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There Was a Boy

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Summer 1899

I had just arrived in Paris, to the village of Montmartre, during the Summer of Love. I was there to explore the exploding Bohemian movement that promised truth, beauty, freedom and love. I had come to write about the value I upheld above all.  Love. There was just one problem: I’d never been in love. Not the way I was supposed to be (but never mind that, for that would soon change). 

The train let out a final hiss of steam as it pulled into the station, jolting to a stop. I did my best to be patient, but could you blame me for wanting to get on with the rest of my life? I gathered my single suitcase and typewriter from the overhead rack and bolted for the platform. The sun shone down, highlighting the faces of ruddy cheeked villagers, peeking into poorly lit alleyways and generally trying to bring mirth to everyone in its wake. In my opinion it was not, as my father had warned me, a “village of sin”. Far from it, if you asked me. 

I wound my way through the streets until I came to the place I would come to call home. The building was tall and somewhat nondescript. The rather gruff landlady unlocked the door to my third-floor room and handed over the key with a look that could peel paint. I thanked her profusely—or at least I tried to—before she turned abruptly, leaving me to settle in. There wasn’t much settling in to be done. I had brought a tiny wardrobe of clothes and my typewriter. I truly had nothing else to my name and had decided I would let everything work itself out once I’d arrived.

Little did I know exactly what was in store for me. 

I set up my typewriter at a tiny table by the window. I fed a fresh sheet of paper against the roller and slid the carriage to the end, the satisfying ding reassuring me of why I’d come. My fingers hovered over the keys, ready to write. But nothing came. In fact, my brain became a blank slate, void of ideas. I set my hands in my lap. No problem, I’d just give it a few minutes, surely some inspiration would come. And come it did in the form an unconscious man falling through my ceiling. 

The next few minutes were an absolute blur of absurdity. The man was ruggedly handsome, fully bearded with matching short, brown hair. He was clad only in trousers, a sleeveless undershirt and suspenders.

“Sorry, so sorry!” Before I could process the sight before me an attractive brunette, with equally dark eyes, adorned in a full, tailored suit came barging through my door. 

“Sorry about that. Jake, he suffers from narcolepsy. He’s bright eyed one minute and then–” she made a sleeping motion– “unconscious the next. You never know when it’s going to happen.”

She put a hand out to introduce herself, “My name is Stevie. Stevie Budd. We were just upstairs rehearsing a play.”

A play? Now that was something. “Patrick Brewer. I’m here to do some writing. Tell me about your play.” 

Before she could answer an irritated squawk came from the hole in my ceiling, “Now what? If Jake can’t quit doing this the show won’t be ready to present tomorrow!” The voice belonged to an overly made-up face with just-above shoulder length brunette hair. 

“We’ll just get someone to read the part,” Stevie offered.

“Read the part?! Where are we going to get someone on such short notice to read the part of the young, sensitive, poet goatherd?”

A collection of eyes looked at me from every direction.

“Well, Patrick, help me haul Jake here upstairs and I’ll give you the goods.” 

I threw my weight into picking up Jake so I could lift him over my shoulders. I wasn’t scrawny by any means but certainly hadn’t prepared myself for carrying a full-grown man up a flight of rickety stairs. I did my best to lay him gently on a table, but there’s only so much one can do when trying to lay down dead weight. 

Stevie handed me a script to review. The show was to be a Bohemian anthem called “Spectacular, Spectacular”. I held the pages in my hand but felt wildly out of place while the sounds of droning and obscure singing with ill-fitting lyrics reverberated around the room. There were definitely artistic differences between Darlene, the overly made-up lyric writer and Jocelyn, the bubbly blonde piano player. Darlene argued that her lyrics were being drowned out by the insufferable, odd noises and maybe just a little piano would be fine. I couldn’t fault her on that one. Meanwhile, the entire group sang out random bits of lyrics in a cacophony of voices trying to retrofit them to said droning. 

Among the chaos I could pick out the melody and the words that were so desperately needed came to me: “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” I sang, causing them to pause. They didn’t appear to actively hate it, so I continued.

With songs they have sung, for a thousand years.

Darlene gawked wide-eyed. Stevie was the first to parrot what I’d suggested: “The hills are alive with the sound of music.”

Jocelyn hummed the words to herself, playing back the melody. “It’s perfect. It fits perfectly.” She beamed as everything seemed to be working together. 

Stevie looked between me and Darlene, “You know, you two should really write the show together.” That was absolutely not what Darlene wanted to hear.

“Goodbye!” Darlene slammed the door shut behind her.

“Well look at you,” Stevie raised a glass in a toast. “Your first job in Paris.”

“No offense,” Jocelyn cut in, “but have you ever, you know, done anything like this before?” 

“Umm, no, I haven’t.” Writing a show was a large undertaking, but it was a challenge I was willing to take on. How bad could it be?

Jocelyn grimaced, unsure how to take my admission. At that moment, Jake became conscious and came to my defense. “Isn’t it obvious the boy has talent?” He looked at me and gave me a wink that suggested my talent had nothing to do with his support for me writing the show. 

“With Patrick here doing the writing we can finally have the Bohemian show we’ve always wanted!” Stevie chimed in. 

“Well, how are we going to convince Johnny?” Jocelyn sounded nervous. Johnny, apparently, being the owner of the infamous Moulin Rouge. Had I known this is what I was signing up for I’m not sure I would have interjected so quickly. Writing a show for some small theater was one thing. Doing it for the Moulin Rouge was an entirely different prospect. Suddenly all I could hear was my father’s voice in my head, warning me I’d wind up wasting my life with a can-can dancer and living a life of regret. 

“I don’t know if I can do this!” I blurted out, crouching on the floor. “I don’t know if I can write a show for the Moulin Rouge! I don’t even know if I am a true Bohemian revolutionary.” 

They all looked at me like I had three heads. Stevie peered down at me reassuringly, “Do you believe in beauty?”

“Yes.”

“Freedom?” Jake questioned.

“Yes.”

“Truth?” Jocelyn next.

“Yes.”

“Love?” the final question from a young, baby-faced gentleman known as Ted. 

“Love?” They all stared back at me, waiting for my answer. “Above all things, I believe in love.” Their cheering was rapturous.

“See? You can do this. You can write this show. Now, here’s what’s going to happen.” Stevie started to lay out the entire plan for me. I was to borrow Jake’s best suit and have a private meeting, setup by Stevie, with The Rose. He was the star of the Moulin Rouge and son of Johnny Rose. I was to be passed off as a famous writer, dazzle him with my words and then he, in turn, would convince Johnny that I should write the show. 

Stevie suggested some absinthe before making our way out. I needed at least that much for the part I was about to play. I was a nobody about to pretend my way into being a famous writer to get in the good graces of a star at the Moulin Rouge. What was I getting myself into?

Chapter Text

The Moulin Rouge was the height of underworld entertainment for the rich and powerful of Paris, a place to escape the everyday and be plunged into a world of lust and thirst. Men wore their finest black tailcoat tuxedos; women like Stevie were adorned in suits or dresses with plunging necklines. 

The dance hall swirled with scantily clad entertainers bedecked in jewelry, boas and far more makeup than necessary. It was a riot of colors and fabrics. Entering the hall, we were hit with a wall of music that took my breath away. Stevie gave me a knowing smirk and offered me her arm in escort. The look she gave me said, “You’ll get used to it, move along.” She breezed through the crowd until the five of us were seated in a private box, perfect for watching the show. Champagne and absinthe flowed like fountains, inviting us to give in to our most worldly desires. 

“Stevie, are you sure this will work?” 

She gazed casually out at the dance floor before turning to me, “No.” 

I began to sweat in panic, clutching my hat between my fingers. 

“Darling,” she started, “Don’t worry. I’ve known him most of my life. Be confident. He’ll like that. He’ll try to be coy and flirtatious but don’t let that fool you. He’s wickedly smart. Do what you came here to do and wow him like you did us.” She casually lit a cigarette and took a deep drag. “Be genuine and honest and he’ll be putty in your fingers.” 

At that moment the hall went dark and the music cut off. Everyone in attendance went silent in anticipation. Whistles and cheers erupted when a single spotlight beamed toward the ceiling, red rose petals raining down. A wooden swing lowered toward the crowds, showcasing the most beautiful man I’d ever laid eyes on. I drank in the sight of him: a pair of pointed black boots, long, lean legs leading to a black skirt embroidered with tiny white flowers trailing down the hips. I had the overwhelming urge to place my hands firmly on those hips and let my fingers follow the inviting flower trail. Next was a black jacket over a deep red waistcoat patterned with roses. I finally saw his face and it was heavenly: a dusting of stubble along a strong jaw, plush, pouting lips and high cheekbones. He had dark, playful eyes hidden under flirtatious lashes and dark hair swept up in a high pompadour. The Rose certainly knows how to work the crowd, giving flirty glances and shimmying his shoulders before touching down from his descent. It was obvious, from how the crowd reacted, that he had a way of making each person feel singled out by his affection. If I hadn’t been in a very public venue it would have been a simple choice to let myself palm the bulge in my trousers to ease the ache he was stirring in me. Instead, I settled for shifting uncomfortably, doing my best to keep my hat in my lap. 

“Now’s my chance,” Stevie murmured to herself, standing to approach The Rose during a short interval. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but it appeared they were having a somewhat heated exchange. His eyes flicked toward our box–or maybe the one next to us–before he appeared to shoo her away so the next segment could begin. 

“You’re all set for tonight, kid. After the show I’ve arranged a private meeting, just the two of you. Then you can have a little meet and greet and secure the show for us.” She looked up with a devilish grin. “No pressure though.” 

“No,” I breathed, my heart suddenly hammering in my chest. “No pressure at all.” 

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!” Johnny Rose was a presence, his smallish stature contradicting the way his confidence filled the room. “Bid au revoir to your cares and troubles. I see some lonely Moulin Rouge dancers just waiting to whisk you into the night. Come, enjoy!” He waved his hand in a flourish, inviting the crowd to rejoin the dance floor. While the masses flooded their way out, I noticed Johnny talking to his son, occasionally glancing in our general direction. I couldn’t tell precisely where either man was looking. 

“This is really something, isn’t it Patrick?” Jocelyn’s bubbly voice inquired. 

“Yes, it certainly is. Is it always this crowded?”

“Oh my goodness, yes. At least this much! Ever since David started his act, Johnny’s been having to turn people away. He doesn’t have near enough room.” David.

“I’ll bet.” 

“That’s the whole reason for us proposing the show. He wants to build a theater with more capacity. Really turn it into a high-class joint.”

It was a sound plan that Johnny had and it was a heady prospect to find myself a part of it.

“I believe you were expecting me?” a deeper voice this time. I looked up to see David standing before me, arm extended in invitation. 

I could only stare in disbelief, frozen in my seat. His face turned into a prominent pout, indicating to the crowd I had disappointed him. They pouted along with him and begged to be his second choice. 

“I’m afraid it’s performer’s choice.” He announced before turning back to me, locking my gaze. “Shall we dance?”

I reached out to take his hand, laying a small kiss to his knuckles. It thrilled me to hear the sharp inhale he took at the simple gesture. “Yes, let’s.”

This whole adventure was new and delicious. I wasn’t sure who should lead in this case but, as the performer he was, David seemed to be able to direct me when to lead and follow at the right times. 

“Stevie tells me you’ve taken quite the interest in our little show.” His eyes danced with a playfulness I hadn’t witnessed since I was a child. 

“Yes, it sounds like quite the endeavor. I’m quite looking forward to it. She also told me that I might be able to share some of my poetry later.”

“Mmhmm. A little poet, are you? How sinful.” Without warning he raised my arm and spun me about before pulling me tightly against him. 

“What did you say your name was?” he queried.

“I didn’t actually. And it wouldn’t be fair would it. I don’t even know who you are.” 

“Nobody does,” he countered. “I’m whoever I’m paid to be.” 

“That’s a shame. I should very much like to know who you are.” His eyes became wide, like a deer realizing it was in the crosshairs of the hunter’s bow. He spun me out again, speaking only when I’d settled back against him. 

“David. My name is David.” His gaze regained its air of confidence. “Your turn.”

“Patrick.” He seemed to be internalizing the information so I couldn’t help catching him off guard and dipping him towards the floor. “Delighted to make your acquaintance, David.” Our lips were all but touching but I would never dare risk what I was actually here to do, despite my body screaming at me to do otherwise. 

David shifted his weight and pushed us both back to a standing posture. “Delighted to make yours as well. I have to go now, Patrick. See you later tonight?” He arched an eyebrow in a way that would make the Pope faint. 

“See you tonight.” With that he spun on his heel toward the abandoned swing. I could see in real time as his show persona turned back on and he shimmied his body to a seated position, crossing his ankles. He gave me a final wink before the swing started to ascend and he started blowing kisses at the crowd. 

No one seemed to take notice, but suddenly it looked like his face froze and I saw a sharp inhale, desperate for breath. “Nooooo!” Johnny shouted as David’s body went limp and plummeted toward the floor.

Chapter Text

It was Ted who rushed from the crowd, catching David before he hit the ground. A beautiful woman with blond hair and blue eyes, emerged instantaneously next to him. “Oh my god, David! David, wake up!”

Ted carried the lifeless figure off the dance floor, away from the curious eyes of the crowd. He laid him down carefully, assuring the fretting woman, “It’s okay. I’m a doctor actually.” He produced a small vial of smelling salts and waved it beneath David’s nose. David coughed and sputtered, his eyes opening to the scene around him.

“Alexis? What happened?” 

“Ok, David. You were up on your swing and then, all the sudden, you just fell. Thank goodness this cute little doctor guy here caught you. Otherwise …” she trailed off with a shudder before turning her attention back to Ted.

She playfully put one hand on his bicep and held one of his hands with the other, “I’m Alexis, David’s sister and protector. And you are?” She batted her lashes at him in a way that should have been wholly inappropriate, given the circumstances. 

“Oh my god, Alexis! When did this become about you?!” David shrieked, trying to sit up. 

Ted put a hand on his chest to slow him down, “Easy there, big guy. Just give it a minuet .”

He turned back to Alexis, “I’m Dr. Theodore Mullens. But you can call me Ted.”

She shimmied her shoulders, “Ted. I certainly will.”

Another voice joined the group, “Oh my goodness, David. Are you okay?” 

“Yes, Twyla. I’m fine, thanks. Just one of my panic attacks, I think? The swing went up and all the sudden everything just went dark. Good to know someone is looking out for me.”

“Oh my god, David. You’re being so extra!” Alexis trilled and was met with a return growl from David. 

“Well, as long as you’re ok. Think I can help you get ready for your big meeting with The Duke tonight?”

“Yes, please.” He got himself to a sitting position and took Ted’s hand to steady himself while he stood. 

What no one realized was that Johnny had arranged for David to meet with someone else that night: The Duke, Sebastien Raine. He was being brought in as an investor to turn the Moulin Rouge into a theater, set to finance the show if everything went according to plan. 

In all the confusion, though, David only knew he was meeting a potential investor and he believed that investor to be Patrick. 

Back in his dressing room David straightened his hair, adding a bit of extra product to keep it in place. Twyla had helped him choose the perfect outfit to seduce The Duke: a custom-tailored red suit that fit his body like a second skin. Under the jacket he wore a white waistcoat with mother of pearl buttons and a crisp white shirt with tiny roses on the lapels. It screamed sex appeal and had the added benefit of being simple to remove. He didn’t plan to wear it for very long that evening, after all. 


After the hustle and bustle of the show I found myself escorted to a rather large elephant-shaped structure in the courtyard of the Moulin Rouge. It was decorated in the most modern style, and, if the interior was to be believed, it served as something of a living space. It had clean lines, black and white decor and a large open balcony looking out towards the city. I stared at the Eiffel Tower in the distance while I waited for David to show up. My nerves were buzzing. How was I supposed to stay focused on presenting my writing in his presence?

“I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.” I whirled around at the sound of his voice. My god. That suit certainly wasn’t doing anything for my focus. 

“Do you mind if I change into something more comfortable?” he asked.

“Of course not. Please. I’ll just, um, wait here.” I gripped my hat over my waist, not wanting to expose how I was reacting to him, and turned back to the window. Surely my heartbeat should require medical attention at this point. Come on, Patrick . In through the nose, out through the mouth. Or was it the other way around? 

“Can I interest you in a bite to eat?” I turned back around and suddenly wished he’d stayed in the suit. Now he was wearing a black silk robe and gesturing toward a bar cart loaded up with champagne, fruit, cheese and bread. 

“Uh, actually, I was just sort of hoping to get this next bit over with.” 

“Oh!” His eyes went wide and he made a small huff of surprise before putting a hand on his hip, “Very well then.” 

His tone was practiced and husky as he raised an eyebrow before sprawling on the luxurious bedspread and patting the space beside him. “Why don’t we get this over with?” 

I willed my brain to cooperate, but it was quite impossible with this god of a human lying about like he wanted me to take him apart. Not that I didn’t want that, but now was not the time. I couldn’t do it; I had to turn away. There was no way on earth I could stare at him and say what I was thinking. 

“Is everything alright?” 

