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What's New Pussycat?

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***

 

There is a cat on the front steps of The Apothecary.

Patrick is so surprised by the sight that he stops in his steps, keys still swinging from his fingers and pursed lips frozen mid-whistle as he takes in the sight of the sleek, elegant looking cat on the front step.

“Hello there,” he says slowly, continuing his approach at a slower pace so as not to startle the animal, who seems unperturbed by his arrival. “I’m afraid we’re not open yet, you couldn’t come back later, could you?”

The cat seems unimpressed by his joke, and if Patrick were less mentally stable, he would argue that it even seems to huff derisively at him, its head tilting up just slightly with an air of authority.

In doing so, Patrick’s attention is drawn to the neat, leather collar around the cat’s neck. He crouches down and reaches for it, turning over the shining silver tag. It reads:

David: Please don’t patronise. He hates being talked down to.

“Well, hello David. I’m Patrick,” Patrick says, with a small grin.

He holds up his hand as if offering a handshake and is startled when the cat reaches out with one of its paws, the claws retracted, and kind of bats at it.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, but I really should be getting into work now. We wouldn’t want dissatisfied customers on our hands now, would we?”

At this, the cat lets out a meow with the tone of derision, and Patrick laughs again.

“Okay, but you can’t come in, we don’t allow--”

It’s too late, as soon as Patrick opens the front door, the cat jets inside and disappears under the centre display, sitting right in the middle, out of arms reach from any side.

“Of course,” Patrick mutters, “Don’t mind me then.”

Patrick goes about his opening chores, setting up the cash register and giving the floor a cursory wipe before flipping the sign and pulling the front door open. He props it there with an old crate, and crouches to look under the counter again, where David remains, cleaning his paw and looking without a care in the world.

“I’m afraid I have the right to refuse service to anyone I like,” Patrick says. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

David pauses, his paw at his mouth, and his bright eyes look up at Patrick for a cursory second, before resuming his task.

“Yeah, that seems about right,” Patrick says again, straightening up and cracking his back. “Don’t be a nuisance and I won’t have to chase you out of here with a broom.”

A strangled meow of dissent comes from below the table, and Patrick smiles to himself, glad to have gotten his message across.

It’s around midday when David emerges from under the table, seeming to feel safe in the fact that Patrick won’t follow through with his threat. He wanders around for a bit, and then suddenly does something that catches Patrick's attention.

He uses his teeth to bite into the handle of one of the toilet plungers at the front of the store. Awkwardly, and with little finesse, he manages to knock it over, and drag it backwards, slowly but steadily away from the front, past all the displays, and into the back room.

Patrick lets his curiosity get the better of him and follows, ducking through the curtains to the back room to find David has laid the plunger in the corner, and already shot past him to return for more.

“Not a fan of the plungers, huh?” Patrick asks, holding the curtain open for him to drag another one through. David stumbles with this one, seeming to trip over his own four feet as he struggles with the item so much bigger than he is.

Patrick just watches, too in shock to contribute to the cat’s efforts.

David lines the plungers up equally as neatly in the back room and doesn’t stop until every last one has been removed from the front. Patrick stands there and watches all the while, vaguely relieved that no customers are there to see the truly unbelievable display, but also desperate for someone else to walk in and witness this.

Once he’s finished, the cat arches back on his back legs and does an almighty stretch and yawn. He exits the back room, Patrick following him all the while, and crosses to the scarves, grabbing at the end of one with his teeth and tugging.

“Hey!” Patrick exclaims, coming back to life. “Don’t do that, you’ll damage it!”

The cat looks at him with wide eyes, and Patrick sighs, letting his shoulders drop.

“I’ll get one down for you,” he gives in, heading over to the display. He reaches for one that hadn’t sold since the first batch; a slightly misshapen purple one he’s grown to dislike, but before he can untie it from the display David meows unhappily at him. “What, let me guess. That one’s incorrect?”

