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Idle Curiosity

Chapter Text

Patrick hadn’t allowed himself to google David.

He probably should have, before signing up as his business partner. Some due diligence was reasonable. And he wanted to—of course he did, David’s past was nothing if not interesting—but it seemed unfair, somehow. Imbalanced. If David googled him (not that he’d want to, but if he did), he’d find an unused Facebook, a list of business graduates from UBC, and a few articles from his hometown paper about high school baseball games.

The extent to which he could invade David’s privacy online made him feel vaguely guilty, so he left it alone.

Sebastien Raine, on the other hand, he googled less than five minutes after he got back to his sad rented room, and less than two hours after hearing David imply to Stevie that the two had slept together.

The difference, he told himself, was that he wanted to learn about David from David. That felt respectful, and frankly he was looking forward to it. David was just so… unique. If he told his mother about him—which he hadn’t yet, for some reason he didn’t examine too closely—she would say that his business partner sounded like ‘something else.’

Sebastien was different. Patrick was merely satisfying idle curiosity.

‘Idle curiosity’ is what Patrick was calling that weird, awful feeling in his gut, for lack of a better term.

Mostly it was just a lot of freaky black and white photographs. There were some articles linking him to David, which Patrick studiously avoided. The short Wikipedia stub told him that Sebastien’s parents were oil-rich Texans with the innocuous last name of Fischer.

Well, there you have it. Patrick filed the fact away out of order in his mind, retroactively justifying his visceral reaction to David’s ex. Of course he hated this guy. He changed his name from Sebastian Fischer to Sebastien Raine. Plus he took weird pictures of rail-thin, naked women wearing animal masks on New York City street corners.

Anyone would hate this guy.

Well, David hadn’t, apparently. At some point.

He does now, though, Patrick thought defensively. And anyway, David just had terrible judgement—great taste, but terrible judgement. He was full of contradictions like that: unearned confidence and irrational insecurity, insincerity barely covering almost painful earnestness, keen intelligence with a total inability to apply it to real life situations.

Clumsy grace. Androgynous style over broad, masculine shoulders. Soft-looking skin and rough five-o’clock shadow.

Patrick decided, forcefully, to stop that train of thought before it ran off the rails.

Sebastien himself was undeniably beautiful, but Patrick only admitted it grudgingly as he clicked around the photographer’s pretentiously minimalist website. On a surface level, he could kind of see why David had been interested, although it was still hard to believe he hadn’t had better options than this douchebag back when he was some kind of socialite.

Maybe Sebastien made a better impression in person, as opposed to frowning from a grayscale website above an incomprehensible artist’s statement. Scowling, Patrick went back to the search results and clicked from web search to image search.

He immediately regretted it.

One of the top pictures wasn’t Sebastien at all, but David, shirtless and wearing jeans that looked expensive and dirty. Except David was about thirty pounds lighter, far too light for his frame, and there was a dark bruise on his cheek under one eye. Stomach clenching, Patrick hoped it was makeup.

There was a small smear of white powder under his nose, and even Patrick wasn’t naive enough to believe that that might be makeup.

The more details he took in, the sicker he felt. David looked high out of his mind, narrow eyes almost closed and mouth half-open. His hands were bound above him to a hook, making his ribs prominent. His chest was waxed, and Jesus, all Patrick could think staring at it was how much better his chest looked now. Not that Patrick had seen him without a sweater, of course, but he could still tell. There was meat on his bones now, and it suited him. The jeans were pulled low at his hips, exposing a hairless stomach, and that Patrick knew for a fact was different. He’d seen a trail of dark hair two days ago when David stretched to reach the highest display shelves.

Nauseated, but in too deep to stop himself, Patrick clicked on the image to see the article it came from. He skimmed for exactly twenty seconds—

“Rose Video Heir Sues Over Racy Exhibit”

“David Rose, son of business magnate Johnny Rose, alleges that the photographs were taken without his knowledge or consent...”

“The collection, which includes disturbing images not suitable for children, is showing from April 15 to May 30 at RaineFall Gallery in the Bronx.”

—before shutting his browser, then his laptop.

The next day, Patrick didn’t tease David even once.

When he went over for lunch—he was still working for Ray in the mornings—Patrick brought him a piece of pie from the cafe. And when David said something about not needing the calories, he smacked him lightly upside the head (“My hair!”) and scoffed.

David ate the pie with slightly pink ears, after politely and insincerely offering to split it.

While he ate, Patrick talked a little more about their business plan, with a couple of gratuitous comments about what a smart idea it was and why he was so confident in its success. By the time they began working, David was practically glowing.

“I know we said I’d handle tech, but I think you should set up the social media stuff,” Patrick said, ticking an item off his agenda.

“Yeah, yes, no offense, but, um, our target market wouldn’t be caught dead on Facebook? So yes, Patrick, I figured you’d be out of your depth, um, in that arena.”

Patrick set down his legal pad and grinned at his business partner. “How- did you google me or something?”

“Of course I did. Like, thirty seconds after meeting you,” David said without looking up from the bottles of anise and clove mouthwash he was arranging. His voice and posture didn’t reveal even a shred of embarrassment, but his ears were pink again.

Chapter Text

Whether it was from Patrick’s increased presence in the store or the Grand-Canyon-scale juxtaposition between him and Sebastien, David fell fast after the pie incident.

This happened to him, sometimes, generally when the person in question was what Alexis called ‘peak psychopath.’ Patrick didn’t seem peak psychopath to him, but then again, it was always the quiet ones, wasn’t it?

He decided to wait and see.

Not that it mattered, actually, because Patrick was like a dadaist poem assembled entirely from heterosexual cliches.

“He was watching a baseball game on his phone,” David moaned. “And he was, like, into it.”

“How into it?” Stevie asked, folding linens passive-aggressively at him as he lolled around on the lobby couch.

Really into it. He was twitching a lot.” David sat up and made a halfhearted effort at folding a pillow case. “When they lost he did, like, a thing with his fist.”

“If they win the pennant maybe you’ll get a preview of his orgasm face.”

It was a normal thing for her to say, acceptable in any normal conversation they would have about a hot guy, and yet somehow David didn’t like it. Not just because he didn’t want sport lingo anywhere near his sex life, either. He chose to ignore it, not sure how to articulate why it bothered him. “Alright, you need a new punchline, because the boy is straight. Straaaiight straight. And my business partner. So.”

