Actions

Work Header

Ease My Mind

Chapter Text

‘You’re insufferable.’ Patrick rolled his eyes and kissed Tim, as he held up the pumpkin.

‘I’m sorry I’m what?’

‘Insufferable is Patrick for ‘I can’t live without you.’’ David winked from the candle display.

‘Being insufferable is Tim’s love language.’ Mark quipped from where he was tangled in fairy lights ‘Also what the fuck is wrong with these?!’ he asked exasperated.

‘David put them away.’ Patrick grinned, ‘Take it up with him.’

‘I put them away in a perfectly reasonable manner.’ David rolled his eyes.

‘Then get over here and reasonably untangle them.’ Mark insisted.

David obeyed sensing this was a battle to concede, and likely if he wanted them hung how he wanted them, then he’d have to help. Patrick and Tim disappeared into the back room to sort the inventory for the Thanksgiving Open Mic. He’d bickered with his husband that ‘Thanksgiving’ wasn’t exactly an open mic theme, but only half heartedly. He knew it was more than that. It was a year since last year and all the worry of his cancer. It was, as ever, the time he couldn’t help but think of his dad. It felt heavier this year than last in some ways. So David appreciated him throwing himself into the festivities. It was what Patrick did after all.

Mark handed him one end and started untangling.

‘How’s he doing?’ he asked with an air of forced casualness as Tim and Patrick disappeared into the storeroom

‘Up and down.’ David said honestly, ‘He’s quiet, which is never good with him. He retreats in until he breaks and well…’ he shrugged. ‘But busy helps and I don’t want to take that off him.’

‘Tim will talk to him.’ Mark said ‘Year from diagnosis, it’s always tough. He still gets... sombre...every year the date of his diagnosis. And Patrick has his dad on top of that.’

‘Thanksgiving. We make it super fun!’ David gestured with the lights and tangled them more. ‘Oops.’ he said.

Mark rolled his eyes and they worked in silence for a bit. David enjoyed the quiet with him, it was a space like with Patrick that just felt ‘right’ to borrow his husband’s term. Yes David could talk for North America, but he could also be quiet with Patrick, and the same feeling with Mark was what drew him to him. That he mused, and how unfeasibly handsome he was. He found himself now, watching him work on the lights, watching his hands work the cord, both delicate and masculine at once. He occasionally realised he had a thing for hands...the way Patrick’s were stronger, more powerful than his long fingers pleased him. Mark’s too had that energy. Similar too to his husband Mark had big powerful arms, longer limbed than Patrick, but with his sleeves rolled up now, David appreciated the curve of muscle on his forearm. He glanced up, of course, Mark’s handsome face didn’t hurt either, classically so he had ridiculous cheekbones and a cheeky charming smile. David stared now at the concentration on his face, his silver-streaked hair falling in his eyes. He pushed it back and looked over.

‘What are you staring at?’ Mark grinned but also blushed.

‘Just admiring a man at work.’ David grinned back and winked. Things had been so weighted and emotional at first, but they’d now settled into some flirty banter that lightened things. They’d realised it was ok to find each other attractive, to enjoy that side of things. In the last few months too they’d relaxed into an easy routine. One where they spent most of their free time as a four, sometimes more with Tim liking to help out at the Store. They went on ‘date nights’ as a four where anyone else would simply mistake them for four friends double-dating. They went to events in the town together, and Mark and Tim effortlessly fit into life here. On the intimacy side too, things just fell into place. With the four of them falling into bed more often than in pairs lately, but still having moments of ‘alone time’ as and when the mood took them. That part had got easier, asking for what they wanted, David reasoned. He’d noticed too he felt more connected to Patrick there, and in life. ‘Being happy’ Patrick had called it teasingly, but they were. They were, he reasoned and he grinned at Mark again, dopily, in a grin he thought he’d reserved only for Patrick.

Mark leaned over and kissed him, a little more than a friendly kiss, David dropped the lights on his end and let himself get pulled in, smiling into it. The bell chimed at the door.

‘Um I was told this was a ‘setting up the Open Mic’ evening not a ‘make out on top of the candles’ evening.’ Stevie declared.

‘Maybe it’s both.’ David said, pulling back from Mark.

‘Get back to work.’ Mark commanded.

‘Ooh I like it when he’s bossy.’ Stevie grinned.

‘So does David!’ Tim’s voice came from the back room.

‘So do you, honey.’ Mark yelled back.

‘Didn’t say I didn’t.’

‘I’m sorry clearly I mistook ‘Open Mic’ for some kind of kink-fest.’

‘Kink-Fest?’ David said ‘I thought that was Jake’s department.’

‘Oh it is.’ she said, folding her arms. ‘And he’s good at it too.’

‘Ew.’ David said. ‘The less I know about yours and Jake’s now fourteen-year affair of sexual debauchery the better.’

‘He gives me what I need.’ Stevie shrugged. ‘You lot know about that.’

‘Oh believe me we do.’ Tim said, emerging from the back room with supplies and a wink at Patrick.

‘Why are you winking at me? Don’t drag me down with you.’

‘Oh, he likes that too.’ David quipped ‘Especially if you like hold-’

‘DAVID ROSE.’ Patrick glared.

‘Brewer-Rose, you co-own this.’ David smirked with a toss of his head.

‘Enough! All of you!’ Stevie said ‘Or at least give a woman a drink if I have to listen to this.’

‘An excellent plan.’ Tim said checking with Patrick who nodded at him before he went to the wine. Stevie looked satisfied as she was poured a glass of red by Tim with a wink.

She was of course the first to find out about them. David is unable to keep a secret at the best of times from her. But she’d caught him and Mark hugging goodbye, and something in David’s face must have betrayed something because she fixed him with her best ‘what is going on’ glare. And it had come tumbling out. He’d cried leaning on the counter in the Store, explaining how deeply he loved Mark and Tim, how deeply Patrick did, and how messed up and sad it was. And how scared he was. He hadn’t confessed to anyone just how scared he was. Of it going wrong, of what the future held for them all, for protecting his husband and himself, but also the other two men they loved. Stevie had listened and nodded and then said simply ‘it took you long enough to find one person to love you, don’t give up two more.’ he’d nodded and resolved to give it his all, if Stevie believed in them, then he could do it.

Since then in typical Stevie fashion, she’d just accepted it. Patrick had told him she’d said it made sense for them and confessed she was jealous- them having more than one person to love them. Not for the first time, David worried about her too, worried maybe she didn’t let herself feel whatever she needed to feel to find someone. But also knowing that Stevie was fully Stevie and that she was all things considered happy on her own. With occasional help from Jake.

They settled into actually working- and drinking- making the place look ‘festive’ as well as setting up the space for the following night- they had found people liked to come and hang out and drink right after Store hours and who were they to argue with that. So they set up everything but the chairs ready for the next night. Patrick turned the lights on with a flourish.

‘Tah dah!’ he grinned, David grinned back, looking around the Store. Even after all these years, he was proud of what they’d created. As much as he mocked too, that the community had embraced things like the Open Mic nights made him happy.

Patrick grinned back at him and he went to his husband and kissed him fiercely until Stevie told them to get a room.

‘We have plenty.’

‘Then go home and use them.’ she downed her wine.

‘You’re cranky, do we need to call Jake?’ David teased.

‘No need. Pre-Thanksgiving drinks at his tomorrow.’ she winked.

‘Ew tell me he doesn't have pumpkin lube.’

‘Goodnight.’ Stevie neither confirmed nor denied. She hugged Tim tightly and Mark, finally Patrick. ‘Looks amazing.’ she said.

‘Don’t blow off our open mic for blowing Jake.’ David warned allowing her to hug him.

‘Wouldn’t dare.’ she said then quiet ‘Take care of him, he looks tired.’

David squeezed her. For all the teasing, for all the walls, she was perceptive, and she looked out for them- all of them- now.

They spent a few minutes clearing up the Store, with Patrick fastidious as ever setting everything out for Katie to open up in the morning, even though she’d done it dozens of times- usually following David’s less than fastidious clearing up. David let him, fussing with his scarf in the mirror they’d hung by the counter ‘for customers’ but mostly for his grooming Patrick teased him. Mark wrapped himself around David’s neck and kissed his cheek.

‘Beautiful as ever.’ he teased ‘C’mon home time.’

‘Coming over for a nightcap?’ David asked as they walked to the car.

‘Better not.’ Tim said ‘I’m teaching a class tomorrow and Mark has an early meeting.’

He was back teaching some classes in Elmdale now he was stable and feeling ok. Mark too was able to take on more clients now things were steady. David nodded and leaned over kissing them both goodnight. Tim embraced Patrick tightly, holding on for a long while before kissing him goodnight.

‘Get some sleep.’ he said.

David let Patrick lead him back to the car, halfway there something clicked. Tim knew what night it was. Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and so what tomorrow morning was. 6.47 tomorrow morning to be exact.

‘Oh.’ he said out loud.

‘David?’ Patrick stopped at the car ‘Did you forget something?’

‘No, no it’s fine.’ he said getting in the car ‘I’m tired. Let’s get an early night.’

‘I thought you wanted to watch that show? The one about the fashion interns with impossibly expensive clothes given they earn no money.’

‘Do it tomorrow.’ David gave an exaggerated yawn. ‘Busy few days anyway.’

‘Ok.’ Patrick shrugged, getting in the car.

They went to bed early, and Patrick did persuade David to watch the show he wanted, which he did curled up around him while Patrick read, one eye on it asking occasional questions that got him eye rolls and pokes in the ribs. By 10 pm they were settling down to sleep, David making sure he was holding firmly onto his husband.

 

Their early night lasted until 4 am. Which was an improvement on some years. Patrick woke up gasping for breath, with David talking to him softly until he came back to reality with a crash. David carried on talking quietly about nothing, rubbing circles on his back while he caught his breath. Then he grabbed his own fluffy robe and wrapped it around Patrick, smelling of all his skincare products and faintly of the Store too.

They moved to the sofa and David wordlessly handed his husband a whiskey, which he took his hands still shaking. David draped himself over him until everything slowed a bit. Patrick shifted and settled into his lap, one eye on the tv, sipping his drink occasionally. It wasn’t until 5 am Patrick spoke.

‘I’m scared David.’ he said quietly, over the sound of the TV with an old hockey game playing quietly.

‘Of what?’ he asked, one hand under the robe, stroking Patrick’s hair down gently. He could guess, but Patrick needed to work through it out loud.

‘That we’ll have to go through it again.’ he said ‘This time last year we had no idea…’ he trailed off thinking about it. A year ago, he’d not been officially diagnosed but he knew, really that he had cancer. A year ago he had no idea that the surgery would go just wrong enough to scare David half to death. He had no idea how hard recovery would be. He had no idea that chemo would make him sometimes wish things so dark he still couldn’t quite admit them.

‘We had no idea.’ David agreed. ‘It was hard. Not just on your body.’ he kissed Patrick’s hair. Which was back to normal now, but like his dad’s had post-chemo, streaked with white. David loved it and made sure to tell him often. So much had changed for them both this last year.
They’d both seen tough times but it was the first time he’d seen anything really break his husband. ‘I’m more scared of...that side of things.’ he confessed. He’d also come close to breaking. They’d got through but it wasn’t easy.

‘I promise to never let either of us get that far without asking for help.’ Patrick took his hand, entwining their fingers and playing with them lightly, a sure sign he was thinking. ‘Maybe I need a bit more help still, with that, than I thought.’

‘Oh, sweetheart.’ David said, kissing his neck. ‘I didn’t know.’

Patrick shook his head, and sat up so he could see David.

‘I didn’t. Not until this week.’ he shook his head, trying to formulate a coherent thought ‘It’s like my brain is in overdrive and crashing all at once. Sometimes I can’t think at all, it’s like cotton wool. Other times I can’t stop thinking.’ he swallowed ‘I know it’s the time of year, but I can feel the paranoia-no the obsession, that’s what it is- with ‘am I ill’ creeping in.’ he looked down ‘I’ve been checking my body for lumps, obsessively. Like over and over again every day.’ he looked up at David looking a bit lost, and a lot sad ‘I’m googling things and analysing everything that comes out of my body, and whether I’m breathing right and…’

‘I didn’t know.’ David said quietly, ‘But now I do, we can get through it yeah?’

Patrick nodded. The anxiety about his health was a sure sign things had got out of control. He’d stopped taking his anxiety medication back in the spring- with their therapist’s agreement- and life had been so good, but the last three weeks had sent him plummeting back.

‘I’m ok. I’ll get through the weekend. Busy is good, and when I’m distracted, I think about it less.’

‘That’s good.’ David said, reaching a hand behind his neck. ‘Open Mic night, then your mom gets here you’ll be so busy and distracted by trying to feed everyone it’ll feel better.’ he knew that was the case with Patrick, give him a focus he got out of his own head and out of his own way. It wouldn’t solve the things that he needed help with but short term it would get it through.

‘I really miss Mom.’ he said looking sad again ‘Is that silly? I’m a grown-up I-’

‘I miss my mom all the time.’ David interrupted ‘Tell her that and I will divorce you. But I miss her and Dad. More than ever after all…’

Patrick nodded and lay back down, curling into David again. He felt him pull the blanket over him as well and he sighed closing his eyes.

‘What?’ David asked, sensing him thinking.

‘I wish they could stay for the weekend too.’ Patrick said, tracing a pattern on David’s chest with his fingers. Mark and Tim would of course be around most of the time, but with his mom in the spare room or ‘their room’ as it had so quickly become, there wasn’t space. Also, that involved a conversation he wasn’t sure they were at yet. One that deep down was playing on his mind. More than that though he knew both of them needed their best friends this weekend, because this, as much as it was Patrick’s ‘thing’ was also affecting David. He felt him kiss his hair.

‘Me too.’ he said, ‘but we’ll make time together ok? Even if it’s just hiding in the office while Stevie stands guard.’

Patrick laughed at the image, them sneaking around behind everyone’s backs all weekend. In truth it wouldn’t be any different to how they’d been before- they’d been tactile and affectionate with each other from the start. In retrospect it possibly was inevitable this is where they’d end up, but it had been slow, Patrick had never felt so at ease with touching or holding someone, even kissing them, as he had Tim and Mark, apart from David. Again that feeling of ‘right’ should have given it away, but it hadn’t until it hit him all at once. He smiled at the thought.

‘I’m glad we have them.’ Patrick said softly, ‘Not just this weekend but…’

‘Me too.’ David agreed, watching Patrick close his eyes. He pulled the blankets over them a bit tighter, resting a hand on the back of Patrick’s head, before closing his own eyes for a bit.

They dozed for an hour or so, David’s steady breathing under him was comforting and he drifted off, waking again at 6.30. He waited for the clock to tick over to 6.47 and subconsciously tightened his grip on David, who stirred just as he started to cry. Eleven years, since the worst phone call of his life, and one year since he was the most scared he’d ever been. He cried softly into David’s t-shirt for a little while, feeling his hand on his back, knowing David always just let him get it out. Reliving that moment where his mom had called with the news, feeling the stuff he mostly filed away the rest of the year. He heard a noise and realised it was the front door.

‘Just us.’ Mark’s voice called softly.

Patrick sat up, to see Mark and Tim, both still in pyjamas, with coats over the top coming in. Tim shrugged off his coat and handed it to his husband.

‘I suggested calling but was vetoed.’ Mark smiled, coming into the living room properly, and perching next to David, kissing his cheek, and looping an arm over him. Tim hurried over to Patrick’s side and sat down next to him.

‘You can’t give someone a hug through the phone.’ he said doing just that.

Patrick felt himself pulled into a hug, and a fresh wave of tears took over him, this time in gratitude, that they would get up early, just so they could give him a hug when he needed it. He felt David’s hand on his back, and Tim pulled back and kissed him lightly, then used the sleeves of his pyjamas to wipe his face.

‘Didn’t think we’d leave you alone this morning did you?’ he said.

‘You’ve got work.’ Patrick sniffed.

‘Brought our clothes to change into.’ Mark supplied. ‘Plenty of time. Why don’t I make us breakfast.’

He got up and came over to Patrick first, pulling him into a tight hug, and kissing the top of his head.

‘Eggs?’ he asked with a tilt of his head.

Patrick nodded, knowing looking after people was very much Mark’s love language, cooking perhaps more so. David rubbed a hand across his back and got up to help Mark in the kitchen.

Knowing maybe Patrick needed Tim for some of this. They didn’t speak right away, instead, Tim pulled him in for another kiss before sitting back letting Patrick pull his legs up on the sofa and lean his head on Tim’s shoulder, arm across his stomach. The ache in his chest eased slightly. He’d got through this moment at least.

‘Thanks for coming.’ he said quietly, feeling suddenly very small and vulnerable.

‘Of course.’ Tim said ‘I know you like to work through this stuff alone, but maybe sometimes...a bit of moral support?’

Patrick looked up and him and nodded, then allowed himself to be pulled down into Tim’s side, feeling him rearrange the blankets over them both. Patrick found his hand under them and held on. He liked that Tim knew he didn’t have it in him to talk just yet, but that also he needed him there.

In the kitchen, Mark went to the fridge and got out eggs and butter and milk, while David measured coffee. They worked quietly, David realising with a small smile Mark knew better than he did where the pans were in the kitchen.

‘Thanks.’ he said softly ‘For this.’

‘Just making eggs.’ Mark said with a shrug and a smile. He glanced over and tilted his head ‘You needed us.’ he said simply, accepting it as fact. ‘It’s what you do.’

‘He didn’t tell me.’ David said into the coffee maker ‘The day it happened? Until the evening. He couldn’t figure out how- no he had to figure it out in his head first-he thought I was mad at him. For not saying.’

‘He keeps it inside.’ Mark said ‘Until he has it all figured out. I get that.’ he whisked the eggs looking thoughtful. ‘Tim was on a work trip-some conference in Vancouver- when my mom died. It was the first in months, he’d been going through treatment again and I couldn't ruin it for him. So I let him call me, talk about the theatre dorks at his conference, talk about the dinner and the speeches. I even let him drunk call me. He called at 2 am, apologising, when I was up, on my fifth whiskey my eyes almost swollen shut from crying.’

‘How did you tell him?’ David asked.

Mark laughed, ‘I sent him a text. From the airport. I couldn’t say it.’ he shook his head and poked the eggs, ‘Poor guy got off a plane to a text saying ‘Mom died, I’m waiting by the Second Cup stand in the lobby.’

David laughed, but came over and wrapped himself around Mark’s waist, resting his head on his shoulder.

‘I had two coffees and a muffin- because he’s always hungry. And he said ‘Honey you didn’t need to get coffee your mom died.’ and I cried on him in the middle of the airport coffee shop, and the barista came over with fresh coffees because ours went cold while I cried.’ he stopped stirring and David kissed his shoulder waiting. ‘I really miss her.’ Mark said quietly.

David didn’t say anything, he just stood there a while holding him, until Mark kissed his hair and poked the eggs again. They quietly got breakfast ready and called Patrick and Tim through. David did a quick check of his husband, who looked ok for someone who had been up since four and spent a good couple of hours crying. He smiled softly and nodded. David knew what he meant ‘I’m ok for now.’ That was how Patrick got through, bursts of ok and bursts of not. David envied that a bit. He knew whenever anything as major as losing a parent happened he’d be very much not ok, and only not ok probably for a while. The thought scared him too, just how far down that road he might go. Just what version of him his husband might see, what might happen to him.

‘David?’ Tim’s voice cut through. ‘David I said pass the yoghurt?’

‘Oh sorry.’ David shook his head and shoved some egg in his mouth to avoid the silent question Patrick threw at him. Instead, his husband grinned.

‘Are you two ready for the Corn Maze challenge tomorrow?’

David groaned, grinning genuinely now. Ever since that first Thanksgiving eleven years ago they’d gone to the local Fall Festival. Which was really nothing more than a few rides in a farmer’s field. But they had an array of baked goods, and once or twice he’d even found new suppliers for the Store there. And the Corn Maze. Patrick challenged him to a race every year. And every year he won. But he had to protest still.

‘I will win.’ Patrick declared with a wink.

‘You tell yourself that.’ David grinned.

‘What’s the loser’s forfeit?’ Tim asked with a grin.

‘Buying the snacks.’ Patrick grinned ‘Though David has had more creative suggestions.’

‘I bet he has.’ Mark grinned.

‘Maybe we add that in.’ Tim smirked ‘Buy snacks and does whatever the winner wants...that night.’ he winked.

‘Wait are we doing this as a team sport situation?’ Patrick asked.

‘Are we still talking about the maze?’ Tim winked.

‘This is quite enough filth for the breakfast table’ Mark rolled his eyes. Then smirked ‘But obviously this is an individual event, therefore the winner gets full creative control over the rewards.’

He got up with a flourish and spun around to the sink.

‘I don’t like his tone.’ Patrick narrowed his eyes ‘That’s a man with a plan.’

