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Runaway Rose

Chapter Text

“You ever have a single person ruin your life?”

Patrick Brewer, reluctant reporter and current barfly, felt his ears perk up. While his body still faced the beer bottle currently sweating in front of him, his head turned slightly to the man a couple of seats down the bar.

The man was clearly on his way to being full on drunk. He was handsome with light brown curly hair that somehow managed to look both ragged and artfully tousled. It made Patrick a bit jealous when he mentally compared it to his own close cut brown hair. Even if he grew his curls out, they wouldn’t look that styled. Patrick wondered if the man was struggling financially since the beige sweater he wore over a grey t-shirt seemed torn and patchy in some areas. Then he saw the bottle of VERY expensive scotch next to the man and realized that the tattered sweater probably cost more than Patrick made in a week. There was no one around the man, so Patrick wondered if he had been talking to anyone specific, or to the room in general. He figured he might as well clear things up.

“Were you asking me?”

The hobo-chic man turned to him. Though it was more a combination of a sway and bob. He gave a grin that Patrick wasn’t sure how to interpret. “I might as well,” the man said as he made his way to sit next to Patrick. He held out one hand while simultaneously gripping the scotch bottle with his other. Patrick only then noticed the man didn’t have a glass with him.

“Sebastien Raine.”

“Patrick Brewer.”

They shook hands and Patrick took another sip from his beer for lack of anything else to do. Sebastien, in turn, took a large gulp from his scotch bottle as he situated himself on his new perch. “I’ll ask again, has your life ever been ruined by a single person?”

“Can’t say that it has.”

“Then I suggest you do whatever you can to avoid David Rose or else it won’t stay that way.”

Patrick was intrigued. Clearly there was a story behind that sentence, and he always liked to hear a good story. “Why is that?”

Sebastien let out a humorless chuckle at the question. “In the span of a single day, that man...”he paused and slapped his hand on the wooden bar top. He must’ve had trouble gathering his words. “That man broke my heart and ruined my career.”

“Oh,” Patrick said as Sebastien seemed to slump down now that he had let out the most pressing tidbit. “How did he do that?”

“Oh have I got a story for you Peter.”

“It’s Patrick. And do you mind if I record this?” He pulled his phone out to place it between them. “I’m a reporter and this sounds like quite the human interest story.”

Sebastien’s grin suddenly returned and he seemed to sober up as he pointed to a fairly isolated booth in the corner. “Let’s head over there. You’re going to want to hear everything I’ve got to say about the Runaway Rose.”

Chapter Text

“What the fuck were you thinking Brewer?!”

Patrick winced at his boss Rachel as she waved his printed story in the air in the small conference room of The Toronto Watcher. It was almost as if she were trying to shake the story out of its existence. Her long red hair was pulled into what he’d internally dubbed her ‘stress bun.’ It either meant shit was about to go down, or had just gone down. He felt both were apt descriptions at the moment.

Rachel took a moment to pinch the bridge of her nose and take a deep breath. Patrick had seen the action done many times in their history in and out of work.

She snapped the paper in front of her and began reading out loud:

Fallen socialite David Rose only needed 24 hours, and a $1.2 million wedding, to bring one man’s love life and career to a grinding halt.

She quickly brought her glare to Patrick as if demanding an explanation for this single line. Patrick said the only thing he could think of.

“You always say I need more eye catching openers.”

“That’s not the point Brewer! The point is you wrote a story about someone with their jilted ex as your main source. How would you like it if someone wrote your biography but only used me as their source?” She slammed the paper on the table between them.

Patrick flinched again. It was never fun when she mentioned their former engagement, even passively. “I tried to find David Rose,” he said before Rachel could continue. “The man has been a veritable ghost since his family lost their money.”

“I’ve had to deal with a Rose family lawyer all morning so he can’t be that off the grid. The paper doesn’t need a defamation lawsuit.”

“I didn’t print anything that wasn’t true,” he defended.

Rachel gave a disbelieving scoff. She lifted the paper again and continued to read aloud:

Noted photographer Sebastien Raine thought Rose was the love of his life and was ecstatic in the lead up of their high profile wedding. No expense was spared and on the eve of their nuptials, Raine even took it upon himself to stay at a hotel instead of the couples’ penthouse when Rose said he wanted to maintain the tradition of the grooms not seeing each other until the ceremony itself.

She skipped a few lines before continuing.

When Rose was still a no show an hour after the ceremony was to start, Raine went to the penthouse to investigate only to discover the apartment completely emptied of Rose’s personal items and a compromised at-home studio Raine maintained for his photography. Memory cards and computer hard drives that contained months of work had been taken. The only things left behind were a check to pay for the missing equipment and a note that simply read ‘For damages rendered.’ Both were signed by Rose.

Rachel turned to Patrick again. “There were no charges filed against David Rose. Raine didn’t even file a police report.”

“He said he was still hoping for a reconciliation,” Patrick said. “And the after effects to his career weren’t felt until later when a chain of big names refused to work with him.”

“Which shows no connection to David Rose,” she countered. “Patrick, you’re usually so thorough about this sort of stuff. What happened?”

Patrick thought about what to say next. Should he go the apologetic or defensive route? “Everything about Rose’s broken engagements was true,” he said. Defensive route it was. “The man has left three different people at the altar and that’s well documented.”

