick’s head in that moment, and...God. Patrick just loves him so, so much.
“My first impression of Johnny,” his dad begins, “was of a man who was very proud of his son. And my son. And the business they’d built together.” He smiles at Patrick, then at David. “And who cared very deeply about the welfare and happiness of my son. And that is something I will forever be grateful for. That my boy had somebody looking out for him, when he was so far away from his mother and I.”
Patrick hears David’s breath catch and he wraps his arm around his shoulder and pulls him close.
“Little did Marcy and I know that our boy had a whole family of people looking out for him. A whole town, actually.” He shakes his head, smiling as his eyes go a little misty. “As a parent, that’s all you can ask for; for your kid to be safe and loved. And we knew right away that Patrick had that here. And I don’t think I ever properly thanked you all for that, so...thank you. I’m only sorry I never got the chance to say those words to Johnny.”
Patrick wants to say something, wants to thank his dad—both his parents, really—for their unconditional love and understanding. For being there for him then, and for being here for him and David now. But there’s a lump lodged in his throat and he can’t...the words won’t come. So he just shakes his head and gives Clint a watery smile. He hopes he knows all the things Patrick would say if he could.
He feels David’s hand squeeze his knee and he turns his head to kiss David’s temple. He sees his mom standing in the entrance to the hallway smiling fondly at her husband.
“Well said, sweetheart,” she says, crossing the room to press a kiss to Clint’s cheek. She perches on the arm of his chair, a glass of wine in her hand.
“Okay, okay. I guess I’ll go next,” Roland says, and Patrick has to chuckle at the quiet noise of protest David makes. It’s quiet enough that only Patrick can hear it, but if he knows his husband—and he likes to think that he does—he’s got a facial expression to match.
“Don’t scowl,” he murmurs in David’s ear.
David huffs. “I don’t scowl,” he grumbles, turning to Patrick with a textbook scowl on his face. “Scowling causes wrinkles. I don’t do things that cause wrinkles.”
Patrick smiles and gently smoothes his thumb over the giant furrowed wrinkle between his husband’s eyebrows. “Whatever you say, babe.”
David rolls his eyes, but scootches a little closer and nestles in against Patrick’s side.
“—and, I mean, Johnny’s presentation was okay,” Roland is saying, when Patrick finally turns his attention back to the room at large. “But we all know how he was with technology. In the end, I think we can all agree that it was me who earned us the deal for the motel expansion, right Ruth?”
Ruth smiles indulgently at Roland. “As convincing as you were, Roland,” she begins, “it was really the overall group effort from all three of you that made my business partners and I want to be a part of your expansion.”
She winks at Roland and places a hand on Stevie’s thigh. David makes a little choking noise beside him, and Patrick can feel him petting frantically at his arm, desperately trying to get his attention.
David’s eyes are ridiculously wide and his mouth gapes open, and he snaps it shut only to have it fall open again a moment later. “Did you see that?!” He glances over his shoulder at where the two women are still chatting, Ruth’s hand still on Stevie’s thigh. “Look at that!! I mean...what is going on there?”
Patrick shrugs. “Maybe it’s just a supportive, friendly gesture between coworkers?”
David gives him a disbelieving look. “When we were just coworkers, would you have put your hand on my thigh like that?”
“If I had been brave enough, I would have.”
“Well that just proves my point right there!” David hisses exasperatedly.
“Sorry, what point? I got distracted thinking about your thighs,” Patrick murmurs, leaning in and nuzzling at the skin just behind David’s ear.
“You—hmph. Here I am, genuinely upset and confounded that my best friend may have embarked on her first queer relationship, and hasn’t even bothered to tell me, and you’ve got your mind in the gutter. Typical.”
“Maybe they’re not in a relationship yet,” Patrick tries to reason with the spot on David’s neck that he absolutely adores. “Maybe she doesn’t want to say anything until she’s sure. You didn’t tell her about us until there was something to tell.”
“No, that’s where you’re wrong. Stevie told me when there was something to tell about us,” David sulks, gesturing between himself and Patrick while simultaneously glaring as surreptitiously as possible over his shoulder at Stevie, which—to be fair—isn’t very surreptitious at all.
Ruth’s hand remains on Stevie’s thigh while the conversation goes on around them. Stevie finally tears her attention from Ruth and notices David glaring daggers at her. She blushes and bashfully ducks her chin, hiding her face behind her hair, which causes David to let out a noise that would have been undignified had it been any louder.
The next day sees their house bustling with activity. People are coming and going, bearing platters of food, then stopping to share memories of Johnny with the family.
Jocelyn is among the first to arrive, beaming brightly as she hands David a dish piled high with a garish red gelatinous glob that looks absolutely inedible.
“My Beanie Weenie Jello Salad!” she declares jubilantly as David tries to school his features into something other than pure disgust. “It goes great with a bottle of fruit wine.” She shoves a cloth tote bag into Patrick’s hands, the contents jangling against one another ominously.
“I bet it does,” David says noncommittally, a smile that’s verging on a grimace plastered to his face. “Well, thank you Jocelyn. That’s very kind of you.”
“Enjoy!” she calls out over her shoulder as she turns to head into the living room.
“Ugh.” David sets the offending item on the counter. It jiggles menacingly. “What the actual fuck?!”
Patrick grins, looking into the tote bag from Jocelyn. Sure enough, two bottles of Herb Ertlinger’s finest stare back up at him. “Ooh, Saskatoon Berry and Guava,” he says, pulling out one bottle and setting it on the counter beside Jocelyn’s Jello monstrosity. “And Pineapple and Cherry.” Beside him, David shudders. “I bet he made these especially for you and your mom. Although I have to admit I’m kind of disappointed he didn’t make that radish wine for you two.”
“Ugh,” David shudders again.
“And there’s a note!” Patrick says, unfolding the piece of paper attached to one of the bottles. “‘To Moira. I know we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but I was very saddened to hear of your loss. Please enjoy the fruits of our labour. All the best, Herb.’ Oh, that’s really nice.”
David agrees to disagree.
By lunchtime, the tables borrowed from town hall are groaning under the weight of all the food. There’s a knock on the door, and Patrick opens it to find Ronnie standing on the front steps, a casserole dish in hand.
“Here,” she says, shoving it into Patrick’s arms. “Mexican Lasagna.”
She brushes past him into the living room where she makes herself a plate of food and sits down with Moira and Jocelyn.
“Mexican...what?” Patrick says to himself as he closes the door. In the kitchen he peels back the foil to see green onions scattered over copious amounts of melted cheese atop layers of tortillas and salsa and what smells like taco-seasoned beef. It smells kind of...good. Which annoys him. His initial instinct is to dislike anything Ronnie makes, but the spices and the cheese…
“What smells so good in here?” David says, sniffing his way into the kitchen, following his nose like a monochromatic Toucan Sam. “Smells like tacos...did someone bring us tacos?”
“It’s this,” Patrick says, poking grudgingly at Ronnie’s dish. “Mexican Lasagna, apparently.”
“Mmmm!” David hums appreciatively. Then he looks at Patrick’s face and bursts out laughing. “Why are you looking at this poor casserole like it owes you money?”
“Ronnie made it,” Patrick huffs, crossing his arms over his chest and concertedly not looking at the amused twinkle in his husband’s eyes.
“I see,” David says seriously. “That’s terrible. I’m so sorry for you.” He grabs the dish and a fork and takes a bite, chewing and humming and nodding, his eyes closing with delight. “You know, I think it would be best for everyone if I just took care of this one, all on my own. Wouldn’t want you to have to suffer through eating it.” He takes another bite and his resultant moan is almost orgasmic.
“It cannot be that good,” Patrick grouses. He grabs a fork and wrestles the dish from David’s hands, taking a large bite. And fuck. It is that good.
Bob arrives, jogging up the driveway carrying several bags of bagels. Ivan shows up a little later with a box of his cinnamon buns, which he hands to David with a sad little sniff.
“Your dad, he good man,” Ivan says sombrely. “He like my buns. So I bring my buns for you. You like, yes? My buns?”
Patrick has to bite his lip as David tries to find a way to express his love for Ivan’s buns without actually saying the words. Eventually he settles on, “My dad really did love your buns, Ivan. So thank you. That’s very sweet of you.”
Patrick invites Ivan to help himself to some food, then looks around for David, who is suddenly nowhere to be seen. And neither are the cinnamon buns. Suspicious, he peeks into the kitchen, stifling a laugh at the sight of his husband up on his tiptoes on the step-stool he got for Patrick, trying to hide the cinnamon buns on the top shelf behind his cookies.
“David,” Patrick says, amusement colouring his voice. David startles and looks sheepishly down at him. “What are you doing?”
“Um...saving the cinnamon buns? For later?”
Patrick raises an eyebrow, which has David rolling his eyes. He reaches up to grab the buns from their hiding place.
“Ugh. Fine. Have it your way,” David grumbles, handing the box down to Patrick.
“You are such a generous host, David,” he deadpans. David gives him the finger, making Patrick laugh out loud as he carries the box out into the living room and sets it on the table with the rest of the food.
Twyla is next to arrive. She hands Patrick a platter of heavily mayonnaised sandwiches, and a grocery bag filled with mushroom soup. And a straw.
“Um...thanks?” Patrick says, trying to mask his confusion at the whole soup/straw situation.
“It was a little joke between Mr. Rose and I,” she explains, not really making things any clearer. Patrick decides to let it go.
“Well. It’s very funny.”
“I know!” Twyla beams at him. “How’s the coffee maker working out for you? Any problems?”
Patrick sets down the tray of sandwiches on the corner of one of the tables, then carries the bag of soup into the kitchen and sets it in a bowl. He has no idea if she expects him to serve it, or if it’s purely decorative.
“Oh, uh, nope. No problems,” he says. “As long as I unplug it every hour or so. Otherwise it boils over.”
“See? I knew you could figure it out!” She pats his arm proudly. The bright smile that lights her face dims just a bit. “You know, even though Mr. Rose hasn’t been to the café in years, it still felt like one day soon, he’d just pop back in for his little farmer’s breakfast, or a slice of meatloaf, you know? And now…” She sighs and her blue eyes cloud with emotion. “It’s just so hard to think of never seeing him again. He was such a sweet man. I’m really going to miss him.”
It’s Patrick’s turn to pat her consolingly on the arm. “I know, Twy.”
She swipes a finger under each of her eyes. “He was always willing to try, you know? Even when he had no idea what he was doing. I really admired that about him.”
Patrick listens, smiling softly as Twyla tells him about the day Mr. Rose filled in for her at the café when she broke her leg. “I mean, by the end of the day I was so glad it was over, because he’d made such a mess of everything,” she says, her voice all fondness layered with nostalgia. “But I liked that he put himself out there for me. He saw I was struggling and he stepped up.” She sniffles and shakes her head. “I’m sure he regretted every moment, but it was very sweet of him, and it’s something I will always remember.”
There are so many stories like Twyla’s, of all the ways Mr. Rose touched the lives of the people around him. It warms Patrick’s heart, that so many folks have come to their home to share with the Roses. And from the looks on their faces, he knows that David and Alexis, and especially Moira, are all very moved.
Ronnie is regaling everyone with a story about the day that Johnny became the very first honorary Jazzaguy. And in spite of himself, Patrick can’t help but smile. He turns to share a laugh with David, only to find that his husband isn’t there. He gets up and walks through to the kitchen, finding it empty.
The back door is slightly ajar, and Patrick can hear quiet voices coming from outside. Peering through the crack in the door, he sees Stevie and David sitting on the steps of the porch. A cloud of aromatic smoke billows in the air above their heads.
“—that I endorse all of your sexual encounters,” Stevie says seriously before sucking in a deep breath and holding it in. David throws his head back and laughs until he snorts, which causes Stevie to cough and sputter her lungful of smoke. And then the two of them are leaning on each other, pointing at one another and cackling. “Oh my God, your face when he said that—“ Stevie snickers.
“Track that cycle, missy!” David crows, in a terrible impersonation of what Patrick can only assume is supposed to be his mother, and then they’re both falling over laughing again, wheezing and snorting until Patrick realizes David isn’t laughing anymore. He’s choking on his breath and his chest is heaving and he’s dragging in deep, heaving gasps. He pulls his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs and burying his face in his folded arms as his whole body shakes with the force of his grief.
