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Everything We Need

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Passin' the days away, dare me on a dime to say that we had everything we need” - Kids by Orville Peck

 

“You’re not going to do me wrong, are ya girl?” Patrick ran his hand over the horse’s withers, who just snuffled at him and shook her mane. “You be good and I might get you an apple.”

The hair was brushed clean and soft and Patrick patted at the thick muscle that corded along the horse’s side. 

“Whiskey, be gentle,” It took Patrick twice as long as usual to saddle up his companion, stiff and slow as he was.

Patrick took a deep breath before he steeled his nerves and mounted Whiskey. She stood still as he grunted in pain and got comfortable—as comfortable as he could. 

“Dammit,” Patrick groaned in pain, but he grabbed the reins in his left hand and turned her until she was facing towards town and she began to trot with a swift kick. 

The sun had already set, and he was sure the general store was already closed, but David had the tendency to hang around downstairs after closing. He needed more of the healing salve that David sold. 

The windows of the general store were dusty and dark when Patrick pulled Whiskey to a stop. He could see a flicker of something, a shift in the darkness, so he dismounted and bit his lip to stifle his cry as his feet hit the ground too hard. 

He made his way slowly to the door and rapped his knuckles against the tarnished wood. Patrick could hear footsteps and then the door swung open. 

“What is it Patrick? David raised an eyebrow at him. 

“How did you know it was me?” Patrick asked as he kicked his feet against the porch railing, careful to keep the rest of his aching body still. The mud stuck to his boots and David pulled a brush from just inside the door and handed it to Patrick. 

“Whiskey has a very distinct trot and one of your saddle buckles rides loose. Heard you coming from down the way,” David leaned on the doorframe and watched as Patrick winced, lifted his foot and brushed the mud from his boot. David moved, held out his hand, and Whiskey snatched the apple out of David’s extended hand.

“Really?” Patrick paused to look up at his horse, but the angle was sharp and it caused him to grimace. 

“Was it that colt again?” David asked as he stepped back onto the porch and wiped Whiskey’s spit from his hand with a rag he pulled from his pocket. Patrick straightened with a whimper, raised his other foot and did a cursory job on that boot before he handed the brush back to David.

“Yeah, do you have more of that salve?”

David nodded as he turned back towards the store. 

“Come on, you know the drill.”

Patrick followed him in, hung up his hat, and paused when David walked past the jar’s usual spot on the center table. There was a candle flickering next to the register and a book lay abandoned next to it.

“No more in stock. I have some upstairs, come on.”

Patrick made his way to the back of the store. The stairs were daunting with his ribs in this state, but he needed to make it up to the top. If he was lucky, David might have some whiskey that Patrick could take to help him on the ride back. 

The stairs were tough and David was standing in the middle of the room when Patrick finally made it to the top. He looked around the space, just as neat and tidy as the store below them. Everything was tucked into its own space, even the books that were stacked next to David’s bed were piled neatly.

“You can lay on the bed,” David hooked a thumb in the direction before he began to rummage in his drawers. The bed was large and he knew it must be comfortable to fit David’s standards. 

“My clothes are dirty,” Patrick responded. He had only been in the man’s living quarters a few times before, and never had infringed this much into his personal space. Even in clean clothes, he couldn’t lie on the bed. That just seemed to cross a line. 

“Then, lay on the floor,” David threw a hand into the air. He turned to Patrick and Patrick saw the jar in his hand. “But on the rug, don’t lie on the wood flooring.”

He lowered himself down onto the floor slowly, onto his back and lifted his shirt once he was comfortable. He breathed out harshly as his body protested the movement and hoped he would be able to get back up. 

“Brewer,” David tsked as the shirt started to uncover the beginnings of the bruise. Then it was a gasp when the shirt was tucked underneath Patrick’s armpit and David could see the entirety of the bruise. “Patrick, are you okay?”

Patrick nodded as David lowered himself onto the floor next to him, his legs folded together so he was sitting. There was the soft ‘pop’ of the jar opening and he watched as David scooped two fingerfuls out of the container. 

David’s hands were warm on his skin and Patrick hissed as David’s fingers trailed over the deepest part of the bruise. 

“I’m sorry,” David whispered. His fingers tickled over Patrick’s ribs, onto the slope of his side and at the edge of his back. Patrick remained silent through the process and David hummed in satisfaction. “I think your ribs are okay.”

“Good,” Patrick breathed. 

“Bruised, but nothing’s broken.” 

“Only hurts when I move that side,” Patrick supplied and David nodded as he ran his hand over the bruise in its entirety, the salve kept the movement slick and Patrick tensed, preparing to sit up.

“Don’t move for a bit,” David pushed him lightly back onto the floor. “Let me get you a drink.”

Patrick settled back into the wood of the floor and turned his head to watch as David went to the counter and poured whiskey into two glasses. 

“Stay until you’re ready to get up,” David said as he sat back down. He handed a cup over to Patrick and Patrick took it gratefully. The whiskey burned as he sipped it, his head turned to the side awkwardly. He recognized it as one of Twyla’s stronger batches that she decided not to sell at the saloon. 

“Thank you, David,” Patrick whispered as he turned his head back to look at the ceiling. 

“Anytime, Patrick,” Patrick looked back over to David who was watching him intently. “You know that you can come over whenever you’d like.”

Patrick just nodded, transfixed by David’s gaze.

*

“The usual?”

Twyla was wiping the bar with a rag, smile ever present on her face. He sat down on his favorite stool, this one was steady with all its legs the same length, unlike most of the others. She tucked the towel into the waistband of her gray skirt.

“Please,” Patrick said. He watched as she poured a glass of beer and accepted it when she handed it to him. The sleeves of her white linen shirt were rolled up, past the scar on the outside of her wrist. Patrick had an identical one from when he helped pull her hand from the tangle of chicken wire they used to set up a coop in her yard. 

There was a strange man sitting at the end of the counter. Patrick tried not to stare, but it was hard not to. They didn’t get too many new faces around here, and if they did, it was brief. Schitt’s Creek wasn’t the usual stop for travelers moving west. 

It had to be David Rose, the newest remittance man to come to town. There were rumors that he was from New York City and had been sent to their humble town in Alberta after a series of his antics left his family in a web of shame and he was sent north and west to settle down.

The man looked over at him. Patrick nodded before he turned back to the bar and took a sip from his drink. 

The saloon doors slammed open and he turned to see Stevie clamoring in, her trousers were folded to mid-calf at the bottom and clean. She stomped her feet as she walked through, littering mud from her boots across the saloon floor. Twyla glared at her, which earned a smile from Stevie in response.

“That horse is a piece of shit,” Stevie said as she flipped up the side of the bar and stepped through. She paused to press a kiss to Twyla’s lips before she helped herself to a cup of beer and leaned against the bar in front of Patrick. 

“She’s a hard one,” Patrick agreed. “This morning was rough. Almost bucked me right off.”

“How much longer until we...” Stevie trailed off. 

“Don’t think about it,” Patrick warned. 

Stevie huffed and rolled her eyes. 

“Is that?” She whispered; her eyes drifted over to the man, but snapped back quickly. “David Rose?”

“I think so, but I don’t know,” Patrick whispered back. 

He kept his eyes trained on Stevie, but noticed that Twyla was walking over to the man. Twyla had a way of needling information out of people and he was sure that he’d get the gossip from Stevie in the morning when she came out to the ranch in the morning. 

Stevie knocked on the counter. “Want to play checkers?”

“You’re on, Budd,” Patrick said. He pulled a coin from his jacket pocket. “Can you get me another beer?”

“You’re not done with that one,” Stevie commented. Patrick held eyes with her as he lifted the cup and drained it; the bubbles tickled the back of his throat, but he worked through it. The empty cup hit the counter with a soft thud and Stevie stood up. “One beer, coming right up.”

Two drinks later, along with a plate of fried ham, Patrick and Stevie were on their second game of checkers. 

“Hah!” Stevie cried out. 

“One more game. For a tie breaker,” Patrick insisted. 

Stevie set up the board. 

In the end, Stevie won and smirked smugly at the victory. 

