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two pieces from different puzzles

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“Patrick?” Rachel was, for lack of a better phrase, absolutely floored. The last person she had expected to see at Alexis’s “family barbecue” was the person she had come to see.

The person who, it seemed, had been actively ignoring her. She didn’t know if that was better or worse than finding out he was dead in a ditch somewhere. 

Patrick’s face contorted into a look of horror and Rachel’s stomach sank. Whatever reunion she had imagined, Patrick looking at her like she was a ghost was the last thing she would have expected. “Rachel, what are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here? I’ve been texting you for two days.” Perhaps shaming him in front of…whoever these people were to him would get him to talk to her. 

“Wait,” Alexis interjected, looking between Rachel and Patrick like she’d just realized she’d made a terrible mistake. Which, well, did not bode well for Rachel. “ Patrick is your fiancé?” Like that was some big shock to everyone in attendance. 

Yeah, Rachel was starting to regret this as much as she was starting to hate how everyone was staring at her. 

An incredibly well dressed man who looked vaguely familiar turned his shocked expression from Rachel to Patrick. “Uh, I’m sorry. You have a — a fiancée?”

Everyone was staring at Patrick in anticipation of his answer and Rachel’s heart was lodged somewhere in her throat if the way she could feel her pulse pounding against it was any indication. 

“No. I — I mean I don’t…now.” Rachel’s heart plummeted to the pit of her stomach and all the air left her lungs. She knew getting him back was a long shot, if only because the way he’d left without warning felt… different than the other times. It had felt more final, the lid on the coffin of their relationship clicking closed, but she’d had to try. She’d spent nearly half her life with Patrick — he wasn’t so easy to let go of. “But yes, at some point, we uh…we were…”

Rachel swallowed past the lump in her throat, trying to save the last dregs on her dignity. “Patrick, what’s going on here?” She hated the strain in her voice, the defeat , but she hated the fact that Patrick sounded so…ashamed of her, of having been with her, and it was a wound deeper than anything.

“Okay, um, I just think I might need a sec,” the vaguely familiar, well dressed man said, standing up from the table. His voice, for a reason Rachel couldn’t fathom, held the same deep pain that she felt slashed across her heart. 

“David,” Patrick said, almost a plea, as the man — who Rachel now recognized as David Rose , heir to the Rose Video fortune. How did Patrick know the Roses ? — got up and all but ran away from the table, Patrick on his heels. As David disappeared into one of the motel rooms, Patrick looked back at Rachel without stopping and said, “I’m gonna talk to you in a minute, we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

And then he was gone, leaving Rachel standing dumbfounded with the Rose family (how has she not realized sooner that the Alexis she had given advice to was Alexis Rose ? She and Patrick had met while working at a Rose Video and you couldn’t turn any direction without seeing their faces) and the girl from the front desk gaping at her like she was a sideshow attraction.

“Who is she?” Johnny Rose said, glancing around at his family, searching for answers that no one could give him, Rachel included. She didn’t know who she was anymore. “I glanced down at my plate for two seconds.”

No one said anything for an uncomfortable stretch of time and Rachel shifted her weight nervously from foot to foot before saying, “I’m sorry I ruined your dinner. This was a mistake, I should go.”

Alexis placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “No, stay, please. Patrick owes you an explanation.”

“Yeah,” the front desk girl — Stevie, Rachel remembered her name being — snapped. “He owes a lot of people an explanation.” She ignored the look Alexis shot her as she angrily began piling a plate full of what looked like half the spread. 

Alexis tightened her grip on Rachel’s shoulder and steered her towards the table, forcing her into the seat across from none other than Moira Rose, who was staring at her with mild curiosity. Alexis sat next to her in the seat that Patrick had just vacated and, after admonishing her mother for staring, said, “Are you hungry?” Then shook her head and added, “No, that’s a stupid question. Sorry.” 

