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(Just Like) Starting Over

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Patrick had, apparently, slept with David last night. 

Or, more accurately, Patrick had slept beside David last night; possibly even slightly on David. And that is precisely where he finds himself stirring into wakefulness; muscle shifting against him as a gentle hand strokes and then pushes at his upper arm. The movement nudges his head softly up and off of David’s shoulder and dislodges his curled fist from its grip on the fuzzy warmth of David’s sweater, all at the same time as a sleepy-rough moan ghosts the shell of his ear, followed by a low, raspy “Fuck,” that sends a shiver down Patrick’s spine before David is up and out from under him, standing beside the couch, glaring at the phone in his hand as if it has just personally wronged him. 

“We’ve—I’ve overslept,” David says, yanking down the hem of his only slightly rumpled sweater, face contorting in displeasure.

Patrick feels a little chilled by the sudden loss of so much contact. He blinks up at David blearily and asks, “Wha‘ time is it?”

“Eight-twenty-five, and there’s a delivery due first thing this morning so I should have...” David gives up mid-sentence, sighs in exasperation and throws his head back. “Ugh, this is why you normally open up. I’m just not—”

“—not a morning person?” Patrick can’t help but interject with a stifled yawn that settles into a small smile. He is, ordinarily, very much a morning person and wonders if his own unplanned lie-in had been aided more by the early morning-slash-emotional toil combo of the previous day, or by the singular comfort just being with David’s seems to bring.  

“Clearly not,” David curls his lips down into an exuberant frown and waves a hand in a sweeping, not-particularly-helpful line down his body.

Patrick scoots forward, untangling his legs from the blanket that had somehow found its way onto his bottom half. He cranes his neck to watch as David makes a beeline for the overnight bag he’d abandoned by the front door the previous night, all the while bad-temperedly attempting to fluff the side of his hair that had been squashed flat by his awkward sleeping position. 

He looks sleepy-soft and disgruntled. It’s...cute, Patrick thinks. That’s the first word that comes to mind. He isn’t sure why he even tries to search for any kind of alternative; it is cute. David is very cute, like this. And it may not be the first time he’s seen morning-David over these last few whirlwind, world-shaking days, but he’s coming to terms with the fact that it is the first time he’s allowing himself to have that kind of thought without a side-serving of doubt or denial. The realisation is enough to keep the ghost of a smile on his lips, despite how his cramping muscles protest at the movement when he stands. “All the more reason for me to get back to work, then,” Patrick says, absently folding the blanket in his hands, “because I am a morning person. And if you’d shown me what to do yesterday, I could’ve opened up this morning.”

David stops mid-stride to shoot Patrick an incredulous scowl (which, Patrick thinks, is also cute. Maybe even more than cute). “May I highlight the not insignificant flaw in that plan?”

“Go for it.”

“You also just slept in.”

“Fair point,” Patrick concedes sheepishly and drapes the blanket neatly over the back of the loveseat which, it strikes him again, really isn’t big enough to comfortably sleep one grown man, let alone two. At least not without a certain level of physical contact being involved, which…okay, it definitely had been. Patrick can still feel the spectre of David’s body heat tingling the length of his left side, which had apparently been pressed up against David—David’s body—all night. He swallows and feels that lingering heat spread, rewarming the rest of him. 

He isn’t sure that, just this time yesterday, he’d have thought it physically possible for him to fall asleep in such close proximity to David. That proximity make him feel…awake, to say the least. But his conversation with Rachel really had been cathartic, and the long and otherwise revelatory day tiring, and by the time they were sitting hip-to-hip on the small couch and eating oven-warmed pretzels, ostensibly watching the Jays 2018 season opener against the Yankees, Patrick had only felt curiously content.

They’d talked. David had, initially, made a show of how much more interested he was in the soft-pretzels they were eating than the game they were watching, but had soon started to comment on how unfortunate the teams’ 'costumes' were.  “Speaking of uniforms,” Patrick had said, feeling a little bold as he placed emphasis on the right word in lieu of an overt correction, “I, uh, saw a picture on my phone. Of you. In a baseball uniform.”

“Mmm,” David had hummed thoughtfully while chewing on a bite of his second pretzel.  “Not my best look, but I think I made it work.”