Shrugging, she continued folding in silence, like she wouldn’t dignify his assertion with a response. He helped with a fitted sheet, then flopped down again.

And he shushed me! Literally said the word ‘shush.’ He chose sports over my scintillating conversational skills.”

She didn't answer him. Minutes passed. He held up a towel to the light, trying to figure out what might have made that suspicious rust-colored stain, and Stevie continued folding.

“Listen. He looks at you like you’re… I don’t know, a power hitter with the bases loaded,” she said, just when he’d believed—with considerable disappointment—that she’d actually dropped it.

“And, um, that’s a good thing, right? Or… you know what, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. I just need to-” He shook out his hands. “Clear my head. Maybe fuck someone else.”

Finished folding, Stevie gathered the linens in her arms, then intentionally kicked his shin on her way out the door.

“Just. Ask. Him. Out.”

“Fuck. My phone died.”

They were opening the store in five days, and Christ did David want that organic local canola honey. The bottles were fucking adorable.

“There’s a spare charger in the back,” Patrick said. He was sweeping, and David found the sight of him with his sleeves rolled up and a broom in his hands absurdly charming. There was no particular reason David ought to find him especially attractive in that moment. He was just Patrick, doing Patrick things around the store, and yet David found him riveting.

Focus on what’s best for the store, you idiot, not what’s best for your dick. 

“Nope. I took that one home two days ago. Shit, I was in the middle of emailing a vendor. Can I just…” He gestured to Patrick’s laptop by the register.

“Yeah, of course. And maybe ask next time, before taking my charger home?”

“You just said it was a spare charger.” David opened a browser window. “I lost mine.”

When he started typing his email into the address bar, the history popped up with a familiar headline.

David clicked the link.

“David, shit, I’m so sorry.”

Patrick had gotten behind him at some point, and was looking over his shoulder at the screen.

David shook his head to clear it. “Why should you be sorry?” He knew he was blushing, but truthfully, this could have been a whole lot worse. It had been worse in the past, like when Roland had found the pictures. Ugh. Jocelyn hadn’t been able to look him in the eye for weeks.

Maybe saying so would make Patrick feel better. “This is actually the most tasteful shot from that exhibit, like, by far. Be grateful they didn’t use the one where I’m suspended by one wrist from a fire escape.”

Well, that very clearly did not make Patrick feel better. He positively blanched, which was an accomplishment with his skin tone. “I just, I really didn’t mean to- you mentioned, uh, Sebastien, awhile ago, and I was curious. That's all. It’s not like I set out to find-”

“Patrick. It’s fine, really. I’m, um, I’m very used to people learning all kinds of fun facts about me via the world wide web.” It hadn’t happened in awhile, though. Everyone in Schitt’s Creek knew him now.

Maybe that was why his stomach was churning over this.

That’s not why.

“So this is, like, the first thing you knew about me, and you still went into business with me?” David tried to smile. “I thought you were the responsible one.”

“Your business plan was just that good.”

“Mm, it really wasn’t, though.”

“Well, it was once I redid it for you.” Patrick was trying to tease him back, but couldn’t quite get there.

Turning back to the photograph on screen, determined to defuse the situation somehow, David said, “God, at least I was skinny back then.”

Patrick winced, a layer of concern gilding itself over his guilty expression, and wow, David was doing a really bad job easing the tension here.

“You can’t even buy coke in Schitt’s Creek, though, so those days are forever behind me.” He put on a fake wistful tone, a la Moira Rose, but thought Patrick might appreciate knowing that he wasn’t in danger of David emptying the register up his nose.

“Jesus, David, that's- that isn't...” Patrick said, turning away from him, and oh, that hurt a shocking amount.

He’s disgusted with me.

“Anyway, lovely trip down memory lane, but I do need to email that vendor, so-”

“You look- you should not want to look like that again,” Patrick blurted out, waving a hand at the computer. “I think you might be kidding, I hope you are, but… David, I could barely believe that was you. You look much better now than- you look great, now.”

It was an inconvenient moment to go full deer-in-the-headlights.

After what felt like a very long ten seconds of staring at each other’s dueling blushes, David muttered something like “thank you” just as Patrick muttered something like “write that email.” Patrick returned to sweeping, and David finally finished his message to the damn vendor, whose honeycomb almond cookies had better be worth all of this trauma.

David, 5:02 pm: He googled Sebastien
David, 5:02 pm: Back when Sebastien was a thing I mean, not recently
David, 5:03 pm: And found the coked out bondage pic because fml of course he did

Stevie, 5:10 pm: Well don't leave me hanging, is the fire escape one his lock screen?
Stevie, 5:11 pm: Ha, hanging XD

David, 5:11 pm: Go swallow a steak knife
David, 5:12 pm: He only saw the cokehead one
David, 5:18 pm: And he said I look great now?
David, 5:18 pm: Like by comparison

Stevie, 5:20 pm: Excuse me, he googled your ex for no reason then told you how great you look?
Stevie, 5:21 pm: Batter up, slugger, you've got some bases to run. Also I am officially DONE with the great orientation debate of 2017, because if this doesn't convince you then you're too stupid to talk to anymore.

Even he understood the concept of bases. 

David shook his head, still dwelling on the midrange denim and the $10 haircut and, yes, the baseball, but he had to fight a smile as he walked the rest of the way to the motel.

Fuck, he hoped Stevie was right. He was prepared to put up with any amount of gloating and baseball innuendo, just... fuck, let her be right.

 

Chapter Text

Patrick was almost done working at Ray’s in the mornings. Feeling guilty about quitting so quickly, he’d given three weeks notice—a gesture he regretted now that the store was almost open. Ray didn’t even need that much help anymore; Patrick had organized his files, gotten his books in order, and set him up with decent accounting software. For the last three mornings Ray essentially paid him to listen to his boundless enthusiasm on various topics. Yesterday they’d covered Wes Anderson movies, his new photography backdrops, his mother, and a Mediterranean restaurant in Elmdale.

Today, thankfully, Ray was out showing some houses. Patrick gotten back late from his hike and had still run out of things to keep him occupied, with two hours left to go before he usually went to lunch with David. He’d even done Ray’s dishes from the past week and wiped down the kitchen.

After hunting around for something else to keep him occupied, Patrick eventually gave up and sat down at the desk, alone with his thoughts.