‘Many.’ Mark winked and kissed Patrick’s cheek ‘Husband, get dressed, we need to get you to work.’

A little while later the house was quiet again, Patrick emerged from the shower towelling his hair, enjoying there was now hair enough to towel off. He had on his underwear and nothing else and he caught David’s eyes flick appreciatively over his body as he came into the bedroom. His husband was it had to be said lounging on their bed, also in his underwear.

‘That does not look like getting dressed.’ Patrick said ‘In fact, it’s the very opposite, it’s fewer clothes than I left you with.’

‘I might have told Katie we’ll be late. Thanksgiving emergency.’

‘What emergency is that?’ Patrick asked, folding his arms and leaning on the doorway.

‘The ‘it’s about to be really busy for four days and I want another hour in bed with my husband.’ David shrugged.

‘I see, I see.’ Patrick said ‘This hour in bed, is it for catching up with sleep on account of how busy we’re going to be?’

‘I had something a bit more...invigorating in mind.’

‘Ah now there’s the problem David.’ Patrick had to grin when he looked aghast. ‘That’s going to take more than an hour.’

‘Oh, it will?’ David grinned.

‘Good thing I told Katie two days ago we’d be in at lunchtime today.’ Patrick pushed himself off the wall and walked to the bed, pleased at his husband’s aghast look. ‘Figured, make the most of our last alone time for a few days.’ he leaned in and kissed him lightly, teasingly.

The Store was steadily busy that day, which was good. It reminded him of eleven years earlier, but in a reassuring way, in a kind of life goes on way. It was only towards the end of the day when things slowed down Patrick’s mind started to wander. David came out of the backroom and draped himself over his shoulders.

‘It’s ok to be sad.’ he said, kissing his cheek.

‘I know.’ Patrick said quietly. ‘I just wish I wasn’t.’

David spun him gently around, dipping down a little. ‘Be sad. And be happy. And eat pie and whatever else, and we will get through it together like we do every year ok?’

Patrick nodded. ‘I love you.’ he smiled.

‘Love you too.’ David smiled.

They closed up quietly, the familiar routine doing Patrick’s mind good, falling into it easily. Until he found himself with a crate of tomatoes. He remembered David wanting to throw them at him that day and he laughed, remembering his indignance at whatever he’d decided Patrick had done wrong. That David was ready to pelt him with the tomatoes for being grumpy with him all day. And that he’d sat there on the floor surrounded by vegetables on the worst day of his life.

Before he knew it David was taking the box off him and wrapping him up in a hug, and he was wrapping his arms around his waist and crying.

‘I didn’t cry that day.’ he sniffed into David’s soft sweater.

‘I know.’ David said, stroking his hair.

‘I wish I’d cried.’ he said quietly.

He was aware of the Store bell going and he panicked for a split second that someone would see.

‘We thought it was time to take you both home.’ Tim’s voice came from behind him. ‘You’re both working far too hard.’

Patrick felt handed off to Tim, and pulled into him. He didn’t even get a chance to look at him before he was pulled into a hug.

‘I’ll get your stuff.’ Mark’s voice came from somewhere over his head. He was still crying and he didn’t really know why anymore. But Tim was there, and David was still with him. In a blur, they locked up, with him still tucked under Tim’s arm.

‘I don’t know why I cried.’ he said quietly ‘I don’t normally...more than once.’ it was true, normally he got a bit upset first thing, and powered on. More a quiet sadness than actually crying in his husband’s arms. Or Tim’s, he didn’t deserve to see that. ‘I’m sorry guys.’ Patrick said to Mark and Tim.

‘Hey, it’s not Thanksgiving until you cry.’ Mark said, giving his arm a squeeze. ‘Now my husband suggested a new tradition on the way home, ‘pre-Thanksgiving pizza pyjama party’ what do you say to that?’

‘I say Tim is a very wise man.’ David said finishing locking the door and taking his husband back from Tim, tucking Patrick under his arm. ‘See you at home?’

They nodded. Then Mark stopped. ‘Wait which home?’

Patrick grinned, they possibly needed to come up with some labels for things.

‘Come to us.’ he offered ‘Stay until Sunday maybe when my mom comes. You know as that means a few days…’ he shrugged, still awkward about it occasionally.

‘David, order pizza. Husband, drive us home for clothes and wine supplies. Pizza O’Clock in one hour.’ Tim declared.

‘I like a new tradition.’ David mused as they walked to the car.

‘You just like pizza.’ Patrick replied with a grin.

Chapter Text

The Store was buzzing with people and warmth from the open mic night. David was busy at the till, while Patrick was running around helping artists. As he dashed back and forth, Tim halted him.

‘Breathe. Take a drink of water.’ he said, handing him a glass.

Patrick nodded gratefully, he’d been running himself ragged for days, and although he was pretty much back to ‘normal’ now, occasionally long weeks and stressful days wore him out and he could feel fatigue setting in. He knew too why he was doing it, Thanksgiving and all the memories it dredged up.

‘And one more day and then you take a long weekend.’ Tim said, reading his mind, 'Corn Maze, Day off, Thanksgiving- though you won’t rest then for cooking for ten people.’

Patrick smiled ‘It’s relaxing I swear.’ he grinned, but took some water. ‘Thanks.’ he said ‘I need slowing down sometimes.

‘I know.’ Tim grinned, he rested a hand on Patrick’s hip, and rubbed his thumb there. ‘Slow down. Enjoy yourself. Sing your husband a song you know how he loves it.’ Tim grinned.

Without thinking, Patrick leaned in and kissed him lightly. Then pulled back. Tim frowned and glanced around trying not to be obvious.

‘We ok to do that?’ he asked.

It wasn’t that they hid their relationship, but outside of their home and a few select people they’d been cautious. Patrick glanced over Tim’s shoulder to see Ronnie looking at them. She smiled and nodded ‘secret’s safe’ kind of way.

‘I’m ok with it.’ Patrick said. ‘I mean we should check in with David and Mark but…’

‘I’m ok too.’ Tim said.

Patrick nodded and squeezed Tim’s arm. He squeezed past and over to Ronnie.

‘Not that it’s my business.’ she smiled taking a swig of beer. ‘But I like that for you two.’ she nodded at Mark and Tim now wrapped around each other ‘I assume it’s a …’ she gestured at David too.

‘Yeah it’s a uh…’ Patrick gestured between them.

‘I like it.’ she said with a nod.

‘You do?’ Patrick asked.

‘Brewer.’ she said leaning on the counter, ‘Does it surprise you that I think heteronormative relationships are outdated and ridiculous? And that maybe if we all got on with loving who we love we’d all be better off?’

He shook his head ‘Not really.’

‘I got a girlfriend in Toronto.’ she said ‘Have done since long before I married Kristy. They know about each other, we all hang out, go on vacations. Kristy doesn’t have anyone else but if she did.’ she shrugged ‘Be fine with me.’

Patrick gave her a smile, thinking it over. ‘We just fell in love.’ he shrugged.

‘Of course you did Brewer. You’re an old romantic.’ she took his elbow ‘And loving someone like Tim? That takes a lot of courage.’ he nodded, and she took a swig of beer and walked back to her seat.

Patrick walked over to David, wrapping his arms around him from behind. David kissed his temple.

‘Ronnie knows.’ he said quietly. ‘She saw...I kissed Tim...accidentally.’ he looked up, David was listening an eyebrow raised. ‘Do you think we should...tell people?’

David twisted, hands on Patrick’s shoulders. ‘Do you think we should?’ he asked, knowing the answer.

‘I don’t want to lie to my mom.’ he said ‘I did once and I still...with my Dad.’ he hadn’t realised how much it was upsetting him, and given the day it wasn’t surprising that tears sprang to his eyes. David wiped them away with a thumb.

‘Then we will tell her.’ he said, kissing him. ‘Go and get ready, you’re up next.’

Patrick nodded. He’d sung at almost every Open Mic they’d had. Since that first time he’d never sung to David in the same way. Mostly he stuck to classics, throwing in a song or two he knew David liked. At times he’d sung a song that was special to them in some way. Sometimes silly things, like obscure songs from romcoms David loved, he’d catch him laughing and shaking his head as he sang a song from the soundtrack to Bridge Jones or see David roll his eyes at his cliche taste singing Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing. For special occasions he picked more meaningful songs, seeing David blush at the counter warmed his heart. This was the first time he’d really picked a song to say something since that first time.

‘Good evening everyone.’ Patrick said stepping up to the mic. ‘Thanks for coming to our Thanksgiving open mic night, I know David and I are really thankful for you all.’ he caught David roll his eyes ‘What David we are?’ he said and a few people turned around and laughed. ‘But uh seriously, most of you know this last year wasn’t easy for me, or my husband. He and some other people will accuse me of being a sentimental fool for this, but this is for the people I love.’

He fussed with his guitar. This was different for him, even in his adventures in song-arranging. He strummed a bit and sang.

 

Live in my house, I'll be your shelter
Just pay me back
With 1, 000 kisses
Be my lover, and I'll cover you
Open your door, I'll be your tenant
Don't got much baggage to lay at your feet
But sweet kisses, I've got to spare
I'll be there, and I'll cover you
I think they meant it
When they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it
A new lease, you are my love
On life, be my life
Just slip me on, I'll be your blanket
Wherever, whatever I'll be your coat
You'll be my king, and I'll be your castle
No, you be my queen, and I'll be your moat
I think they meant it
When they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it
A new lease you are my love
On life, oh my life
I've longed to discover
Something as true as this is
So with a thousand sweet kisses
(If you're cold and you're lonely) I'll cover you
With a thousand sweet kisses
(You've got one nickel only) I'll cover you
With a thousand sweet kisses
(When you're worn out and tired) I'll cover you
With a thousand sweet kisses
(When your heart has expired) I'll cover you
Oh lover, I'll cover you, yeah
Oh lover, I'll cover you

 

He flicked his gaze up from his guitar and smiled, catching Mark and Tim’s gaze. He knew and he saw Tim wipe his eyes and lean on Mark. Glancing over at his husband he saw him look up, a tell-tale sign he was trying not to cry and he grinned. They all got it. As he made his way back through the crowd, Mark caught his arm.

‘Thank you.’ he said, with a soft sincerity that made Patrick so certain they’d made the right choice in all of it. He leaned up and kissed his cheek.

‘Thank you.’ Patrick said.

They were clearing away, Mark and Tim helping despite Patrick’s insistence they should go home. Tim was managing to arrange candles and eat a leftover cupcake at once. His husband walked past him one arm full of empty cups and wiped a bit of frosting off his cheek.

‘While I’m always glad when you’ve got an appetite, you don’t have to put your face in it.’ he smiled. Tim responded by shoving the rest of it in his mouth with a grin.

They finished up and Patrick held up a half-empty bottle of wine.

‘Be rude not to finish it.’ he said, and they settled in with a paper cup full each.

‘You know the first time we had an open mic we did more than have a glass of wine after.’ David grinned at Patrick.

‘No sex in the Store, how many times?!’ Patrick laughed.

‘And how many times have you broken that rule?’ Tim asked.

‘No comment.’

‘Fifteen.’ David said.

Tim nodded and sipped his wine ‘I’m honestly surprised it's not more.’

‘Believe me I tried.’ David said ‘And in the early days when we had nowhere to go.’ his eyebrows shot up.

‘The struggle was real.’ Patrick laughed, putting a hand on David’s leg. ‘Um guys, can we talk to you about something?’ he asked, tightening his hand reflexively so David had to ease it off.

‘He’s fine.’ David interjected quickly. ‘Nobody dies on Thanksgiving, new rule.’ he waved his hands for emphasis.

‘Amen.’ Tim said, lifting his glass.

‘Oh god yeah.’ Patrick shook his head. ‘It’s just, uh Ronnie, saw us earlier Tim- she sort of knows now.’

‘That’s ok.’ Tim said ‘I mean I don’t have Ronnie down as the prejudiced type.’

‘She has a girlfriend apparently.’ David said ‘Go Ronnie.’

Tim nodded appreciatively and Patrick continued ‘I uh, wanted to start telling more people. Specifically my mom. But only if it’s ok with you guys?’

Mark didn’t have to look at his husband, they’d already discussed the when, where and how of telling anyone. ‘If you want to, it's ok with us.'' he reached for Tim’s hand and found it without looking ‘Same goes for anyone else, we don’t have other people really, and those we do we aren’t close enough with for it to matter. But whoever you need- want- to tell, go ahead.’

‘Thank you.’ Patrick said, ‘I hid me and David for too long. I don't want to repeat that.’

‘What about the Roses?’ Mark asked.

‘I’m going to tell them soon.’ David said, the Roses weren’t coming for Thanksgiving, with his mom off filming in England his dad had opted to take the trip with her. And Alexis was working in New York- they’d all agreed on Christmas in California. ‘We’ll make sure you get Christmas with Larry, don't worry.’ David joked, referencing the Llama his dad had adopted after hearing Tim was fond of the animals. He shrugged ‘They’ll be fine. They’ll be them but they’ll be fine. They like you.’

Mark nodded and reached out a hand to David, playing with their fingers. He always got emotional at parents like David’s who were so easy going about it all. His experience with his own dad stuck with him, and he could never quell the anxiety.

‘Promise.’ David said softly as the other two got up and started preparing to leave.

Mark nodded his thanks. As much as this was David and Patrick’s thing, with their families, he needed it all to be ok he realised.

‘Home?’ Mark suggested.

David tilted his head and nodded. As they made their way to the car he slipped an arm around Mark’s waist. Tim and Patrick were ahead of them chatting about Bob’s poetry and laughing.

‘You ok?’ David asked. Mark put an arm around David’s shoulders and didn’t answer right away.

‘Yeah. I guess holidays, families it’s...messy.’

‘You want to adopt a messy family you can have mine. Free llama.’ David joked but squeezed his waist. ‘You can you know.’ he added quietly.

Mark stopped and leaned down to kiss him, in the dark of the deserted street.

‘Hey c’mon no making out in the street!’ Tim protested ‘Or at least let us join in!’

David shook his head and led them to the car. He hadn’t been drinking so he unlocked the car and drove them home. There was a scramble of noise as the slightly worse for wear Patrick stumbled in. Apparently still something of a lightweight following his treatment and a few months without drinking. Tim it seemed too suffered a similar fate and was giggling along with Patrick.

They flopped on the sofa together, a messy drunk tangle of legs and David rolled his eyes and sat in the oversized armchair. He was surprised when Mark perched next to him, on the arm, he jerked his head and scooted over, there was just enough space for the two of them.

‘Patrick sang!’ Tim laughed, ‘It was beautiful. I love when he sings.’ he flopped into a pile of throw pillows and Patrick laughed, clearly a little tired a little drunk, but he reached for Tim’s hand. Mark leaned into David, and rested his head on his shoulder. David kissed his hair.

‘Hey.’ he said softly, ‘You tired?’

‘Mmm.’ Mark said under the soft chatter of his husband and Patrick who started reliving another of Bob’s poems in detail.

‘Want to go to bed?’ David asked, rubbing a hand up Mark’s arm ‘We could...leave them to it.’ He kissed his hair again.

‘Yeah.’ Mark said, twisting a little, his eyes looked heavy, and something else David couldn’t place. ‘Yeah.’ he said with a nod.

‘Hey poetry duo.’ David called. ‘We’re going to head to bed, if that’s ok with you?’ he looked over at Patrick who gave a little shrug and nod. Things had reached a point where they could be casual about choosing to spend a night with Mark or Tim. Especially knowing they had plenty of time together as a four, and with their husbands in the coming days. Besides which Drunk Patrick was inclined to stay up too late and chat, which was much better suited to a Drunk Tim than a sober David.

‘You sleepy honey?’ Tim frowned, noticing Mark curled into David.

‘Yeah.’ he said with a nod pushing himself up.

‘Ok, I love you.’ Tim said, leaning up as Mark crossed the room to kiss him goodnight. He leaned over to Patrick too.

‘Night.’ Patrick smiled, pulling his husband in.

They changed against the backdrop of the other two still chatting, occasionally loudly. David pushed the door almost closed.

‘That’s enough of that.’ he smiled.

‘Thanks, for this.’ Mark said, climbing into bed. ‘I just didn’t have any energy for…’ he shrugged.

David nodded, ‘Want to watch something?’ he asked. Knowing Mark sometimes fell asleep to TV or radio when his brain was wired. The first time he’d slept over with Mark alone he’d asked if they could keep something on for a bit. David understood the whirring of a brain late at night, and the sound helped him too. Mark nodded a thank you and David put the computer down and got into bed with him, sitting up next to him. He reached for his cheek and rubbed his thumb there. ‘Holiday weekends are exhausting. Better to get some rest now.’ there was a thud from the living room ‘My husband did not get that memo.’ he rolled his eyes. Mark smiled and looked sad again, David knitted his brows together, but Mark shook his head a fraction. He leaned in and kissed him. Mark returned slow and languid and soft. They pulled apart after a few moments. David handed the computer over and let Mark choose something, he showed David the screen and he nodded, smiling, then lifted an arm and let Mark scoot under it.

Tim shuffled past the door, and saw the light on still, hearing sounds too, he pushed the door open. Mark was curled up against David, facing the laptop but fast asleep. Tim frowned and recognised Jerry Seinfeld’s voice and smiled.

‘He knows every word of that show.’ he said leaning on the door for a second.

David looked up and smiled ‘I know.’ he shrugged ‘Always helps me sleep, something familiar.’

Tim nodded, and came over to the bed, sitting next to his sleeping husband, he stroked his hair back from his face gently.

‘He hasn’t been sleeping much.’ Tim shrugged ‘I thought it was work but I think the holidays starting is getting to him this year.’

‘He misses his mom.’ David said, quietly, ‘How long has it been?’

‘Two years.’ Tim said, looking at him fondly. ‘She was incredible. And they didn’t have it easy. His dad was...well let’s say he was no Johnny Rose.’

David nodded, he should have figured out something in Mark’s family was the problem, but he’d missed it.

‘He doesn’t talk about him, not even to me.’ Tim said, and looked sad for a second watching his husband sleep. ‘Still he’s got us right?’

‘He’s got Johnny Rose too I promise.’ David said, ‘Really try and stop him adopting you both.’

Tim nodded and smiled, leaning down and kissing Mark’s cheek.

‘Better get back. Your husband was reciting Springsteen lyrics when I left him.’

David laughed, trying not to wake Mark. Patrick drunk was entertaining if you were drunk enough to enjoy it. But he was slightly glad of the peace.

‘Slip him a sleeping pill.’ he winked ‘He’ll also sleep in then, not get you up at 7.’

‘If he gets to Bryan Adams lyrics I might.’ Tim grinned. He kissed his husband again and kissed David before leaving.

On the screen Jerry was lamenting the loss of his new jacket to snow. David chuckled and Mark stirred a bit.

‘Shhh you’re ok.’ David said, ‘Sleep a bit, you’re fine.’ he stroked his hair and let the episode play on and Mark settled back down.

It was about four in the morning when David woke up to Mark talking in his sleep. He couldn’t quite make out what he was saying, but he got louder until he said ‘No!’ clearly. David nudged him awake, hearing his disoriented noises, and then feeling him reach for him.

‘David.’ Mark said in the dark, ‘Can we…’ he kissed him pulling him close, an urgency creeping into his kiss. ‘Please?’

David kissed him back deeply, pulling their bodies together.

‘I got you.’ he said kissing him ‘I got you.’

Chapter Text

Patrick was awake early on Saturday, drinking often did that to him- had him up earlier than his slightly fuzzy head would like. Tim was sleeping on his side next to him so he slipped out of bed, pulling the covers back over him. He made himself some coffee enjoying the quiet. He surveyed the messy kitchen full of Thanksgiving prep and considered tidying, but he left it. He felt a weird uneasiness he couldn’t place. Last night had been lovely, the perfect Open Mic night, where he’d also had just enough beer to be merry (and possibly annoy his husband). And he’d collapsed into bed late with Tim, they hadn’t had sex, they just talked and made out a bit, and fell asleep together. It was perfect, from the inside. Even if he was starting to worry about how people thought of him from the outside. How his mom would.

More than that he was feeling that weird unsettled feeling that came in lesser and greater amounts this time of year. Some years it was a quiet sadness, other years a restlessness. This year it was both, and something else he couldn't quite put his finger on. He wandered into their office, the dark cosy space always felt like a bit of refuge. He pottered about tidying and thinking and trying not to think.

Tim appeared in the office behind him, he had on what Patrick knew was Mark’s hoodie, not least because it was two sizes too big for him, and he’d pulled on a pair of fluffy socks tucking his pyjama pants into them. He hadn’t put a scarf on his head yet either. He looked cosy and at home and despite the rising anxiety, Patrick was battling that soothed him.

‘Bit early for spreadsheets.’ he mused leaning on the doorframe.

‘Hey, I’ll be out in a minute, I was looking for a book for my mom....’ Patrick gestured half-heartedly around the room. And picked up a random one. On business management.