“You did,” Patrick had agreed a little too readily (because...did he ever) before recovering with an abashed chuckle and asking, “So, what’s the story behind that?”

“Well, you were missing a right-hand man, so you needed a body in order to go ahead with the contest,” David had started with a cavalier wave of his hand, and proceeded to tell Patrick the story of how he’d agreed to play and that even the opposing team were cheering him on before the end (“Well, my dad was, but still,”), and that he’d been declared the ‘VIP’ of the ‘finale’. 

“Turns out, I’m actually pretty good at the hitting-the-ball thing? Although apparently still not as good as I am at the getting-hit-by-the ball thing,” he’d winced as he recounted the details of his injury. The whole tale was told in that way David seemed to have of being somehow both self-deprecating and self-aggrandising. It was an oddly charming trait, as was what Patrick had started to suspect was David’s willful bastardisation of baseball terminology. “I was mainly in it for the post-match barbecue, which was actually very good, but the public veneration was an unexpected bonus.”

“Do you still play?”

“The baseball? Oh dear god, no. I’m really not a fan of the whole team sports thing.”

“No? Why not?”

“I just think that in the current political climate we don’t need an excuse to divide ourselves further.” Patrick had only grinned at that, unwilling to put up an argument; the sentiment was no less endearing for the flawed logic behind it. “So, I retired at the peak of my game. That’s the winning ball up there,” David gestured to a baseball perched on a small wooden plinth on the corner of the mantle above the fireplace. “You insisted on keeping it because...” he’d trailed off. His lashes fluttered a little and he shook his head. “Well, you just did,” he’d said, bringing the story to a close. Patrick had been only too happy to hear it; the first of many stories behind the pictures on his phone and the knick-knacks dotted around the—his apartment. 

It had been nice, after such an intense few days, to just sit and chat. They’d gone on to talk more about the other people on the Café Tropical and Bob’s Garage baseball ‘troupes’ (“Teams,” Patrick had corrected, just to watch David bristle); about Rachel and about the store; about David’s day and Patrick’s trip to Elmdale with his parents, including their stop at the unique Schitt’s Creek sign. “I told you it was the main attraction of the Greater Elms,” David had smirked.

“I’m still not sure I agree with you on that,” Patrick had argued. 

David had looked at him with one thick brow raised and a curve to his lips, “No?”

“No,” Patrick had replied, but he didn’t elaborate and, thankfully, David didn’t ask him to. The last thing Patrick remembers after that is settling into a comfortable silence, the press of David’s thigh pleasantly warm and solid against his own as they watched the Jays lose the game.

Patrick shakes himself out of his thoughts about the night before and stretches his arms above his head, trying to rid the last vestiges of stiffness from his muscles. When David turns back towards him, bag draped over his arm, his eyes dart to the sliver of bare belly the motion must expose between the waistband of Patrick’s pants and the hem of his t-shirt. The pointed look sends an extra jolt of heat through Patrick’s already warm body that settles just beneath the surface of that very same patch of skin. 

Patrick drops his arms, clears his throat. “I’m, uh, sorry for falling asleep on you.”

David’s dark gaze flies back up to Patrick’s face. “Oh. No. It was…fine. I should’ve taken you to bed. I mean, I should’ve tried to get you into—no, that’s not what—fuck,” David cringes and tries to cover his face with his one free hand as he adds a muffled, “I haven’t actually woken all the way up yet, so.”

Patrick attempts to laugh off his no-doubt very obvious blush. “It’s fine, and I know what you mean. We’ve both had a couple of pretty big days.”

“Yeah,” he replies with a scoff, highlighting how much of an understatement that is. He hurries across the room before catching himself and pausing as he gets halfway towards the bathroom door to ask, “How are you, anyway? Is there any...?”

Patrick shakes his head. “Just the same, but I’m fine. I feel pretty good, actually, other than...you know. The obvious.”

“Well. That’s...good,” David looks suddenly a little bashful as nods his head toward the bathroom. “I’m just gonna.”

“Sure. Will you have time for coffee before you go?”

David glances at his phone again, still clutched in his hand, and grimaces, “Sadly not. I’ll just grab some from the café when I get a sec.”