“One true fact doesn’t make a true story Patrick.” She sounded exhausted. “We’re going to have to print a retraction and you’re suspended until further notice.”

“Wait, what?! Rach don’t do this.”

“Patrick my hands are tied. I suggest you use this time to figure out where you want to go professionally from here on out.” With that, she left the room.

Patrick couldn’t believe it. For months Rachel had been telling him to be more bolder and more exciting in his human interest (ie. gossip) stories. He hadn’t even wanted to write that sort of stuff, but when the new owners of the paper did away with the business section, he had been forced to scramble and beg Rachel for one of the openings in the society section. He did give his ex-fiancée credit in that she had taken a chance on him even after he’d broken her heart.

He thought his story of the Runaway Rose was everything a reader would be looking for. A scandal involving theft and a fiancé in the wind. Who wouldn’t want to read that? Especially when Patrick’s cursory digging discovered two more jilted fiancés David Rose left at the altar. Sebastien had been in the middle since David had previously been engaged to artist and designer Ritchie Gehrig and later on almost married a woman after the Rose family lost their fortune. Patrick had tried, but Fianceé #3’s name remained a mystery.

He stood up to leave when he saw a bright yellow sticky note on the floor. Rachel must’ve dropped it on her way out. Deciding there was no harm in attempting to get karma points, he picked it up, fully intending to return it to her when the information scribbled on it caught his attention.

Anjelica Bloomfield
Rose family attorney

A phone number was written underneath and it gave Patrick an idea. If Rachel wanted him to have a more well rounded story, he could do that by seeking out the Runaway Rose himself. He could use the lawyer’s number as a starting point for office location and go from there to find the elusive Rose family. He was going to go the extra mile and put in whatever legwork necessary to get David Rose sitting in front of him for an interview. He snapped a picture of the sticky note with his phone and left the room, confident in his solid plan.

Chapter Text

“Don’t worry. It’s his sister!”

Patrick read and reread the sign outside the town he’d found himself in. Who named a town Schitt’s Creek? And who thought adding a sign announcing the two figures on the sign were related while posed in a comprising position made anything better? He shook his head as he got back into his car to continue on into town.

The journey to Schitt’s Creek had been a strange one to say the least. Looking up Anjelica Bloomfield had been a nightmare all on its own. According to his online searches, the phone number belonged to a cell phone and when Patrick searched ‘Anjelica Bloomfield+lawyer’ the only result was a simple and clearly hastily put together website that provided no picture or background information on Ms. Bloomfield or her law office. Calling the number only brought up an automated voicemail and none of his messages had received a callback.

The phone number on the webpage did match the sticky note, so he took that as a win. It included an address to the small town of Schitt’s Creek and the name alone had Patrick questioning this whole idea. But with little else to do he’d packed a bag, typed the address into his GPS, and started the drive unsure of what he would find.

He drove through what seemed to be the town’s Main Street, vaguely taking notice of a restaurant and a closed up building with a sign proclaiming a new business to be ‘Coming Soon’ in large letters on one of the windows. The initial mixture of confusion and worry only grew when his GPS ended his journey in front of a place called Rosebud Motel. He parked his car and decided he might as well get a room. It was still early but he could use the time to freshen up and regroup.

The main office of the motel looked like someone who had never hunted had tried to decorate a hunting lodge forty years ago. The decor was compiled of all wood paneling and an overly large painting of a stag placed behind the front desk completed the picture. A woman with long dark hair and a flannel shirt was stationed behind the ancient computer at the front desk. Patrick took brief notice of a blonde woman sitting on the couch across the office. She seemed to stand out if only because her clothes seemed slightly too glamorous for the setting and she was furiously texting on her phone.

“Hi. How can I help you?” the woman at the front desk asked. Patrick glanced down and saw a name tag proclaiming her as Stevie.

“I just need a room for a night. Maybe two nights.” Stevie pushed a register book and a pen towards him.

“Go ahead and start filling this out and I’ll just need a credit card from you.”

He gave her his card and began filling out the register. He only looked up when he realized that Stevie had yet to input any of his information. In fact, she seemed to be frozen and staring intently at his card.

“You know what Mr. Brewer?” Her tone seemed to announce him as her personal nemesis. “I just realized we don’t have any vacancies tonight.” She quickly snatched the register away from him and tossed his card back. His confusion was short lived once he saw a folded up copy of The Watcher behind the desk. A familiar headline made him jolt with realization.

His name had been displayed fairly prominently on the article. Did the Rose family have a connection to Stevie? It wasn’t too farfetched considering the motel’s name. If that was the case, maybe that weird website was a good starting point. But right now he had a bigger problem to deal with.

“Is this about the Runaway Rose article? I didn’t think The Watcher had this far a reach.” He motioned to the paper behind Stevie. He thought going for an awkward joke would help. Stevie’s only response was to toss the newspaper in the nearby trash can and put away the register.

“Like I said, no vacancies tonight.”

“Can you at least tell me if you have a reference for this number?” He pulled up the call log on his phone to show her the number that had started this quest. “Or if you know the office location of Anjelica Bloomfield?” Even if he had to sleep in his car, he could at least get an idea on where to look next.