‘Really?’ Tim asked with a smile.

Patrick looked at the book in his hands and rolled his eyes.

‘Needed a minute?’ Tim asked, sitting on the corner of the desk.

‘I didn’t think it would be hard?’ Patrick blurted out, perching next to him ‘I just thought it would be ‘yay pumpkin pie.’ not ‘fuck a year ago a tumour or three was eating me from the inside.’ he looked down ‘Then I think of Dad and...spiral a bit I guess.’

Tim nodded, resting a hand on Patrick’s back. ‘June 3rd is the date I got diagnosed. It’s such a nothing date otherwise. No holidays, nobody’s birthday around then but ever year, I remember that day...I’m horrid all day, don’t ever make plans with me then.’ he shrugged ‘Your whole life changed twice on Thanksgiving...or thereabouts this stupid holiday moves.’

Patrick laughed. ‘The actual date isn’t until next week. For me I mean. Maybe leave me alone then as well.’ he looked down ‘I don’t know the date Dad died.’ he confessed ‘I mean I could ask mom or look it up, but I just know ‘Thursday before Thanksgiving’ which is stupid because it moves.’ he paused again ‘Please don’t tell anyone that. Not even David. It makes me feel like...I don’t care enough.’

‘I think it means you care a lot.’ Tim said softly. He reached into the pocket of the hoodie,. ‘I actually was going to leave this on your desk.’ it was a card, Tim’s neat writing on the front ‘I like writing people cards, letters whatever, always have. It was sort of a thank you card for having us but...well you’ll see.’ he leaned over and kissed Patrick’s hair, holding him a moment before slipping out.

Patrick waited a moment, then took himself to the armchair there. He curled up and opened the card.

Dear Patrick,

I love to write a note, I’m surprised this is the first one you’ve gotten to be honest. I’m sometimes better on paper. More honest, my husband says.

First, as I believe is tradition on this holiday, I say thank you. For inviting us, not just for the holiday but into your lives. I don’t know what we did without you, and I’m so thankful for you and David.

I’m also conscious I wouldn’t have you in my life if it weren’t for the worst thing imaginable to happen to you a year ago about now. And that I know how you’re feeling around now too.

So let me say honestly, the anniversary of my diagnosis is always the worst day of the year. Even though you’re fine (and you are fine Patrick, believe that even when your brain lies to you) a year ago you weren’t. A year ago you were more scared than you’ve ever been. A year ago all that lay ahead of you. I think that every year too, that I had no idea how hard it would be.’

But a year ago we didn’t know each other. Just a year ago. I can’t believe there was a time I didn’t have you around. So maybe we can focus on that- a few weeks after Thanksgiving we found each other. And I plan on holding onto you both as tightly as I can. I love you Patrick Brewer-Rose. I love David. I love my husband. You are my family.

Your family changed forever this weekend eleven years ago too. Don’t let anyone tell you it shouldn't still be hard. It’s hard to lose someone you love. But maybe in time you’ll also see it as the time of year you gained family. Because you have my husband and me, we’re family.

But you’ve got through these eleven years without him, and he’d be proud of who you are. You got through last year and your dad would be so proud. You’ll get by without me one day too, but I’ll be glad I had however long we get.

Let me look after you Patrick, be angry at me if you need to- be angry that I’m going to leave you one day, trust me I’m angry too. Be sad that your dad isn’t here, be angry again that a disease took most of last year. Throw things at me, because I get it. I want to throw things too. But I’ll also hold you when we’re done. I’ll be sad with you too.

And then I’ll eat pie with you all weekend.

My love
Tim.

 

Patrick knew where he was in the kitchen of course. He had poured yoghurt on some leftover pie.

‘My husband says it's wrong, I disagree.’ he paused. ‘Also don’t tell my husband I’m eating pie as a pre-breakfast snack.’

‘He’s always happy if you’re eating.’ Patrick said. Then frowned. ‘Is that Strawberry?’

Tim nodded. ‘Goes well with pumpkin.’

‘I’ll take your word for that.’ Patrick said sitting next to him.

The kitchen was quiet, and warm, Patrick loved that about this house, it was always cosy in the kitchen. It was a mess of baking ingredients- he and Tim had gone overboard and his mom wasn’t even here yet. It brought them both comfort though, and they could share the leftovers for weeks. There was a jar of marshmallows open too from last night’s late night hot chocolate. He popped one in his mouth, thinking ‘fuck it, it’s the holidays’ and marshmallows for breakfast were ok. He glanced over at Tim, who looked thoughtful.

‘Say it.’ Tim said, taking another bite of pie. ‘What you’re thinking.’

Patrick took another marshmallow and pulled it apart before eating it, making his fingers sticky. He licked them and closed his eyes before he spoke.

‘I’m angry.’ Patrick said. ‘I didn’t realise. I’m angry. Really fucking angry.’ he could feel it boiling inside him and he clenched his fists slightly then uncurled them again ‘I’m angry at the last year, that I lost months- months of my life to throwing up in a toilet or being stuck in bed!’ Tim nodded ‘I’m angry this is my eleventh Thanksgiving without my dad! I’m only forty two! How is that fair?!’ Tim shook his head in sympathy. Patrick swallowed. Closing his eyes.

‘Say it.’ Tim said, tilting his head. ‘It’s ok.

‘I’m angry at you.’ his voice was even and measured but he could feel himself shaking ‘I’m angry at you ok Tim? I’m angry that you’re going to leave me!’ his voice cracked and his hands shook with quiet anger, the kind of white hot rage that was beyond shouting. ‘You’re going to leave me. And leave David, and even Katie because she loves you too. And Mark. And I’m not angry at you but I am angry at you. Because I love you so fucking much!’ he looked around the table and threw a marshmallow. It was the only thing to hand but it made a satisfying ‘thud’ as it bounced off the table. He threw another and another. ‘I hate this!’ he said, biting back tears.

Tim nodded, calmly and leaned over Patrick picking up a marshmallow and throwing it too. He threw another and another.

‘I hate it!’ he decalred ‘Every holiday I hate myself for wondering how many more- how much more fucking pumpkin pie I get! And I get angry, at myself for whatever thing I did or didn’t do. I’m angry at the universe for it all ok!?’ He threw another marshmallow. ‘I’m angry that I love you, and David and-’ he stumbled ‘And Mark! Because nobody should love people this much and not be able to stay with them.’

All the fight went out of him then and he dropped the handful of marshmallows in front of him. Patrick sagged a bit too and picked one up, dipped it in the yoghurt, and handed it to him. Tim smiled and wiped his eyes, eating it slowly. Patrick kissed his head.

‘I threw a mug.’ He said, ‘At David. When my dad died I threw a mug across my old kitchen.’

He threw another marshmallow.

‘Not quite as satisfying.’ Tim said, and popped one Patrick held out in his mouth. Patrick reached for his hand and covered it with his.

‘It’s really not fucking fair is it?’ he said softly.

Tim shook his head. ‘I very rarely give in to the anger, but the anger is better than self-pity.’ he smiled and shrugged. ‘And I get to throw marshmallows and have a tantrum.’

Patrick laughed. ‘I live and work with David you think this is a tantrum?’

Tim laughed and picked up another marshmallow and gestured with it, Patrick got what he was doing and opened his mouth, at close quarters it got in easily, and Tim leaned over and kissed him as he tried to eat, making him laugh.

‘I love you.’ Tim mumbled ‘I’m sorry.’

Patrick didn’t need to ask what for- for all of it. He nodded and kissed him again. Then he got up and rounded up the stray marshmallows and put them in the trash.

‘Don’t think David won’t eat them out of there.’ he smiled. He offered a hand to Tim who paused, entwining their fingers.

‘I love you too.’ Patrick said, ‘And we have a Corn Maze to get to, and much junk food to eat.’ he smiled and Tim pulled himself up.

‘Just how much junk food are we talking about?’ Tim asked.

‘Oh, like a toddler's high on Halloween Candy levels.’ Patrick smiled, leading Tim towards the stairs. At top Patrick stopped him.

‘What?’ Tim asked.

‘I never knew to value the time I had with Dad- not really, as much as it was always a risk. I never had that urgency to enjoy what we had.’ he stepped towards Tim ‘You’ve taught me to value what I have- not just with you, but with David, Mark, with Mom, Katie everyone.’

Tim nodded and smiled ‘Why don’t we wake our husbands up?’ he said.

‘Waking David is a dangerous endeavour.’ Patrick smiled.

They went in and found both of them indeed fast asleep, with Mark curled almost in a ball against David who was on his side curled around him protectively. Patrick wondered if they’d woken up earlier to end up like that, knowing David slept on his back as a rule. Both of them were shirtless, and Patrick noticed not for the first time that it didn’t bother him, his husband with another man. Because it wasn’t another man, it was Mark. The feelings resolved themselves easily; the language in his brain was another matter.

Mostly right now he was worried about Mark, instinctively he felt something was off. He'd been quiet last night and maybe all week now he thought about it. But that was Mark’s way too. Patrick caught the concerned look on Tim’s face and knew he wasn’t imagining it then, something was slightly off with Mark. But Tim knew better than him how to let his husband work through whatever it was. He smiled at Patrick now.

‘I’m going in.’ he winked and sat on the bed, leaning in and kissing his husband’s hair, the only bit of him really accessible.

Patrick smiled and sat on the bed. He leaned over and gently nudged David. When that didn’t have any effect he climbed in behind him and kissed his neck. That elicited a mumbled groan. ‘Morning.’ Patrick said into his neck.

Mark stirred next to him too and Patrick saw Tim’s face shift in delight as his husband looked at him, then kiss him.

‘If you get up you can have coffee.’ Patrick nudged David awake properly. ‘Big day today.’

David groaned again, so Patrick kissed his neck until he stirred a bit more. Then he scooted down in the bed and wrapped his arms around him.

‘Ok five minutes.’ he said, smiling over David’s head at Tim, who had rolled a not-quite-awake Mark into his chest and was stroking his hair. ‘Only because we were loud drunks last night.’ David huffed his agreement, but worked for his hand under Patrick’s shirt and burrowed in for a bit. A slow start to their Saturday off was ok he reasoned.

Saturday before Thanksgiving had been Corn Maze day for 11 years now. Their first Thanksgiving together had been a perfect distraction for Patrick, a day away from worrying about his dad and his mom and everything that was ahead of them. It was also a hokey old-fashioned, slightly run-down event that charmed Patrick and secretly his husband too.

Seeing the look on Tim’s face as they wandered from the makeshift car park it seemed to be having a similar effect on him. He grinned, taking David’s arm as Tim chattered away pointing at the scarecrows and pumpkins. And:

‘HAY RIDE!’

Patrick felt David groan. He secretly loved the hayride but his pride at not wanting to go the first year wouldn’t let him. That also Ben, the elderly guy whose horse and cart it was, had both adopted them, but also had strong opinions on how David should be more romantic.

‘Give in to the joy David.’ he smirked. ‘We should do it first, you get a view of the whole field.’

Tim nodded his agreement, Mark rolled his eyes but followed dutifully.

‘Well look who it is!’ Ben declared as he halted his horses. ‘And you brought friends!’

‘Ben.’ Patrick said, shaking his hand ‘This is Mark and Tim.’

‘Well nice to meet you.’ Ben’s thick Quebec accent betrayed his roots as he spoke.

‘Bonjour.’ Mark offered ‘Enchante. Beaux chevaux’ he gestured at the horse.

‘Merci, merci.’ Ben said ‘Henry et Pierre!’
They laughed because Pierre was black and white and looked at Tim. Who shrugged.
‘Mon Mari aime les Cheveux Mark offered with a laugh, which wasn’t wrong as Tim demonstrated by going and talking to both the horses. When he could be persuaded to stop talking to them, Mark helped him up onto the cart and wrapped an arm around him, David and Patrick sat opposite them. He grinned at his husband, who was bundled up in a burnt orange scarf and beanie hat to match. He looked gorgeous and while he was grinning from ear to ear even more so. Those moments, when everything else melted away made it worth it.
‘You lost weight.’ Ben said to Patrick, ‘Since last year, you ok?’
Patrick nodded, ‘I am now.’ He said ‘I was sick for a while.’
‘David looked after you, mon ami.’ Ben smiled.
‘Yeah, he did.’ Patrick grinned ‘And these two.’
‘I can see that.’ Ben said, ‘My horses know good people and Pierre, he liked you.’
‘Impeccable taste.’ Mark grinned.
‘So you two, tell me your story, I know David and Patrick’s they’re boring old married guys now. What about you?’ Ben turned them into a second field ‘I’ll take a little detour while you tell me.’
Patrick grinned and settled back into David’s arms, while Mark and Tim told an animated version of their story to Ben while he steered his horses the long way around the farm. He felt David shift so he could rest his head on his shoulder and he leaned over and kissed his hair, he sensed David smiling, and saw Mark glance at him mid-sentence and smile too. Tim was fixated on the horses and the farm, grinning and taking it all in. Patrick felt himself well up a bit and wiped at his eyes. He felt David move in response.
‘No it’s fine.’ he kissed his head again ‘Happy tears.’
‘Sentiment is the devil’s playground, Patrick.’ David said quietly but in an impeccable impression of his mother. Patrick laughed, but David took the hand that was in his lap and kissed it. Holding onto it for the rest of the ride.
Patrick helped Tim down while Mark chatted to Ben and he looped an arm through Patrick’s and leaned over and kissed his hair.
‘Magical.’ he said.
‘It’s just a dorky hayride.’ Patrick shrugged.
‘The company makes it magical.’ Tim grinned pulling him into a fierce sideways hug.
Ben grinned at them. ‘Good people in your life David. You always attract good people.’ he put a hand on David’s shoulder, and he looked down blushing as Ben went to give the horses some water.
‘He’s right.’ Patrick said.
David shrugged, and Mark looped an arm over his shoulders.
‘I was promised junk food!’ Tim declared. ‘Then we have a Corn Maze race to win!’
Patrick led the way to the coffee stand and bought them all doughnuts and coffee, while David assessed the hand-drawn map of the stalls to decide which order he should start collecting various candies and jams. After a leisurely coffee, Patrick declared it was Corn Maze time.
In just one of many slightly competitive elements in their lives, the Corn Maze was now a long-standing competition. David was the expert at it, having somehow used logic and knowledge of patterns to win the first time, he had been beaten three times by Patrick over the last 10 years. Every time when someone had got in his way. Last year Patrick was pretty certain David let him win, but this year he was determined. David meanwhile did it every year with such an infuriating air of nonchalance it made Patrick more determined to win.
‘Ok then.’ he declared. ‘Maze starts here, there’s a set of haybale seats at the other end. I’ll start the timer when we go. The first one out is the winner.’
‘Seems logical.’ Tim grinned. ‘Do I get a head start for cancer?’
‘No’
‘No.’
Mark and Patrick answered together. David’s eyebrows shot up at the competitive spirit on display and shrugged.
‘Ok three, two, one!’ Patrick counted and was off and running, closely followed by Mark.
‘Honey? You leaving me?’ Tim called.
‘Sorry!’ Mark called leaving Tim behind.
David shrugged ‘He wanted an escape room for our Bachelor Party.’ as if that explained it all. Which it sort of did.
‘Go.’ Tim jerked his head. ‘Beat those two.’
David grinned and jogged slowly into the maze. David took it steadily as he always did, relying on logical progression through the corn, he made it in decent time too. Except Mark had indeed got there first. He was doubled over out of breath and red in the face, but he made it.
‘Well well!’ David smirked, ‘Look at you go, King of the Corn Maze!’
Mark couldn’t quite speak, he flopped on a bale of hay and David laughed, sitting next to him and fishing some apple juice out of his bag that they’d bought. Mark took a grateful sip just as Patrick came running out of the maze.
‘Oh for…’ he stopped and sagged as David laughed at him, holding out the juice.
‘Every year…’ Patrick rolled his eyes.
‘Now honey you won the year the dog tripped me up.’ David offered rubbing his back ‘Besides Mark won.’
‘He did!’ Patrick’s eyes went wide with delight ‘You beat him!’ he grinned. Apparently, David losing to anyone was at least some sort of win for Patrick.
‘Well they changed it a bit this year.’ David grumbled ‘It’s more complicated.’
‘Mark won huh?’ Patrick grinned, ‘Mark beat you.’
‘Yeah well he beat you too.’ David elbowed him gently.
‘And I get to claim my reward later.’ Mark said wickedly. ‘But right now.’ he flopped back dramatically on the hay bales. They sat in silence for a bit.
‘Um should we check on Tim?’ David ventured after a bit.
Mark waved a hand, without getting up. ‘He’s fine, he’s found someone to talk to.’
They waited a while longer passing the apple juice between them. Sure enough, after another ten minutes, Tim came sauntering out of the maze, chatting to a lady with vivid red hair, in a perm. She was probably about 70 years old but dressed in vivid autumn colours and Doc Marten boots. She laughed with her whole body at something Tim said.
‘There you all are.’ Tim grinned. `Honestly, I just had the most lovely walk with Doreen here, she was telling me all about the history of the farm and this event and even how you bale hay!’ he paused ‘You all look sweaty.’

‘It was a race!’ David objected.

‘I won!’ Mark reminded him and David groaned.

‘And who had more fun here?’ Tim said smugly as Mark flopped back on the hay bale, and David took the juice bottle from Patrick. ‘Doreen, my husband Mark is the one who can’t sit up, this is David and Patrick.’

‘Your husband is very handsome.’ Doreen said ‘Even with his face that red.’

Mark who’d sat up blushed a deeper red.

‘He’s got more stamina than this lets on.’ Tim winked.

‘Oh, I bet.’ Doreen grinned, then turned to David and Patrick ‘Tim was telling me about your Store? Jim up at the farm has some wonderful jams that might be perfect, also my cousin Alice is a glass artist, let me show you her work.’ she pulled out a phone.

‘It’s perfect for the Store I think.’ Tim offered ‘Also Doreen is modest but she’s a ceramicist you should look at her work too.’

Doreen blushed but offered her phone to David. Who quickly got caught up in talking about the artwork enthusiastically. After a break for Tim- and Mark finally getting his breath back, she walked them back to the main farm, directing them the Jim and his jams. With David taking her number along with Alice’s to get back to them after the holiday. David had the spring in his step he always got when he found something new and exciting for the Store.

‘Thank you.’ he said to Tim as they bought ridiculous portions of poutine from a vendor.

‘She had the glass as her lock screen, I knew it would be perfect.’ Tim shrugged. ‘And you should have all the best people for your Store.’

David put an arm around him as they found a bench to sit on, David slapping Patrick’s hand away as he tried to steal a fry.

‘Eat your hotdog.’ he said, then relented, offering his tray.

Patrick surveyed the hot dog. ‘It’s an impressive size.’ he said wickedly.

‘I’ve seen bigger.’ David said, flicking his eyes down, then turning his attention to the fries as Patrick blushed a shade of pink.

‘He’s not wrong.’ Tim said, eyeing the hot dog.

‘This is my lunch!’ Patrick objected gesturing with it. Which didn’t really help.

‘You started it.’ Mark said, ‘Actually let me see.’ Patrick frowned, ‘No I think you’ve got something on it.’ he held out his hands and Patrick handed it over. Mark assessed the sausage for a moment, even seeming to weigh it in his hands. ‘Yup seen bigger.’ he said with a smirk. Looking pointedly at both Patrick and Tim.

‘Oh yeah.’ David said through his fries.

‘Filthy.’ Patrick said, taking his lunch back and taking a bite pointedly. ‘Still, it’s as much about the girth of the sausage as it is the length.’ He put a hand on David’s thigh, a little too high up as he said it and David nearly choked on his food. Patrick took a smug bite of the hotdog.

‘Of course.’ Mark grinned.

‘You’d know.’ David countered wiggling his eyebrows a bit.

Mark said nothing but took a smug sip of his pumpkin juice, and looked thoughtful. ‘Anyway, I won the race, which means I get a reward later.’ Mark grinned. ‘That’s giving me ideas.’

Patrick giggled- actually giggled at the look on David’s face. Then looped an arm through his while he ate.

‘Ok you lot, you're making a wholesome day utterly debauched.’ Tim said ‘I’m going to need another hayride to cleanse my palette.’ He paused eating his poutine ‘Before my husband takes me for a roll in the hay of course.’

The giggled like schoolgirls a while longer, before settling into a long lunch, of cupcakes and hot chocolate. Before a turn of the stalls, David spent a long time talking to vendors while they sampled all the food and lotions. Frequently topping up supplies of cider or hot chocolate. Eventually rounding things off with a hayride as the sun started to set. On the third round of the field Ben gave them- with nobody else around now, they snuggled together under the blanket, Tim taking Patrick’s hand under it. He smiled over at him.

‘I like this tradition.’ Tim said, ‘I hope we do it every year.’

‘Me too.’ Patrick said squeezing his hand, as David reached behind them to squeeze Mark’s shoulder. The sun was a rich reddish-orange as they rounded the field once more together.