The cat meows again.

“You can’t just pick and choose here David. It’s not like you can pay for this.”

The cat makes a pointed look between the front of the store and the back room, and Patrick finds himself chuckling slightly.

“I never asked you to do that,” he says, even as he moves his hands to the black and white scarf David had been pulling at in the first place. “This one, yeah?”

As soon as it’s untangled, David tugs at the end of it with his teeth, pulling it backwards across the room to behind the cash desk where he disappears out of sight.

When Patrick follows, giving himself a moment to berate his clear descent into insanity, he crosses into the back room and finds the scarf balled up on the desk. The cat is curled up on top of the soft fabric, an indistinguishable ball of black fluff, his body raising and lowering as he breathes, already deep asleep.

Patrick doesn’t let himself think too hard about why he turns off the big light and makes sure the curtain is fully shut so that David can sleep undisturbed.

It’s a few hours later that David re-emerges from the back room. He lingers in the store a while longer, mainly making a slow round of the space. He pays undue attention to the products, especially for an animal that cannot read, and Patrick can almost hear the judgemental tone of his looks.

David leaves mid-afternoon with nothing more than a short meow, trotting out of the door with his head held high as if proud to have completed a successful day at work.

Patrick finds himself filling in the evening spreadsheets with a small smile that refuses to leave his face.

 

***

 

When he comes to the store the next morning, Patrick tries not to be disappointed when the front step is noticeably devoid of his feline friend. He sighs and lets himself in, kicking the crate into the doorway to prop the door open; it’s hot out and the air circulation was actually quite nice yesterday.

He’s just cashing up a regular; Mrs Sonny, who had come in to collect more yarn and candles, when David arrives. He trots into the store as if it’s his own, his tail pointed high in the air.

“Oh, hello, you,” Patrick says, earning a funny look from the customer who is just leaving. “You know, if you’re going to work here you really should be here for the full shift.”

David makes a small meow and tilts his head to the side as if not understanding. Which is ridiculous, because of course he doesn’t understand. He’s a cat.

“What are you going to move around today?” Patrick asks, closing the cash draw with a click and walking around the till. “Because if it’s any bigger than the plungers then you might need my help this time.”

David meows again, this time with a distasteful expression on his face which makes Patrick chuckle.

“Okay,” he says, heading over to the stack of moisturisers he had been setting out before a customer had come in. “Well, I have an actual job to do, so if you want to nap in the back room again, you’re more than welcome, I damaged out the scarf since I assumed it would be covered in cat hair, it's on the side by the desk."

He receives no verbal response and turns to his job, only turning to look at David when he jumps up onto the centre display next to him.

“Hey, don’t--” Patrick tries to say, worried about the destruction the cat may cause, but David is agile and steps around the products, only knocking one bottle of body milk onto the floor, thankfully packaged in small plastic tubs.

David freezes as it hits the floor and looks over at Patrick with guilty eyes, but Patrick just laughs and reaches to get it.

“Might be a bit harder to move things around up here.”

Clearly realising he’s not in trouble, David continues over to the cleansers on the right side. They’re pump bottles, lined up in a row, and he seems intrigued by them for a few minutes, sniffing around suspiciously before finally using his nose to nudge one of the pumps.

The bottle falls off the table with the momentum, and David looks around at Patrick again, meowing in annoyance.

“You don’t like the cleansers, then?” Patrick asks.

“Meow”

David does it again, slower this time, poking his nose on the nozzle of the bottle and pushing it. The same thing happens, and this time he peeks over the edge of the table to look down at the bottle on the floor, meowing at it in dissatisfaction.

“What are you trying to do?” Patrick asks, bending to pick them up and putting them back in their rightful place. He keeps his hands on the bottles, thinking a moment, before reaching for the nozzle and twisting it so that it faces the front. “Like this?”

David makes a happier, rumbling noise, and sits back, watching Patrick’s progress as he goes along straightening all the pumps so that they face the front.