She stiffened at his question. Patrick turned his phone to face him and noticed he’d accidentally tapped the screen, causing him to call the mysterious number. He thought nothing of it and went to hit the cancel button, only to hear a ringtone begin to chime behind him.

He quickly turned to look at the blonde woman who was still on the couch. Her phone was positioned on the coffee table in front of her and her face seemed to be a unique mixture of attempted nonchalance and panic. Without thinking, he dived for the phone.

The woman was faster and Patrick felt his hand hit the solid coffee table. What was going on? “You’re Anjelica Bloomfield?!”

The woman quickly silenced the phone and shoved it into an overly large purse. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Who is this person who seems to have a very nice and powerful sounding name?”

Patrick focused more on the woman’s face. She seemed familiar but he couldn’t put his finger on where he had seen her before. Then it hit him. Her oval face, blue eyes, and lavish clothes had popped up quite a few times while he was pulling pictures of the Rose family for his story. She had a much more prevalent media presence than her older brother, so it was shockingly easy to find pictures and footage of her. Before him was David Rose’s younger sister Alexis. It was the only confirmation he needed to know he was exactly where he should be.

Chapter Text

“You’re Alexis Rose!”

Patrick didn’t mean to sound so accusatory, but he’d had quite the day already. The woman in front of him dropped her bag and let out a frustrated combination of a yell and a growl.

“Fine. Okay. Whatever. Yes, I’m Alexis Rose. So what?” She turned to him and gave him a look of challenge.

Patrick decided to air on the side of caution. This was his chance to finally find David Rose. But he would have to win over Alexis in order to make any of that happen. Perhaps he could ease into her good graces.

“Are you pretending to be an attorney named Anjelica Bloomfield too? I didn’t know you had a law degree.”

Alexis deepened her glare and he immediately heard his brain admonish him. That was not the way one eased into something. His personal brand of teasing had sometimes ruffled feathers during past interviews. He cleared his throat and tried again.

“Because that was some impressive legal talk you gave my boss. She was terrified of you. Ready to jump through hoops and everything.” He figured Rachel wouldn’t have appreciated the description, but desperate times and all. It did somewhat have the desired effect. Alexis’s glare lessened and she gave a slight satisfied smile.

“I’m good at many things Mr. Brewer.” She flipped some of her hair over a shoulder. “And before I answer any questions, what are you doing here? Your boss assured me you’d been suspended. On a personal vendetta now?”

“No no! Nothing like that,” he said as he put his hands up in what he hoped was a placating manner. It was time to try a new approach. “I know I made a mistake with that story. I want to make it right. And to do that I need to get your brother’s side of everything.” He gave what Rachel had dubbed his ‘Bambi eyes.’ “I only want to fix this. Nothing else.”

“You mean you just want to get your job back.” Patrick turned around at the sound of the voice behind him. Stevie had come from behind the front desk and now stood directly behind him with her arms crossed. Well, this confirmed Stevie was connected to the Roses. Or that she was at least sympathetic towards them.

“If I write the truth, we all get what we want,” Patrick said. He faced Alexis again. “Where’s the harm in that? I just want to fix this. Will you please help me?”

Alexis took a hard stare at him without saying a word. Her phone let out a small chime, but her eyes didn’t drop. It felt like being under a microscope. He was about to continue pleading his case when she spoke.

“You didn’t blink the entire time you were saying that. I think we can...cautiously trust you and help each other out.” She held up a finger before he could speak. “Within reason. Interviews with any parties directly involved are to be discussed with us and only done with explicit permission. And we get final approval before anything gets printed.”

Patrick was taken aback. No wonder Alexis was able to talk her way into making the paper believe she was a lawyer. “I’m impressed in your negotiating skills Ms. Rose.”

She swished her hand as if brushing the compliment aside. “It’s Alexis, and when you’ve negotiated with drug lords and militant leaders, this is nothing. Stevie get me some paper.”

At Alexis’s direction, Stevie went back behind the desk and returned holding a yellow legal pad and a pen. Alexis grabbed it and began writing furiously on it. Once finished, she she skimmed it once more and seemed to deem it satisfactory. She handed the pad and pen to Patrick. “We’re putting all of this in writing. Sign and date the bottom, please.”

Patrick wondered briefly in that moment if he had written about the wrong Rose sibling. He looked at the legal pad Alexis had given him and saw how she had outlined their previous spoken agreement. When he didn’t see any unsavory add-ons, he signed and dated where Alexis had drawn two horizontal lines. He handed it back to Alexis who immediately signed her name under his.

“Pleasure doing business with you Mr. Brewer.”

“It’s Patrick, and thank you for giving me the chance to make this up. I really want to do right by everyone this time.” Behind him, Stevie gave a snort.

Alexis gave him an expression he wasn’t expecting. One that could only described as a mixture of amusement and smugness. “Just because we came to an agreement doesn’t mean things will be any easier for you,” she said. “You still have to get the people of this town to agree to talk to you. And just because you got this sweet little button face going on doesn’t mean everyone will open up. Particularly my brother.”

The door to the office opened and a dark haired man in all black barreled through. He seemed to be on a mission and woe to anyone who got in his way. “Alexis did you get my text?” he asked impatiently. “I’m leaving for the store now so are you coming or not?”