Driving home Patrick glanced into the back, where Tim was sleeping on Mark’s shoulder.

‘More sugar crash than exhaustion’ he winked. He caught Patrick’s look and shook his head. ‘He forgets to rest when he’s feeling well, busy few days- he’s fine I promise. I’ll make him sleep in tomorrow.’

‘Stay tonight.’ David said, with a glance at Patrick ‘Marcy isn’t getting here until the afternoon tomorrow, we’re working, but stay, you can sleep in at our place.’

Mark nodded. ‘Thanks.’ he smiled, then looked out of the window. ‘We haven’t had a family to spend the holidays with since my mom died...it’s nice.’

David smiled and nodded at him, then reached over for his husband’s hand for a moment.

Patrick clattered into the kitchen a few minutes later, weighed down by bags from the car, he dropped them at David’s feet.

‘I’m fine by the way.’ he said, ‘Didn’t need your help.’

‘Well you’re just so big and strong.’ David shrugged.

‘Well big and strong might choose not to carry your five jars of apple sauce from the car?’

‘Hey...hey.’ Mark waded in ‘Firstly, one of those is mine, as the Corn Maze Victor. Second, no bickering, Corn Maze Victor rules...I’m in charge tonight.’

‘I’m not sure I like the sound of that.’ David knitted his eyebrows together.

‘Ooh I very much do.’ Tim said with a smirk, ‘You haven’t seen him all take charge. And I know, David Brewer-Rose you like that.’

‘Oh he knows to do as he’s told sometimes.’ Patrick said running a hand through David’s hair a bit too roughly. David leaned into it appreciatively.

‘Oh but the question is Patrick Brewer-Rose.’ Mark said stepping up into his space, ‘Do you know how to do as you’re told.’ he leaned down but pulled away just before kissing him.

David laughed wickedly at the look of anguish on his husband’s face.

Much later, after a late dinner- mostly due to being full of candied apples and poutine, Mark assembled them in the living room. He folded his arms and surveyed the three of them, then laughed. They looked like kids in school waiting for instructions perched on the sofa. He shook his head and perched himself on the arm, next to Tim.

‘Ok here’s what I want.’ he laughed, ‘I don’t want some weird kinky evening- though I’m not opposed to that.’ he winked at David very specifically. ‘I want a cosy...dare I say romantic, night where I get to be with my favourite people.’ he ran a hand over Tim’s scarf. ‘Where we get to take our time...spend some quality time.’

‘Romantic old fool.’ Tim grinned, then took his hand ‘Sounds perfect.’

David looked over at his husband and smiled, Patrick put a hand on his knee.

‘Works for us.’ Patrick said, kissing David for emphasis.

‘I’ll get some wine.’ Mark said.

While he got the wine, David lit some candles, and Patrick put on some music. They both moved to the sofa so they could all sit together, and Mark returned sitting in the middle after he’d poured some wine.

They continued to talk, David telling them some in-depth story about one of the Rose family Thanksgivings- not the one where Moira ordered peacocks but another it seemed with someone famous Patrick had never heard of. It was warm and cosy and he found himself playing with David’s rings as he talked enjoying the sound of his voice and the vibration of it in his chest as he leaned against him. David reached the end of the tale and kissed his neck.

‘Was that the punctuation David?’ he grinned. David did it again and Patrick squirmed a little into his touch.

Mark who was in the middle, and next to Patrick leaned over and kissed him, while David kissed his neck.

‘Oh that’s just unfair.’ Patrick smiled and pulled Mark into him for a proper kiss. Things shifted for a while, talking taking a backseat to kisses and soft touches, Patrick found himself pulled into David but then handing him off to Mark when he got up. He found himself halted by Tim for a while, perched next to him, feeling his hands resting on his thighs while they kissed. He extracted himself eventually and disappeared off to the bathroom.

When he reappeared Tim frowned ‘Thought you’d gone for a nap.’ he said.

‘Come on.’ Patrick said ‘Mark I’ve got a victory prize for you.’

Mark smiled and pulled Tim up, and David trailing behind followed them to the bathroom. In the bathroom, he’d run a bath and lit candles. The air smelled of rose and something citrus-y from the bubble bath. Soft music was playing too.

‘You two, take a bath, David and I will get the bedroom ready…’

Mark smiled and leaned over and kissed him ‘This is lovely.’ he said.

‘Take your time.’ Patrick said ‘I’m sure we can ...occupy ourselves.’

Mark smiled and nodded, Patrick clicked the door shut softly, Tim leaned back against it with a smile. Mark stepped over into his space and kissed him, pulled him gently off the door and towards him. He reached up for his scarf and gently untied it, unwinding it from his head. He kissed the top of Tim’s head as he discarded the scarf and reached for his cardigan, shrugging it off his shoulders. He reached for the buttons of his shirt next, slowly unbuttoning it while locking eyes with his husband. Tim smiled softly at him and helped him pull the shirt off. Mark reached for his jeans and quickly unbuttoned them and pulled them down, Tim managing to step out of them and kiss him at once.

‘Get in.’ Mark said ‘You’ll get cold.’

Tim nodded, pulling his underwear off and accepting a hand to balance himself getting in. He sighed contentedly as the warm water washed over him and closed his eyes. Mark watched him with a smile as he pulled off his clothes, throwing them into a pile.

‘Scooch over then.’ he said, clambering in.

It took a few moments to arrange themselves, but Tim settled back into his husband’s lap, feeling him wrap around him, interlocking their legs, arms around him. Mark swoosh water over them both, then dumped some bubbles on Tim’s head.

‘Hey maybe I should get a wig, this is a look.’ he laughed, turning to Mark slightly, who patted the bubbles approvingly.

‘Bubble perm.’ he quipped. Then looked serious. ‘You know how handsome you are, hair or not. You know that.’ he frowned.

‘Why so serious? We’re enjoying a bubble bath.’ Tim answered, but nodded. ‘Thank you.’ he smiled and settled back in.

They lay quietly for a while enjoying the warmth and the closeness. Tim realised that they’d been busy lately- good busy, with them both back at work, and spending time with David and Patrick, and all the events in this ridiculous town, they hadn’t stopped much in a while. It was nice to stop, in a moment he wasn’t sick, and to have nothing much to do. As much as both of them found holidays a struggle sometimes, the thought of a few days to stop was nice.

‘Hey husband?’ he said softly.

‘Mmm.’ Mark answered

‘Love you.’ Tim smiled. He sensed Mark smiling behind him, and felt him kiss his neck.

‘Love you husband.’

In the bedroom Patrick returned, arms full of candles and wine glasses, a bottle of red tucked under an arm. He stopped in the doorway.

‘David, that is not ‘lighting the candles’ is it?’ Patrick complained. David was once again lounging on their bed, while he had busied himself getting wine and more candles, David apparently had exhausted himself with arranging the few already in the bedroom. He was now lying across their bed, smirking at Patrick.

‘We’ve got ages.’ he gestured aimlessly at the room to illustrate something or other, `I'm sure we can...take a break.’

Patrick shook his head, ‘A break from taking a break?’

‘We could…’ he patted the bed next to him. Powerless to resist his husband giving him literally ‘come to bed’ eyes Patrick clambered in. David swiftly pulled him on top of him holding him there by his waist.

‘See this is an improvement.’ David declared.

‘More of an improvement if you shut up and kiss me.’ Patrick told him. He grinned and obliged.

They lay there for a while kissing softly, Patrick found himself smiling into a kiss.

‘What?’ David asked with a frown.

‘Just you know, nearly fourteen years and I still very much enjoy making out with this guy I went into business with.’

David grinned a dopey grin and kissed him. They never did manage to get up and finish lighting the candles before the bathroom door clicked open and a few moments later Mark and Tim emerged- in David and Patrick’s robes respectively that Patrick had left out for them. Mark’s hair was damp and curling and they both looked flushed and cosy.

‘Cute.’ David said.

‘C’mon you.’ Patrick said, dragging him up. ‘They’re all cosy and clean, we’re showering. You two...get comfy, drink wine…’ he hauled David up who grunted. ‘You won’t complain when you’re in the shower...I’ll make it worth your while.’ Patrick winked at him and he followed dutifully.

Mark sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Tim towards him by his robe. Tim stepped in and leaned down to kiss him.

‘This is very nice.’ he smiled.

‘It is.’ Mark answered, he wrapped his arms around Tim’s waist and leaned his head on his stomach, Tim brought his hand up to his damp curls and played with them for a bit. He sighed contentedly. He leaned back and pulled Tim gently towards him, both of them laying down on the bed, facing each other. They kissed slowly and softly for a bit before Tim pulled back.

‘This isn’t getting wine.’ he smiled

‘We’ve got a while.’ Mark said, ‘let me kiss my husband.’

‘No arguments here.’ Tim said ‘Twenty-five years and I’ve still got it.’

Mark grinned ‘Oh you do.’ he said.

They never did pour the wine, instead got locked into a soft make out session, that morphed into mainly holding each other curled up on the bed. Mark enjoyed the moment of having his husband curled up against him, with nothing to do but hold him, occasionally kiss him.

‘Careful or we’ll fall asleep before you get your reward.’ Tim joked, kissing him ‘We’re not as young as we used to be.’ He kissed Mark’s nose making him laugh.

‘Oh, I fully intend to stay awake for it.’ Mark smiled.

‘Good to hear.’ Patrick said from the doorway.

They were both wrapped in towels, and nothing else David’s hair in one of course. ‘Someone stole our robes.’ he joked.

‘Well get over here and you won’t need clothes.’ Tim winked.

There followed a slightly undignified scramble into bed, David at first refusing to relinquish the towel on his head and Patrick slightly wrestling him for it. He pulled the throw blanket over him and David to keep them warm. Mark shifted closer into him too, an arm over Patrick’s hip, while Tim shuffled upright mainly so he could keep petting his husband’s curls.

David adjusted the blanket a bit and felt Patrick’s warm hand rest on his stomach. He realised how comfortable he felt, being naked around him- around them all. In a non-sexual way, even if things were about to turn that way, he’d never been comfortable in his body enough to do this, just sit. It had taken a long time with Patrick too, letting some of that go. It wasn’t that he didn’t have confidence in his abilities to...charm people, But it had always relied on external armour of clothing, and his skill in the bedroom. Sitting, naked with Patrick and the others still felt like a leap.

‘Hey.’ Patrick said, scratching his fingers across David’s stomach, ‘Less thinking, more kissing.’

David smiled and let himself be pulled into Patrick’s kiss. He shuffled down under the blanket and let his hands start to wander across Patrick’s body, he caught him hitch his hips when he wandered his hand a little lower and smiled into the kiss. His hand brushed Mark’s which was resting on Patrick’s waist while he kissed his neck.

‘I think some of us are still overdressed.’ David raised an eyebrow at Mark, who dutifully rolled off Patrick long enough to remove his robe. Tim followed suit and wrapped himself around Mark for a moment, pulling him into a kiss. For a little while, they settled into slow kisses and touches traded off between them. David found himself lying parallel with Mark softly kissing down his neck.

‘What do you want?’ he asked into his neck, feeling Mark shudder a fraction at the sensation.

‘Whatever...this is…’ Mark moaned at David on his neck again. David pushed slightly, moving him onto his back and gently but firmly pinned Mark under him.

‘You won the race.’ he said ‘You earned a reward.’

Mark frowned up at him and he leaned down and kissed him, shifting his weight on top of him and running a hand down his side. They’d been doing this long enough now for David to know what Mark liked. But he also was conscious of giving him something tonight, of letting him know he was loved. He wasn’t entirely sure what was going on but he knew Mark needed that. He glanced over at Tim who seemed to understand what he was doing too and nodded. David continued to kiss Mark, who hooked a leg over his anchoring David on top of him, David kissed his way down Mark’s neck and felt him arch into him. They kissed for a while, slowly but not urgently grinding their hips into one another. At first, Tim kissed his husband’s face and neck, but the more he got into it with David, Tim shifted away and shuffled himself over to Patrick, who manoeuvred him next to Mark again, as he shifted himself into Tim, slotting himself behind. Mark kissed his husband deeply as David sat up to do the same.

‘Take care of him.’ Patrick whispered at his husband, which sent a shiver down David’s neck.

‘Love you.’ David murmured, kissing him again, before turning his attention back to Mark. ‘Close your eyes.’ he whispered and started kissing and touching the length of his body, smiling as Mark’s body twitches under him. He kissed down to the bottom of his stomach, kissing the soft trail of hair there. He shuffled so he could sit up and hook Mark’s legs on either side of his hips. He opened his eyes and threw him a questioning look. David ran a hand up the inside of his thighs gently, then around to the curve of his ass. He tilted his head and did it again.

‘How about I take care of you?’ he asked. Mark flicked his eyes up to David and nodded.

Next to him, he watched Patrick manoeuvre Tim so he was spooning him, and Tim could still reach over and touch Mark, running a hand up and down his arm, as Patrick gently kissed and touched him. David turned his attention back to Mark. He ran a hand over his stomach gently, then down the inside of his thighs, feeling him shift under him. He let things build slowly, watching Mark get hard. He touched him gently, holding him really, massaging lightly, taking it slow. He felt Mark relax into it, understanding what he was doing. Keeping one hand stroking him ever so slightly, he shifted a hand, adjusted Mark’s legs slightly and gently started to tease him open with a finger.

Mark sighed, hips twitching and smiled as his husband kissed him. He opened his eyes to look at Tim who was watching him intently.

‘You look gorgeous like that.’ Tim whispered. Mark flicked his eyes over Tim, who was curled on his side, as Patrick stroked him slowly, steadily.

‘So do you.’ He said kissing him again, as David’s fingers reached their destination and he groaned, closing his eyes again, reaching for Tim’s hand.

Patrick kissed Tim's neck while gently stroking him, wrapping himself around him while nuzzling his neck and working his hand. It was soft, intimate and slow, and he felt himself melting into him slightly. He was conscious of David, equally slow and deliberate touching Mark next to them, and he let himself relax into it. After a while, Tim let go of Mark and rolled to face Patrick.

‘Hello.’ Tim whispered, kissing him and reaching for his hips. ‘Seems unfair I’m getting all the attention.’

‘I didn’t mind.’ Patrick said softly.

‘I know.’ Tim said, kissing him, he reached between Patrick’s legs and he let out a small moan ‘But this is better.’ He took Patrick’s hand and guided it gently to where he wanted it. Patrick smiled into his kiss. Theirs turned into a quick, but a softly passionate exchange. Both of them familiar with the other’s bodies by now, things didn’t take long, and being wrapped up in each other’s arms, Patrick quickly felt Tim reaching the edge.

‘Like that?’ he whispered, and Tim made a soft noise of agreement as Patrick heightened the pace, before leaning heavily into him, kissing his neck making soft noises of contentment as he came. Recovering for a few moments he shifted his attention back to Patrick, who pulled Tim tightly to him as his body rocked into him, before they went limp, kissing softly together in a messy tangle. Pulling back and kissing softly one more time, they detangled to find David still working both hands gently on Mark, who was laying eyes closed, hand on his stomach occasionally making soft whimpering sounds as David worked.

Tim rolled into his husband and stroked his hair back kissing his cheeks, then his lips.

‘That good honey?’ he asked, kissing down his neck again. Mark grabbed at his arm and pulled Tim into him, kissing him gently but hungrily. Tim shifted to curl up next to him and David moved, so Tim could hook a leg over Mark’s, their bodies flush together as Mark held on and kissed him. Patrick, in turn, shifted, behind David, kneeling and wrapping himself around him, kissing his neck.

‘You’re so beautiful.’ Patrick murmured into his neck, ‘I love how you do that for him, take care of him.’ he nuzzled himself in and wrapped himself around David, shifting so he was sitting behind him, and could trail soft kisses across his shoulders, and move his hands around David’s front and down to take hold of him firmly. David groaned and picked up the pace with Mark, who moaned a little. David continued, but Mark reached and grabbed his hand, stilling it.

‘Too much?’ David asked. Mark locked eyes with him and nodded. David stilled his right hand, kept the pressure just enough with his left, inside him. Mark kept eye contact and nodded, then closed them again. Tim nuzzled his way into his neck, softly holding him a moment, stroking his hair back. Behind him, Patrick kissed his shoulders, keeping up a steady stroking motion, wrapped around him. Giving Mark a moment before working his left hand again, he kept his right still, just maintaining a slight pressure. Mark moaned in agreement, so he carried on. Gently, steady, he saw Mark’s stomach hitch and his hand come down there, Tim followed, covering it with his own, and David felt the hitch in Mark’s body when he applied a bit of pressure.

‘Like this?’ he asked, as Patrick increased his rhythm, earning a little moan from David.

Mark nodded, eyes closed still, and David kept it up, he could feel him getting closer, he sensed the build-in him and gently started to move his right hand.

‘Look at me, Mark.’ he said in a soft voice, ‘Look at me, sweetheart.’

He felt Patrick kiss him and still his own hand, opting instead to wrap himself around David and hold him as he brought Mark to the edge. Mark locked eyes with him the whole time, then collapsed back. David held on for a second, riding it out, but he saw a fraction before Tim, the slight hitch before Mark reached up and covered his eyes. Gently but as quickly as he could, David wiped his hands, grabbing a wipe from the bedside table and lowered himself to the other side of Mark. He still had his hands over his face, while Tim petted his hair, whispering to him something David couldn’t hear until he lay down.

‘We love you, honey, we all love you ok? We love you.’ Tim was repeating softly. David put his head next to Mark’s and reached across him for Tim’s hand for a second until Patrick got there and wrapped himself around Tim.

‘Hey, you.’ David said, pushing Mark’s hair back and gently reaching for the hand over his face, ‘Can I see your face sweetheart? Can I?’ Mark let go, and flicked his eyes to David, his face was damp and he sniffed a bit. ‘That was a lot huh?’ David said wiping at his face. ‘It was a lot.’ He rubbed his thumb over Mark’s cheek and let him roll into him. David checked over his shoulder that Tim was ok with this and he nodded, letting himself be pulled up a bit by Patrick and wrapped in one of the blankets. David closed his eyes and let Mark burrow into him for a few moments, stroking his hair. ‘A bit of a release, yeah? Does us all good.’ he pulled Mark tighter for a moment until he pulled back enough to kiss him. Softly then passionately, he pulled David into him. He flicked his eyes up at David before reaching down between his legs. David stopped him.

‘You don’t have to.’ he said firmly, meaning it.

Mark locked eyes with him. ‘Please.’ he said.

David nodded, and shifted, so he was propped on some pillows, as Mark worked his way down, he felt Patrick’s hand in his hair and looked over to see him watching, intent but content as Mark took him in his mouth. David groaned appreciatively and looked down to see Mark looking up at him. He got it, the need for the connection there too, he nodded, before closing his eyes again, letting him go to work. It didn’t take long before he was gripping Mark’s shoulder and leaning into Patrick pulling on his hair, and collapsing back.

Mark cleaned up a fraction, then all but crawled up David and into his arms. He felt a blanket thud softly over him and David pull it over them. He felt suddenly vulnerable again, and everything bubbled up again, his face hot and damp as he landed on David’s chest. He felt his own chest heave a bit and tried to steady himself as David held him.

‘We love you, sweetheart.’ David said, kissing his forehead. ‘We got you.’

He glanced over at Tim and Patrick, and they scooted closer, Tim wrapping himself over Mark’s back.

‘I’m here honey.’ he said, ‘You’re doing so good ok? It’s ok to feel it.’

‘I don’t know…’ Mark managed to sniffle out.

‘Shhh, it’s ok.’ David said, kissing him again. He lifted an arm for Patrick who had quietly made his way over to the other side of the bed and crawled in next to him. He didn’t realise until he leaned over for a kiss Patrick was crying too. ‘Come here.’ he said softly.

Patrick sniffed into his husband. ‘Sorry.’ he sniffled and reached for Mark’s hand on David’s chest. He couldn’t explain it either but it was spilling out of him whatever it was, but his husband was here and he was holding him and somehow for a moment that made it all fall out of him. He held onto Mark’s hand until they both stilled a bit.

‘Sorry.’ Mark mumbled into David’s chest. Patrick squeezed his fingers.

‘Nothing to be sorry for.’ Tim said, Mark sat up a bit and rolled into him. ‘No shame in feeling things.’ He reached down and kissed his husband.

‘So much for my romantic night.’ Mark said.

‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Tim said. ‘You don’t get that unless people really love you.’

David hummed his agreement. Patrick sat up, wiping his face.

‘Given it’s early.’ he said glancing at the clock which said 10.10, ‘I say we get cleaned up, and curl up with some TV and wine.’ he reached a hand over to Mark who nodded.

A while later they were on the sofa, Tim tucked under Mark’s arm at one end, his feet in Patrick’s lap as David leaned on Patrick’s shoulder. Seinfeld was on- David had pulled it up and Patrick had forgotten how funny he found the show. Mark was laughing too, and occasionally saying lines along with the characters. It was entertaining and endearing. As things got late, they turned the show off, and talked about nothing.

