The knee that bumps into David’s is warm and affectionate. He looks up from his book to make eye contact with Patrick, whose grin is expectant and giddy. They lounge opposite each other on one of the window seats in the school foyer, having opted for a lunch alone together instead of with everyone else in the cafeteria.
Patrick shakes his head, but his smile grows.
“Wha-aat?” David extends the words to two syllables.
“Are you sleeping over tonight again?”
“I sleep over pretty much every night.”
“Then how come I feel like I miss you all the time?”
“Those hours between finishing our homework and when it’s a reasonable bedtime take too long.”
“Way too long.” Patrick sighs. “So, are you?”
“Coming over tonight?”
“Sure. I’ll come over tonight.”
Patrick bumps his knee against David’s again. “Good.” He then reaches to push his fingers through David’s, so David has to lean forward slightly to keep their hands together rested on Patrick’s other (bent) knee while he attempts to read another paragraph of As I Lay Dying.
David had worried that sex might change things between them. Honestly, he was a little worried Patrick would go a little sex-crazed and then they would do something risky and get in trouble and he would ruin Patrick’s life forever. Or he thought it might cheapen things. And it’s true, Patrick has gone a little sex-crazed, and things have changed between them. But they haven’t done anything stupid yet, and they haven’t gotten in trouble, and nothing has been cheapened.
David sneaks a peek at his boyfriend, who has gone back to reading his own copy of the book, and he looks okay. He doesn’t look damaged or like a newly minted pheromone junkie. He looks, perhaps, content, hopeful, fine. He looks fine. David squeezes his fingers. Patrick squeezes back and looks up at David and kisses the air between them. David kisses back. Patrick bumps his knee. David bumps back. Patrick puts his book down and leans toward David, lips-first. David leans back for the kiss. Kissing Patrick is like eating ice cream, tiny scoop by tiny scoop. Only he never has to stop because he never gets full. Just wants more, more, more.
“No PDA at school, boys!”
They break apart. Mrs. Schitt is walking toward them, waggling her finger at them, but there’s no real malice in it. It’s not the first time she’s broken them apart and she always tries to make it clear that she thinks they’re cute and that scolding them is just a technicality. But today, while she goes through all the same motions she usually does, she doesn’t seem to get her usual enjoyment out of it.
“Hi, Mrs. Schitt, how are you?”
She stops about two feet away from them, her hands on her hips. She lets out a laugh, but it’s dry. “Not ideal, boys, not ideal. Things are a little complicated at the homestead due to, well,” she gestures around the room, “all of it.”
“Yeah,” Patrick says. “How’s it going with the Mayor?”
“He’s going a little stir crazy, thanks for asking. He’s not enjoying being cooped up inside all day, and at night, well, he’s ready to burst. But you know, I gotta sleep! I still live my life during the day!” She turns to David and he wishes he was looking in any other direction but her face when she says, “David, do you think you might be able to—” He braces himself for her to ask him something cringey that would involve him having to spend any amount of time with Roland Schitt “—ask your dad to take him out some night? They’ve gone hunting together. But I think he could benefit from something more low-key, too. Like a movie. Or a poker night.”
“Oh.” He wasn’t prepared for that. “Sure, uh, I can mention it.”
Her shoulders relax. “Thanks, sweetie. Sometimes I feel like when I try to talk to Johnny, it just goes in one ear and out the other. I thought you might have a trick to get through to him.”
David doesn’t have the heart to tell her that the trick is nothing more than not being a drinkable human being, so he just shrugs and says. “Yeah, he’s a bit of a sexist.”
Patrick nudges him in the knee again, less affectionately.
Stevie jolts awake sometime in the middle of the night. The first thing her eye lands on is her door frame, then the piece of carpet that runs up the side of the wall because it was a hack job, then she meets Twyla’s wide, open eyes. Something woke them up. As her breath calms she registers the sound of heavy rain echoing through the dark room. It must have been a loud crack of thunder or something.
A heavy series of thuds makes her jump. Someone’s knocking loudly on the door. So it wasn’t thunder. “What the fuck?” She stretches her arm to look at her phone screen. It’s 2 a.m. on a weekday.
She and Twyla just stare at each other. Stevie clutches her comforter and draws her elbows tight by her sides. There’s a question in Twyla’s eyes. Stevie just shakes her head.
She hears Maureen’s footsteps pass in the hallway, muted by the heavy rain outside. A rush of possibilities pass through Stevie’s mind. It’s the police, coming to arrest Maureen for something she didn’t do. Or they’re here to tell her that her mom died. Or it’s some sort of witch authority here to take away their powers. Or her access to the library. Or maybe it is her mom, showing up drunk again after their talk the other day, here to make a show about regretting all of her life decisions and wanting to come back. Or maybe Twyla’s dad finally noticed that she’s barely been home and has come to investigate.
If it’s that last one, it’ll be fine. They have more than enough power between them to change his mind.
She hears the door open and voices. She hears the door close, but the voices don’t fall away, they move to the kitchen. She can’t tell who has come to visit. She wants to ask Twyla if she has figured it out, but she’s still frozen under the covers. After a while, enough minutes go by to indicate that no one has come to murder or imprison anybody in the house. The voices fall away and Stevie closes her eyes, ready to fall back asleep. Whoever arrived on their doorstep tonight was clearly there for Maureen, and it’s none of Stevie’s business.
There’s a knock on the door, followed abruptly by Maureen’s forehead. “Stevie, Twyla, get up.” And then the light flicks on and everything sucks.
“What?” Stevie tries to feign having just woken up.
“Put your clothes on. Nobody’s going back to bed tonight.”
“What’s going on, Maureen?” Twyla asks from the trundle bed.
Ronnie’s presence isn’t odd, but the timing is. Stevie tries to gulp away the feeling of cotton in her mouth. When they make it out to the kitchen, Ronnie looks up from her chair and says, “Good. Let’s get going.”
“Town Hall,” Ronnie says. “We’ve got a meeting.”
Ronnie rolls her eyes. “Because Moira Rose turned the mayor into a vampire, so now we have things to discuss.”