Stevie watches David fall apart, tears glistening against her own eyelashes. She wraps an arm around him and puts her head on his shoulder while he cries. And Patrick is torn between giving the two of them their private moment together, or rushing in to soothe his hurting husband and friend. He’s still wavering when the floorboard creaks under his foot and Stevie looks back over her shoulder. She gestures for him to join them, and he does, sitting down behind David on the top step. He slides one leg around either side of his husband, wrapping his arms around his shoulders from behind and pulling him back against his chest. Patrick buries his face in David’s hair and breathes him in, wishing—not for the first time over the past few days—that there was some way to take away all of David’s pain and grief. But he can’t. So he turns to Stevie and opens one arm to her, smiling when she leans against his leg and lets him wrap her up tight in his arms too.
“He’s really gone,” he hears David say through his tears. “I mean knew it. I knew he was gone. But I can...I can feel it now. He should be in there with everyone telling his awful embarrassing stories and he’s not and I can feel it and I fucking hate that he’s gone.”
“I know, baby,” Patrick murmurs against the back of David’s neck. He lets his hand fall down to David’s chest and rubs firm, soothing circles. “I know you do.”
Stevie sniffles and leans over to stub out their joint on the sole of her shoe, then tucks it into a ziploc baggie and shoves it in her pocket. She nestles back in against Patrick’s leg and lets out a sigh.
“It’s weird. I keep thinking of things that I need to talk to him about for work, and then I remember,” she says. Patrick can feel the wet of her tears soaking through the fabric of his jeans. “I don’t even remember what it was like before, you know? I ran the motel by myself for so long, and I thought, ‘this is it. I’ll be stuck here behind this desk forever’. But Mr. Rose, he...he helped turn it into something I love. And I don’t think I ever got to tell him how grateful I am. I hope he knew.” She sits up and looks at David, then at Patrick. “Do you think he knew?”
“Yeah,” David says, his voice quavering with emotion. “He knew.”
Patrick nods. “I think he knew.”
Her face crumbles and she ducks her chin down to her chest and leans against them once more, reaching for David’s hand. Patrick tightens his arm around her and they hold each other until their cries have trailed off to sporadic sniffs and sniffles.
“Ugh. I should go back inside,” David groans. He leans back into Patrick’s embrace and looks up at him. “I was getting overwhelmed. There’s so many people, and I just...I needed a minute.”
“You don’t have to go back in,” Patrick says, kissing David’s forehead. “They’ll understand.”
He feels David sigh. “It’s fine. I’m okay.”
“It’s okay if you’re not though,” Patrick reminds him. “No one would blame you if you had to duck out early.” He nuzzles his nose in behind David’s ear. “Why don’t you go take a bath and go lie down . I’ll take care of winding things up down here.”
David makes a soft whine of protest, and Patrick feels his chest heave again under his hand. “I can’t! I don’t want all these people to think I don’t want them here! I do! I...I just needed a minute, but I’m fine. I’m fine.”
Patrick closes his eyes and sighs. “You once asked me if I thought you didn’t make people feel welcome in our space,” he says. “Do you remember that?”
“Okay, first of all? I was mostly kidding.” David turns his head to look up at Patrick. “I’m a fucking delight. And secondly, I was talking about the store,” he argues and Patrick silences him with a kiss.
“I’d argue that welcoming people into our home is even more difficult than welcoming them into our store. And you have done an amazing job, David. Our house is filled with people who love us—love you—and you have made them all feel so at ease.”
David scoffs. “I didn’t do that. You did that. Stevie and y-your parents—“
“We may have helped, but you led the way. You are so loved, David Rose. I hope you know that.” Patrick kisses him again, then pats Stevie on the back. He gets up, taking David’s hand in his and pulling him up into a hug. “Go relax, babe. Let me help you.”
David helps Stevie to her feet. “You’re going to stay again tonight?” It’s more of a statement than a question.
Stevie’s eyes dart to the side, then back to David. “Um, I was thinking about going back to my place tonight.”
“What? No! You can’t...I don’t want you to be on your own. Stay with us!”
She tucks her hair behind her ears and looks away again. “It’s okay. I’ve got work to do, and you’re going to bed now anyway, and I don’t want to be in the way in the morning, so…” She shrugs. “I’ll be fine.”
David looks crestfallen, but he nods his head and bends to gather his glass from the step, then goes into the house without another word. Stevie shuffles awkwardly from foot to foot, and Patrick watches her.
“What?” she asks, a defensive note creeping into her tone.
“Nothing,” he says with a shake of his head. “Nothing. Just...you’re not in the way. Ever. And you’re welcome anytime.”
“Yeah. Thanks,” she mumbles. “I gotta...I gotta go.” Then she walks away into the darkness, disappearing around the corner of the house, heading for the driveway.
In the morning, Patrick, David and Moira are sitting at the kitchen island going through the mountain of condolence cards that have arrived.
“This one’s from Bev and Don,” David says, handing it to his mother to read. She sets it down on the counter—unread—and reaches for another.
“They wouldn’t give us the time of day when your father was alive, and I don’t care to hear from them now that he’s...he’s no longer with us.”
Patrick picks up another card. “This one’s from LA,” he says. “Oh, Mrs. Rose. It’s from one of your castmates on Sunrise Bay!”
He hands it over to her and watches as her eyes mist over while she reads the words of comfort and sympathy.
“Oh, that’s lovely,” she says, a soft smile on her face. “Nicole is always so thoughtful. Such a way with words.”
“Nic—Nicole?” David gasps, snatching the card from his mother. “As in Nicole Kidman?”
“As if there’s any other,” Moira says loftily, moving on to the next card.
“Ohmygod,” David breathes. He looks up at Patrick, his eyes wide. “Patrick! Nicole Kidman sent a card to our house! I mean...we’re practically penpals!”
Moira tsks. “Let’s hope this epistolary relationship is more advantageous for you than your last penfriend. Toni, wasn’t it? The one in prison?”
David huffs, but his face is still glowing as he reads and then rereads the note. Patrick grins at him. “What?”
“Just curious what your new girlfriend has to say,” he teases.
“I’ll have you know that it is a thoughtfully worded letter of condolence from a dear friend of my mother’s who also happened to play a significant role in my life during my formative years.”
“David’s greatest desire at seventeen was to dress as Satine for Halloween,” Moira explains. “He wallowed for an entire week when I refused to allow him to borrow Veronica. Or my Cartier necklace.”
Patrick’s grin widens. “You would have made a beautiful Satine,” he says. David narrows his eyes at him.
“Mkay, I know you’re joking, but I would have been gorgeous.”
Patrick leans in and kisses him then, because he is gorgeous. And ridiculous, and Patrick loves him so very much. “You know, if you and Nicole ran off together, I could swoop in and console Keith Urban. We could travel the world together, playing our guitars and...and wearing jeans. It’d be great.”
David cups his chin in his hands, looking thoughtfully at Patrick, the tiniest of smiles tugging his mouth to one side. “You know, on second thought, it would never work.”
“No. Because you and Keith would be much happier than Nicole and I.”
Patrick grins again. “You don’t want me to be happy?”
David rolls his eyes and flaps a hand in Patrick’s face. “Of course I do. But I think Nicole and I, we’d argue over closet space—“
“You and I already do that,” Patrick points out helpfully, earning a pointed look from his husband.
“Yes, well her wardrobe is far more extensive than yours. And also, there are a lot of horrifying insects with milky exoskeletons in Australia. And I just don’t know if I love Nicole enough to be able to subject myself to that kind of terror on a daily basis.”
Patrick nods seriously. “Guess you’re stuck with me then,” he says. David’s resultant smile is soft and fond and so full of love.
“Guess so,” he says before he pulls Patrick in for a kiss.
“Well, one of us has to go back to work, David,” Patrick points out patiently. “I know it sucks, but we need the store to be open so we can pay our bills.”
David leans back against the kitchen counter, arms crossed over his chest, a scowl on his face. “I realize that. I’m not an idiot,” he snaps. Then his expression softens and his shoulders slump. “I just didn’t think it would be so soon. We can’t take a few more days?”
Patrick rounds the island to stand in front of his husband, placing his hands on his shoulders and giving them a little comforting squeeze. “Look, I’m not asking you to come in, alright? I’ll go. Maybe do limited hours while your family is still here. Then we can reassess.”
It’s a practical solution, and he can see that David knows it too.
“Fine,” he grumbles, leaning into Patrick and nestling in against him for a hug. “I’ll just...I’ll miss you.”
Patrick lets the warm glow of being needed by his husband settle over him. “I know,” he soothes. “But I’ll only be a few minutes up the road. I can be back in a flash if you need me.”
“I need you,” David mumbles against Patrick’s throat, earning a chuckle.
“Well, lucky for you I’m not gone yet.”
The sound of a throat being cleared behind them has them turning to see Jocelyn standing in the doorway. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to eavesdrop!” she says with a wide smile on her face. “But I couldn’t help overhearing that you boys might be in need of a little help!”
“I don’t think we said that,” David huffs indignantly, only to have Jocelyn plow right over him.
“Well, it was implied,” she says, her smile widening to Cheshire Cat proportions.
“Was it, though?” David murmurs, and Patrick digs his fingers into his side.
“That’s very kind of you to offer, Jocelyn,” Patrick says. “What, um...what were you hoping to help us with?”
Jocelyn smiles so wide that Patrick’s cheeks hurt in sympathy. “Well, I know you boys need to get the store back open, and poor David needs to be here with his family,” she says. “And I thought, you know, I’m only working mornings at the school this semester, so I could run the store in the afternoons, if that would help you two out.”
Patrick blinks, looks at David who shrugs back at him, then looks back to Jocelyn. “That...that’s really generous of you,” he says. “We don’t, I mean, that’s not going to be an inconvenience for you?”
“Oh no! Rollie Jr is in school, then he has trumpet lessons until 4:30, so I’m free as a bird in the afternoons!”
He looks back at David, whose face is seemingly stuck on the idea of Rollie Jr and a trumpet in the same room together. But eventually he nods his agreement and they offer their thanks to Jocelyn, who disappears back into the living room.
“Someone gave that child a trumpet,” David moans quietly. “My God. Can you imagine?”
Patrick kisses his cheek. “Well, Rollie and his trumpet mean that we can have the store open for almost regular business hours,” he says. “Which means I’ll be free to come home to be here with you in the afternoons.”
David turns and wraps his arms around Patrick’s neck, leaning in for a kiss. “Well. I like that very much,” he murmurs against Patrick’s lips. And then he kisses Patrick, slow and languid, and Patrick’s toes curl just a little and his insides ripple with longing. It’s the first time David has shown interest in anything more than a chaste peck on the lips in days, and Patrick wants to bathe in the feeling while he can.
“Ew,” Alexis’s voice cuts through their moment. “Like, I know this is your house? But there are people here who like, don’t ever want to see that.”
“Sit on a tack, Alexis.”
The last day of sitting shiva is quiet. Most people have come to pay their respects already, some of them several times over. Patrick spends the morning in the store, making sales and fielding questions on how the Roses are faring.
He comes home at lunchtime to find his parents and husband in the kitchen. He sits down beside David and kisses him hello before digging into the sandwich his mom sets in front of him.
“So, your father and I were thinking we should head home tomorrow,” she says in a conversational tone. David looks up from his sandwich, alarmed, and Marcy places a soothing hand over his. “You’ll be fine, sweetheart. But we’ve been here almost a week, and we need to get home. I’m sure my garden is overrun with weeds by now, and Clint’s poor back can’t take many more nights away from our Posturepedic.”
David nods, a sad little thing. “Thank you so much for coming,” he says, his voice chalk full of emotion. “I—we—couldn’t have gotten through this without you.”
“Oh, David. You’d have done just fine,” Marcy assures him. “But we were so happy to be able to come here and be helpful. It’s meant so much to us to be a part of this time with you and your family.”
David looks down at his hands, tugs on the sleeves of his sweater. Patrick wraps an arm around him and rests his chin on David’s shoulder. “Baby? You okay?”
“Yup. Yes,” David says with a quick nod of his head. “I’m just...I need to go check on something. Upstairs,” he says, pushing back from the island and hurrying out of the room.
“Oh dear,” Marcy says, eyes following David as he goes. She looks back at Patrick. “Should we stay longer? We don’t want to upset him.”
Patrick shakes his head. “No. I mean, we’d love for you to stay longer, of course. But you have stuff you need to get back to. He’ll come around eventually.”
