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“I’m so excited! He’s going to be so surprised!” Marcy clasped her hands together in front of her chest as she watched the trees rushing by outside the window of their car.

Clint hummed and reached across the console to lay a hand on Marcy’s thigh. It made him happy to see his wife happy, but he couldn’t quite get rid of the knot in his stomach that had been there since the night Marcy had suggested they surprise Patrick for the holidays.

Clint remembered the phone call well, when Patrick had asked them both to listen in while he explained that he wasn’t sure he could get away with the store as busy as it was. While he and Marcy were both happy to hear that the store was thriving, they were definitely disappointed to hear that, for the first time in his 29 years, Patrick wouldn’t be home for the holidays.

Marcy, of course, immediately set forth to rectifying the situation with what seemed, to her anyway, like the obvious answer -- if Patrick couldn’t come to them, they’d go to him.

Clint had been hesitant, part of him wanting to remind Marcy of what Patrick had said on the day he’d packed up his car and left for destinations unknown -- that he needed space, and some time to sort things out. While Patrick had started calling them more often in recent months, he still hadn’t been home to visit or even suggested that he might, which made Clint wonder if perhaps Patrick wasn’t quite done figuring out whatever he’d needed to figure out. If he still needed that space, they should give it to him. Or they should at least tell him they were coming and not just… show up.

Besides, if Patrick was too busy with the store to come home for Christmas, it seemed to Clint like having his parents in town would only cause even more stress. But once Marcy got an idea in her head, she couldn’t be stopped — Clint had more than learned that in their 35 years of marriage. So he tried his best to set aside his misgivings and go along with Marcy’s plan, but the closer they got to Schitt’s Creek, the tighter the knot in his gut seemed to become, and the more he started to feel like they were making a mistake.

The highway that led to Schitt’s Creek was long, straight, and incredibly boring, so Clint was at least glad to see what appeared to be the town limits sign on the horizon -- even if he wasn’t quite sure what to make of what was depicted on it.

“What do you think, ‘Don’t worry, it’s his sister,’ means?” Marcy asked, a grin playing at her lips.

“I… don’t know,” Clint said, letting out a soft chuckle. “But hopefully it means they’re not doing what it looks like they’re doing on that sign.”

Marcy hummed and nodded, continuing to look out the window as the rural landscape started to turn into that of a small town -- businesses and homes becoming less few and far between, though they still weren’t exactly numerous by any stretch of the imagination. Not long after, Clint saw the sign for the Rosebud Motel and flicked the turn signal on, but before he started to turn, Marcy suddenly said, “No, wait -- let’s go to the store first. We’ll have all day to check into the motel.”

Clint flicked the turn signal back off and continued down the road to the four-way stop in what appeared to be the town square -- anchored by Cafe Tropical, Bob’s Garage, and, of course, Rose Apothecary.

“Oooh! There it is!” Marcy cried, clapping her hands together excitedly as Clint turned toward the Apothecary, then pulled into one of the empty parking spaces in front of the store.

Through the window, Clint could just see Patrick behind the shelf of plants, putting what appeared to be Christmas decorations into a large box. Then, he saw a dark-haired man emerge from the back room, quickly recognizing the “swoop” of hair atop his head and his thick, prominent brows from the photo of Patrick and his business partner on the store’s website.

“Oh, that must be David,” Marcy said beside him, her excitement clear in her voice. “It’ll be great to finally meet him too. He’s always so nice on the phone.”

Clint had just opened his mouth to suggest that they actually get out of the car, rather than just watching their son through the window like voyeurs, when David passed behind Patrick, his hand trailing lightly over Patrick’s shoulders as he stepped in front of him and leaned in… for a kiss. And not just any kiss, but one that lingered for a while, and ended in Patrick pulling away with a slight flush on his cheeks and a shy, fond smile.

Clint blinked, hearing Marcy’s sharp inhale from the passenger seat.

“Oh,” she said. “Oh! I…”

“Did you…” Clint started, then stopped, still trying to get his head around what he’d just seen.

“No,” Marcy breathed. “I mean, he said they were friends, but I--”

“I think they’re more than just friends, Marce.”

At that moment, Patrick turned toward the window, his eyes meeting his father’s. Recognition -- and what Clint could have sworn was fear -- dawned on Patrick’s face as his eyes grew wider, his mouth hanging open.

“Quick! Start the car!” Marcy cried, slapping frantically at Clint’s right arm. “Let’s just go to the motel!”

“Marce, he already--”

“Just do it! Clint!”