Stevie tries not to take the clap of thunder that follows her statement as a bad sign.
They take Ronnie’s truck to Town Hall, but it doesn’t prevent them from squeaking through the front door, soaked from the rain.
“This couldn’t wait until morning?” Stevie grumbles.
“Nope.” Ronnie swipes past to make her way up to the front of the room.
They seem to be the last to arrive, since all the other known magical beings (and near relations) in town are accounted for. The hall is set up in like manner to Town Council meetings and the Roses, the Schitts, Ted and Rachel are already seated.
A slow creep of heat makes its way from the tip of her head, down through her arms and fingers, legs and toes. She sees the evidence of Maureen’s spell on Twyla, who moments ago was sopping wet, and now looks dry and comfortable.
Stevie and Twyla make their way to the group of kids and Stevie sits right next to Rachel. “Did Ronnie show up at your house in the middle of the night, too? Or did you get the dignity of a phone call?”
Rachel smirks. “Nope. I got vampires tapping at my window.”
David turns to Stevie. “The first rule of dealing with a werewolf is to never wake one while they’re sleeping. I risked my life for this!”
“Okay, this emergency meeting is now called to order.” Ronnie hits the gavel, but the gravity of the moment is undermined by the creak of the front door. It’s Patrick, and Ronnie glares at him.
“Sorry. Sorry I’m late.”
Alexis stands to let a bleary-eyed Patrick sit with David. They clasp hands between the chairs.
“If we’re all seated, then.” It looks like Ronnie is about to sit down in her usual seat behind the panel table, but she seems to think better of it and walks back around to the front, leaning back on the table with her arms crossed. “I called this meeting to order because, apparently, a lot of crazy sh—stuff hit the fan, and we gotta clean it up.”
David tugs Patrick closer. This is it. This is the natural consequence of David getting too comfortable, too attached. Their stay in this town probably won’t last ‘til dawn.
“I’m sorry, Ronnie. Moira and I were going to tell you sooner, but we got caught up dealing with the kids. That’s on me.”
“Well, Moira let it slip anyway.”
“I thought you already knew. Honestly, I can’t be expected to remember everything I have and have not said to the humans.” His mother looks around, expression mirthful, looking for someone to laugh with her.
Ronnie clears her throat. “Frankly, I don’t care what you all get up to on your own time. And I would rather not know. But now we’ve got kids turning into werewolves and Rolands turning into vampires, and so now this is something I gotta worry about.”
David has to stop himself from gripping Patrick’s hand for fear of breaking it. But then, Patrick’s fingers squeeze tighter around David’s.
“Tomorrow,” Ronnie’s voice is low and grave, “I’m going to introduce a motion at an emergency Council meeting to impose mayoral term limits.”
The mayor jumps from his seat. “What?!”
“You’re immortal, Roland!” Ronnie yells. “We can’t have a mayor in perpetuity!”
“Ronnie, come on, you don’t know that I’ll win the election next time.”
She clutches her forehead. “Sit down, Roland. You and I both know that nobody will run against you.”
The mayor lets out a little whine. “Ronniiiiieeeeee…”
Mrs. Schitt reaches up to tug her husband’s arm. “Come on, Rollie, sit down.”
Ronnie sighs. “So, as I was saying, I’m going to introduce a motion tomorrow to impose mayoral term limits, and all of you—yes, including you, Roland—are going to show up and vote for it.”
Alexis raises her hand. “Are we going to make the other Council members aware of this?” David kicks her chair. He’s not sure why, but he would rather not remind everyone of their presence.
“No,” Ronnie says, “I’m not telling Bob and Ray anything. That’s a terrible idea.”
“Bob would make it a sex thing,” Maureen says under her breath.
Ronnie turns to the side of the room populated with the kids. “Another thing to discuss. What do we do about your parents?”
Ted, who sits on the other side of David, shifts in his seat. “Um. Well, I’m thinking I’m going to tell my mom. But probably not my dad.”
Ronnie nods. “Rachel?”
David, along with everyone, turns in his seat to look at her, seated in the back row next to Stevie and Twyla. There’s no color in her cheeks and she seems frozen under Ronnie’s scrutiny. “Oh. Um. I don’t. I don’t want to tell my mom.”
Ronnie sighs. “Okay. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with that, but we’ll table that topic for later. Maureen, I understand you’ve attempted some, I don’t know what you call it. Safety spells? For the town?”
Maureen looks at Stevie. “Yeah, we, um, we cast one spell, almost a year ago? To help a little bit.”
“Yeah, so the vampires can’t drink anyone to death. And also, we made things for Rachel and Ted so that they won’t go feral during the full moon.”
Maureen stands. “Ronnie, can I talk to you a second?”
They leave into the back room, which… okay, ineffective surrounded by vampire ears. He doesn’t even have to strain to listen, only—okay, well, apparently Maureen has learned a sound muffling spell because they sound like adults from the Peanuts cartoons. He slumps back in his seat. He looks over at Patrick, whose face is contorted in a sweet, if heart-wrenching, expression of concern.
David squeezes his hand. He wants to ask Patrick what they’re going to do when he and his family are inevitably run out of town. Part of him wants to trap Patrick in a blanket, throw him over his shoulder, and run away somewhere no one can find them.
The second this meeting is over, his dad isn’t going to hear anything. Their bags will be packed in an uncharacteristic flurry of activity and then they’ll be on the road before sunrise. He practices his words in his head. I’m not leaving. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t care what you think, I’m staying. I don’t care if you take all my clothes with you, I’m staying here. I’ll meet up with you later.
His thoughts of doom, and the rumbling of everyone else’s low conversations, are interrupted by the return of Ronnie and Maureen. Ronnie picks up a clipboard, her face unreadable as she looks it over. She tucks it under her arm. “Okay. Another idea. How about a town-wide curfew?”
“For the kids,” she clarifies. “We can’t have kids running around with monsters on the loose.”
“We’re not on the loose. We’re on a long leash at most.”
“Yeah, the witches guaranteed that.”