‘Let’s go to bed.’ David said at last. He got up and offered a hand to Tim. ‘Together yeah?’

Mark nodded and pulled David into a tight hug, saying ‘thank you’ quietly before they separated to head back upstairs.

Chapter Text

Sunday they woke up in a tangle of limbs it was hard to extract themselves from. Patrick was as usual awake first and enjoyed the warmth for a while. He was sandwiched between David and Mark, with David resting his head and arm on his chest. Mark was turned away from him an arm draped over Tim, but he stirred and rolled onto his back. He flicked open his eyes and smiled sleepily.

‘Hey.’ he said quietly so not to wake the others.

‘Hey.’ Patrick said kissing his forehead. ‘You ok?’

Mark rubbed a hand across his face and nodded. He looked thoughtful again.

‘My head’s a bit...messy I guess.’ he said, biting his lip. ‘Trying not to ruin anyone’s Thanksgiving and you’ve got you’re own stuff and-’

Patrick cut him off with a kiss. ‘You are entitled to your stuff too.’ he said ‘And you can tell us when you’re ready. I’m not the...best at sharing my messy stuff either. But I’m told I’m good with other people’s messy stuff.’ he jerked his head at David’s sleeping head and Mark smiled.

‘Thanks.’ he said.

Patrick kissed his hair, and pulled him into a one armed hug.

‘Brace yourself, I need to wake this one.’

Mark smiled, and watched Patrick first play with David’s hair to try and stir him, then kiss his cheek. Then give up and start gently nudging him. David groaned.

‘No.’ he said firmly.

‘Yes.’ Patrick countered giving him a shove.

‘No.’

‘Yes.’

‘Eugggh.’ David opened his eyes properly.

‘Last day in work. Two days off. Two days you don’t have to move before 10am.’

David glared.

‘I can’t move until you do.’

David narrowed his eyes but nodded, hauling himself up. Patrick gave Mark a soft kiss and shooed his husband towards the bathroom. Back in their bed, Tim stirred a bit and rolled into Mark, not properly awake. Mark pulled him closer.

‘Go back to sleep.’ he murmured, and in seconds his husband complied.

Mark lay awake listening to David and Patrick get ready. David snuck back in for his clothes- Patrick had obviously been organised and put his in the laundry room the night before. But David pausing long enough for a soft good morning kiss was worth it.

Tim stirred, maybe from the noise of David crashing about in the kitchen, and Mark kissed his head.

‘Morning.’ he said softly ‘We don’t have to get up yet, you should sleep.’

‘I’m fine.’ Tim murmured ‘Sleep when I’m dead.’

He grinned as he reached up and kissed his husband.

‘Mmm but sleeping means that dying, less likely.’ Mark countered in a well worn argument. Tim kissed under his chin.

‘I’ll take a nap today. Promise.’ he shuffled up so they were both able to sit, and brushed Mark’s hair back, in a futile attempt to tidy it. ‘You ok?’

Mark nodded. ‘I’m ok.’ he said ‘You know what I’m like honey, it comes and goes. Yesterday just…’ he shrugged. Everything felt like it was bubbling under the surface and last night it had spilled over.

‘I think it was good for you.’ Tim said stroking his hair. ‘I worry about all you keep in that head of yours.’

Mark nodded. ‘I know.’ he said kissing Tim’s head in return. ‘I..’

He was interrupted by Patrick pushing the door open, carrying two mugs of coffee.

‘Figured David’s crashing woke you up. He’s incapable of getting ready quietly.’

‘Rude!’ David’s voice came from the hall. ‘Where’s my bag?’

‘In the hall!’

Patrick came in and set the mugs down, leaning down to kiss Tim good morning.

‘My mom won’t be here until late afternoon.’

‘We’ll change the sheets and do the laundry, don't worry.’ Mark said.

‘You don’t have to-’

‘We will.’ he said, pulling Patrick in by his sweater, and hugging him tightly. Patrick sat down next to him, leaning in as Mark rubbed a hand over his back. ‘Try not to worry.’

Patrick nodded. ‘I want her to be ok with this.’ he said.

‘I think she will be sweetheart.’ David said from the doorway, ‘Even if it takes her a little while.’

Patrick nodded, and closed his eyes. ‘I don’t want to hide my life from my mom.’ he said shaking his head ‘Not again.’

‘Bring her to our house for dinner.’ Mark said, ‘Assuming she’s ok, or part ok. If we can...get to know each other, it might help.’

‘You sure?’ Patrick frowned.

‘If she wants to.’ Mark said.

Patrick glanced over at Tim who was quiet and threw him a questioning glance.

‘I just want her to like us.’ Tim shrugged. Mark pulled him tighter into a hug and Patrick reached over and kissed him.

‘Ok we will be late and it will be me who gets the blame!’ David whined, coming over to kiss the two of them goodbye. Patrick did too, leaving with a little wave.

He hoped it wasn’t the last time he got to kiss them this weekend. The creeping fear it might go wrong with his mom was starting to eat away at him a little. But he focused on the fact that all being well with his mom, Mark was cooking them dinner tonight.

Marcy was due to arrive by lunchtime, and was going to drop her things off at the house and then come to the Store. They’d planned a lunchtime close- giving people a chance to pick up last minute holiday things, but also giving them the rest of the day.

‘I think I want to do it at the cafe? Is that weird?’ Patrick asked David as he fussed with the remains of the pie display. His mom was here and at the house and he was nervous to see her suddenly.

David shook his head and smiled ‘I think it makes sense.’ he said ‘It was a safe space last time.’ he paused ‘Also on the tiny chance your mom freaks out she can’t really yell ‘my son is in a four way polyamourous relationship what did I do?!’ in public can she?’

‘Your mom could.’ Patrick said.

‘Yes and this is why we won’t be telling her in public.’ he rested his hands on Patrick’s shoulders.

‘They’ll be ok? Your folks?’ Patrick frowned, he knew things had gone ok with the Roses the first time but, he was never sure.

‘They’ll be fine.’ David said ‘My dad might be confused but Mom will talk him round.’

He wasn’t as sure as he sounded, worried his parents would think somehow he’d slipped back into his old ways. But they’d get through talking to Marcy first, then deal with the Roses.

‘We don’t have a label for it.’ Patrick mused, fussing with some candles.

‘Well.’ David said ‘You didn’t have a label for it when you told them about me. You just said ‘David’s my boyfriend’ and that was enough. We just tell her we love them, and take it from there.’

‘The wine not the label?’ Patrick grinned, Stevie had told him that metaphor not long after they’d met, before he knew what...wine he really wanted to drink for sure. It made sense.

‘You can share a bottle of wine? Does that work?’ David frowned opening the door ‘I don’t know I was fucking improvising after I accidentally slept with Stevie I didn’t say it was a perfect metaphor.’

‘Accidentally?’ Patrick teased.

‘Shut up.’ David countered.

The plan didn’t quite work- not in a ‘coming out Birthday surprise’ level of not to plan, but just enough to throw Patrick off. The Store got busy- really busy, and they couldn’t close. His mom arrived, hugged them both hello then took herself off to the cafe and got chatting to Jocelyn and ate lunch with her, bringing sandwiches back to the Store, which was still busy- and then a kid knocked over a body milk display, just as Ronnie arrived with a group of her Women in Business club on their way back from a Thanksgiving hike, and they were busy again. They let Katie go at three as she had a date that night and despite David’s judgment that Sunday dates were incorrect, he couldn’t bear to make her late either.

Eventually, at four they managed to close, and meet his mom back at the cafe. And shortly after, David sat and talked Marcy in great detail through the events plans for the Store until he sensed Patrick settle down enough next to him. Patrick reached for his husband’s arm to signal he was ready. David slowed his roll long enough to nod. And waved for some more coffee while Patrick got his thoughts in order.

‘Mom, actually I need to talk to you about something.’ he said shifting a bit.

Immediately he saw the panic on her face. He’d told her he was sick at Thanksgiving too exactly a year ago. How could he have been so stupid this time.

‘Oh no no!’ David interjected ‘Everyone’s fine, promise.’ he put a hand on Marcy’s.

She nodded and exhaled. ‘Don’t do that to me boys.’

‘Sorry Mom.’ he said ‘Nothing to report there promise.’

She nodded ‘Ok then so what?’

Patrick looked at David who nodded and put a hand on his arm.

‘So Mom, when I told you and Dad about David it didn’t exactly go to plan...even though it all worked out in the end. But there’s something I needed to be honest with you about and I didn’t want you to risk finding out...accidentally.’

‘Oh boys you aren’t splitting up? You seem so-’

‘No, Mom, no I promise. Nothing bad.’

‘Marcy this might sound a bit strange when we explain it, but just hear us out ok? And remember we’re happy, both of us.’

She nodded, and Patrick let go of her hands and took David’s.

‘So you know our friends Mark and Tim?’ he began ‘I met Tim nearly a year ago in Chemo, and you know we’re close.’

‘They came to stay with my parents.’ David interjected as if that was somehow making it ok.

‘Yeah, and then they moved nearby.’ Patrick added

‘Yes I know honey, you tell me all about them- honestly, it sounds like you’re barely apart. It's lovely you have such close friends.’

Patrick nodded. ‘It is, and they are.’ he took a breath and felt David squeeze his hand. ‘It’s just that they’re...more than friends.’

Marcy tilted her head and frowned, ‘What do you mean honey?’

Patrick glanced at David and took a breath, there was only saying it really ‘I mean we’re in a relationship, me, Tim Mark and David, together.’

He waited for her to respond but she still looked confused. David jumped in.

‘I know it’s not traditional. And it might be a bit strange, but the truth is we just all love each other very much, and it translated into something more than friendship and well...with Tim’s situation there’s a kind of grab life by the lapels situation that I think Patrick felt too, and I know it might not be what you envisioned as like happy ever after but we’re happy.’

Marcy smiled and put a hand on David’s hand.

‘I’m not upset David.’ she shook her head ‘Just give an old lady a second to catch up.’ she looked at Patrick ‘You love them?’

He nodded ‘I sort of fell in love with Tim.’

‘And it’s ok.’ David interjected. ‘And I sorta fell for Mark, but really we all just love each other...I mean we did anyway, as friends and then, we sort of-’ Patrick squeezed David’s hand and he slowed ‘We just didn’t want to not be around each other.’ he finished.

She smiled ‘Now that you say it, it was like hearing you talk about David when you first met’ she smiled at David ‘The way I knew everything about him, you spent so much time together even after your treatment.’ she seemed to mull it over in her mind she laughed, ‘Tim even answered the phone at the house the other weekend.’

Patrick smiled ‘He’s very at home in our house.’ He looked over at David who smiled.
‘It only...changed into something more this spring.’ Patrick offered tentatively ‘And we wanted to be sure it...stuck. I wasn’t hiding it, I promise. Also we had to be sure they were...ready to share this.’

Marcy nodded. ‘I’m not angry sweetie.’ she said ‘This is different to you and David I appreciate, and it’s only been a few months I expect you all had some things to...work out.’

She seemed to be thinking so Patrick gave her a second, they sat quietly while the young waitress who worked weekends now filled up their coffee.

‘Do you have...questions?’ David asked.

Marcy smiled at him, ‘You don’t all live together then?’ she asked.

‘No.’ David said ‘Though sometimes we might as well...we live our lives, you know as married couples, go to work whatever...but we also I guess date each other? Is that the best way to put it?’ he shook his head. ‘It’s more than that. We can’t really come up with a label for it.’

‘The wine not the label David.’ Marcy teased and he grinned. There were days he regretted coming up with a ridiculous metaphor but actually she was right. Patrick was right too.

‘Actually.’ he mused into his coffee, staring at it for a second, ‘Maybe that is it...I mean I never wanted to label my...preferences, maybe we don’t label our relationships.’ he glanced at Patrick. ‘I still love you’re my husband he said but maybe having a boyfriend or partners doesn’t diminish that.’ he looked at Marcy ‘If you google this sort of thing, people have labels for it like primary and secondary partners that’s not us.’ he looked at Patrick who shook his head.

‘I don’t love David more because he’s my husband, I just have a different relationship to him than with Tim. Or with Mark...David’s right it defies...labels.’ he shook his head and laughed. ‘Maybe it’s more that I enjoy drinking beer some days, but wine others.’

‘And if we were just dating randomly it would be the odd tequila shot as well.’ David smiled.

Marcy grinned. ‘Too old for tequila both of you.’

‘Agreed.’ David said, sipping his coffee.

There was a pause and Marcy reached over and covered their hands with hers.

‘I fully believe you can love more than one person’ she said.

Patrick frowned ‘You do?’ he hadn’t expected it from his mom.

‘Sure honey.’ she said ‘If I’d met someone else, I wouldn’t have loved your dad any less- I’ll always love him. But I could love someone else too. So logically why can’t you love David the same, and still love Tim or Mark.’

Patrick found himself welling up. David tightened his grip on his hand.

‘Quite right.’ David said.

Marcy took one of both their hands. ‘Thank you for telling me.’ she said ‘And if it’s ok with Tim and Mark I’d like to get to know them better too.’

‘How about now?’ David asked.

‘They invited us for dinner...if you’re ok with that?’ Patrick asked.

‘I would love to.’ she smiled.

David saw the nervousness on Patrick’s face as they drove. Despite it all being ok, he understood. While he’d employed a bit more of a ‘fuck it’ attitude to his parents’ judgement on his relationships, he appreciated Patrick needed his mom’s approval. David needed his parents’ too if he was honest, but he was better at filing that away than Patrick. Right now that was a problem for another day. Marcy seemed on board, but he knew Patrick needed her to like Tim and Mark, just like he’d needed her to like him.

They got to the house and Marcy made approving comments about their place, how lovely it was, how nice the front garden. David saw her notice Patrick use his own key to get in.

‘We’re here!’ David called.

‘Kitchen!’ Tim’s voice came.

Patrick gestured and led his mom through. In the kitchen Tim got up from the table where he had an array of recipe books out and Mark put his coffee cup down and stood as well. They stood awkwardly in the middle of their kitchen. Patrick gestured to them.

‘Mom, this is Tim.’ he said ‘And Mark.’

‘Mrs Brewer.’ Mark said ‘A pleasure to meet you at last.’

‘Mrs Brewer.’ Tim added ‘Lovely to meet you.’

They both looked like little boys being taken to meet a distant relative.

‘Oh come on!’ Marcy laughed ‘You don’t need to be on your best behaviour! Patrick has told me all sorts of stories.’

‘Not too many I hope.’ Tim looked sheepish.

‘Enough.’ Marcy winked. ‘I heard about tequila shots and throwing up on the chemo ward for a start.’

‘Sam will pay for that.’ Tim glared but laughed.

Marcy stepped towards them, taking Mark’s arm and putting a hand on Tim’s cheek. ‘I’m very to meet you at last.’ she said. ‘I’m just happy you’re all happy.’

Tim beamed and pulled her into a ferocious hug. When he released her Mark also stepped into a less fierce hug, gently embracing her.

‘Thank you Mrs Brewer, means a lot that you’d support us.’ he said quietly

‘Enough of the Mrs Brewer.’ she said pulling back. ‘It’s Marcy, and not that David ever would, but mom if you’d prefer.’

Mark beamed and Tim took his husband’s hand. He knew he missed his own mom a lot, especially around the holidays.

‘Now Tim I understand you’re a good baker, and you’re on pie baking duty? Can I help at all?’

‘Absolutely.’ He said, ‘I was just about to start the first batch if you wanted to help...The rest of you get out, I’ve got a new baking partner.’

The others obeyed, leaving them to it, Mark muttering about some emails to send, Patrick glancing at Tim nervously but getting ushered away. David, sensing they all just needed to take some time, declared Mark and Tim’s plant situation a disgrace and that he needed assistance to rectify it.

Marcy rolled pastry while Tim measured ingredients. They’d made some small talk about the pies, about Thanksgiving food, but then lapsed into what he hoped was an easy silence. He glanced over at Patrick’s mom who smiled at him, he smiled back, suddenly nervous. But he took a deep breath and started to talk while they worked.

‘You know I’ve spent a lot of hours in that hospital, and I talk to a lot of people- it is true Sam, our nurse, puts people near me he’s worried about because he knows I’ll talk to them, take their mind off it. And I’ve met some lovely people. Unfortunately not all of them stick around for obvious reasons. But also, when they get better, they go back to their normal lives. Patrick took me and Mark with him into his normal life. That meant something Mrs Brewer, because people don’t do that, with people like me. They didn’t do it before I had cancer. They certainly don’t now.’ he finished mixing the chocolate and put it in the fridge to set, and started on the canned pumpkin. ‘After a few weeks, my husband laughed at me, because he realised I had a crush on Patrick. Ask him I’m always getting inappropriate crushes on people, totally harmless, usually like the barista or something or even my poor nurse Sam for a while. Anyway he laughed, I laughed and we assumed I wouldn’t see Patrick again when his treatment was done so why not enjoy a harmless crush. And obviously he’s very cute.’ Marcy laughed at that. He shrugged ‘But Patrick didn’t disappear. Because he’s a good person, but also because we had some kind of ...connection? My husband too, with both of them. We realised we were friends. Really good friends.’ he paused in mixing the spices into the pumpkin mix, and looked at her. ‘We got home after new years and Mark said ‘you love him don’t you?’ and I said yes, and he said ‘you’re in love with him.’ and I said yes, because it was the truth and my husband and I don’t lie to each other- even when it would make life easier- and Mark smiled and said he knew. Then he said he knew how I felt. Because he loved David too, he was in love with David too. And now we’re both in love with both of them and it's ridiculous but also wonderful.’ he stopped, leaning on the counter, folding his arms protectively over him. ‘I hate to play the cancer card, but if I only get a few more years, and there’s a chance to love and be loved by more than one person...I’ll take it.’

Marcy nodded, and wiped her hands, stepping over to him and pulling him into a hug.

‘I think you’re very special Tim, and my son and David are lucky to have you.’

He nodded and they both went back to their tasks. After a little while Marcy asked Tim about his teaching job and he was off and running talking about students. Mark came in to get a drink of water, and kissed his husband’s cheek in passing.

‘Is he talking your ear off Marcy?’ he asked ‘This is why we only let him out occasionally.’

‘I’m loving it dear.’ Marcy said, ‘Also I’ve had ten years of practice hearing David talk.’ she winked.

Mark laughed and stole some chocolate on his way back out.

Tim left Marcy- at her insistence- clearing up and went into the office where Patrick had perched on the end of Mark’s desk with his laptop, Mark was still typing away on his, David was slumped in the armchair reading.

‘Ok time to actually stop work.’ he declared.

‘I tried telling them.’ David shrugged, and Tim realised he was eating some peppermint bark from the Fayre. He reached over to his lap and took some.

‘Husband, light of my life, wondrous man, step away from the computer.’

‘One minute.’ Mark said and made a soft affectionate noise as Tim kissed his hair, while he typed. ‘Patrick come on save us all!’ Tim delcarled.

Patrick looked up at him and smiled. ‘All done.’ he said getting up. ‘Did my mom boss you about in the kitchen?’

Tim shook his head ‘All very civilised. I know how to share a kitchen unlike you.’

Patrick grinned, ‘You share a kitchen with David and see how much you tolerate other people.’

‘Hey!’ David half-heartedly objected before going back to his book with a shrug.

Patrick got up, and went to Tim, he looped his arms over his shoulders. ‘I’m really glad you spent time with her.’ he said quietly, dipping his head a bit. ‘I think she likes you.’

‘Oh she likes me, I’m good with moms.’ Tim winked ‘She seems good though. With us, but also you know, Thanksgiving, she seems ok.’

‘She’s better at it than me.’ Patrick said, ‘I can’t help but...think about things.’

Tim nodded, and let Patrick lean on his shoulder for a moment. ‘It’s because of that big heart of yours Patrick Brewer-Rose.’ he squeezed it ‘And I’m glad of it too.’

‘Sometimes I wish I could just be rational Patrick.’ he said into Tim’s shoulder ‘Spreadsheet Patrick.’

‘You were just being Spreadsheet Patrick.’ David said, hauling himself up. ‘Remember your spreadsheet the night after your dad died.’ He went to his husband and draped himself over his shoulders ‘He had ‘check for nesting animals’ on it. Because you versus a racoon would be a thing to see.’

‘I could take a racoon.’ Patrick said pouting.

‘You are little and scrappy, you are a nesting animal.’ David teased. Patrick elbowed him gently.

‘Tim made a spreadsheet of possible outcomes the day he got diagnosed.’ Mark said getting up and stretching ‘Four of the columns said ‘Dead’ it was a cheery time.’

‘I may have been a trifle dramatic.’ Tim pouted.

‘Drama Queen. My dear.’ Mark said getting up and going to him. ‘And I used to work in the theatre.’ He laughed and kissed Tim’s cheek. ‘Still here, still being a drama queen though.’