Nope, bad idea.

He unlocked his phone and scrolled through his podcasts, but there weren’t any new episodes. He checked his email. He checked his bank statement. Finally, almost against his will, he went to his recent texts.

David was trying to arrange the front counter to his liking. He’d sent pictures of it three different ways, asking Patrick which he liked, and Patrick had purposefully delayed replying. It was good for David to occasionally have to exercise some patience.

Biting his cheek, Patrick opened the photos.

Patrick, 10:23 am: If I tell you which one I like, you’re going to pick between the other two, aren’t you?

David, 10:25 am: You asked if I could use your help with the displays, this is how you can help

And just like that Patrick was grinning. His face hurt. Jesus, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d smiled so much. This was getting out of hand.

He’d thought about kissing David four times now, and that was just counting the times when David was actually in front of him--most recently two days ago, when he’d told David he looked better off the cocaine, and David’s lips had parted, his eyes wide, like it was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to him.

Patrick let his head thump onto the desk, smile dying slowly. What the hell was he doing?

He’d had flashes of this same feeling with other men, like a glimpse into an alternate universe, but never so intensely. Some of that was down to David, because David could make any situation more intense simply by existing nearby. But mostly Patrick thought it was because he was single, really single, not ‘on a break’ or ‘taking some time for himself.’ He and Rachel were over, and he could finally think about another person without feeling unfaithful or dishonest, or skeevy, as David would put it.

After more than a decade, on and off, of desperately wanting to make Rachel happy, that changed things. It changed everything.

He needed to figure this out. He needed a plan.

Pressing a palm hard against one eye, Patrick put down his phone and went to get a glass of water. He washed and dried his water glass. Then he went to the bathroom, then he went to the fridge in the garage and got a can of ginger ale, then he paced around the kitchen for a few minutes. He ate two of Ray’s Oreos.

Then, gritting his teeth, Patrick pulled out his notebook and a pen, feeling ridiculous. This was how he usually solved problems, though, and short of hiring a therapist he couldn’t afford, he didn’t have any better ideas.

He drew a line down the middle of a random page. He didn’t label the columns.

On one side he wrote:

- Rachel
- Dinah + those other two women
- porn in high school/college
- Tim’s bachelor party
- if I am then I’d have figured it out earlier than this
- personality/interests

He’d clung to that last point quite a bit when he was a teenager getting turned on by anything that moved. He was from a small town and hadn’t known any gay people as far as he was aware, but he’d spent a lot of time watching the few shows that had gay characters back then. The tragic character arcs had unnerved him—however, that was beside the point. The point was that the gay men had all been more feminine, louder, and more emotional than the straight ones (not that there’s anything at all wrong with that, Patrick thought vaguely in David’s direction), and he couldn’t see a shred of himself reflected in any of them.

Obviously, though, Patrick knew now that sexual orientation in the real world didn't work like that. He added a question mark beside the words. Then, after another moment of hesitation, he crossed them out entirely.

Satisfied with that half of the list for now, Patrick moved on, refusing to feel nervous about the other half of the page. That column soon had a lot more names: boys from high school and college, Alex from the municipal team, Miguel from marketing, and, ironically enough, Tim. Under the names he added, flushing as he wrote it:

- problems with Rachel

It wasn’t like they hadn’t had a sex life. He actually thought they did it a pretty normal amount. (He added ‘sex with Rachel, early 20s’ to the opposite column as a subpoint of ‘Rachel.’)

She had liked that they’d taken things slow at first, that he’d never pushed her. But sometime after he turned twenty-nine, he began to have trouble staying hard with her, which led to her feeling rejected and embarrassed, which in turn led to crying and fighting and even, once, a completely humiliating appointment with a urologist. The parts of himself that had been ignorable before began surging forward, the weirdly charged moments with teammates in high school, the nerves he’d get in college before asking Theo if he wanted to study together, the depression after Tim proposed to Lorena. All the times he’d had to close his eyes before he could finally manage to come.

After a few months of mounting anxiety and shame, it had all crashed down around him in a single pathetic moment.

He and Rachel were visiting his parents, and his mother asked him to bring her some Tylenol for a slight headache. Patrick had gone to dig it out of their medicine cabinet, only to find himself staring, motionless, at his father’s Viagra prescription.

If he just stole a few pills, Rachel would feel better for awhile. He could fix things, for awhile.

It was his rock bottom. He’d fled the bathroom, returned two minutes later when he remembered about the Tylenol, then suffered through dinner and a movie because leaving early would mean more time alone with Rachel.

That night in bed beside her, he finally admitted to himself that he was miserable. After lunch with Rachel the next day, where he explained nothing except that it was over, he handed in his notice at work.

He’d moved two and a half weeks later, answering Ray’s sketchy craigslist ad for a live-in business assistant out of desperation.

God, Rachel had been devastated. The memory still made Patrick ache with self-loathing. He’d done that to her, wasted her twenties, ruined her dream wedding and all her plans for their future.

His head sank to the desk again. He breathed through it.

Pushing everything away, he decided to go to the store early. Ray didn’t need him, and he was excited to see what David had done with the counter.

The glass of the windows rattled slightly as Patrick approached the store. He tried to peer in, forgetting that they were papered over to prevent curious townspeople from seeing in until David was satisfied that the store’s aesthetic was ‘on fleek.’

Just remembering how he’d said it—how serious he was about it—made Patrick smile a little in spite of himself.

A blast of sound greeted him after he unlocked the door. For a moment he stood, confused, trying to make out the lyrics to the jarringly upbeat pop song.

“I got this feeling on the summer day when you were gone,
I crashed my car into the bridge, I watched, I let it burn,
I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs,
I crashed my car into the bridge—
I don't care, I love it, I don't care”

As Patrick stood frozen in the doorway, David danced his way out from the back room. He was lip syncing for his life, eyes closed, jumping in place and occasionally pausing to dust something with his swiffer microphone.

If David had turned around right at that moment, Patrick’s face would have given everything away.

Snapping himself out of it, Patrick grinned and pulled out his phone to record this masterpiece for Stevie… but he immediately thought better of it (fucking Sebastien) and merely held the phone up, pretending.

Facing away from him, David bopped his head and gestured grandly with one hand as the song continued. 