Later that afternoon, everyone is gathered in the living room. David is curled up in one of the chairs by the fire with his nose buried in a book, and Alexis is just finishing painting Marcy’s nails in something called a French Tip, which...Patrick has no idea what that means, but his mom seems to like it. Moira sits in the other chair by the fire reading a script, and Patrick, Clint and Stevie are crowded onto the couch talking business when there’s a knock at the door.
Patrick gets up to answer it. He pulls it open to see a face he hasn’t seen in years.
Before Patrick can open his mouth to reply, there’s an ear splitting squeal from behind him and Alexis nearly knocks him over as she lunges at the figure in the doorway.
“Ted?! Ohmygod, Ted!”
She jumps into his arms, and Ted manages to catch her without tumbling backward down the front step.
“Hey, Alexis,” Ted says, face buried in Alexis’s blonde waves. “I’m so sorry about your dad. I got here as fast as I could when I heard…”
“I can’t believe you’re here!” Alexis exclaims, and then she kisses him, arms around his neck and Ted’s arms winding around her waist. Patrick feels like a potato standing there beside them, so he goes and sits down on the arm of David’s chair, hoping that one of them (probably Ted) will remember to close the door behind them.
He looks down at David, whose expression is a mixture of happiness for his sister, and revulsion that she would make out with someone in their house like that, in their open front door, where God and all their neighbours can see.
“Were you born in a barn, Alexis? Close the fucking door,” he snaps, and Patrick was right. It is Ted that eventually maneuvers the two of them inside and shuts the door behind them, all the while maintaining lip-to-lip contact with Alexis. “Thanks Ted. Nice to see you too.”
When they do finally pull apart, Ted looks around the room, his expression a combination of sheepish and kiss-drunk.
“Hi David,” he says with an awkward little wave. “Mrs. Rose. I was really sorry to hear about Mr. Rose.”
“Thank you, Theodore. Lovely to see you,” Mrs. Rose replies, nodding her greeting before turning her attention back to her script.
Ted’s eyes continue around the room. “Oh, hey Stevie! And Mr. and Mrs. B. Nice to see you again. Wow! The whole gang’s here!” He drops his backpack, which looks like it weighs almost as much as Patrick, on the floor. “Wow, so this is your place, huh? I have to say, it’s a-door-able!” He grins, pointing with his thumb at the door behind him.
“Oh God,” David mutters quietly. “His puns are so much worse now that I’ve lost my tolerance.”
Alexis takes Ted by the hand, dragging him toward the stairs. “Lots of catching up to do,” she trills as she skips up the steps with Ted in tow. “Ted can chat with you all later! Sorry about your nails, Marcy! David can finish them for you!”
Six pairs of eyes watch them go, and then David calls out after them, “Hey! No ‘catching up’ in rooms that have sinks in them!”
“Ugh, David! It was one time!” Alexis shouts back at him right before the door upstairs slams.
The house is so quiet. Patrick’s parents left a few days ago, Alexis is spending the night at Ted’s, and Stevie has been busy every night for the past week. Moira is in the guest room packing to go back to LA in the morning. She proclaimed at breakfast three days ago that she wanted to return to LA to begin the arduous process of sorting all of Mr. Rose’s things.
The announcement had caused David and Alexis to worry, neither of them wanting their mother to be on her own in the home she had shared with their father. Not yet.
“Why doesn’t one of you go with her?” Patrick had suggested. David and Alexis shared a look and then began to talk about logistics. Alexis could work from anywhere, but had meetings scheduled in LA later in the month. She wasn’t sure she wanted to spend that much time in LA, especially now that she and Ted had only just begun to rekindle their relationship. It wasn’t clear to Patrick exactly how long Ted planned on staying in Schitt’s Creek, but it seemed he was in no hurry to get back to the Galapagos.
So it was decided that David would accompany his mother to LA for two weeks to help her get started, then come back to Schitt’s Creek with her for the unveiling of Johnny’s headstone near the end of the month. Then, Alexis would return to LA with Moira for a few weeks to keep her mother company and finish the job of sorting through Johnny’s things.
So Patrick finds himself lying on the couch in a nearly silent house, while Moira and David both pack for their upcoming trip. He scrubs his hands over his face, trying not to stress over the idea of being separated from his husband for two whole weeks—the longest they will have ever been apart in their entire relationship.
He can hear Moira moving around in the guest room, the clatter of clothes being taken from hangers, the zrrp of her suitcases being zipped up. His eyes go to the ceiling. Somewhere above him, David is doing the same. He pictures their closet, sees the empty spaces where the clothes David will take with him should hang. For some reason, that mental image makes his chest ache. It’s going to be hard, but he knows it’s for the best. He doesn’t want Moira to have to fend for herself in LA any more than David and Alexis do. It’s just...once more, he finds himself wishing he could do more to help.
Footsteps on the stairs draw him out of his thoughts. He smiles as David comes into the living room and climbs onto the couch, sprawling himself half on top of Patrick, half tucked between Patrick and the plump cushions that line the back of the couch. Without a word, he squirms his way into a comfortable position and nuzzles his face into the crook of Patrick’s neck.
“Hey, baby,” Patrick murmurs, running one hand up and down David’s back. “You all done packing?”
“Mmph,” David replies, and Patrick smiles and kisses his temple, letting his lips linger. It’s only two weeks, he tells himself. But he is going to miss this. He has missed this. With their house full of family, and David’s emotions all over the place these past two weeks, they haven’t really done much in the way of connecting. And now they’re going to be spending the next two weeks on opposite sides of the continent. It’s going to be really, really hard.
“I’m gonna miss you,” Patrick says softly, letting his hand roam up under David’s sweater.
David squirms a little closer, sliding his leg up over Patrick’s hip. His warm breath on Patrick’s neck is just...it’s enough to make his pulse quicken and his cheeks flush. He continues to run his hand up and down David’s back, going a little higher then a little lower each time until his fingers come up against the waistband of David’s joggers. Longing surges up inside of him, and he slides his fingers beneath the fabric of his pants, his mouth going dry when he discovers David isn’t wearing any underwear. He curves his palm over the smooth globe of his husband’s ass and squeezes gently, and David lets out a hot little puff of air against his neck that goes straight to Patrick’s cock.
David moves his leg so his thigh presses against the bulge now growing rapidly in Patrick’s jeans, and he pushes himself up on one arm, the other hand coming to cradle Patrick’s face. He smiles down at Patrick, gorgeous dark eyes filled with the same longing that Patrick feels. He scrapes his thumb along Patrick’s jaw.
“What do you need, honey?” David asks, his voice that low, gravelled husk of a whisper that drives Patrick wild.
“Just you, David.”
David closes his eyes, his lips curling into that lopsided smile of his. God, he is so beautiful.
When David looks at him again, his eyes are smouldering and he nips at Patrick’s lower lip with his teeth. “Take me to bed, Patrick,” he breathes, sending a shiver rippling through Patrick's entire body. He doesn’t need to be told twice.
David gets up, then holds out a hand to help Patrick to his feet. He takes a quick detour to say goodnight to his mother, issuing a firm reminder that they will be leaving the house at 8AM sharp. Patrick pokes his head around the door—being careful to keep his lower half well out of Mrs. Rose’s line of sight—and says goodnight. She waves distractedly at them from the midst of a pile of designer clothes heaped high in the centre of her bed.
They turn off all the lights downstairs and Patrick takes David’s hand, pulling him up the stairs, into their bedroom and onto their bed. Their clothing is shed quickly, and soon they’re tangled together, rocking and pushing, quiet sighs and soft moans and the whisper of skin moving against skin the only sounds in the room. All too soon Patrick is teetering on the edge, buried deep inside David, surrounded by his familiar warmth. And it’s so good. Then his name is on David’s lips, and he feels the clench of muscle around his cock and the warmth of David’s release between them, and with two final thrusts of his hips, stars explode behind his eyes as he comes.
“Fuck, David,” he pants, face buried against David’s neck. “That was...God.”
David’s arms and legs are still wrapped around him, and he hears David sniffle, and tries to pull back, but David holds him tight. “Thank you, Patrick. Thank you. I love you.” There’s a tremble to his voice that Patrick has become all too familiar with over the past few weeks. He pushes himself up enough that he can see David’s face, and sure enough, there are tears in his eyes. He tries to look away, but Patrick stills David with his palm to his cheek.
“I’m going to get up,” he says, voice soft and calm. “And I’m going to clean us up. And then we can talk, okay?”
David nods and hides his face in his pillow while Patrick carefully extracts himself from his husband’s body and their tangle of limbs. He uses a warm washcloth to do a quick cursory clean up, then he’s back in bed holding David, who cries quietly onto his chest.
“I’m sorry,” David hiccups and Patrick smoothes his hand up and down his back.
“Nothing to be sorry about, baby,” Patrick replies soothingly.
“After everything you’ve done, holding me together, holding my family together, and now I’m just dumping you with the store for two weeks? It’s not fair to you, Patrick. You’ve done so much and I...I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
A heaviness settles in Patrick’s heart. He kisses David’s forehead and pulls him even closer. “David, I told you on our wedding day that I’d climb a thousand mountains for you. This is just one of those mountains.” David whines softly, and Patrick rakes his fingers through his thick, dark hair, scritching at his scalp. “Besides, it was my idea for you to go. Your mom needs you, and it’s only two weeks. We’ll talk every day, okay? You’ll see. It’ll be fine.”
For the most part, it is fine. Things are fine. So David forgot about the time difference a few times and woke Patrick in the middle of the night, or Patrick forgot and called David to say good morning, only to be glared at over the phone, which Patrick didn’t even know was possible on a voice call. But they’re making it work.
The hardest times for Patrick are the evenings. After keeping himself busy during the day, he returns home to an empty house every night. Their freezer is stocked to overflowing with food from his mom, so he heats up her lasagna the first night and savours the taste of the familiar, comforting meal. He has it for lunch the next day, and dinner that same night when he gets home.
The community seems to have been put on high alert, and someone pops by the store every day to check on him, and he gets the occasional invite to dinner with a friend. Ray makes a shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes so fluffy Patrick wants to roll around in them. They sit and eat their dinner on Ray’s couch and watch some awful reality TV, and it feels like old times. The only thing missing is David, who had been a frequent participant in Dinners With Ray™️ back in those early days. And despite the familiar company of a good friend and a hearty meal, Patrick goes home missing his husband terribly.
He performs his nightly ablutions and crawls into bed, grabbing his phone and tapping David’s name in his contacts, waiting for the FaceTime call to connect. When it does, Davd’s face fills the screen, his beautiful brown eyes so warm and welcoming, with a hint of anxiety around the edges, and Patrick can hear Moira shouting about something in the background.
“Hey handsome,” David says, his eyes crinkling along with his smile. “I was just thinking about you.”
The ache in Patrick’s chest lessens, just a bit. “Yeah?”
“What were you thinking about?”
David’s image jiggles as he moves around on his end, clearly taking a moment to get comfortable. He’s lying on his side on a bed, his head propped up on his upturned palm, elbow sinking into the plush mattress. “Just you,” David replies with a blinding smile. “I miss you.”
The ache in Patrick’s chest is nearly gone now. “Oh, babe. I miss you too. So much.”
They chat about their days. David is jealous that Patrick got to have Ray’s shepherd’s pie, which was always one of his favourites. Patrick listens as David talks about his plans for all of his dad’s clothes.
“He has so many suits, Patrick! Who needs fifteen grey suits? Ugh!”
Patrick smiles indulgently. He’s frequently had similar thoughts about the number of black sweaters in his husband’s wardrobe, but now is not the time to bring that up. “What are you going to do with them all?”
David shrugs, looking a little shy. “I had an idea...but it’s dumb.”
“I seriously doubt that,” Patrick tries to reassure him. David’s eyes dart away, then back to Patrick. “Tell me about your idea, David.”
“It’s just, I was going to take them all to a consignment shop? But there are so many suits! And they’re such great quality and in really good shape and…” David trails off, letting out an uncertain little breath. “So I found this place that helps people who have fallen on hard times? Some of them have lost their jobs, some of them their homes too? And...and I know how hard it is, trying to restart your life when you’ve lost everything.” David blinks back tears. “So this place helps those people, giving them things they need to get back out there, build their confidence. Like good clothes and haircuts and stuff. So when they go for a job interview, they look the part, you know?”
“David,” Patrick croaks through the tightness in his throat. He can feel tears brewing behind his eyes.
“Not everyone is as lucky as we were. At least we got to keep our clothes. And we ended up in a place where people were willing to help us and give us a second chance. And I thought…I don't know. I thought that if donating my dad’s stuff could help some of these people with their own second chances...” He trails off with a timid little shrug.