Clint did as he was told, starting the car and backing out of the parking space as quickly as he could before speeding away toward the motel, still not quite sure what exactly he and his wife had just witnessed, or what was really going on with their son.

***

“Oh, fuck,” Patrick breathed as he stared out the window, all of the color draining from his face as his gaze landed on a nondescript beige sedan parked in front of the store. But no sooner had Patrick said that, than David saw the woman in the passenger seat slap the driver’s arm, then three seconds later, they sped away.

“Oh god,” Patrick said, his voice taking on a higher pitch as he raked his fingers through his hair and started to pace. “Oh god. They saw us.”

“Who? Who saw us?” David felt his brows draw together in confusion as he tried to figure out why Patrick was all of a sudden so shy about having kissed David in front of someone, when he’d never seemed to care before. They kissed in the store all the time. For a split second, David’s old memories of past partners feeling ashamed to be with him started to bubble to the surface, but they dissolved just as quickly as they’d arisen when he realized that his steady, confident boyfriend was on the verge of a panic attack.

David shook his head in an attempt to snap himself fully back to the present moment before taking a step toward Patrick, only to have Patrick flinch and turn away from him.

“No, no…” Patrick murmured, still pacing as his breath started to come in short gasps. “What if they come back? Oh god… What have I done?”

“Patrick, what do you--”

“That was my parents, David!” Patrick cried, his arms dropping to his sides in clear frustration.

“Um, okay...” David’s voice trailed off into silence as it suddenly dawned on him that the two people in the car had looked just as much like they’d seen a ghost as Patrick had.

“They don’t know about us,” Patrick whispered, his eyes beginning to fill with tears. “They don’t know we’re together.”

***

Clint sat on the edge of the bed in their well-worn-but-welcoming motel room, watching his wife pace back and forth in the space between the bed and the opposite wall.

“I feel like we should have known, Clint!” she cried, wringing her hands in front of her. “Why didn’t we know?”

Before Clint could gather enough thoughts to put together a response, Marcy was speaking again.

“I mean, there was that one boy from the baseball team he hung out with all the time, but I always thought they were just friends. Do you think they were…?” Marcy left her sentence unfinished, though they both knew what that final word could have been. Together. A couple. Something more.

“I don’t know, Marce.” He let out a breath that came out sounding more like a frustrated sigh. “I don’t know.”

“I don’t understand why he wouldn’t just tell us though. Do you think he was afraid we wouldn’t accept him? Do you think we did, or said, something that made him feel like he couldn’t?”

“I don’t know,” Clint repeated, wishing he had something more helpful or meaningful to say, but he was still searching his own memories of his son, looking for clues -- opportunities where he could have dug deeper… should have dug deeper. But he was just as much at a loss as Marcy was. Hurt, shock, sadness, and guilt were all competing for top billing inside his head, but guilt seemed to be winning out, at least for the moment.

“Do you think it was because we were so close with Rachel?” Marcy said suddenly -- almost desperately.

Clint reached out as Marcy passed in front of him for what felt like the thousandth time, taking her hands in his own and stilling her restless motion. “Marcy, honey… I don’t know. I wish I did.”

Marcy sunk down onto the bed next to him with a sigh, and Clint wrapped an arm around her shoulders as she leaned into his side. “Did we push him into something he didn’t want, just because we assumed he was straight?”

Clint pulled his lips into his mouth, pressing them together between his teeth. He didn’t want to say what he was thinking, but he also didn’t want to lie. He blew out a breath and curled his fingers around Marcy’s upper arm. “Maybe.”

“Should we just go home?” Marcy asked softly. “Leave him be?”

“He already saw us, Marce… He knows we’re here. If we leave now, he might…” Clint couldn’t even bring himself to say the words, because they were so far from the truth, but the last thing he wanted was for their son to think they would abandon him for any reason, much less who he loved.

“Yeah,” Marcy murmured. “I just hate that he would even think that we would ever...”

“I know.”

“So what do we do now?”

“Let’s just… give him a little time. He knows we’re here.”

Marcy was quiet for a few beats as she leaned against Clint’s shoulder. “I just want him to know that we love him,” she whispered. “I only want him to be happy.”

“I know,” Clint said softly, brushing his fingertips over the shoulder of Marcy’s cardigan in a silent gesture of comfort and solidarity. “That’s all I want too.”