Patrick makes a mental note to help with that later and heads to the kitchenette to fill the electric kettle. His tea is still brewing in its mug on the kitchen counter when David emerges barely five minutes later, looking much less dishevelled if no less displeased than before. He’s already learned that David isn’t a five-minute-freshen-up-and-go kind of guy which the pained expression he’s still wearing as he sits to put on his hightops confirms. “That was quick,” Patrick can’t help but comment. 

“Yeah, see, I’m not sure if I mentioned it?” David tilts his head and adopts an acerbic smile as he ties a shoelace, “But I’m actually a little pressed for time this morning.”

“Oh, I had no idea,” Patrick says innocently before hiding his smile behind his steaming mug of tea. 

“So,” David stands and hoists his bag over his arm. He’s changed into a camo sweater in various shades of grey. Patrick wonders if it feels as soft as it looks; as soft as the one he'd just taken off. “You’ll come into the store later?”

“As long as you agree to show me the ropes.” Patrick knows full well he’ll go regardless of any such caveat, but he’s keen to make his point. 

They’d talked about this last night; how Patrick was eager to start (re)learning the inner workings of their business. David had, however, remained reluctant to commit to a plan until everything wasn't quite so up in the air.

“Okay, but I’m still not exactly clear on what that would involve,” he says with an evasive shake of his head. “We don’t even sell ropes.”

“Just let me help out, David,” Patrick says, not at all convinced by his feigned ignorance. David’s eyes narrow at that and his lips part in what is almost certain to be an objection, but Patrick manages to cut him off before he gets the chance, “When’s that delivery due again?”

David glances at the time on his phone. “Shit.”

“See? It looks like you need some help,” he teases. “And what else am I supposed to do all day?”

“Okay, well, maybe minimal ropes could be shown. But just to be clear—”

“We’re not talking about actual ropes. Got it.”

“Okay, well,” David throws up his hands in a how-am-I-supposed-to-know gesture, but Patrick catches the small amused twist to the corner of his mouth.

He wonders if it’s always like this between them. He kind of hopes it is.

Patrick follows David to the front door, where he turns and hovers for a second after stepping out into the hallway. Patrick shoves his hands into his pockets for want of a safer option. He feels as reluctant as David looks to say goodbye. “I guess I’ll see you later.”

“You will. But just come in whenever. There’s no rush. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” Patrick says with a smile. He feels inordinately pleased just to have the okay to go to his new place of work, to claim another piece of his new normal. He thinks David might be pleased about it too, even if he won't admit it.

“Okay,” David repeats and raises a hand towards Patrick’s shoulder only to swiftly pull it back, like it had the day before, his face souring at the action.

“David, you don’t have to keep…” He pauses and scrambles to locate some of the courage he’d scraped together the night before. “It’s fine if you—I won’t...I mean, I don’t mind you touching me.” 

David blinks at him, purses his lips and tilts his head in consideration. 

The offer stretches a heavy cord of silence between them that Patrick needs to cut through. “You know,” he adds with what he hopes David knows is his best attempt at a mischievous smirk, “Within reason.”

“Hmm,” David murmurs, nodding and briefly closing his eyes as if the addition of the offending caveat is enough to let the permission sink in. Patrick tries not to be too disappointed that, when he opens his eyes again, David doesn’t take him up on his offer. “Just call me if your plans change, okay? Or if you hear something. Or if you need anything. From me.”

“Anything?”

David looks at him so fondly at that, biting back the smile that threatens to break through the barrier he’s clearly trying to maintain. “Within reason,” he says. 

Patrick laughs and David starts to back away from the door, eyes darting ever-so-briefly to Patrick’s mouth before he turns on his heel.

“Bye, David.”

David raises one hand in a little wave of acknowledgement but doesn’t look back as he hurries down the hallway. 

As he closes the door and retrieves his tea, Patrick finds himself wondering what kind of goodbye he’d get from David if this was a normal morning.

 

 

That thought stays with him as he showers.

And if it causes him to linger a little while he’s in there—if it makes him think again about how the yellowing bruise of a hickey at the base of his throat got there, if it leads to him replaying the sound of David sleepily (sexily) groaning fuck in his ear and picturing the shirtless selfie of David from his phone and trying his best, his hardest, to remember just what that broad, strong chest feels like pressed against his own—then he doesn’t allow himself to feel guilty about it, this time.  