David’s idea is lovely. And thoughtful. And smart. And nice. And Patrick is so very impressed and so proud. And he tells David so.
“It’s nothing,” David demures.
“It’s not nothing, David,” Patrick insists. “It’s a great idea, and I think it would make your dad really happy to know that his stuff was going to help people with their second chance.”
David lets out a relieved little sob, then wipes his face and blows his nose. Then he’s back, smiling at Patrick. “Mkay. That’s enough feelings for one day,” he says. “Talk to me about something else.”
“I don’t know! Anything!”
Patrick looks at his husband's face on the tiny screen of his phone. He’s struck once again by how beautiful David is, how much Patrick wants him. He grins. “What’re you wearing?”
David’s brows furrow and he cocks his head to one side. “You can see what I’m wearing,” he says, oblivious.
Patrick rolls his eyes and tries again. “Right. But what’re you wearing, David?”
He sees understanding dawn in David’s eyes, and smiles as David smirks and shimmies his shoulders in that way he does, that should be ridiculous but is absurdly, insanely hot. “What, this old thing?” He plucks gently at his sweater, then sits up and pulls it over his head, lying back down bare chested and gorgeous and Patrick’s mouth is suddenly very dry and his cock is suddenly very interested in this conversation.
“I don’t have much time,” David apologizes with a wolfish grin. “Mom is taking me out to dinner. But I have a feeling this isn’t going to take very long.”
“Yeah, no. No it’s not,” Patrick agrees, already touching himself. “God. I’m so hard just looking at you. You’re so sexy, David.”
“Not so bad yourself,” David replies in a husky whisper. Patrick can see David’s arm moving, his hand out of sight of the camera, and he knows he’s touching himself too. “Mmm. Wish it was your hand, honey. You always know how to make me feel so good.”
“Yeah? Y-you like it when I touch you, baby?”
“You know I do, Patrick. I fucking love it.”
Patrick's hand is flying on his dick now, and he’s leaking and he’s embarrassingly close. “You do love it, don’t you? You love it when I touch you. When I fuck you.”
David lets out a low moan. His eyes are closed and he’s biting his lower lip and his face is flushed and that’s all Patrick needs. He comes into his hand with a gasp, panting David’s name as he collapses back against his pillows. He wipes his hand on a tissue plucked from the box on his bedside table and picks up his phone again.
“C’mon, baby. Make yourself feel good for me,” he murmurs. “That’s my hand on your cock, David. That’s me making you feel so good.” David’s breath quickens and his mouth makes the most delicious little “O” shape, and his body stiffens and jerks, and then he breathes out a satisfied little hum.
“Mmm...that was...I needed that,” he sighs. He looks sleepy and happy, just the way Patrick feels. His arms ache to hold him, but instead he smiles at David and gives him one of his terrible winks that makes David laugh.
“I love you, David.”
“Love you too, Patrick.” He blows Patrick a kiss. “Have a good sleep honey. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
A few nights later, Stevie and Patrick sit in the living room eating pizzas loaded with toppings that David would deem “incorrect”, and drinking beer while some action movie plays in the background. Patrick can’t help but notice Stevie constantly checking her phone, only to set it aside with a disappointed little sigh each time.
“Something wrong?” Patrick asks through a mouthful of cheese and crust and pineapple.
“Is...is David mad at me?” she asks, giving Patrick a furtive sidelong glance before turning her attention back to cracking open another beer.
Patrick sighs. He was afraid this would happen. “I think you should talk to David about that.”
“Pretty hard to do when he’s not answering my texts,” she grumbles. “What’s his problem anyway? I mean, besides the obvious, that his dad just died and he’s stuck in LA with his mom—whose husband just died—okay. So I’m an asshole. This isn’t about me.”
Patrick’s insides twist. He really doesn’t want to get involved. It’s up to David to tell Stevie why he’s upset with her. But David can’t do that if the two of them aren’t talking. So he decides to lay a little groundwork. Surely that’s not against the rules.
“It might be a little about you,” he says carefully.
Stevie side eyes him. “You know something.”
“Nope. No I don’t,” he says evasively.
He shrugs. “All I know is that you should talk to David.”
Patrick groans. “Okay, I just...I think he maybe...misses you.”
“Funny way of showing it,” Stevie huffs. Patrick sets down his beer and fixes her with a pointed stare. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Patrick’s mouth opens, then closes again as he tries to find the right words so as not to betray his husband‘s confidence or upset Stevie. “Okay, so, after the burial, you were very...busy,” he begins cautiously.
“I was working!” Stevie shouts defensively, startling both of them with the volume of her voice. “Sorry. But I was working.”
“Yeah, I get that,” Patrick says evenly. “But like, in the evenings? I think he kind of hoped you might...come over more? But you were...busy. At night. Too. Almost every night.”
Stevie’s eyes go wide, then she drops her gaze to her own bottle of beer and starts tearing at the corner of the label. “I was working,” she repeats quietly. Guiltily.
“Alone? Or…” Patrick trails off leadingly.
Stevie shakes her head, eyes still focused on her beer. “With Ruth.”
Patrick nods, his head bobbing like one of those drinking bird things that his dad always had on the corner of his desk. “Right.”
Stevie sets down her beer and throws her arms up in the air in exasperation. “I’ve never done this before, okay? Like...I really like her. Like, a lot. And she was only in town for a few days and I wanted to make the most of our time together, and after she left we talked on the phone almost every night, and I can’t be in two places at once so I...I made a decision, okay? For me.”
Patrick can’t help but smile, and he wraps an arm around Stevie’s slight shoulders, pulling her in close. “I’m really happy for you,” he says honestly. “We’re really happy for you. Just, why didn’t you say something? David would have understood.”
“Oh God. Is he mad?” she asks, her voice small.
“No. More hurt, I think,” Patrick says.
“Ugh. That’s so much worse.” She buries her face in her hands.
“He wants to be there for you, Stevie. He wants to be there for you like you were there for us.”
“Okay. I’ll talk to him,” she mumbles into her palms.
Patrick squeezes her tight. “If you want some help, I can grease the wheels a bit for you. Get him to call you?”
Stevie leans away from him, her eyes narrowed. “You’re gonna talk to him about it after sex, when he’s all gooey and will say yes to anything, aren’t you?”
Patrick grins at her. “Yes. Yes I am.”
“Gross,” she grimaces. Then her face softens and she punches him in the arm. “Thanks.”
The gathering for the unveiling of Johnny’s headstone is small and intimate. Patrick holds tight to David’s hand as they place small, white stones on Johnny’s grave, then David pats the headstone lovingly. They stand back as Alexis does the same, with Ted at her side. Ruth has come up from New York and holds Stevie’s hand. Roland and Jocelyn are there too, on either side of Moira. They all stand in a small semi-circle around the grave, nine stones nestled atop Johnny’s final resting place.
When they get home that night, their house is alive again with the sounds of people talking and laughing, and it feels so good to have everyone together. But it’s short-lived because tomorrow, Moira and Alexis leave for LA, Ruth heads back to New York, and those left behind in Schitt’s Creek will try to go back to their regularly scheduled lives.
Except that everything regular about their lives has shifted slightly, a little to the left. Or maybe to the right. Patrick can’t tell, exactly. All he knows is that it feels different now, than it did the last time the Roses left town.
That night, Patrick takes David to bed and makes love to him the way he’s been longing to do the entire time they’ve been apart. After, whey they’re curled up together, David confesses that he doesn’t want his mom or his sister to leave. He’s missed them more than he ever thought he could, and with his dad gone, he knows he’ll worry about his mom, all alone and so far away.
There is no quick fix for the way David is feeling, so Patrick holds him close and kisses his tears away and whispers promises that he hopes he’ll be able to keep.
The next morning, they drive Moira and Alexis to the airport and bid them tearful goodbyes. The drive back to Schitt’s Creek is long and quiet. David stares out the passenger side window and cries silent tears all the way home.
Three days have gone by, and David hasn’t gotten out of bed other than to go to the bathroom or change from one set of pyjamas to another. He accepts tea, but hardly eats, spending his days sleeping or crying or scribbling in his journal. No amount of Meg or Sandra or any of the Julias can convince him to come downstairs.
Patrick is at his wits end. He calls his dad, who gently reminds him that this is the part that was hardest for Marcy. There are no distractions left to keep David from feeling the all-consuming ache of his sadness. This is the time when he needs Patrick to be strong for him, and to help him find a new normal.
“What did you do, Dad?” Patrick asks, feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of his husband’s happiness. “How did you help Mom?”
“Well, it’s important to remember that there’s no magic cure, son. David will find his way in his own time. It’s not up to you to fix him.” It’s not what Patrick wants to hear at all. But it’s the reality check that he needs, and he’s grateful that his dad knows him so well. “As for your mom, I took her on a road trip,” he says. “Got her out of the house, away from those things that were constant reminders of her dad and of how sad she was. We went to Montreal for a long weekend, and when we came back, she was a little better. Not cured,” he warns. “But she stayed in bed a little less, slowly got back into a routine, until eventually, her sad days were fewer and farther between.”
Patrick thanks his dad, then he calls Ray to ask about options for a weekend getaway. He receives an email reply with several destinations to choose from, some more affordable than others. He picks something in the middle of the pack, a hotel in wine country, with a spa and a wine tasting room and a nice restaurant in a quaint little town where they can shop and eat and rest. It’s perfect. He calls Ray back and asks him to book it for the coming weekend, and then he goes to tell David.
“A hotel?” David asks, a hint of excitement in his voice that Patrick is relieved to hear. “Will there be room service?”
“Room service,” Patrick says, laying down beside David and wrapping him up in his arms, “And there’s a pool, and a spa, and a winery just up the road...”
David closes his eyes and hums contentedly against Patrick’s chest. “I haven’t been to a spa in ages,” he murmurs. Then he raises his head and looks at Patrick, worry lines furrowed deep between his unruly brows. “Can we afford it? I mean with the flights to LA and paying Jocelyn for her half-days—“
Patrick kisses the tip of David’s nose. “Let me worry about that, okay? I’m the numbers guy, remember?”
David nestles down against Patrick’s chest once more. “Thank you, Patrick.”
Two months later, Ted comes into the store to say his goodbyes. He’s sold his veterinary practice—along with the building—to his former assistant Shannon, who has gotten her veterinary licence and has been running the clinic in his absence for the last several years. He wants to move to New York to be closer to Alexis, and has found a vet in Brooklyn who is looking to retire and has agreed to sell his practice to Ted.
“That’s great news, man. Congratulations,” Patrick says, allowing himself to be pulled into a hug.
“Pass my kindest regards along to my sister,” David says, engaging in a very awkward hug with Ted. “And good luck.”
Ted smiles brightly. “Will do, big guy! And don’t worry. I’ll take very good care of her.”
David’s face morphs into what could almost be mistaken for a grimace, but Patrick’s pretty sure it’s supposed to be a smile. “Ew.”
Later that week, they’re having dinner at home with Stevie. They’re all a little high and a little drunk, and David and Stevie are razzing one another like only they can. Patrick’s glad they managed to clear the air between them. It feels good, like it used to. Patrick is so glad to see the smile on David’s face, the way his eyes crinkle right before he laughs so hard he almost falls off his chair.
“So, how’s Ruth?” David asks, with a lascivious wink once he’s settled back in his chair, drink in hand.
Stevie ducks her head, trying to hide the blush that blooms, rosy and beautiful, on her cheeks. “She’s fine.”
“Are you two still...you two?” Patrick asks. Not the most eloquent phrasing, but he’s more than a little tipsy, so he cuts himself some slack.
“Yeah, we are.”
“I’m sensing a but,” he presses gently.
Stevie shrugs helplessly. “But it’s hard, this whole long distance thing. It’s really, really hard.”
“Mmm,” David hums in agreement. “Tell me about it. We barely made it two weeks. I’m very proud of you for making it...three months?”
“Three and a half,” Stevie corrects.
They’re all silent for a moment. “Well you could…” David begins, then trails off, his face squinching up with the force of his concentration. “Or there’s…” He gives up, leaning over and putting his head on Stevie’s shoulder. “It’s hard. I’m sorry.”
She shrugs, but leans in against David. “We’ve been talking about our options. All of them are pretty scary. I...I don’t know what to do.”