***

Patrick dropped down onto the couch in the back room beside David and rested his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. David reached out to lay a hesitant hand on his boyfriend’s back, hoping he wouldn’t flinch away this time. Patrick seemed to lean into the touch, though, and David felt his own shoulders move away from his ears a tiny bit. David was already fighting the voice inside his head reminding him of all the people in his past who had been ashamed of him -- afraid to be seen with him -- and he wasn’t sure he could take having Patrick move into that category as well. The logical part of his mind knew that was ridiculous, but dispelling his anxious thoughts had always been easier said than done.

“I’ve been wanting to tell them about us,” Patrick said, lifting his head but still not making eye contact with David. “I really have. I was just waiting to do it in person, and I…”

David rubbed his hand in a slow circle over Patrick’s back as he trailed off. David had talked to Patrick’s parents on the phone at the store on multiple occasions, and he particularly enjoyed talking to Marcy. But the thought had never entered his mind that the Brewers might think they were only talking to their son’s business partner -- not his boyfriend. He just hoped he hadn’t inadvertently said something to ‘out’ Patrick before he was ready.

Patrick scrubbed his hands roughly over the legs of his jeans, and David could practically feel the anxiety radiating off of him as he fidgeted. “David, I know my parents are good people,” he said, his voice breaking. “It’s just…” Patrick paused, his next exhale coming out as a pained, broken sound that made David’s heart squeeze. “I can’t shake this fear that there is a small chance that this could change everything. That they might see me differently, or treat me differently.”

David shook his head as he wrapped his arms around Patrick’s shoulders and pressed a kiss to his temple. He knew that fear well; he’d been there, even if he had chosen to deal with it in a very different way. But when it came to coming out, there was no right or wrong -- and everyone’s experience was different.

“David, you saw the way they just… left.” Patrick’s eyes were wet with tears now, his voice growing thicker. “What does that mean? What do I do now?”

David pressed his lips together, wishing he knew what to say or suggest, but he had a feeling that telling the Brewers to “deal with it,” as he’d done with his own parents, wasn’t the right way to navigate the situation.

“I should go talk to them,” Patrick said suddenly, the uncertainty in his voice belying the confidence and resolve in his choice of words. “I owe them that much.”

“Okay, what you’re dealing with is very personal,” David said, holding Patrick’s gaze despite the fact the pain he could see there was making him physically ache, “and it’s something you should only do on your terms.”

Patrick averted his eyes again, staring at the floor just in front of their shoes as he nodded, swallowing hard.

“I can just be your business partner for the next couple of days, if that would… help.”

Patrick let out a breathy chuckle, breaking the tension. “David, they already saw us kissing. I’m not sure we’d be able to pull that one off.”

“I don’t know!” David’s voice rose and his hands flailed in front of him as a bit of the panic he’d been fighting managed to escape without his permission. “It’s not like I want to do that, but I… I don’t know what other options we have.”

An awkward silence settled between them, and David pressed another kiss to Patrick’s temple, just as his phone started to buzz from where it was resting against his thigh on the couch cushion. He picked it up and unlocked it, revealing a text message from Stevie.

Are Patrick’s parents in town? A couple with the last name Brewer just checked in.

“What is it?” Patrick asked, running his hands nervously over his thighs again.

“It’s Stevie… sounds like your parents just checked in at the motel.”

Patrick drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly, though it still trembled a bit. “I guess we do need to go drop off those decorations, huh? So it would make sense if I…” Patrick trailed off, leaving his sentence unfinished.

“Only if you’re ready,” David said, still rubbing his hand over Patrick’s back. “And if you’re not, my offer still stands. We can just tell them I’m… overly affectionate. Or that I’ve spent too much time in Paris.”

Patrick shook his head, an amused smirk tugging at his lip for a second before his expression turned serious. “David, I can’t ask you to do that. I owe it to us to tell them.” He looked up at David, the tiniest hint of his usual confidence finally beginning to return to his whiskey-colored eyes. “I want them to know.”

***

Fifteen minutes later, the Brewers were still sitting at the end of their motel bed, Clint with his arm around Marcy, as they tried to determine the best way to navigate what felt like one of the most awkward possible situations for any parent to find themselves in.

“I didn’t mean to upset him,” Marcy said softly. “I only wanted to surprise him.”

Clint curled his fingertips around Marcy’s shoulder. “I just hate that he didn’t feel comfortable telling us.”

Marcy nodded as she turned slightly to wrap both of her arms around Clint. “I know. Me too.”

Clint had just pressed a soft kiss to the top of his wife’s head when a light knock on the door startled them both.