“And in the meantime, Roland hasn’t shown up to a Town Council meeting for over a month, citing health issues. Now we know what they are. The man can’t come out of the house during the day. Are we going to have to move Council meetings until after dinner?”
“We could have them at our house,” Mrs. Schitt offers. “We bought blackout curtains.”
“The sun sets pretty early in the winter. It seems like an easy temporary solution.”
“And what about you, Jocelyn, are you okay with this whole situation?”
“I’ll be fine, Ronnie. I’ll keep teaching during the day, get a little less sleep at night. And then after Mutt graduates, I’ll join Rollie on the other side.”
“And what about Mutt?”
“Oh, he’ll be fine. He’ll always have us.”
“Maybe we should reduce the age requirements for mayoral candidates, too. Then my son can run, rule in my stead.”
“I have a question.” Mrs. Schitt stands. “Can Johnny and Moira even vote for this motion to impose term limits tomorrow? Do they even qualify for voting rights? I mean, they’re from the 1800s.”
Silence. Here it is. This is it. The moment their trespass is exposed and everyone looks at them and remembers that they’re not supposed to be here, tells them they have overstayed their welcome and that it’s time to move on.
“Hey!” Stevie protests. “Vampires are people too!”
David bites on his lip to keep from screaming. Patrick’s heart is beating like a hummingbird’s next to him.
“Yeah,” Ronnie says, “all right.” She drops her clipboard from her side and sets in on the table next to her. “That’s all I got, I guess. Any questions. Comments? Concerns?”
Patrick starts the short walk home by himself. David’s last words to him were, “Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.” The concern on his face, and that he couldn’t look Patrick in the eye when he said it, didn’t inspire much confidence. Then he disappeared, following his family down the street toward the motel.
He stands in his backyard, staring at the back door. It squeaks when opened, and if he’s not careful, the storm door is liable to get blown open by the wind with a terrible creaking sound. And if that doesn’t wake his parents, then the sound of him walking past their open bedroom door across the old hardwood floor will. He’s fully dressed, it’s not like he will be able to pretend that he just went downstairs for a glass of water. He never gets up for glasses of water in the middle of the night—he learned the importance of an empty bladder in the night a long time ago and his mom knows it.
He managed to sneak out by jumping off the low roof of the garage, but he can’t scale the wall to get back up. So he turns around and walks back up the street.
David is there when he turns around. They slam into each other, drawn like magnets.
“It’s okay,” David says. “Nobody’s leaving.”
“My dad says that he feels responsible for Mr. and Mrs. Schitt. He doesn’t want to leave them without helping them first.” He clutches at Patrick’s shoulders, and at his arms, strokes his face, like he wants to touch Patrick everyone.
“I know. I didn’t think it was possible.”
Patrick exhales and it comes out choked. “David, that’s amazing.” He pulls him tight against his chest and they stand together in the street holding on. “I love you,” he says, because he needs to.
“I love you, too.” David’s voice tickles his ear and he lets himself fall into David’s arms, lets his eyes close. Everything is okay, everything is okay. “You’re asleep on your feet.”
“Mm?” Patrick yawns. “No I’m not.”
“You are,” David insists. “Let’s go. Let’s get you to bed.”
David sneaks them in through the window. Patrick can now admit to himself that he would not have been able to make it without him.
She turns to find Ted jogging down the hall toward her, his new sneakers squeaking on the tile.
“Ted! Hey!” He is cozy and charming in his Fair Isle sweatshirt with snowflake details. She has learned that Ted starts dressing for the holiday season sharply on the first day of December.
“Can I walk you to class?”
They fall into step beside each other, and his wrist brushes against her hip as he raises it to fiddle with the strap of his backpack. “So I wanted to let you know that I told my mom.”
She knows he decided, but she didn’t realize he would be telling her so soon. “Oh, wow.”
“How did it go?”
His stride comes to a stop and she stops with him. “It went, okay. I mean. I think part of her might think I’m crazy, but I’m sure the next full moon will uh, help with those concerns. Although, after the full moon, she might wish I was crazy.” He should look sad or stricken, but his eyes are warm, his smile sincere.
“Ted…” She thinks about grabbing his forearm to offer comfort. And since she’s never questioned a touch like that before, her hesitation forestalls and she doesn’t do it.
“It’s okay, Alexis. You don’t have to worry.”
“Worry? I didn’t say I was worried.”
“You didn’t have to, it’s all over your face.”
She brushes a curl away from her face, which is silly because it wasn’t even that much in the way.
“Well, I’m happy for you.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Of course not,” is her automatic response, but— “Um. Why? Is that? Exactly?”
Ted’s smile crumples into one of amusement, though it’s no less warm. “You’ve been there for me the whole time. Every step of the way. And you’ve never treated me like something is wrong with me, or like I’m different. Even though we’re naturally enemies. Like the Venus flytrap and the fly.” He furrows his brow. “You rose above that, Alexis. And you took care of me, and you helped me.”
Alexis is used to people looking at her like Ted is, all serious and attentive. But the words he’s using to describe her. She’s beautiful, she knows that. And charming and intelligent and way funnier than David. But helpfulness has never been on that list. And she doesn’t even really deserve it, as much as she wants to take it. She’s been helping Ted for selfish reasons. She probably wouldn’t be helping him with anything if he hadn’t developed super strength and immortality. They’re on equal footing now. A rivalry of equals has miles of difference to a predator and prey dynamic.
It’s not just that. She also wanted Ted to look at her differently. The way he looked at her at the beginning of the summer, when he broke up with her at the barn party, bothered her so much she got sloppy drunk, which considering her supernatural tolerance shows a great deal of effort on her part. She wanted him to like her again. For no more noble a reason than her wounded pride.
“Ted, that’s not—”
He doesn’t let her state her argument. “And also, I don’t know. I also kind of got inspired when I saw you and your family together that night at Town Hall. I saw how close you guys are and how you don’t have any secrets between you. And I wanted to give my mom that chance.”
She releases a startled cough of laughter. “Close?”
“Yeah, you’re all so in sync. It’s like you guys have this secret language. Like, you can talk in front of everyone, but nobody knows what you’re talking about.” His arms hang stiffly at his sides. “It’s nice.”
