This is the kind of thing that happens to other people. You hear about it on the six o’clock news or on the radio while driving to work. You read about it in the righteously angry tweets that surround things like this, keeping it relevant until the next story comes along to push it into obscurity. That’s all it is when it happens to other people: a story.
But when it’s David—his David—well to Patrick, this is hell on earth. Will people they know find out about this like that? Will Jocelyn Schitt be driving to get groceries and hear the words hate crime along with their names on the radio? Or will Twyla read about it on the Twitter account Alexis forced her to make?
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that their wedding anniversary is never going to feel the way it did only a few hours earlier. He’s never going to be able to think of it as the day they said their vows through shaky, happy tears, surrounded by their friends and families. Or as the weekend away they’d saved up for to go to the Big Apple (“We are not doing ‘The Big Apple’, Patrick” ) so that David could introduce Patrick to his favourite haunts which had been surprisingly low-key and just pretentious enough. No, from now on Patrick is positive he’s only ever going to see the date marked in his calendar and think of David lying unresponsive and absolutely wrecked in this hospital bed. Or of his own raw face and aching body.
What matters is that David hasn’t woken up yet.
This whole goddamn city, not just the day, is going to have a black mark against it forever. As if Patrick hadn’t already been wary of New York in the first place.
He looks away from David for just a moment to acknowledge Alexis as she stands in the doorway. She must have caught the first redeye back. Her purse clatters to the floor and she stares at him like a deer caught in the headlights, eyes taking in every bruise and scrape on his face before flicking over to the state her brother is in.
It comes out in one word, her voice smaller than Patrick has ever heard it. Taking a few steps into the room (purse and its contents strewn forgotten on the floor behind her) Alexis stares wide-eyed at the pair of them.
“Who did this?”
Not for the first time in the past four hours, tears well up unbidden in Patrick’s eyes. He looks back to this unconscious version of his husband and can feel his chin tremble. He clamps his jaw shut, unsure if he can go through this again. Explain it all again. But then she’s kneeling in front of the chair he’s sitting in, one hand on the hospital gown covering his knee. Her bright blue eyes, brimming with unshed tears of her own, are holding his focus beseechingly.
“Patrick, what happened?”
And again, like it has three times already tonight, the dam brakes and Patrick is sobbing painfully into his hands, his cracked ribs buckling under the strain.
“Fuck!” he gasps. “Alexis, I– I– fuck...”
FOUR HOURS EARLIER
“I’m sorry, did you think cosmopolitans and martinis were the only cocktails ever created?”
David had that look on his face. The look that said he was trying to be scandalized but was enjoying being the teaser and not the teasee too much to maintain it. As they stepped out of the cocktail bar and into the warm August night, he looped his arm around Patrick’s and entwined their fingers. They were both happily buzzed and looking forward to the bottle of wine waiting for them back at the apartment. The reason they’d been able to afford the three-day vacation at all was that Alexis had offered them her place while she was on a business trip to Toronto.
Patrick rolled his eyes and shot him a harried smile. “I’ve always been a beer or wine guy. Excuse me if my only point of reference for cocktails has been 007 movies and being forced to watch all six seasons of Sex in the City.”
“M’kay, it’s Sex and the City,” David corrected, leaning away just slightly as they walked and narrowing his eyes. “And would we say forced or…?”
Patrick stopped walking and looked at David, eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “You made me turn off the Jays game, David.”
David hummed and scrunched up his nose in vague acknowledgement. “On that note…”
He unwound his arm from Patrick’s and pulled at his hand, leading them both into an alley off of the street. Further down the gap in the two buildings on either side of them was a small side entrance to an Italian restaurant, the fairy lights around the doorway and sign giving David’s high cheekbones a golden hue. The taller man leaned against the brick wall and pulled Patrick closer to him by the lapels of his dinner jacket, sliding down just slightly so that they were roughly the same height. He kissed Patrick’s jaw and then mouth softly.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Patrick murmured against the kiss, “but was it the mention of baseball that made you want to make out in a dark alleyway, or are you just trying to distract me?”
“Hmm, maybe I thought it was a good time to give you your anniversary present.”
Patrick leaned back, “That sounds like an activity I’d much prefer doing back at the apartment.”