She excuses herself to use the bathroom, and when she comes back they all begin tidying up their mess of bottles and cans and glasses in silent agreement that their night of frivolity is over. Stevie says goodnight and slips into the guest bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Upstairs, David completes his nighttime cleansing ritual while Patrick reads in bed. He hears the light flick off in their ensuite and slips his bookmark between the pages, closing his book and setting it aside. David slides into bed beside him and tucks himself in under Patrick’s arm. He lets out a soft sigh that tickles the hair on Patrick’s chest.
“Something on your mind, baby,” Patrick asks, sifting his fingers through David’s hair.
“I think Stevie is going to go to New York, and I’m going to lose her too.” A fat tear plops on to Patrick’s chest and he turns his head so he can kiss David’s forehead. “Everything is changing and everyone is leaving.”
“I’m not leaving,” Patrick murmurs into David’s hair. “You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”
“I would never try,” David whispers, and Patrick’s heart swells and he holds him tighter. “The selfish part of me wants to tell her she’s not allowed to go, that it’s her solemn duty as my best friend to stay here. With me.” He sniffles quietly. Patrick can’t help but think back, all those years ago when it had been David contemplating a move to New York. He doesn’t know exactly what words were spoken, but he knows that Stevie played a large part in convincing David to stay.
“And what about the not-so-selfish part of you?” Patrick asks, tugging gently on David’s earlobe.
“That part of me loves her and wants her to be happy,” David whispers. “And I think that means I have to let her go.”
His voice wobbles on those last few words and he buries his face in Patrick’s neck and cries. Patrick finds his own eyes prickling with tears. He can practically feel David’s heart breaking.
Christmas that first year is hard for David. Moira is back at work on Sunrise Bay and unable to take enough time off to travel cross country for the holidays. Ruth has whisked Stevie off to Chicago to meet her family, and Alexis is swamped with work in New York, promoting Interflix’s new holiday movies. So David and Patrick close the store at noon on Christmas Eve and make the six hour trek to visit the Brewers for Christmas.
Patrick watches David struggle his way through the big Brewer Family Christmas. It’s not his first Christmas with Patrick’s extended family, but it’s his first Christmas without his dad. He’s a little clingier than usual, a little quieter. He excuses himself after dinner for some quiet time up in Patrick’s childhood bedroom. Fifteen minutes later, Marcy hands Patrick two plates of pumpkin pie and sends him upstairs to check on David. Pushing open the door, Patrick sees him curled up on the bed talking to his mom and sister on FaceTime.
“There’s my favourite brother!” Alexis chirps when she sees Patrick enter the room.
“Hey, Patrick!” Ted says, waving over Alexis’s shoulder. “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas everyone!” Patrick says, setting the plates down on the bedside table and crawling onto the bed behind David. He wraps his arms around him and rests his chin on his husband’s shoulder so he can see the faces smiling back at them.
Moira regales them with tales of the lavish holiday party thrown by the studio. Alexis tells them how she helped Ted promote his new vet practice with Pet Photos with Santa, all proceeds going toward a local animal shelter. It was a huge hit with pet owners in the area and he’s suddenly found himself run off his feet with all of his new patients.
It's wonderful to talk with them, and it makes Patrick nostalgic for that first Christmas he spent with the Roses. He remembers gluing that sad little Christmas tree back together, and how David had made it beautiful. He thinks about Alexis and Ted handing out homemade gingerbread men, and Moira and the Jazzagals serenading everyone with a gorgeous acapella rendition of Silent Night. He smiles, thinking about Stevie tearing up and blaming it on the lack of red wine, and how David had felt in his arms, surrounded by so many people they loved.
When he recalls the way Johnny’s face lit up at the sight of his family coming together to make his last minute party a success, he finds himself blinking back tears.
“Merry Christmas, my darlings,” Moira says, bringing him back from his musings. “I’m off to Nicole and Keith’s for an Australian holiday feast.”
Alexis and Ted are having dinner with friends, and sign off soon after. Patrick cuddles closer to David.
“Yeah. Surprisingly? I am,” he says. “I mean, I can’t help thinking about my dad this time of year.”
“I was thinking about him too,” Patrick confesses.
David rolls into his back and looks up at Patrick. “You were?”
“Yeah. My first Rose Family Christmas was pretty memorable,” he says, leaning down and brushing his lips against David’s. He can feel David’s smile.
“What was memorable about it?” he asks, eyes twinkling.
“You,” Patrick says, kissing him softly. “And seeing your family work so hard to put everything together for your dad. He was so happy that night. I was really proud to be a part of that.”
“I was proud of how amazing we made that janky-ass tree look,” David says, and they both laugh.
“Here,” Patrick says, sitting up and handing David one of the plates. “Grandma Meg’s pumpkin pie with spiked whipped cream.”
David takes a big bite and closes his eyes, savouring the flavour. “Mmm. Ohmygod. Patrick, is your Grandma single?” he asks through a second mouthful.
“Yeah,” Patrick says, reaching over to wipe a crumb from the corner of David’s mouth. “But she’s way out of your league.”
Ohmygod! We did it! We’re at the end!!
You have probably noticed that the chapter count has jumped from 10 to 11. Apparently nearly 13,000 words wasn’t enough to say all the things I wanted to say. So, I will be positing an epilogue sometime this week. I’d say next Friday, but I hope to have it up sooner than that, if I can. But I don’t want to skimp on the quality because I’m rushing to post it before it’s really ready. So let’s say no later than Friday, but fingers crossed for sooner!
This chapter was all about showing that there can be moments of joy and laughter and love, even in the midst of near-crippling grief. And that even so, it’s still so very hard to move on after a loved one has passed. I hope I’ve managed to convey that here.
I need to give so much love and gratitude to NeelyO for her patience and kind words and flailing and all the times she told me to go fuck myself. If I could, I would climb up on my roof and scream at the world about how much I appreciate and adore her. She has gone above and beyond for me as beta for this story for every single chapter, but this one most of all. And whetherwoman’s sage advice and never-ending support has also kept me going. Thank you, friends. Thank you so very much.
I am so honoured that you have all come along for this journey, and I am eternally grateful for all of the lovely comments you’ve shared with me, as well as the kudos and the recs. Really, I cannot thank you enough.
Stay safe out there, everyone. I’ll see you again next week!
Early in the new year, Stevie invites herself over for dinner, which is not unusual. What is unusual is her behaviour. It’s clear through the entire meal that she has something on her mind, but every time either Patrick or David try to gently pry it out of her, she clams up and changes the subject. Patrick can see his husband becoming increasingly annoyed by her stalling. David doesn’t like surprises, doesn’t like change, and Patrick has a sneaking suspicion that whatever it is that Stevie is not telling them is going to upset the new normal that David has carefully and painstakingly cultivated over the past few months.
They watch as Stevie pours herself another glass of wine, brings it to her lips, then pauses, sets it down and opens her mouth to say something, only to shake her head and pinch her lips together in yet another frown.
“Oh my fucking God! Will you just spit it out?!” David exclaims, his hands wheeling dramatically in the air, the pitch and volume of his voice making Patrick jolt and causing Stevie to knock over her wine.
“Shit!” she hisses, righting her glass and using a napkin to try and sop up the mess. “Fuck. Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Patrick says, handing Stevie a handful of thick paper towels. “Don’t worry about it.” He watches her soak up the last of the spilled wine, the red liquid seeping slowly into the brilliant white of the paper towels. Then she puts her elbows on the counter and her head in her hands and lets out a frustrated groan. “This is not how I wanted tonight to go,” she grumbles between her fingers.
Patrick puts a calming hand on her shoulder and watches David out of the corner of his eye. His mouth has all but disappeared up into his cheek now, and his eyes are glassy in a way that has nothing to do with the wine.
“Is there something you want to talk to us about?” Patrick asks. Stevie heaves a sigh and lowers her hands, reaching for her half-empty wine glass and tipping the contents down her throat in one quick gulp.
“Ruth asked me to move in with her,” she says as she pours herself another glass. Patrick doesn’t miss the way her eyes dart in David’s direction and then away again, gauging his reaction. “And I said yes.”
“Wow. That’s...that’s really...good for you, Stevie,” Patrick says, and she offers him a grateful smile.
“We’re really happy for you,” he says, nudging David with his elbow. “Aren’t we, David?”
David looks so far from happy that it hurts Patrick to look at him. But they’ve talked about this, about what they would say and how they would react if or when Stevie decided to make the move. And so it is with no small amount of pride that Patrick watches his husband screw a smile on his face and reach out to take his friend’s hand.
“We really are,” David says softly, like he doesn’t trust his voice to function properly at his regular, preset volume.
Stevie’s face is awash with relief and she sniffs wetly and swipes at her eyes with the sleeve of her plaid flannel shirt. “I thought you’d be mad. I made you stay and now I’m leaving.”
David rolls his eyes. “Mkay, first of all, you didn’t make me do anything. You just helped me see that I didn’t need to leave. And secondly,” he pauses, the smile on his face slipping ever so slightly, “I want you to be happy. And Ruth makes you happy, so.” He shrugs, then lets go of Stevie’s hand and grabs the wine bottle. There are only a few drops left, so he makes a big show of how hard done by he is, and gets up to grab a new bottle from the pantry.
Stevie looks at Patrick over the rim of her glass. “You guys don’t seem all that surprised.”
He smiles a little smugly and shrugs. “We suspected this might be coming. And I may have spent some time coaching David on how to react like you are a human being with actual feelings.”
She laughs at that and bumps his shoulder with hers. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” he says. “We are really going to miss you, though.”
Before Stevie can respond, David is back with another bottle of red. “Yeah. I mean, who’s going to drink all our wine and eat all our food when you’re gone?”
“I guess you’ll just have to find a new best friend to eat your food and drink your wine and put up with all your bullshit,” Stevie says. Her tone is teasing with a hint of snark, but Patrick can hear the undercurrent of emotion in her voice.
“Meh,” David shrugs, pouring out a glass for himself and another for Patrick and setting the bottle down well out of Stevie’s reach. “Who has the time?”
February comes and goes and soon Spring is almost upon them. And so is Stevie’s moving day. She has spent the last several weeks packing and preparing to ship things to Ruth’s and giving away her furniture and sorting through almost twenty years of accumulated clutter. And David has been by her side every step of the way, and by extension, so has Patrick. As the piles of stuff to be discarded or given away or shipped to New York dwindle, Stevie’s nerves increase exponentially.
“What if it doesn’t work out?” she muses aloud one evening when David has just neatly sealed and labelled another box of plaid flannel shirts destined for Ruth’s. “I mean, I’ve never lived with anyone before! And her place is really tiny. Like, smaller than Patrick’s old apartment!” She begins to pace around her nearly empty space, picking her way through the half-empty boxes and piles of stuff yet to be packed.
“And I’m not an easy person to live with, you know?” Stevie continues, waving her arms around and stalking back and forth across the space where her kitchen table used to live. “I mean, I don’t know that for sure, because no one has ever wanted to live with me before, but I mean, I’m a tough pill for most people to swallow, even in small doses.” She throws her hands up in the air in abject despondence. “It’s all going to end in disaster and she’s going to kick me out and I’ll end up crawling back to town and I’ll have to live in the dumpster behind the café because I gave away my apartment and all my furniture—“
“Don’t be ridiculous,” David interjects, standing right in Stevie’s path, so that she collides with his chest. He wraps her up tight in his arms and rests his cheek on the top of her head. “I’d never let you live in the dumpster behind the café,” he says. “The one behind our store is much nicer.”
She huffs a laugh into the soft fabric of David’s sweater and slides her arms around his waist, hugging him tight and sniffling softly. “I’m going to miss you.”
Patrick sees David bite his lip, then he shakes his head, blinking back tears. “No you won’t. You’ll be having the time of your life in the best city in the world with the love of your life. You won’t have time to miss me.”
“I’ll make time,” she argues with a muffled sniff.
Two days later finds them parked out front of the Elmdale Airport. Stevie and David stand on the curb saying their goodbyes while Patrick busies himself with retrieving Stevie’s small suitcase and carry-on from the trunk of the car. The rest of her things have gone on ahead of her, waiting to be sorted and unpacked in her new home.
“Call me when you land,” David mumbles into Stevie’s hair. “I don’t care what time it is. I’ll worry if you don’t.”
“And try not to touch anything or anyone on the subway,” he instructs.
“And remember to do the opposite of what they do on Girls, okay? Make good choices.”
“And...and you are not allowed to make a new best friend, okay?” David unfurls himself from around Stevie’s small frame and holds her by the shoulders, his fingers kneading anxiously at her upper arms. “That position has already been filled. By me. In perpetuity.”