“You're on a different road, I'm in the milky way,
You want me down on earth, but I am up in space,
You're so damn hard to please, we gotta kill this switch,
You're from the 70's, but I'm a 90's bitch”

He turned to drop low, shaking his shoulders... and almost lost his balance when he finally saw Patrick.

“Oh my God.”

Patrick barely heard him over the music. He waved with the hand not holding the phone.

He hadn’t expected David to charge him. He thought he’d be whined at and threatened and possibly briefly fired, and eventually he’d let David inspect his phone so they could get some work done.

Instead David took two steps and lunged without warning, knocking Patrick off-balance, which accidentally toppled them both to the floor by the register. David had the phone in a flash and held it above his head in a way that made it obvious he was an older sibling. One of his legs was slung over Patrick’s and already starting to cut off his circulation, but Patrick was laughing too hard to even try to fight back. He somehow ended up sprawled mostly on his back as David knelt beside him, holding him down with one hand and hunting for the nonexistent video with the other, phone still held high above them.

After months of telling a sobbing fiancee that she was beautiful, after all the fights, the urologist, the nervous breakdown over a bottle of Viagra—hell, after years of doubting himself—when Patrick realized he was getting hard just from having David’s hand flat against his chest to keep him down, his first reaction was relief.

His second reaction, of course, was horror.

The song ended, leaving them in silence, and Patrick sat up, pulling his legs towards his chest a little and leaning his back against the counter.

“You forgot to press record,” David said triumphantly, returning his phone with a huff. He was blushing worse than ever. Their fingers brushed as Patrick took the phone.

Yep, I’m definitely going to have to kiss him at some point, Patrick thought, dazed. His heart was pounding wildly. It felt like his hands might be shaking, so he kept them balled up by his sides, his left practically crushing his phone. “That’s a shame, because you’re a lip sync virtuoso.” David glared at him and clambered clumsily up from the floor. “No, I mean it! You’re the Oprah of lip syncing. I’m devastated not to have a recording of that... absolute work of art.” Did his voice sound weird? He thought it might.

Also: You’re already saying things like ‘the Oprah of lip syncing’? Jesus, it works fast.

“I’m afraid my lip sync performances are a little too high-concept for the masses.” David was red from his neck to his ears, and Patrick was happy, so ridiculously happy, after just five minutes in the same room with him.

“Oh, so I’m the masses now?” Patrick replied, only half aware of what he was saying because his dick was not getting the message that it was time to be professional. Staying seated was beginning to feel distinctly awkward now that David was standing. “In that case, the masses will adore you. We could sell tickets, get some more seed money for the store.”

“Mm.” David shook his head, but he was fighting a smile. He liked being teased, really. Patrick drank him in—some sweat on his temple, arms folded over his chest, tight jeans and a striped sweater. “The public isn’t ready, Patrick.”

“Well can I at least get a repeat performance sometime?”

Oh, that came out flirty. Really flirty. Patrick refused to look away, eyes glued to David’s.

David leaned close to his ear and half-whispered, half-hissed, “You wish.” He spun towards the door. “Now be a dear and finish the dusting. Do you want one of those basic bitch black teas again?”

“Yes, please.” Patrick stood and turned quickly towards the counter, glancing back as David left for the cafe.

At home that evening, Patrick stared at his lists. He hadn’t put David’s name on it that morning, more focused on the past than the present.

The thing was, even though Rachel’s name didn’t take up a lot of physical space on the page—only six letters against a long list of men—her presence in his life had dwarfed them all. He had loved her in so many ways. She had held him when his grandfather died, cooked Thanksgiving dinner with his mom. He had driven her to the hospital and stayed overnight, worried out of his mind, when she’d had appendicitis.

Patrick had loved her in deliberate, sensible steps. There had been scheduled date nights and routine goodnight texts, nice dinners on anniversaries and birthdays. He’d proposed once they could afford the down payment on a house. All their friends were getting married and having kids, and she would be a great mom. Their past reached so deeply into his heart, and their future had been so neatly diagrammed out in his mind.

Nothing about his reaction to David was deliberate, sensible, or neatly diagrammed—it was a wild jumble of instinct and impulse. After they met, Patrick had wanted to see him again, so he’d walked to the store. Patrick had wanted to impress him, so he’d pulled out all the stops in helping him set up his business. And he had wanted to make David crack that smile he always seemed to be suppressing, so he’d...

Flirted. He’d flirted with David. Ineptly, but still.

Now Patrick wanted to kiss him—so he would, if David let him. Maybe it could really be that simple. It never had been before, with Rachel, but... well, maybe there was a good reason for that.

He thought about adding David’s name to the column on the right, but instead he ripped the page out of the notebook, balled it up, and tossed it in the trash.

 

 

Chapter Text

Once he stopped working with Ray, Patrick was always at the store before David in the mornings, looking freshly showered and like he’d been awake for hours. Fucking model citizen. Mr. Productive Member of Society.

“Do you sleep?” David grumbled as he came in at 9:20, hunching around his coffee.

“Oh, you got coffee already.” Patrick shuffled his feet.

“Were you going to go again?” There was already a cup from the cafe sitting by the register, so he had his cup of horrid black Lipton without lemon or sweetener, the masochist.

“No. Maybe.”

David frowned. He didn’t particularly want Patrick to be a masochist. Not that there was anything wrong with it, the idea just didn’t sit well with him.

“What are you looking at?” Patrick shuffled his feet again, which made him look even more like an overgrown schoolboy than usual. David couldn’t deal with him this early.

Setting down his coffee, David ignored him and went to get a box out of the store room. The place was looking great—the restroom and back room still needed a lot of work, but for the main room they just had to finish arranging the shelves and central display table and pick up a couple of last-minute additions to their stock sometime before opening night.

He didn’t want to think about opening the store. It was too early to think about that, too.

“I need you this afternoon,” he snapped at Patrick as he came out with a box of scarves. He still hadn’t decided how to display them—he could tie them on the north wall, or maybe just set them folded on the shelf beside the hats.

Patrick would put them by the hats to keep their limited number of clothing items grouped together. Scowling, David walked to the north wall.

“Could you be a little more specific?” Patrick was still standing awkwardly by the register, now with cup in hand. Why was he staring at David instead of working?

“I need you to come with me to see that potential vendor. The honey lady. Maybe wear something boring?” What he was wearing was already boring, but it was too casual to meet a new vendor, so he’d have to change.