David didn’t seem to have sex on his mind though. Smiling even wider and shaking his head, he reached into the pocket of his leather jacket (the one that still made Patrick weak in the knees after a year of marriage), and pulled out what looked suspiciously like two…
“Are these baseball tickets?”
David’s grin turned into a slight grimace, “I mean, let’s hope so cause I had to triple check with your dad to make sure they were the right sport let alone the right team. So if they’re not this is on him, not me.”
Patrick looked at the Jays vs Yankees tickets closely and read the seat numbers. “David, how did you afford these?”
His husband preened a little and accentuated each word he spoke next with a tap against Patrick’s shoulders, “I may have been setting money aside for exactly this.”
“You mean the money you were saving for those new Rick Owens sneakers? You’ve been saving forever for those!”
David’s expression was pained as if he too couldn’t believe he’d spent the money on sports instead of shoes. “Let’s not rub it in. They would have looked really good with my Hermes rollneck...”
Patrick bit his lip sympathetically and nodded, “They really would have. Thank you so much for your sacrifice, I love it. Does this second ticket mean you’ll be joining me at the stadium tomorrow?”
The grimace was back, “I’ve been told there are a plethora of fried snacks at these things to distract me. And if that isn’t the case, we can never speak to your father ever again. So, you know...choose your next words wisely.”
Patrick laughed and leaned in for another kiss.
“They sell hotdogs.” Kiss. “And nachos.” Kiss. “Even corndogs.”
“That sounds revolting and I will be eating all of it.”
They spent the next minute or two kissing languidly against the wall before the drunken slap of a slur shouted from the mouth of the alley forced them apart. Patrick turned his head to see three guys blocking the way out. They looked like college kids in their twenties. Big college kids. David cleared his throat and stood up straight, pulling at Patrick’s hand.
“Let’s go,” he said under his breath, tense but not as thrown by the slur as Patrick was.
David, he knew, had heard it all before and probably worse.
“This queer is wearing a fucking skirt,” the one at the front of the group scoffed, his lip curled in disgust.
“C’mon,” David was saying, edging toward the restaurant door, clearly meaning to duck inside until these idiots got bored and left.
But Patrick’s brain was engaged in some abrupt mental gymnastics. First and foremost, this was the kind of moment he’d been secretly dreading since coming out a few years earlier. Thankfully, and surprisingly, the closest run-ins with homophobia he’d had were a handful of weird looks from older women in the grocery store in Elm Valley or the tittering of grade school kids who had once seen him and David kissing. And while a little upsetting, those instances had been so mild they hadn’t properly prepared him for something like this. It was like his brain couldn’t process what was happening.
Second, it felt so incredibly jarring to hear the word that David used so freely to describe them both thrown back at him as if it were some vile, disgusting thing. It had honestly taken months for Patrick to say the word queer without feeling like he was doing something wrong, and queer was one thing but fa–
He couldn’t even think of the word without his brain stalling out and converting it to the more palatable f-word. Meanwhile, these douchebags had just thrown it at them as easily as if it were any other word in the English language.
Third, and this was probably the reason his legs weren’t obeying David’s tense orders to move, the insults to David had activated some primal need within Patrick to stand up for and protect his husband. Which was, objectively, not necessarily the smartest reaction to have when it was three against two, and Patrick and David were well below the weight class in comparison.
“What the fuck are you looking at?” one of the men demanded when Patrick hadn’t torn his eyes away from them.
“Patrick, don’t,” David was saying more forcibly, now that the closest of the assholes was stepping toward them.
That plea, more than the others, seemed to snap Patrick out of it and he finally felt David’s other hand gripping his arm tightly. As the other man advanced, Patrick took a few steps back, stumbling awkwardly into David who clearly hadn’t expected him to move so readily as he was pulling his arm.
“We don’t want any trouble,” he heard himself say before the guy glanced back at his buddies with a smirk and then sucker-punched him.
It was like hearing the crack of a wooden baseball bat inside his head, reverberating off the sound of David gasping his name. What followed was a flurry of fists and rough hands, feet and knees in soft places. While it happened, while he had his arms curled protectively around his head, Patrick couldn't help but marvel at how quietly two people could be so brutalized. Aside from a few hoarse grunts and the odd gasp, being attacked sounded like dampened air hanging heavy and humid around them. Or like he was hearing it from underwater. At some point, Patrick found himself with his back against the pavement, unsure of how he’d gotten there. What was worse, when the onslaught finally stopped at the sudden shouting of new voices raised in alarm, he painfully forced his body to roll over, eyes searching for one thing and one thing only. But the scene before him made absolutely no sense.