“Um, yes. It’s just I’m a bit nervous and it’s taking a bit for the, uh, inspiration to happen. For–for my poetry.” I snuck a glance back at him and saw his eyes dancing with glee. 

In one swift movement he was off the bed, whirling me toward him. “Let daddy help,” he breathed before pressing a hand to my crotch and pressing his lips to mine. The sensation of it all was too much and I felt overloaded with pleasure and confusion. The obligation of what I was here to do was swirling, tangled with the need of what I wanted to do. He walked us backward toward the bed and pushed me down for a soft, plush landing. His mouth was everywhere, his hands unbuttoning my jacket and going straight away for my trousers.

“This is very poetic, don’t you think? Patrick, I need your words. Now.

Somehow that was what I needed to shove him off and stand, reciting the words that came to me for him. “I call you when I need you, my heart’s on fire.” 

He looked utterly confused. “Is this what you want?” I asked. 

“Mmhmm, yes. Please continue.” He laid on the bed, propping his chin in his hands, looking gorgeous. 

“Ok.” Deep breath, Patrick. “You come to me wild and wired. You come to me, give me everything I need.”

“Ungh, yes!” He moaned like I was reading to him from the Kama Sutra and rubbing a hand along the back of his thigh. 

For some reason, at that moment, the words turned to a more lyrical flow and emerged as a song for him: “Give me a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams. You speak the language of love like you know what it means. And it can’t be wrong. Take my heart and make it strong, babe.

He had stopped now and was looking at me like I’d revealed some deep secret of the universe. I held my hand out, inviting him to stand with me. He graciously accepted and his eyes were wide and vulnerable when they looked down at me.

You’re simply the best, better than all the rest. Better than anyone, anyone I’ve ever met. I’m stuck on your heart. I hang on every word you say. ” He swayed with me through the final words and I was certain I could feel his heartbeat through the thin material separating us. David wrapped his hand around the back of my head, pulling me in for a kiss. It had a different feel than before. It wasn’t frantic or needy but warm and revealing all the same. It left me breathless when he pulled back.

“I can’t believe it,” his voice light and breathy. “I’m in love.” In love?!  

“I’m in love with a young, handsome, talented Duke,” he gushed.

“A Duke?” Now I was the confused one.

David smirked, “Not that the title’s important.”

“I’m not a Duke.”

“Not a Duke?” he arched an eyebrow in question.

“I’m actually a writer.”

His face turned sour and he nearly dropped me, “A writer?!” 

“Yes, a writer.”

David let go of me altogether and shook his head, hands to his temples. “No, no, no! This can’t be.”

“Well, Stevie –”

“Ugh, Stevie! I should have known. Stevie never helps.” He let out an exasperated huff. “If you’re a writer then that means ... oh fuck!” 

David opened his door revealing Johnny and another man standing on the other side before slamming it shut. “Oh my god, it’s him. You need to hide!”

“What?!”

“Never mind, just hide. Now! ” he hissed. 

Just in time, I managed to scramble to a small alcove near the window. Johnny opened the door. In the years to come I’d never be able to figure out how I wasn’t discovered there. The sound of my pounding heart seemed like it was broadcasting to the entire city. 

“Son, are you decent?” 

“Y-yes. Yep. Mmhmm.” David casually put a hand on his hip, attempting to make himself as relaxed as possible given the circumstances. 

“Wonderful! David, meet The Duke, Sebastien Raine.” 

Sebastien stepped forward to kiss David’s hand, “The pleasure is all mine.” I couldn’t help the sick feeling churning in my stomach, hearing it all happen across the room. Especially the flirtatious giggles that David was making, just like he had to me. In my head I knew what David was. He was a performer, meant to make men and women alike believe what they wanted to believe. He was there for the happiness of others, ultimately. 

“Well, I’ll just leave you two to get acquainted. I’m sure our David will take good care of you. Not that you need– I’ll just be on my way.” Johnny tipped his head to the two men before turning to go, closing the door behind him. 

“That was quite a performance, David. Can I get you a drink?”

David preened under the attention and batted his eyelashes, “Yes, that would be lovely. Thank you.” He accepted the champagne flute and perched on the edge of the bed, legs crossed. It was at that moment my body decided to betray me with a cough. 

“What was that?” Sebastien asked suspiciously. 

David gave a little laugh, “Nothing. It was nothing.”

“Are you sure? I could have sworn I heard something.” Sebastien’s eyes were flitting about trying to locate the source of the sound. 

David lunged forward, grabbing at his lapels. “Come. Make love to me. That’s what you want, isn’t it?” 

Sebastien seemed to be caught off guard, but it didn’t take long for him to melt into David’s embrace. I did my best to think of anything else while having to listen to David make an absolute show of kissing the other man. Not unlike what he’d done with me not even an hour before. I peered slightly around the corner, trying to see if I could slip out unnoticed. David caught my gaze and I couldn’t help the uncomfortable look on my face. He made a motion for me to retreat. 

“Sebastien, we should wait!” 

“Wait?!” he lifted off David, clouded in confusion. 

David shifted upright, scooting off the bed. “Yes, we should wait until opening night of the show! It’ll be so much better.” He grabbed the other man’s arm and all but shoved him out the door. 

“But, I don’t understand. I just got here–”

“Go! You must go. There’s so much to do!” David pushed him into the hallway, slamming the door shut and collapsing against it. 

Deciding it was safe to emerge now, I cautiously walked out to him. “Thank you. You didn’t have to do that.”

There was a fire burning in his eyes, irritation pouring off of him as he stalked over to me. “No, I didn’t! Do you have any idea what would have happened if–” And I recognized the signs this time: the sharp inhale, eyes rolling back before he collapsed forward into my arms. 

“David? David!” I was shaking him in an attempt to get any sort of reaction. There was nothing and he was getting quite heavy. I had to drag him back to the bed and collapsed on top of him from fatigue. And then, when I thought the night couldn’t get any worse, I heard the click of the door opening and saw Sebastien come back in. 

“Excuse me, I forgot my hat–” and his voice hitched, giving me a glare that could kill. 

I froze, realizing David and I were both caught.

Chapter Text

“What exactly is going on here?” The Duke’s tone was low and suspicious. I scrambled to my feet and was trying to stammer my way through an answer when David rustled awake.

“Oh, you’re back. We were just–we were rehearsing.” It amazed me how fast he could turn from himself into his persona, even in his current state. 

“Rehearsing?” Sebastien snorted. “You expect me to believe that, in the middle of the night, you two were rehearsing?!”

“Oh, hello!” Johnny rushed in. “Is everything alright? I was just passing by and heard the commotion.” His eyes went wide taking in the scene before him. 

“It’s okay, Father. Sebastien knows all about the emergency rehearsal .” David gave Johnny a pointed look to make him understand.

“Emergency rehearsal. Y-yes, of course.” As if on cue, Johnny was quickly joined by Stevie and the rest of the group, including Alexis. 

“Evening, evening! Perfect time for a rehearsal, isn’t it?” Stevie chimed in.

If you had asked me just days before what I thought I would be doing in Paris, never in a million years would I have guessed this scenario. I’d wandered off from home to live a penniless existence writing and trying to make something of myself. I certainly hadn’t expected to find myself in the middle of a love triangle with a group of Bohemian misfits writing for the Moulin Rouge. 

Sebastien took a seat among the chaos, looking pointedly at Johnny. “Listen, this is all very interesting. But I won’t be played for a fool. You want me to invest. What’s the story?”

“Oh, yes. The story, of course. Well, the story is, uh- Stevie? Why don’t you tell us what the story is?”

Stevie snapped her head forward, ready to spin a tale for Sebastien. “Well, it’s a story set in Switzerland–”

“England!” I leapt in without thinking. “It’s set in England. It’s the story of a handsome socialite. His land is being invaded by an evil king. And to save his people he has to marry the evil king. Before they can marry, he meets a penniless ... guitar player. But he’s going to be performing in a show, so he doesn’t look penniless and the socialite falls in love with him .” I looked at David. “The guitar player wasn’t trying to trick him or anything. Anyway, they have to hide their affair to keep everyone from finding out.”

David looked sympathetic to the story I was spinning, though it wasn't much of a story at all, and I hope he caught my meaning. 

Jake cut in, “I will play the role of the devilishly handsome guitar player.” 

“And I,” Stevie stated, “will play the role of the magical guitar who only speaks the truth.”

Sebastien’s eyes lit up with interest, “And let me guess, you give the game away?”

“Yes!” She was obviously delighted to be a part of this charade.

“Oh!” Alexis clapped with excitement. “We can get Miguel to play the evil king!”  Ted’s face turned sour at the mention of Miguel, but he said nothing about her suggestion. 

“Generally,” Sebastien drawled, “I like it. Rose! Let’s go to your office and figure out the details.” Johnny’s face lit up as his dream materialized before his very eyes. 

“Yes, let’s do that. Please come with me.” He led Sebastien to the hallway, winking back toward the rest of us, who were already celebrating. 

“Oh my god, David. Where–” Alexis looked at me, “did you ever find this cute little button face?”

“Alexis, choke on a cork please. This is Patrick. And he will be writing the show.” Alexis was suddenly beside me, wrapping her silk scarf around my neck.

“Well, welcome to the show Patrick.” I looked to David for advice on how to get out of this. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t have him thinking I was interested in what Alexis was offering either. 

Ted saved me, clearing his throat loudly. “Alexis, would you take a walk with me?”

She shimmied her shoulders, immediately forgetting me in favor of Ted. “Yes! Love that for us.” She paused in front of David, either not knowing or not caring that we could all hear. 

“He’s a cute little button, David. Don’t mess this up!” He gesticulated wildly with his hands like he couldn’t believe what she had just said to him before she walked off with Ted. 

“Patrick!” Stevie beckoned. “Coming to celebrate with us?” Honestly, she looked and smelled like she had already been celebrating for hours. 

“Yeah, I’ll be there in a moment.” 

“Jocelyn, Jake, come on!” She waved an unsteady hand toward the remaining crowd, motioning for them to follow her. And then, just as before, it was only me and David. 

“Thank you for that. You, um, really saved everything tonight.” He fidgeted with his hands, trying to make himself appear casual.

“You’re welcome, David. Like, I said I think it’s going to be quite a show. I’m very glad to be a part of it.” 

His cheeks flushed and he seemed to be looking anywhere but at me. 

“Can I ask you a question?” There’s something I needed to know before I left. 

His eyebrows raised, clearly curious. “Please do.” 

“Umm, before, when you said–when you said that you loved me. Was it–”

“Was it just an act?” And the question was so casual it seemed like it had been asked and answered a thousand times before. I could feel my face heat up in embarrassment before I could even verbally respond. 

“Well, yeah. Was it?”

A funny little smirk crossed his face. “Of course.”

I stuffed my hands in my pockets and looked away in a terrible attempt to hide my disappointment. “Oh, okay. It just seemed so … real.”

“I told you before, I’m paid to be who people want me to be. I can’t afford to feel anything real.”

“That sounds terrible.” My heart ached for him. I longed to feel some bigger connection with the world. I couldn’t imagine having to barricade my feelings behind a façade of showmanship. 

No,” his voice became defensive, “what’s terrible, Patrick, is being seen and vulnerable. To put yourself out there only to be trampled time and time again. That is terrible.”

“If you say so.”

“I do!” He huffed in irritation, crossing his arms across his chest, and turned away. 

I could tell there was nothing more to be said tonight. “Goodnight, David. I’ll see you around?”

“Yes, I suppose you will. Goodnight, Patrick.”


I had promised Stevie that I would track her and the rest of the group down but I just couldn’t after my talk with David. I sat in my room as the celebration raged upstairs and couldn’t get him out of my head. It was silly to think it, but I wondered if he was thinking about me, too. 

If I looked just so I could see the blades of the infamous red windmill spinning in the night. Had it really all been an act? 

In certain moments it felt like I had seen small glimpses of authenticity from him. Moments when he let his defenses down, even for just a fraction of a second. I couldn’t think of that now, though. Rehearsals would be starting and I would need to focus everything into completing the script. Perhaps I could understand what he’d said about not being allowed to feel. 


Meanwhile Johnny had gotten much more in The Duke than he had bargained for. They had calmly debated the terms of the contract in Johnny’s office, but The Duke had one more thing in mind.

“Everything looks in order, Rose. I’m just going to need one thing added to the contract.”

“Oh, of course. What can I do for you?”

Sebastien fidgeted with the hat in his lap, a nervous tic showing his agitation. He was bent on getting this part of the deal and would happily walk away if he didn’t. “If I’m to invest and finance your little show I’m going to need a guarantee. Something that ties David exclusively to me.”

“Excuse me? I think David would probably have something to say about that.”

“I have the means to turn the Moulin Rouge into a theater. I can take care of David, make sure he’s treated like the star he is. But, if I’m to do that I need to know that I’m the only one investing my time in him. I require the deed to the Moulin Rouge. It’s not that I’m jealous, I just don’t like other people touching my things!” Sebastien let out a forceful exhale to calm himself and raised his eyes to meet Johnny’s. “Do you understand?”

Johnny was nervous but felt like he didn’t have a choice. Sebastien had been the first to show such interest in advancing the plan of transforming the Moulin Rouge to a respectable theater. He knew the times were changing and people wouldn’t be flocking to clubs like his forever. “I understand completely. I’d be happy to accommodate that.”

After making the modifications, Johnny signed the contract with a flourish of his pen and pushed it toward Sebastien. 

“Glad we understand each other, Rose.” Sebastien added his signature before he leaned back with a satisfied look on his face. “I’m looking forward to doing business with you.”

Johnny nodded slowly and tried to contain his misgivings. “Yes. It’s certainly shaping up to be quite the adventure.” He swallowed nervously, wondering how on earth he was going to explain this to David.

Chapter Text

The next morning found David more quickly than he would have liked. He had stayed up late into the night thinking about Patrick and what he’d said: that it was terrible to not be able to feel anything real. Oh, and that pitiful look when David told him that his admission of love was all an act? Devastating. Especially since David wasn’t entirely truthful. From the time Patrick had kissed his hand David knew there was something different about him. As much as David was usually able to tuck all his feelings away, even he couldn’t hide his reaction to the tingle he’d felt. When Patrick had so casually admitted on the dance floor that he wanted to know David, well … People gave David gifts and courted him long enough to get him in the bedroom but that was usually the extent of it. 

He had long ago learned how to turn his emotions on and off to suit whatever situation he was in. He supposed it stemmed from his childhood and constantly being told that his father was building something, so best not to complain that no one was ever around. His mother had been just as bad; she used all of his father’s contacts to stay relevant for her own productions. 

Until Stevie had come along, his closest companions had been the parade of nannies and caretakers his parents had employed. She was the niece of one of their housekeepers. They had become fast friends, running around the estate and doing their best to avoid Alexis. In their teenage years they had taken their relationship to a physical level until they figured out that they would be better as friends. Through the years, Stevie had helped make his life survivable and always pushed him to do more when he insisted he couldn’t. 

Alexis was a whole different story. She had gone from an annoying little sister always getting into his things to a young woman getting herself into trouble all over the globe. Yet, no matter how annoyed he claimed to be, he would always drop everything and run after her when she called. When he started his own act at the Moulin Rouge, he did everything in his power to keep her grounded so he wouldn’t have to go chasing after her and compromise the one lifeline he had to their parent’s affection. 

A soft knock on the door broke David from his thoughts. He opened it and found Stevie on the other side, looking just a little worse for wear. “Well, good morning to you.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Do you have coffee?” She walked past him and started pawing through his cupboards. 

“Please, help yourself,” he mumbled, shutting the door. He put a tea kettle on to boil while she dug out the coffee beans. 

“So, you smell very flammable right now. Good night, then?”

She shot him an irritated look. “Yes, as a matter of fact. I never saw Patrick show up, so am I to assume you also had a good night?”

“Well, that’s presumptuous. And, no, you may not. He left a few minutes after you did. Nothing happened.” David looked out the window, bracing himself for the incoming interrogation.

“And why the hell not? I would have thought you would have been all over that.” Stevie had a hand on one hip, the other against the counter, waiting for an answer. 

“He’s handsome and all, in an understated kind of way, I guess. But he’s writing for the show so that doesn’t really work.” 

“I guess. What’s wrong with having a little fun along the way? Nothing saying you can’t mix business and pleasure.”

“Mmhmm.” David carefully weighed what he was about to say, fidgeting with his coffee cup. “It’s just, last night when we were dancing. He said he wants to get to know me and later he said how it’s terrible that I keep myself hidden from everyone. Who does that?”

She looked at him with fondness in her eyes. “Good people. People that aren’t like us or anyone we’re used to.” Stevie paused for a moment, “But just because he’s different doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.”

“Maybe. But I don’t know anything about him. What if he’s just going to take off after the show is written and done with?”

“And what if he doesn’t? David, I’ve known you most of our lives. Patrick may have only just shown up, but I think in his own way he’s just as scared as you are. I saw the man I sent to convince you about the show and the one who convinced The Duke to invest last night. I saw him and I’ve seen the way everyone else looks at you. And I’m telling you David that he’s got heart eyes for days for you. He’s not going anywhere unless you push him away.” 