“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but... do I own anything you don’t think is boring?” He set the cup down and starting unpacking candles.

“Um?” In fact, David found several pairs of Patrick’s jeans to be the opposite of boring. “Wear something you consider boring. Is what I meant.”

“Uh huh. Can I ask why?”

“She thinks I’m ‘flighty.’” He did the air quotes with his hands, even though he knew it was appalling—he was hamming it up because this whole thing would amuse Patrick to no end, and David was genuinely looking forward to being teased about it.

So. That’s where his love life was at: excited about being verbally humiliated, nonsexually, by a nerdy straight business major.

(Patrick was straight again this morning. Mornings made David pessimistic.)

“No! Not you!” Patrick did not disappoint.

“She said it, like, directly to my face.” Or rather his back, because he’d been running (fine, jogging) away from the cloud of bees coming to eat him and turn him into honey. “So I need you to come be... you. To balance this—” he waved a hand up and down his body, “out.”

“I don’t know if I own any clothes that boring.”

“Oh, no, you do.”

Patrick’s looked at him like he did sometimes, where he really should have been smiling if the rest of his face would just cooperate with his eyes.

David hated it. He tried to stop watching Patrick and tie scarves instead. “It would also be helpful if you could, ah, feign an interest in beekeeping?”

“I see. And you can’t pretend to be interested in beekeeping because...”

“Medical conditions may have been invented.”

“Right. So she thinks you’re allergic to bees?”

“It was in the interest of saving face. For the store.” David glanced at him.

He was glad he did. The smile materialized—just a small one, but still. “How convincing do we need to be, here? I have an EpiPen, I could stab you with it.”

David reared back, staring at him. “Why?

“… It was a joke.”

“No, why do you have one?”

“Oh. I’m allergic to peanuts.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?!”

“Why would I?”

“We spend literally all of our time together? Twyla is a cross-contamination waiting to happen? I could have brought in some kind of peanut scrub and been responsible for your untimely demise?”

“We sell locally crafted products, David. Peanuts don’t grow locally.” Patrick said, clearly not taking this seriously enough. “I told Twyla about the allergy, she said she’d be careful.”

“Um, well, just so you know, your life is in the hands of someone who routinely brings me blue cheese dressing instead of low fat ranch.”

“She probably just gets confused by the way you practically lick the bowl when she gives you the blue cheese.”

David blushed. Blue cheese was objectively disgusting. “That’s not the- Jesus, what I’m saying is- I’m saying, your life is basically forfeit. God. Any other medical-conditions-slash-ticking-time-bombs I should be aware of?”

“Uhhh… nope. You?”

“No. I have panic attacks, but those won’t kill me.” They just felt like it.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” Patrick’s eyes went soft.

David looked away. He’d expected Patrick to tease him—he could practically hear it, ‘Panic attacks? You? I never would have guessed’—and didn’t know what to do with this kindness he got instead.

The drive out to the vendor’s farm was nice. Patrick looked boring as requested.

It made David want to defile him, so he stared out the window.

“I was thinking, about the EpiPen,” Patrick said suddenly, talking over Mariah’s cover of ‘I Want To Know What Love Is,’ the heathen.

David clenched his teeth and paused the music, which, wow--apparently he really wanted Patrick to be into him. “What about it?”

“Do you have something like it?” At David’s blank stare, he added, “Medication for your panic attacks? Or maybe… is there something I should, uh, do, if you have one? Or things I specifically shouldn’t do?”

David swallowed. Then he swallowed again. “I don’t know.” No one had asked him that, last time.

“Ok, just wondering,” Patrick said quickly. “Sorry if that was nosy.”

Ugh. He had been tiptoeing around personal stuff like this since the Sebastien incident. “I don’t think you're nosy.”

Maybe he'd looked up the other pictures and was feeling guilty about it. David frowned--he didn't want those images in Patrick's pure little psyche, but he wouldn't, like, blame him. It wasn't his fault that David's past was a horror show.

“Ok, well I-”

“I don’t. Really.” He sighed. “For better or worse, I’m an open book.”

That sat between them for long enough that David wondered if it was safe to put Mariah back on.

“Well, I’m enjoying the read.” Patrick blurted out, then immediately began shaking his head. “That- sorry, that came out weird. Forget I said that.”

“Ok, nerd,” David said, as though he wouldn’t replay it over and over in his head obsessively for the next two weeks. "Now please stop talking, you interrupted the love of my life."

Chapter Text

Patrick had genuinely thought that he was solving a problem, with his lists and his hikes, like he was on a straightforward fact-finding mission that would bring clarity, and perhaps a few logical and well-researched policy changes, to his personal life. Seriously. He’d really, actually, legitimately believed that figuring out the exact nature of his inappropriate erection would somehow make it easier to work with David on a day to day basis without completely losing his shit.

Surely there ought to be at least a few steps between realizing you were maybe—probably?—theoretically gay, and pursuing a specific man who was also your friend, and your business partner, and a former millionaire with a complicated past and a veritable horde of ex-lovers. Patrick ought to at minimum figure out a label he was comfortable with. He ought to drive to the Dude Cave with some cash in his pocket. He ought to go to that gay bar in Elmdale and do… something, anything, with literally anyone who wasn’t integrally important to all of his future career plans.

In the back of his mind, the thought kept humming: I’m definitely going to try to kiss him at some point.

He’d shined his shoes that morning, for Christ’s sake. He was installing shelves today, and he’d shined his shoes before leaving for the cafe.

He shouldn’t ask David out.

He’d almost definitely say no, anyway, which would make things awkward between them at work. And even if he said yes—an idea that made Patrick’s pulse pound in his ears—then, well, that would bring a whole host of new complications.

So, obviously, he shouldn’t ask.

Most companies had policies against this kind of thing for a reason.

Along with his usual tea, he bought David a macchiato made exactly how he liked it, and choose not to think about his motivations for doing so. Then, when David came into the store with coffee already in hand, he panicked and drank the disgusting thing himself. It was only as the cocoa powder began to coagulate towards the bottom of the cup that he finally realized he could just throw the syrupy sweet concoction away instead of trying to force the dregs down.

The extra caffeine left Patrick feeling jumpy for hours—or maybe it was being so close to David.

No, it was definitely the caffeine. How the hell did David drink three of those a day? Patrick had had one and felt like his heart was going to give out.