“Tomorrow,” Patrick tapped on the bar as he got up. “We’re playing again tomorrow.”

Stevie hummed as she scooped up his tab from the sticky counter and dropped it into a tray under the bar. 

“And I’ll beat your ass tomorrow, too.”

Patrick waved her off as he walked through the saloon. 

He swung the door open; there was a yelp as the door stopped suddenly. 

“Excuse me!” A voice angrily called out and Patrick shimmied through where the door was still open and turned to face the man from the bar, standing there, rubbing his arm with a disgruntled look on his face. 

“ ‘M sorry,” Patrick took off the hat he had just put on his head. He ran his fingers along the brim as the man cursed. 

“You should be careful with the doors you’re swinging open,” The man’s eyebrows were thick, his mouth turned into a frown. 

“Are you okay?” Patrick asked. His mother taught him manners and he wanted to make sure the man was okay before he got on his horse, who watched placidly from where he was tied up. The horse was getting old, moving slower and Patrick was already dreading when his time was done. 

“Yeah,” The man muttered. Patrick followed him off the porch of the saloon. 

“You’re new here,” Patrick said when the man paused at the bottom of the steps. 

The man nodded as he looked around. Patrick could tell he wasn’t interested in conversation, but what kind of man would he be if he didn’t introduce himself to the new member of the community. 

“I’m Patrick Brewer,” Patrick said. He held out his hand, the man looked down at it with knitted brows. He looked back up at Patrick’s face then took his hand. His handshake was firm and Patrick was impressed, if in fact this man was from New York City. 

“David,” The man’s voice was snippy. “David Rose.”

It was him. 

David let go of his hand.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Patrick said. He took a step to the side, closer to the horse. “If you need me, just holler.”

Patrick placed his hat back on his head and tipped the brim down in goodbye. 

“C’mon Cracker,” Patrick mused as he untied the horse from the post. 

“Cracker?” David’s voice was hard to read. “That’s an awful name for a horse.”

Patrick turned back to him, speechless. He wasn’t sure if he was meant to brush off the comment. Was he trying to be funny? 

“What would you name him? What’s a ‘horse appropriate’ name?” Patrick asked. 

“Not Cracker,” David said with a frown. 

Patrick shook his head as he mounted the horse. 

“‘Not Cracker’ is a terrible name for a horse, David,” Patrick teased as the horse walked past David. 

There was a beat of silence as Patrick started to ride off. 

“Patrick! Which way back to the inn? I’m all turned around,” David asked. 

“That way!” Patrick pointed past the saloon as he turned the horse around so he was facing David who looked sheepish. “Right behind this building. Says ‘inn’ on the front. You can’t miss it.”

“Mhm, okay,” David nodded. 

“G’night,” Patrick called out to him.

“Night.”

Patrick turned the horse around and rode away. 

*

Patrick made his way to the saloon as soon as he heard. Maureen Budd, Stevie’s aunt and the innkeeper, passed away.Twyla was at the bar, alone, already dressed for mourning. 

“How’s Stevie?” Patrick asked as he sat down at a stool. 

“She’s … hanging in there. Spent the entire morning trying to arrange the body and services. She’s sad and needs a break from the townspeople,” Twyla sighed. The news had shocked their humble town. Maureen was a woman of sass who could drink anyone under the table and swindle every visitor to the inn during a game of cards. 

“Poor Stevie,” Patrick said. Twyla handed him a glass of whiskey, which Patrick took. Twyla poured a second glass. 

“To Maureen Budd.”

“To Maureen Budd,” Patrick echoed. 

The whiskey burned his throat, but he finished it in one go; the thud of their drained cups on the counter rang through the empty saloon. 

“Where is she?” Patrick asked. 

“She said she needed to go somewhere she could breathe and mentioned taking out Daffodil,” Twyla said. “I think that’s the horse’s name.”

“I must’ve just missed her,” Patrick hadn’t seen her when he got Whiskey, and could’ve sworn all the other horses were accounted for. Although, if she was trying to avoid the townsfolk, the long way to his property would’ve given her the perfect cover. 

“She probably went to Rattlesnake Point,” Twyla said. Patrick agreed.

“Her usual,” Patrick said. It was his usual too, it was the perfect place to think and few people knew of it, so it was usually deserted. “Can I have a small bottle of whiskey? I’m going to see if I can find her.”

“Yeah,” Twyla turned and moved bottles around the shelf until she pulled a small one down. 

Patrick pulled a note from his pocket and handed it to Twyla. 

“I’ll make sure she comes down in one piece,” Patrick said as he got up. 

“Please do.”

The ride to Rattlesnake Point was long and dusty this time of year, which made for an uncomfortable ride. Patrick slowed Whiskey down and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to tie around his neck, and pulled it up to cover his nose and mouth. The view always made Patrick feel calm, so it was worth enduring the dust.

He tipped his hat down to block the sun as Whiskey moved up the hill. When they reached the top, they passed through a ring of trees and Stevie was sitting on a rock with Daffodil snapping her teeth at the patchy grass. 

Stevie turned to look at him and Patrick held up the bottle in response. She was wearing what she referred to as her ‘fancy’ clothes, reserved for official business and ceremonies. Stevie moved on the rock, tucked her black skirt in underneath her thighs, and Patrick sat next to her. 

“She left me the Inn,” Stevie said, she took the bottle from him and pulled the cork out. “And the brothel.” 

“Makes sense,” Patrick took his own swig from the bottle. “You’re the next of kin.”

“I don’t know how to run one business. Let alone two.” Stevie cleared her throat. 

The view from the rock was expansive, the rolling hills were breathtaking in the spring, but now in the summer, it was brown and destitute, the grass dead from the heat of the beating sun. 

“You help me run mine. Y’know more than you think,” Patrick commented. 

“I help with half, doesn’t mean I know anything,” Stevie’s eyes were wide when Patrick looked at her. Her hair was twisted into a plait, tied off with a ribbon. Patrick reached for the end and gave it a soft, swift tug. “I help you break the horses when you get busy. I pour drinks at the saloon when I’m not helping you. I’ve fiddled with the books a handful of times. Doesn’t mean I know what the numbers mean.”

“We’re not going to let you do this alone,” Patrick reasoned. It was true. 

“Who is ‘we’?” Stevie said loudly. A horse snuffled behind them. “You have your own business, constantly out and about. Twyla has the saloon and the distillery and brewery at our house. David has the store and I’m still not convinced he’s not going to leave to go back to New York soon.”

Patrick’s eyebrows furrowed at the last one and there was a pang in his heart. That was a scary thought and something he hadn’t considered in a long time. Was David still planning on going back? He shook his head to clear the thought. He wasn’t going to entertain the idea that David might leave one day. 

“Stevie, we’re all going to be there for you. Don’t worry, we all have time for you,” Patrick reassured her with a whisper. “I will make sure I have time during the day to go help you get some of those rooms in order. I know Maureen was talking about doors that needed greasing and floorboards that are loose. And from what I’ve heard, the brothel pretty much runs itself. And you have Mrs. Currie who manages everything there.”

She leaned to the side and he laughed softly as her shoulder bumped into his. 

“Thank you,” Stevie smiled at him. Her eyes were still wet, but she looked less scared.

“You’re welcome.”

They sat in silence as they passed the bottle back and forth. 

He rode back into town with Stevie, but veered paths when she went to the saloon and he went to the general store. 

Whiskey gave an enthusiastic shake of the head when David opened the door and met Patrick on the porch. David spoiled her and she had gotten too used to it. 

“Stop expecting things,” David chided as he held out an apple on an open palm. She chomped on it, then he pulled a second one from his trouser pocket. “You only get two because they’re very small.”

Patrick raised his eyebrows at David. David just shrugged in response, but he was smiling and shaking Whiskey’s spit from his hand. Patrick bit back his own smile as he turned to walk into the store. 

David was ridiculous. In the best way. But ridiculous. He liked when David was ridiculous. 

“We need to do something for Stevie tonight,” Patrick said once they were back in the general store. 

David nodded as he sat on his chair behind the counter. 