If that wasn’t the scariest thing he’d ever heard, he wasn’t sure what was. 

Stevie continued, “All I’m saying is maybe get to know him a little bit. Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think.”

He was still a bit skeptical. “Mmhmm, maybe.”


I woke up with the rising sun having no idea how I’d even fallen asleep with the celebrations happening above me. Not to mention all the thoughts of David invading every time I tried to fall asleep. This show was going to be the death of me if I had to be around him all the time: Being able to observe but not touch. Having to watch him play up his emotions for everyone else without being able to express my own. I hadn’t even been in Paris for a full day and everything in my life had been turned upside down. 

Back home I had felt like I’d been wandering aimlessly. I had helped on my parent’s farm, spent time with friends, gone to church, and spent endless hours at my typewriter daydreaming about the sort of life I wanted for myself. Often, I would just start off with the premise of ‘not this.’ I didn’t know what I was hoping to find, exactly. I just knew that the life I was living felt far too small for all my ideas. When I had heard about all the artists, writers, singers, and painters living the Bohemian dream in Paris, I knew I had to go. My parents tried to warn me against it. They begged me to stay, but I knew I would only be miserable. The restlessness within me couldn’t be calmed. 

So here I was in Paris, ready to live out all those unspoken dreams. Never would I have guessed they would include someone like David. Attraction to men was nothing new for me; I had courted one or two at home, but I’d never found that spark I was looking for. There was no one that ever made my heart sing. No one I could see living out the rest of my days with and having the sort of fondness I’d seen between my mother and father. I could only conclude that my heart was waiting for David and he was somehow responsible for pulling me here. 

*

Once I got started it didn’t take long for a skeleton of the script to take shape. The mere suggestions from last night, merged with my personal feelings, made it so the words almost wrote themselves. Only when the sun started to set did I realize I had been so distracted I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. 

I vaguely recalled a small café close to the Moulin Rouge. Since I was writing a show for the club, it struck me as a good idea to stop there for a small bite to eat and take in another performance. It had absolutely nothing to do with wanting to see David again. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself, hoping if I repeated it enough I would eventually believe it. I didn’t have Jake’s suit at my disposal, but I could look respectable enough in my own clothes to hide among the crowd. 

The café turned out to be just what I needed to fill my belly and fuel my night ahead. The tea with bread and cheese somehow managed to comfort my nerves. I was going to need it since I was traveling alone and didn’t have the energy of the group to bolster my confidence. 

The club was no less a sensory overload than it had been the night before. My eyes and ears endured an absolute assault from its sights and sounds. I found a spot by a post on the outskirts of the dance floor that was perfect for taking everything in while remaining anonymous. It was one time I could appreciate my nondescript features, which allowed me to blend in. 

I hadn’t realized how much I was looking forward to David’s appearance until I felt a tingle up my spine when the lights and music cut out in favor of the single spotlight and rose petals. Tonight, he was wearing black trousers, cut off just above the ankle, with a satin strip along the outer seam of each leg. They were a slim cut that accentuated his tall, slender figure. His top was a short-sleeved black number with tiny roses stitched on the lapels and a V-shaped notch just exposing a dusting of hair on his chest. He wore a short, black scarf tied around his neck that perfectly matched the striping on his trousers. He was just as engaging as he had been last night. It was truly an art how he was able to flip the switch from David the man to The Rose

It was probably just my imagination, but his eyes seemed to be searching the crowd, and I couldn't help but selfishly wonder if it was me he was hoping to find. This gave being hidden an extra thrill. From my secret spot I watched him flit from person to person: men, women, it seemed it was all the same to him and them. When he perched back on his swing, I found I was unconsciously holding my breath until he was safely out of view and my mind decided he was okay. 

The club would be closing soon, so I decided it was time to make my way out before the rush of bodies coming to a similar conclusion. The night air was refreshing and helped perk me up enough for the walk home. 

“Shouldn’t you be squirreled away writing somewhere?” a teasing voice came from behind me. I didn’t need to look to know who it belonged to, but I turned anyway. I certainly wasn’t going to refuse him an audience. Especially when he managed to look so good just casually leaning against the entry gate. 

“I wouldn’t be a very good writer if I didn’t research, now would I?” 

“No, I suppose you wouldn’t. What could you possibly need to research that you didn’t see last night?”

I shrugged my shoulders in feigned indifference. “Who’s to say I wouldn’t be seeing something new tonight? I needed to be absolutely sure.”

He studied me for a moment, “Well, now you know. Did you see everything you needed to see?”

“Maybe. Or maybe I haven’t. Perhaps I need to come back tomorrow to be extra certain.”

“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary, Mr. Brewer. It’s all the same, night after night. The same Old Money traipsing in looking for whatever thrill gets them off that night.”

“Is that so?”

“Indeed it is.”

“And what of me?” I took a step toward him, enjoying the way his eyes widened for a moment. “I’m not Old Money. I’m not even New Money. What do people like me do in a place like this?” I was incredibly anxious to hear what he would come up with. For some reason I couldn’t stop myself from poking at him just to know what he would say. 

His face went through a series of expressions while he thought. He pushed off the gate and stepped toward me when he was ready to speak. “People like you, Mr. Brewer, come here for much the same reasons, I suppose. But also not the same reasons at all. You’re here to blend in among the rich and figure out why you’re here. They are trying to add a spark to their boring, meaningless lives. To get away from their wives and children and just escape. You, on the other hand, are going after something. Chasing. You know there’s something more for you, but you haven’t quite pinned it down yet. So you’re testing, sampling, seeing what you want.” 

I stepped toward him again, nearly closing the gap between us. Then I looked at him with intent, so there was no mistaking what I was about to say. “What if I already know what I want?” 

And there it was again. The same look as the night before; like I was peering into his very soul. “Impossible.” His voice was barely above a whisper. 

“Is it?” His face told me there were warring emotions in his mind. I shifted ever so slightly forward, imperceptible if he hadn’t been watching for it, the way I knew he was. I was giving him a chance to back away if he wanted but I knew that he wouldn’t. When he didn’t, I leaned forward, sealing my mouth against his, my hand twisting into the short hair at the back of his head, eliciting a small whine. I tugged him closer to deepen the kiss, pushing my tongue against the seam of his lips. He let me in easily, sliding his tongue against mine, inviting me for more. It ached when he pulled back, leaving me feeling slightly breathless.

“Not here.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“I refuse to go any further without a proper room. Come to my flat. Show me where all your research has gotten you.” Orange hues from the surrounding lighting reflected the fiery want in his eyes. If I had to guess I probably wore a similar look, eager to discover more of him.

“I’d be delighted, David. Lead the way.” 

*

The second the front door closed he had me pinned against it, kissing me frantically. His tongue searched for mine and I was all too happy to oblige. I tried to slip my hands under his shirt but he was quick to grab me, holding my wrists in place. He shifted to press tiny kisses along my jawline, into the hollow of my throat, nipping lightly against my collarbone and dragging his teeth across my skin. He sank to his knees in front of me, rubbing his hands along my thighs. He paused only for a moment before making quick work of unfastening my trousers and shoving them down. 

David paused, like a sailor studying a map, hands gripping my hips. “Do you know how beautiful you are?” Before I could answer he flattened his tongue, licking the underside of my cock and teasing the head. I whined at the sensation of him flicking lightly over the slit, leaving me wanting more. He pulled off to press featherlight kisses to either side, rubbing his nose along the creases where my legs and hips met. 

“David, please,” I begged. 

“Please what, Patrick?” He looked up at me through dark, full lashes and the teasing smirk on his face was nearly enough to push me over the edge.

“Please suck me.” I barely recognized the sound of my own voice, dripping with need between ragged breaths. He hummed in delight before wrapping his lush, pink lips back around the head taking me in until I hit the back of his throat. He looked gorgeous moving back and forth, dedicated to what he was doing and drooling slightly. I twisted my fingers into his perfect hair and that seemed to spur him on. It was almost too much and I found myself fighting the urge to thrust forward to fuck into his mouth. I knew if I did this would be over far too quickly. There weren’t words for how this felt and I wasn't ready for it to be over yet. I’d had a few turns with the men back home but nothing this–I don’t even know what. It wasn’t long before I started feeling the familiar pressure build low in my belly. It didn’t help that he was moaning enthusiastically like he was on the receiving end. 

“David, I’m going to–” He doubled down when he realized what I was going to say. 

“Fuck, David!” All the muscles in my thighs and belly clenched while I came apart inside him. Most of my past partners would have pulled off at this point, if they hadn’t pulled back at the warning. But not David. He slowed, guiding me through the aftershocks, not stopping until my sensitivity was obvious. 

“Well, Mr. Brewer, you’ve got quite the mouth on you.” 

“Let me show you just how much,” I helped pull him up and wantonly kissed the taste of myself in his mouth. I kicked my trousers and shoes away and flipped him to the door. 

He pulled at the buttons on my shirt, “Let’s lose this shall we?”

I nodded in agreement while he fumbled with the rest of them and pushed the shirt off my shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. 

“Hardly seems fair,” I said. “I’m down to nothing and here you are still fully dressed.” 

“Mmhmm,” he hummed, delicately pulling his shirt over his head before folding it neatly and placing it on a nearby shelf. Next his hands came up to untie the scarf.

I shook my head. “No, leave it.” 

His eyes widened and he looked giddy with excitement, “As you wish.” 

“Oh, I do,” I breathed into his skin, planting kisses across his chest. I licked across one attentive nipple, taking it sharply in my teeth. He cried out and it gave me a thrill to know I had him melting beneath me. His hands did their best to grasp my closely cropped hair when I moved and did the same to the other. 

“To the bed,” I commanded. I was not, by nature, a demanding person. But there was something in me that longed to do that now with David. To be a powerful presence, but not in a way that degraded him. I wanted him to understand that I was here of my own accord to worship him and let him feel safe and know he didn’t have to pretend with me. Because I was most certainly not pretending with him. 

He scampered over and laid back, his long legs hanging over the edge of the bed. Balancing my forearms to either side of him I kissed a trail down his chest and stomach, sneaking in little nips and bites around his ribs and hips. I continued on, unbuttoning his trousers. He lifted his hips so I could pull them down. I gently folded them as he’d done with his shirt and paused to take in the sight of him.

“Regrets?” the small voice came in the darkness. I looked up to see him studying me, the tiniest trace of worry on his face.

“Absolutely not. Just admiring the view.” I needed him to know he was safe here with me. I lifted myself back up to kiss him in a way that said, “I’ve got you.” I couldn’t be positive in the dim light but the soft look in his eyes told me he understood. I slid back to the edge of the bed to quickly continue my visual appreciation before licking gingerly over each side of his stiff cock. The weight of him on my tongue, when I finally wrapped my mouth around him, was an exquisite experience; one I wanted to savor. His hips bucked involuntarily and I wrapped my fist around what I couldn’t get in my mouth. I soon noticed his muscles tense and heard his breathing become more rapid. 

“Paaatrick!” he whined as he came, gripping the sheets under him before relaxing fully into the bed. I laid my head on his thigh for a few moments and wondered if this was where the night ended. God, I hoped he would ask me to stay. We laid there for minutes, days, I’m not really sure. Time felt suspended in the quiet moments after being with David Rose. 

“Do you want me to leave you now?” I asked, doing my best to hide any hints of desperation. 

“Do you want to leave?” came the soft reply.

“No.”

I could almost hear his smile in reply. “Good because I didn’t want you to, either.” He shifted in the bed so there was room for me to climb in with him. I crawled under the blanket and snuggled into the warmth of him, his head against my chest. 

“Did you find who you were looking for tonight?” I spoke into the darkness.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Tonight, when you came down to the crowd your eyes were everywhere. Like you were searching for someone.” I felt confident enough to tease him gently, “Maybe hoping someone specific had come to see the show?”

He looked up at me with a deep, searching gaze. Certainly nothing he’d ever show the public. “I should think by now you know who I was looking for.” I couldn’t help but feel a satisfied twinge hearing him tell me what I already suspected. 

“Well, you’ve found me. Now what?”

He smirked, pulling me in for a kiss. “Now what, indeed.” 

Chapter Text

David turned a bit in bed but stopped when he felt an unfamiliar sensation: the weight of someone to his left side. He cracked his eyelids open slowly and smiled to himself when he remembered. Patrick. Memories of the night before came flooding back and he felt an involuntary shiver up his spine. 

In the light of day, David took the time to study the other man. His short, dark hair, interspersed with copper highlights stood out against his pale, porcelain skin. Faint eyebrows contrasted David’s own thick, dark ones. His face had the slightest traces of light stubble, which didn’t look like it could ever become much more. Patrick’s mouth hung open slightly as he slept and his plush and pink lips invited kisses. David didn’t want to wake him, but as he looked at him he longed to trace his thumb over them before claiming Patrick’s mouth with his own.

David further reflected on the man himself. Patrick was modest and kind and seemed to have come from nowhere. He barely knew anything about Patrick, but after last night he wanted to know everything about him. What was even scarier was that he thought– maybe– that he wanted Patrick to know some about him, too. 

He thought of how confident Patrick had been walking into his space. It wasn’t something he was used to. The people in David’s orbit had confidence based on alcohol and the knowledge that they had a “sure thing” by way of a financial transaction. Patrick’s confidence seemed to stem from knowing he’d found what he wanted and could go after it. Not in an arrogant way, but in a way that he seemed to sense that David wanted him, too. And he wasn’t wrong. 

No, David wanted him. He had hoped Patrick would come to the show and felt the stab of disappointment when he didn’t see him. Then, when he saw him outside, knowing he had come, Stevie’s words came back to him and it seemed like a sign to shed at least some of his insecurities and see where things could lead. 

David hadn’t been expecting more than a conversation, even if he was secretly hoping for more. Especially once Patrick took that first step toward him. It was subtle and daring and somehow the sexiest thing anyone had ever done for him. 

“Good morning,” Patrick mumbled sleepily next to him, bringing David back to the present. 

“Good morning to you, Mr. Brewer.” He heard Patrick hum contently next to him. David decided that a sleepy Patrick Brewer was definitely something he’d like to see more of. But he didn’t want to think about what that might mean right now, so he leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead, his nose, and then his lips. Patrick leaned up into it and it wasn’t long until he was on top of David, the two of them rutting into each other’s hips. He grabbed Patrick’s delicious backside and squeezed, pulling him tighter to his own body. The moan that ripped out of Patrick’s throat, humming against him, was enough to send David right over the edge. Moments later Patrick joined him, fingernails gripping David’s shoulders. 

“Do all your guests get this kind of star treatment?” Patrick asked, breath still ragged. David winced even though he was 87% sure Patrick hadn’t meant it in a malicious way.

“Actually, no.” David stared away from Patrick. “Because nobody ever stays.”

Patrick angled his face to look at David in disbelief. “Their loss then. Obviously, they don’t know what they’re missing out on.”

It was an innocent statement but it rattled David, so he did what David does best and deflected, “I mean I am a pretty good fuck, after all.”

Patrick’s expression turned serious, his brows pinching together. When he spoke it was heartfelt, honest and left David breathless. “You know that’s not what I meant. Not even a little bit.”

It’s far too early in the morning–without having had any coffee–to be engaging in this sort of sincerity. “We better get cleaned up and find some breakfast before we get stuck together.”


When I had walked into the Moulin Rouge last night I was hoping to see David and had only anticipated doing so from a distance. I hadn’t expected to talk to him, let alone wind up in his bed and find myself there the next morning. It had been a strange feeling at first, waking up next to him. Coming out of sleep, I first became aware of his earthy, musky scent. I inhaled and felt overwhelming happiness from a yet unrecognized source. Next, I noticed the heat radiating off his skin and the solid feel of his body next to me. David.  

Waking up there seemed surreal and like being hugged in sunshine. I wanted to lay in the stillness and simply breathe him in, bask in his presence. I was so sure that if I opened my eyes the spell would be broken and I’d be plunged back into a dreary world where I could only be on the outside looking in at David Rose. But as hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop my eyes from opening and forcing time to march on. 

Even in the early moments of waking David was perfect. He was rumpled from sleep and bathed in the unguarded beauty of not holding himself back. It only added to the already intimate moment when we chased our releases against each other’s bodies. 

Afterward, I hadn’t meant what I said as anything to hurt him. I truly wasn’t expecting him to say that I was the only person to stay through the night. David was handsome and charming, not just in the way he projected to the public. Underneath all the pizazz his soft, vulnerable edges had reeled me in and made me want to know even more about him. I needed to let him know that he didn't have to put on a show for me. No lights, no makeup, just David, perfect as he is. I only hoped in time I could show him that and give him the gift of seeing it for himself. 


Several Weeks Later

With The Duke’s financing it was possible for the Moulin Rouge to stop its usual fanfare while the theater was constructed. This gave David, and everyone else, the time and energy to focus on rehearsals. David having the time to focus on the show was equally to my benefit. It made it simple to find perfectly legitimate reasons to spend more time with each other. 

I would attend every rehearsal to monitor the impact of my script and make any necessary adjustments. I would also impatiently wait for the moments when everyone took their break and David would inevitably come find me. We sometimes had meals together, but more often than not, we were magnetically drawn to each other’s bodies, taking what we could get until we would meet in the evenings. 