Patrick took him in and froze. There before him was a face he had only seen in off-kilter paparazzi photos or pictures in half shadow gleaned from Fashion Week or socialite Instagram feeds. Dark eyes and bold, expressive eyebrows gave a look of slight confusion as he looked around the room. His black hair was impeccably styled and swept back away from his face and Patrick could only stare. He was taller than Patrick expected.

He wore all black with a sequence of white horizontal lines going down the middle of his sweater as the only peak of light. Patrick wasn’t sure why, but at the sight of the man he felt a jolt of... something. Surprise, maybe? Previous blurry and shadowed pictures didn’t do him any justice. The guy was gorgeous.

Here was the one and only David Rose. The Runaway Rose had been found.

Chapter Text

“What’s going on?”

David was expecting to find Alexis talking to, or rather at Stevie while his friend tried to beat her high score on solitaire. Instead he’d walked in on a very different scene. One that felt off. He didn’t know the man in the blue button up. But he’d looked taken aback, and the smile his sister was giving him was worrisome.

Alexis rushed over. “David!” There was FAR too much excitement in her voice for this to be a normal conversation. She then pointed to Mr. Straight leg mid-range denim. “This is Patrick Brewer and he has agreed to do some in-depth interviews to... clarify some things that may have been misrepresented. Patrick this is my brother David.”

The man, who was apparently Patrick, extended his hand and David took it automatically. Patrick Brewer. The name sounded familiar. David searched his mind and glanced over at Stevie to see if she could subtlety offer a hint.

She caught on quickly. In a way. “Oh he’s the guy who dubbed you the Runaway Rose and painted you as a sociopathic heartbreaker.” David dropped Patrick’s hand. He hadn’t even realized he was still holding on to it.

“What?!”

Alexis quickly placed herself between the two men. “David, I know this is a lot but I need you to listen. I’ve already made our demands clear and he’s even signed a contract.” She frantically waved a legal pad in front of his face with the pride of a child showing off their first A+.

David took a step back and held his hand up. “No no no no no no no.” He began counting off on his fingers. “Number 1: What? Number 2: Excuse me? And Number 3, to circle back around: The fuck!?”

Patrick took a slight step from around Alexis. “I know there’s no reason to want to talk to me. But I really do want -“

“I’m not talking you gutter press!” The barb was instinctive, but realization was starting to sink in. David needed to get out. He could feel his heart pounding and his breathing started to speed up. He didn’t need this. His past was forcing itself back into his life at full speed and he wasn’t ready for the tsunami. He was supposed to have moved on from this. Suddenly Alexis and Stevie appeared directly in his eye line. They each grabbed a hand as he focused on their faces.

“David,” Alexis said. “I need you to breathe with me.” David remembered his exercises. In and out. In and out. “He can’t ask you a single thing without your explicit permission and I will be right beside you for any interview if you want. Let’s talk some more at the store. It’s nice and quiet there.” Alexis motioned her head slightly towards where Patrick still stood awkwardly off to the side. “And in the meantime, the little button here can start things off by talking to Stevie.”

Stevie gave her a look of disbelief. “Are you sure you want me to talk to him alone?”

“You’ll do fine,” Alexis said. “You’re already more guarded than most. And I know how secretly protective you are.”

Stevie set her face in a slight scowl towards Alexis, which vanished as she turned back to David. He nodded his confirmation at her silent question, and she let go of his hand after giving him one final awkward shoulder pat.

“Um,” Patrick broke the silence. “Is this okay to do? I promise, I don’t want to make things worse.” His voice seemed so hesitant. Much different than David had expected him to sound. He also noticed that Patrick was only looking at him while asking the question.

David cleared his throat and took a deep breath. In and out. “It’s fine. I trust Stevie.” He heard the smallness in his own voice and gave an internal wince before clearing his throat again. “It’s fine.”

I’m not that person anymore. Get it together.

Patrick gave a slight nod. He seemed reluctant to leave it at that, but could tell that it wasn’t his place to make that call. “Is there a particular reason I should interview Stevie?”

David gathered himself and opened the door as Alexis grabbed the last of her stuff to follow. “I’m sure you’ll want her story,” he said. “She was my third fiancée, after all.”

Chapter Text

“So whataya wanna know?”

Patrick’s mind was spinning to the point he could barely focus on Stevie’s question. The interaction he’d witnessed left him with a knot in his stomach. David Rose in person was different from the shallow and overly cocky man of the world that Patrick had expected. He’d had a panic attack over Patrick’s identity. Yet he still made the time to insult him. Who was this man?

The look on David’s face when Stevie had spoken stuck with him. David had looked like his whole world was about to come crashing down around him and there was nothing he could do about it. One thing for sure was that Patrick had to start readjusting what he’d thought he knew about David Rose. It was the only way to do this the correct way. He still had the man’s words in his ears. Patrick had quite the mountain to climb to gain his trust.

The best place to start was with the person Alexis had recommended. He turned to face Stevie. She was back behind the desk and had her head down on the counter.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. “We don’t have to talk at all of you don’t want to. I know you’re not my biggest fan right now.”

Stevie picked her head up from the desk and took a deep breath. “No, I want to tell the story. It NEEDS to be told. It’s just...” She focused intently at a spot on the counter. “I didn’t think he would have such a bad reaction when we told him who you were. He kept saying that there was no point to reading the article since it was nothing but ‘poorly researched drivel that no one would actually read let alone believe.’”