When he eventually emerges from the bathroom, skin still damp, towel tucked snugly around his hips, there’s a lightness in his step as he pads towards the bedroom (and not just because the cut on his sole seems to have almost completely healed). He feels about 87% better than he had the morning before.  Knowing now that Rachel neither hates him nor wants him back helps; as does knowing that David likes him, and will wait for him, and is on board (very much on board, his brain amends with a joyful little jolt of nervous excitement) whenever he feels ready for more than the already seemingly broad parameters of their friends-and-business-partners-plus relationship. 

He lays some clean clothes out on the still-made bed and retrieves his fully recharged phone. He never had gotten around to switching it back on last night. When it buzzes back to life, it pings several times in quick succession. He works his way through the notifications: two texts from his mom — How did things go with Rachel sweetie? Then, You’re obviously busy getting reacquainted with David ;) Text us in the morning, we’ll meet you for brunch and hear all about it x and one from Rachel — It was really good to talk to you. Hope you enjoyed spending the night with your hot bf 😉 x — (he tries to ignore the entirely inappropriate thrill gets from seeing both his mother and his ex-girlfriend - ex-fiancée - send him winky faces alongside allusions to his new...relationship) followed by a calendar reminder that pops up with a flourish—

Today: David’s Birthday+2 years 🖤 

—but before he can even think about why David hadn’t mentioned that it was his birthday (although, he really shouldn’t have to mention it, should he?), or what the +2 years means or how sappy he is for adding the little heart emoji beside the entry in his calendar, the remaining notifications pull his focus: a missed call from an unknown number. And one new voicemail. 

The call could be from anyone, he tells himself, as his heart picks up pace in his chest; a vendor for the store, maybe. A telemarketer, a wrong number. An old friend with a new phone. 

Or, he thinks as he sinks down onto the edge of the bed, trying to replicate the deep, calming breaths David had made him take when he began his downward spiral into a panic that first morning, it could be from the hospital.

 

 


“Could you, uh, repeat that part, please?” Patrick asks the doctor, his voice pitched high in disbelief. His vision is swimming. He isn’t entirely convinced he can trust what he just heard over the rushing in his ears to be more than wishful thinking.

“Your scans, your other test results, are all clear, Mr. Brewer. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with you. No bleeding, no swelling, no nasty shadows. No abnormalities whatsoever,” Dr. Sharma repeats cheerily. “It’s good news!”

Patrick wishes the doctor had only sounded half as bright in the short, ominous voicemail he’d left on his phone not half an hour earlier. The dour tone of the message threatened to douse the small flame of optimism that the past twenty-four hours had kindled in him. Multiple unwelcome possibilities had run amok in his mind as he gathered the courage to call the neurologist's office back. By the time he dialled the number, he’d felt as close to prepared as he was likely to get for whatever news he might be about to hear; he just hadn’t been prepared to hear this

“So I...” Patrick practically chokes on the relief that bubbles up like expectorated seawater in his throat, “...I’m gonna be okay?” 

“We have every reason to be cautiously optimistic at this juncture. In a physical sense, signs are good. And while the scans we have wouldn’t necessarily show evidence of concussion, from what I understand there were no strong indicators of that on any of your other tests either.”

“And that’s good, right?

“It’s very good!” Dr. Sharma booms and then clears his throat, “Although, we perhaps shouldn’t get too carried away just yet. I see from your notes you’ve suffered from stress-triggered migraines.”

“I have. In the past,” Patrick amends quickly when he remembers David commenting at the hospital that he hadn’t mentioned any headaches lately, “but not for a while, I think?”

“And I believe that this current episode of memory loss occurred at a point in your life where you may have been under some additional stress?”

“I guess so. I mean, I just proposed to my—” he pauses, swallows, and feels a nervous current run through him as he realises that even though everyone around him has comfortably referred to David as his boyfriend for the last few days, this will be the first time he’s actually saying the word out loud, “—my boyfriend the day before it happened, so…”

“Oh, marriage is a very stressful affair. Just ask my soon-to-be-ex-wife!” Dr. Sharma jests and aborts his chuckle with another pronounced ahem sound before he goes on, “And that leaves us with the small matter of your current predicament.”