Tim laughed. ‘It’s what keeps me going dahhhling’

‘In which case my mom will be immortal.’ David added.

‘David Brewer-Rose don’t you talk about your mom that way.’ Marcy’s voice came from the doorway.

‘Sorry Marcy.’ David blushed, into Patrick’s shoulder.

‘Not that she doesn’t have a flair for the dramatic.’ Marcy winked. ‘Tim come and check on this pie for me, I’m not sure it’s setting right.’

‘Coming.’ he grinned, and automatically on his way past kissed Patrick, he hesitated and blushed. But Patrick caught his mom’s look and smiled broadly. It was the same look he’d seen the frist time she saw him and David kiss. She nodded at him.

‘C’mon lets get dinner started before David starts complaining I’m starving him.’ Mark followed his husband back to the kitchen.

Later Mark helped Marcy clear up, thinking it would be a good opportunity to check in with her. Except now he was here he didn’t know what to say. He was out of practice dealing with parents- the last time he’d had to meet any was over twenty years ago. So he quietly worked next to her.

‘You know Patrick didn’t tell us about David for nearly two years?’ Marcy said evenly. Mark nodded, ‘I regret two things about that- one that my son had any reason to think we wouldn’t accept him, and two that I missed that time with David.’

‘I know he was scared- and I hate to use a cliche, confused.’ Mark said it was something he and Patrick talked about, because Mark shared that experience- unlike Tim and David, of hiding themselves for longer. ‘My mom didn’t meet Tim for a while, not quite as long but long enough. It felt like confirming to her, yes I was really gay for life.’ he laughed and shook his head ‘It’s ridiculous but because I knew Tim was it for me it was harder.’

‘What do you think your mom would make of this.’ Marcy said ‘No judgment, just curious.’

He paused and thought. ‘She would say ‘I like them’ because I know she would, and that would be that.’ his mom was never one for analysing things, unlike him, she just went with it.

‘Mark?’ Marcy said putting the last plate away ‘I like you, and your husband, very much.’

Mark nodded and accepted her hug.

Chapter Text

David had been chatting to Alexis, wishing her a happy ‘real Thanksgiving’ while Patrick took some pies that were going to get thrown out otherwise, to a few people in town. He and Marcy on a Thanksgiving goodwill mission.

‘So your husband abandoned you to do good deeds.’ Alexis teased. ‘All alone on Thanksgiving.’

‘Tim’s in the kitchen’ he said offhand, Tim was finishing a cake he’d baked, not wanting to ice it then travel it over, he’d come over just as Patrick was leaving and was therefore also keeping an eye on the Turkey in the oven as David could not be, in Patrick’s words, trusted for one second with that.

‘Does Tim live with you now?’ Alexis teased, ‘Is he like your secret lover you hide in the closet.’ she booped the screen but then froze. ‘Um David?’

He caught sight of his expression a fraction too late. And then saw how guilty he looked.

‘David! Tell me you didn’t do something stupid! I swear after all this time- oh my god Patrick didn’t do something stupid? David!?’

‘We’re all boyfriends!’ David exclaimed then put a hand over his mouth. ‘I mean no, not boyfriends, we're too old but we’re all….’ he made a circular gesture.

Alexis went from confused to a soft fond grin in seconds. ‘You’re in love.’ she said, shaking her head ‘You’re all in love.’

‘Yes.’ David said sheepishly.

‘David.’ she smiled, ‘Really?’

‘Really.’ he shrugged.

‘And it works ok? And you have ground rules, and boundaries and everything.’

‘Yes yes yes, we’re very grown up about it.’

‘David.’ she said

‘Stop ‘David’ ing me!’

‘But David!’ she grinned, ‘you’re all in love.’

‘Yes.’ he said again.

‘I am very impressed.’ she said.

‘That’s it? No lecture on what I’m doing wrong?’

She shook her head. ‘It’s so obvious now you say it…’ she mused.

‘Apparently so.’ he rolled his eyes.

‘David?’ she asked.

‘What?’

‘Is it like super hot?’

‘Ew.’ he made a face. ‘That. Is enough out of you.’

‘Happy Thanksgiving!!’ she grinned. Then paused ‘David.’

‘What?!’

‘I’m happy for you. They’re good for you. It’s like Patrick times three.’

‘Happy Thanksgiving Alexis.’

He shook his head. He’d still wait to tell his parents, Thanksgiving transatlantic drama wasn’t necessary after all. But it felt good to have his sister know. Not to have to edit just how often Tim and Mark were there….not that he’d done much of that. And besides she’d been right about Patrick all those years ago, if she thought this was good, maybe he should start fully trusting it too.

Tim was in the kitchen piping icing onto one of his cakes. He smiled warmly as David came in.

‘If you behave you can lick the icing bowl.’ he winked. ‘Mark ran home for some decorating supplies.’

David smiled, and leaned on the counter watching him ice the cake, moving it to help him. It was lovely to find Tim here, in the kitchen without him or Patrick there, like he belonged. Because he did, there was no need to explain his presence, because he was home here as well as in their house. He smiled watching him painstakingly decorate the cake.

They didn’t speak, Tim worked quietly and methodically David watched. It was a thing David loved about them, they could just be together. Despite both of them having more than their share of things to say they both appreciated silence together. Tim finished and admired the cake.

‘Perfect.’ David smiled, moving it to the back of the counter out of the way while Tim washed his hands. When he finished, David stepped towards him, leaned down and kissed him, slowly deeply, not leading anywhere, just the kind of kiss you take your time over. Tim smiled up at him when they pulled apart.

‘I love you.’ David said ‘And I love being with you, being around you, and I’m thankful you are my family Timothy.’

Tim smiled up at him and wrapped his arms around David’s waist.

‘Are we getting in the Thanksgiving sentimentality early this year or something?’

‘Something like that.’ he adjusted the deep orange scarf on Tim’s head but kept his hands on his face. ‘Just I know I don’t say it enough. I know you and Patrick are...you know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t...you know.’

‘Surprisingly I do know David.’ Tim grinned ‘I love you too.’

He reached up and kissed him, returning the passion David had shown. But then after he wrapped himself around David, squeezing him tightly.

‘You ok David?’ Tim asked, ‘Really you ok?’

David held him a bit tighter for a second, then detangled himself and flopped into a chair.

‘Didn’t think about Thanksgiving feeling ...different? This year.’ he shrugged.

‘Your husband is fine. He is better than fine. But it’s always going to be hard, just like it is for him and his Dad.’ Tim stood in front of him ‘Tell you what I promise not to die at Thanksgiving ‘kay?’

David laughed and wrapped his arms around Tim’s waist, pulling him in. Tim smoothed his hair. The carried on running his fingers through it absently while he talked.

‘Though a fall funeral would be divine, think of the leaves as a backdrop, the wonderful sweaters you could wear...it would be something.’

David laughed into him. ‘Stop it’s not funny.’

‘Pumpkin pie for the wake? Like just pumpkin pie...or maybe pecan...basically pie all the way. I don’t know this feels like an amendment to the plan…’

David laughed and looked up. ‘I will make a note.’

Tim kissed his forehead and smiled fondly at him. He was going to speak again when the back door clattered shut.

‘Do not encourage the food lists for the wake.’ Mark said coming in through the back door carrying a bag which looked heavy ‘Not least because the baking demands for the living are bad enough.’

‘Supplies!’ Tim exclaimed, and kissed David’s head to bound over to his husband, and take the bag with a quick kiss to his cheek. ‘Merci!’

Mark came over to David and tilted his chin up with a frown. David shrugged, barely and Mark leaned down and kissed him, then stood an arm over him, rubbing a hand up and down his back. David reached up to his waist and leaned in. Sometimes talking about it made it worse. Mark knew he guessed what was bothering him this weekend and was letting him ride it out.

Soon after Thanksgiving was in full swing. Patrick was back and in organised mode, so David retreated to drink making duties and table laying. They’d kept it just them this year- Stevie was going to her Aunt’s, and Katie and her mom had left for her uncle’s this morning- after a pie delivery from Patrick. Really David was glad, he knew Patrick was well now, he especially knew by the way he bossed him about in the kitchen. But he felt like they needed this small family Thanksgiving. Eventually they settled to their dinner and an easy chatter with Marcy and the others that felt like they’d always known them. David caught his husband smiling as Marcy laughed deeply at one of Tim’s stories. David tapped a spoon on his wine glass to get their attention.

‘I think it’s traditional to say what we’re thankful for.’ he smiled, and Patrick tilted his head with a soft smile. ‘I’m grateful for my husband’s health.’ David hadn’t expected it to hit him as he said it ‘A year ago, we were both very scared- more than either of us cared to admit- and this was I think the hardest year of our lives. But we’re here, he’s well enough to constantly tell me I’m bad at math, and I’m thankful.’

Patrick leaned over and kissed him with a smile, taking his hand.

‘My turn!’ Tim declared. ‘I am thankful to be well enough to enjoy this amazing meal.’ he smiled at Patrick ‘And to have been told by my doctor last week, that we can for now manage this on radiation every few months.’

Mark smiled, and kissed his cheek.

‘That’s amazing news Tim honey.’ Marcy said, and looked at her son and David beaming.

‘It’s not a cure, obviously, but I’ll be basically living a close to normal life for a bit. Which is you know. Nice.’ he shrugged, 'We wanted to keep it for a little Thanksgiving surprise.’

Patrick jumped up and went to him, hugging him fiercely. David leaned across the table and took his hand.

‘I’m thankful for you all.’ Mark said with a shrug, ‘That’s mine. For the bad times yes, but for times like this too. For a family.’ he looked at Marcy and she smiled at him.

David nodded at him. ‘Me too.’ he said quietly.

‘I’m thankful to meet you Tim, and Mark, and have you be part of my family.’ Marcy said and Patrick reached for his mom’s arm and smiled. He paused a moment before looking at the table.

‘I’m thankful for this life I never imagined I’d have, but I couldn’t imagine any other way.’ he smiled and his mom patted his hand with hers and he smiled. ‘Love you mom.’ he added quietly. They returned to a quiet chatter as they finished the food, with David resting a hand on his back for the rest of the meal.

He was clearing the table when David swooped in and took the plates off him.

‘We’ve missed a tradition.’ he said.

‘David I know we joke but you don’t have to make me cry, if I don’t cry that’s actually a good sign.’

David shook his head. ‘I mean yes, and no, and this is poorly timed now but...you want to go for a walk? Maybe, visit your dad?’ he tilted his head as if unsure whether Patrick wanted this. He nodded yes.

David looped an arm over him and led him around the corner instead to the Rose garden. To his surprise, Mark and Tim were there too. Patrick looked up at David who shrugged. They must have driven along the back road into town to get there ahead of them. Patrick smiled at his husband’s ridiculous attention to detail. Tim came forward and hugged him, as did Mark. They gathered around the rose garden.

‘Hey Dad.’ Patrick said.

‘Hey mom. Please behave in England, my Embassy calling days are over.’ David grinned.

‘Hey Clint.’ Mark said.

‘Hey Patrick’s dad.’ Tim said.

Patrick stood for a second and David put an arm around him. He felt ridiculous, coming to confess to his dad, or more accurately a rosebush. But David knew better than he knew himself that it was important he say it to his dad. He’d updated him on everything else from this spot over the last ten years. Sometimes the tiny ridiculous things, but always the big things. It wasn’t that he particularly believed in any spirit of his dad listening in. But it kept him with them, talking to him. He stepped a bit closer to the bush, and laughed at himself, as if he was making it so his dad could hear better. He felt Tim’s hand on his shoulder and smiled.

‘Dad, uh this is Mark and Tim. I’ve talked about them.’ he felt Tim take his hand. ‘They’ve been the best thing to happen to me and David since….well since we met each other.’ David squeezed his shoulders, and Patrick felt Mark behind him, a hand on his shoulder, another around David. ‘Dad the thing is, we love each other, very much. Remember when I told you David was my boyfriend? And I’ve never been happier? Well that isn’t quite true any more, because I’m happier now.’ he looked at David who gave him a lopsided smile, ‘I didn’t think it was true I could be happier, but I am. Because we’re all sort of together, they’re married and we’re married and we’re all together too. I know it’s messy and not what you’re used to dad but I hope you see how happy we are.’

‘He would.’ Tim said. ‘Your dad was a good man who loved you. He would see that you're happy.’

‘I love Tim and I love Mark.’ Patrick said.

‘I love them too Clint.’ David said ‘But I still love your son so very much.’ He put an arm around Patrick’s neck and kissed his head.

‘I really miss you Dad.’ Patrick managed to hold back tears but his voice caught, before More now than ever.’ he rolled his eyes ‘And you’d tell me I shouldn’t be worrying about you and just living my life.’

‘Quite right.’ Tim said quietly

‘But I do really miss you.’ Patrick said. He felt David’s arm around him, properly pulling him for a second, giving him that moment to feel it all. David pushed back, holding Patrick by the shoulders, he nodded at him and Patrick took his hand, bowed his head and recited the Kaddish along with him.

‘Amen’ Tim and Mark said next to them.

‘Hey David?’ Tim said quietly ‘Will you say it for me too? When I’m gone.’

David went to him, put his hands on his face, pulled him in and kissed his forehead. ‘It would be my honour.’ he smiled. Patrick wound his arm around David again and leaned on him. Tim took his hand again while Mark wrapped himself around Tim from behind. They stood a few moments together in silence.

‘Walk?’ David suggested ‘Sort of a Thanksgiving tradition for us, but we wouldn’t mind the company.’

‘Just to the park.’ Patrick added, ‘not far.’

Tim nodded, ‘Sure.’ He said ‘I’ve done too much sitting today. Need to work up an appetite for pie.’

‘More pie.’ his husband corrected.

Patrick took David’s arm as they walked towards the park, while Tim and Mark walked hand in hand at their side, quiet companionable silence fell over them. The leaves were crunchy under their feet and the park quiet, they did half a lap before stopping at a bench.

‘I always tell David stories about my dad on this walk.’ Patrick smiled ‘Things he doesn’t know. And so I keep remembering things about Dad.’ David kissed his cheek and the other two sat opposite on the picnic bench listened attentively. ‘My dad taught me to bake. Which my skill in David finds hilarious, and something that will stop him ever leaving me.’

‘Correct.’ David interjected.

‘This isn’t even a funny story or even that interesting a story. But I remember perfectly the first time he really started teaching me to bake, and it was a Thanksgiving we hosted when I was maybe ten? For the first time he was teaching me to weigh out the ingredients, mix them together- he had to hold the electric whisker I remember because I was still too small to hold it- yes David I was a little child big surprise.’ David screwed up his nose and kissed his cheek again. ‘I just remember this long afternoon in the kitchen with my dad, quietly making all these cakes, one in the oven starting another, get it out to cool, put another one in. I think we made like five? I don’t even know why we needed so many but he taught me the method for each one.’

‘Maybe you didn’t need the cakes, he just wanted to teach you.’ Tim offered.

Patrick smiled, he’d never thought of that before. His dad had worked lots when he was little. He spent more time with his mom whose hours as a teacher meant she was around more. Holidays and weekend sports were the times with his dad. He nodded.

‘Maybe.’ he smiled, and leaned on David. ‘When Thanksgiving came I remember him telling everyone who took a slice of cake ‘Patrick made that.’ every piece.’ he shook his head. ‘I didn’t really do anything except mix it.’

‘He was proud of you.’ Mark said Patrick looked at him again and he was crying. Tim took his hand and Mark wiped his face. ‘Sorry.’ he said.

‘Honey.’ Tim said, giving his husband a look. Mark looked down for a moment softly crying and wiping his face. ‘Mark. Tell them.’ Tim said firmly. Mark looked at him, and nodded, then looked over at David and Patrick.

‘My dad, he died around this time too, 10th of October. I didn’t want to say...it’s complicated, Pat, not like your dad he was-’

‘Not a nice guy.’ Tim interjected, then off his husband’s look ‘I can say it, you can be mad at me, but I can say it.’ he shrugged, but took Mark’s hand again. ‘He wasn’t nice to Mark’s mom- they divorced- and she was maybe my favourite person ever. I’m allowed to be mad. He wasn’t nice to you honey, he made life harder than it had to be.’

‘I’m sorry Mark.’ Patrick said ‘This must be...complicated I’m sorry if my stuff.’

Mark waved his hand, but couldn’t really speak.

‘No. Ok, nope.’ David said.

‘David what?’ Patrick frowned but David was pulling out his phone. ‘David what are you doing?’

‘Shhh’ he waved a hand.

‘I’m ok.’ Mark shrugged.

‘Mom? Dad?’ David said into the phone and Moira and Johnny’s face appeared on screen.

‘Dav-id!’ Moira exclaimed ‘you’re outside? Did we have a Thanksgiving marital tiff?’

‘What? Mom? No. Patrick’s right here.’ he turned the phone and Patrick awkwardly waved.

‘Are you in a park?’ Moira frowned.

‘Put your glasses on sweetheart.’ Johnny chimed in. Patrick was able to take in that they were smartly dressed- Moira in a plain black dress, her hair, no wig, clipped back one on side, a sparkly brooch on her dress. Johnny was in a dark suit with thin pinstripes. One David picked out he remembered. ‘David, what’s wrong? We spoke earlier, we’re just about to go out for dinner- it won’t be as good as Patrick’s but still, when in England and all...we’re having fish and chips at the Savoy.’

‘Dad you don’t go to the Savoy for fish and chips, you go to a dirty hole in the wall take out place.’ he waved his hands ‘Whatever that’s not the point. Dad, Mom you need to listen to me ok?’

‘Ok David.’ Patrick recognised the tone Johnny used when David was being ridiculous but he knew it mattered to him.

‘David what are you-’ Patrick tried

‘Shhh.’ David waved at him.

‘Ok Mom, Dad, remember when I came out, back in college and you didn’t really get it, but you wanted to show you were the cool parents so you went along with it until you did get it? I need you to do that, but for really be on board because it’s like twenty years later and you just need to ok?’

‘Ok Dav-id, you can’t be coming out again surely? Can you do that? Can he John?’

‘Moira.’ Johnny warned.

‘Ok so. Here’s the thing. Patrick and I? We’re in a relationship, with Tim and Mark. And I need you to accept that. We’re dating, we’re in love. I love them, and I only ever said that to Patrick before so I need you to know that I love them.’ he paused ‘Very much.’

There was a pause, Patrick glanced over to the other side of the table, Tim shrugged, Mark still looked upset but was frowning. Patrick leaned in so he could see Moira and Johnny, his mother in law gave him a little wave which he returned. She smiled.

‘Oh David, my boy.’ she said ‘Is that what you’re worried about? Of course you love them. Any fool can see that. And as for the nat-ure of your relationship that’s up to you...but your father and I weren’t born yesterday you know, of course we knew something was there…’ she trailed off.

‘What?!’ David looked aghast ‘You KNEW?’

‘Well your mom and I figured, you know when you came to visit in the spring, you wanted us to meet them because….’ Johnny trailed off.

‘But, but we weren’t even together then?!’ David looked at Patrick who grinned.

‘Weren’t you?’ Moira said ‘well you should have been...what exactly do you class as together because if it’s just sex then your father and I…’

‘Mom I beg you don’t finish that sentence.’ David made a face.

‘Mrs Rose, I think David means we’re happy you’re ok with this.’

‘It’s a mod-ern world boys.’ Moria grinned, ‘If your father and I were young again-’

‘Mom I swear if you finish that-’

‘What your mother means David, is we’re happy you’re happy.’ Johnny interjected. ‘And we like Tim and Mark very much.’

David nodded, and smiled, relieved. Patrick leaned on his shoulder and smiled at his in-laws too.

‘Are they with you son?’ Johnny prodded, ‘Can we talk to them?’

David nodded, Patrick sensed he was getting emotional and sure enough he wiped his eyes quickly before handing the phone to Tim, while getting up so they could stand behind them.

‘Hello boys!’ Moira said, oblivious to the fact that Tim and Mark were hardly ‘boys’ any more. ‘Timothy you look well, that scarf if rav-ish-ing’

Tim touched the burnt-amber scarf with a smile. Then pulled his husband closer to speak to them.

‘Mr and Mrs Rose thank you for understanding our...situation. I just want you to know, I love David very much, as does Mark. We won’t hurt him.’

David put a hand on Tim’s shoulder having arrived behind him. Despite everything his parents still worried he’d somehow get hurt by...he didn’t even know what any more, life again he supposed. He didn’t know how Tim knew that but he did.

‘And Patrick of course.’ Mark added, his voice wavered a bit.

‘Mark my dear are you quite ok?’ Moira frowned. ‘You weren’t worried about David telling us? I mean this is far from the strangest thing he’s ever done, there was that Rodeo Clown-’

‘Mom!’

Patrick put his hands on Mark’s shoulders from behind and leaned down a bit so he could speak.

‘It’s a tough time of year for Mark.’ he offered ‘Same way it is for me.’