“Shh,” I breathed into David’s shoulder, continuing to work my slicked-up hand over his cock. We were in his dressing room with everyone milling about just on the other side of the door. Today had been exceptionally difficult to keep my hands off him. The moment we got a break I had dragged him away from everyone. I could feel he was getting close but the sounds he was making were going to give us away. I sensed that it took every ounce of effort for him to focus on biting his lip and being quiet while he came into my fist. I leaned in for a kiss to help muffle the sound and welcomed the feel of his tongue finding mine. 

“Fuck,” the exclamation was breathy and content. “What’s gotten into you today?”

“You did,” I stated like I was telling him the weather. “I watched you in your scene today, kissing Jake, and I needed to have you.” 

“Oh, did you now?” David quirked an eyebrow with an amused grin. “How jealous were you? Like a scale of one to ten. Did you sweat?” 

Not jealous. I just wanted to remind you of what will be waiting for you later.”

“Mmhmm,” he hummed. “I’ll be sure to take you up on that .”

“Noted.” I couldn’t help dropping a sweet kiss to his lips. It would be so easy to sneak away with him now and give in to everything our bodies wanted but even I wasn’t that foolish. 

The Duke had made it clear he was quite interested in David as well. At every chance he was looking to make arrangements for supper or to take him for some sort of outing. David, of course, had no idea about the deal Sebastien had made with Johnny. His father had only told him to keep wooing him since he was financing everything. Johnny made it clear that David was to keep his focus on keeping Sebastien happy.

When David got tired of finding excuses to avoid Sebastien’s invitations, he would go along with them. Sometimes I would be invited along on picnics so I could carry their gear and discuss the show. I was often conflicted about whether it was more difficult to not know what was going on between them or to see it firsthand. Since David was supposed to be buttering up Sebastien, we kept our relationship a secret. The plan was that we would wait until the dust settled after the show premiered. Needless to say, it was difficult watching him shamelessly flirt with Sebastien. Even if I knew it was for show, I was more than happy to funnel all my feelings about it into our nights together.

“We should get back out there, yeah?” I asked.

He pouted before finally conceding, waving his hand dramatically. “If we must.”

“I know. But I’ll see you tonight and kiss that worried looking face of yours and make everything better.”

“Okay,” David smiled at that and gave me a quick kiss. “You go out first and I’ll be along in a few minutes.”

“Okay, David.” I did a final check of my clothes and tried to look casual going back into the crowd. I’m not sure if anyone would believe we were doing something innocent, but I would never apologize for any time with David. I was the writer and he was the star, so that had to count for something. 


David was just coming out of his dressing room when Sebastien approached him. 

“David, how are you?” Sebastien reached out to kiss his hand. David felt himself recoil slightly but quickly remembered what he had to do.

“I am just lovely, dear Duke. How are you finding the show?” David flipped into his most bubbly persona, hoping to have a quick chat and move back to rehearsals. 

“It’s coming along quite well. That writer–”

“Patrick.” David interrupted.

“Excuse me?”

“That writer’s name is Patrick.”

Sebastien waved dismissively, “Right. Anyway, I was going to say that he’s done a fine job putting this all together. I thought maybe you could use a respite tonight?”

“Well, there’s still so much to do,” David began. He could only think of being with Patrick tonight and repaying him for what had just happened in his dressing room.

“But you’ve been working so hard lately. I’ve arranged for supper tonight. Please join me. I insist!” 

“Dear Duke, I would really love to but I’m afraid with these new scenes I must get extra practice in. Thank you so much for your kind invitation.” David gave a little wave before scurrying off toward the stage. 

Sebastien fumed and felt himself get hot with irritation. He had to find Johnny and insist David have dinner with him tonight. So far David had given him the bare minimum of his attention despite the deal he’d struck in the contract. David was always rehearsing with the group or with that damn writer. He had enough and it was time for Johnny to uphold his end of the bargain. 

“Sir?” Mutt, Sebastien’s bodyguard, had come up beside him. “Is everything alright?”

Sebastien took a deep breath, “Find Rose. Now!”

“Of course. Right away.” Mutt took off to find Johnny while Sebastien stalked back to the stage to keep an eye on David and–whatever his name was. 


“Have a good night, everyone. Tomorrow we’ll pick up on the newest scene where the lovers are discovered!” Johnny’s voice boomed through the space. 

Damn. He’d wanted to catch David to tell him about the supper with The Duke tonight, but he was already running off somewhere. As if being called by his thoughts, Sebastien showed up just then and he did not look particularly happy.

“Ahh, my dear Duke, how, uh, lovely to see you! I just wanted to let you know that everything is all set for the supper in the Gothic Tower tonight. I hope you’ll find everything to your liking.”

“You may as well eat it yourself, Rose! David has been rejecting me left and right and is insisting he has to rehearse tonight. He’s always with that–that damn writer!” 

As Sebastien spoke, movement from the balcony caught Johnny’s attention. It was none other than David heatedly kissing said damn writer. “Oh, well, um. I’ll speak to David and insist he take tonight off. He’ll be there at eight o’clock.”

Sebastien huffed an annoyed breath to center himself. “See that he is, Rose. Eight o’clock. If he’s not there this deal is done. Do you understand?”

Johnny’s insides churned. “Yes, of course. He’ll be there.”

With that Sebastien turned on his heel and stormed off. Johnny had no idea what David was doing with Patrick. What he did know was this had to be over before Sebastien figured it out for himself. Johnny took a deep breath and made his way up to the balcony. By the time he arrived Patrick was nowhere to be seen and David was alone. 

“David, son, what are you doing?”

“N–nothing. Why would you think I’m doing anything?” David fidgeted with his hands and hoped Patrick hadn’t left any incriminating marks. 

“I know you’ve got something going on with the writer. And I know because I saw you together just now.”

David became nervous about what his father was about to say. It was one thing to be told to woo The Duke, it was quite another to be (probably) told to stay away from Patrick. To stay away from the man that was claiming pieces of David’s heart one kiss at a time. 

“It’s just an infatuation really. It’s nothing.” David tried to play it off hoping it would throw Johnny off the scent, but even he didn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth.

“David, The Duke holds the deed to the Moulin Rouge. He’s giving you everything! Or at least he’s trying to. Whatever it is you two have going on stops now. I can’t have you storming over my business dealings because of some little moment of fancy!”

David’s mouth opened and shut again. He wanted to shout at his father that he’s wrong. This is more than some crush or infatuation. It’s not love– is it? –but it’s something. And David wants it to be something much more than he’s wanted anything in his life. God, does he want that. 

“Go to Patrick and tell him it’s over. The Duke is expecting you in the Gothic Tower at eight o’clock tonight.” Johnny turned and walked away from David, indicating he’d decided there was nothing more to say on the issue. 

David walked in a haze back to his flat. He wanted to rush to Patrick but decided he needed time to gather himself before he had to drop this bomb on him. 

When David stepped inside, he flopped in his favorite chair, rubbing his face in frustration. A few short weeks ago David had known nothing of Patrick. David had led a life of indulgence that served to protect him from feeling … these sorts of things. He knew batting his lashes at strangers and playing hard-to-get in a way that would make him more desirable. In little more than a day Patrick had breezed in like the first warm day after winter and shattered all that. 

Until being confronted with it today, David had been loath to call his feelings what they were: love. In the past he’d fallen too hard and too fast only to be hurt time and time again. He was teased and laughed at and told he was too much. Patrick teased and laughed, but in the most loving way David had ever experienced. He burrowed into all the hurt, empty spaces of David and filled him up with love and laughter. And– god –the way Patrick looked at him. His big, brown heart eyes that looked at David like he’d hung the moon. 

It took feeling the wet spot form on his hand to notice that he was crying. The realization seemed to open a floodgate of emotions and make him weep that much harder. David’s chest tightened and he felt the breath leave him. His hands felt tingly and darkness crept in around the edges of his vision. He gripped the arms of the chair, trying to focus on keeping his breath even. 

It was all too much: the show, his father, Sebastien, Patrick. The repercussions were too much and David felt his breathing becoming more rapid and shallow before his vision blacked out. He slumped into his chair which is where he found himself well past eight, with his father and Stevie hovering over him.

Chapter Text

The Gothic Tower was an ornate building that sat adjacent to the Moulin Rouge. Its purpose was to offer more privacy for the club’s highest paying patrons. Built in a Gothic Revival style, it loomed dark and ominous, its multiple arched windows offering a fantastic view of the grounds and beyond. The interior featured gargoyles, beautiful artwork and large candelabras providing intimate lighting. All of the furniture was made of the deepest stained wood finished to a high-lacquered shine and complemented by the most luxurious fabrics. 

The Duke had been staying in the tower since he had signed on as an investor. The staff provided every luxury he could ask for: decadent food and wine, books, music and the most desirable companions to satisfy him until he could win David over. 

Tonight, he was pacing back and forth while he waited for David to arrive. It was already a quarter past eight and he still hadn’t arrived, though the table was set for two and several bottles of the finest wine available stood waiting. There were soups, breads, vegetables and fish. Everything except David. 

Sebastien became increasingly irritated with each instance of the staff skirting their way around him. He had invested a great deal of money so far and did not relish the possibility that he might need to cut his losses. The idea of leaving the project in shambles didn’t bother him in the least. What did bother him was David denying him. He was the entire reason Sebastien had become interested in renovating the Moulin Rouge. When he had caught wind of the gossip that Johnny Rose wanted to develop it, he dropped everything he was doing to pursue the project. He had admired David Rose for far too long. Seeing him in the flesh only fueled his lust. He was willing to bide his time if he had to, but he longed to take David to bed and absolutely ruin him. 

The sound of the doors pulled him from his thoughts. Instead of David, he found Mutt standing with Johnny and he didn’t try to contain the sneer that came across his face. “Where is David?”

Johnny was nervous but did his best to hide it. All he knew was David was unconscious in his flat. He had left Stevie to keep watch over him in case he woke up and directed her to call for Ted if things got worse. 

“My dear Duke. I’m terribly sorry. David is—” Johnny paused. “He’s gone to confess.”

Sebastien’s jaw dropped in disbelief. “Confess? What kind of game are you running here, Rose?”

“N-no game. He knew how important this night was and felt the sudden need to confess to a priest. He said he felt like tonight was like his wedding night and he wanted to feel completely clear to be with you.” 

Johnny saw a flicker in Sebastien’s eyes that made him believe he was buying what he was saying. “He said you make him feel,”— Johnny’s tone dropped, low and reverent— “like a virgin.”

Sebastien’s eyes practically sparkled in response. “Like a ... virgin?”

“Yes. He wanted to absolve everything of his old life to clear his conscience.” Johnny watched Sebastien’s chest puff with pride as he considered what he’d been told. 

Sebastien made an irritated growl before he finally spoke. “Alright then. If you insist that’s what happened I’ll keep waiting. But not for much longer, Rose.” 

Johnny breathed a sigh of relief that he hadn’t realized he was holding. “I do appreciate your patience. Is there anything we can get you?” he asked hesitantly. 

“Any young man you can find to keep me company tonight.” He waved to dismiss Johnny. “That will be all, Rose. Until tomorrow.” 

“Of course. Anything we can do to improve your stay.” Johnny felt himself relax and quickly walked off to fulfill the request. He wanted to return to David and Stevie as quickly as possible and hoped nothing had gotten worse.


It was well past time for David to arrive when I realized I couldn’t ignore my restlessness anymore. He had always come so it was unusual to find myself waiting. The rational parts of me assumed there was a perfectly good reason, maybe something had happened with Alexis or Stevie. A much darker part of me thought of all the outings with The Duke and felt something else entirely—the cold stab of jealousy trying to rise to the surface.

I had nothing else to do but pace and drive myself mad thinking about it, so I finally decided to go to David. I used the walk to his flat to work out my feelings so that I didn’t say anything hurtful. The entire situation was new to me, not just the prospect of David not showing up that night. I had never experienced anything in life the way I experienced David Rose. He was a cold drink on a hot day, a lantern in the darkness, a sanctuary in a world of chaos. He was the answer to all of my attempts to answer ‘not this’. 

I suppose I had known what was happening but hadn’t taken the time to specifically name it. I was so absorbed by enjoying the warmth of David’s sun that I hadn’t acknowledged how undeniably in love with him I was. At times it simply felt like something that had always been. Like we had been together in prior lives and had finally found our way back to each other in this one. 

When I arrived at his flat I was shocked to open the door and find Johnny and Stevie already there. David was sitting up in bed while Stevie sat on the edge. Johnny sat in a nearby chair, half dozing. I rushed over and sat opposite Stevie, taking David’s hand in mine and placing a kiss on his forehead.

“David, what’s wrong? What happened?” I immediately felt guilty over imagining anything happening between him and the Duke. His face did something strange before turning to Stevie.

“Stevie, would you mind taking him home? We need to talk about some things.” David spoke quietly and motioned over to his father.

“Of course.” She looked at me sympathetically and I couldn’t fathom what might be coming. “Come on, Mr. Rose. Let’s get you home.”

Johnny let out a snuffling sound from his seat, “What? Hm? Oh, hi there Patrick. Nice to see you.” He rose from his chair and stretched before following Stevie out. 

When the door clicked shut behind them David looked at me, his eyes searching for answers. He finally looked down at his hands, his voice small. “We have to end it.”

If I hadn’t been waiting for him to speak I’m not sure I would have heard what he said. “What?”

“My father, he saw us on the balcony today. He made it very clear that I was to stop seeing you. That it could mess everything up with the Duke’s investment.”

I shook my head and tilted his chin up so I could look at him. “David, we already knew that. If we need to be more careful then that’s what we’ll do. I can be whatever you need me to be.”

“You don’t understand, Patri–” His voice broke and his eyes were rimmed with tears. David swallowed and continued when he composed himself. “I’m going to have to sleep with him sooner or later and you won’t be able to handle it. The jealousy will be too much. And I could never hurt you like that.” 

I shifted in the bed so I was right next to him, holding both of his hands in mine. “David, no. I won’t. I can’t. I just found you.” I took a centering breath. “Do you remember the song I sang to you that first night?”

“Of course,” he let out a wet laugh. “I think about it every day. It was so ridiculous I couldn’t help but be charmed by you.” 

My heart felt like it exploded at David’s admission. “I think about it, too, and it means more every single day. But that one’s just for us. So, I’m going to write you a new one and put it in the show. That way any time you sing it or hum it you’ll be reminded of how much I love you.” 

David’s eyes grew wide and his response came out in a whisper, “What did you just say?”

“I said I’m writing us a new song for the show.”

“No, the other thing you said.”

I smiled fondly at him. “I said I love you, David. I’m not saying it so you’ll let me stay. Or so you’ll say it back to me. You say it when you’re ready. It felt right in the moment and I needed you to know.”

“Patrick, it’s not that easy! You can’t just write that into the show and make everything okay.” David’s hands flew all over as he spoke.

“Are we still talking about the song here?” I teased.

“That’s not fair. You know I’m not,” he huffed, crossing his arms and rolling his eyes. “I’m just afraid it won’t be enough. That you’re going to get jealous.”

I didn’t know how to respond. No matter what I said now there was no way to guarantee how I would feel when the time came. The only thing I knew for certain was I couldn’t lose David, not yet. Not ever. I did the only thing I could think to do at the moment. I snuggled in closer to him and started singing.

Each time you leave me I start losing control

You’re walking away with my heart and my soul

I can feel you even when I’m alone

Oh baby don’t let go.

I felt David shift next to me and say something, but it was so quiet I couldn’t make it out.

“What was that?” I turned to look at him and found he was already looking at me, his gaze soft and vulnerable.

“I said I love you, too.”


There, he’d said it. The world hadn’t ended and nothing awful had happened. More importantly, it was worth every second for that upside-down smile on Patrick’s face. In the beginning it felt almost blasphemous to admit how much Patrick’s smiles made his heart skip a beat (not to mention all the other ways his body responded). Now he would freely do damn near anything to see them.  

Even though David was still concerned about the long-term implications of The Duke's obsession with him, he decided that, right now, he would let himself enjoy snuggling up close to Patrick. He had experienced plenty of past lovers that tried to push the boundaries of relationships. Or who would have accepted what he said at face value and just walked away. In all his years he’d never had anyone that did what Patrick had done. Not one person who would have said ‘I’ll wait for you’. Yet here Patrick was saying exactly that, and David knew that he meant it. 

It brought up a question that had been gnawing at him. Maybe it was the security of the late-night darkness or simply Patrick’s earnestness, but it came out before he could give it too much thought. “What will you do next?”

“What do you mean?”

“When the show’s over, what happens then? Where will you go?” The silence that filled the space between them ate at David. It was not their usual silence, which came as a result of being so comfortable with each other. It was a dreaded pause laced with unknowns. 

“Honestly, I haven’t given any thought to what happens next. I didn’t come here with any expectations and look what happened. I guess I just assumed I would be staying here with you. I mean not here –” Patrick motioned to indicate David’s flat. “But generally, here.”