“Right,” Patrick agrees. As relieved as he is to be physically healthy, there is still that.

“I’m afraid there’s no simple cure, Mr. Brewer,” the doctor continues. “Retrograde amnesia isn’t a condition that's terribly well understood. Have you managed to recover any memories so far?”

No. Although I've had some thoughts that felt like they might’ve been memories, or maybe just...” He trails off, hoping he doesn’t have to elaborate on that. The doctor doesn’t really need to know that he’s not entirely sure if he’s been recalling or simply fantasising about aspects of his relationship with David. 

“Right. Well, even just that could be a positive sign.” There’s a pause, and Patrick can hear some clicking, some typing in the lull. "I’d like to monitor your condition for a little while, as a precaution. I'll schedule an appointment for you to come and see me in a week or so. We’ll check your physical indicators, bloods and such, and since this is likely to be a stressful time for you, I can prescribe something you can take at the early onset of any migraine attacks in the interim, just in case.”

“Okay.” He can cope with that, he thinks.

“And, because there are no obvious neurological causes at this stage, I think it would be beneficial for you to see a psychotherapist in addition to your follow ups with me.”

“Oh,” is all that he huffs out in response to that. The ER doctor had mentioned that therapy might be on the cards, so he isn’t sure why the suggestion makes his jaw clench and his throat feel tight.

“I gather from your notes that you’ve had some significant lifestyle changes in the intervening period between your last memory and the start of this episode of amnesia.”

“Yeah, pretty much everything’s different. Where I live, my job, my, uh...sexual orientation.”

“In that case, I believe that seeing a therapist could benefit you in two ways; they can look at the possibility of an underlying psychological or traumatic trigger for your memory loss as well as helping you process the implications of these seemingly very sudden changes.”

“Okay. That sounds…” a little scary, he thinks, if he’s being honest with himself. Which…is something he’s clearly had a problem doing in the past, “...like it might actually be a good idea.”

“Excellent. Then I’ll refer you to a colleague with a practice in Elm Glen. Ordinarily, this could take several weeks, but the sooner we can get you seen the better, so I’ll see what strings I might be able to pull. And in the meantime,  I’ll schedule an appointment to see you in a week, but be sure to contact my office before then if you make any progress with substantive recollection.”

“Yes. Great. Thank you. I will.”  He thinks about  what the next week might have in store. Given everything that’s happened in the last seventy-two hours, it seems like a lifetime.  He clears his throat and, before the doctor can wind up the call, asks, “So, what should I do until then? Can I…just try to carry on as normal?”

“Certainly, getting back into something like a regular routine could be beneficial for a number of reasons. It’s widely believed that ‘jogging’ the patient’s memory by exposing them to significant people and places from their missing past can speed up the rate of recall so, by all means, if you feel up to the task, get back to work. Spend time with your friends and loved ones, old and new."  

It's a question pertaining to a certain new friend-and-loved-one he really wants an answer to. Patrick’s heartbeat feels like it grows erratic as he plucks up the courage to ask, “What about my...relationship?”

“Well, I may need you to be a little more specific, but I wouldn’t advise pushing yourself to do anything you feel uncomfortable with for either the sake of your partner or trying to aid recall.”

“No. I wouldn’t, I just wondered if…if I should wait to see what I can remember or…if it’s okay to try to, uh, rebuild the relationship now, I guess?” It almost feels painful, articulating this thought to a stranger; making it known that it's something he wants. He feels like he’s laying himself bare, exposing something he’s kept hidden, even from himself, until now. But there’s no one better to ask until he sees a therapist, which could still  take weeks and...if he's being honest (which he wants to be, now), he doesn’t want to wait that long. He thinks Rachel was right; he’s already waited long enough.  

“There is no hard and fast rule that you should wait for anything under these circumstances.  I would actually advise against putting any aspect of your life completely on hold. While the likelihood of you recovering your misplaced memories is very good, you should be prepared for the outside chance that it may not happen. Or, perhaps it won't happen as quickly or completely as we might like. Therefore, it’s sensible for you to look to rebuild as well as recover. As long as you feel comfortable doing so.”

