It is a truth universally acknowledged that a PR firm in want of a client has to take what it can get.
Universally acknowledged, yes, but still incorrect, especially when it’s being preached by your father because you’re being too stubborn to accept it on your own.
David and Alexis slam into their shared flat like a twin pair of hurricanes, each of them splitting off to their private spaces in search of some solitude and isolation in which to cool down. They’d expected that brunch with their parents would be trying – it always is – but neither of them had been prepared to have their frustration tolerance pushed as far as it was, and were desperate for a few quiet moments to recenter.
Waiting until his bedroom door is closed securely behind him, David pulls out his phone and speed-dials Stevie, secure in the knowledge that Alexis is likely dialing Twyla just as quickly. He paces while the phone rings – once, twice, three times – before it connects and he lets out a barrage of pent-up annoyance, almost before she can get a greeting out.
“What now Da...”
“Can you believe this?” he practically shrieks, doing his best to keep the volume contained out of respect for his sister’s own pain and the thin state of their apartment walls. “I mean, why did they even bother flying out here and meeting with us if they were just going to say no?!”
“Maybe they wanted to visit their only children,” Stevie huffs, diving right into the flow of conversation with an audible eye roll.
“Please,” David snorts, “Imagine? They’ve changed but they clearly haven’t changed that much.”
“Neither of them are obligated to go with your PR firm David,” she points out, in the calm, half-distracted tone he remembers that suggests she’s playing a game of solitaire on the side.
“If blood isn’t an obligation then what is?” he argues, dropping down onto the end of the bed. “Besides, we could do amazing things for you, you know that.”
“I believe you David, but it’s not just my decision. Your dad and – ugh, Roland – are both partners in this, and they out-voted me.”
“I’m not mad at you,” he snips back, his tone suggesting that maybe he is just a little, but they both know it’s misplaced annoyance. “I just can’t believe he actually turned us down.”
Groaning, he presses his hands against his eyes until he sees sparks, the phone held between his shoulder and his ear, before leaning down to untie his shoes.
“And now he’s got the nerve to try to give us business advice.”
Stevie makes a distracted, commiserating sort of sound but doesn’t comment – she's heard all this too many times before to willingly participate again.
David doesn’t care - he’s salty and he’s not even mad about it.
His parents had bought and sold every one of his gallery patrons without his request or his permission, but now that he and Alexis are asking for work – not even a favor just actual work – they've refused. The two of them had gotten their mother’s entire career revived based on their pro-bono work for The Crows Have Eyes III, but now that she’s reprised her role as Vivian Blake in the reboot of Sunrise Bay, suddenly they’re not good enough for her anymore, and Johnny had flat-out refused to let them be a part of the Rosebud Motel project.
It’s infuriating, and he and Alexis are both pissed, but Moira had just spouted some nonsense about the family finances being in too precarious a place to take a chance on a fledgling PR firm and them being too reliant on their parents because who will maintain them when their father is dead?
That’s maybe the one thing in the world that’s never kept David up at night.
Johnny and Moira Rose were poster-models of the absent parent, and besides, David had learned a lot about himself after the family’s fall from grace; after the collapse of Rose Video, the loss of all their money, and their banishment to a little town called Schitt’s Creek. He’d learned that he is stronger, and braver, and more capable than he’d ever known, and so is Alexis. He’d learned that they actually work really well together, and that his sense of style paired with her influencer savvy and negotiations skills were a killer combination. He’d learned that they could be successful without the clout that came with their parents’ names, and that living a lifestyle far different from the one they’d grown up in wasn’t the end of the world.
Hell, in some ways it was even better.
He has friends now, real friends. Alexis is one of them - and that’s something he thought he’d never say - but sleeping less than ten feet away from her for three years had actually done their relationship some good. Stevie is another - an ex-hookup turned best friend that he doesn’t think he could do without, and one who’d taught him that the less money you spent on vogue apartments and furniture, the more you had to spend on things that really matter, like good cheese and name-brand toothpaste.
“You know why your dad said no,” she scoffs down the phone line, reminding him why he loves her while at the same time making him reconsider the sentiment. “It’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Well that’s pretty selfish,” David says flippantly, stretching out on his bed. “Wanting to redeem himself is no reason to deprive the RMG of a top-notch PR firm.”