The name tasted coppery in his mouth. Someone, a woman, was pressing his shoulders back to keep him down and he tried to fight her before her soothing voice coaxed him back. It was painful to move, more painful than anything he’d ever felt before, but it would be worse not to. Because there was David, laying a few feet away, face covered in blood and his now filthy white t-shirt ripped from the neck down. A man was gently rolling him on his side, facing Patrick, and he wanted to tell them to stop, that they were hurting David even more.
“Stop...stop d–don’t to-touch him…”
But it was then that Patrick realized what the guy was doing. Because David was choking...choking on the blood pouring out of his nose. The world swam around him and Patrick thought he might be sick. Through the chaos, he thought he heard the woman’s voice again.
“I need an ambulance, or...or two. And the police.”
Alexis is still crouched down in front of him, but now her head is lowered and he can’t see the tears streaming down her face. Like pushing through a fog, he reaches down and puts a hand—two fingers splinted—against her dark blonde hair. She sniffs and finally looks up, but it’s not worry in her eyes, it’s fury.
“Did you talk to the cops?” she asks, standing up and swiping a limp hand beneath her eyes.
She sets her jaw and steps away from him, pausing only to recover her purse from the floor. “I’m going to go find them. This is not happening again.”
That last part forces Patrick’s brain to backtrack. What is she talking about, again? But before he can call her back, there’s a groan from the bed.
“David!” Patrick leans forward and watches as David furrows his brow and tries to shake his head but can’t around the stiff brace keeping his neck straight. “Shhh, baby. Don’t move, just keep still.”
He cracks one bloodshot eye open and then the other and groans again, no doubt having a hard time seeing through the swelling. “Fucking ow.”
Patrick can’t help but chuckle humourlessly (and somewhat desperately) at the welcoming, if raspy, sound of his voice. With one of David’s arms in a cast and his other wrist splinted for a sprain, Patrick is wary of holding either of his hands, so he just leans forward and kisses his shoulder gently. To kiss his face would be to kiss the bruises and other damage there, and it all looks so painful that he doesn’t think he can do it.
“Jesus,” David is running his eyes up and down Patrick’s body, taking in his own black eye and split lip, the butterfly strips on his eyebrow, the splints on his fingers, and the way he’s gingerly holding his ribs. His lip trembles and he squeezes his eyes shut again, but the tears are already rolling down his mottled cheeks.
“Hey, hey,” Patrick leans forward and needs to touch his husband now, can’t imagine one more second without contact, and settles for laying a hand on his elbow where the cast stops. “I’m okay, David. I’m just a little sore.”
That may be the understatement of the century but the truth is, Patrick is far better off than David; David, who had gotten the brunt of the attack. He presses forward.
“We’re both going to be okay, I promise.”
David takes a deep breath through his nose and grimaces. “My head…”
Alarm bells ring in Patrick’s mind and he kicks himself for not pressing the call button immediately when David had come to. He presses it now. “A nurse is coming, baby. Just keep your eyes closed okay? Just try and relax.”
By the time Alexis returns, a doctor has confirmed that David has a severe concussion and a nurse has given him a stronger dose of morphine, making him drift back into a less frightening state of unconsciousness. For Patrick, slightly less drastic pain killers take off the edge. He’s exhausted (it’s 3 AM), and he’s been cleared to leave the hospital, but he can’t bear the thought of leaving David alone.
“Do you want me to get you anything?” Alexis asks when she returns and he’s given her the rundown he’d been too upset to voice earlier.
They’re waiting to get David into surgery to deal with a knee injury and a fractured cheekbone that needs to be repositioned. And while the neck brace is precautionary, the doctors are keen to keep an eye on the swelling around the top of David’s spine. Not to mention the concussion will be as unpleasant as anything in the coming days, if not weeks. If not months. Any chance of them heading back home on Sunday has gone out the window. It will be a while before David is fit to travel.
“Um...a change of clothes if you can. Mine are…” bloody he thinks, but he can’t say it. “Our bags are at the apartment.”