Well, all except one, which he purposefully twists to face the opposite direction.

“Job done,” Patrick says, winking at the cat and heading away to resume his own stacking. David growls low in his throat and pads across the table towards Patrick who pretends not to notices his increasing volume chirps.

When the noise fails, David headbutts Patrick’s arm, nudging him lightly with his head, and looking up for a reaction.

Finally, he reaches one paw up, his claws out, and catches Patrick’s shirt. His claws hook into the fabric and he pulls at it while making a grumbling noise.

“What is it?” Patrick asks, pretending to be oblivious, and if he didn’t know better, he’d think that the cat actually scowled at him. “What do you see, buddy?”

David’s paw retreats and he looks almost offended at the tone of Patrick’s voice, a fact which makes Patrick laugh as he heads back towards the cleansers and fixes the last bottle.

“There, are you happy?”

David chirps happily, and Patrick reaches over and pats his head just slightly.

“David, there you are,” a voice comes from the doorway, and Patrick pulls his hand back quickly. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

A short, brown-haired girl is stood in the door, a dark blue plaid shirt and jeans on, with her hands on her hips.

“Oh, hi, is this your cat?” Patrick asks. “Sorry, I probably should have let someone know, he just came to hang out with me yesterday and today--” Patrick trails off as the woman snorts. “Did I say something funny--?”

“Oh, no, you’re fine. He’s just not my cat.”

“Oh,” Patrick says, blinking. “He has a collar, though. Does he not have an owner? If he’s a stray, then I’d be more than happy to take him in--”

The woman opens her mouth in surprise and Patrick looks down as David growls at him, flicking his tail in the air and jumping off the table with elegance as if offended by the implication.

“No, he- well, technically he’s kind of the Roses cat. But he’s kind of a free spirit, they don’t really consider him a pet, more of a--” she trails off, looking at the cat as if sharing a joke with him. “A liability.”

At this, David growls at her as well, jumping onto a display table in the far corner of the room and turning his back to the both of them, seeming to be grooming his paw as he stares out of the wide front windows.

“Well, he’s a lovely cat,” Patrick says. “Sorry for kind of stealing him, but I did leave the door open.”

“David kind of chooses who he spends time with, so you should be flattered.” The woman holds out her hand. “I’m Stevie, by the way.”

“Patrick,” Patrick replies, taking the hand and shaking it politely. “Do you cat sit for the Roses, then?”

“Oh, no, I actually work at the motel, so I just see David around a lot.”

“Well, he’s been a big help for the store.”

“Oh, has he now,” Stevie asks, turning to look over at the cat who seems to stick his tongue out at her as if to seriously provoke him. “David Rose working in retail, huh?”

“I think he’d prefer to be in a managerial position,” Patrick replies, assuming that she isn’t actually expecting a response from the cat. “He’s lucky a position opened up recently actually, so, he’s welcome here any time to supervise, and anything else he wants to do.”

Stevie seems thrilled at that and looks over at David again. “Did you hear that, David, this man actually seems to like you even despite your general personality.”

David bares his teeth this time, hissing at her, and jumping down from his perch, heading out of the door and down the street.

“Bye, David,” Patrick calls after him but the cat is already gone.

When he looks back at Stevie, she’s eyeing him carefully. “Are you single?” she asks suddenly.

“Um, yes, but I- I’m flattered, but I’m actually, um, I’m gay, so that would be- I mean--”

She snorts. “Not for me, you idiot. I have a friend who I think could be a really good fit.”

“Oh, really?” Patrick asks, wiping his suddenly sweaty hands on the front of his jeans. “I- that would be- I mean--”

“We’ll have to see,” Stevie says, turning around and heading towards the door. “This is a nice store, by the way. I mean, the aesthetic could do a little work, and it’s a bit messy, but it has potential.”

“I’ll just have to follow David’s lead on all that,” Patrick says, expecting a laugh in response but barely even getting a smile.