“You all should come over tonight. After sunset. I’ll light a fire, we can drink a little, maybe Twyla will get drunk enough to do something silly. Like that time she tied a can to a cat and pretended it was a wagon.” Patrick said and laughed at the memory.

David shook his head with a slight smile. “That was strange.”

“Made Stevie laugh really hard,” Patrick responded. “Oh, maybe she’ll throw knives.”

“They’re good together,” David said. He was staring at Patrick and Patrick wasn't sure what he meant by the look. 

“They are,” Patrick leaned against the counter. 

“Must be nice to have that kind of partnership,” David murmured and Patrick raised his eyebrows at him. “That intimacy.”

“Yeah,” Patrick whispered. David was still staring at him with his wide, warm eyes. He felt like he had that, parts of it, with David and he wanted more. Sometimes he thought David wanted it too.

But there was still the fear in his heart that maybe he was reading the signs wrong. There was a part of him that needed David to say he needed more. What if Patrick told him how he felt, David rejected him and then Patrick lost everything. 

He turned away from David and looked out the window. From the angle he was at, he could see the corner of the saloon. “They’re going to bury Maureen this evening.”

“Before supper time?” David asked. 

“Yeah, I gotta go take out the horses now so I’m done in time,” Patrick said as he stood up. “But tonight, after everything!”

“Yes,” David nodded. 

“I’m going to go tell Stevie and Twyla,” Patrick took a step back from the counter. 

“Okay,” David’s voice followed Patrick out of the store. 

Everyone in town attended the burial. Stevie stared at the rock that she had written Maureen’s information on, to hold the place of the headstone that was set to be carved. Twyla led Stevie away from the site with one hand on her shoulder and a kiss to her temple. The sun was just starting to set behind them and they all parted with a nod. They’d be by Patrick’s later. 

Darkness settled in slowly and Patrick had just struck a match when he heard Stevie, Twyla and David’s voices floating over to him. He lit the firewood and watched as the flames trickled over the logs until it was a tangle of tall fire. 

They were each wearing bags strapped to their bodies and when they reached the fire pit, Twyla unpacked bottles of whiskey and beer, Stevie pulled out games and David pulled out food. Stevie helped Patrick move a table to the pit and they spread everything out on the warped wood. 

Twyla uncorked the liquor and poured it out into cups that she had grabbed from Patrick’s home. 

They were tipsy before they knew it from passing the bottles around to refill their cups, drinking quickly between trying to speak over each other. 

“David, you’ve been here for over a year! You need to get used to the wild boars already!” Stevie cried out. 

“Absolutely not, they’re horrific!” David screeched in response. 

Twyla just looked over at Patrick and grinned. 

“Absolutely horrific,” Patrick teased and she shook with a laugh. She got up and wrapped an arm around Stevie’s waist and pulled her away into her arms. 

“Honey, wanna watch me throw knives?” Twyla asked. She twirled Stevie around the fire; Stevie was grinning by the time they made it back to where David had plopped himself down into the chair next to Patrick. 

There was a smile on David’s lips as he watched them. 

“We’re going to go find stuff to use as targets,” Twyla said as she picked up a lantern Patrick had set next to the path, away from the fire. 

When they were gone, Patrick turned to face David. 

“They’re going to be gone awhile,” Patrick said, he nodded over to where Stevie and Twyla had disappeared. 

“They’re going to come back with rumpled clothing and red cheeks,” David added. 

They settled into silence as they drank. 

“I got a letter,” David said. Patrick waited for David to continue. “From Sebastien.”

There was a flare of anger in Patrick’s chest. That bastard. 

“What did he want?” Patrick gritted out past clenched teeth. He hated him. 

“Said he was done living an outlaw life and wanted me to meet him in Toronto,” David said quietly. “Gave me the address of an inn and included a salacious insert that he wrote in hopes of getting me back into his bed.”

He couldn’t control it, it was an honest reaction, but his hand clenched into a fist without his willing. David’s eyes flickered down to his hand and Patrick moved it onto his lap and out of David’s eye quickly. 

“Are you going to go?” Patrick asked. His throat was tight so he coughed to clear it. 

“No,” David looked up, into Patrick’s eyes. The look made Patrick feel uneasy in his gut, like it meant something that Patrick was hoping for, but was too afraid to misinterpret. “Why would I? I’ve got—” David trailed off as he looked back over camp. 

“David?” Patrick prompted. 

“I like my life now and I hated my life before, with him,” David explained. “Anyways, I burned the letter earlier. Not an option anymore, if I wanted to.”

“Which you don’t,” Patrick said. He took a deep breath and calmed his nerves. “Because you, David Rose, like it here.”

David rolled his eyes as he picked up his drink. “Okay, let’s move on.”

“I need another minute,” Patrick teased, now that whatever tension there had been between them was broken. “What made you love it? The boars? All the horse shit?”

“Oh, yes,” David winked at him. “It was all of those.”

Patrick let the moment be between them. 

“It was all of you guys,” David nodded back to where Twyla and Stevie disappeared. “You especially.”

David didn’t look at him, and Patrick raised his eyebrows at the implication of that. Was he special in David’s eyes? What made him different, was he different to David in the same way David meant more to Patrick than anyone else? Is this the confirmation he was waiting for?

He wanted to ask, but before he could, there was joyous laughter breaking through the night and then Stevie and Twyla came back into the clearing. He could see the gleam of sweat on their brows and their rucked up clothing, arms empty except for the single lantern. 

The moment was gone and Patrick couldn’t ask for more information, couldn’t ask David what he meant. Instead, he grabbed the open can of peaches and used a fork to spear one out of the container. 

Next time. 

~

Two mornings later, he rode into town just as the sun was beginning to rise. He went straight to Twyla and Stevie’s; Twyla would already be up and checking on her home brew and Patrick needed to talk to her about David getting the letter from Sebastien. 

“Hey,” Patrick knocked on the doorframe of the shack she had converted into her workspace. 

“Hi Patrick,” Twyla dusted her hands off on her pants as she stood up. “What can I do for you?”

It suddenly felt like a mistake, going to talk to Twyla about what was happening with David. It just, what was happening between him and David was sacred and small and just for them. What if Twyla didn’t understand, or said something that made their fragile reality come crashing down on them. 

“I just had a question,” Patrick pulled his jacket tighter around his middle. “When did you know it was time to approach Stevie about a relationship?”

Twyla nodded, a soft smile on her face as she looked at him. 

“I couldn’t go another day as being just friends. It was like I reached a point where I felt like if I didn’t, I was going to shatter at the seams and I couldn’t take it anymore,” Twyla explained. She looked past Patrick, through the open door and with that wide smile, Patrick knew she was thinking about Stevie while looking at the house they share. “There was something really passionate between us. Like we were dancing on eggshells trying to not scare each other and one day, I just couldn’t take it. I asked her to come over for dinner and told her that I had every intention of being her partner.”

“Okay,” Patrick whispered. He felt a little let down. He felt something for David, but it was soft and gentle and safe. He felt good in it, he was savoring it because he knew there was enough time for them to be who they wanted to be. 

“It’s different for everyone, though,” Twyla said. 

“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. He cleared his throat and stood up straight. “Okay, I need to get back to the horses, but I just wanted to ask you that.”

“Okay, Patrick,” Twyla’s voice was soft, but she followed him out. 

He waved to Stevie who was sitting on the porch and tried not to watch as Twyla stopped in front of her and sat down on her lap. He loved them, loved seeing the love and joy between them that shone so brightly. 

He wondered if people could see his feelings for David. He hoped David could see them. 

*

David Rose was a character. Patrick had only talked to him once, but through town gossip, he felt like he knew everything about the newcomer. He had seen him multiple times, mostly from a distance, while Patrick was riding through town, or one of them was exiting the saloon while the other entered. 

It seemed like everywhere he went, someone wanted to tell him something new about David. Patrick had heard something about a tumultuous relationship with a man who robbed a bank in Montreal then again in New York City; and that he had a romantic history with both men and women. He heard about parents who threw money around with no regard and a sister that had countless affairs with descendants of the founding fathers of America. 

But of course, Patrick didn’t believe any of it. In Schitt’s Creek, you learned not to, not when everyone’s only form of entertainment was gossip. He still heard wild stories about Stevie that weren’t true, even though she had lived there her entire life and he had known her for years. 