He extra-regretted shining his shoes when David ribbed him about his boring style. His shoes were boring, and shining them just drew additional attention to their boringness.

(Patrick had never reacted this way to a crush before. Even in high school, at his most insecure, he hadn’t second-guessed himself like this, or felt this almost tangible need to impress someone.)

(It was exhilarating.)

You’re ‘enjoying the read,’ are you kidding me, why, what is wrong with you, who says things like that, scare him off before you even-

David thought of Patrick as the business guy, but Patrick was learning to sit back and let him handle negotiations with vendors. He had an instinct for it, even if he sometimes got the exact details about their markup or cost of goods sold wrong.

“I don’t know that we can move enough product at that price,” he was saying to Mrs. Forrester, the beekeeper. He was leaning forward on the couch, his elbows resting on his knees, a very intent look on his face.

Patrick bit his lip.

David’s shoulders looked… nice. Patrick liked them, liked looking at them. He’d found himself staring at them a lot, as a matter of fact, even before he understood why. It sometimes led to him staring at David’s neck or chest, too.

Patrick couldn’t remember ever thinking this way about Rachel—maybe he had, early on, but he couldn’t remember it. He had liked how she looked, obviously. She was beautiful. He just wouldn’t fixate like this on any one particular detail. He liked the end result, the sum of her parts.

With David, each individual part had its own appeal.

“Right, Patrick?”

“What?” Patrick yanked his gaze up from David’s chest to his face. His impatient, bemused, extremely expressive, and unfairly handsome face. “I mean, right. Yes, you’re right. Sorry. I was distracted for a minute—actually, sorry, could I use your restroom, ma’am?”

“Sure, dear, it’s through there, third door on the right. Now, David, about the labelling…”

Despite David’s intentions in bringing Patrick along, Mrs. Forrester seemed to be taking him plenty seriously. Half an hour later they left with the exact deal they’d been hoping for, with almost no input from Patrick.

He’d been was too busy checking out his partner in a completely unprofessional manner, then subsequently having a bit of a meltdown in a very pink, very floral bathroom.

David drove on the way home, which gave Patrick time to think—not that he particularly wanted it.

I’m definitely going to try to kiss him at some point.

His brain rebelled at every pros and cons list he tried to make. And there were real, serious cons: they were about to open a business together, and they didn’t know each other that well yet. Patrick was so new to all this, and David apparently wasn’t new to anything.

They were very, very different people.

I want to kiss him, so I’m going to. If he’ll let me.

David’s flaws twisted into quirks, their differences into compatibilities. Concerns about the business ended in a blasé ‘We’re adults, we could make it work.’

Getting to kiss David, to take him out, to spend time with him and be allowed to really look at him… it all felt worth the risk. And Patrick wanted it too badly to be rational.

Maybe it could really be this simple.

That night, he played Portal 2 on his laptop for a full hour after Ray went to sleep, then closed the game and opened a browser. He deleted his search from earlier (‘how to help panic attack’) and sat for three full minutes trying to think of how to phrase his next query.

Finally he typed ‘best free gay porn’ with steady fingers. He paused again before hitting enter.

It only took twenty minutes, and more than ten of those were spent guiltily scanning for someone who looked a little like David.

Alright, then, Patrick thought, breathless, and wiped his hand and stomach with yesterday’s undershirt.

Chapter Text

“Um, wow. Earth to David?”

“What?” David blinked back to reality. Patrick had just left the store to get them all lunch, and David had apparently been caught staring after him like a sailor’s widow peering wistfully down at the sea from a fog-encircled bluff. Lovely.

Unfortunately, Alexis’s ditziness was at least 40% pretense. “Oh my god, you are so into him. You’re, like, Swim Fan into him.”

“Alexis. We open in 24 hours, and you can annoy me literally any other time you want. Please either work or leave.”

She began wiping the windows perfunctorily. “Look, I know you’re vibing, but honestly? I’ve thought about it, and I’m not sure it’s the best idea.”

David sent her the death glare that she’d been immune to since the age of three.

“It’s just that, like, I know you and Stevie stayed friends, but most of your relationships? They end in train wrecks. In some cases literally,” Alexis said, tone implying that she thought she was being very wise—like she hadn’t been egging him on just a few days ago.

“That was one time, and technically our car hit another car, and that car hit the train.” He grabbed his sketchbook, trying to broadcast busyness and disinterest.

True to form, the front of the store was flawless but he’d procrastinated on the more utilitarian sections. He’s finished the bathroom that morning, and now was trying to work out a better layout for the small back room where they’d keep some of the housewares and more embarrassing personal items. The people of Schitt’s Creek needed toilet paper, roach killer, and tampons, but that didn’t mean he had to display them up front beside the succulents, exfoliants, and organic arugula.

“Ugh, David. Did you even listen to that clip I sent you from Boss Bitch?”

“Been a little busy.” He wanted to sound angry, or at least irritated, but it came out tired instead.

“Because without Patrick, the store is pretty much not going to happen. And when you sleep with people, they kind of tend to…” She made a scattering motion with both hands.

“Um, first of all, fuck you? Secondly, the store is going to happen. It’s already-” he waved a hand around them “-happening. No matter what.” Ugh, Alexis was infuriatingly good at picking apart anything in his life he thought was going well, like a fucking moth eating holes in cashmere.

“Ok, but David, Patrick is the one who knows how to make the boxes in Excel add themselves up, like, automatically. You need him need him. So if you sleep with him-”

“I could figure out the boxes,” David said with false confidence. Excel was literally the worst part of running a business. He added quickly, “And no one is sleeping with anyone. We’re partners.”

She ignored him. Of course she did. “And you aren’t the long-term relationship type, so-”

“I could be.”

“What?”

David wished he hadn’t said it. He hadn’t expected Alexis to even hear him over the sound of her own voice, much less pause to call him out. “I could be the long-term relationship type.”

It wasn’t like it was impossible.

Alexis didn’t argue verbally, but her face sure did. “I’m just saying, David. Our family can’t afford another bankruptcy.”

“No one can afford a bankruptcy. That’s what a bankruptcy is.” He shut his notebook. “I’m going to rearrange the toiler paper. Don’t sample anything else.”

“I put my spare EpiPen in the first aid kit,” Patrick said, coming in from the front room with the wildflower soap that wouldn’t fit out on the counter. “Just so you’re aware.”