Johnny fixed his gaze on Mark and tilted his head. ‘Mark I’m sorry to hear that.’ he said in his slow, even tone. ‘But if you’re part of my son’s life- and Patrick’s life too- then you’re part of ours.’ he shuffled a bit and Moira put a hand on his arm with a fond smile ‘I told Patrick a long time ago, I can’t replace his dad, and I wouldn’t want to Patrick he was a great man. But I can still be there for him- and for you, if that’s what you want.’

Mark nodded slowly ‘Mr Rose…’ he swallowed ‘Mr Rose I haven’t known you very long, and I’ve no business saying it, so forgive me but...you’re already well...someone important to me...maybe more than...other people in my life.’ he frowned ‘Sorry, um thanks Mr Rose.’

‘Mark?’ Johnny said, and he looked back up, ‘You’re family ok? The Roses we look out for family.’

Mark sniffed a bit and nodded. ‘Thank you Mr Rose.’ he said.

Johnny frowned at the screen ‘Patrick? Are you ok?’ he asked gently.

David glanced over at his husband who was crying silently next to him. He put an arm around him as Patrick wiped his face and nodded.

‘You always told me that I had you...for talking about baseball and everything else Mr Rose.’ Patrick sniffed, ‘I’m just really glad I do.’

Tim turned around and hugged Patrick’s waist, and Patrick petted his head while leaning on David. Mark held a hand up for Patrick to grab onto. On the phone David saw his mom wipe at her eyes.

‘Like Mr Rose says.’ She said ‘Family.’

‘Get yourselves off home.’ Johnny said ‘I’m sure you’ve got more pie to eat.’

David nodded ‘That we do. Also I’m texting you better places to get fish and chips. And also a list of skincare you can only get in London.’

‘Bye David.’ his dad said pointedly.

‘We love you.’ his mom waved.

‘Love you.’ David said with a little wave back. Patrick wrapped himself around him from behind.

‘Don’t worry babe they’ll remember the skincare.’ he kissed David’s cheek and said softly ‘We’ll see them soon ‘kay.’ David nodded.

‘I think I heard someone say pie?’ Tim said.

‘We did indeed.’ Patrick said. ‘Six kinds if I counted correctly. I’d say we’ll be eating it until Christmas but with David around...probably next weekend.’

David made a face but let himself be teased about his ability to eat all the way to the car.

Chapter Text

A little later they were getting ready to start a movie, when Patrick realised his mom had been gone a while, having gone to change her sweater. He went upstairs to the bathroom then gently opened the door to the guest room on his way back. He pushed it open all the way to find his mom sitting with Peter, Tim’s stuffed penguin toy, in her lap, she was absently stroking it’s wing.

‘Hey.’ he said.

‘Patrick sweetie, sorry I just needed some quiet.’ she said.

‘Busy day.’ Patrick said. Sitting on the bed next to her. ‘You found Peter.’

‘Is that his name?’ she asked.

Patrick nodded and she handed him over ‘It- he- is Tim’s. Must have left him here the other night- he’s kind of got a joint custody situation in our house now.’ he laughed.

Then frowned, Tim didn’t bring Peter over for their usual stays, like Patrick with Bertie, he kept him around when he was feeling down, or vulnerable. Given all seemed well with Tim Patrick wondered for a second why, then it dawned on him. Mark, like David relied on the silly toy too. Patrick shook his head, feeling for Mark.

‘I think Mark needs him sometimes too.’ Patrick said, and flapped the penguin’s wings, making his mom smile. ‘Mark just told us his dad died this time of year too. He’s been...not himself all week, and I didn’t know why. Guess he needed this guy.’ he waved the wing again. ‘Silly old thing.’ he said quietly.

‘You’ve been sleeping with Bertie in your bed all week.’ his mom smiled, it wasn’t a question.

‘When I can pry him off David.’ Patrick grinned thinking of the mornings he’d woken up with David clinging onto his teddy bear. He nodded though ‘Yeah. Apparently Thanksgiving turns me into a big kid.’ he hugged the penguin, it smelled homely too he realised and smiled a bit.

‘This must be hard for you. With Tim. Especially this weekend.’ his mom said.

‘It is.’ he confessed ‘But it helps, actually having Tim, he helps a lot.’

His mom nodded ‘I’m glad you have people. And I know you think I don’t understand, but you thought I wouldn’t understand you being gay...maybe give an old lady some credit.’ she nudged him ‘I see you all love each other. That’s enough.’

He nodded ‘Are you ok mom?’ he realised he hadn’t properly checked in.

She paused and fussed with his sweater, a sure sign she wasn’t and was delaying.

‘I miss him a lot this year.’ she said ‘I don’t know why, I just do. And I keep thinking about how we might have lost you too and-’ she stopped and tears fell.

‘Hey Mom I’m ok.’ Patrick said putting an arm around her ‘I’m ok.’

Patrick realised in the eleven years since his dad died, even in the year he’d been sick, he hadn’t seen her cry like this. She’d been his mom, strong for him, keeping it all hidden. He pulled her close and handed over Peter. She laughed, still crying, but took the penguin. They sat for a while, Patrick letting his mom cry.

‘It’s hard for me, this year too.’ he said softly. ‘I miss him, I think about last year. Tim said it’s a lot, and to let it be a lot.’

‘He’s very wise.’ his mom sniffed sitting up and wiping her eyes. ‘It happens like that for me- not always on anniversaries or important days, sometimes I just miss him.’ she looked down ‘Same with you, some days for no reason I just wake up in the middle of the night sick with worry that you’re not ok.’

‘Mom…’

‘You’re my only child Patrick. You’re all I’ve got. Let me worry.’

That broke him and he nodded, crying and hugged her. Holding on tight, thinking about what the last year did to her too. She stroked his hair and he felt her chest hitch too, so he sat there a while longer, knowing it was as hard for her to show how much she was struggling as it was him. When he sat up she adjusted his collar and put a hand on his cheek.

‘Come and stay more mom. Now I’m better. We miss you.’ her visits last year hadn’t exactly been social with him in bed half the time. She nodded and smiled then looked thoughtful.

‘I’d like that.’ she said, then she looked down at the penguin in her lap. ‘Would Mark and Tim stay over? Usually?’ she asked.

Patrick nodded ‘Yeah I guess. Usually one day of the weekend- honestly more usually, this is basically their room now.’ he smiled ‘We have a room at theirs-David decorated it.’ his mom smiled ‘We share a room too often...not even for that just because…’

‘You want to be together.’ his mom supplied.

Patrick nodded, relieved she understood.

‘If they want to stay tonight they should.’ She said ‘Thanksgiving is for family. I’m here and they shouldn’t have to be apart from their family.’

‘Thanks mom.’ he said quietly.

She held the penguin at arm’s length, he was a bit battered, his beak was leaking stuffing and his one wing was hanging off, as was a foot.

‘This old guy has been through it.’ she said ‘Do you think Tim would like him patched up a bit? David has sewing stuff right?’

Patrick nodded. David was skilled at clothing repair- and clothing customising, and kept a well stocked sewing basket.

‘I think Tim would like that.’ he smiled.

‘I’ll fix him up before I leave.’ she said. ‘Now someone said something about a movie?’

Patrick nodded and held out a hand to help her up.

The movie evening felt perfect. David was curled up under Patrick’s arm on the sofa, while Mark looped an arm across behind them, Tim leaning on his other side. Marcy was in the armchair next to them and it felt normal, homely. They had wine and snacks- not that anyone needed feeding after all they’d eaten. All was quiet and peaceful. The film was some teen drama David had heard about- he was on a queer film kick lately, and Patrick had had the good the bad and the downright weird of LGBTQ+ cinema to watch. This was a sweet enough film about a kid in high school, it was about ten years old, but Patrick couldn’t help but marvel at the difference in teen films from when he was a kid. Part of his mind wandered to the ‘what ifs’ of that, what if he’d had this silly but sweet film to watch as a teen? The kid in it was now coming out to his parents and Patrick leaned into David who kissed his hair, getting that it still felt much more raw and recent to him. He caught his mom smiling at him and he smiled back reassuring her. The film just got to the end of that scene and Mark all but jumped up.

‘Uh I’m going to get another drink.’ Mark said getting up as if he’d sat on something. ‘I uh, Patrick? Marcy? Can I?’

‘Mark you-’ Tim tried

‘Fine. I’m fine.’ he snapped ‘I’ll just. Be a minute.’ he hurried out.

‘Mark wait we can-’

Tim went to move but David stopped him.

‘Let me.’ he said.

‘David wait should I…’ he gestured to the TV with a shrug.

David shook his head. ‘Let me.’ he said.

Patrick nodded, he was too close, so was Tim for different reasons. Tim shuffled over to him and Patrick pulled him in.

‘Let David look after him.’ Marcy said. ‘He’s good at it.’

She got up and sat on the sofa with her, bringing the cookies from the table with her. Tim took one and broke it in half, giving the other piece to Patrick.

Tim seemed to understand and sat back. Marcy handed him the plate of cookies and he nodded, letting David take charge for this. He grabbed a bottle of wine and two glasses on his way through the kitchen. Mark was, predictably hiding out on the deck, looking cold. David dumped the wine and glasses.

‘You deal with that.’ he said then hurried inside. He went to the hallway and grabbed one of the huge fluffy blankets that lived there, and a couple of scarves. It wasn’t freezing but it also wasn’t sit around outside in a sweater weather at 9 at night.

Mark had poured some wine and David arranged the blanket over them, and handed him a scarf. It turned out to be Patrick’s and the deep blue suited Mark. In the half-dark, with the light from the kitchen spilling out, it would have made for some kind of romantic romcom moment David decided, Mark wearing a beautiful scarf in the moonlight. However life was not a romcom and Mark currently looked somewhere between bursting into tears and throwing something.

‘That was perhaps not the greatest choice of Thanksgiving movie.’ David said carefully.

‘Maybe go for like Toy Story or something next time.’ Mark smiled, taking a sip of his wine and staring into the darkness.

David knew it took him a while, he knew him well enough by now to see him thinking. He reached a hand up to the back of his head and rubbed his thumb across the back of his neck. A well practiced gesture he knew Mark liked, he felt him tense a second. Then he felt Mark’s shoulders visibly drop even at that touch, and he saw the tension in his body properly, he was holding himself like a coiled spring, like any minute he was going to leap up and run away. That wasn’t the Mark he knew. He was quiet, sure, guarded like Patrick was sometimes, taking time to work things through. But this was defence.

‘Hey.’ David said shuffling a bit closer ‘Can I…’ he knew in that state of mind to ask, he didn’t want to be the one to send Mark running. Mark nodded and David shuffled closer again and put an arm around him, head on his shoulder. Mark put his glass down and reached a hand up to his arm. David felt him relax a fraction, but not nearly enough.

Mark closed his eyes and leaned into David a bit. He could smell Patrick’s cologne on the scarf, and David’s shampoo wafted over at him from his hair. He forced himself to take a breath. He was fine, he was safe. David was with him, and inside his husband probably worrying himself sick, with the other man he loved, and his lovely mom. His lovely mom who seemed to just want to take care of them all. The thought of Marcy tipped him over the edge. He started to cry, soft little hiccups and David burrowed into him a bit, holding on. He let it burn itself out for a second, a tiny burst of letting himself give into it.

‘It’s your dad isn’t it.’ David said, it wasn’t a question.

Mark nodded, and David pulled him in closer, kissing his hair.

‘Whatever it is, I promise you it’s ok.’

Mark cried harder. He did so well most of the time keeping that chapter closed, not engaging with it. Why did it matter, it was all so long ago. But it hurt today, this year, he didn’t know why. He sat up and took a breath, he nodded thanks at David and wiped his face. He gave himself a second, then spoke.

‘My dad wasn’t a good person, my husband is right about that. He doesn’t even know all of it but...he’s right. But that’s just stuff you live with. Mom and I got used to living with. But I just…’

David reached for his arm again and held on. Mark nodded, and reached for his wine. Delaying again.

‘I’m jealous. Of that kid in the stupid film. Of every kid in every stupid coming out story- the ones I read, because I read so much young adult fiction, becauase it feels like the life I- we- never had. But I’m jealous of these kids who get that. Who get to come out in High School, and it be ok.’ he shook his head and sipped his wine. ‘I’m jealous of Patrick. And I feel horrible for it. His dad died, before he could really be him with him too, but he got to say it. And I feel horrible because if we’re making some deal with the devil of course Patrick should be the one with more time with his lovely dad, who he deserves to have lived his life being him with...but I’m jealous that he got any time at all.’

‘It doesn’t have to be logical.’ David shrugged. ‘None of it is.’

‘But why do I care? I didn’t get to come out to him, but I know if I had it would have gone badly. So badly. I should be relieved right? I should be relieved I never had to go through that. Go through being rejected, and whatever else...might have happened.’ he flicked his eyes over at David ‘But it also means I never got to stand there and say ‘this is who I am’ or ‘this is who I love’. Tim never met him but he’s right to hate him. He hates him on my behalf, because I’m not allowed to say it.’

‘You are.’ David said, kissing his hair.

‘I hate that he fucking died and took away my chance to be who I am! I fucking hate that he died and he was still making me hide who I was from him. I hate that he died and I’ll never have the chance to know if it might have not been the thing I know it would have been and I just...hate him...for all of it. For dying before I was old enough to stand up for myself, for my mom. For dying before maybe he turned into a better person than he is in my head. And for denying me the one thing I’m supposed to get.’

He was crying properly again now, and David let him, let him softly cry for a bit.

‘I had it so easy.’ David said, ‘So fucking easy. My parents are ...my parents, but even back then when they were less than great at parenting, they were...pretty great with that.’ he took Mark’s hand. ‘Even though I had it so easy, coming out was still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had no reason to be scared, and I still was. My parents gave me no reason to think they wouldn’t love me, or look after me, or even that they cared who I slept with or loved. You had every reason to be scared, you can’t blame yourself for that. You did nothing wrong. And you protected yourself.’ he paused ‘You protected your mom too, and that’s fucked up that it happened, but it’s so brave.’

‘I don’t feel brave, I feel…’

‘You are so brave Mark. You protected yourself, you protected your mom. You were brave enough to still be who you are, even when you were raised by someone who said you couldn’t be- that you shouldn’t be that person. And you went out and did it anyway. And you found Tim and you loved him. And you found us and you loved us. You’re so brave, and I know it feels like you lost, but you won, you got to live that life.’

There was a long silence, David shifted and took his hand, carefully entwining their fingers, he squeezed.

‘You don’t have to tell me. And I won’t tell Tim or Patrick. But if you need to tell me.’

Mark squeezed his hand back. And looked out into the darkness for a moment, hearing the sound of the house behind him. He was safe here, he reminded himself. Safe with his family. He swallowed.

‘He’d get angry, he’d argue with my mom, or with me when I got older. He’d shout and scream and sometimes throw things. But sometimes, he’d hit her. Or me. I mean not hit like slap us across the face sometimes shove us a bit. It was nothing really, I’m making a fuss about nothing.

‘Mark that sounds like something to me sweetheart.’ David lifted his other hand and pushed Mark’s hair gently back from his face, he leaned into David’s gentle touch.

‘It was worse when he’d just threaten to.’ Mark continued, closing his eyes seeing it. ‘He’d get angry and back me up against a wall or a door and raise his hand up like he was going to, then not. Shouting, and pulling back like he was going to then not.’ he shrugged ‘I’d rather he just did it.’ he shook his head.

‘How old were you?’ David asked, stroking his hair again.

Mark shrugged. ‘I remember when I was in Elementary school, he caught my cheek- he had a ring on and it cut me, and Mom told me I had to say I fell at the playground.’ he shook his head. ‘That’s the first time I remember.’

David kissed his head. ‘You’re safe ok?’

Mark nodded into him. ‘It was mostly my fault. I’d argue back, answer back. Or when I was bigger I’d try and step in when he was yelling at Mom. I made him worse. If I just kept my mouth shut, or stayed out of the way… I don’t know.’ he shook his head ‘he never really hurt us, it was never that bad.’

He looked over and David was crying. He’d made David cry now on top of disrupting what was already a ridiculously emotional Thanksgiving. He went to get up and David pulled him firmly down. He leaned in and kissed him, gently, but holding him there, taking his time. He rested his forehead on Mark’s.

‘You are not to blame sweetheart.’ he said.

‘It’s ok David I’m…’

‘Shhh a minute.’ David said, pulling back, and taking Mark’s face in his ‘You aren’t, to blame, now listen to me ok?’

Mark nodded and David pulled back a bit, taking both of his hands. Mark wiped his face on his shoulder and David released his hands so he could wipe it properly, Mark reached for them again and David squeezed.

‘Mark, do you know how many times Johnny Rose raised so much as a hand in anger my entire life? And bear in mind he lives with Moria Rose?’ Mark shook his head. ‘Never.’ David said, ‘hear that again ok? never. Now my family scream at each other, it’s basically our love language, and I swear to god my mother has a pitch only dogs can hear ok?’

Mark smiled a bit and nodded.

‘My dad, yes, has been known to shout my mother’s name in frustration. And take the lord’s name in vain at her. He’s bellowed across a house, a motel, even a private jet at me. But my father would never lay a finger on any of us.’

‘But your dad is so nice, and good of course he wouldn’t.’ Mark said, ‘And my dad it wasn’t like abuse-abuse, or real violence he just...wasn’t very nice.’

‘Mark.’ David said, ‘Why doesn’t Tim know all of it?’

He hesitated, ‘Because it’s my fault.’

David nodded, ‘I know you think that, I know it’s real to you.’ he hesitated. ‘I know you’re ashamed.’

Mark nodded, David held on.

‘It took one really bad fight with Patrick- I mean really bad, storming out of the house bad, and one ill-timed gesture from him that made me flinch to make me have the conversation with him.’ he tightened his grip ‘The conversation about a guy who hit me, and how I always thought it was my fault. I didn’t believe Patrick either, when he told me my Dad would never hurt anyone and that’s the rule not the exception. I grew up with the best example of how to be a man- the literal gentle man, as well as a true gentleman.’ he shook his head ‘But a man who went against those rules made me feel like I deserved it.’ he took Mark’s hand ‘You didn’t deserve it and it was all on him.’

Mark collapsed into him then, and cried. David bent over him and kissed his hair, and held him. Letting him get it out, he felt him start to shake and he held tighter pulling the blanket around them. They sat for a long time until Mark spoke.

‘I want him to know.’ he said quietly.

‘Ok.’ David said, ‘Now?’

Mark nodded, and accepted David’s hand up, and a reassuring arm around him as they made their way to the living room. Tim immediately went to his husband and hugged him tightly.

‘I’m off to bed.’ Marcy said, ‘leave you all to it.’ she went to get up.

‘Actually can you stay a minute?’ Mark asked sitting down next to Tim, David on the other side of him.

She nodded and sat next to Patrick who put a hand on her arm in thanks.

‘Uh I think I want- I need to tell you all something. Especially you.’ he looked at Tim, who nodded. ‘Firstly, sorry for being dramatic. That film just got to me, I guess, I feel silly because I’m far too old to be upset by a film about teenagers but…’

‘You didn’t have that.’ Patrick interjected. ‘The coming out scene, that’s what it was right?’

Mark nodded. ‘It always gets to me. I just feel-’

‘Jealous.’ Patrick said, then looked at his mom worried.

‘I understand Patrick dear.’ she said softly, ‘You wish you’d been able to do that too.’

He nodded. ‘Dad never knew me, as me. And I wouldn’t trade the life I have...but I can’t help but think ‘what if…’ sometimes. You’re not alone in that Mark.’

Marcy put an arm around him and he smiled, leaning into her.

‘It’s ok to feel that way.’ Tim shrugged.

Mark took a breath, ‘That’s not all?’ it came out as a question and David reached over for his hand. He nodded. ‘It upsets me because I never had that, because I never could have had that, not with my dad the way he was. But…’ he hesitated ‘Tim honey there’s more to that than I’ve ever told you.’

Tim reached for Mark’s hand and rubbed his thumb over the back of his hand. ‘It’s ok.’ he said.

‘My dad he...sometimes hit us. Not a lot, and more like a slap or a shove here and there. But it happened. More than once.’ tears fell down his cheeks ‘It wasn’t so bad- I mean people have it worse, and there were lots of reasons for it I’m sure. And I made it worse probably trying to protect my mom and I don’t know if she wishes I didn’t. But it happened and-’

He stopped when Marcy got up and hugged him tightly. He wound his arms around her waist and let himself cry properly for a long few moments. When he pulled back Patrick had moved to sit with Tim an arm around him. Marcy pulled back and put her hands on his face.

‘I’m not your mom Mark, but I know your mom would have thought you were incredibly brave to deal with all that. I’m sure she felt terrible that she couldn’t save you from that.’ she wiped at his cheeks with her sleeve, ‘And I know she would have always, always been more scared for you than her.’ she took a breath ‘And I didn’t know your father, but I know none of it was your fault. No man should lay a hand on his child, or his wife, but especially his child ever and that’s all there is to it.’ she pulled him back into a hug. ‘I’m not your mom, but whenever you need one, I will be. And so will Moira too.’