Patrick didn’t know David. 

Today was the mayor’s birthday and Jocelyn always did something big for her husband, Roland. The whole town got together and the main street turned into a big charade with discounted drinks at the saloon. Mayor Schitt always got very drunk and Ronnie Lee always set up a fire in the street once it got cold and the crowd mingled until dawn.

Patrick was always roped into helping get everything ready, and this year was no different. Jocelyn had handed him banners to hang on all the porch railings along main street, not his usual task, and he had just finished the first one when a figure came up beside him. 

“What’s all this?”

Patrick turned to look at David who had come up beside him, very quietly. He waved a hand around in front of them. 

“Decorations?” Patrick held up the other banners that were yet to be hung. 

“For?” David looked around at everyone who bustled around the street quickly. 

“The mayor’s birthday,” Patrick explained. “His wife throws a big party every year for the whole town.”

“Oh,” David nodded, his teeth dug into his bottom lip. “Can I help you?”

“You want to?” Patrick was surprised. David would’ve met Roland by now and no one who knew Roland actually wanted to help. Jocelyn was very persuasive. 

“No?” David’s thick eyebrows sloped up at the confession. “But uh, this all looks really bad and I can’t let you hang all of them like that.”

Patrick just stared at him. “I worked really hard on this.”

David’s face twisted into a grimace. “That’s not going to change my opinion on how it looks.”

Patrick just handed him the pile of banners. They started on the next porch. 

“I feel like I should apologize for the other day, when we met at the saloon,” David said as he rifled through the supplies. “I’ve come to realize we didn’t get off on the right foot.”

“Oh,” Patrick was stunned, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to tease David. “So you’re apologizing for insulting me?”

“Yes,” David wrung his hands in front of him. 

“Which insult?” Patrick asked. 

“Uh,” David pressed his eyes closed and shook his head. “All of them?”

“Okay, David,” Patrick laughed. He held out a banner to David. “Come help.”

David nodded as he took the banner from Patrick’s outstretched hands. 

“So, what do you all do here for fun?” David asked as he twisted the rope of the banner around a post. 

“Well, I work, and then when I’m not working, I hang out with Stevie and Twyla. We drink and play games,” Patrick said with a shrug. 

“What do you do for work?” David asked. 

“I have a ranch and break horses,” Patrick said as he shook out the tangle in one of the banners. 

“What do you mean break horses? Like, their bones?” David asked, horrified. 

“No, I train them. Tame them,” Patrick explained, he handed the next one to David. “Prepare them for their owners so that they’re ready for farm work, or whatever the owners need them for, travel and such.”

“Isn’t that … aren’t you just breaking their spirit,” David had stilled, stood up straight and turned to Patrick. 

“I mean, kind of? But I try not to think of it that way. I try to be gentle with them, help them acclimate to a relationship with humans, and I want to have a relationship with them born on mutual respect,” Patrick explained. “I try to make sure they leave, personalities intact.”

David hummed as he got back to work. “Do you like it?”

“I like riding. Like it towards the end when I can take them out for long rides and I’m not scared of being thrown off,” Patrick said. 

“I’ve had bad experiences on horses. Try not to ride them when I don’t have to,” David’s voice was low as he concentrated on laying the banner flat so it hung straight. 

“Maybe you just haven’t found the right horse.” Patrick felt sad for David. He felt most free while riding and he couldn’t imagine a life without that. Patrick was struck with the need to help David, but that was for another day. 

David turned around. “Maybe.”

They moved onto the next porch. 

*

Patrick was tired . His body hurt as he heaved himself up onto the horse. He prayed for an easy ride tonight, but Soda was a hard horse to break. He had fits of wild in him still and Patrick just hoped that Soda kept it calm tonight. 

He had a hard ride in the morning, then spent the entire day helping Stevie fix up some of the flooring in the inn and now he had to take Soda back out before he got tucked into his stall for the night. 

He just wanted the day to be over so he could go to bed and massage a salve into his muscles to relax. 

“Sorry, Soda, short ride tonight,” He patted at the horse’s neck and pulled the reins until he was leading Soda out onto a path. 

It was an extremely short ride, just long enough for Patrick to say he did his job. He did have Soda out and running, so he felt good about that. When he led him into the barn, there was a note clipped into the fence of Soda’s stall. 

‘Come over for a nightcap’ was written in David’s scrawl. 

Patrick took care of Soda before he pulled down the note. He was tired, but he hadn’t seen David in a few days. Life was busy between his horses and helping Stevie and Patrick needed a break. But a nightcap with David sounded like the sweetest break. And it’d be quick. He always felt better after spending time with David, and he missed him. A few days felt like much longer, a couple of days was enough to settle an ache in his heart and fill it with pining for the other man. 

Whiskey was thrilled for the ride and Patrick smiled as she shook her tail out. She stayed still as Patrick hooked the saddle over her middle and then she took a slow trot to David’s, with minimal direction. 

“Good girl,” Patrick patted her neck as she slowed as they breached the inner town limits. 

When they reached David’s, Patrick didn’t tie her to the post, instead he hooked the reins over the saddle and watched as she walked over to a patch of grass next to the shop. Patrick thought about knocking on the door, but he remembered David’s comment about his saddle alerting the entire town of his presence, so instead he sat on one of the two rocking chairs in front of the shop. 

A minute later, the door swung open and David emerged with two cups and a bottle. 

“You got my note,” David said as he sat down in the chair next to Patrick. 

“I usually do,” Patrick teased. David put the glasses and bottle down on the railing that ran along the porch and they heard the soft thumps of hooves and the clank of a saddle. Whiskey appeared and leaned forward over the railing. She bumped her muzzle against David’s arm and snuffled at him. 

“What do you want?” David bumped his elbow softly against her and she neighed as she shook her head. “Ugh!”

David turned around, abandoned his task and walked back into the store. 

“You get him every time,” Patrick muttered. Whiskey just held still. 

“I’m supposed to sell these!” David exclaimed as he came back with his hands full of apples. He lined them up along the railing and Whiskey began to munch on them. “Okay, our turn.”

David went back to his task and soon Patrick was holding a cup of whiskey as he leaned back further into the chair. He took a sip and then closed his eyes at the burn. 

“Hey, you okay?” David asked. Patrick opened his eyes and turned to face him. 

“Yeah, just tired,” Patrick responded. “Long days.”

David reached out and ran a thumb over the wrinkles next to Patrick’s eyes and underneath; Patrick blinked against the pressure. It felt nice, being touched by David like that. 

“You can say no,” David said. He hooked a thumb over his own shoulder, pointing behind him in the general direction of the inn. “You know that, right?”

“Stevie needs me,” Patrick said in response. He promised her that he would be there for every step of the way, so he was going to be there. 

“That doesn’t mean that you can’t still take time for you when you need it,” David argued. 

Patrick just drank in response. 

“I haven’t seen you in a few days,” David said. “I’ve missed you.”

Patrick smiled into his drink. Whiskey moved back to the grassy patch. “I’ve missed you too.”

David rested a hand on Patrick’s arm. 

“Word around town is that you finally got Ms. Warner to supply her goat products at the general store,” Patrick heard the rumor days ago, but this was the first chance he had to talk to David about it. 

“I did,” David leaned back into his chair with a sigh and recounted the entire story to him. 

Patrick left after multiple cups of whiskey, and much later than he had anticipated. But he still woke up early the next morning, feeling much more rested than he had in awhile. 

*

“Just a few more minutes,” Patrick murmured to the horse as they rode. It was getting too hot to be out at midday. He had ridden out to the opposite side of town through a wooded area to avoid the sun as much as possible. He knew he was close to a break in the trees, once they got to the meadow, he would turn the horse around and ride back to his house, before they both overheated.

The trees got thicker, more packed and then they broke through into the clearing. Except they weren’t alone. Sitting, propped up against a tree stump was David. He had a canteen in one hand and a book in the other. They made eye contact and Patrick slowed his horse down. He dismounted at the memory of when David mentioned he was weary around horses. 