“And why do I need to know this?” David asked. Alexis had left after lunch, but her words were hanging over him.

“Well, you seemed apprehensive, before, about sending me into anaphylactic shock.” Patrick's eyes were almost as puffy as David's. They’d both been working all hours.

“I’m not any less apprehensive about stabbing you with a needle, so if you’re poisoned by any legumes, you’re probably on your own.”

“Noted.”

“We have a first aid kit?” David looked up from where he was arranging and rearranging insect repellant. He hadn’t been all that tempted to stare at Patrick since lunch, despite his stripping down to a thin white undershirt to scrub the floors one last time.

“David, I told you this. It’s right here.” He took a step back into the stock room and pulled out a small tupperware container.

“Hmm, right. Now I remember.” He didn’t, at all. “You’re very prepared, aren’t you?”

“I am. And if you’d like something else to make fun of me for, I also have a first aid kit in my car and under my bed.”

“Accident-prone, are we?”

Stop. Stop flirting. It’s stupid and pointless.

“Not really. My ex is a nurse, she was a stickler about things like that, so I already had those two when I moved here. But I do think it’s smart for the store. There’s a lot of glassware that could break, plus, of course, the possible allergens… here, look, I got antibiotic ointment, bandages, eye rinse, benadryl…”

David tuned him out, even as he nodded along.

She. Patrick’s ex was a she.

It didn’t mean anything. David had ex-girlfriends, too.

Except... except if Patrick was queer, and if he wanted to make sure David got the right impression, that would have been the moment to say something. To clarify. And he hadn’t.

Fuck. David had been pretty obvious about his interest in the last few days—even fucking Alexis had thought so, and for her flirting was like breathing. It was entirely possible that this was Patrick’s tactful, understated way of warning him off.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

The idea filled him with shame and panic, a buzzy sensation in his stomach and behind his eyes. He was glad when Patrick put the first aid kit away and went to the front to stock the refrigerator case.

The more likely scenario was that Patrick was so indifferent to him as a romantic option that he’d be shocked to know how deeply David was reading into his every word.

He’d probably laugh, if he knew. Patrick liked to laugh at him.

“You’re listening to Alexis over me?” Stevie passed him the joint she’d just rolled. It was a small one, just enough to help him sleep. She’d brought it over knowing that otherwise he’d be awake all night.

Talking about Patrick was almost a pleasant distraction, tonight; anxiety about the soft opening was practically seeping out of his pores.

“She’s known me my whole life.” He closed his eyes and took a drag, coughing as he passed it back. They’d absconded to the lobby and were sitting on the floor behind the desk.

“That’s… not actually an advantage, in this case. It keeps her from seeing who you are now.” She took a pull, inhaling deeply. “And before you ask, I’m not even stoned yet, so that’s not the weed talking.”

They finished the joint in silence.

“Honestly, just fuck him and see what happens,” Stevie said sleepily.

“Really? That’s your sage advice regarding my business partner? Fuck him and see what happens?”

She shrugged. “That’s how all my relationships have started.”

“And how’s that working out for you?”

“Yeah, good point.” She leaned her head on his shoulder.

He frowned at the ceiling, trying to be realistic with himself for once. “Right now, Patrick seems to... respect me? And that is a far rarer situation in my life than you might think.”

“And having sex with you would make him disrespect you.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Because Patrick really seems like the kind of guy who habitually disrespects the people he’s slept with,” she continued.

She was right, and he knew it, but he still didn’t want to give up the point. “The best case scenario, if we sleep together, is that we have a fun night and then he politely tells me that he’s either A, straight, or B, not into me romantically. And then we continue being friends, except he’s seen me naked. And that’s the best case scenario—it only devolves from there.”

“You don’t think it’s even in the realm of possibility that he’d want to, you know, date you?”

“Nope.” He popped his lips on the p.

“Right. Well, you are pretty terrible.” Stevie stared at him for a moment, then rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. “I can’t believe you’re going to make me do some kind of self esteem building exercise with you right now.”

“I’m not making you do anything-”

“David Rose. Repeat after me. You’re a catch.”

“Well, you are a catch. That’s different.”

She smiled, like he’d wanted her to. “Shut up. And maybe I’m wrong, but Patrick doesn’t seem like the kind to have a fling with a business partner. Cause wouldn’t that be irresponsible? Like, that’s what randoms are for, not people you work with. So if you make a move and Patrick is into it, he probably doesn’t just want to get in your pants- skirt- whatever.” She waved at his outfit. “So to return to my original thesis: fuck him, and see what happens.”

The next day was a blur of anxiety and off-brand customers, mostly, but somehow David still found time to think about Patrick—not the increasingly graphic sexual fantasies he’d been having recently, either, but trying for something calmer and more assessing.

For the first time in his life, he wished he’d watched fewer romcoms in his formative years.

Patrick had brought him pie for no reason, Patrick had googled his ex, Patrick had said he looked, quote-unquote, ‘great now.’ Patrick worried about his panic attacks and said nerdy, sweet things to him.

And Patrick stared at him, sometimes, the same way David stared back, which had David’s brain torturing him with wholly imaginary will-they-won’t-they scenarios: will-they-won’t-they touch hands as they set out the cheese for the soft opening. Will-they-won’t-they brush against each other after Patrick accidentally crowds him in the doorway behind the register. Will-they-won’t-they finally break all this goddamn tension and bang one out in the stockroom after they lock up tonight.

None of that happened, but Patrick did smile at him so softly during the launch, then pulled him into a tight hug afterwards.

It almost felt like they were about to kiss.

Then the lights went out.

Will-he-won’t-he lose his goddamn mind.

Chapter Text

Patrick knew that having feelings for a man didn’t change who he was as a person in any real, fundamental way. It was his mantra for those first few days, when he was overwhelmed, confused, and unable to stop staring at David’s shoulders: You’re the same person you’ve always been. You’ll calm down. You’ll adjust. Just give it some time.

Meanwhile, the list of things he liked about David was growing by the day.

He’d had a list for Rachel, too—he remembered repeating it to himself over and over again on the school bus the morning before he’d asked her out. She was funny, smart, nice, a great skater, and one of the prettiest girls in school. But what had tipped the scales back then was that all of Patrick’s friends on the baseball team had girlfriends except him, and a lot of those girls were in Rachel’s group. Her best friend was dating Tim, and another one of her friends was dating Ravi. If Rachel said yes, they could all go to homecoming together.