Nothing like that has occurred to her. She spends most of her time with her family wishing her parents would get off her back and just let her go do what she wants to do, and the rest of it feeling like a pebble in their shoes. “Yeah, well, I guess we’ve kind of been through a lot together.”
Ted nods. “I’m sure.” He points down the hallway to indicate they should start walking and she follows him. “Anyway. That’s all I wanted to say.”
“Mhmm. Yeah.” Her mind falls back to that morning, when her mom scolded her for ‘not pulling her weight’ even though no one has had an actual job in their family since her dad sold his shares of his transportation company and her mother voiced Tamora in an unaired radio production of Titus Andronicus. She pulls herself out of the memory to concentrate on the cute boy who walks her to class even though neither of them really need to be here. “I’m really happy for you, Ted. Oh, and I’ll be there with you for the next full moon, too. So you guys won’t be alone.”
He nods. “I know you will.”
As of November 10, a mayor’s tenure is limited to two terms in Schitt’s Creek. Roland is allowed to run once more, and if he wins, serve one more term before the limit applies to him.
“So, what did Maureen say to Ronnie?” David asks Stevie as they sit at the cafe one afternoon.
“When she pulled Ronnie out of the room the other night at Town Hall. What did she say?”
“Oh. Um. I think probably something about the daylight rings.”
“Yeah, Roland has been bugging Maureen about how you guys can walk in the light and you can’t. And Maureen told him that it’s magic that we don’t know how to do.”
“Oh. But you made those talismans for Patrick and Rachel and Ted. It can’t be much harder than that.”
“That is correct.”
“So she lied.”
“We both agreed that it would probably be better to keep some limitations on Roland. At least for a while. And that’s what Maureen was probably telling Ronnie.” Stevie pulls a bright orange Halloween sucker out of her pocket, unwraps it and pops it in her mouth. “What? Why does your face look like that?”
“All gross and soft.”
“It does not!”
“It does. Stop it!”
Then a heavy, solid, bony weight drops around her shoulders and tugs her into David’s chest.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m hugging you.”
“Well, stop it.”
He releases her. “I’m sorry you had to lie. But thank you for lying.”
“Please. I lie all the time. At least I had a good reason this time.”
David pushes his smile back into himself, all that remains his pursed lips and disturbingly steady eye contact.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do about Ted and Rachel.”
“You’ve been trying really hard.”
Stevie lifts her head from the table. “I think I need to go back to basics.”
“What basics? Like Fire, Water, Earth, Air?”
“No, like. Did I ever describe to you what magic feels like?”
David pauses from licking his ice cream cone to shake his head. “Nuh uh.”
Stevie looks around. It’s 4 p.m. so there’s a lull in the cafe. It means no one sits near them, but it also means that their voices carry more. She casts the same spell Maureen used on everybody at the Council yesterday, just in case.
“Magic is everywhere,” she explains. She hasn’t really been able to put it into words before. “Magic is everywhere, but it’s not inside me. It’s not something that’s, I don’t know. Mine?” She’s not explaining this right. David nods at her, prompting her to continue. “Magic is everywhere. It’s inside me. It’s inside you. It’s in everything around us. It’s in nature. But it’s also sort of…beyond that. And it’s not mine. It doesn’t belong to anyone. Well, if it belongs to anyone, it belongs to everyone. And everything.”
David furrows his brow. “But I thought magic was something that you had. That you, specifically, had. Isn’t that what makes you a witch?”
Stevie smirks. She knew David would say that, because that’s also what she used to think. She shakes her head. “That’s what I thought, too. But the stronger I get, the more I know, the more I realize that it’s not true. I don’t know what makes me any different from you or Twyla or, hell, even Mrs. Schitt.” She takes a deep breath in. “When I cast a spell, it’s not like a command. It’s not magic words that I string together that makes fire bend to my will. It’s more like asking for permission. And if I’m not focused enough, or if I don’t know how to ask specifically for what I want, then it won’t happen. And sometimes, I don’t know. I get this feeling that even if I do all of those things right, it still might not work one day. Like at any time, the magic could say, ‘No. Not doing that.’”
David’s ice cream is still poised in front of his face, but he doesn’t take another lick. “Really?”
“So, at like, any minute, the magic could just abandon you.”
“No, not like that. I just meant that. I think. I’m not explaining this right. It’s like, Magic has will. And it’s not something I actually have control over. It’s something I have a connection to. Maybe a closer connection. Maybe that’s why I can, I don’t know, wield it? I can talk to it. I can ask it to set a fire or to bend the water the other way or. No. That’s not right. It’s like, I can ask it to use me to do all those things. Like I’m…” She has trouble finding the words.
“Like you’re a vessel,” David says.
“Sure. Yeah, I guess.”
“What I mean is, it’s not like you’re ‘doing the magic.’ It’s like the magic is going through you.”
“Yeah. That’s what I think anyway.”
“Did you find anything on it in the library? There’s got to be something on that.”
“There is. But it’s complicated. And it’s hard to know sort of what everybody thinks. Like I might be reading this article by this one witch somewhere in Nebraska. But does everybody agree with them? I don’t know.”
“Mmm. Yeah. That’s rough.”
“And also. If magic is just its own thing out there, why does it even need witches? And also, why does it let us fuck up and make wrong decisions all the time?”
“Hmmm. Good point.”
“Like you can also defy magic, like with magic. Like, there’s dark magic and blood magic. Which some people consider an abomination.”
David goes back to licking his ice cream. The swirl is gone and instead of nibbling at the cone, he sticks his tongue straight down to get at the ice cream.
“And the whole thing of magic abandoning you. I don’t know if that ever actually happens. Maureen was telling me that she thinks her mom was a witch, but that she never used her magic. You know, because she was a drunk. But I don’t think the magic left her. I think she just couldn’t get out of her own head long enough to use it. She gunked herself up.”
David slurps and then puts his uneaten, devoid of ice cream, sugar cone down on his plate.
“Why didn’t you just get a bowl if you’re not going to eat your cone?”