“Just staying here with me?” David questioned. He’s honestly not sure why he was surprised at this point. But Patrick answered these life-altering questions like they were perfectly natural and David should already know what’s coming. He found he couldn’t hide the enormous smile on his face when Patrick finally responded.

“Do you want me to leave you now?” It was a callback to their very first night together, before either one of them knew how deep this rabbit hole would go. Except this time Patrick was looking directly at David, his gaze highlighted by the moonlight creeping in the window. David was sure that Patrick already knew what he would say, but there was a hint of searching that made him want to extinguish any doubt.

“Do you want to leave?” His heart skipped a beat when he saw the corners of Patrick’s mouth start to turn up. 

“Never, David.” 

“Never is a long time, Patrick.” David desperately tried to control the quiver of his bottom lip, the warble in his voice.

“I know.” 

David let himself sink into the comfort of the bed, still huddled to Patrick’s side, and stared up. “Tell me about it then. What we’ll do when the show is over.”

Patrick smiled and snuggled in behind David, assuming a big spoon position. “Well, once I’m done writing and the show is in full swing, you’ll be busy making everyone fall in love with you.” David let out a laugh.

“Oh, come on,” Patrick continued. “Don’t act like you don’t know how much everyone looks at you. You’re gorgeous.” He placed a kiss on David’s shoulder. “Funny.” Kiss. “Sweet and charming.” Kiss.

Patrick could practically hear David’s face twist into an acquiescing smile, “Yes, I suppose I am wildly popular. Some might even venture to call me beloved.”

“That’s a bit of a stretch. But I’ll allow it.”

“Good, now keep telling me about what happens next and how everyone adores me.” He shimmied his shoulders and Patrick huffed out an adoring laugh.

“So, while you’re busy charming everyone, I suppose I’ll need something to keep me busy. Maybe work on another show or write a book. When I’m not doing that, I’ll explore the town and venture out to the countryside for inspiration. Maybe I’ll visit farms and vineyards to see what the rest of the world does.” 

“Do you think you’ll ever want to go home?”

Patrick paused while he considered his answer, “I suppose one day I’d like to go back to where I grew up.”

David rolled over to look at Patrick, confusion displayed all over his face. “Aren’t they the same thing?”

“No, not to me. Not anymore.”

“What do you mean?” 

Patrick furrowed his brow for a moment before he spoke. “I grew up on my parent’s farm. I ran around the hills and splashed in the creek and played with the animals. I got older and made friends, watched them get married and start families. I was happy for them, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I was always waiting for something else even if I didn’t know what. I came here, to Paris, because I was excited to be a part of everything. Then I met you and that’s when I knew I’d found it.”

“Found what?” 

“Home. It’s you, David. You’re home.”

Damn this man. David felt his eyes get wet with tears, “How can you just say these things?”

“Because it’s true,” Patrick stated simply. “And you deserve that, hearing the truth. Not just what someone thinks you want to hear so they can get what they want.” 

David cupped his hand behind Patrick’s head and kissed him. It was sweet and sincere and, hopefully, conveyed everything David couldn’t find the actual words to say. “Tell me more about your adventures, please.”

“Well, since you said please.” He leaned forward to give David one more gentle kiss before he continued.

David tried to fight it, but his eyelids grew heavy while he listened to the soothing sound of Patrick’s voice. He drifted off listening to him talk about finding a wide, open space where they would build a cottage for themselves, away from the city. Patrick would write while David sketched. At their cottage with trees and a garden and a red door to spend the rest of their lives in.

Chapter Text

After months of rehearsals, waiting for sets to be built and costumes to be made it was nearly time. We had finally arrived at the day before opening night. I stood back to appreciate everything that had happened and felt a satisfactory warmth spread over me.

David and Jake were standing by on the stage, waiting for some direction to begin. The cast was preparing to do a final run through of the ending with the new song I’d written in. It had been the last thing to be added, long after everyone had their scripts, so it required extra finesse to get it right. 

I looked over at Jocelyn to make sure she and the orchestra were ready. She nodded her approval so I could begin.

“Okay, everyone. We’re going to take it from the top of the scene. David, start with your lines and we’ll go from there.”

David and Jake positioned themselves on stage, facing each other with their hands clasped. 

“He knows. The King knows! We have to end this.”

Jake raised a hand to cup David’s cheek and gazed into his eyes. “No, my love. We shall conduct our love affair right under the King’s nose.” 

I silently counted him in, tapping my fingers to my hip, while I waited for the music to begin. I would never have guessed it but Jake had a compelling singing voice. Vocally he blended beautifully with David. Time after time they executed their duet flawlessly and it never failed to give me goosebumps.

Never knew I could feel like this

Like I’ve never seen the sky before

I want to vanish inside your kiss

Every day I love you more and more

From the time I was young, music had always done something to me. Whether it was the rhythmic beat of a drum, the silky tones of a violin or the mischievous keys of a piano I always felt like my soul was responding to the sound. When I heard the orchestra mixing with both of their voices - singing the song I’d written just for David - it felt euphoric. 

Listen to my heart

Can't you hear it sings

Telling me to give you everything

Seasons may change

Winter to spring

But I love you

Until the end of time

I was so lost in everything I hadn’t even noticed Ronnie strutting over to talk to The Duke. She was a dancer in most of the scenes so we frequently had to deal with each other. For some reason, from the moment I’d arrived, she had made it very clear I was not welcome. I was never sure what I’d done to earn her indignation but it seemed that existing was cause enough. 

Come what may

Come what may

I will love you

Until my dying day

My chest swelled with pride as I listened to the closing notes and watched the finale unfold. That quickly came to an end when The Duke spoke and it became ominously clear what Ronnie had been whispering to him. 

“I don’t like this ending!” His voice was shrill and annoyed.

“Excuse me?” Stevie chirped from her position on stage.

Why would the socialite choose the penniless guitar player over the King? The guitar player,” he looked directly at me, “is only interested in satisfying his lust and will leave once he’s done. The King can offer a lifetime of security. That’s real love.”

“Because he doesn’t love you!” The words left my mouth before I could stop them and I stuttered to correct myself. “T-the King. He doesn’t love the King.” 

A silence fell over the theater and all eyes stared between me and The Duke. 

“No. Wait!” Stevie interjected, seemingly oblivious to what had just happened. “That doesn’t uphold the Bohemian values of lo-” 

“I don’t care about your ridiculous ideas! The ending will be rewritten and rehearsed in time for the opening tomorrow night,” Sebastien bellowed, cutting Stevie off and daring anyone else to counter his argument.

Johnny was the only one bold enough to offer his opinion, “My dear Duke, I don’t know how we’ll manage such a huge change to the ending in such a short time!”

I could say nothing more, too stunned at the trainwreck unfolding in front of me. David’s face went through a series of expressions like he couldn’t decide how to proceed. When he did I felt my blood run cold. His eyes softened and his lips turned in a resolute smirk. It was an expression I hadn’t seen since the night we’d met and I knew it couldn’t mean anything good. 

David held his hand up to stop his father from saying more. “Father, don’t be ridiculous. Personally, I think The Duke is being terribly mistreated here.” He narrowed his gaze and sauntered towards Sebastien.

“Why don’t you and I have a little supper tonight? Then we can let everyone know how we would prefer the show to end.” 

“Yes, let’s. I would enjoy that very much, David.” Sebastien seemed to be eating it all up. He eyed David like a hawk circling its prey. I felt every muscle in my body tense with the knowledge that I was powerless to do anything. I wanted to do everything at once: run to David, run away, punch Sebastien and scream at Ronnie for ruining everything. But all I could do was stand, frozen in place, and watch everything I’d worked for slip away. 

Ronnie took the opportunity to walk by me and gave me a knowing look before leaving the stage. It was clear she knew what she had done and would have happily done it again.


When David got back to his dressing room he exhaled heavily and shook out his hands. His heart was still pounding from what had just happened out on the stage. 

Once he had realized what action he needed to take it required every bit of self control to not look at Patrick. Even David wasn’t naïve enough to think he could have survived that. David knew that one glance would have been sufficient to crumble his resolve. Patrick’s giant heart eyes could make David do anything. 

It didn’t surprise him when, moments later, Patrick was knocking softly on the door and letting himself in. The look on his face split David’s heart in two. 

“Are you going to sleep with him?”

“You know I have to.” David turned away from Patrick.  

Patrick came up behind him and circled his arms around David’s waist. “I know. I just hoped it wasn’t true.” 

David looked up, squeezing his eyes shut in a pathetic attempt to keep the tears at bay. When he was sure he could handle it (reasonably sure anyway) he unhooked himself from Patrick’s embrace and turned to face him. “I wish it wasn’t either. But this is for us. It doesn’t mean anything. I don’t want this to affect what we have.”

Patrick only nodded, clearly trying to absorb what had been said. David felt crushed and helpless and angry all at once. He wanted to soothe away whatever was going on in Patrick’s mind even if he knew this wasn’t the sort of thing that could just be easily remedied. He leaned in close, singing softly in his ear, “Storm clouds may gather, and stars may collide. But, I love you.

David pulled back, resting his forehead against Patrick’s and let himself get lost in the honey-brown pools looking up at him. If he hadn’t been looking straight at him he might not have heard the reply, “I love you.” 

They stayed like that until Patrick pulled away, regretfully. “I should let you get ready. For tonight. Should I send Twyla in?” 

“Yes, please.” David choked back a sob when Patrick gave his hand a quick squeeze and let go.

“Since you said please.” Patrick smiled at David in a way that didn't reach his eyes. 

David knew Patrick was trying to be brave for both of them and it nearly broke him. Having to sleep with Sebastien was ultimately for the good of everything: the show and Patrick. But he also knew he had been playing a dangerous game right from the beginning. He should have cut Patrick off from the moment his father told him what he had to do instead of deluding himself into believing that he could have something good. He was the only one to blame for this.

“I’ll see you soon.” David brushed a thumb across Patrick’s cheekbone.

“Okay, David.” Patrick gave him a sweet kiss that didn’t last nearly long enough before turning to leave the room. 

When he was sure he couldn’t hear Patrick’s footsteps anymore David fell apart. Through tear-streaked eyes he looked around the dressing room they had shared so many moments in, but now this was the one he would remember. 

“David?” He was so lost in his thoughts he hadn’t even heard Twyla come in. 

“Oh, hi, Twyla.” He stood, wiping the tears from his face. “I’m sorry I’m a bit of a mess right now. Think you can clean me up for tonight?” 

Twyla gave him a sympathetic smile. “Of course, David. Have a seat.”

He sat down in front of the vanity and tried to avoid looking directly at his reflection. He knew Twyla would take care of him and he didn’t need the sight of his current inability to control his emotions messing with him any more than it already was. 

Twyla worked in silence for the longest time before she spoke, “You really love him, don’t you?”

“W-what do you mean?” David knew he and Patrick hadn’t always been the most careful but for some reason he thought he could get away with playing dumb to Twyla.

She gave him a skeptical look to let him know she wasn’t buying it. “David.”

He sighed, conceding the idea of trying to hide their relationship. “Mmhmm, yes. I do. More than anything.”

Twyla leaned forward and hugged him from behind, looking up to meet his eyes in the mirror. “It’ll be ok. I know it will.”

“Thanks, Twy.” He inhaled to center himself. He couldn’t undo all her handiwork with another outburst. “Now, can we get back to this before I start crying again and ruin what you’ve done here?” 

She laughed gently and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Of course. By the time I’m done there’s no way that Duke will be able to resist you.”

He gave her a weak smile. He wished he could ignore the voice in his head that reminded him he was out of options. Through the years David had artfully charmed his way into (and out of) countless situations. His family’s money and status had always ensured there were alternatives. It had been a successful strategy because David Rose didn’t fall in love or have a ‘Patrick’ to account for. Now the world he was familiar with, and the world he’d worked so hard to stay out of, had collided and left him empty-handed.


After I shut David’s dressing room door I intended to find Twyla straight away but I felt stuck there, out in the hallway. 

David and I were like two magnetic forces that were consistently drawn to one another. Leaving him in his current state felt impossible. I tried some deep breaths to center myself, hoping it would help. But, I could hear David crying, the echoes of sadness tearing at my heart. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut and doubled over, willing myself not to wretch right there.

“Patrick?! Are you okay?” Twyla’s normally calm voice was frantic with worry. How could I tell her what was going on when everything about David and I was supposed to be a secret? No matter what I thought to say, nothing seemed right.

“Hey,” she put a reassuring hand on the small of my back, helping me to the floor before sitting down herself. “Is this about David?”

I held a hand to my mouth to muffle the involuntary whimper that came out and simply nodded back at her. There was no hiding it now and I was grateful when Twyla reached over to hold my hand. 

“I know it can be hard, but if this had to happen with anyone I’m glad it was you. In case you hadn’t noticed, David’s not really the sort of person to let people in.” 

I breathed out a small laugh. “Thanks, Twyla.”

“He’s been hurt a lot in the past and I can’t think of anyone from before that would have helped him the way you have.” Her voice got quiet, like she was feeling the past hurts on his behalf. “People have walked away from him for a lot less.”

I had suspected many times that this had been the case. Hearing it out loud, from someone who knew David so well, crushed me. All the anger and hurt I had at the situation with The Duke was dwarfed by the need to stay strong for David. For us. The last thing I wanted to be was another name in the presumably long list of people who’d hurt him.

I squeezed Twyla’s hand, “Thank you for trusting me with that. It means a lot.”

“Of course!” her tone returned to its naturally bubbly state like we’d been discussing the weather.

“I did tell him I would come find you so you could help him get ready for tonight. I probably should let you go before he starts wondering.” 

I stood up and held a hand out to help her. When she stood she surprised me by throwing her arms around me in a giant hug. “It’s going to be okay, Patrick. You’re going to get through this.”

I let myself be absorbed in the warmth of her loving nature. “Thanks again, Twyla. I’ll see you.”

She loosened her hold and gave me a sweet smile before making her way to David’s dressing room. 

There was little else I could do except go back to my room. My stomach was a bundle of nerves and I knew that trying to eat would be futile. I walked slowly through the corridors of the theater, taking notice of the sights and smells. The scents of lumber, paint, perfumes and new upholstery infiltrated my nose. I ran my hand along the soft, velvety texture of the newly installed stage curtain. It felt simultaneously foreign and like coming home.

The halls eventually gave way to doors leading outside. It was nearly nightfall and a meager crowd of people were walking about. I felt bathed in sadness while I assumed they were wrapping up their nights to go home to loved ones. In truth I had no idea what these people were doing but everything I observed came through the lens of the life I desired with David. 

If I had made the most meticulous plans I don’t think I could have ever found a better place to land than here at the Moulin Rouge. When Jocelyn and Stevie had first told me their show was for the infamous theater I had been absolutely terrified. I was frightened to take the first steps because I didn’t consider myself anything special. I had thought maybe I would write some plays or novellas, something I could make a modest living at. 

Sometimes I still couldn’t piece together what made me listen to the Bohemian’s words of assurance. All I knew was I went along with it and now, here I was, petrified of losing it all; of losing David. If I was honest with myself that’s really what it was all about: fear of losing the man that I was so in love with it scared me. 

As I climbed the stairs to my room I did my best to shake off any anxiety about the night ahead. I walked into my small space and flopped on the bed, closing my eyes. If I thought hard enough I swore I could feel the warm sunshine and smell the wildflowers that surrounded the cottage we would have. One day, Patrick. One day soon.

Chapter Text

No matter what I did, I couldn’t stay in my tiny room. Knowing that David had gone to the Tower with The Duke had my nerves twisted into knots. I paced until I had to get out before the anxiety overtook me. I walked into the night air and it helped for a little - I felt like I could breathe for the first time in hours. Yet, before I knew it I was standing in front of the Moulin Rouge. I suppose it was inevitable. From the moment I’d set foot in Paris it seemed my destiny to wind up there. 

When I found myself at the stage I was not the least bit surprised to find everyone else there as well: Jake, Ronnie, Ted, Stevie, Jocelyn and Twyla. Alexis had gone with David to stand by in case she was needed. I imagined we were all there for very much the same reasons. David had gone to the Tower to save us all. To save the show that our livelihoods hung on; precariously perched on the edge of freedom or submission. 

I took a seat behind the stage curtains, trying to stay hidden so I could maintain my distance from Ronnie. Just the sight of her made my fists clench and my lip curl in disgust. If she had kept her mouth shut we would all be living our lives without wondering what would happen next. I would still have David in my arms instead of wondering what he was doing with the person I despised most in this world. Well, most after Ronnie at this point. 

Naturally she noticed me first, strutting over and sitting in my lap like what she’d done was no big deal. “Don’t worry Shakespeare. You’ll get your endin’. Once The Duke gets his. End. In.”

The anger that instantaneously bubbled up in me was unprecedented for my typically calm demeanor. I stood up quickly to shove her away and sent her sprawling on the floor. 

She quickly recovered, hissing a response at me, “You keep your hands off me! I’m only here for David anyway.”

Jake strode over to comfort her, putting his hands on her shoulder. He addressed the group but kept his eyes on me. “In my family’s home country there is a dance. It tells the story of a prostitute and a man who falls in love. First, there is desire. Then passion, suspicion ... jealousy, anger, betrayal. Love goes to the highest bidder and there can be no trust. Without trust there is no love. And jealousy - yes, jealousy - will drive you mad!” 