“What’re you doing out here?” Patrick asked as he tightened his grip on the reins as the horse tried to move away from him. 

“Readin’” David held up the book. “Asked Twyla where I could go to get away from the townspeople. Was starting to get fed up with Mr. Currie and Mayor Schitt poking around, asking what I was reading.”

“At least you didn’t have Mr. Butani on you either. You get one, you tend to get three,” Patrick commented. 

“Mm,” David hummed. 

“What’re you readin’?” Patrick asked. The sun was too bright for him to be able to read the front. 

“Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Also known as Fanny Hill,” David said. He was peering up at Patrick oddly, which Patrick ignored. 

“What’s it about?” Patrick contemplated sitting down, but he didn’t want to annoy David, not when he purposefully sought out the solitude of the clearing. 

“It’s one of the original examples of prose pornography,” David explained, his voice was soft and bemused. He still had that look on his face. He fiddled with the corner of a page and Patrick noticed the very tip of the corner was missing, but also looked like it had been folded down plenty of times.

Patrick could feel his face was on fire, but he didn’t look away from David. He didn’t want to appear as a country boy afraid of the pleasures of the body, and it kind of thrilled him, the thought that David was reading it and enjoying it. 

David cleared his throat. 

“I also brought Pride and Prejudice,” He tapped at the bag next to him. Patrick just shook his head. He didn’t recognize the title. “It’s by Jane Austen. It explores the satire involved in families sending their daughters off into marriages meant to improve the status of the family.”

“Oh,” Patrick said. He hadn’t heard of it. 

“You read?” David asked. For a second, Patrick was offended, but David’s face was soft as he looked up at him and Patrick thought that he didn’t ask to be mean.

“Yeah,” Patrick pulled the handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped at the pool of sweat that coated the back of his neck. “I run my business, so I do a lot of paperwork and I do my books. And I read books when I get my hands on them, but I’m not a good reader, so it takes me a while. We don’t get a big influx of books out here.”

“Do you enjoy it?” 

“What? Reading?” Patrick asked. This time, he wiped the sweat from his brow. 

“Yeah.”

“Uh,” Patrick glanced at the book in David’s hands. “Yeah? I think if I had more to read, I’d like it.”

David nodded, his teeth latched onto his bottom lip. His eyes were trained on Patrick’s shoes, but he looked up and shook his head. 

“I brought a lot of my books with me, and I’d be willing to loan you them if that was of interest to you,” David offered. Patrick’s eyebrows hitched up his forehead. 

“Are you sure?” Patrick was in disbelief. Nothing about David screamed that he was someone who lended his personal belongings.

“Yes, you seem responsible and like you won’t mess them up,” David squinted his eyes as he looked at Patrick’s face. “And I really brought quite a few. Books deserve to be read.”

“Thank you, David. That’s mighty kind of you,” Patrick looked over at the horse who neighed loudly. “I think this one is ready to get going, but I would like to take you up on that offer.”

“Okay,” David murmured. 

Patrick got on his horse and looked down at David who didn’t look like he was moving anytime soon. 

“How much longer you going to be out here?” Patrick asked.  

“Haven’t decided. A while?” David answered. Patrick took off his hat and tossed it at David, who just blinked at him as it knocked against his book. 

“I think you’re going to need this more than me. The sun gets angry this time of year and I’ll be home quick,” Patrick said. He turned his horse and began a slow trot back to the line of trees. 

“Thank you.”

~

Later that evening, right at sunset, after Patrick had brought the horses in for the night, he was stopped in his tracks when he noticed the figure sitting on the lone chair on his porch. 

“Hey!” Patrick called out as he continued his walk. 

David looked up and closed the book he was reading. “Good Evening.”

Patrick stopped on the bottom step and looked at David, who had a bag at his feet. 

“What’s going on, David?” Patrick asked. They had only had a handful of interactions and Patrick was surprised to see him on his porch. 

“I brought back your hat,” David gestured to the handle to his door, which his hat had been hooked on. “And I wanted to bring you some books.”

He picked up the bag and stood up, held it out to Patrick. 

“Oh,” Patrick took the bag. The fabric was much nicer than anything Patrick had. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” David cleared his throat. He wrung his hands together and Patrick watched with raised eyebrows as David’s mouth opened and closed. “You said earlier that you’re not a strong reader. So, uh, if you ever need help, let me know. I’d be glad to help you in whatever way you need.”

Oh. That was—nice. David was nice.

“Thank you, David,” Patrick opened the bag and peered in. There were three sizeable books and a slightly smaller one. 

“I have a lot more, but those are some of my favorites, so selfishly, I thought you could read those first,” David explained. Patrick smiled at him in response. “Excuse me.”

Patrick moved out of the way as David slid past him. 

“Oh, Patrick?” David called out. Patrick turned to face him. “Only one rocking chair?”

“What?” Patrick turned to the chair, then back to David. “Yeah, haven’t had much need for a second.”

“Oh. Okay,” David nodded slowly. “What if you have a visitor?”

Patrick frowned as he glanced back at the chair that was barely moving in the wind. “Should probably get a second one?”

David nodded with a soft smile. “I think you should.”

“Okay, David.” 

“G‘night,” David said as he tilted his head down at Patrick. 

“Night.”

Patrick watched as David walked down the path, back towards town. 

That night, when he was in bed, with a lamp lit and hanging from a hook next to his bed, Patrick pulled the books out of the bag. There was ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, ‘A Year in Arcadia: Kyellion’, and right on top ‘Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure’.

He pulled that one out and flipped through it quickly, he was intrigued and focused on finding the page David was on when Patrick found him. His fingers stopped quickly as he passed a page that had a piece of the corner missing and had been bent many times. Patrick skimmed the page quickly and snapped the book shut, his finger still tucked in between the pages. 

“Oh,” Patrick gasped. He opened the book and read the little notes that had been made in the margins, crisp ink and looping letters. David had left annotations about the ‘unreliable’ narrator. Patrick shook his head and as he went to close the book, a few folded pieces of paper fell out, with the same looping handwriting that was in the margins. Patrick folded the papers back into its perfect square once he realized what they were, David’s own narrations of a salacious affair. 

He put the book down, but before he could grab another, he picked it back up, opened it again and went back to the beginning of that specific passage and read for the first time, a pornographic scene between two men. 

*

The sun hung low in the sky and Patrick was burning up atop Whiskey. He had gone over a town the day before to help Mr. Hockley herd his cattle to a different pasture and he was on his way back home tonight. His muscles ached as he rode, tired and stiff from the day's work. 

He was halfway home and he longed for bed, for a fresh set of clothes and a bath; to wipe away the sweat and grime from the day. Maybe he’d start a fire and try to read the book David had given him. 

He would read far as he could tonight, then see David tomorrow about where he got stuck. 

David wouldn’t mind, he’d probably smile his soft smile, and then take the book from Patrick, flip open to where Patrick left off and read outloud to him. 

He was close to home, the sun had officially dipped below the mountain line, creating a soft yellow halo surrounded by pinks and purples. He wanted to be home, so he kicked at Whiskey’s side and she shot forward. 

It was dark by the time he was home and Whiskey was tucked into the barn. Patrick made his way up the path to his front door, but paused when he saw a figure sitting on the porch in one of the rocking chairs, a lamp lit on the table between the two chairs. 

“You’re home,” David called out. 

“And you’re here,” Patrick smiled as he walked up the stairs and onto his porch. This happened often—where David would be there waiting on Patrick’s porch for him. It was nice coming home to David. 

“It’s a chilly night and I ran out of firewood,” David offered. 

“Sure you did, David,” Patrick teased as he readjusted his pack. 

“Hush now, I’m reading,” David turned his attention back to his book. 

Patrick shook his head with a smile as he walked into his home. He unpacked quickly, then was back outside before he changed. He wanted to get the fire going first. He dragged logs from the side of the house to the pit and soon the fire was going. 

He smiled when he saw David out of the corner of his eye, walking over to where he was, his finger tucked into his book and a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. 

“Thank you,” David whispered as he walked past Patrick. He turned one of the chairs Patrick had by the fire so it was parallel with the flames, just as he liked to sit when he was reading, with the light illuminating the words on the page. 