‘She doesn’t exactly excel at it but she tries.’ David offered and Mark laughed into Marcy’s sweater.

‘Thank you.’ he said.

‘Never too old to need a mom.’ Marcy said, tilting his chin up to her. ‘I’m off to bed. Get some rest too.’ she kissed Patrick’s cheek and went upstairs.

Mark looked down, hiding his hands in his sleeves, and glanced over at Tim.

‘I’m sorry honey.’ he said ‘For not telling you.’

Tim shook his head. ‘I knew he was awful, I just…’ he was crying now ‘I’m sorry all that happened to you and your mom.’ he leaned over and kissed Mark’s hair. ‘We can talk about it whenever you’re ready ok?’

‘If you feel like it’ll help, our therapist Matt, he’s good. You’d like him.’ Patrick offered ‘when you’re ready.’

Mark nodded, and felt his face damp again, he leaned on Tim who pulled him close, stroking his hair.

‘I thought you’d be angry.’ he said, ‘I don’t know why.’

Tim kissed his head and he closed his eyes. So many years he’d held onto the idea that he should hide it, that nobody should know. He didn’t feel relief not yet, but maybe it was coming. He hoped it was.

Patrick was kneeling in front of him. ‘You don’t have to go home, my mom already said you guys should stay. But if you need to be alone, that’s ok.’

Mark shook his head. ‘No I want to- I think I need to.’ his face crumpled again. Tim kissed his hair.

‘Shall we go upstairs honey? Maybe get into bed?’

Mark nodded, and let himself be led upstairs. They got ready for bed quietly, Tim clambering in beside him and David next to him. He felt David take his hand for a second, before turning so he could wrap an arm around him. Tim tucked himself next to him. He felt fresh tears welling up, but they were tears of relief. David seemed to understand and smiled at him dabbing at his cheeks.

‘Don’t make me get out the moisturizer.’ he joked and Mark laughed.

‘Thank you.’ he said.

David nodded and kissed his cheek before settling down. Mark closed his eyes feeling safe. His husband kissed him goodnight and wrapped himself around him. He was loved he told himself. He could get through all this with them helping him maybe.

Early the next morning, Marcy made her way back from the bathroom. The bedroom door was open, and the four of them were still fast asleep. Her son was curled up on David’s shoulder, while Mark was virtually on top of David. Tim in turn was curled up behind his husband an arm over him. They looked peaceful, like they’d always done it this way. They looked, as her son might describe it ‘right.’ She smiled and went to start on breakfast.

Chapter Text

Five years later, the day before Thanksgiving.

Patrick was in the office, he didn’t really have a reason to be other than it was quiet and dark in there. He flicked on a lamp and enjoyed the quiet. Today was the first day of Thanksgiving feeling real. They’d been busy at the Store, and yesterday they’d gone to the Corn Maze with Mark. They’d promised to make it a happy day, and they’d stuck to the plan. They were all doing ok so far. Six weeks on from losing Tim and they mostly held it together. At least David and Mark were holding it together better. Patrick currently felt like he was hanging on by a thread.

He was just tired he told himself. It was only mid-afternoon but he felt exhausted. Between greeting Alexis and her boyfriend and going to lunch with everyone at the cafe after they closed up the Store early. There were just a lot of people. They’d retreated home with his mom and Mark, and while his mom and Mark baked and prepped in the kitchen he’d made the excuse of some work to finish up on. So that’s what he was doing. Or at least pretending to do.

He flopped in the armchair.

‘I miss you.’ he said out loud. ‘So much.’

‘Me too.’ Mark said softly from the doorway, he shook his head ‘Sorry I didn’t mean to intrude but I wanted to get you alone.’

Patrick sat up and frowned, he understood when Mark held out a small envelope with familiar handwriting.

‘Thanksgiving.’ Patrick said quietly ‘He didn’t forget.’

Mark shook his head. ‘There’s dozens more. I’m sworn to secrecy for when and why. But the Thanksgiving ones he was very particular about.’

‘Oh I would expect nothing less.’ Patrick laughed.

‘Lots of them he wrote at all different times- over the years, decades ago for me some of them.’ Mark shook his head, Tim loved to write him when he was alive, why should that stop in death he’d argued. ‘This one he wrote in early September.’ Mark added softly.

Patrick felt a lump in his throat. So he’d known, when he wrote it, he wouldn’t see this Thanksgiving. He took the card from Mark, who nodded and left him to it.

Patrick read it, and re-read it. Trying to take it all in at once but also not wanting it to be over, he could hear Tim’s voice when he read it and he didn’t want that to stop. He started crying at the first line, and the tears got heavier and heavier until soft crying turned to sobs, uncontrollable ones, and he slipped off the chair onto the floor. In moments he felt Mark’s arms around him, pulling him into him as he sobbed deeply.

‘I knew my stupid husband would make you cry.’ he buried his face in Patrick’s shoulder as he started to cry too, feeling Patrick heave against him with deep, gulping sobs. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘I…’ Patrick managed ‘I...just…’ he was trying to say how much he missed him but he couldn’t form words.

‘I know.’ Mark said ‘I know, me too honey me too.’

Hearing him say honey, the name he’d always reserved for his husband sent Patrick off into deeper sobs again. He thought he was doing ok, it had been six weeks, he was getting through the days without crying mostly. But now it felt like all of it was falling out of him.

Mark cried too, holding on tight but somehow knowing there was no way out of this but through. He had cried like this often, mostly on David, but also alone. Feeling the depths of the pain rising up in him. So he held on and cried. Slowly Patrick slowed in his arms, steadying himself and Mark with him. He felt Patrick slump against him.

‘Where’s David?’ he croaked.

Mark got it he needed to be near his husband. He hauled them both to their feet and steadied Patrick to guide him into the living room. He walked arm around him like he was steering an injured child. Patrick clung to him still. David looked up and saw and instantly panicked. Mark saw him go to open his mouth in alarm but held up a hand to quiet him. David nodded. He stood and went to them allowing Mark to hand off Patrick into his arms, just as fresh sobs escaped.

‘Ok sweetheart, I got you.’ he said, ‘I got you.’

Mark went to step back and David grabbed his sleeve, pulling him closer, holding him there.

‘Let’s sit ok.’ he pulled back enough to look at Patrick, whose face was red, blotchy and already puffy. ‘Ok come on, both of you.’ David said. He herded them to the sofa and pulled them down with him. Patrick came under his arm holding on and still softly sobbing. Mark, heartbreakingly, was crying a steady stream of silent tears and didn’t seem able to speak. He sat as close as he could to David and rested his head on his shoulder. ‘Ok, let's sit a bit, ok?’ he said.

He threw Mark a questioning glance, and he handed David the letter he had picked up off the floor. He knew Tim would want them all to read it.

 

Dear Patrick,

I promised I’d remind you that you had family on Thanksgiving...you think I’m about to let a little thing like not being around anymore get in the way of that?

Firstly, I love you. And I love David. And I love my ridiculous husband. Tell them from me will you? Remind them from me.

Patrick this day hurts so much because you care so much. About family. About all the people you love. You love so deeply, and care so fully about everyone. I need you to stop, imagine I’m there to pull you aside, slow you down, and make you take a moment for yourself.

I wish I was obviously. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and make you stand still for a second. I wish I could kiss you. Know that in real time, the day I’m writing this, when I see you later, I’m going to kiss you an extra time, which will be for today. Did you know I’ve been doing that a lot, thinking ‘that kiss is for next Christmas’ or ‘That kiss is for when he misses me in the middle of the night.’ to all of you. All these extra kisses for the ones I won’t get to give. I’ve been doing that since our first Thanksgiving, when I realised I only had so many holidays with you all. One more, for later.

If I was there, I’d make us tea, and steal some more pie. Eat some pie for me. Put some yoghurt on it (it’s better that way). I wish I was there. I hope you’re having a lovely Thanksgiving. I really do. The thought of you all together, that makes me happy, so very happy. It’s September when I write this and I think we all know I won’t be with you this Thanksgiving. It’s not ok- it’s really not- but what makes it bearable is the thought you’ll have each other. You’ll be ok, all of you.

But Patrick listen to me. I need you to stop, finally and feel this. Because I know you haven’t. I know you’ve filed it away and concentrated on getting my husband through. And I’m grateful. But he’ll be ok. We had a long time to prepare for this. If he’s had a few weeks now, he’ll be ok soon. Not ok, but ok enough. And I know you need to hold David together, because it’s what you do. But let Mark do some of that too, because he can. He’s strong enough for all of you too.

Patrick my love, I need you to fall apart. I need you to let them put you back together. I’m telling you it’s ok to cry. Please Patrick let yourself miss me, let yourself grieve- don’t hold it inside so long that it can’t come out. I know you’re hanging on by a thread today and I’m giving you permission to break.

I’m insisting, let my husband and yours, let your mom hold you and cry honey because I miss you, and I know you miss me. I love you so much. All of you.

Tell your mom (hi Marcy) to let you cry it out. And tell her that if there’s anything after all this, I’m going to find your dad and have him teach me about baseball.

Love always,
Tim

 

Thick tears ran down his face while he finished it. Not so much for Tim’s letter- which was as beautiful and thoughtful as they’d expect. But for the sheer pain of missing him.. He missed Tim, deeply and fully. He missed his parents who he’d spent all day already hearing or seeing out of the corner of his eye. And he hurt for the men he loved, both of whom were breaking their own hearts, for parents, husbands, best friends lost. Sometimes, he reasoned all there was to do was cry.

‘Boys?’ Marcy had heard some kind of noise but couldn’t place what it was. She came in to find the three of them, clinging on to each other, sobbing. There was no other word for it, she put a hand to her mouth and tried not to gasp, and then not to cry at the sight of her son sobbing his heart out in a way she’s never seen him do. Not for his dad, not for his illness. But she knew now for the man he’d loved so much. She slipped away giving them a few moments, and collected water. Boiled a kettle for tea and brewed it. When she got back things had settled. They were still crying, still holding each other, but quieter now. She half smiled that they looked like a collection of puppies. Really sad puppies, but piled on one another like that.

‘Here now.’ she said softly, bringing the tray in. ‘I thought this might help, drink some water even if you don’t want the tea.’ she handed them a glass each and they sipped. David and Patrick seemed calmer, but a steady stream of tears ran down Mark’s face silently, it was heartbreaking to see, this man she’d always known to be calm, controlled, ever optimistic, was broken. In all that he’d gone through she’d only seen him cry twice. Once several Thanksgivings ago, and once, six weeks ago, quietly at the funeral. She put a hand to his cheek and wiped his tears with her sleeve.

‘Come here sweetie.’ she said, taking the glass back off him and setting it down, she sat down next to him and pulled him in, which set him off again. ‘You’ve not had a mom around to give you a hug have you?’ she rubbed a hand up and down his back, ‘I know how much it hurts ok?’ she said quietly, letting him cry, ‘I know sweetie’ she heard Patrick hiccup a sob at that and glanced up, he was clinging to David again now. She realised he knew what she meant, that she knew exactly how Mark felt without his husband. She gave her son a little nod, she’d be there for him in a minute. She concentrated on Mark first, holding him tight and letting him cry again, steadily rubbing his back. ‘It gets easier I promise.’ she said ‘I promise you it does.’

Mark cried onto her for a long time, letting her comfort him. He’d had David and Patrick but he hadn’t realised until she said it how much he’d wanted his mom in all this.

‘Thanks...Mom.’ he said when he finally steadied himself, throwing her a question with his frown.

‘Of course.’ she said wiping his face again, ‘Sometimes you need a mom.’

She turned to the sofa. ‘What about you two?’ she said quietly.

Mark shifted onto the arm of the sofa so she could sit and she patted his knee in thanks. David looked over at her with an expression so sad and lost before he collapsed onto her. Patrick rubbed his back and looked at his mom for help.

‘You really need a mom too huh?’ she said ‘Now I can never replace Moira- god help any of us who tried.’ she felt David laugh a bit through his tears, which was a good sign. ‘But you’ve still got your other mom ok? Remember how long ago I told you I’d be your mom too? That still stands.’

David cried into her and Patrick rubbed his back trying to stifle his own cries. Mark got up and went to that end of the sofa, and perched on the arm next to him instead, so he could wrap an arm around him, kissing his hair and steadying him.

‘We’ll get through it.’ Mark said ‘We promised him we would.’

As well intentioned as it was it set everyone off again. Mark wrapped himself around Patrick for a few moments, holding him until he steadied himself. Then he got up and went to kneel in front of David, resting his hands on his knees.

‘David, honey, look at me a sec.’ he said, David uncurled himself from Marcy and sat up, wiping his face. ‘You need moisturizer.’ Mark quipped, mimicking David’s favorite line whenever any of them cried.

‘Harsh.’ he smiled a bit.

‘David, you remember what Tim said after you mom died? He said you have to be sad now to remember her later. We have to do that for Tim too. And you’ve both.’ he reached over for Patrick’s hand ‘Been so focused on letting me be sad you haven’t let yourselves be sad. I’m not ok, but neither are you guys. We all lost someone we loved so much.’ he shrugged ‘Let’s be sad now so we can remember him later.’

‘He was very sensible.’ Marcy said

Patrick held out the note to his mom.

‘Really he wanted you to. You’ll see.’

When she got to the end, she wiped away her own tears.

‘I hope he does.’ she said, and looked at David, ‘I hope he finds Johnny and Clint and they teach him all about baseball.’ she tilted David’s chin, ‘And I hope Moira’s there to rescue him from that and talk about shoes.’

David grinned, through his tears. ‘I hope so too.’

Patrick stood up, ‘Bathroom.’ he muttered at his mom’s questioning glance. He really did go to the bathroom, and he splashed water on his already damp face. He stood in the hallway and he could hear soft voices from downstairs and he couldn’t face it. He went to their bedroom instead. He found Peter the penguin in his spot on the chair. He meant to pick him up and take him to bed. Instead he sank to the floor, pulling the penguin to him and something cracked.

He must have been making noise, because David came running in to him, because David was on the floor with him pulling him into his lap. But he couldn’t hear it. All he managed to register was wave after wave of sobs, and David, then Mark, wrapping themselves around him. Then nothing. He woke up in darkness on the bed, head on David’s chest, Mark behind him, Peter still under his arm.

He detnagled himself, but took Peter with him, walking towards the noise of the TV downstairs. His mom was sat, with a glass of wine, watching TV.

‘Sweetie.’ she said, and held out an arm. Patrick went to her, crawling onto the sofa, Penguin with him. He leaned his head on his mom. ‘We’ll wake the others up in a bit, dinner’s keeping warm.’ she smoothed his hair ‘I think you all needed that today. So you can get through the holiday.’ she held up Tim’s note. ‘I think he knew that too.’

Patrick sat up, ‘I think so too.’ he adjusted Peter in his lap.

‘He’s been through it too.’ Marcy said, pulling at his wing, which was hanging off. ‘Remind me before I go home to patch him up again. Can’t have Peter looking shabby.’ she waved the wing.

‘Patched up, and just about holding together. Just like Tim.’ Patrick smiled at the memory.

‘And just as handsome.’ Marcy smiled, offering her son an arm. Glancing at a familiar photo on the end table and smiling. He’d be ok, they all would. Life had a way of going on. And Thanksgiving was tomorrow, Tim wanted them to enjoy it, with family. Even if that family was missing a few now.

Chapter Text

Two days after Thanksgiving Marcy sat in the quiet of the house sewing up an old penguin. David and Patrick were at work- or should be just finishing, and Mark and Tim were meeting them there to come over for dinner. She had a lasagne in the oven at Patrick’s request, and she’d cleaned their house, baked cookies and done a grocery shop. Now she was fixing up an old penguin.
Marcy held up Peter, whose beak was now patched up with a little yellow square of fabric. And whose wing was now firmly attached to his body again, as was his foot. She’d also stitched up the hole on his back and fixed on his little tail. Though the back had a visible but colourful patch. Patrick had assured her Tim wouldn’t mind. She heard voices in the driveway as they all arrived back from the Store. She put Peter on the chair and went out to the kitchen to make some tea.
Noisy greetings and some chatter over tea-making later they were trooping into the living room, Patrick taking the tray of mugs from his mom and kissing her cheek. They heard a shout.
‘Peter!’ from Tim and Patrick turned to his mom who shrugged.
Tim was standing in the middle of the living room clutching his penguin to him and grinning.
‘Honey he’s fixed look!’ He held the penguin out to Mark and showed him, waving a wing and a foot, pointing to the beak, and turned him around to show the patch on his butt. Mark laughed, but took the penguin and admired it.
‘Well look at that, all patched up.’ he smiled.
‘Marcy did you…’ Tim took the penguin back from his husband and cradled it.
‘It was nothing sweetie.’ She said with a wave of her hand, sitting on the sofa. Tim came and sat next to her, penguin in lap.
‘Marcy he’s all fixed.’ he said softly, ‘He’s not falling apart.’
Mark sat next to his husband just as he started to cry.
‘Honey.’ Mark said, rubbing his back. ‘Thank you Marcy.’ he said while Tim sniffed a bit. ‘Did Patrick tell you the story of how he got that penguin?’
She shook her head.
‘On our first date, we went to Central Park Zoo. I was obviously trying to charm this beautiful young man I’d met a few weeks before. He had not, shall we say, had the best few years dating-wise, and I wanted to show him what a real date was like. So I picked him up from his apartment, even though it was thirty minutes out of the way for me, and we walked across the park to the zoo. It’s tiny really, Central Park zoo, but we spent two full hours there wandering around talking- this young man, it turns out, loves to chat to animals as much as humans, and I think he said hello to every animal there. There are however two animals in this world he loves most of all- penguins, and llamas. The penguin enclosure at the zoo is small but beautiful. You stand in this dark room and they’re all there on their little rock, or jumping in the water. We stood for ages watching them and it was the first time he was actually quiet.’ Mark took the penguin off him then, and held it, hands under its wings. ‘It was this beautiful young man kissed me for the first time.’
Tim wiped his eyes and smiled at his husband, with a nod.
‘Because you were awful at making a move.’ he smiled.
‘Romance my love, it's called romance.’ Mark leaned over and kissed his cheek. ‘I bought him this guy on the way out.’ He kissed the penguin’s head and handed him back.
‘We also met a llama that day. At the petting zoo.’ Tim added.
‘Yes that’s a vital detail.’ Mark rolled his eyes.
‘Here’s one you don’t know.’ Tim said, poking him with the penguin’s wing, ‘I already loved you that day. I know you’re the one who makes a fuss about not kissing someone until you had feelings, I had more feelings than I knew what to do with.’
That might have been news to Mark, it might just have been the holidays, life, or the love for his husband but he teared up then and Tim shook his head and kissed him, softly, holding the penguin between them. ‘One more.’ he said, kissing him again. ‘This one’s for later.’ he said kissing Mark again. Mark frowned and rubbed a thumb across his cheek.
‘I love you.’ Mark said. ‘I loved you then too.’ he added softly.
Tim smiled at Marcy, continuing his story of the penguin. ‘When I had my first surgery, I was in the hospital for a while, and Mark brought it in as a joke to cheer me up. But he became a sort of good luck charm. Or a bad luck one I don’t know. He’s been with me ever since, it’s silly someone my age with his toy penguin.’
‘Reminds you someone loves you.’ Marcy said. ‘Nothing silly about that.’
‘More than one someone loves you now.’ David said.
‘Very much.’ Patrick said, pulling David towards him. Mark kissed Tim’s cheek.
Tim nodded and stood up, Peter in his arms, and went to David, kissing him softly, once, then again. ‘Need to count those kisses up.’ he smiled, turning to Patrick who first pulled him into a tight hug penguin squashed between them, then kissed him softly. ‘Lose count of how many ok?’
He said to Patrick, kissing him once more. He hugged him again then saw his mom was crying. ‘Mom?’ he said, pulling away.
‘Oh no it’s fine.’ she waved her hand. ‘Just...you’re so…’ she gestured between them.
Patrick took a breath, and smiled, his mom could see it, what they all felt. He nodded at her, just as Tim thrust Peter into his arms and went to hug his mom, fiercely, as only Tim could. He let her go and sat, David and Patrick joining them on the sofa.
‘You know he looks more like you now.’ Patrick smiled. ‘All patched up. And just about holding it together.’
‘The nerve.’ Tim grinned, taking him off him and holding tight.
‘But still handsome.’ Mark said, kissing his husband’s hair. ‘And very loved.’
Tim leaned into his husband, and David perched next to Mark, Patrick holding the penguin’s wing. Patrick reached for his phone and handed it to his mom, she nodded and snapped a picture of the four- or five of them.
‘Get in too Mom.’ Patrick said. ‘Family photo.’