I knew he was right. His anecdote had hit more of a nerve than I cared to admit. I crossed the stage, throwing one more sneer at Ronnie before heading back into the night. Jake’s voice called behind me, “Never fall in love with anyone who sells themselves. It always ends badly!” 

As I walked into the darkness outside I was hit with an onslaught of unbidden images for what might be happening in the Tower: Sebastien leering at David, his hands on David’s body, his lips and mouth on David. It was unbearable. All I could do was remind myself that David and I loved each other. I needed that to be enough.


Inside the Tower David was fielding his own emotions. He just had to get through this dinner and convince Sebastien to go their direction for the show. He knew if he turned on his charm, and put all his walls up, he could make it through anything that happened, as long as he didn’t think of Patrick. Of the man who had tiptoed into his life and turned everything upside down before David could do anything to stop it. 

“Do I have anything to worry about? With this writer?” Sebastien questioned. 

“Of course not. He’s got a little infatuation with me. I’m just indulging him until he gets the show written.” It was not lost on David in that moment how that situation was his exact fear when Patrick had first arrived. 

“Mmhmm, I see.” Sebastien took David’s hand, pressing a kiss to each knuckle then his wrist. He left a trail of kisses up David’s arm before their lips met. David had been with many partners he wanted nothing to do with. He was well versed in just how much reaction to give to make Sebastien believe his interest without being over the top. 

As Sebastien’s hand wound through David’s hair it was easy to imagine Patrick’s in its place. Above all others the feel of Patrick seemed to be etched onto his soul. When Sebastien pulled back, breathless from their kiss, David knew he had him. He had seen that look enough times that he felt it was a natural progression now. 

David took advantage of the pause to walk to the open window of the nearby balcony and look over the property below. Sebastien came up behind him, body pressed tightly to David’s.

“When the Moulin Rouge is turned into a theater you will be a star. A real actor in a real show. You will no longer be just a performer.” Sebastien ghosted his lips over the spot just below David’s left ear, along the curve of his neck and reached a hand possessively across his chest. 

“And what about the ending?” David did his best to keep his voice at a steady pitch. 

Sebastien’s voice was low and David could feel every syllable against his ear, “Let the Bohemians keep their fairytale ending.” 

David’s breath hitched in disbelief that it could be so simple. His gaze flicked outside and he spotted a figure walking toward the Tower. Based on the height and build he assumed he knew who it was. The confirmation came when the searching soulful eyes looked up and met his. That was all it took to shatter any fantasy David had of being able to go through with whatever Sebastien had planned. He felt instantly broken open and wanted to run to the infinite safety of Patrick.

You come to me wild and wired … ” David murmured quietly to himself. The words from Patrick’s song, the personal reminder that they were in this together, made everything click into place.

“No,” David whispered, straightening his stance and squaring his shoulders. “No. ” 

“No?” Sebastien followed David’s gaze and his lips curled in disgust. “Oh, I see. It’s our very own penniless guitar player.” 

David ducked out from Sebastien’s grip, walking quickly toward the opposite end of the room.




 

🏰 🏰 🏰 🏰 🏰

The sound of the balcony window slamming shut reverberated across the high ceilings. Sebastien spun back around, quickly turning his attention back to David.

“Sebastien-” David backed away from Sebastien advancing toward him. Sebastien glowered at him and David could see he had no plan of letting this end quietly. 

“Enough! You made me believe that you loved me. You tricked me.”

Sebastien lunged at David, narrowly missing him. Caught against the table David rolled out of the way, sending dishes and food clattering to the floor. What was supposed to be a simple, transactional dinner was turning into much more than he’d anticipated. 

David looked over his shoulder to plan his next move and the mere second it took cost him any advantage he’d gained. Sebastien had caught up to him, gripping the lapels of David’s jacket. David pushed back, struggling against Sebastien’s grip but the hold was too strong. 

Sebastien threw him to the bed. David tried to roll away but found himself pinned in place. He clenched his hands into fists, gripping onto the blankets beneath him. Sweat beaded on his forehead and David squeezed his eyes shut.

🏰 🏰 🏰 🏰 🏰




 

It was the smash of glass that pulled David back. His eyelids flew open to Sebastien collapsing on top of him and Alexis standing over them, a proud look on her face. For all the times he had gone racing to save Alexis he had never actually expected it would be reciprocated. 

“Come on, David! Let’s get out of here before he wakes up. If I learned anything from that time I had to escape that dinner party gone wrong in Italy, it's that every unconscious person eventually wakes up.”

“Well help get him off me, then!” 

“Oh! Yes! Here, let’s just-” Alexis grimaced and gingerly helped push Sebastien to the side. “Okay, let’s go!”

David took her hand and they ran towards the door, past Mutt who had also apparently been a victim of her rather impressive skills.


I met them at the bottom of the Tower stairs where I’d been waiting. David emerged in a flurry of adrenaline. He held onto me, gripping me hard and peppering kisses all over my face. I could taste the salt of his tears on my lips when I tried to kiss him back. 

“I couldn’t do it,” he cried. “I couldn’t sleep with him. I saw you outside the window and I just couldn’t do it.”

“It’s okay, David. Shhh, now.” I rubbed circles on his back in a feeble attempt to soothe him. 

“Patrick, I couldn’t do it. And Alexis knocked him out with something and it’s only a matter of time before he wakes up. What are we going to do?!”

There was only one thing I could think to do. David was the most important thing to me. More than the show. More than the Moulin Rouge. More than anything. 

“Run away with me.”

“What?!”

“Run away. Go to your flat with Alexis, get your things and meet me tonight. We’ll run away. We can go anywhere you want. We’ll build that cottage we talked about and we’ll have a farm and we’ll be away from all this. Away from him.”

David looked momentarily paralyzed and I was afraid he was ready to run. But then he nodded his head. “Ok.” 

We were going to do this. We were going to get away from all this madness and start over. 

I turned to his sister who had been patiently taking in all of this. “Alexis, take David to his flat. Help him pack his things. We’re going to get out of here. You and Ted and Stevie can come, too. I don’t care. I just need David away from here. Meet me in my room when you’re done. We leave tonight.” 

I kissed David, bracketing his face with my hands. I needed him to feel all the love I had for him. “I’ll see you later?”

“Yes. I’ll be there.” 

Even though I could read the certainty in his body language I couldn’t shake the aching sense of dread that filled me while I watched him walk away with Alexis. I ultimately had to shove it down for later examination and hurried back to my room. 

When I arrived at the building I took the steps two at a time. I didn’t have many things but I needed to know that I would be ready to go the moment David was. I had no idea what state he and Alexis had left The Duke in and I didn’t want to stick around to find out. 

I made quick work of gathering the pages of the script, binding them together with a stray ribbon. After that it was a swift process of shutting my typewriter in its case and stuffing the few remaining things I owned back into my suitcase. I got out the bills needed to cover my remaining rent and laid them out on the desk with a note. 

There was nothing left to do now but wait.


“Oh my god, David this is such a cute thing for you. Your little button-faced writer, just whisking you away!”

“Get trampled by a horse, Alexis! He is not whisking me away! This isn’t some tour of the world for fun. He’s literally helping me escape from danger! You of all people should recognize that.”

Alexis became more subdued, playing with the ends of her hair. “I know, David. You’re going to be okay, right?”

The genuine sincerity of her question, on top of all the other events of the night, threatened to derail him. David wrapped her in a hug anyway, “Yes. Thank you. I’ll be okay.” 

They stayed that way until Johnny entered the room.

“Going somewhere, David?” 

David stiffened, prepared to defend his actions. “Yes, as a matter of fact. I’m leaving. With Patrick. We’re going to get away from here. Away from Sebastien. Away from the Moulin Rouge.”

Johnny’s expression was surprisingly calm in the face of David’s admission. “Son, you can’t do that. You don’t want to be rash.”

“What does that matter to you?! Patrick loves me. He loves me. For who I am. My entire life you’ve let me believe that I was only worth what I could do for you. But this is different.” David fought the tears threatening to spill out. 

“Be that as it may, I was called to the Tower after that little stunt you two pulled. The Duke’s going to have Patrick killed if you don’t go to him after the show tomorrow night. ” 

David’s eyes went wide in disbelief and he heard Alexis cry out on his behalf.

“He’s a powerful man, David. You know he can do it. He’ll stop at nothing until he finds you both. Is that really the kind of life you want? Not just for you but for Patrick. If you love him you need to send him away. Use your talent to save him.” 

Johnny’s eyes glistened in the dim light of the room and it became clear this wasn’t an act or some put-on to keep things neat and orderly. 

“No, he’ll fight for me! I know he will.” David protested.

“Yes, he will,” Johnny agreed. “I know that. Unless he believes you don’t love him. Son, I wish there was another way.” 

When his father left the room David collapsed to the floor. All the emotions he had been holding in swept over him in a suffocating wave. He vaguely felt Alexis’ arms wrap around him and help him to bed. It was the last thing he remembered before he slipped into an uneasy sleep.

Chapter Text

It was such a lovely day. The sun was shining and they were standing in a field of wildflowers, just him and Patrick. They walked hand in hand toward the small cottage with a stone exterior, a red door and red shutters, just like the one they talked about. There were large, shady trees in the yard and a small garden on the side where Patrick grew vegetables. David turned to Patrick and took in his favorite, upside-down smile. He kissed Patrick, closing his eyes and letting the warmth of the sun and their love wrap around him like a blanket. 

But then he knew something wasn’t right. He could feel it down to his bones. David’s eyes were still closed when he heard the shot ring out and felt Patrick collapse against him. He wanted to look, but everything was just ... dark. All David could do was shout Patrick’s name like it would somehow help. 

Patrick cried out for him, “David? David!”

 

David bolted upright in bed, breathing heavy and heart pounding. Alexis was shaking him, “David! Oh my god, David. You were having a nightmare.” 

It was still dark outside and he could just make out the form of his sister next to him.

“David, you were shouting for Patrick. It’s okay. I’m here.” She rubbed a hand in circles across his back to soothe him like he had done with her so many times before. Eventually his breathing evened out and he remembered: Alexis was here with him because their father had told him that Sebastien would have Patrick killed. 

“Alexis, it’s not okay.” He turned to her, eyes red and rimmed with tears. “For the first time in a long time I thought I had something. I thought I would never have to lock myself away again for the sake of someone else. Patrick sees me in all my ridiculousness and loves me anyway. And now I have to tell that sweet man- who didn’t deserve to have any of this happen. I have to tell him that I don’t love him as much as I do and break his heart and send him away.” 

The tears came fast and hard, making him hyperventilate and curl in on himself. His body shook as he leaned into his sister’s chest, her arms wrapped around him protectively. When his body was finally done betraying him he continued to let himself be held by her, settling his head in her lap. He would never tell her this, but he was grateful to have Alexis there. 

“David?” Alexis’s voice seemed hesitant. “I know that, like, I’m probably not going to say the right thing here. But, um, you’ve always been there a lot for me so I just wanted to tell you something. Something I thought you needed to know.”

“Ohmygod, Alexis! Just say it already!”

“Ugh! Fine, David!” She carded her fingers through his sleep mussed hair as she spoke. “It’s just, I know you’ve always hated the way I disappeared and ran away all the time.”

“Well that’s an understatement. Do you have any idea what-” He lifted his head from her lap to glare at her but she nudged him back down. 

“Shush, David! I know! Anyway, um, one of the reasons I did that is because I never knew what to do, um, before when this sort of thing would happen. I was young and it hurt so much every time you got your heart broken. So I just … ran away. And I know what you’re going to say. That it was dumb to do that and I wasn’t the one being hurt so it shouldn’t have mattered. But it did hurt. It was like you just … self-destructed over and over again. And I know it wasn’t fair because I always asked you to basically do for me what I couldn’t do for you.”

She sniffed quietly and her hand stilled in his hair.

“Alexis?”

“No, it’s okay. I’m fine. I just needed a minute. Um, I guess I just wanted to tell you that it did mean a lot to me, you know? The way you always came for me even though I know it upset you and it was, like, this huge interruption to your life. I always had other people to go to but it wasn’t the same. It was just different when it was you. Because at the end of it I knew you were the only one who actually cared what happened to me. Not just so the next adventure could happen. But, um, I’m here now. I want to be here now. I’m not going to run this time.”

David shifted to a sitting position so he could hold her close. He squeezed his eyes shut tight and bit the inside of his cheek trying not to get choked up over her confession. “Thank you, Alexis. That, um, means a lot to me. That couldn’t have been easy to say.”

Alexis sat back, holding his hand. “I just know it must be really hard for you to have to do this. I mean, you can’t even explain yourself. You just have to tell him to go for no good reason. But, hey,” she smiled and shimmied her shoulders, poking at him in that annoying way she did when she was trying to cheer him up. “Maybe, when things calm down a bit you can find him and just, like, explain what happened.”

Somehow he doubted that would be the case. Despite the care Patrick had shown him, David had years of evidence to suggest there would be no coming back from this. Patrick Brewer had been it for him. Even if by some miracle David managed to get rid of Sebastien, why would Patrick come back? Nobody ever came back to David Rose. It would hurt in the beginning, but Patrick had a whole life ahead of him. A life that wouldn't be bogged down by David and his theatrics. It brought David a small bit of comfort knowing at least Patrick would find happiness again.

“Yeah, maybe.” He shifted back down in the bed, burrowing into the covers. “I should try to get some more sleep. Big day tomorrow. Goodnight, Alexis.”

She reached into his cocoon with a pointy finger to boop his nose. “Goodnight, David.”

 


 

I was only vaguely aware that the irritating knocking sound was something I should respond to. I had fallen asleep at my desk for the second time that morning. It was no surprise because I hadn’t slept at all the night before. I had waited and waited for David to show. Or Alexis. Hell, I would have accepted Stevie popping through my door. I had alternated between pacing and sitting, staring into the darkness for what seemed like hours on end. 

I couldn’t imagine what was keeping them and tried my best not to think the worst. As I came down from the adrenaline rush last night my mind was all too happy to supply me with all sorts of horrendous scenarios.

The knocking finally became impossible to ignore so I pushed through the heaviness of my fatigue to answer. David was the last person I was expecting to see. We had long given up formalities like requesting entry to each other’s space. The Elephant was the only place I would never go without David’s explicit instructions. 

“May I come in?” David asked timidly. Something’s wrong.

“Of course. You know that.” I stood to the side so David could enter. 

“I can’t stay long so-”

“What happened last ni-”

We spoke at the same time and I gestured for him to continue. His posture was tall and confident, but David’s tell was there all the same. He fidgeted with his rings, giving away that something was bothering him.

“Last night, when I went to my flat, Sebastien came to see me. He offered me everything I could ever ask for. His only condition is that I can’t ever see you again.” 

No, this isn’t happening. This can’t be right.  

“I don’t understand. Last night we agreed . We’re supposed to leave here. Together!” I could hear my voice rising and my emotions were getting the best of me. I tried to reach for his hand, but he pulled back with his whole body. 

“I’m sorry, Patrick. This is over. You can leave whenever you want, but this is where I belong. I’m taking his offer and that means this has to end. I hope you understand.” He turned to leave, but I couldn’t let that happen. I grabbed for his arm to stop him. This had to still be a dream. A sick nightmare. 

“David, wait! I don’t understand. You can’t leave!” My voice cracked and I was dumbfounded when he wrenched out of my grip, speaking away from me.

“I can and I am . I told you in the beginning, Pa- Mr. Brewer. I can’t afford to feel anything real. Goodbye.” 

I thought I heard a quiver in his voice, but then he was gone so fast I couldn’t be sure. The sound of his footfalls racing down the steps seemed to cement everything in place. I raced to my window just in time to see David hurrying away, tucking into a side street out of view. As if on cue clouds gathered and opened up in a torrential downpour. 

Initially I was frozen in place, willing him to reappear. When it became clear that he wouldn’t, I sank to the floor, my back to the wall, staring ahead. This was how Stevie found me hours later. 

She was walking downstairs when she passed by my open door. David certainly hadn’t shut it and I hadn’t bothered to get it myself. In the aftermath of David’s departure I didn’t care what happened to me or my minimal belongings. 

“Patrick? What’s going on?” 

I stared vacantly ahead, unable to look her in the eye. “He’s gone.”

“Umm, who’s gone?”

“David. He’s gone.” It finally occurred to me that Stevie had no idea what I was talking about. It amazed me that he hadn’t gone to her first. But then he probably assumed she would have tried to talk him out of it. “Last night we were going to leave here. Leave all this. Run away from The Duke. Alexis was supposed to help him pack and we would leave from here. He never came. Until this morning. To tell me-” 

I swallowed the lump in my throat before continuing. “To tell me The Duke offered him everything he ever wanted. Whatever that means. That we were done and he hoped I understood.” 

Stevie slid into the spot next to me on the floor in a rare act of concern. “I don’t understand. That doesn’t sound like David at all. I mean it does, but not for someone like you. There has to be more to it.”