“I’ll be back,” Patrick said, his voice low as to not break the peace that had settled into the scene. 

“Okay,” David looked up at him with a smile. 

It was a cold night, and Patrick shivered as he hurried through the routine he had fantasized for hours, because now David was waiting for him. When he made his way back to the fire, he was clean and holding his own book. Well, David’s book, but it was Patrick’s for the time being, and when he was done with it, it went into the borrow section of the general store. 

“What do you think so far?” David asked as Patrick settled into his chair adjacent to David’s. 

“About?” Patrick hummed. 

“Frankenstein,” David nodded at the book in Patrick’s hands. 

“Haven’t started,” Patrick looked down at the cover. “Haven’t had the time.”

David held out his hand and Patrick handed it over, the action was ingrained in Patrick’s muscles at this point. David cleared his throat and began to read. 

David’s voice was clear and strong, loud in the night and Patrick lost himself in it, in the words that floated between them and mixed with the tendrils of smoke from the fire. David was … breathtaking in the firelight. 

Patrick let himself stare as David read, and when he looked up from the book, Patrick smiled at him and nodded in encouragement. David read on until his voice was hoarse and the fire was low, just on the verge of being too dark to read. 

“I think that’s it for the night,” David said as he closed the book. 

“I think so too,” Patrick agreed. 

Neither of them moved, instead they sat and David asked about his trip, about Mr. Hockley and if Mr. Hockley’s daughter was still trying to pursue Patrick. 

Patrick laughed and shook his head. “Thankfully, no.”

When he looked back, David’s eyes were trained on him. There was a calculating look in his eyes and Patrick blushed under his gaze. 

“Why not?” David asked. 

“What do you mean?” Patrick was confused. David bit his lip and Patrick tried to hold his gaze, but David’s eyes flickered to the fire, which was now more burning embers rather than flames. 

“Nevermind,” David shook his head. 

Patrick wanted to push it, to know what David meant. Did David want Patrick to have a wife? Was—did Patrick completely misinterpret each and every one of David’s signals since they met? Fear pulsed through Patrick’s veins as he considered a future without David in it as one of his main priorities. Because he was, David was a priority. Even if he still couldn’t tell David how he felt. 

“It’s very late,” David said as he handed Frankenstein back to Patrick; who looked up at the night sky. His heart was still beating fast.

“Let me walk you back?” Patrick asked. 

“You don’t have to,” David shook his head; he stood and wrapped the blanket tighter around himself. 

“Take Whiskey?” Patrick offered. 

David narrowed his eyes at him. “She’s all tucked in for the night. I know how she gets when her sleep is interrupted.”

Patrick laughed. “Kinda acts like you when I go into the general store first thing in the morning.”

“Okay,” David huffed. Patrick followed him away from the fire pit and out onto the path that led away from his house. “First of all, you know that it’s less of a general store and more of an apothecary. Second—”

“Don’t say that I annoy you when spending money in your general store,” Patrick teased. 

“Infuriating,” David huffed as they began the walk to David’s space above the store. They were each still holding their respective books. “You don’t have to walk back with me.”

“Oh, I’m not. I’m compromising by walking you halfway,” Patrick replied. 

“Technicality,” David threw his empty hand into the air and Patrick lunged to catch his blanket that slipped from his shoulders before it hit the ground. “Thank you,” David whispered as Patrick slung it back over his shoulder. 

They walked in silence until they hit the halfway point between their homes, a tall tree with twisted roots that stuck up proudly from the ground. 

“Thank you for being a gentleman and escorting me home,” David turned to walk backwards as Patrick stopped. 

“Not home. To the tree,” Patrick reached out and patted at the trunk. 

David turned around with a shake of his head and walked away. 

*

It had taken the town a while to get back into his usual swing after David Rose appeared. His arrival had created a stir, but now people were settled again. He still floated around the town, almost unsure of where he could land, but Mrs. Schitt had already roped him into helping out at the school, so it was only a matter of time before he was an integrated part of the town. 

Even Stevie didn’t hate him, which had surprised Patrick because Stevie showed disdain towards most people in the town. More often than not, David was talking to Stevie when Patrick stopped by the saloon. Stevie told Patrick that David would come in and drink the same drink for much longer than Stevie thought possible. 

But he would drink and talk to her when she wasn’t helping another patron. 

“I think he’s lonely,” Stevie said with a shrug when David excused himself on a visit to the outhouse. 

“He’s been here for a few months, do you know when he’s supposed to go back?” Patrick whispered. 

“No,” Stevie kept watch on the door.

“He hasn’t said anything about what brought him here?” Patrick asked.

“Nothing,” Stevie refilled the three cups. “I haven’t asked and he hasn’t brought it up.”

Patrick hummed as he drank from his fresh cup.

When David came back in, he raised his eyebrows at his full cup. 

“Tonight, we’re celebrating,” Patrick said when David picked up the cup. 

“Celebrating what?” David asked as he took a cautious drink.

“Whatever we want,” Patrick said with a shrug. 

David smiled at him and they talked, then played games after Stevie was able to come back and sit with them. And they drank. A lot.

~

They fell into the street after being kicked out of the saloon. Twyla had ordered them out claiming it was time for bed.

“Shhh,” Patrick hushed David as David laughed when he tripped over an uneven stone. 

David straightened himself up and gripped Patrick’s arm. “I’m not ready for the night to be over.”

“Come on,” Patrick pulled David down the street in the direction of his own home. “It’s a beautiful night for a fire.”

David walked quickly next to him, kept up to him, even when Patrick broke out into a slow jog. 

“Patrick!”

~

“New York sounds awful,” Patrick said as he pushed his boot into the dirt and rocked gently in his chair. 

“It’s amazing. I miss it,” David was in the hammock that Patrick had strewn up years ago between two thick, tall trees, right on the edge of the outside circle of the fire pit. “You don’t wish there was more out here?”

“No…” Patrick took in a deep breath, his heart ready to defend Schitt’s Creek. “I like it here. I have Stevie and Twyla, and I’m not a far journey from my parents. I like the horses I work with, the people in town. I’ve never regretted coming out here.”

They watched the fire in silence. Patrick was surprised at how easy it was to be around David.

“Why did you come to Schitt’s Creek?” 

Patrick listened to the crickets as he went over the words in his mind. 

“My dad started the business when he was young, so it just made sense that I was going to do it too. Most of our business came from west of our town, and my dad got older and it was becoming too much. So I moved out here and took up the brunt of the work,” Patrick explained. “I was happy to and I'm glad I did.”

“You never wanted to do something else?” David’s voice was coated with something that Patrick couldn’t explain. He looked over, but David was staring at something above the fire. 

“No, I’ve always loved the horses and I don’t have too much patience for people. It just made sense,” Patrick explained. 

It was quiet again and Patrick had many questions he wanted to ask David, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to push. 

“My dad owns a textile factory, and I’ve always known that I didn’t want to do anything related to that,” David said. “My mother’s an actress at a playhouse and I never could deliver lines with the same intensity as her.”

“What were you doing then?” Patrick asked. “Before you came here.”

“What wasn’t I doing? Mostly making a fool of myself,” David said. “I had relations with anyone I could, which my parents mostly ignored. I earned money being an art dealer, which my parents also ignored.”

Patrick turned in his chair until his body was angled towards David’s, and rested his temple against the back of the chair. The hammock swayed in the breeze and David shifted himself until he was looking back at Patrick. 

“I was in a relationship with a man, Sebastien Raine. No one cared that he was a man, he just, wasn’t a very legal and honest man. I got caught up in a scheme of his, and my parents bought my way out of the situation, but I ruined their reputation and I got sent here with no return date, sent off with barely a wave,” David’s eyes shone brightly and Patrick moved immediately, wrapped a hand around his ankle, right on the hem of his trousers. 

“Oh, David,” Patrick whispered. 

“It’s fine,” David shrugged. 

“Well, you could’ve been sent to a worse town,” Patrick teased weakly. David smiled at him and then leaned back in the hammock until he was completely on his back.

“We’ll see about that.”