“Soft-serve not in a wafer cone is an abomination. But I’m not going to actually eat it. It’s basically cardboard made of mystery carbs. I have some standards.”
“Yesterday, you ate an actual rat.”
“You promised you were never going to bring that up again.”
Stevie takes a sip of her coffee.
“What were we talking about?”
“Ted and Rachel.”
“Right. Because of the pain. Pain is bad.”
“I was seven. And I don’t know how long I lasted. In my head it feels like hours, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was only twenty minutes before I ran back down the stairs to my parents’ room.”
“When did you finally sleep in here all by yourself for the first time?”
“I don’t remember. You’d have to ask my mom.”
David pictures a tiny Patrick with tiny legs and tiny curls throwing off his covers, and bounding down the steps, leaping into his mother’s arms. He wonders if she was awake, if she knew that he wouldn’t last the night and was waiting for him.
“Now that I think about it, I think I eventually started lasting the night because my dad would read to me. He would read to me until I fell asleep, and then the next thing I knew, it would be morning.”
David has more trouble picturing that. He’s never even had anything close to that. He snickers. “Did he have a rocking chair that he would sit in? Maybe some reading glasses on the end of his nose?”
Patrick’s chest rumbles under David’s cheek with laughter. “No. He would sit in bed with me. Almost like this, and I’d scoot in next to him. Sometimes reading along.” Patrick’s hand rubs up and down David’s arm and back. “When I got older, he sort of started reading himself to sleep, though. Harry Potter would not help me sleep. The Quidditch games riled me up so much. But my dad would start drifting off pretty fast. Sometimes in the middle of a sentence. One time, he was reading, he just said, ‘And Harry Potter had a license plate.’” Patrick laughs. “And then I hit him to wake him up like, ‘Dad!’” Patrick scrubs at his eyes, his grin wide. “That happened so many times.”
“When did he stop reading to you?”
Patrick purses his lips. “There wasn’t one night when he stopped reading to me. I think things started to change when I could read for myself and I didn’t want to wait for him to finish reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians, so I read it myself. But he would still read to me sometimes when I didn’t have too much homework. Or he would read to me the books I had for school. And then as I got older he let me stay up to watch games and TV shows with him and it eventually just petered out.”
“Do you miss it?”
Patrick shakes his head. “I think before I came out, I just missed my dad. I didn’t know how to talk to him. But now, we have other things to do together.”
David slips his hand under Patrick’s shirt, searching for his belly. Patrick shivers under his touch.
“Did you used to get bad dreams as a kid?”
“Yeah, of course. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory messed me up. Slugworth scared me so badly. I had so many nightmares of him showing up in random places with a chainsaw.” David can’t help but chuckle when he feels Patrick’s heart rate speed up. “How about you?”
“Of course I did. My mom was one of the original movie monsters. I saw Nosferatu way too young.”
“You have a childhood fear of movie vampires?”
David rolls his eyes. “Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.”
“That’s actually, really sad.” Patrick’s voice cracks into a vocal fry on the last couple of words and David’s chest constricts.
“It’s okay,” David says, wanting to make Patrick feel better. He presses his lips into the heat of Patrick’s neck, lets his fingers grip into his waist. Patrick turns his head and captures David’s mouth with his own. They stay like that for a while, Patrick’s nose rubbing against David’s skin, their tongues exploring each other’s mouths, their hands roaming. Sometimes, when they get like this, David forgets. He forgets that he’s different, that their time has an expiration date, about anything else going on in the world. He thinks—and god, it hurts to think this way—that it’s because somehow, impossibly, he fits so well in Patrick’s arms. He’s never felt, anywhere or with anyone, like he fits. But here, in Patrick’s embrace, in Patrick’s life, in Patrick’s heart, his edges are rounded, his points are softened, his darkness is eased. He fits.
“Do you know that I still have nightmares?”
David nods, looking at Patrick’s chest to avoid his gaze. “Mhmm.” They’ve slept in this tiny bed enough times for him to grow used to being woken by Patrick’s chest heaving in ragged breaths or distressed moans in his sleep. Sometimes, he’s tempted to pull the chain with the button he gave Patrick right off his neck and dive in there to fight whatever demons are hurting Patrick in his sleep. But that would defeat the whole point of the button in the first place. It’s ineffectual against his strength, but it’s a buffer between Patrick and David’s worst impulses, and so far, it’s worked.
Patrick’s thumb strokes the skin between the corner of David’s eye and his cheekbone, prompting David to look directly at Patrick.
“Remember how you said that if you wanted, you could be in my dreams?”
David stops breathing. “What?”
Patrick doesn’t repeat himself, but, as if he were the one reading David’s thoughts, he wriggles away from David’s arms to sit up and fumble at the clasp of his chain.
“What-what are you doing?” David pushes himself to a seated position and grabs Patrick’s wrist to stop him, but Patrick already opened the clasp, so David only succeeds in preventing Patrick from catching it. It falls from his neck, and the button slides off the chain onto the crumpled comforter between them.
“No. Absolutely not.” He fishes the button out of the sheets. He whispers to keep himself from yelling. “Put this back on right now. Please.”
“David, it’s gonna be fine.”
“Patrick. I’m not going to go into your dreams, are you kidding?”
“But you want to. You did it once before.”
“Yeah, a long time ago. And just for a second. And I made myself stop because it was an incredible violation of your privacy!”
Patrick cups his hand to gather the chain and leans back to place it carefully in an old cookie tin on his bedside table. David should really get him a dish. Mrs. Brewer probably has one. Patrick turns back and takes one David’s left hand between both of his own to play with David’s fingers. “But what if I want you to?”
“I don’t think you know what you’re asking. I would see everything, Patrick. And I would remember all of it. And I can even change your dreams. You won’t be in control of yourself.”
“David, I haven’t been in control of myself since the moment you walked into third period.”
David wrenches his hand away, appalled. “Ew! That’s so cheesy.” Patrick leans back into his pillow with a smug grin on his face. “Oh, you’re doing it on purpose.”