“Okay, that’s...thank you,” Patrick says, with a small sigh of second-wave relief. He’ll take that. Patrick really had meant it when he told David he wants that life—his life, their life—back. He has a feeling it’s worth rebuilding. 

Dr. Sharma finalises the details of Patrick’s follow-up appointment at Elmdale General, confirms that he’ll ask the therapist’s office to get in touch ASAP, and reassures him again, with a not entirely comforting chuckle that, considering the alternatives, it’s all really rather good news, and then he’s gone.  

It is good news, Patrick thinks as he sits there still shirtless, skin prickling with gooseflesh from the slight breeze floating in through the window his dad had opened yesterday. The simple, understated truth of it hits him; knocks a burble of hysterical laughter out of his chest.

He isn’t physically ill; he doesn’t need surgery or chemo or further interventions, whatever they might’ve been. He’s alive; and what’s more, for the first time in months—maybe years—he actually feels it.

And maybe he's not completely out of the woods yet, but at least now he can see a clearing up ahead. And that’s news he wants to share.

 

 

Good morning, Rose Apothecary. This is David. How may I help you?”

Hey, David, it’s—

“—Patrick. Is everything alright?”

Yeah, yes. I, uh,  just heard from the hospital—” he hears David draw in a sharp breath, “—so wanted to let you know that the good news is...there’s nothing wrong with me. Physically, I mean. there’s obviously something wrong, or at least not right, but it’s—”

“Oh, thank god,” David’s words come out a little choked, his relief spilling out in a wet, ragged sigh.

It makes Patrick feel better and worse all at once. Maybe he should've waited to do this in person; he suddenly wants to see David, to be able to hold his hand and return some the physical reassurance that David had already given him.  So, it’s good. It’s really good, the only bad news is—”

“There’s bad news?”  David sniffs, and Patrick’s heart clenches at the concern etched into the question.

“No, not—just that they still aren’t sure why, exactly, I’m like this.

“But—what—why? What does that mean?”

“It means the neurologist will keep me under supervision for a while and he wants me to see a therapist. To help figure it out. Until then, I’m supposed to try to get back to some kind of normality.”

“Right. That’s…um. How do you feel? About that?”

“I’ll try anything, David. I told you, I just want my life back.”

David makes an indefinable little humming noise at that and it makes Patrick wish all the more that he’d just gone to the store, told David all of this face-to-expressive-face. He's harder to read over the phone, but not so hard to read that Patrick can’t hear the apprehension in his voice when he asks, “And what do we do until then?”

“I think we just...do what we talked about last night." Patrick feels himself flush at that, at the broader implication of it all. It makes him wonder idly if he's always been like this around David; if there's a chance he thinks Patrick's natural skin tone is rosy. "The doctor said I should just try to get back to normal, that we could...that I shouldn’t put my life on hold." 

“Right. Good. That’s…good. Right?”

“I think so. And it means I'm officially allowed to get back to work, so...”

“Well, good,” he sniffs again, injects some faux-bluster into his tone, “It is your store too. And I can’t do everything around here, so you probably should get back to pulling your weight.”

Patrick laughs at that. “I’m looking forward to it, David. Do I still have time to get brunch with my parents before you put me to work?"

“Of course you do,” he replies softly. Patrick can hear him sniffling a little more, pulling in a deep breath before his voice brightens again. “So...What did your parents say? About your good news?"

“Oh. I haven’t actually...told them yet.”

“Oh.”

“I just thought—I just really wanted to let you know,” Patrick says honestly, a smile creeping onto his lips.  It hadn't for a second crossed his mind to tell anyone but David first. He wonders if maybe that’s a good sign, too. “But, yeah. I should probably call them. Now, I guess.”

“Sure, yes. Do that. They’ll be dying to know.”

"But I’ll see you soon.”

“You will. And I’m glad you're okay. At least, you know, physically.”

“Me too,” and he is, despite the world of unanswered questions still to be explored, he really fucking is.  “Oh, and David?”

“Yeah?”

"I almost forgot to say," Patrick hopes the smile he’s still wearing is evident in his voice when he says, "Happy Birthday.”