Patrick grimaced, but said nothing. Stevie continued.

“More than just helping him, this is something I need to do for me.” She paused and met his eyes. “I need to clear the air on what happened because people in this town don’t know the full story even if they think they do.”

“Okay. That’s a good start.” He opened up his voice recorder on his phone and set the device on the counter. “Is it all right if this is recorded?”

She spoke a quick yes and he began.

“Go ahead and say your name.”

“Stevie Budd.”

A stray thought brought a short laugh out of Patrick.

“What?”

“Just thinking about how if you and David had followed through with your wedding you might’ve had the last name Rose-Budd.”

“Ugh,” Stevie said. “Don’t remind me. That stupid joke basically started this whole thing.”

“How so?”

“We’d been kinda seeing each other for a few months. And by seeing each other I mean we would hang out and occasionally have sex. One time we got really high –“

“Wait,” Patrick interrupted. “Did you get engaged while you were high?”

“All in due time. You want me to tell the story or not?”

He motioned for her to continue.

Flashback

Stevie was sitting on the floor propped up against the large bed in the love room of the motel. When had she wound up on the floor? She craned her head to see David laying in a full starfish pose on the bed looking up at the mirrored ceiling. The only part of him she had access to was his head that was dangling off the bed next to her. The view of his upside down head was suddenly so absurd, Stevie couldn’t help but giggle, which made her almost spit out the large gulp of wine she had just taken. She saved it at the last moment by covering her mouth. Best not to waste alcohol, even the crappy kind. David’s bottle was already empty.

“Guess who texted me yesterday asking for money?” Stevie asked.

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhh.” David moved the joint away from his face just enough to allow himself to turn onto his stomach. It was clearly easier said than done since he wound up tangled in the red satinesque sheet. “Someone sadder than I am because even I know it’s useless to ask you for money.”

“It was my cousin Sean.”

David looked confused which was par for the course whenever they got stoned. Stevie used the moment to take the joint out of his hand for herself. “Is that supposed to narrow it down for me?” he asked. He tried to swipe at her hand to get another puff in, but when he was this far gone it was the equivalent of a kitten pawing at a toy. She evaded him easily.

“The cousin with the kid named Denim. Remember those assholes who visited for Carl’s funeral?”

“Again, is that supposed to narrow it down for me?” David was clearly trying for inquisitive, but Stevie thought he just looked constipated. “God, Denim is such a horrible name,” he half mumbled into the mattress. “Isse gonna have a brother named Corfu...Codru... Corduroy or a sister named Polyester?” David started giggling at his own joke. Stevie readily joined in. It really was a stupid name.

“Even we could come up with better names,” she said. Then David started giggling. “What?”

“If we,” he started. “If we.” His giggling was getting worse as he tried to control it. Stevie punched him in the shoulder and returned to the joint. Might as well do something while he flailed. Finally, he spoke.

“If we had a kid, their last name would be Rose-Budd!” His laughter ramped up.

Stevie groaned and rolled her eyes. “That poor kid would attract all the bullies. I’m pretty sure bullies from other schools would search out this kid.” She handed David the joint and took another swig from her bottle. He inhaled and looked for the secret of life in the dirty carpet.

“The only way to make it correct would be to get married and decide on one name,” he said. Stevie noticed he almost sounded sad. As if this non-existent child was already dealing with this hypothetical last name.

She scoffed. It was her default response when other people were sad. “Get married?! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” But even after she said it, she gave him an awkward kiss on the cheek because he still had that slightly sad look on him and all she wanted was for the giggling to come back. David didn’t seem to notice.

End Flashback

“So that’s the last thing I clearly remember. I think some of our pot came from a bad batch or something ‘cause by the time we got coherent again, I had one of his silver rings on my finger and we had group texted the Roses, my cousins, and the mayor for some reason announcing our engagement. Complete with pictures of me showing off the ring”

Only one thought entered Patrick’s mind. “This sounds insane.”

“Tell me about it. David demanded his ring back, but by then most of the town had already heard some version of engagement news and his family was pounding on the door wanting answers.”

“What did you tell everyone?”

“First, that I wasn’t pregnant. Had to quell
that immediately. Second, that we needed some time to talk. So we hid in my apartment for a day to figure out what the hell to do.”

“And you decided to go through with it?”

Stevie shrugged before answering. “We just thought it didn’t seem like such a horrible idea. We were already sleeping together regularly and we enjoyed spending time with one another. And...” She paused and Patrick could tell this was starting to get into new territory. “I’ll admit, I was starting to develop feelings for David. It just seemed like if we had to spend our lives with someone, might as well be with each other.”

“All right,” Patrick said. “How long were you two engaged?”

“A couple weeks.”

“What?!”

“Well...” Stevie gave a shrug. “We were both broke so it’s not like we had money to plan an elaborate ceremony. The idea was just to do a quick courthouse thing and be done with it. Trust me when I say it did NOT help the pregnancy rumors.”

“So what happened on the day of the ceremony?”

Stevie focused on her previous spot on the counter. Patrick could relate. He wouldn’t want to tell a veritable stranger about how he and Rachel had fallen apart. She let out a sigh and looked back up.