“Yeah. You should.”

“Oh, okay, I--” Stevie has left, with a waggle of her fingers, before Patrick can say another word. He stares out after her for a while, a small frown on his face, before getting back to work.

 

***

 

After that, David comes to the store almost every single day. He usually arrives later than Patrick; no earlier than 10am on most days.

On one particular day, it’s a little chillier than usual, and so at 11:02 he’s greeted to the sound of a high-pitched wailing from the front door. Patrick startles from where he had been out of focus, staring at the wall in a daze.

Rachel had called again, and then immediately after her, his parents, with sly questions as if they knew she had been in contact which, now that he thinks of it, is probably true. Patrick feels his skin crawl as he thinks about it, unable to settle the beating of his heart with anxiety at the very thought of his hometown.

When he hears David’s yowling, he immediately rushes over to the door and opens it, holding it open while David trots in, a small café bag hanging from his mouth.

“Morning,” Patrick mutters as he closes the door and heads back around to stand behind the cash.

David doesn’t seem satisfied by this greeting. He leaps up onto the front desk, dropping the bag in the process and looking down at it, but Patrick fails to do his usual fetching routine, so David jumps back down and tries again.

Finally, he drops the bag from his mouth in front of where Patrick is leaning.

“What’s this?” Patrick asks, looking at the bag with trepidation. “It’s not a dead animal is it? Because as fond as I am of you, I won’t be impressed.”

David makes a short yowl of disgust and nudges the bag further towards Patrick, prompting him to open it, which he does, finding a slightly crushed croissant inside, and a very self-satisfied looking cat.

“For me?” Patrick asks. “How did you? Is this from Stevie?”

David’s face falls a little, and Patrick immediately puts his hands up.

“No, it’s- I mean, this is nice of you, David," he says, tearing a piece off and putting it in his mouth to make his point clear. "I skipped breakfast, so this is great."

The food lifts Patrick’s spirits slightly, as does the sight of David lazing in the homemade cat hammock Patrick had installed the previous week in the front bay windows. The sun is shining on his dark fur, making it appear browner than usual, and he switches position every half hour or so, as if more accustomed to tanning than simply basking.

Despite the quiet day, Patrick still feels out of place. He finds himself flopping around the store with no real purpose; beating the feather duster around a few times, and neatening the displays, but doing little else of worth all day.

David stays past closing, which is out of character for him, and seems to try his best to improve Patrick’s mood. He tries to climb on top of the broom as Patrick pushes it around which does earn a short laugh when he ends up tumbling off and getting swept a little, forcing David to do a very thorough clean of his fur in the corner as Patrick finishes up.

Finally, Patrick is just cashing up the till when David does the unusual. He latches his teeth into Patrick’s jeans and pulls, hard.

“What?”

Patrick looks down and David is staring up at him with wide, baleful eyes.

“What?” Patrick asks again, a little more impatiently. “I don’t feed you; you have to go home for that.”

The cat doesn’t seem impressed by that and tugs at his jeans again. Patrick gives in, letting himself be led towards the back room, where he flops down onto the couch with a sigh. He buries his face in his hands just as David jumps up next to him and puts a paw on his lap.

Silently, Patrick makes room, and David clambers on, curling up in a ball of heat and fluff.

“Hm,” Patrick hums, cautiously putting his hand on David’s head; not exactly known to respond well to too much petting, but he pushes just slightly into it, and Patrick rubs between his eyes with his fingertips. “This is nice.”

A low rumbling purr is all he gets in response, but when he pauses his petting, David looks up with an expression which clearly reads ‘say nothing’.

“I’m a bad person,” Patrick says suddenly, and David’s hums stop. “I’m a bad person, because I can’t communicate with people who deserve to know the truth about me. Because I’ve hurt people, I hurt Rachel, and I hurt my parents by running away with no explanation, and I am a bad--”

Patrick goes silent as David uncurls and stands, one paw covering his mouth to shut him up.