“I thought the top-notch PR firm nixed RMG,” Stevie hums.
“It’s not my fault,” David whines, “You guys labeled your chat group and Alexis keeps saying it like the name of some cute boyband and now it’s stuck in my head!”
“Uh huh. So you’re mad that your dad wouldn’t help you guys out and now your mad that he is helping you guys out?”
“It’s not the same thing! Giving us a job and telling us how to do our job is not the same thing!”
“Sounds like you’re just mad that he came up with a better idea than you did,” Stevie drawls.
“Alexis is the idea-man,” David reminds her, and Stevie snorts.
“I’m sure she’d appreciate that concession. Anyway, what’s your dad pushing that’s got you so hot and bothered?”
“He wants us to leave New York,” David spits from between clenched teeth, his stomach churning.
“Ah. A real hot-button issue for you.”
“Well it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience the last time,” he growls, his mind flashing back to the day the family had learned that their business manager hadn’t actually filed their taxes in years, that he had embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars and left them not only bankrupt but at the mercy of the IRS.
They’d been exiled in disgrace on a musty greyhound that had deposited them and what meager belongings they could salvage in front of a decrepit motel in Canada of all godforsaken places, and all David had wanted for the next three years was to get back to the city that he loved.
Now he’s back, finally, living like a real Girl Boss (TM), and his father wants him to leave again.
“You’d be choosing to leave this time,” Stevie points out, infuriatingly rational. “And besides, it kind of worked out for you in the end, didn’t it?”
He can’t argue with her.
Those three years in Schitt’s Creek had changed the Roses, though in many ways they were still very much themselves. Fundamentally his parents were still the very same people down to the core, but he and Alexis – perhaps because they were younger and a bit more moldable – were miles from who they used to be. Their pride and their entitlement were nearly gone, worn down to nothing when the money that maintained it bled away, and their edges had been softened by the kindness and caring of people who hadn’t owed them anything and had never taken more than they could give. They still have sharp edges, yes, and can go cold and hard as diamond when challenged, but the callousness and vapidity they’d been born into were long gone.
What had started out as a catastrophic fall from grace had resulted in changes David never would have dared dream of.
A friend he can turn to, a sister who makes him better, a career that he loves and that he’s good at.
Yes, he supposes leaving New York the last time had worked out for him.
Doesn’t mean he’s going to admit that to Stevie.
“Shut up,” he grumbles, and Stevie laughs down the line. “Anyway, what’s your next destination? When are you heading out?”
They spend another half hour chatting back and forth about the Rosebud Motel Group’s next prospective acquisition, the tenth after the original, as their plan to turn motels from grubby road-side hellscapes to genuinely pleasant stopovers starts to really take off. Moira is going to be on-set for the next six weeks, so Johnny is taking the opportunity to get away and meet Stevie in northern Michigan to look at a twelve-room fixer-upper on the lake. It means that Stevie gets to do the one thing she’d always thought was out of her reach – travel and see different places – and David is so happy for her he could cry.
He manages to rein it in enough that she doesn’t hear him sniffling over the phone, and after working through their schedules together to find a weekend that they might both conceivably be in the same place, they sign off with their trademark farewells. He would never admit it to her but he feels better just having heard her voice, that dry, sarcastic tone roasting the hell out of him for being so dramatic about this.
Half the amount of drama, would maybe be appropriate...
He’ll have to check with Alexis.
Giving himself another twenty minutes to lie on his bed with one arm slung over his eyes, he eventually feels calm enough to get up and face the inevitable. Emerging from his bedroom, he heads straight for the galley kitchen and opens a bottle of wine – white in deference to his sister and the no doubt disgusting amounts of Chinese food he’s going to consume tonight. He’s got their usual order already put in for delivery by the time Alexis appears a few minutes later, and he toasts her wryly with his wine glass, clinking it with hers while they both drink in silence, reacclimating to what is about to become their new reality.
“So...” Alexis says, slow and soft and hesitant, and David tips his head back toward the ceiling, groaning loudly.
“Food first,” he advises, because there’s no other way he’s getting through this. “Go wash your face – it will be here by the time you get rid of those raccoon eyes.”