*

Patrick was kind of between horses, he had another one scheduled to be handed over in two days' time and he had just officially finished breaking his latest one. She was smaller than most and gentle, the easiest he’s had to break in a very long time. Her owners had changed their mind and abandoned her with Patrick; claimed she was too small to be productive on their farm, and they hadn’t even asked for their money back. Just completely abandoned her. 

She was perfect though, for someone who just wanted to get around town, maybe needed something to take care of, who had a heart full of love to give without expecting much from her. She was perfect for David. 

Patrick hadn’t brought it up to him yet, but he was planning to. 

He brought his copy of Frankenstein to the saloon and set up at a table outside with a drink. He had just gotten into the swing of reading when Twyla sat down with a huff next to him. She smoothed her skirt before turning to him. 

She huffed again and Patrick looked up from his book at her, expectantly. She stared back. 

“May I ask what’s wrong?” Patrick asked. 

“Oh, how did you know?,” Twyla said. “So you know how Stevie’s trying to figure out what to do about the brothel? What with the new sheriff coming to town and not knowing what his stance on all that is.”

Patrick hummed as he took a drink of beer. 

“Well, one plan was to turn it into a concert saloon, kind of tie it to my saloon. She asked my aunt’s husband's nephew to play piano, but he just lost another finger, and I guess piano is really hard to play with only seven fingers,” Twyla took a breath. “We asked him because we knew you were really busy, but now that he can’t anymore—we were wondering if you could step in a few nights a week and play? Just for a bit.”

“Twyla,” Patrick sighed. “I don’t think I can.”

“Can’t what?” David asked. Patrick looked up to see David walking up to the railing in front of them. David smiled at them and Patrick felt the stress of saying no wash away as David leaned on the railing. Just seeing David made everything okay.

“Oh, I was just trying to see if Patrick could play piano for the concert saloon Stevie is trying to set up. New Sheriff is coming to town so we’re just trying to smooth things over before he undoubtedly starts trouble,” Twyla said, her smile just as bright as ever, like Patrick didn’t just say no. 

“You said no, right?” David asked, his brows were furrowed in that way that Patrick came to realize was concern. “You are too busy.”

“That’s correct,” Patrick said. The sun had shifted in the sky so it was starting to peek over the roof of the porch. He picked up the hat he had left on the table and put it on his head. 

“Good,” David looked down at the railing and tapped at the warped wood. “I hate to offer, but I can play piano for you.”

“You can?” Patrick gasped.

“Oh, David!” Twyla clapped. “That’s perfect! I’ll let Stevie know.”

“You can play piano?” Patrick asked as Twyla walked back into the saloon. 

“Yes sir,” David came around the railing and sat down in Twyla’s abandoned seat. “When you’re rich and living in New York, your parents make sure that you’re eligible, which means I  know how to play the piano.”

“You’ll have to let me come watch you practice. Give me an exclusive first look,” Patrick teased. David just shook his head with a laugh. 

“Well, how are you enjoying the book?” David asked. 

“It’s good, a little dark,” Patrick said. He handed it over when David held out his hand. David opened it to the page Patrick ear-marked and read it quickly. 

“But do you like it?” David pressed. 

“I do,” Patrick replied. 

“Good,” David stood up. “I gotta go back to the apothecary.”

“Wait, David!” Patrick called out as David began to walk down the steps. 

“Yeah?” David turned around quickly. 

“I have a horse, her name is Bella. Her owners brought her to me, I trained her and they don’t want her back. They changed their mind. She’s small and gentle and I think she’d be a good fit for you,” Patrick said, all in one breath before David could stop him. 

“You know how I feel about horses,” David grimaced.

“You love Whiskey,” Patrick argued. 

“I do not love Whiskey, I tolerate her,” David tried to brush Patrick’s comment off. 

“You give her more apples than you sell, and you don’t get mad at her anymore when she slobbers all over you,” Patrick pointed out. “Come over for my evening ride. You can take the new horse out.”

David waved Patrick off and then made his way down the steps. Patrick knew David would be over in time for the ride.

~

“She is a lovely horse,” David murmured as he approached her carefully. He had a carrot in hand and Patrick had to hold Whiskey back to keep her from snatching the food out of David’s loose grip.

Bella took a step closer and tentatively took the carrot from him. 

“Let’s go for a ride, David.”

They rode quietly, nice and slow as David got acclimated to being back on a horse. The sunset was beautiful, peaceful as Patrick watched David in front of him. Patrick loved when he could spend time like this with David, tucked away from the town and on their own where David was completely comfortable. He was wearing his boots, instead of the soft leather lace ups, and old clothes, not the new, stylish stuff he paid Mrs. Schitt to make for him from his own sketches, and had a soft smile on his face when he looked back at Patrick. 

He had dressed appropriately, and it made Patrick smile. Well, he had dressed almost appropriately, there was no hat on his head and he looked silly squinting against the setting sun. 

“Keep up!” David called back. Before Patrick could ask why, David shot forward and Patrick took off after him. 

The horses rode gracefully across the flat terrain, their hooves trampling over the dirt and Patrick followed David’s loud laughter as Bella led them. David and Bella slowed down suddenly and Whiskey shot past her. Soon it was only one set of hooves and Patrick looked back to see David petting her mane with Bella standing still and proud. 

Patrick turned Whiskey back towards the pair and the closer he got, the larger David’s smile became. 

“You’re right,” David said. 

“What?” Patrick exclaimed, he maneuvered Whiskey even closer to them. “Can you say that again?”

“She is an easy ride,” David kept stroking at Bella’s mane. 

“So you’ll take her?” Patrick asked. 

David rolled his eyes but nodded. Patrick couldn’t fight back the happy smile at David’s acceptance of the horse. He knew it was the right fit. 

The ride lasted until the sun went down and David followed Patrick back to Patrick’s. 

“You can take Bella home tonight,” Patrick said as they dismounted. 

“I don’t have anything for her?” David ran his hand along the side of her head. “I’ll walk home tonight and then you can help me get things ready tomorrow.”

Patrick laughed. “Okay, David.”

David began to unbuckle the saddle that sat atop Bella and soon they were standing together, at the path that led to and from Patrick’s. 

“I can walk you to the tree?” Patrick offered. He wasn’t ready to say goodbye to David yet. 

“Actually, can I stay for a bit longer? We can finish Frankenstein,” David wrung his hands together in front of him. 

“If you insist,” Patrick teased, then began to walk back towards the house. “Fire pit?”

“Candle on the porch is fine,” David followed Patrick back to the house. 

They settled into their spots on the porch, the candle on the table between, but closer to David, so he could see the pages.  

Patrick got absorbed into the story, into David’s voice and the crickets that sang alongside him, the soft turning of the pages and the candlelight. 

He enjoyed nights like these, peaceful nights with David next to him, reading out loud and just being together. 

David was reading the part about the creature and his yearning for someone to share his existence with. Then the creature was watching Victor throw the creature’s companion over the side of the boat and Patrick pulled the neckline of his shirt up to pat at the tears that were falling down his face. Then Victor was gone, and the creature was left utterly alone, the ultimate punishment for his crimes. 

“Oh,” Patrick breathed as he pressed his palms into his eyes. 

There was a heavy hand on Patrick’s shoulder and Patrick leaned into it. 

“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” David’s voice was soothing, a warm blanket of comfort. 

“Yeah,” Patrick hiccuped. He uncovered his eyes and brushed away the tears that had escaped. 

David closed the book and placed it on the table between them. 

“It’s a good book,” Patrick spoke once he got control of his voice. 

“It is,” David whispered. He placed his hand on Patrick’s forearm and squeezed lightly. God, everything David did felt good.  

“Sorry,” Patrick cleared this throat. 

“Take your time.”

When Patrick turned to David, David was leaning back in his seat, eyes closed and a soft smile on his face. Patrick decided to not say anything; he didn’t want to ruin the moment. He just sat in the dark with David, looking out over his property, a perfect night. 


*

Cracker was getting old. His gait was beginning to grow too slow and Patrick just couldn’t work with him anymore. It broke his heart, but he could see each of his days ticking away with the sun each night. 