Rachel said nothing, just stared down at the rubber tablecloth until the red and white checkered pattern blurred her vision. Or maybe it was tears. There was really no way to be sure at this point.

Rachel didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on, but she felt like she had messed up more than just her own life this time. 

Even as regret flooded in her veins, engulfing her until there was nothing left but regret, Rachel couldn’t bring herself to feel sorry. Patrick had always been there, even when he wasn’t there . Patrick was her rock, her safe place, the light at the end of the tunnel. She had no way of knowing that this break wouldn’t end the same way as all the others. 

They were engaged , for crying out loud. They were going to get married and, yeah Patrick might have gotten cold feet, but he wouldn’t have asked her to marry him if he hadn’t meant it. Sometimes he needed a push in the right direction, but he always found his way back to her.

So what had changed this time?

At some point, Moira had ushered her husband away and it was then that Rachel realized that Patrick had returned. He was visibly shaken, as if his entire world had crashed down around him. It was shocking, to say the least, to see Patrick looking the way she’d always felt whenever he left. 

Stevie brushed past him with the plate that was barely supporting the weight of the food on top of it and shot him a glare that could kill. Patrick didn’t react, only watched her disappear into David’s room with no emotion. Well, no, that was the wrong word. Patrick looked like he was experiencing every emotion at once, each battling for control of his face. 

Alexis stood and began to walk away, saying, “I should go,” as she tried to move past Patrick.

He grabbed her forearm. “No, stay.” There was a desperation in his voice that no one would be able to resist, and Alexis was no exception. She nodded and sat down at the table next to Patrick. He rested his hands on the table and Alexis covered them with her own, a united front against Rachel.

“Why did you come here, Rachel?” The tears that shone in Patrick’s eye thickened his voice. 

Rachel’s head spun. Why had she come? It was such a loaded question. Because she loved Patrick, because she needed him, because they belonged together. All were the truth and none of them felt like the right answer.

“Because you need to come home,” she settled on, even though that also wasn’t the right answer. 

Patrick shook his head. Usually when he would shake his head at her, it was in that amused way when he couldn’t believe how ridiculous she was being. But not now, not this time sitting at a picnic table outside of a crappy motel in a town called Schitt’s Creek across from Alexis Rose.

This time, Patrick was angry.

“You don’t get to decide where my home is.”

“But why , Patrick? You can’t possibly think that this town is where you belong.”

“Enlighten me, then, Rachel. Where do I belong?” Another loaded question that didn’t have a right answer. Rachel knew that anything she said would trip the wire that had Patrick so wound up, so she stayed silent. Eventually, Patrick sighed and said, “I’m sorry, this isn’t your fault. You didn’t know. I shouldn’t — I should have told him…”

“Patrick, it’s okay,” Alexis assured him, moving her hand from atop his to wrap her arms around his shoulders. Patrick relaxed into her embrace. The Patrick Rachel knew didn’t seem the type to fit in with people like the Roses. What had Schitt’s Creek done to him? Or maybe she’d never known him at all. “Yes, he’s hurt and he’s definitely going to milk this, but it’s not the end. So don’t act like it is.” 

Patrick nodded against her shoulder, though he looked no less comforted.

“I’m sorry, but can someone please tell me what the hell is going on?” Rachel knew that she sounded demanding, but she felt she was owed an explanation.

Patrick straightened and nodded. “Yes, sorry. I owe you that much.” He took a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever he was about to say. “Have you ever wondered why it never seemed to work with us? Why it never felt right?”

“What are you talking about?” Of course it had felt right. But…maybe it hadn’t to Patrick.

“Okay, sorry, I’m not doing this right. Let me try again.” He closed his eyes and took another deep breath. “When we were together, did you ever wonder why we kept breaking up?”

“But we always found our way back,” Rachel argued. “That’s what love is.”