“Do you think that’s him?” Marcy asked, the hopefulness in her voice tinged with unease.

“Only one way to find out.”

Clint opened the door to see Patrick standing on the sidewalk, staring down at his shoes. When he looked up, his eyes were suspiciously bright.

“Hi, Dad… Mom,” Patrick murmured, his adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he swallowed hard, looking over his shoulder to the right for a moment and taking a deep breath before returning his focus back to his shoes. “I, um… I wanted to talk to you guys… about something.”

“You can talk to us about anything, sweetheart,” Marcy said as she ushered their son inside. “You know that.”

“Yeah,” Patrick breathed, his gaze wandering downward again as he sat down on the edge of the bed, the thumb of his right hand kneading at the palm of his left. It was a gesture Clint recognized as one of Patrick’s ‘tells’ when something was really bothering him, and it made Clint want to reach out and wrap his son in a hug and never let him go, but he knew they had to let Patrick get this out. Patrick sucked in another deep breath, as if steeling himself to continue. “I guess this doesn’t come naturally, huh?”

Marcy took a seat on the bed beside Patrick, her big, blue eyes bright with enthusiasm and anticipation, while Patrick continued to stare at a stain on the threadbare carpet.

“So, um, about me and David...”

“He seems like a really great partner, honey,” Marcy cut in excitedly. “In… business,” she added, as if she’d suddenly realized that she’d jumped about three steps ahead.

“Marce, let’s just… let him talk,” Clint said quietly, his hand coming to the small of his wife’s back as he sat down on her other side, watching as Patrick continued to wring his hands. Clint wanted nothing more than to take away the pain their son was feeling, but at this point, the only way to do that was to stay quiet and let him say what he’d come to say.

“He’s also a great partner outside of business,” Patrick said, his voice wobbling as he finally raised his eyes to meet theirs. “David is my boyfriend. And I’ve never been happier in my life, and I just…” Patrick paused, looking up at the ceiling as he took another breath. “I hope you guys can accept that.”

“Sweetheart, you are the only thing that matters to us,” Marcy said, wrapping her hands around Patrick’s and tugging them into her lap. “And if David makes you happy, then that’s all we care about.”

Patrick sniffled as he blinked back the tears that had started to gather at the corners of his eyes. “When I was with Rachel, things just never really felt right. No matter how hard we tried, it never worked. And I couldn’t understand why. And then I met David, and it all just… fell into place. So, um… Mom… Dad… I’m… I’m gay.”

Patrick looked up at them with pleading eyes, suddenly seeming more like the 10-year-old version of himself who had needed comfort after falling off his bike than the grown, nearly-30-year-old man that he was.

“Dad?” Patrick’s voice broke, and the sound might as well have been Clint’s heart breaking along with it. How long had Patrick been torturing himself, wondering whether or not his parents would still love him once they found out he was in love with a man?

Clint nodded and cleared his throat to push aside the lump that had risen in it, then laid his own hand over those of his wife and their son. “We love you, son. Always, no matter what. And we just want you to be happy, no matter who you’re with.”

“I didn’t know how I was going to tell you guys,” Patrick said, his voice still thick with emotion, though Clint could hear the relief coming through as well.

“Well,” Marcy said as she brushed her thumbs back and forth over Patrick’s knuckles, “we’re just glad you finally did.”

***

“Look at them, Clint,” Marcy whispered, her eyes glistening in the light from the thousands of Christmas lights that had been strung around the elder Roses’ motel room. “They’re so happy.”

Clint followed his wife’s gaze a few feet to their left, where David and Patrick were standing together, sipping champagne, Patrick’s arm draped over David’s shoulders as they exchanged soft kisses. They’d been inseparable all night -- their gentle touches and fond glances demonstrating how deeply they cared for one another. Patrick and Rachel had never looked like that. So... content. Completely at ease with each other. Just as two people in love should be. As they deserved to be. And even though Clint still felt a pang of regret for having not realized how unhappy Patrick had been before, he was glad to see him happy now.

Clint tilted Marcy’s chin upward, pressing a gentle kiss to her lips.

“I’m glad we’re here,” he said softly, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close as the Jazzagals started to sing ‘Silent Night.’ “That we get to see this.”

“Me too,” Marcy murmured, her head settling onto Clint’s shoulder.

“Merry Christmas, Marcy.”

Marcy looked up at him and smiled, her eyes filled with what Clint knew were tears of happiness -- and pride -- for their son, as she whispered back, “Merry Christmas, Clint.”