“David…” Stevie’s lower lip begins to wobble and she pulls him in for another hug before detaching herself from his arms and turning to Patrick. She surges forward and pulls him into a quick, vicious embrace, then lets go and bends to pick up her bags. “I love you guys,” she says, then turns to head into the airport without a backward glance.
Spring arrives, and so does baseball season. Patrick joins the Café Tropical team, but feels guilty leaving David home alone for so many nights when he doesn’t have Stevie around anymore to keep him company. He assures Patrick that he’s fine, that he doesn’t need a babysitter. But Patrick knows he misses her terribly.
For the first few months, they talk with Stevie a lot. But as spring turns into summer, their conversations become fewer and farther between, as Stevie and Ruth’s schedules get busier and busier. Suddenly September rolls around, bringing with it David and Patrick’s eighth wedding anniversary at the beginning of the month, and the first anniversary of Johnny’s death at the end.
David doesn’t feel much like celebrating their anniversary this year. Patrick tries to convince him to go for dinner at that new Greek place in Elm Glen that’s supposed to be really good, but David says it’s too far and that they should just stay home and have a quiet night in.
Patrick brings him flowers and a box of the chocolate truffles from the chocolatier in Elmdale that they’re trying to woo to the store. David gives him new strings and a new strap for his guitar. And he cooks Patrick dinner; a beautiful meal of chicken with homemade linguine and a gorgeous mushroom and wine sauce. He blushes when he tells Patrick that Marcy has been giving him cooking lessons in secret on those nights he’d been alone while Patrick was out at baseball.
Later that evening—after dinner and before bed—Patrick calls his mom to thank her.
“Oh, I didn’t do much, sweetheart,” she says. “Just kept him company while he tried out recipes. He seemed so down earlier in the summer. I was really surprised when he called me one night out of the blue and asked for my help. I hope I helped.”
Patrick smiles, thinking about his husband reaching out to his mother-in-law for support while he tried his hand at cooking alone for, really, the first time in his life. “Well, dinner was delicious. So whatever you did, it worked.”
“He seems happier now. Is he?”
Patrick shrugs, even though he knows his mom can’t see him. “Sometimes. He has his days. You know how it is.”
“I do,” she replies softly, and he knows that she really does understand, maybe even better than Patrick. “Well, big hugs to you from Dad and I. And give David a hug too, okay?”
“I will Mom. Love you.”
“Love you too, sweetheart. Goodnight.”
There are a few more stones on Johnny’s grave than there were the last time he and David came to visit just over a month ago, which Patrick notes without comment. He can see that David notices too, if the sad little smile on his face is anything to go by.
It’s overcast and a little cooler than it was this time last year, and the people gathered in the cemetery to remember Johnny a year after his passing stand a little closer together, wrapped up in coats and scarves. A few words are spoken, memories shared, and each person adds another stone to the growing collection.
Their house is noisy again, and Patrick revels in it. The last few months have been so quiet, just him and David, and it’s nice to have Moira’s voice ringing sharp and clear through the lower floor as she regales them with anecdotes from LA. She seems to be in good spirits, although some of her sparkle seems performative, maybe a little forced.
Alexis and Ted are thriving, both personally and professionally. She’s just been promoted to Executive VP of Marketing for Interflix, and Ted’s veterinary practice is growing steadily, day by day.
Jocelyn brings a cheese fondue which looks delicious, until Roland sticks his entire hand into the pot, rooting around for a cube of bread that he dropped. The Schitts are the same as ever, oversharing and oblivious of boundaries. But they are so attentive and solicitous of Moira that it almost makes Patrick forgive Roland for the story he is sharing about how the cheese fondue reminds him of a fungus he had on his—
Patrick stops listening, turning abruptly and leaving the room. There are some things he’s just better off not knowing.
He finds Stevie and Ruth in the kitchen, and he smiles, grabbing himself a glass of water to rinse away the taste of the fondue which he will now forever associate with Roland’s…whatever. He’s glad he doesn’t know the specifics.
“Hey you two,” he says after downing the water and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “We’re so glad you could make it this weekend.”
“Oh, are we?” Stevie asks rhetorically, with a pointed emphasis on the ‘we’.
Patrick sighs. It’s not like he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. David has been standoffish and a little short with Stevie since they arrived last night. It’s been...awkward. He was so excited to see her again, until she was actually here, and then it was like a switch was flipped and he became suddenly very distant and a little sullen.
“We are glad to see you, Stevie. Even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.”
She sighs and lowers her eyes to the countertop. “It’s my fault. I...I did exactly what I promised I wouldn’t do.”
Patrick shakes his head and puts a placating hand on hers. “It’s okay, you know. He knew you’d be busy, that you’d be exploring and getting settled. I think this is just...I think he’s protecting himself. For when you leave again. Because this time—” Patrick swallows around the lump of emotion that has lodged itself in the back of his throat, “—this time when his family leaves, you’ll be going too. And it’s...you know how it was for him last year. If he lets himself get too used to having everyone around again, it’ll only be that much harder when you all leave.”
Stevie looks like she’s on the verge of tears. “God, Patrick, I...I miss you guys so much!” She smiles at Ruth, who reaches over to wipe away a stray tear from her face. “But I just love being in New York, and I...I don’t want to call and rub it in, you know? So I don’t call.” She shrugs helplessly and sniffs wetly. “And then it gets to be so long between calls that I feel like...like I can’t call, you know? And now...I feel like I’ve lost my best friend. My best friends,” she amends, giving Patrick a watery smile. “And I never wanted that. I’m so sorry.”
“I know,” Patrick says. And he does know. He knows all too well how easy it is to fall away from the relationships that once meant so much. “I, um, I did the same thing when I moved here. With my friends, my cousins, my parents.”
“Obviously you fixed things, with your parents at least,” Stevie notes. “You guys are so close now.”
A fond, nostalgic smile crosses Patrick’s face. “Well, I had a little help from David with that,” he says, remembering his birthday party all those years ago. “It was hard at first, though. Letting them into the new life I’d built for myself. But it was worth the effort. I can’t imagine my life anymore without talking to them all the time. And David too. Did he tell you that he asked my mom to teach him to cook?”
Stevie looks suitably shocked. “What?!”
Patrick chuckles and shakes his head in amazement. “He’s really good, actually. Like, real, edible food, Stevie.”
“Wow. That’s...wow.” She takes a sip of her wine and sets it down, levelling Patrick with a penetrating stare. “But he’s okay, right?”
Patrick lets out a heavy breath and shrugs his shoulders. “He’s okay. Maybe a little lonely.” He tucks his chin down and stares at his torn cuticles. “It’s just us, you know? And I don’t know if...maybe I’m not enough.”
“Patrick!” Stevie’s tone is scolding. He looks up and she’s looking at him like he’s just told her the earth is flat. “That is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever heard you say. Of course you’re enough for him! He adores you! He loves you so much it’s...it’s fucking disgusting! Sometimes watching you two together makes me want to...to vomit and then put it in my eyes!”
Patrick scrunches up his face at that mental image. “Um. Okay.”
“Don’t you ever let me hear you say anything that monumentally stupid ever again, Brewer. I mean it. I will fuck you up.”
Patrick laughs, nodding his head. “Noted. I didn’t mean...I just meant that like, when he wants to bitch about me, who is he supposed to turn to?”
Stevie looks thoughtful, then her expression turns calculating, finally landing on pure evil. “Ronnie?” she suggests, with a deceptively innocent lilt to her voice. Patrick glares at her.
“Go fuck yourself, Stevie.”
They both burst out laughing, and Stevie has to try to explain the whole Ronnie Situation to Ruth between fits of snorts and giggles. She smiles politely but doesn’t seem to see the humour.
“Sorry to interrupt this happy little reunion—“
Patrick looks up to see David standing in the doorway, looking a little like he wants to come in, but also wishing he were anywhere else. “Um. Roland spilled like, half the fondue on his lap, and is now scraping melted cheese off his crotch with pieces of bread and I just...I can’t.”
It’s a vivid image, to be sure. “That sounds very distressing,” Patrick says seriously.
“It was. I am forever changed, and not for the better. You just can’t unsee something like that.”
Patrick smiles at his husband and pats the empty stool beside him. “Come and join us, then.”
David hesitates, but ultimately decides that it’s safer in the kitchen than out in the living room with Roland and his fondue covered pants. He sits down beside Patrick, who wraps an arm around his back and presses a kiss to his cheek.
“Want some wine?”
David offers a grateful smile. “Yes please.”
Patrick excuses himself to the pantry for a new bottle, giving David and Stevie a moment to themselves. He hears a sound behind him and sees Ruth peering into the pantry. Apparently she had the same idea.
“I thought I’d give them a minute,” she explains, looking around the tiny space. “I realize now that this pantry is small and I’ve kind of cornered you in here, but I figured it’s better than dealing with Roland’s...issue—“ she waves her hand in the general area of out there.
Patrick grimaces and nods in agreement. “Yeah. I try to avoid situations where I have to watch Roland eat as a general rule.”
“Same,” Ruth laughs. Her expression turns serious and she clears her throat. “I, um, I wanted to thank you and David for being so understanding about Stevie. If it helps at all, she talks about you two all the time. I feel like I know you both.” She grins mischievously. “Maybe more than you’d like.”
“God. Sorry about that. David can be a bit of an over-sharer,” Patrick chuckles. He grabs a bottle of wine from the wine rack. “Stevie has been a big part of his life—and mine too—for so long. And of course we miss her, but it’s worth it to see her happy. She seems really happy.”
Ruth smiles and reaches out to squeeze his arm. “She’s not the only one,” she says, and her voice goes soft and her eyes radiate the love she obviously feels. And suddenly Patrick understands what David means when he talks about him and his heart eyes.
When they return to the kitchen, David and Stevie are talking animatedly, laughing and snorting with all traces of the awkwardness between them gone.
“What’s so funny?” Ruth asks, slipping back into her stool beside Stevie.
“I was just telling David about that squirrel in the park that always steals your snacks.”
Ruth huffs. “That little thing has got some balls on him. No fear at all.”
“Squirrels are just fancy rats,” David proclaims. “I don’t care what anyone says.”
“Do you remember the time we were trying to go to the Wobbly Elm, but a squirrel got into my car and you refused to get in?”
“Fancy rats,” David repeats, completely unapologetic. “But that’s what happens when your car is full of leftover takeout. You attract random rodents.”
“You ate the leftovers in my car all the time.”
David waves her off with an imperious flick of his wrist. “That’s different,” he says primly. “I was entitled to those leftovers. That rodent was not.”
“So, I’m trying to shoo the thing out, and David is standing—“ Stevie collapses in a heap on the counter, shoulders shaking with laughter. “Oh my God,” she sighs through another bout of giggles as she sits up and wipes tears of laughter from her eyes. “And David...he won’t even come near the car. He’s on the other side of the parking lot and he just starts yelling insults at the squirrel like, ‘your mother was a skunk,’ and ‘you’re not nearly as cute as you think you are!’” She dissolves into giggles again. “The best one...Oh my God, I can’t breathe!” she wheezes and sputters, finally drawing in a few deep breaths. “But the best one was, ‘we all know you’re not a natural brunette!’” She collapses into another fit of giggles and snorts.
“Well it worked,” David says, working hard to look indignant.
“What worked?” Alexis asks, coming into the kitchen and hopping onto a stool beside her brother.
“David and the car squirrel,” Stevie says.
“Oh my God! That little squirrely squirrel was just the cutest little thing! You were such a meany to that poor little guy, David!”
David rolls his eyes. “What do you want? Where’s your much better half?”
Alexis swats his shoulder with the back of her hand. “Rude, David!” she scolds. “Ted is talking to Roland about dogs. Apparently they want to get a puppy for Rollie Jr. And Jocelyn is pumping Mom for spoilers on the new season of her show.” She takes David’s glass from his hand and takes a sip. David makes a face and gets up, getting another glass for himself.
“Well, now that you’re both here,” Stevie says, reaching into her pocket. She pulls out a small cardboard circle, frayed around the edges and hands it to David. “I found this while I was unpacking and thought you guys might want to see it.”
Patrick leans over David’s shoulder to see. Before he can ask what it is, Alexis squeals and grabs it from David’s hands. “Oh my God, David! It’s Dad’s coaster!” she exclaims, her voice going all soft and fond around the edges. She turns to David with tears in her eyes. “Tweeters, David! Do you remember? Follow us on Tweeters.” She clutches it tightly to her chest and closes her eyes, a tear slipping down her cheek.