Acquiring a new horse was hard when your heart was still tied to one, but eventually, Patrick found one he could see himself growing to love. She was light brown and strong, her eyes were clear and she moved with power and grace that Patrick hadn’t seen in a while. 

He brought her home and he could almost feel Cracker relax as the new horse moved past his stall. It was late, but he remembered a promise he had made to David that first night they met. David had just started working with Mrs. Salleh in the general store. Her daughter was having a baby two towns over and Mrs. Salleh was ready to hang her hat and hand off the shop and David had risen to the challenge, and asked for the opportunity. 

Patrick knew how tired he had been lately and wasn’t going to go knock on his door. 

Tomorrow though. 

After his morning rides, he saddled the new horse and took her into town. David raised his eyebrows at him when Patrick crossed through the open doorway. 

“I got a new horse,” Patrick said. David’s lips dipped into a frown.

“Cracker?” David asked quietly. 

“Cracker is fine, he’s back at the barn,” Patrick was warmed by David’s consideration of his horse. “I’m here to make good on an agreement we had.”

“What?” The confusion was clear as day. 

“Remember when we first met? You criticized my horse-naming abilities,” Patrick said. David’s lips formed an ‘O’. 

“Well, I still think Cracker is an awful name,” David said. 

“Yes, and I told you that when I got another horse, I would let you name it, since you are superior at horse-naming,” Patrick explained. 

David’s face lit up. “Is it here?”

“Yes,” Patrick confirmed. David moved around the counter before Patrick could ask if he wanted to see her. He followed David out of the store. 

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” David murmured as he took a step closer. 

“Isn’t she?” 

“Whiskey,” David said. 

“Pardon?” Patrick stopped next to David. 

“Her name, Whiskey, because of her hair,” David explained. 

“Whiskey,” Patrick echoed. “Perfect.”

~

Patrick wasn’t sure how he had convinced David to come out riding with him, but he did. 

David was atop Cracker, who was docile, and who set the pace of the ride with his unhurried and slightly uncoordinated gait. David had a hand wrapped loosely around the reins, the other petted at his mane. There was a frown on his face, a look of concern as he kept his eyes focused on Cracker’s sagging head. 

“Patrick,” David’s voice was laced with concern, then looked up, locked eyes with Patrick.

Patrick just nodded. 

“I told you Cracker would be gentle with you,” Patrick said with a tilted smile. “He has no fight left in him and is too old to care about your fear.”

David just nodded and Patrick tried to clear the lump from his throat as he wiped his eyes. 

In the end, Patrick just had one final ride left with Cracker, that same evening, something short and mostly just to spend time with his horse. The next morning, Patrick took a trip into the barn, and left with wet eyes and a heaving chest. Stevie took the horses out after he made a quick trip to the saloon with Whiskey. 

Stevie must have mentioned it to David, because mid-afternoon, Patrick looked up from where he was laying in the hammock at the sound of someone approaching. David was holding a book. He dragged a chair over next to the hammock and cleared his throat. 

“Are you mid-book or are you ready to start a new one?” David asked. 

“New one,” Patrick replied. David nodded, sat down and opened the book he was holding. 

“This is fresh off the printer, grabbed it right before I came here,” David explained. “It’s called ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.”

David read to him until the sun began to set.

 *

There was a loose board on the steps that led up to Patrick’s house and it was driving him crazy. Each time it shifted under his boot, he made a note to fix it when he had time. Skipping the step had been a temporary fix, and now that the renovations on the inn were complete, he had a minute to spare.

He had everything he needed and as soon as he was done with his morning rides, he grabbed his supplies and got to fixin’.

Patrick hammered the last nail when he heard the frantic trotting of a horse. He looked up and watched as David rode up. He looked disheveled and Patrick stood up as Bella came to a stop and David unsaddled. 

“David?”

David’s eyes were red and he was gripping a letter in his hands. Bella neighed and David turned back to look at her. 

“I—” David cut himself off. 

He walked forward, past Patrick and into Patrick’s home. Patrick looked back to Bella, down to the finished step and followed David into the building. 

“David, is everything—” He stopped when he found David laying on his bed, letter still in hand and tears shiny on his face. He sat down on the edge of the bed and rested a hand on David’s leg.

“My parents sent a letter,” David said as he held it up. 

“Can I?” Patrick asked as he reached for the letter. David let go of it as Patrick’s fingers wrapped around it. He uncrinkled it and his heart sank as he began to read it. 

His eyes jumped quickly over ‘transcontinental railroad’ and ‘San Francisco’, got stuck where it said ‘the move would provide great financial success. We would be remiss if we didn’t take the advantage.’ 

Patrick’s heart stopped as he read their new address and ‘included is a ticket for you. We look forward to being reunited as a family in the golden state.’ 

“You’re—” Patrick cleared his throat as tears collected in the inner corners of his eyes. “You’re leaving?”

“Guess so,” David’s voice was hoarse as he sat up. 

“David, you can’t—” Patrick wanted to tell him that he couldn’t leave him, that he couldn’t imagine his life without David. He finally looked up from the letter and locked eyes with David. 

“I don’t ... have a reason to stay?” David said. 

Patrick felt his heart stop. David had plenty of reasons to stay, “You have your store.” 

“Anyone can run the apothecary,” David responded. 

“You have Bella,” Patrick tried again. Patrick was desperate to say that he was a reason for David to stay, but the words were sticking in his mouth. 

“Lots of people need horses. You could find her a good home quickly,” David reasoned. 

Patrick grappled for something to say. He knew what he wanted to say, but—

“You have friends here,” Patrick reached and gripped David’s hand in his. “We’ll all be devastated if you leave.”

“You were all friends before I got here, everyone will still be friends, even if I leave,” David’s eyes were still looking into Patrick’s. They looked sad and maybe a little searching. 

“That’s not—” Patrick was feeling desperate. 

“Patrick,” David whispered. His breath hitched and Patrick watched as more tears began to slide down David’s cheeks. “Patrick, please.”

Patrick could feel the words on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t know how to say what he wanted to; how to put what he had been feeling for the past year into words. 

“David—”

David nodded and then pushed himself up off the bed. He took the letter from Patrick’s weak grip and walked out of the house. Patrick took a deep breath and followed him. 

“David!” Patrick called out. David stopped and turned around to face Patrick. 

“What have we been doing, Patrick?” David asked, the desperation clear in his voice. 

“What do you—”

“Don’t act like you don’t feel it either,” David stomped back up the stairs until he was on the porch, right in front of Patrick. “We’ve been so comfortable in this quiet intimacy, that we never said it, but Patrick, I love you. I’ve loved you for as long as I’ve known you and I’m sorry that I never said it.”

“David,” Patrick breathed out quietly. That was—everything. He felt his cheeks flame and the itch in his fingers to reach out to David. 

“So, just, please,” David reached out, grabbed Patrick’s hand and gripped it tightly. “Only ask me to stay because you love me, none of the other things matter to me. I can’t stay here and stew in my heartbreak.”

“David, stay,” Patrick whispered. “I—”

Instead of finishing his words, Patrick pulled David a step closer and kissed him. All of the feelings that had been simmering in his belly for the last year exploded with the kiss. He was overwhelmed with it, by how it felt to have David close, to kiss him. 

“Don’t leave,” Patrick murmured when he broke the kiss. David pulled him back in, and the second kiss was better than the first. 

“I love you,” Patrick said when they pulled apart to breathe. David whimpered and then the third kiss—the third kiss? That was the best one yet. 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to put how I was feeling into words, and I was scared, but I love you, David,” Patrick pulled David into a hug. “I love you. Stay here with me, and we can be together.”

David nodded. He pulled back and kissed Patrick softly. 

“Yes—I’ll stay.”

Patrick lost track of how long they had been standing there, trading soft kisses in the sunshine. Eventually,  David pulled him into a hug and Patrick laughed and held David close. He couldn’t contain it, that giddy feeling that was drumming through his veins. 

He was so happy, standing there with David in his arms; David’s own draped over his shoulders as Patrick tugged him into another kiss.

“You’re staying,” Patrick just needed confirmation, needed to hear David say it again.

“Yes, I’m staying.”