“I wish I could talk to them. I wish I could explain,” Patrick mumbles over it.

In lieu of a response, David just butts his head against Patrick’s chin, rubbing against him with a rumbling purr. Patrick smiles, and reaches to stroke him again, and the purr gets louder.

“Okay, you’re a good listener, has anyone ever told you that?”

David stops and pulls back, with surprised eyes.

“Come on,” Patrick gestures for David to jump down which he does. “We should both get home, before the Roses begin to worry.”

His back is turned when he hears a scoff but when Patrick looks back around, David looks entirely innocent as he waits to follow him out of the store.

“Weird,” Patrick mutters as he grabs his keys and goes.

 

***

 

Things get harder at The Apothecary.

The initial excitement of a new store dies down, and the books start to look disappointing. Patrick does all he can to negate the issues; an Open Mic Night that David seems disapproving of, and a cover of “What’s New Pussycat?” which earned a disgusted look from the cat. He tries to engage with the community, and the vendors, but just seems to come up short, so turns back to the things he can understand; the numbers.

He becomes so focused on the books that David even starts walking Patrick home after one time, when Patrick had pretended to close up the store so that David would leave, and then snuck back to finish the spreadsheets he had been working on. (Yes, it felt strange to be hiding his behaviour from a cat, he realised that at the time but still did it anyway).

One such night, Patrick is stood at the counter after closing, working on the books. The main light is off, only leaving the small bulbs behind the counter to read by, and the world is peaceful and quiet, most of the citizens of Schitt’s Creek long having gone home for the night.

“You don’t have to stay, you know,” Patrick says for the fifth time as David paces back and forth the store, nudging things with his nose to neaten them.

David ignores him, and jumps into his window hammock for a while, now lined with an old sweater of Patrick’s that had begun to develop some strange, tooth shaped holes after he had taken it off once during a particularly hot work day.

David dozes for a while, drifting in and out of sleep, making small meows every so often that Patrick assumes are either because of his dreams or him trying to stay awake.

It must be nearing midnight when David wakes, and Patrick still doesn’t feel like he’s made any headway. The cat jumps away from his seat and pads over to the counter, wiggling his butt and jumping up onto the surface with well-practiced ease.

“Hello, sleeping beauty,” Patrick says, petting his head a few times before picking up his pen again to make a note (the body milks aren’t selling as fast as he’d hoped, and he might have to reduce the number next month).

David doesn’t seem satisfied with the short pet, and immediately pushes for more.

Patrick laughs as the soft black cat rears up on his back legs to try and catch his hand for another pet. He obliges, his right hand dropping to pet gently on his head, but David makes a short yowl and pushes up again.

“Okay, okay, I really need to focus now,” Patrick laughs. The cat plants his front paws on Patrick’s chest from where he’s still balancing on the front counter. “I know, it’s been a long day, I promise I’ll be done soon,” he murmurs, kissing the top of David’s furry head and going to nudge the distraction away.

Before he can, however, there’s a flash of light, and David the cat is replaced by a very tall, very human, very male figure sat perched in exactly the same place. Patrick startles, staring at the handsome man with confusion.

“Wha- What the fuck?”

“Ugh, okay, finally, let’s try that again,” the man says, standing up from the counter and brushing off his clothes with a similar, cat-like look of disdain.

Before Patrick can register what is happening, the man- David, is cupping his jaw with one hand and leaning in, pressing a soft but confident kiss straight to Patrick's lips.

“You need to package the body milk in bottles that look like milk bottles,” David says, pulling away after a moment as Patrick catches his breath.

Patrick blinks, his eyes dazed as he takes in the sight of the human David, his eyes drop to his lips again, but he hesitates in order to add something. “Uh- Hm, won’t that be confusing?”

“No,” David says, shaking his head, and this time, he’s smiling as their lips meet again.