“I couldn’t do it,” she said softly. “There I was in the bathroom wearing a dress Alexis had lent me, and I couldn’t do it. So I changed back into my regular clothes and snuck out through a side door. I’d even locked the bathroom door so it would take them awhile to figure out I was gone. Once I turned my phone on, I saw a text from David. It just said ‘Meet me at the motel. Need to talk.’”

Patrick paused to consider something. “Why the motel?”

“Oh, you don’t know? The Roses live here.”

“Wait, the Rose family lives...here?”

Stevie tilted her head. “I can hear your judgment,” she said in a sing-song voice.

“No no no,” Patrick insisted. “I’m not judging. I’m just surprised.”

At Stevie’s smirk, he quickly moved on.

“Uh, what did you two talk about?”

Stevie eyed him, but still indulged his question as her smirk vanished. “That we were making a mistake. He looked me in the eye, still wearing his stupid fancy suit, and asked me if I wanted this. And I said no and he said the same. We realized we didn’t want to ruin what we had. Our friendship was too important. Truth be told, we shouldn’t have been sleeping together as long as we had.”

“So why did the story seem like you were left at the altar?” Patrick asked.

Stevie let out an exasperated sigh. “Where did you even get that story?”

“There was video on a website that advertises it as the videographer with exclusive footage of a David Rose wedding. The guy interviews some guests, but it quickly becomes people saying David was missing. I think the guy’s name was Ray.”

Stevie slammed her fist on the counter. “Of fucking course. Damn it Ray.”

“I take it the town made up their mind about what happened pretty quickly?”

She nodded. “When I was on my way to see David, I got a text from Alexis asking if I’d heard from him. He wasn’t answering any calls or texts. Apparently everyone had only noticed he was gone since he was supposed to go down the aisle first. As far as they knew, I was still waiting in the bathroom for my cue.”

Stevie’s face seemed to shift. She wasn’t just talking to Patrick anymore.

“I did something stupid and lied to Alexis. I told her I hadn’t heard from him. What was I thinking?I thought I was protecting his privacy and giving him the same head-start I gave myself, but all it did was make him seem like the bad guy! No one believed me when I said I wanted to cancel the wedding too. They just thought I was trying to save face. And David refused to contradict people’s assumptions.”

Patrick felt his stomach churn. He was no better than the townspeople making assumptions. If anything he was worse because he’d put it in writing.

Stevie took another deep breath and her voice was much stronger. “David is my...my best friend and it took a failed engagement and a VERY awkward non refundable spa getaway/honeymoon for us to get there. We’ve made our peace and I’m happy with where we’re at now. My only regret is how he got hurt in the crossfire of that stupid wedding.” Stevie rubbed her forehead. “Ugh. I need a drink or ten now. Too many human emotions.”

“How’s David responded to all of this?”

Stevie gave a look of clear frustration and groaned. “He claims he’s fine and doesn’t care what people think, but I know it bothers him. Especially after Jake came into the picture.”

“Who’s Jake?”

“Oh,” Stevie said as her face turned hesitant. “He may be David’s fiancé.”

“David Rose is engaged again!?”

The look Stevie gave him made Patrick adjust his tone accordingly.

“And that’s great news for him!” He really needed to talk to David. This was spiraling into something he hadn’t anticipated. He remembered him and Alexis talking about going to a store. “Do you know when David and Alexis will be back from the store?”

“They’ll be there all day,” Stevie answered. “It’s a business David leased. He’s been working on opening it up soon. You probably passed it driving into town.”

Patrick recalled the ‘Coming Soon’ sign. “That’s the one across the street from that café, right?” At Stevie’s nod, he stopped his recording and pulled out his keys. “I think I’ll head on over there. Maybe I can stop at the café and bribe David with something. How does he take his coffee?”

“No idea,” Stevie said with a slight laugh. “It’s too complicated to remember. But I do know he likes blueberry muffins.”

Chapter Text

“Don’t look so sad, David.”

“I’m not sad, I’m frustrated.” The last thing David needed in this stressful time was his sister thinking she could manipulate a situation into good PR if she just smiled and lied enough. This wasn’t the Chilean embassy. “Why on earth would you even pick the motel as your fake law office address? And how did you even find that stupid article so fast?”

“I needed an address for the fake website and the motel is the only one I’ve memorized,” Alexis said as if that was the most obvious explanation. “And Mom had me put up a Google alert for her months ago, and one night I got bored so I put one up for all of us. You should be grateful or I never would’ve discovered the ‘Runaway Rose’ story in time to act.”

She resumed her version of helping unpack products which amounted to moving a single bottle at a time to the other side of the counter she sat on whilst filing her nails.

David loudly dropped a box next to her. Far too many were still left in the back room. “Again, Alexis, I really hate that nickname. And for the record, this entire thing is going to blow up in everyone’s face and then I will be the one sifting through the ashes trying to salvage a business AND a wedding!” He could feel his stress level rising. He was already further behind on prepping the store than he would’ve liked. It was clearly for the best that he hadn’t selected a definitive opening date because there was no way he’d be able to meet it.

Alexis gave him a bemused look. “David, wait and see. With my brilliant negotiating and your... candor, we’ll be able to completely clear your name in no time.”

“My god Alexis, I’ve told you I don’t care what some tiny tabloid said about me.”