“Tweeters?” Patrick asks softly in David’s ear. David explains about the coasters and the whole social media lecture he’d ended up giving his father when it became clear he had no clue about how to promote the motel online.
“This was his very first attempt at interacting with social media,” David says, wrestling the coaster from his sister and gazing down at it with a wistful little smile on his face. “It was a complete failure, of course, but this is very adorable. And it was really sweet how hard he tried.”
“I found a whole box of them. I’ve got them in my suitcase, so if you want them, you can have them,” Stevie offers. David looks up at her.
“I’d really like that,” he says. “I mean, they are completely incorrect and absolutely do not go with the beautiful aesthetic of our home. But he was so proud of them, and it’s a lovely memory. Thank you, Stevie.”
“I want some too!” Alexis whines.
David rolls his eyes so hard Patrick worries they’ll get stuck. “Oh my God, Alexis! Fine! I’ll share them with you!”
Things are better, this time, when everyone leaves. David is happier. He and Stevie set an online date night once a week, and both are making more of an effort to stay in touch. Sometimes Patrick and Ruth are invited to take part in whatever it is they’re doing together, and sometimes they are politely (or not, as the case may be) asked to be left alone.
David is teaching Stevie to cook, which is something Patrick desperately wants to see. But David insists that the lessons are private and very impatiently shoos him out of the kitchen and tells him to go find someone else to bother.
So he sits in the living room pretending to read his book, when really he’s listening to David and Stevie shouting at one another over their video chat, and it feels exactly like it did when she was still here.
Sometimes, on those evenings when Patrick and Ruth have been asked to stay away, they have their own separate conversations, which is really nice. Ruth is smart and funny and so down to earth. Patrick really likes her, and can see how she and Stevie compliment one another, much the same way that he and David do.
In November, on one of the nights when Patrick and Ruth have been allowed to participate in the evening’s activities, Stevie asks them to visit over Christmas. Patrick says they’ll have to think about it, look over their budget, and let them know. The idea of spending Christmas in New York with their friends and Alexis and Ted makes David deliriously happy, and Patrick knows that even if they couldn’t afford it, he wouldn’t be able to say no. Not after the year they’ve had. Thankfully, their online sales have been very lucrative and there is enough room in their budget to close the store on Christmas Eve and spend a week in New York.
When he tells David, his face lights up. “Really?” he asks. Then he pounces on Patrick, peppering his face and neck with little fluttering kisses and whispers of “thank you, thank you, thank you!” in his ear.
They spend Christmas Eve at Stevie and Ruth’s new apartment, which has a spare room that functions as both an office and a guest room. The bed is small and cozy, and the lights from the city below their window play off David’s features as he sleeps.
In the morning, they all head to Alexis and Ted’s for breakfast and presents.
“And coffee,” David reminds his sister when it looks like she’s about to start handing out gifts. “It goes coffee, presents, then breakfast, Alexis. Everyone knows that.”
Ted makes the coffee while Alexis nervously fluffs pillows and makes sure everyone is warm and comfortable enough.
“Ohmygod! Sit down, Alexis!” David grumbles. “You’re making me dizzy.” It may be Christmas morning, but it’s still well before 10AM, which is the magical hour at which Patrick’s husband returns to his human form. He offers Alexis an apologetic smile, but she waves it off. She knows her brother and his grumpiness slides off of her like water off a duck’s back.
Finally, with coffee in hand, David allows Alexis to begin handing out presents.
Rose Apothecary has a new vendor that raises alpacas, and they commissioned her to make a set of gorgeous alpaca sweaters, scarves, mittens and toques for everyone. Stevie’s set is bright red, and it reminds Patrick of the hat she wore that first Christmas he spent in Schitt’s Creek. Alexis’s is a beautiful turquoise that matches her eyes and she rubs the soft fabric against her cheek with delight. Ruth’s set is snow white and Ted’s is a soft heather grey.
Stevie and Ruth give David and Patrick a free weekend away at any Rosebud Motel at the time of their choosing, as well as vouchers for a couples massage.
“No happy endings, though. Sorry,” Stevie grins evilly. Patrick narrows his eyes at her but decides to let it go. It is, after all, very generous of them.
And then Alexis pulls two identically wrapped boxes out from under the tree, handing one to David and the other to Patrick. Before Patrick can even thank her, David has already begun tearing the wrapping paper from his, revealing a plain white box. He opens it and pulls back the tissue paper, picking up the black sweater from within.
“This isn’t the new Neil Barrett, is it?” He holds it up in front of himself and turns to Patrick. “What do you think?” Patrick looks down at the front of the shirt and his eyes go wide and he feels his mouth drop open.
“What?” David asks, confused by Patrick’s reaction. But Patrick tunes him out, turning his attention to Ted and Alexis, who nod their heads in unison and beam at him from the couch. He looks back at his husband who is still none the wiser, naively holding up the sweater, the words World’s Most Stylish Uncle written in big block silk-screened letters across the front.
Once David recovers from the shock of Alexis and Ted’s news (“I did not pass out. I fell asleep. Very suddenly. Someone get me some more coffee!”), they eat breakfast and then head en masse to Rockefeller Center, where Patrick discovers that his husband has been holding out on him.
“When did you learn how to skate?” Patrick asks as David glides smoothly past him, turning and skating backwards while grinning at Patrick like some kind of lunatic. A gorgeous, sexy, sneaky lunatic. Patrick has known and loved David for ten years, and not once in all that time has David ever mentioned that he knows how to skate. That he’s a fucking amazing skater.
“You’ve been holding out on me,” Patrick says when he finally catches up to David, grabbing him by the arm and pushing him up against the boards. David laughs out loud, and it’s such a joyful sound, like his entire soul is happy in that moment, that Patrick can’t help but lean in and kiss him. “You hate sports. How—“
“Skating is more of an art than a sport,” David interjects, pulling Patrick in for another kiss. “But it does do amazing things for the thighs.”
Fuck, Patrick thinks.
“Fuck,” Patrick says, resting his forehead against David’s chest. “That’s how your thighs...God. I always wondered.”
When he looks up at his husband, he’s smiling with his whole face. “My dad brought us here every Christmas when we were little,” he says, and Patrick can see the memories glistening in David’s eyes. “When I was older—when he was busy, or I was trying to pretend I didn’t want him around—I came back here by myself, just to watch the couples skate together. I even took private lessons so that one day…” His voice trails off and he ducks his head shyly.
Patrick kisses him again, then turns to lean against the boards beside David, taking his hand and lacing their fingers together. “It is pretty romantic,” Patrick observes. David hums in agreement.
“Mmm. Yes. Like the climax of a really good rom com.” He squeezes Patrick’s hand. “This is...it’s the first time I’ve ever been here with someone.” Patrick puts his head on David’s shoulder. “I’ve never been with anyone who was worthy of sharing my perfect romantic moment.” Patrick looks up at David. He looks so beautiful, his cheeks flushed a rosy pink and his eyes bright as he takes in the couples and families swirling past them.
“Well,” Patrick says, then he has to clear his throat, because he’s shared a lot of romantic moments with the man at his side, but never one like this. Never one that David has secretly harboured in the deepest most impenetrable recesses of his heart. “I’m here. Does that make me worthy?”
David’s smile is blinding as he shifts so he’s standing in front of Patrick, and now Patrick is the one pinned to the boards. David leans in and kisses him, deep and long and passionate. Patrick hears someone wolf whistle (probably Stevie), but he doesn’t care. He simply holds David tighter and tilts his head to deepen the kiss. “Get a room!” someone yells (it’s definitely Stevie). When David pulls away, he winks at Patrick, then takes off again, gliding away as he calls back over his shoulder, “We’ll see!”
They spend a quiet New Year’s Eve in Stevie and Ruth’s apartment. Ted and Alexis join them, but Alexis falls asleep at 9:30, so Ted gently bundles her into an Uber to take her home.
They order Chinese and Thai and Indian takeout because they can’t agree on what type of food to have, and they drink wine and watch the ball drop in Times Square. At midnight they open a bottle of champagne and they kiss and toast the new year, and shortly after 1AM they bid one another goodnight. Then Patrick takes David back to their tiny bed in the guest room and holds him tight as he makes quiet, tender love to him. They fall asleep after a woefully quick clean up, tangled in one another’s arms. It’s a wonderful start to the new year.
In February, Alexis and Ted show up unexpectedly on their doorstep looking nervous and excited. Alexis is glowing and Ted frets and fawns over her like she’s a tiny, fragile thing, which strikes Patrick as funny somehow. He’s heard all of her stories—some of them many times over—about daring escapes and close calls and narrows misses. About Somali pirates and Yakuza drug lords and Middle Eastern regime changes. But instead of flapping an impatient hand at Ted and telling him that she’s fine and doesn’t need his help, she simply smiles and lets him fuss. And Patrick realizes it’s because she knows that it’s what he needs to do for her.
“So...this is a long way to come for a surprise visit,” David says, handing a glass of wine to Ted and a glass of water to Alexis. “What do you want?”
“I think what David means is it’s nice to see you both,” Patrick says, giving his husband a sidelong glare.
“Same thing,” David says breezily.
“Well, we actually do want to ask you to do something for us,” Ted begins cautiously. “It’s kind of a big favour, which is why we wanted to ask you guys in person.”
“Ohmygod,” David sighs, glaring at his sister. “You need a kidney, don’t you?” He shakes his head. “I told you they don’t grow back, Alexis!”
“What?” Patrick gasps.
“What?” Ted squeaks.
“Hmm?” Alexis hums innocently, placing a placating hand on Ted’s knee. She narrows her eyes at her brother. “No, David. My kidney is fine.”
“Well then what is it?”
“Well…” Ted smiles, gesturing to Alexis to go ahead with their request.
“Well, as you know, we are going to have a baby.”
“Ugh, David! This is important! Stop being so impatient!”
“Well then stop taking like, a billion years to ask a single question!”
Patrick puts a warning hand on David’s knee and squeezes—hard. “Babe, maybe give them a chance to ask what they came here to ask.”
“Fine!” David flails his hands in the air. “Go ahead.”
“God, David!” Alexis huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. “We want you and Patrick to be the baby’s godparents, okay? There. I said it. Are you happy now?”
“Oh. Oh wow,” Patrick says. He looks at Alexis, then at Ted, who is practically bouncing with nerves and excitement. “That’s...wow. That’s...I’m—we’re—so honoured!” He nudges David with his elbow. “Aren’t we, David?”
But David’s face is frozen, like a YouTube video that’s still buffering, with his mouth hanging open and his eyes close to bulging right out of his head.
“David?” Patrick pats his knee, and David seems to snap out of it. At least his face does. His mind still appears to be operating about thirty seconds behind the rest of the conversation.
“Godparents?” he breathes. Alexis and Ted nod. “So...if you...if something happened...then we—“ he gestures between himself and Patrick, “—would have to raise the thing?”
Alexis scoffs and rolls her eyes. “This is your niece or nephew, David! It’s not just a thing!”
But Patrick has a hold of David’s arm and is dragging him to his feet before he can get out another word. “David, can I talk to you in the kitchen for just a second?” He pushes David toward the hall, turning to smile over his shoulder at Ted and Alexis. “We’ll be right back.”
He prods and manhandles David down the hall and sits him down on a stool, fixing him with a pointed and steely stare.
“What the fuck, Patrick?!”
“Your sister has just asked us to be godparents to her baby—our niece or nephew—and you are behaving like she’s asking you for one of your organs!”
“She has asked for one of my organs!” David hisses. “Or was that not clear?”
Patrick puts a hand on each of David’s shoulders and takes in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “It is a huge thing for them to ask this of us,” he says, trying to keep his voice calm and steady. “It means they trust us—us David—with the most important thing in their lives. Do you understand that?”
David nods slowly. “Yes.”
“This is not some flighty thing that Alexis is asking you to do for her. This is not an emergency passport or coloured contacts,” he says. “This is their child, David. And it’s a big fucking deal.”
“Do you?” Patrick asks. “Because it doesn’t seem like you do.”
“Of course I do!” David shouts. He grimaces, then lowers his voice. “Of course I do. I just...we don’t want kids, Patrick! I am terrible with children, and this kid...it’s going to hate me, okay? I’ll be it’s weird uncle w-who dresses funny and always says the wrong thing, and embarrasses it all the time and it’ll hate me! And if something happens to them and we have to look after it…” He trails off and Patrick can see tears welling up in his eyes. “Then it will just hate me even more. Forever.”