(Patrick closed his eyes. Breathed through the guilt. Took another hike.)

David was beautiful and sophisticated, funny and charming. He was pretentious without taking himself too seriously, sweet without even seeming to realize it.

He was also oblivious, and not just about the Microsoft Office suite.

Patrick had always been pretty good at flirting, and surely hitting on a guy wasn't that different from what he was used to—and yet, something wasn’t translating. David's eyes kept darting away, as if looking around the room for the person Patrick was actually trying to flirt with. Occasionally he flirted back, but then other times Patrick thought David just flat out didn’t know how to interact with other humans, period--because 'sloppy mouth'? Seriously?

Maybe David, for all his sophistication, was terrible at this.

Patrick kept it up. David couldn’t stay oblivious forever.

It was only during their supposedly ‘soft’ launch that Patrick first knew, 100% for certain, that he had a shot.

Because he knew, in his bones, that David had always wanted the launch to be big. He suspected it even as David demurred and insisted on playing it safe, and it was confirmed by the quiet joy he saw radiating from David’s face as they served customers, restocked their more popular items, and were generally overrun by the town’s enthusiasm that first night.

David’s satisfaction was practically visible from space.

So everything David had said before, about exclusivity and whatever the hell Gloop was? About how a small launch was actually better, and how he “preferred a curated, elite gathering”? It had been bullshit, an ostentatious display of low expectations.

Sweeping up the store after the launch, this new facet of David’s personality unfolded in Patrick’s mind. David was scared to want anything too much, too irrevocably. He would sabotage and undercut that want—he’d lie to anyone, including himself—to avoid being hurt by it.

They were almost done cleaning up for the night when David broke the comfortable silence between them. “My sister might stop by for lunch tomorrow,” he said from where he was counting cash at the register, his voice a study in small talk.

Patrick paused his sweeping and gave David his full attention, tilting his head with a hint of challenge: So what?

David kept counting.

“No offense, David, but I don’t think we should encourage her hanging out here too much?” Patrick said after a beat. “I know she’s your sister, but she’s murder on our hand creams and lotions.”

David glanced up at him then, and Patrick saw the surprise bloom on that expressive face before he turned back to his task. “Oh, God, I’m not offended. She’s the literal worst. I just thought I’d mention it, that she might come by.”

“Ok, well... you distract her, I’ll hide the merchandise?”

David’s smile fought its way out into the open. “Hm. You’re better at being distracting, though.”

Patrick barely heard him, but he could see the color rising in his cheeks from across the room. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” he replied, just to make sure David knew he’d heard.

From the corner of his eye he saw David pause for a long moment, hands hovering over the bills he’d just counted. Then, with a huff, he picked them up and started over.

Grinning, Patrick went back to sweeping. This night just got better and better.

Back at Ray’s that night, he couldn’t stop thinking about the hug.

In the moment, he hadn’t been turned on by it. Or he hadn’t gotten hard over it, at least. Obviously. What kind of grown man got hard over a hug?

Well, him, apparently, but it was a delayed response. In the moment he’d just been proud of David, and what they’d achieved together.

Now, though, he remembered a broad chest pressed against his, the familiar scent of cedar and something vaguely botanical sharp at David’s neck. For the first time, he’d been struck by David’s height—Patrick almost had to stretch to his tiptoes to get one arm comfortably over his shoulder.

It had seemed to last longer than a normal hug, unless that was Patrick’s imagination playing tricks. He remembered thinking he ought to let go, and instead he’d slapped David’s back a couple of times like a complete idiot.

But David hadn’t let go, either. His hand had slid up and down Patrick’s back, hot and huge against his shoulder blade.

Patrick closed his eyes and remembered how it had felt, pictured how it must have looked from outside the windows, the two of them holding each other. David’s sweater had been a bit tight—Patrick pictured it riding up a little as they hugged, maybe revealing a sliver of lower back.

He had to palm his dick through his pajama bottoms at the thought.

Fuck, this couldn’t be normal. If just the thought of a small sliver of skin had him half hard, how would he live through it if he ever actually got his hands under that sweater?

Swearing, Patrick fumbled his pajamas down lower.

How would he keep breathing, keep any semblance of cool, if he was allowed to brush his fingertips against David’s bare waist? Or if David’s soft hand tilted Patrick’s chin up until their lips met? David was experienced, and he was rarely polite. He’d probably be confident, forceful—he’d probably take control of the kiss, take Patrick’s mouth however he wanted it. Maybe he’d back Patrick against a wall and lean over him, or lean into him. Press against him.

Shit, yeah. Patrick was panting now, his toes curling.

David’s body pressing his against a wall. And Patrick would be hard, as hard as he was now. And David would want it, want him, and he’d be able to feel it, because David would be hard, too, pushing into him-

Patrick came suddenly, unexpectedly, against the inside of his duvet.

Jesus. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Rachel had always told him—and her mother, and her sister, and her friends—that he wasn’t a romantic. That was why their dates were never spontaneous, and why she got flowers every Valentine’s Day and jewelry on Christmas that her sister always helped him pick out. It was also, apparently, the reason he’d proposed while they were gassing up her car on the way home from a friend’s housewarming party. He’d heard her say so to her mother over the phone the next day. (‘I know, Mom, I know, but he’s just not a romantic, ok? And he had so much anxiety about proposing at all, poor thing, I’m just happy that he finally…’)

But now, suddenly, romance made sense to him. He wanted to see David by candlelight; he wanted to watch David open gifts, if only he could think of something good enough to give him. He wanted to buy him flowers over and over again, different types and colors, until he figured out which were David’s favorite just by watching him react to the bouquets.

And, god, sex. For the first time in Patrick’s life, sex made sense. People on television making stupid decisions because of sex, his friends at school obsessing about it, his Psych 101 professor calling it a basic human need—all at once, he understood. And the more he got to know David, the better he understood. Patrick looked at him now and could hardly stand not to touch him.

You’re the same person you’ve always been. You’ll calm down. Just give it some time, you’ll adjust.

Except… except he wasn’t the same, and he didn’t particularly want to calm down.

Nothing, Patrick decided, smiling into the darkness.

Nothing was wrong with him at all.

Something was finally, finally right.