“You should care. You’re opening up a store and you need to have a good reputation with your customer base in order to ensure your brand’s success.”

Apparently his sister could read one textbook and decide she was a master marketer. He would love to have that kind of confidence. “My reputation here is fine. Sure Roland puts in a couple of extra barbs my way, but I’m pretty sure Ronnie actually respects me more.”

“And according to Mom, Gwen was obsessed with finding out the details on how someone can disappear without anyone finding out,” Alexis added.

“Who the fuck is Gwen?” David asked even though his question went unanswered. “Listen I don’t care that this guy wants to ‘fix’ things because the man only wants to protect himself and his own self interest. As far as I’m concerned, Patrick Brewer can suck my—“

“Is this a bad time?”

They turned to see Patrick holding a small paper bag and propping open the door. David really needed to hang a bell for that door.

“Patrick!” Alexis hopped down from the table and rushed to greet him. “Glad you could meet us here. Now you can see how much of an entrepreneur David is. He’s starting his own business. Isn’t that amazing?”

“That is pretty amazing,” he said quickly. “Um, David I wanted to formerly apologize for what I wrote. I am sorry and I know it doesn’t change what happened, but I’m here because I want to make this as right as I possibly can. And that starts with telling the whole story.”

David was not in the mood to deal with this man. “Did you practice that on the way over?”

“Uh no, but I did buy you a blueberry muffin.” Patrick placed the paper bag on the table in front of David. “Stevie said you liked them and I wanted to come in with a bit of an olive branch.”

David snatched the bag and peeked inside. He felt Alexis put a hand on his shoulder. “Isn’t that the sweetest thing, David. Patrick wants to make things right.”

He had to admit he was getting a little hungry. But there was no way he was going to make things too easy.

“Seeing as there’s no beverage to go with it, this sweet gesture is going to have to be enjoyed at the café. I’m taking a break so thanks for the excuse Patrick.”

“Oh how about I come with you then?” Patrick quickly asked. “If you’re hungry I don’t mind buying you lunch. We can iron out how you want to do this....” He hesitated at David’s hostile glance. “Or we can talk about whatever you’d like. No pressure.”

Before he could respond, Alexis intervened. “I have an idea. Why don’t I head back to the motel and get Patrick set up with a room? That way you can lock up and he can drive you back once you two are done?”

“I’m not interested in talking to him,” David said. “But you can leave Alexis since you’ve been useless the entire time you’ve been here.” He used his hands to encapsulate the meaning of ‘entire time.’ Alexis rolled her eyes, but he thought he saw Patrick grin at his hand gesture. He chose to ignore that.

“Well since you’re closing up shop for lunch anyway, I think I’ll grab a bite to eat for myself,” Patrick said. “I’m not following you or anything. You don’t have to interact with me in any way. I just happen to be going in the same direction as you.” He looked like it was taking everything in him to keep his face impassive.

“You’re either very impatient or extremely sure of yourself,” David said.

“Threw you a bit of a change-up there, huh?” Now Patrick wasn’t even bothering to hide his grin. It seemed...somehow more playful than the knowing smirks David was used to seeing in his former life.

He pulled the store key out of his pocket and grabbed his bag. “I don’t know what that means. I don’t play cricket.” Patrick’s grin got annoyingly wider. “Now everybody shoo so I can lock up.” He gave the corresponding hand motions and the others quickly cleared out. Once the door was locked, Alexis fluttered her fingers in farewell at them and headed to the Lincoln parked outside. “Enjoy your lunch boys!” She then gave her attempt at a wink and turned away.

“Well I think I’m going to walk in the general direction of the cafe,” Patrick said. “Care to wander in that direction too?”

“I’m not doing any interview with you.”

“Who said anything about an interview? I’m just trying to find some good food.”

David let out a sardonic laugh. “Then you are definitely going to the wrong place.”

“And yet I think I’ll still enjoy the company.”

As much as David fought, he couldn’t completely tamp down a slight lift in the corner of his mouth. He refused to call it a smile. What was this guy’s deal? And why was David indulging it? He halfheartedly mused over those thoughts while munching on his muffin on the short walk to the café.

Chapter Text

“This is all off the record.”

Patrick turned his eyes from his freakishly large menu to look at David’s face. The man took a glance from his own menu but quickly flittered them down. “I mean I might as well protect myself and tell you that anything I say from here on out is off record.”

“Sounds good to me.” Patrick said easily. He returned his gaze to the menu. How could any place keep this much food? There looked to be over a hundred food items. The sheer volume was ridiculous. The woman who had sold Patrick the muffin earlier, a kind waitress named Twyla, had already taken their drink orders and had left them alone. It was the ideal time to make another attempt at a civil conversation.

“Dare we try the deep fried mozzarella stick platter?”

“Hmm, if you’re a fan of freezer burn,” David said before giving a chagrined expression and tried to burrow deeper into his menu. Clearly there were some things he couldn’t help but comment on. Patrick felt himself smile at David’s slight fluster.

By the time drinks were brought and food was ordered without David so much as acknowledging his presence, Patrick was ready to resign himself to a silent lunch when David spoke.

“Why are you here?”

Patrick focused on David’s face. Considering the weighted question, he selected his words carefully.

“I have a wrong that I need to right. I didn’t let myself or the public get the whole picture of your situation and this my attempt at rectifying it. But only with your permission.”