Patrick goes from annoyed to heartbroken in the blink of an eye. “Oh, baby. That’s not true,” Patrick soothes. “No one could ever hate you.”
“Tell that to Mark-Paul Gosselaar,” David mutters. He wipes at his eyes then grins ruefully up at Patrick. “I threw up in Tiffani Thiessen’s car and blamed it on him. He’s never forgiven me.”
“Okay. Well that’s a lot to unpack,” Patrick says. He cups David’s face in his hands, presses a kiss to his furrowed brow. “But this kid—your niece or nephew—is going to adore you. Because once you meet him or her—“
“Or them,” David interjects. Patrick smiles at him and smoothes his thumbs over his cheeks.
“Or them,” he amends, “you are going to fall so in love that they will have no choice but to love you back.”
“You promise?” David asks, his voice small and uncertain.
David swallows, nodding his head. He looks up at Patrick. “Okay.”
Patrick smiles and kisses him again. “Okay.”
The next few months see David and Alexis talking nearly every day, as he helps her to “cultivate the proper aesthetic” for welcoming the new baby into their lives. When Patrick laughs and asks David to please explain what that means in English, David rolls his eyes and says, “I’m helping decorate the baby’s room.”
David has also come to embrace the idea of being an uncle/godfather, and purchases several books on child rearing, much to Patrick’s surprise. When he comes to bed one night to find his husband deeply engrossed in The Uncle Book: Everything You Need to Know to be a Kid’s Favourite Uncle, he can’t help himself and climbs onto David’s lap, gently prying the book from his hands, and pressing him back against his pillows in a kiss that leaves them both breathless and in desperate need of more.
“If you lost my page I’m never having sex with you again,” David complains half-heartedly as he raises his arms over his head so Patrick can pull his shirt off.
“Well then I’d better make this time count,” Patrick murmurs into the soft skin of David’s belly, scooting backward on his knees and kissing his way down to the waistband of David’s pyjama pants.
The noises David makes when Patrick takes him into his mouth suggest that he’s done just that.
In mid-June, they receive a frantic phone call from Ted. “It’s happening! Guys…oh my God. It’s happening!”
David is beside himself, despite the fact that he’s had his bag packed and stashed in the trunk of their car for a week. He frets and worries all the way to the airport, he monologues about the dangers of childbirth on the flight to New York, and quietly panics during their Uber ride to the hospital. By the time they find their way to the maternity wing of Mt. Sinai, he’s worked himself up so much that Patrick worries he’s going to pass out, and makes him sit with his head between his knees and take deep breaths before he’s allowed to see his sister.
Joshua Jonathan Mullens arrives eight and a half hours later, and Alexis looks exhausted but happy when they peer into her room. Patrick can’t hold back his tears as he watches Ted carefully settle his newborn son in David’s arms. David has been practicing with a bag of flour, but Patrick can see he’s still nervous. He lets out a trembling breath and looks up at Patrick with tears in his eyes.
“Oh my God,” David whispers as Joshua’s tiny hand wraps around his finger.
On David’s birthday, Moira calls to share some surprising news.
“It’s also my birthday, Mom,” David reminds her bluntly before she can launch into her announcement.
“Oh David, you’re almost fifty! Must I still lavish you with consanguineous felicitations every single year?”
“Excuse me!” David squawks in protest, “But I am barely forty. And yes, you have to make a big deal over my birthdays now to make up for all the ones you missed when I was younger.”
Moira sighs. “Very well. Many convivial salutations to you, on this, the anniversary of your emergence into the world, David.”
“Thank you,” David murmurs, somewhat placated. “Now, what was your news?”
“I have decided that my time on Sunrise Bay has come to a close, and I have requested to have Vivian Blake written off the show, with the option to return in the future for guest appearances during sweeps should I so choose,” she explains. “Nicole is heartbroken, obviously. But she understands.” David’s jaw has dropped open and he looks at Patrick, who is fairly sure he looks just as stunned as David.
“All good things must come to an end, my dear,” Moira says sagely. “Much to the disappointment of my cortège of adoring fans.”
“Okay, but why now?” David presses.
“Can you keep a secret, David?” Moira asks coyly.
“You know I can! I haven’t told anyone about the time you—“ He glances at Patrick, then quickly away. “Nevermind. Yes. We can keep your secret.”
“I may have received a call from a certain Broadway producer who shall remain nameless,” Moira says, then she takes a dramatic pause before continuing. “And after much back and forth between our two camps, I have been made an offer I am simply powerless to refuse! Yours truly shall be treading the boards of the Shubert Theatre as the one and only Norma Desmond in a revival of Sunset Boulevard!”
David is on his feet, hands flailing as he and his mother squeal with excitement. Patrick offers his sincere congratulations while gently extracting David’s phone from his hand before he can accidentally fling it through their front window.
“Oh my God! Mom!” David exclaims over and over again. He’s crying and Patrick can hear Moira’s jubilant tears on the other end of the line. “Mom, that’s amazing! I’m so...I’m so happy for you!!”
“I shall commit my last scenes to celluloid in two weeks' time,” Moira goes on, “And then I will begin the arduous task of relocating back to the east coast. Rehearsals begin in late August.”
“That’s really wonderful news, Mrs. Rose,” Patrick says. “It will be so nice having you closer. And I’m sure Alexis will be thrilled.”
“Well,” Moira’s voice goes a little wobbly, “I must admit that this decision was not purely professional. Now that John is no longer with us, I find myself lonely and longing for the comfort of my family, especially now that we have darling Joshua as part of our retinue.”
David’s eyes mist over. “He’s going to be very lucky. How many kids get to have the Moira Rose as their grandmother?”
“Oh no. We aren’t doing grandmother,” Moira objects firmly. “Too matronly. I shall be called Gigi, or some other more suitable appellative. Time will tell.”
By September, Moira has arrived in the city and is settling into her apartment, and baby Joshua is growing and changing so fast that David laments only being able to see him over FaceTime. Patrick would tease David if he didn’t feel exactly the same way. Joshua is bright-eyed and curious and David is convinced that he already recognizes his face.
“Well, with your eyebrows it’s no wonder, David,” Alexis chides, and David is so focused on making faces at the baby through the tiny screen on his phone that he doesn’t even react.
So, for their ninth anniversary, they decide to go to New York for two weeks. They stay with Stevie and Ruth again, cozy in their little guest bedroom. Their apartment is in a trendy neighbourhood with a thriving nightlife, with little shops and cafés to keep them occupied during the day while Stevie and Ruth are at work, in those rare moments that they’re not fawning over Joshua or helping Moira redecorate her space.
David is in heaven, blissfully working on mood boards and spending time with all of the most important people in his life. The sadness that has hung like a dark cloud over his head these past two years isn’t completely gone, but just like Patrick’s dad had assured him so long ago, his good days now far outweigh the bad ones.
They’re supposed to head home in three days and Patrick knows David is dreading it. He has to admit that he is too. It’s been wonderful being all together again, with the added bonus of being able to go out whenever they want and catch a show or get takeout after 9pm from any one of a thousand different restaurants. He can feel the loneliness of being so far away creeping in around the edges of his consciousness.
He’s gotten in the habit of taking a run in the mornings, just circling four square blocks around Stevie’s apartment a few times. He’s getting to know his way around and the sights and sounds of the city are no longer as jarring as they were the first time he visited, but the last thing he wants is to find himself in a neighbourhood he doesn’t recognize.
He’s running the final lap of his route when he comes to the little market that he’s stopped at every morning for the last ten days to pick up a couple of coffees and maybe a treat for David. The owners—Carol and Douglas—are an older couple who have been running the store for nearly forty years in this very spot, and Patrick has come to enjoy his morning chats with them.
As he pushes open the door, a GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign on the front window catches his attention. He frowns as he heads to the back to the self-serve coffee station, pouring out two cups and adding cream to both, then loading the second with sweetener and caramel syrup and finishing with a dash of cocoa powder on the top. He grabs two danishes from the basket beside the coffee station and sticks them in a brown bag, then carries his wares to the front counter and gets out his wallet.
“I saw the sign on your door,” he says to Carol. “That’s such a shame. People are going to miss you around here.”
Carol smiles and hands him his change. “Well, we're not getting any younger and our children all live on the west coast. We want to spend time with our grandkids while we can still get down on the ground and play with them.”
“Its the getting back up that’s the hard part,” Douglas calls from the back room.
Patrick chuckles. “For sure,” he says with a nod of his head. “Family first, right?”
“Absolutely,” Carol responds. Patrick thanks her and picks up the coffees and the bag with the pastries. He’s almost at the door when something stops him and he turns around.
“Hey, Carol?” he calls out.
“Yes?” She pokes her head out from behind the curtain that separates the back room from the rest of the store.
“Do you mind if I pop back in later today? I have a couple questions I’d like to ask you.”
If she finds his request curious, it doesn’t show on her face. She’s all friendly, welcoming smiles. “Of course, dear. We’re here all day.”
“Thanks. See you later!”
He’s out on the street again, whistling a happy little tune as he heads back to the apartment.
After waking David with copious amounts of kisses and plying him out of bed with the promise of coffee and pastries, Patrick spends the rest of the morning running numbers and doing some research. A nebulous idea has started to coalesce in his brain. He realizes that it’s been there, lurking in the back of his mind, for days. But it was seeing the sign announcing that the little market was going out of business that brought it right to the forefront. Now it’s the only thing he can think about.
It’s not unlike when he first arrived in Schitt’s Creek. He’d known he wanted more, but didn’t know what exactly that looked like. Not until David walked into Ray’s with his idea for a general but very specific store. David's idea had ignited a fire inside Patrick (as had David himself) and he’d found himself unable to think of anything other than the tall, handsome man with the graceful hands and the expressive face and his wonderful (if somewhat incoherent) plans for his new business.
David is out helping his mother select new curtains for her apartment, and then he’s having lunch with Alexis and baby Joshua. So Patrick has the better part of the day to himself to figure out the questions he needs to ask and work out the numbers he needs to know. When he’s satisfied, he heads down to the market again and talks to Douglas and Carol.
When their meeting is over, he feels lighter. He feels excited. He hopes David will be excited too. He can’t wait until dinner to see him, so he calls. As he listens to the line ringing, Patrick realizes he doesn’t know what he’s going to say. Blurting out that he thinks they should move to New York and establish a new branch of their store is a big step. He’d kind of like to be with David—in person—when he proposes his idea. Because he wants David to know, to see it on Patrick’s face, that it’s okay. It’s not some big, scary unknown anymore, this city. It’s starting to feel familiar, and coming here to the place where they are surrounded by so many of the people that they love feels a lot like coming home. If they do decide to make the move, it will be for the right reasons this time, and they’ll both be doing it with their eyes wide open.
The ringing stops and he hears David’s voicemail greeting kick in. Patrick smiles because he knows David is probably holding Joshua and doesn’t want to put the baby down in order to answer his phone.
“Hello. This is David Rose of Rose Apothecary. I am unable to come to the phone right now so please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible. Thank you.”
Hearing David’s voice triggers something in Patrick’s brain.
I’ll just leave a message.
He grins at the memory as he leaves a message for his husband.
“Hi Patrick? It’s David. I just wanted to run something by you, so if you can give me a call when you get this? Okay. Ciao.”
So here we are, dear friends, at the end of our journey. Thank you all so much for joining me. I hope you’ve found the same catharsis in reading this story as I have in writing it.
Thanks to spiffymittens for giving me the idea for the squirrel story!
NeelyO and whetherwoman have been pillars of support and love for this story since long before I was ready to share it with all of you. NeelyO, thank you for repeatedly flailing and yelling at me, for keeping me grounded and on track, and for always giving me a solid “fuck you” when I needed it. whetherwoman, thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and helping me to make this story as real as possible.
This has been a labour of love and tears, and I have so enjoyed sharing it with all of you. As always, comments are very welcome and provide a ray of sunshine on those days when the world seems a little too dark.
I wish all my American friends a very Happy Thanksgiving.
On a personal note, as I was preparing to post this chapter I received word that a dear friend passed away today, so if it seems like I don’t have the words right now to express myself properly, please know that it is not because I don’t appreciate the support you have shown to me and this story these long eleven weeks.
Be safe and tell your friends and family how much you love them. They’re gone all too soon.