Patrick shook his head, a sad smile tugging up the edges of his lips. “No, it’s not. Love shouldn’t feel like a chore, like something you’re doing because that’s what’s expected. It shouldn’t be going through the motions. Love.” Here his smile widened even as the tears fell from his eyes. Beside him, Alexis also had tears silently falling into her smile. “Love should feel like…it should be as easy as breathing. It’s not going to be effortless, but putting in the work shouldn’t feel like a burden. It should feel right .”

Rachel’s head was spinning. There was clearly a piece of the puzzle Patrick had yet to put in place for her and she knew she should let him tell her, but she couldn’t stop herself from saying, “I don’t understand, Patrick. What are you talking about?”

The pause Patrick took was heavy, weighing down on Rachel’s shoulders. When he said, “I’m gay,” in a voice that was confident, if a little shaky, the puzzle was complete and everything made sense.

How Patrick had always seemed to pull away from Rachel when she tried to make things more serious. All of their break ups seemed to happen whenever Rachel proposed a “next step” — having sex, going to the same university, moving in together, getting married. Patrick had pulled away, but he had always come back. Rachel assumed that it was because he loved her, but now she knew it was because he felt that all those things were what he was expected to do. He was just going through the motions, as he had put it. 

“Okay, yeah. You’re gay. That’s, um, yeah. That’s great.” Rachel realized she was sounding less than supportive, which was the opposite of what she wanted. So she backtracked. “So, um, David. Is he — are you…”

“Yes, I’m dating David. Or…I was. I don’t…”

Alexis reached out and squeezed his hand. “Don’t worry. We’ll fix this.” Patrick nodded, not looking at her. 

“And you, um…” She hated that she couldn’t say the words, absolutely despised it. She knew that Patrick was the same person, hell, maybe he was more himself than he’d ever been. But it was hard reconciling the man she had spent over a decade assuming she’d marry with the man who was telling her he was gay.

“Are you asking if I love him?” Rachel nodded and she noticed that Alexis was anticipating the answer as well. “Because, yes, I do. I didn’t know why I couldn’t make love work and then I met David and it just…made sense.”

“I’m happy for you.” Rachel reached out and took Patrick’s hand in her own. When he didn’t pull away, she felt tears well up in her eyes. “Really, I am. You deserve to love and be loved for all that you are. And I’m really sorry if I messed that up for you.”

Alexis waved that away. “Trust me, I know my brother. He’s a drama queen who is going to mope around for a few days and bring everyone around him down with him, which is going to suck for me by the way, but he’s not an idiot. He wouldn’t have stuck around this long if he didn’t think it was worth it. He just needs to figure that out for himself.” 

Patrick pulled his hand from Rachel’s and slumped forward, pressing his forehead against the table, every muscle in his neck and back laced with exhaustion. 

Rachel hated herself. She was so fucking selfish . She’d come here for herself, because she needed Patrick, and had never once stopped to think if he needed her . When he had left with nothing more than a “I can’t” and then no word for six months, Rachel had just assumed that he’d needed another push.

But he hadn’t. In telling Rachel that he couldn’t, that he’d needed to leave, she never imagined that he’d find something he could do, would find somewhere to stay

They had always been RachelandPatrick, PatrickandRachel. They were supposed to be together, so Rachel pushed and redrew the picture and manipulated the puzzle piece to fit. She did everything she was supposed to do and she thought she’d failed when Patrick moved hours away to a tiny town with a funny name.

But as she looked over Patrick’s shoulder at the motel David Rose had disappeared into, Rachel realized what she had really done. She had manipulated the puzzle piece and, in doing so, she had made Patrick realize that their pictures didn’t match.

So he’d left. He’d left and he’d found the person — the man — who completed his picture. And Rachel owed it to him to leave for the last time, to sever the ties of RachelandPatrick, PatrickandRachel.

He was Patrick. She was Rachel. And the pictures of their puzzles didn’t match. So, she got up, bid Alexis farewell and went to check out. Patrick needed to fix his puzzle.

And Rachel? She needed to learn what her puzzle looked like.