“I know. That’s what I thought, too. But he insisted. And, Stevie, it didn’t feel right but he just took off and wouldn’t say anything more.”

She was silent for a moment, “Have you eaten today?”

“No. Everything’s been a blur since last night.”

“I was just on my way to get something. I’ll bring you some soup and tea if you want.”

“Thank you, Stevie.” 

She stood to leave, then seemed to consider something. She dipped down to kiss my head and then scurried away before she could be accused of being sympathetic. For the life of me I didn’t know that I would ever understand this cast of characters I had surrounded myself with. 

In her absence I kept replaying the conversation with David. What did any of it mean? Last night he had fled the Tower like he couldn’t get away fast enough. I didn’t know the full story, but it seemed to me that things couldn’t have gone well if Alexis had gotten involved. 

“I’m back.” Stevie placed our food on the small table before gathering some cups and bowls for us. 

We ate mostly in silence. I vaguely hoped I wasn’t keeping her from anything but was glad for her company. When we were done eating she was the first to speak.

“Things aren’t always what they seem, you know. I don’t know if you know this, but David and I grew up together. We met when I was eight years old, my aunt was one of their housekeepers.”

“I’ll bet that was a riot to see. You two running around together.”

She nodded her head in agreement, “Oh, it was. We played dolls together and caused all kinds of trouble. I would sneak him cookies from the kitchen and he gave me books so I could learn how to read and write. He said he refused to associate with an uneducated heathen.” Her lips curled in a little half-smile. “But that’s not the point of all this. The summer before David went to university we started seeing each other. Well, sort of. We mostly just slept together and got drunk. At that point I think I was the closest person to him, the only one who knew all his secrets. I mean, sure he had friends, but they were all superficial. I knew the darkest parts of him. What set him off and what he tried to hide from the rest of the world.”

“That sounds like a big responsibility, being that intimately familiar with David Rose. He’s not for the faint of heart.”

“No, no, he is not. But before he left I think he finally realized that role I played for him. He got scared because there was no one else. He told me he was afraid of losing his one friend .”

“So, what, you wanted me to know that you two slept together and eventually made it to the other side as friends?” That’s not at all what I wanted with David. Honestly I think I’d rather be dead than have to go back to a life without him in it. 

“What I’m getting to is, in all the years I’ve known David, I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you. No matter what he says I know he’s in love with you. He’s spent years afraid of letting anyone else in, of giving his heart away. In fact, when you first showed up he was afraid of you. He knew you were different but he was scared all the same that you would just rip him open and leave like all the others.”

“Stevie, I would never-” she held her hand up to silence me.

“I know that. If you love him, fight for him. He already thinks you’re different. Prove it. Show him, because that is something nobody else has ever done for him.”

With that she stood and left the room. Like what she’d said was final and there was no use discussing it further. Or maybe the sincerity had become too much for her. Either way her words echoed in my brain. What she’d said wrestled with my own thoughts that had begun blooming and planting seeds of doubt. 

I thought back to the night David and I met. I thought of everything he had said to me when he thought I was The Duke only to later admit it was all an act. All that had felt real. What’s to say the last few months hadn’t been an act, too? 

David had decades of experience making other people believe what he wanted them to believe. Perhaps I was still just a naive, daydreaming farm boy that wanted to feel love where there wasn’t any. 

There was only one way to find out.

Chapter Text

That afternoon, after Stevie left me with all my doubts, I tried to sleep. My body was heavy with the physical exhaustion of having been awake for so long. Sinking into the bed, at first, felt euphoric. The mattress cradled me, inviting me to give up, to give in. The longer I laid there, the more I realized everything was … wrong. The sheets were scratchy, the pillow was too flat, then too lumpy. The temperature in the room had a chill until I burrowed into the blanket. Then it became too hot. I threw the blanket off and stared at the ceiling, David’s words echoing in my mind.

Sebastien came to see me. He offered me everything … I’m sorry, Patrick. This is over … You can leave whenever you want … this has to end. I hope you understand ...

The cracked plaster above me suddenly became fascinating. Every speck and fissure held the possibility of distracting me from David and allowing me to finally sleep. After mentally tracing the cracks several times over it became obvious what the problem was: The trouble isn’t the bed, Patrick. It’s who’s not in it. Who’s not going to be in it. David had never spent the night in my room. The bed was tiny and the room was drafty - it was a far cry from what he was used to, but it could have been perfect if we were in it together. Stevie living just above me presented its own set of objections, but none of that had ever stopped us from taking advantage of it when David wanted to slip away from the pressures of his daily life. It wasn’t the type of place any rational person would go looking for someone like him. 

The afternoon sun cast a golden glow around the room alerting me that nightfall would be there soon. I needed to see David again. Whether he loved me, or this whole thing had been a ruse, I had to know. Fragments of solutions had already begun forming in my mind, stitching together a plan. If I was going to make it in time for the opening tonight I needed to act quickly. In spite of the crushing fatigue I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood. I pulled my only suit out, still neatly packed from the night before, and considered how to best execute my idea.

There was a shop in town where I knew I could sell my typewriter. It had been a gift from my parents the year I turned 17. I was on the verge of completing school and, knowing I couldn’t afford to go to university, it had been a respectable alternative. 

Before the Moulin Rouge had shut down for renovations David had, by his own admission, been paid for all his efforts to keep certain patrons entertained. The responsibilities ranged from simple conversation to offering his body for sex. Whatever it took to engage the highest paying visitors to make sure they returned. I wasn’t a high paying customer, but I was performing a great service for the theater. While no one had ever said it outright, it stood to reason that I might also be someone David was responsible for keeping engaged. I would take whatever I got for the typewriter and pay my bill. 

If everyone else paid to be deceived then why shouldn’t I? 

I hated the idea of giving up my most prized possession, but not nearly as much as leaving things unanswered with David. I could always replace the typewriter, but this - whatever I had with David - was a once in a lifetime shot. It either was or it wasn’t and I needed to know which. I was already positive there was no substitution for his presence in my life. 

My business at the pawn shop took only a matter of minutes. Because I had kept the typewriter in such good condition I was able to get a decent sum for it. Much better than even I had hoped for. The shopkeeper looked enthralled when I walked in with it. I thanked him for his time and pocketed the bills. Now the only barrier was making it to the Moulin Rouge and finding David. 

It seemed The Duke had everyone on high alert and I was denied access to the theater. Every entrance was heavily guarded by someone who knew they were supposed to turn me away. Thankfully all the rehearsals had taught me the ins-and-outs of the building. I knew every last way to get inside, even if they were a bit unorthodox. 

There was a higher window on one wall that I could hoist myself up to climb inside. It pushed open easily and I dropped in as quietly as possible. The dressing rooms weren’t terribly far but it was still going to take some skill to get there. Especially when I saw that Mutt was keeping watch. Damn.  

The maze of corridors was enough to keep me just out of sight until I could get to David. I spotted him in his dressing room with the door wide open. Twyla was fussing over him, touching up makeup and adjusting his costume. 

Despite the risk I didn’t even try to stop staring at him. He was so beautiful. It felt similar to our first night together when I’d watched him covertly from the dance floor. In my mind’s eye I could see him twirling around, charming everyone, head thrown back with laughter. The glaring difference was this time I had so much more to lose if things didn’t go well. 

I didn’t have to wait long for an opening to talk to him. I longed to keep watching him, not wanting to break the illusion that things weren’t falling apart. Twyla left his dressing room and I knew I didn’t have much time to do what I’d come for. I stepped from the shadows and he startled at the sight of me in his mirror. 

“Patrick?! What are you doing here?” He whipped around to look at me, a blend of worry and irritation on his face. 

“I came to pay my bill.” I clapped my hands together softly. “You did such a fine job, David, of making me believe you loved me. I can see now it was all an act. After our talk earlier today I had some time to think. I figured everyone else pays you to be lied to. Why shouldn’t I?”

He turned on his heel to leave, “You shouldn’t be here. You need to go!” David rushed at a fast clip toward the stage but I couldn’t let him get away again. I had to know. 

“Why can’t I pay you like everybody else?!”

Twyla raced behind me, grabbing at the hem of my jacket, “He needs to get on stage!” 

In my pursuit of David it was easy to escape her grasp. The stage curtain shielded our tense conversation, but I knew it would be opening at any moment. Miguel was just on the other side delivering an impassioned speech in his role as the King. I couldn’t bring myself to care. My concern for the Moulin Rouge, and this show, was the furthest thing from my mind. After being pushed aside by David Rose, any remaining dignity I had was long gone. 

David’s eyes were wide, begging me to give up as I grabbed him by the wrists, forcing him to look at me. “Please, just let me do this and I’ll go. I need to do this. Tell me it wasn’t real! Tell me you don’t love me!” I pleaded with him even as the curtain lifted, exposing our struggle. 

Miguel froze mid-sentence at the sight of us. He looked between me, David and the audience before laughing nervously. “Here he is, the very same penniless guitar player. Driven mad by jealousy!” 

I pulled David to center stage and he dropped to the ground when I let go of him. Sebastien, that arrogant bastard, sat in the front row. A large bouquet of red roses occupied the seat next to him. I assumed they were for David and already knew he would hate them. It wasn’t a detail I needed to be concerned with but I couldn't seem to stop myself, even now. I pulled the bills from my pocket and threw them down at David, looking Sebastien in the eye to make my declaration. “I’ve paid my bill. You won. He’s yours now!” 

The crowd fell silent. The smug, gloating look on Sebastien’s face burned into my mind. I was sure I would go to my grave and still remember every detail. When I turned back to David he remained crouched on the stage, his body shaking as he tried to stay in control.

“I owe you n-nothing . And you are nothing to me.” My voice cracked between ragged breaths. “Th-thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with l-love.” 

I couldn’t bear to look at David any longer and turned to walk down the steps leading off the stage. As much as I was hurting, hearing his pain was agonizing. The sharp inhales and guttural cries made every step away from him a struggle, like walking through quicksand. 

Sebastien tracked my movements until I paused in front of him, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth. The desire to punch him and tell him to go to hell was overwhelming. He stared up at me, like he was daring me to do just that. The simplest course of action was to stare him down, afraid if I moved a muscle I would lose our unspoken wager. Ultimately I was the first to break eye contact, refusing to give him the satisfaction.

 


 

Miguel had managed to keep the show going. He masterfully kept what was really happening from the audience. “The penniless guitar player doesn’t love you. See him fleeing the kingdom!”

David couldn’t be soothed in the interest of keeping up appearances. The love of his life had come for him, even though David had hurt him. On purpose. David had watched Patrick’s heart break right in front of him because of what he had said. Twice. Now Patrick was leaving, likely forever. Not that David could blame him.

The weight of his actions cloaked David like a heavy blanket. He wanted to lay down on the cool, wooden stage and drown in his despair. The idea of simply resting there until death took him was an increasingly appealing option. He lifted his head, looking between Miguel, Sebastien and Patrick. What choice did he have?

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn...is just to love...and be loved...in return!” Stevie’s voice echoed through the theater from her perch above the stage. The already hushed crowd became deafeningly silent. Stevie’s line - the most pivotal of the entire show - washed over David and he felt what she’d said in every cell of his body. 

David became hopeful when he saw Patrick slow, and eventually freeze, near the exit. Experience had taught him that life didn’t hand out second chances. The universe was giving him a gift, an opportunity to fix things. He scrambled to his feet with a renewed purpose, knowing what message he needed Patrick to hear. Hesitantly, his voice still thick from crying, the melody of their song flowed out of him.

I call you when I need you, my heart’s on fire. 

You come to me wild and wired. 

You come to me...give me everything I need. 

The rest of the world seemed to fall away except the vision of Patrick, still and silent in the aisle. 

Give me a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams. 

Speak the language of love like you know what it means. 

And it can't be wrong, take my heart and make it strong.

He paused, hoping Patrick understood what he was trying to say. David didn’t know what he would do if Patrick didn’t come back and kept walking away. The audience cooed and whispered among themselves, but time stood still for David. His entire future stood at the opposite end of the theater. Their reaction was merely background noise compared to waiting for the other half of his heart.

Chapter Text

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn...is just to love...and be loved...in return!” 

Of course. Stevie’s line felt like another cruel joke; one more way the universe was taunting me. Whether it was the line itself, or when to say it, after months of rehearsals she had routinely forgotten it, no matter how many times someone reminded her. Why was it that now, when I was prepared to walk away from everything, she suddenly remembered? 

A deafening silence swept over the crowd, bringing the grief I was so desperate to escape from back into focus. I forced myself to take in other details because I didn’t want to think of how David had shattered my heart into a million pieces. I didn’t want to think of how I had left him as a sobbing, broken mess when every instinct said I should be comforting him. I didn’t want to think of how each step was more difficult than the last or how every breath was an effort. All I wanted to do was fall apart and I couldn’t. I turned my attention to how my suit slid over my skin with every movement and the velvet carpet yielded softly underfoot. How the freshly installed electric lights cast a soft glow, illuminating specks of dust falling like snow in the beams. The way champagne flutes clinked while curious theatergoers fidgeted in their seats. With each new detail my pace slowed until I became still, weighed down by the indecision of determining whether Stevie’s words meant something more. My eyelids fluttered shut and I inhaled the intermingling scents of the auditorium and its occupants. 

Just a few more steps, Patrick. That’s all you have to do. David doesn’t want you. Just leave.  

A jumble of shuffling and clambering echoed off the stage behind me. I didn’t have to look to know it was David. The way the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and my spine tingled was enough. Whether it was now or a hundred lifetimes from now I knew my soul would recognize him anywhere. 

The perfect melody of our song - not the one for the show - spilled out of David's mouth like he was delivering a personal message. His voice trembled and cracked, and it was perfect. Every note, every syllable, hit deeper than the last: Come back. I’m sorry. I love you. I needed him to know I knew and I understood. My heart beat a rapid-fire thump, thump, thump in my chest when I turned to face him. His face was open and vulnerable, eyes wide and pleading, searching for answers. It reiterated how important this moment was. I locked eyes with David so there was no room for doubt when I answered.

You're simply the best, better than all the rest

Better than anyone, anyone I ever met

I'm stuck on your heart I hang on every word you say

Tear us apart, I would rather be dead

I shuffled cautiously up the aisle at first. David’s arms were crossed, hands hugging his elbows, taking tentative steps to the edge of the stage. Each footfall made a distinct smack, reverberating outward. Come back. I’m sorry. I love you. Hesitation dissolved into urgency, pushing me into a sprint. Each footfall echoed with a satisfying thud, driving me closer to David, and rows of seats swished past in a blur. All I could see or sense or care about was David. I’m coming. I’m sorry. I love you. I slowed down only when the soft carpet transitioned to the hardwood of the steps where he stood. 

I hesitantly reached up to touch him so I could know he wasn’t some figment of my imagination. That the nightmare was over. Even with his face puffy and red from crying I had never seen anything more beautiful than him. My fingers trembled tracing over the curve of his jaw, the rough stubble on his chin, the softness of his lower lip. 

“David.” His name came out in a choked, strangled whisper. 

Soft, quivering hands reached up to cradle my face, his thumbs brushing away the tears starting to pool there. “Patrick.” 

“Tell me this is real, David. I need to know you won’t disappear again.” I choked out between labored breaths.

He nodded frantically, eyes glistening with unshed tears. Then his mouth was on mine, claiming me for his own again. David wrapped his arms around my waist like he couldn’t be close enough. I threaded one hand in the back of his hair, another around his back, clutching at his costume like he would vanish if I wasn’t holding on tightly enough. Moments in time flashed through my mind, punctuating every urgent press of my lips to his. He tasted like moonlit trysts and sunrise revelations, like stolen glances and secret touches, like remembering that home wasn’t a place but a person. 

“Ahem,” Miguel cleared his throat, reminding me we were not alone. I pulled back slightly from David, feeling my cheeks flush with embarrassment. 

“Maybe we could continue this somewhere else?” I asked.

“Yeah, maybe. Come on.” The warmth of his hand pressing against mine, our fingers laced together, was a gentle reminder of what it was to be loved by David. Of what I had nearly lost. We walked in step with each other just out of sight of the audience. 

Miguel’s voice echoed behind us, “Uh, excuse us everyone. Just a slight intermission!”

David and I were barely off the stage when Mutt stepped in front of us, blocking our path. “Going somewhere boys?”

Moments later, if Mutt’s interference wasn’t enough, Sebastien joined him.

“What do you want?!” David’s tone dripped with irritation.

“Oh, I think you know why we’re here.” Mutt’s lips curled into a mirthless smile as he tilted his chin toward me.

“David, what is he talking about?”

He squeezed my hand, chewing on his lower lip before he answered. 

“Patrick,” David leaned in close to me, speaking quietly. “I don’t want you to panic. This is my fault. So, let me handle this and don’t do anything stupid. No matter what I say. Do you understand?” 

“What the hell do you mean don’t do anything? David, I can’t-”

He stared down at me, a warning to listen to him. I had seen many versions of David: flippant, aloof, soft, relaxed, lustful, wanting, annoyed, impatient. This version was new and foreign; one I didn’t quite know how to navigate. This David was incensed and not to be trifled with. I kept my mouth shut and nodded in agreement. His face relaxed only for a moment to mouth ‘I love you’ before shifting into a disinterested stare. David stood taller, never letting go of my hand, glowering at the two men in front of us.