Patrick grabs his hand back and holds it to his chest. “Well, the truth is so much worse.”
David swallows. “What truth?”
“The reason I want you to see my dreams or my nightmares. Whichever. It’s because when I’m asleep I…” Patrick quiets, his eyes move around the room as he contemplates before his eyes reach David’s again. “I don’t know, I just miss you.”
“You…” David purses his lips. “You miss me.”
Patrick nods and takes a deep breath. “Yeah, when I’m asleep. I miss you.”
David holds his breath. He wants to say something snarky like, “You’re right. That is so much worse,” but the truth is, David sort of understands. There have been so many nights that he’s kept himself awake, just to stare at Patrick, not wanting to miss a moment of change in his features, watching his lips fall open, listening to the sound of his breath even out, the snuffles coming out of his nose. There are some nights when both will fight off sleep until the last possible moment. David’s eyes will begin to drift closed and Patrick will ask him another question regarding his thoughts about something that happened in class earlier in the day or an event he attended in the ‘50s. So because he understands, he kisses Patrick instead of saying anything—caught between thoughts.
Patrick pulls them back down until they have returned to their previous horizontal positions, David’s shoulder hooked under Patrick’s arm, his hand over Patrick’s beating heart.
“It’s okay.” His assurances tickle David’s lips. “I trust you. It’s just one night. I want you to see what I dream about.”
David should protest. He wants to. Well, he wants to want to. But he doesn’t. Because he’s a terrible, horrible monster who doesn’t—who can’t—
“David.” Patrick pulls him back to the moment with a palm on his cheek. “We don’t have to. It was just an idea. I just. Sometimes I want you to read my mind, so that you’ll understand. I love you. And I can tell you every day. But I want you to know. And this way, maybe you can.”
“Okay.” The word slips out before he can even decide. But he can’t take it back now. Not when Patrick beams at him like that. “Okay,” he says again.
They just look at each other for a moment, and Patrick’s giddiness slowly diminishes. “So, how do we do this?”
David’s lips quirk. “Well, we go to sleep.”
David scoots up so that their heads are level on the pillows. His eyes cross trying to look at Patrick from so close. “And I’ll see you on the other side.”
“Hmm. That sounds like foreshadowing in a horror movie.”
“You’re not wrong.”
Patrick tucks one hand under his cheek, and the other reaches to wrap around David’s waist and pull him closer—which is saying something. “See you in there.”
“See you in there.”
He takes the stairs up to his room two at a time. Thump thump thump. The breeze wafts in through the window next to his bed, teasing the curtains. His mom is sitting on the bed. But he doesn’t want her there. The window on the other wall, the one David usually enters through, is shut. If he opens it, David will come through. But he can’t, because his mom is there.
“Hi, honey. I was thinking we could paint your room.”
Patrick doesn’t want to paint his room. And besides, there’s nothing to paint with. There’s no paint, no rollers, nothing to cover the floor with. If they paint now, they’re going to get paint all over his bed and the carpet. He wants to tell her so.
He also wants to open the window so that David will come. But he can’t, because his mom’s here, and then she would know and they wouldn’t be able to do it anymore.
“It’s okay,” David says. He stands next to Patrick, behind his shoulder, right in his peripheral vision. He can feel his warmth on his back.
At school, Patrick stands in the hallway. It’s too early to be there, but the hallways are filled with students. Under the support beam in the foyer, Stevie sleeps in a large, plush bed covered in white, frilly sheets. Her arms and legs are spread out like a snow angel. He’s not sure how she can sleep with the fluorescent lights in her eyes like that.
On the bleachers, he sits with David. They face each other, both straddling the bench, knees touching. There’s an ache in Patrick’s throat and in his chest. He wants to get closer. He hooks his knees over David’s and pulls himself closer. If they get caught, they’ll get in trouble. The mayor will get them and he’ll scream and spit. He pulls himself closer. David looks down at him, a twinkle in his eye. Patrick knows David wants it too, but he doesn’t help. Just watches while Patrick squirms.
A voice behind him calls his name and he turns. It’s Ray, telling him he has a client. He leaves the dining room/printer room to go to the front room. It’s David. The client is David. He shakes David’s hand, and then pulls him in close for a kiss. David giggles and wraps his arms around Patrick’s neck. In the background, Ray conducts a sport-themed engagement shoot. He worries Ray will turn around and take their picture. A flush of embarrassment spreads down his back.
Patrick is in his bed, and David is on top of him. They’re kissing and he can feel it. It’s the middle of the night and no one is home and no one can hear them. He holds David tighter.
The car won’t start. And it’s the wrong color, and David is laughing. Patrick is frustrated because David is laughing to try and make him feel better but it’s not the right thing. He needs David to help him fix it. He tries the keys again.
David puts a hand on his thigh. The sun is shining. Patrick has to squint, but David is wearing sunglasses. Patrick thinks sunglasses are probably a good idea. David’s fangs are on full display. He’s smiling. Patrick is glad David is smiling, he’s glad his fangs are out and he’s not ashamed.
The car starts and Patrick can breathe. David asks if he can drive.
Patrick squints at the rusted screw he’s been fiddling with for the better part of fifteen minutes. The sun setting so much earlier isn’t a new part of Patrick’s life, so far from the equator, but it’s made working on the car inexorably more difficult.
He stands to crack and stretch out his back, and blinks a few times to chase the sting and dryness away from his eyes. He groans. Mutt rolls out from under the car to look at him. “What’s up?”
“I can’t effing see anything,” Patrick says.
Mutt stands up straighter. “Yeah, it’s not ideal. And worse? You’re about to run out of money.”
Patrick huffs. “Are you serious?”
Mutt knocks affectionately on the car's siding. “Yup. We’ve put off the transmission issues and they haven’t gotten better. But it needs a completely new system.”
“Damn,” Patrick says.
“You know, it’s not so bad,” Mutt says, smirking in that fox-like way of his. “This way we don’t have to work outside in the winter. We can take a break.”