He picks at the thin hospital gown he’s been sitting in, unwilling to put the clothes he’d been wearing back on. He wants to burn them.
“Right, mhmm, no problem. I um...I called Mom and Dad. I told them not to come until tomorrow,” she glances at her phone and gives her head a tiny shake, “ugh, this afternoon I guess. Um, and I texted Stevie. She’s angry. But I, like, don’t have Marcy’s number so…”
Patrick casts around for his own phone but when he finds it, it’s dead.
“Here, why don’t you just add it to my phone, and I can call them while I get you your stuff,” she offers generously.
“Thanks, Alexis,” Patrick says tiredly, adding the number to his childhood home into her cellphone. “Just...they don’t need to fly out. Please tell them that. We’re going to be okay, I just...they can’t really afford it.”
She doesn’t leave right away, just stands at the end of David’s bed and watches him with a look on her face that Patrick doesn’t recognize. She’s smouldering with a kind of anger that seems out of place on Alexis. Patrick remembers what she’d said earlier.
“What did you mean before, about this not happening again?”
She doesn’t look at him, but her long thin fingers curl around the rail at the foot of David’s bed until her knuckles turn white.
“He never told you about St. Michael’s?”
The words have a ring of Catholicism to them that Patrick has never associated with any of the Roses. He shakes his head no.
“When David was fourteen, he went to this boarding school,” her voice has taken on a steady quality to it, low and purposeful without her usual um’s and like’s. “He’d had some embarrassing tabloid run-ins and I guess Dad was worried about reputation or something. It was a real old money kind of school that was known for setting kids straight or whatever. Nouveau riche kids were kind of...looked down on by everyone, you know? Anyway, David was…” Alexis lets out a frustrated huff. “Well he always has such a hard time making friends, and he was showing off or something, I don’t know. Being edgy just to make them like him–”
Patrick wants to stop her there because he knows this version of David exists (has even seen milder versions of him when he’s feeling particularly insecure), but it’s almost too painful to hear now. To know how much 14-year-old David just wanted someone to care, and knowing that this story is not going to end happily for him. That no one really would care until almost half a lifetime later. But Patrick doesn’t stop Alexis, because he also needs to know how this plays out. And he knows that the frustration rolling off of her now, and the way she’s throwing it back to David, isn’t accusatory. It’s guilt. Because he knows Alexis has never had to try to make friends a day in her life, and she hates that David struggles.
“–and of course that school was just full of assholes and creeps. And anyway, one day we get a call and David’s in the ho-hospital.” Her voice cracks and her grip on the bed railing tightens. “This group of guys thought he was acting too...too...anyway, they cornered him in the locker room and beat him up. It was really bad. Mom and Dad enrolled him somewhere else after that and it just sort of...went away.”
She would have been, what? Ten at the time? Still young enough to be attached at the hip with her older brother before the modelling and jet setting took over her life. Patrick stares at her and then turns his attention to David. They could be married for fifty more years and he doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to hearing these stories. He’s not shocked this one hasn’t come up either—he’s sure it’s the kind of thing David has buried so deeply beneath other life experiences that he barely thinks of it anymore. Or doesn’t allow himself to.
“I take it no one was held accountable?” Patrick wants to be shocked on David’s behalf when Alexis just shakes her head, no. But he’d be naive to be, considering this is hardly the first story he’s heard where rich white kids got off scot-free for assault. “Did you find the cops I talked to?”
“Hmm? Oh, uh-huh. They seem nice, capable or whatever.”
He can almost hear her tying them up in Alexisisms until they agreed to whatever it is she’s demanded of them. Suddenly she lets go of the bed and turns to him with a watery smile.
“I’m going to get you your things and call your mom. And I’m going to find someone to get you a cute little cot to sleep on or something, cause this,” she gestures widely to him in the chair, “is not a good look for your posture. David would never forgive me if I let you get all hunchy like that French bell guy.”
She boops him on the nose, but before she can leave Patrick catches her hand and holds it gently. She stops and they look at each other, caught in the amber of the moment—both wanting to cry and both holding it back through their exhaustion.
“Thanks for coming, Alexis.”
Once again, her eyes take in the injuries on his face.
“I’m really glad you’re okay.”
And then she’s gone.