David stared at him with a tentative expression. Then he gave a quick hum and began spinning one of several silver bands on his right hand. Since the response wasn’t openly hostile, Patrick decided to lean in to the conversation.

“I hear congratulations are in order.”

David gave a mildly confused look and Patrick motioned towards his left hand where a pale ring sat. “On the engagement.”

“Oh that,” David said quickly. “Yeah, Jake’s great.”

Patrick pressed on. “That’s a unique looking ring. What’s it made of?”

After some tugging and twisting, David removed the ring and slid it across the table. “It’s actually made of mahogany. Jake’s a wood...cutter? Or wood worker? Whatever, he works with lumber and makes furniture with it.”

Patrick nodded along as he looked at the smooth circle. “Impressive craftsmanship.” He slid the ring back. “Must be stressful to be trying to open a new business and plan a wedding at the same time.”

“The lease for the old general store only became available a few days after Jake proposed, and we’re fine with an extended engagement, so any wedding planning is currently on the back burner.”

“It’s nice that he supports the business. What is your business exactly, David? Alexis and Stevie weren’t very forthcoming with the details.”

David perked up and Patrick gave himself a mental pat on the back for the topic choice.

“Well, um it’s a general store, but it’s also a very specific store.” David’s hand gestures began to ramp up as he spoke. “And it’s not just a store it’s also like a place where people can come and get coffee or drinks. But it’s not a coffee shop nor is it a bar.”

“Oookay,” Patrick said smiling. “So we’re pretty clear on what it’s not.”

“Yeah it’s an environment. And yes we will be selling things, but it’s more like...more like a branded immersive experience.”

“Right, I love the buzzwords David but that doesn’t really answer what your business is.” Patrick let out an involuntary chuckle.

David’s face closed off. “Okay you couldn’t use anything I just said?” Patrick sensed that he was dangerously close to setting off a landmine, yet he couldn’t get rid of his smile. David’s rambles were just too amusing. And oddly charming.

Thankfully their food arrived and conversation dwindled so he didn’t have to think about David’s antics for a few minutes. Or how endearing they were.

Patrick’s mind was scrambling for another potential subject, when David surprisingly saved him the trouble.

“So you talked to Stevie? Or I guess interviewed.” There was clear disdain in the final word.

“I did. She clarified a lot about what happened between you two. She seems really upset about how you got the brunt of the blame.”

David let out an exasperated sigh. “She keeps blaming herself even after I told her none of it was her fault. We both realized just in time that we were better as friends. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“You’re right in that regard. But she mentioned feeling guilty about lying to your sister about your whereabouts and the fallout it caused.”

David gave a weighted pause as he eyed Patrick. “I’m not upset about that. I was never upset about that. I shut off my phone after texting Stevie. I knew my family would try my number and I just...” He resumed his spinning on one of his silver rings before speaking almost sadly. “I wasn’t ready to give them another disappointment.”

“Why would it be a disappointment?” Patrick asked without thinking. David’s incredulous look made him want to hide in his tuna melt. It was shockingly easy to forget who he was talking to.

“You of all people know the long string of bad luck that is my love life. I don't know what kind of carnage I inflicted in my past life to deserve it. I must have been Dracula, or a spin instructor or something.” He proceeded to stab at his lunch with abandon.

Patrick gave a slight chuckle before clearing his throat. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he started tentatively. “Why didn’t you tell the town the truth?”

David was silent at first, picking at the remains of his food. “When Stevie and I first talked about whether or not we wanted to keep up the engagement after that initial group text was sent, I was the one that was leaning towards going through with it.”

“Did you want to marry her?”

“More like, I knew I always wanted her in my life. Maybe not in a spouse capacity per se, but I couldn’t picture any future without her. I still can’t.” He paused and looked away for a moment before continuing.

“My point is, I convinced her everything was going to be okay when she had doubts. And then I still backed out. Why shouldn’t I take the blame?”

“I don’t think she sees it that way,” Patrick insisted. “You texted her that day, after she had decided to leave, wanting to talk. You must’ve known everything wasn’t okay. If anything she sees it as a choice you both made and only you’re getting blamed for.” He had to squash the instinct to place his hand on David’s. All he knew was that he wanted some way to comfort the other man. He settled for leaning in, but firmly kept his hands in his lap.

“My name’s been through a lot. I can take it,” David said pointedly. “I’m used to being raked through the mud. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy my past getting dragged out without my permission.”

Patrick reeled back. Clearly he still wasn’t completely forgiven. Another mountain to climb.

“Tell you what David, how about I go pay for our lunches and go see how Alexis is doing on getting me a room?” Patrick pulled out his wallet and removed a business card. “This is my card and if you want to talk to me about anything at you can call me. Even if it’s just a clearer idea of what you want to do with your business.”

“Okay. I do have a clear idea.”

Suddenly a chime sounded on David’s phone and he quickly pulled it out to check. In the midst of his reading, two more chimes sounded and David let out a vindictive laugh. “Oh this is perfect.”

“What?”

David gave a smug smile. “Seems that Alexis tried to get you a room at the motel only for the last one to get booked just before she got there. So, for the duration of your stay, she has arranged for you to rent a room from one Ray Butani. Local real estate agent and wannabe closet organizer.”