“Ew David!” she shrieks, her hands flying to her cheeks where her mascara has smudged at the edges.
It’s not as bad as that – she probably hadn’t cried, just teared up a little – but the familiar teasing lightens the mood and makes them both feel a little bit lighter, if the way she floats off toward the bathroom is any indication. She comes back in her pink silk pajama set – the ones that look too much like their mom’s with their long, cuffed sleeves and pearl buttons – her hair twisted up into a neat bun and her face clean, and it would calm him if not for the folder in her hand.
But, she’s better than she was, and they're better together than they were before Schitt’s Creek, so neither of them mention it and neither of them poke, David going to the door to collect their food from the delivery guy he’d buzzed up and Alexis scrounging for a couple of crumpled bills for a tip. They eat over the tiny island because they’d learned not to trust the waxy containers from Oriental Dragon on their couch - Alexis sipping Hot and Sour Soup and David shoveling crab rangoon into his mouth like it’s the last thing he’ll ever eat - and when they’re both stuffed they smash the fortune cookies against the counter with their fists before shaking the wafer dust into their mouths and throwing the slips of paper away.
They make their own future now, their own fortunes.
It was one of the first things they’d agreed on when getting this apartment together, after setting up a bathroom schedule and splitting up the chores.
Losing their money had been almost third-hand, by Eli through their parents, and they never want to be in that position again. They want to succeed or fail by their own hand, and have taken a lot of pains to make that their reality.
Maybe that’s why it stings so much that their father had been the one to essentially ‘find’ their next big client.
‘Our only big client,’ David thinks bitterly as he follows Alexis over to the couch, both of them sitting down on the area rug in front of the coffee table.
They’ve worked a few jobs so far, done some amazing things for an up-and-coming Indi band, but nothing the size or scale that they really want to be working.
That their chance may have finally arrived in this particular format...
“Ok, so like, here’s Dad’s contact,” Alexis says, spreading out the paperwork and pushing a business card toward him.
“Can we please not?” David grumbles, and Alexis widens her eyes, flicks her fingers.
“Totally,” she agrees. “So some guy named Ray bought a junior hockey team...”
David sneers, a visceral shudder running through him.
“They’re cute David!” Alexis says, flipping through to find a photo of a group of (maybe) men all dressed in dark blue wearing mismatched skates.
“You can’t even tell,” he argues, grabbing the photo to take a closer look, because really, they’re all just big boxy shapes underneath what he prays is copious amounts of padding.
No human being should be so... rectangular.
“Mississauga Steelheads,” he mutters, squinting to read the fine print along the bottom of the photo. “Wait a minute, are these teenagers?!”
“They were,” Alexis explains in a tone that suggests he should already know that. “Junior hockey David. But I guess they were really good and won a bunch of games and like, now they get to play with the grown-ups.”
“So they’re adults,” he counters, feeling a desperate need to clarification.
His head snaps up in alarm as Alexis shuffles through her papers, pulling out what looks like a bulleted list.
“It looks like their youngest guy is twenty-three,” she says.
Breathing a little easier, he waves a hand in permission for her to continue.
“So anyway... Ray bought the team and they got moved up to the NFL league, and then I guess they like, did really bad last year? And they’re all really sad about it and not getting a lot of money for their little skaties and stuff, so Ray wants our help to make the whole team better.”
“That’s ridiculous,” David mutters, tossing the photo down and pawing through the paperwork himself. “We don’t know anything about hockey Alexis – how exactly are we supposed to help?”
“Come on David, you know you know how to...”
“We don’t know anything about hockey Alexis,” he reiterates, cutting her off.
“But we know marketing,” she insists, meeting his gaze fiercely. “We know how to make things work on a shoelace budget and how to get more money when we need it, and we know how to make things look better than they really are.”
She’s not wrong.
They’d learned a lot of things living in Schitt’s Creek, all of those among them.
Sighing, David drops his face into his hands and resigns himself to his fate.
“Ok,” he breathes, getting to his feet to pace because he always thinks better when he moves. “Ok, ok, ok. What first?”
A slow grin curls over Alexis face.
“First we update our passports.”