David glanced at Sebastien for a few seconds before indifferently studying the nails on his free hand. “Really, Sebastien? This is what we’ve come to? You’re just going to send your little henchman to do your dirty work for you? Not even man enough to do it yourself.” 

Sebastien’s face flushed a deep crimson, mouth twitching and hands curled into fists until his knuckles turned white. “You-”

“My father told me what you said. What was it?” David interrupted, making an exaggerated face recalling whatever was about to spill out before staring icily at Sebastien. “Oh, right. You were going to have Patrick killed if he showed up here tonight and I didn’t go running to you after the show.”

That explained a lot about the events of the last twenty-four hours and why David had pushed me away. We’d have to have a long talk about that later, but right now I was biting back a proud smile watching David verbally eviscerate Sebastien. 

“That’s right,” David continued. “I know all about it. I might just be some pretty face to you but I’m not an insecure monster that has to bully my way into getting what I want. And, quite honestly, Patrick’s been here for hours. So it would seem your security needs a little tuning up.”

“Enough!” Sebastien seethed, nodding to Mutt. “Just take care of them already.”

“Both of them? But I thought-”

Without warning a weighted sandbag landed on Mutt’s head with a thud, knocking him unconscious to the floor. Sebastien, David and I looked up to see Stevie there, arms crossed and looking quite pleased with herself. 

She gave a little half shrug to the unasked question. “What? I do what I want. Consider this my reluctant attempt at being supportive.” 

Sebastien, seeming to realize he was outnumbered without his bodyguard, bolted for the exits, tripping through the sea of stagehands as he went. Ted, who must have been nearby, sprang up to intervene. He chased after Sebastien, tackling him before they reached the doors. 

“Get off me!” Sebastien groused, trying to shake Ted away. 

“I don’t think so,” Ted straddled Sebastien, pinning him in place. “Maybe you’ll Duke better next time.”

“Babe! Ohmygod! Are you alright?!” Alexis ran over, teetering in her heels. She fawned over Ted, kissing his face and squeezing his biceps. 

“Alexis? Maybe not right now. Maybe that could wait until after the police get here?” Ted tilted his head down, in the direction of Sebastien still squirming underneath him. 

“Oh, right. Yeah, of course.” She toyed with the ends of her hair. “I’ll just be…” Alexis grimaced, doing a bizarre backwards shuffle off to the side. 

By now Johnny had found his way backstage to all the commotion. His eyes were impossibly wide taking in the chaos of what had just happened. I could only imagine what he must have been feeling. He had only been trying to update his club and turn it into something more respectable. Now, who knew what would happen?

Johnny wrung his hands together, taking stiff, measured steps toward David and I. He looked sheepishly down at his shoes, his voice raspy at first. “Son, Patrick,” then a gravelly cough to clear his throat. He motioned to me, “I, uh, just wanted to apologize. To both of you, really.”

“You think?!” David interjected, only settling when I rested a hand on the small of his back.

“Please, go on, Mr. Rose.”

“Thank you, Patrick. I put you both in a pretty impossible position. And that was deeply unfair. I don’t know how-” Johnny covered his mouth with one hand, face crinkling and squeezing his eyes shut, unable to finish his sentence. 

David rolled his eyes and made an annoyed huff, “I … I love you, too.”

Johnny’s face lit up with a fond smile and pulled David in for an affectionate embrace. It was endearing watching David go from grimacing and giving his father awkward pats to leaning into the gesture, genuinely returning the sentiment. 

“Oh my god, this is soooo cute!” David bristled at the sound of Alexis’s voice and I couldn’t help but laugh. “I want in!”

“Fall in a ditch, Alexis!” 

“Ugh, rude David!” She sniped before huddling close and draping an arm over each of them. 

The three of them held each other tightly until Johnny pulled back, taking Alexis by the arm. “Alexis, we should go check on Ted. See if he needs any extra help until the police arrive. Besides,” he gave a knowing look between David and I, “I think David and Patrick here need a little time to themselves to discuss things. C’mon, honey.”

David turned to me, “Could we, uh,  maybe go to my dressing room? This is all feeling a bit sketchy out here.” He waved his hand around at the confused mess of people swirling around.

I huffed out a small laugh, “Okay, David.” 

When we were safely in his dressing room, with the door shut tight, he pulled me in, wrapping his arms tightly around me. I rested my head in the crook of his neck, the space that felt like it was made just for me. It was a relief from the last time we had found ourselves in his dressing room like this, barely a day and a half before when David was supposed to sleep with Sebastien. 

David leaned back slightly, letting his arms rest on my shoulders. “Hi,” his tone was light and breathy. 

“Hey,” I adjusted myself, letting my hands find their usual spot at the small of his back. “So, you weren’t really leaving me, then?”

It was meant to be light-hearted in the aftermath of everything we’d just gone through. I was a little surprised when David tipped his head back like he did when he was trying not to cry. 

“Hey, listen,” I stroked one hand lightly up and down the curve of his lower back. “I didn’t mean-”

He snapped his head back down, “No you listen! I’m sorry that came out way harsher than I wanted it to. Patrick … Last night our father told us, me and Alexis, that Sebastien was going to have you killed if things didn’t go his way. And I’m so sorry you had to find out the way you did. Not that there’s any good way to find out someone intends to murder you. I couldn’t live with myself if I risked that. And I thought if I made you think I didn’t love you anymore you would leave. But you stayed.”

“I did.” 

“And you came back for me.”

“David, I will always come back for you.” 

His hands waved around as he spoke, “How can you just say these things?!” The end of the sentence was punctuated by a high-pitched, sobbing, snotty sound. 

I pressed a soft kiss on his forehead, “I told you before, David. You deserve the truth, not just what I think you want to hear. You deserve to be loved fully. I want you to have everything. And I want to give that to you, if you’ll let me.” My shoulders turned up in an unapologetic shrug. Since my first night at the Moulin Rouge, when David had asked me to dance, he had breathed new life into my otherwise wandering, purposeless existence. He had turned out to be like nothing I expected and became everything I needed and could no longer live without. 

“So what happens next in our story?” I asked.

“Well, I think maybe it’s time to move on.”

“Move on?”

“From here. From the Moulin Rouge.”

“But, I thought this was where you wanted to be?”

“Patrick, I just want to be wherever you are.” He paused, looking only slightly remorseful. “Maybe not anywhere you are, but most places you want to be. You know what I mean.” 

“Oh, I do.” Because I could, I pulled him closer, kissing him soft and slow like we had all the time in the world.

Chapter Text

Autumn 1900

Only weeks before the warm, languid days of summer had shifted to cooler, crisp weather, signaling the arrival of change. It felt like the perfect metaphor for our own lives. Over the better part of the last year we had put the harrowing ordeal of Sebastien behind us and now it was time to let that fall away to make room for new things.

David had chartered a carriage for us to spend the day together celebrating my birthday. He said he wanted to show me some more of the countryside and tour the unique farms there. When David shared his plans I protested and insisted we could have a nice day closer to home. The corners of his mouth twitched and his eyes had a telltale sparkle at the word ‘home’ but he said nothing about it.

All day he had been acting odd, even for David. He had woken up before me which never happened. A tray full of countless tea varieties and plates of any breakfast food I had ever mentioned enjoying was waiting for me. While I ate, he alternated between flitting about like a hummingbird or sitting and fidgeting, his knee bouncing under the table. The carriage ride seemed to do nothing for his nerves. With every stop on his itinerary I could tell it was a struggle for him not to rush us through. Normally he would have been meandering through the markets we visited, chatting with the owners about anything and everything. Today he was cordial, but the conversations seemed a bit stunted, like he was trying not to spend too much time at any one place. No moment was more bizarre than when he tied a navy blue scarf over my eyes, after returning to the carriage, and told me to keep it there.  

“Where are we going, David?” 

“You’re blindfolded - on your birthday - I’m not just going to tell you where we’re going.” He squawked.

I threw my hands up in defeat. It was clear he wasn’t going to answer and nothing we had done so far had given me any clues. The gentle trit-trot of horse hooves soothed me while we rode together in comfortable silence, occasionally discussing some of the farms and markets we had visited earlier. 

It was always amusing watching David out at the local farms, closer to the village, when I could go with him to gather supplies for the theater or the small inn Stevie had taken over. Today, venturing further out, was no exception. He would delicately step through the grass and complain about the dirt getting on his clothes. Then he would get to talking to the families about the unique goods they produced and temporarily forget all about his opinions on nature. His body language would become more animated, hands flying around as he spoke, and the enthusiasm in his tone was addictive. By the end of our visits he was always walking away with baskets of cheese, wines, soaps, candles and other homemade items. People were naturally drawn to him, which I could certainly understand. Every time he would protest that these things should be more readily available to the village. Stevie frequently ribbed him, saying he should find a way to make that happen instead of whining.

When the carriage pulled to a stop a light breeze rustled the grass around us and David put a hand on my shoulder, “Patrick, I’m going to help you out but I need you to keep that blindfold on.” The latch on the door clicked and the door creaked lightly when it was opened. 

“I promise, David.” His large hand took mine, a reassuring gesture, and guided me out of the carriage to the firm ground below.

“Now walk a few steps this way.” Leaves crunched underfoot and water babbled off in the distance. I could feel David practically vibrating out of his skin, giving my hand light squeezes while he directed me where to go. When we stopped he stood behind me, putting his hands firmly on my shoulders and leaned in close. “You can look now … Welcome home.” His voice came in a choked off whisper. Was he crying?

When I pulled the scarf off I thought I had to be imagining things. “David, what is this?” 

He hooked his chin over my shoulder, pressing his cheek to mine. I could feel the broad smile on his face and picture the way his eyes were probably dancing with excitement. “It’s the cottage we dreamed about. I had it built for you. For us.” 

It was exactly like we’d talked about, down to the last detail. Mums and dahlias were planted in colorful patches and small saplings stood valiantly at different points around the property. 

I spun around, squeezing him close. “David, I-” I wanted to say more but the words wouldn’t come, trapped in a tangle of emotions forming in the back of my throat. 

David chuckled softly. “Do you like it? I know I should have said something but I really wanted to do this for you.” 

“Do I like it? No.” His eyebrows flew up exactly the way I expected they would.

“David, I love it. I love this. I love you.” I reassured him, pressing my lips to his for a gentle kiss.

His face relaxed, but not before giving me a playful shove. “You’re such a menace.”

“When did you do this?” 

“Do you remember the night we said ‘I love you’?”

My brow furrowed, how could I forget that? “Of course I do.”

“That night I fell asleep listening to you talk about this.” He gestured toward the house. “About what our lives could be. And you sounded so content and so peaceful and so … sure. The next morning I sketched it out in my journal and started talking to some people.”

Suddenly a collection of little details began falling into place. Shortly after we had first discussed our imaginary cottage David had started asking me questions, pushing me for more details about what I thought it would look like or what we would do if we lived away from the village. Sometimes I would get frustrated at his line of questions because I didn't have the eye for detail in the same way he did. I could see elements that weaved together to create a story, but David was the one who could take an empty space and turn it into something elegant. Honestly, to me the idea of a home was anywhere I could be together with him. Not long after the questioning had started David would disappear for the day, insisting he had some business to attend to for his father or something to help Stevie with the Inn. I had been so busy - at first finishing the show for the Moulin Rouge, then beginning work for another local theater - that I hadn't pieced it all together until now.

I huffed out a disbelieving laugh. “So that’s what all those talks and errands were for. I guess I should have known you doing all that for your father, and Stevie, wasn't completely altruistic.” 

“Well, I wasn’t going to just tell you what I was doing!”

“Mmhmm. So, you said you started this after the night we said I love you. Did you really know then? About us?”

He worried with his bottom lip, “No. I think I, uh, knew much earlier than that. Probably even the night you said you wanted to know me.”

“David, that was-”

“The night we met? I know. It’s probably ridiculous but I already knew there was something about you. Something different. Special.” 

Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes while I swept him up in a kiss, thanking whoever was responsible for leading me to him. 

David pulled back slightly, “As much as I’m enjoying this I have one more surprise for you.”

“David, there’s a house here! That you designed and had built because you believed in us so much. How many more surprises can one person take?”

He gave me a knowing smirk and pulled me towards the cottage. “I think you’ll like this one, too. Come on.” 

I chased behind him, laughing and gleefully kicking up leaves as we went. Watching the curves of his face when he smiled, how his body just relaxed with no one else watching left me awestruck. He had an unguarded openness that I knew he reserved just for me. I wanted to make sure I could always be a safe place for him to just be David.  

When we reached the house I crowded him against the door before he could open it. I tilted his chin, leaning in for a kiss, pressing urgently against him. David relaxed into it, hungrily kissing me back, little sighs and moans escaping between. Before it could go further he tapped against my chest, pushing me lightly back.

“Where did that come from?” 

I brushed the back of one hand over his cheek, letting it rest behind his head. “I just needed you to know how much I love you. That’s all.”

“That’s all? Mmhmm.” He wrapped his lips around his teeth, suppressing a smile but the way his eyes sparkled told me what I needed to know. 

“Come on, David. I believe you needed to show me something.”

He rolled his eyes and turned to depress the latch on the handle. The front door swung open, inviting us in. The rooms were bare but I knew David would make them perfect. 

“I know there's not much here yet, and I’m going to give you the full tour, but there is one thing in the back for you to see.” He grabbed my wrist, hurrying down the main hallway and turning into a back room. David beamed, excited like a child on Christmas morning. An intricately carved desk, one I had admired often during our trips into town, sat in front of a large window overlooking a pond in the backyard. Our backyard. The late afternoon sun splashed vibrant pinks and oranges off the rippling water, like liquid fire. Shadows stretched across the room, dancing playfully on the walls. 

Centered on the desk was a typewriter with a single sheet of paper loaded against the roller and already typed on. It looked suspiciously like the one I had sold. I had gone back to the shop, trying to find it after the disastrous opening night at the show, but it was already gone. I had bought a new one out of necessity but it was never quite the same as the original. 

In the opposite corner an easel was propped up, ready for David to bring his ideas to life. I can write and you’ll sketch… he had really remembered everything.

I pointed to the typewriter, “David, is this what I think it is?”

He bounced on the balls of his feet, twisting his rings. “The typewriter you sold? I may have tracked it down and bought it back. It took a little longer than I thought. I hope you don’t mind that I, uh, used it first. I just had something I really needed to say to you.” 

I shook my head before walking over to read his message. My fingers reached instinctively for the back right edge, finding the familiar grooves where I’d etched my initials years before. I couldn’t believe he’d actually found it. How I ever got so lucky to meet this amazing, beautiful man I’ll never know.

Patrick,

I’ve never liked a smile as much as I like yours.
I’ve never felt as safe as I do when I’m with you.
I’ve never known love like I have when we’re together.
It's not been an easy road for me, but knowing that you will always be there for me at the end of it makes everything okay.

You are my happy ending.

Love,
David

The words on the page blurred as I read. “David-” I whirled around to find him knelt down in front of me, a rose gold band held up between his fingers. 

Before I could say more he held a single finger up as if to silence me. “Patrick Brewer, I spent a lifetime not trusting anyone. Building walls so high that I was sure no one could get in. My story was that I was nothing more than a- a damaged man that couldn’t afford to love. But then you walked into the Moulin Rouge and took away all of my excuses. Now I’ve built new walls. Not to keep you out, but to keep you in. I want to write a new story. Together. Will you do that with me?”

“Yes, David. Yes. I promise I’m going to make you so happy here.”

“You fucking better,” he teased, pushing off the ground to stand. Then his features shifted to something more serious, almost nervous. “Just, uh, one thing before I- before we. Just look at the inside first.” 

I plucked the ring from him, turning it over in my fingers. Tiny script letters glinted in the light of the setting sun: To Love and Be Loved

He watched me apprehensively, “I, um, would have had the whole thing put in but the jeweler said there was a limit. So, I thought this would be okay.”

Waves of bliss and love and feeling … right swept over me. I looked up at David, wanting him to see how much I meant what I was saying. “David, it’s perfect. It’s absolutely perfect.”

“May I?” David looked at me hopefully, indicating he wanted the ring back.

“Yes, sorry. Here.” I apologized and held it out to him.

David took the band from me and slid it onto my finger, his eyes welling up with tears. He settled his hands over my shoulders, using the leverage to pull me in. Our lips met, soft and sweet, filled with promises for the future. I pulled back, just enough so I could get lost in looking at his deep brown eyes, resting my forehead against his. Being here with David now, given everything we had overcome, I couldn’t help but remember our first night together. I recalled resting my head against the bare skin of his thigh, already anxious to experience more of him and hoping he wouldn’t send me away. I thought of the way my heart had thumped in my chest when I looked at him, naked in every sense of the word, bathed in slivers of moonlight.  I remembered my simple question, with his simple answer, and how it had changed absolutely everything.

“Do you want me to leave you now?” I asked, a mischievous smile on my lips so he knew what I meant.

He answered with a single eyebrow raised and playful smirk, “Do you want to leave?”

“Never, David. Never.”