Patrick’s first instinct is to argue. He wants to get this car finished as soon as possible. It’s been too hard to keep the secret of the gift from David. And he keeps imagining his face when he realizes it’s for him. And he wants to see it for real. He imagines David driving it so much that he forgets that there was a time when he didn’t know how to drive. He imagines realization dawning on David’s face, as he recognizes the lengths Patrick is willing to go to show David how important he is to him. How important they are to each other. And then, maybe…
But he shouldn’t argue with Mutt. It’s not his fault. He’s been nothing but helpful—and sure, occasionally condescending. He’s helped Patrick build this car from a scrap heap to something bordering on usable. And if they need a little time for Patrick to save up for various transmission parts and for the days to get longer, then fine. That’s what he’ll do.
“Yeah,” he breathes. “Okay. A break.”
Mutt smirks. “That was difficult for you to say.”
Patrick rolls his eyes. “Shut up.”
They cover and secure the tarp over the car. It always feels like they’re putting the car to sleep. Patrick has to resist saying, “Night night” every time. He pats the hood of the car as a compromise.
“It’ll still be here in the morning,” Mutt says, as if sensing Patrick’s reluctance. “My dad’s gonna pick me up. Do you want a ride home?”
Mayor Schitt is probably the only person in the town who is happy about the sun setting early. “Your dad’s going to pick you up? That’s never happened before.”
Mutt opens the back door to the garage and holds it open for Patrick to enter. They both unzip their coats, even though the garage isn’t a whole lot warmer than outside. “Yeah,” Mutt says. “Things have been, I don’t know, not so terrible with my dad lately.”
A tiny bubble of pride expands in Patrick’s chest. “Yeah?”
Mutt shrugs. “Yeah, he hasn’t been so on my ass about stuff. He’s actually having fun? And he keeps talking about all the things he’s gonna do now that he has all the time in the world on his hands. I guess it’s taken some of the pressure off.”
Patrick hadn’t considered that—the idea that immortality could be a release of pressure for some people. He mostly spends his time with one vampire in particular, and David only complains about it.
“We’ll see.” Mutt shrugs.
The rumble of a truck announces the arrival of Mutt’s dad. Mutt climbs into the backseat since Patrick will be the first to get out.
“Well, hello there Patrick Brewer!” Mr. Schitt says and he pulls out of the garage parking lot. “It’s been a while since you’ve been in this truck, huh?”
Patrick doesn’t say anything, worried about the potential consequences of each response. Talking to Mayor Schitt is like walking through a minefield.
“You know, it’s nice that you know that I’m a vampire,” he says, while he slowly turns the corner. “I’m just getting up, you know. Slept all day. That’s my life now. It’s good that you know that. I don’t like keeping secrets from people.” Patrick wasn’t expecting that. “Did Mutt tell you about his composting idea for the town?” His voice is colored with a measure of pride and Patrick turns bodily around to look at Mutt, who has an expression on his face like, See?
“Mutt’s got a lot of really good ideas,” Patrick says.
“That he does,” Mr. Schitt says. “Definitely. Indefinitely-doobie. Doobie-doodly-doobie-doo.”
“David!” his mother exclaims as she walks into his room where he lounges on his mattress, scrolling through Instagram. She’s wearing Belinda, her bubble gum pink wig. “You look like you could use some perking up! Care to go for a family hunt?”
“Flattering as always,” he mumbles. “Thank you, but no.”
“I do not understand! What do I have to do for you to want to spend a little time with us! Your begetters! The very seafoam from which you emerged, screaming and wet and full of potential?”
David slaps his hands uselessly over his ears. “I want a lobotomy! Oh, my god!”
She says his name again in needy admonishment.
“I don’t understand what this fascination is with family time all of a sudden, anyway,” David says. “You and dad are normally perfectly happy to gallivant around town on your own.”
She nods her head side-to-side and then settles with a shrug. “I just thought it might be nice.”
“No, thank you!” He shoos her away
She doesn’t seem put out in the least. “Suit yourself,” she says, and saunters out of the room.
David is kind of hungry. But he pushes it aside. As he does almost every night, he waits for Patrick to text him that his parents are asleep. He’ll eat something tomorrow.
It’s freezing and the forest floor in the clearing is covered in layers of untouched snow. She sets the blanket down and lights a few fires, but unless she does something about her butt, it’s going to go numb really quickly. Ted and Rachel are both in thin jackets. She rolls her eyes. Fucking werewolf natural temperatures.
She sets up the candles, bundles of herbs, and other supplies.
“So what are we trying?” Ted asks, his hands shift around in his pockets. “A spell? A potion?”
Stevie takes a seat on one side of the blanket and gestures for Ted and Rachel to join her. “Neither,” Stevie says. “We’re just going to ask for permission.”
Rachel furrows her brow, and Stevie readies herself to explain, even though she really doesn’t want to. But Rachel just follows Ted to sit down on the blanket.
“So I brought this.” Ted takes a greeting card out of his pocket and drops it in the center of the circle. Already there, among the sage and crystals, lies Ted’s Aquaman action figure and Rachel’s Spirit toy.
“And I brought this.” Rachel drops a locket in the middle of the circle. Stevie asked them to bring more sentimental items to add to the pile. It probably won’t make much of a difference considering what a big ask this is, but it’s worth a shot. It’s also difficult because people don’t always realize what’s actually important to them when you ask.
I hope this isn’t a waste of time, Stevie thinks. Rachel’s knee bumps against Stevie’s when she sits down. Ted gives her a small reassuring smile. Stevie exhales deeply, pushing the thought away. It’s worth a shot, she reminds herself. The three of them sit in a small huddle, Ted and Rachel pressed close to her. She opens her palms to each of them, resting her hands on her knees. Their hands are warm in hers and she casts a small protection spell around them. It’s entirely unnecessary, a small compulsion, but it eases a small corner of her mind. Ted shuffles over closer to Rachel so the triangle made with their knees becomes more equilateral.
“Okay,” she says. “Just keep holding on. And think about what we’re asking for, yeah?”
“What are we asking for, exactly?” Rachel asks, shifting in her seat.
Stevie takes a deep breath, pulling the frigid air in through her nose. “A lot,” she says, unable to find any other words. “We’re asking for a lot.”
She waits for anything else they want to add, but it doesn’t come. So she just nods, and closes her eyes and takes a long, deep breath. She starts with the feeling of Ted and Rachel’s hands in hers. With her mind and her heart, she pulls on their warmth, on their life, on their magic. She feels the ring they make with their hands, feels their beating hearts. She adjusts her position slightly so that her other knee touches Ted’s again. It’s also not entirely necessary, and it might just be an illusion, but it feels like it helps.
She thinks about the place where it meets the earth beneath her seat and she takes a moment to cast what she calls The Seat-Warmer Spell—a nickname that makes Twyla laugh. Her concentration moves below her to the earth and, as it always does, she gets that electric feeling—like she’s dropped anchor, or pulled hard on a chord bringing it taught with her heart. She can feel it at the base of her throat, in the middle of her back, at the ends of her fingertips.
Her awareness disseminates slowly through the forest. She becomes part of the roots in the ground beneath them, part of the trunks of the trees in the ring around them, and then out, and out, and out. And up into the branches and twigs. Her awareness passes over the grubs and fungi and sleeping beetles buried deep in the soil.
And then, she tries to hold herself there so she can feel everything else. The layers of magic, the folds in the fabric of the earth, the life in there, the spirit, the will. And she starts asking things. She thinks about Ted and Rachel and when she watched them try to muffle their cries and their bodies contort and writhe into beasts. She thinks about them holding back their screams until they couldn’t hold back anymore and how the sound ripped from them, ricocheting off the trees. She doesn’t know what exactly to ask for, so she asks for everything she can think of.
She asks for an end to their pain, she asks that they might be able to control their transformations so they don’t have to turn on the full moon, she asks that they be turned back into regular humans, she asks that they be shielded from the moon, she asks that their pain is lessened. She asks and asks again and again.
Let them not feel pain during their change. Let them not change. Let them control the change. Let them be safe from the moon. Let them be human. Let their pain be less.
And over and over again. She can feel Rachel and Ted asking with her. Their thoughts start bleeding into her own. They ask for mostly the same. Especially the end of the pain. Their thoughts are colored, also, by worry for their families. That Ted’s mom doesn’t have to see him like that. That Rachel’s mom find some peace. That Ted doesn’t drift away from his father. That Rachel’s brother doesn’t find out.
She takes what she can from them, and makes it a part of her spell. And she asks again and again. Until a voice—it sounds like her own voice—but she’s sure it’s not her own words.
What is done cannot be undone. What is past is gone.
Stevie opens her eyes, and the woods are dark around her. Ted’s hand in hers is no longer gripping, it just sits there, their fingers touching. She takes a deep breath in. “How long was I out?” she asks.
“About an hour,” Rachel says.
It doesn’t feel like an hour has passed, but because the sky above them is a deep navy blue, it must be true.
“So what happened?” Ted asks. His tone is curious, his eyes rueful.
Stevie sighs. There’s no point in sugar coating it. “The answer is no.”
For a moment, there is nothing but a windless silence. Stevie looks at the pile of personal effects and magical objects between them. They look small and silly now. She’s not sure why they would help. They’re just things.
“Well,” Rachel says, slapping her knees. She pushes herself up to a standing position. “We knew it was a long shot, right?” She holds a hand out for Stevie, who takes it. Rachel pulls her up to a standing position. She offers her hand to Ted as well, who takes it. “At least we have an answer now, right?”
“Right,” he agrees.
“You guys are…okay with this?”
Rachel shrugs. “It’s not ideal. But I didn’t have my hopes up or anything.”
Stevie shudders, suddenly remembering they’re in the middle of a frozen wood, and the temperature is dropping by the second. “But the next full moon…”
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.” Rachel kicks at the snow under her toes. “But it’s not like we’re the only werewolves in the world, right? We’re not the only ones who have to go through it. If the solution isn’t a spell, then we’ll keep looking. And we’ll keep trying.”
“I was researching pain management methods on YouTube.” Ted leans over to start collecting the supplies. He hands Rachel back her horse toys and locket and pockets his own. “Did you know that Jim Carrey had to endure 10 hours of sitting still in a chair every day getting his makeup done for the The Grinch movie? Apparently, it was so awful, a guy from the CIA trained him how to withstand torture.” Ted rolls up the blanket Stevie brought and tucks it under his arm. “Should we head out?”
Stevie’s arms are empty of what she arrived with, and her hands grasp subconsciously in the air. The snow crunches under her boots as they walk toward the buried trail to the car. “I feel like you guys should be more upset, though. Like, I’m the witch. I should be able to fix this.”
“There’s not a spell for everything,” Rachel says, like it’s obvious.
“Yeah,” Ted agrees, cheerfully. “If there were, I would be upset that you hadn’t used your magic to give us all a million dollars!”
“Yeah, or to achieve world peace.”
“Yeah, or to save the world’s endangered species.” Ted stops walking. “Only, now that I think about it, what exactly is stopping you from saving all the world’s endangered species?”
“I don’t know, Ted. What’s stopping you from saving all the world’s endangered species?”
“In the almost century of your life, have you ever gotten an A?”
“Stop, David! I asked you to help me with my homework because I’m actually trying. So you’re not allowed to be mean to me.”
“I just don’t understand how it’s possible to take Algebra as many times as you have and still not know how to do polynomial equations!”
“I have a lot to remember, David. It doesn’t all fit in there!”
David huffs. It is a lot to keep up with sometimes. He wouldn’t journal were it not the case.
“I don’t know why you have to be such an Oscar the Grouch about everything all the time. You could say something nice every once in a while.”
“I’m sorry, are you trying to tell me I should be nicer? I’m not the one who ruined Rachel Leigh Cooks’ career!”
“Oh, like I’m so innocent. You’re the one who told Jennifer Grey that getting a nose job would be a good idea!”
David gasps. “I can’t believe you just threw that in my face. You know how guilty I feel about that!”
Alexis whines and stomps her foot. “Well, it wouldn’t kill you to just like, acknowledge how different I am now. I’ve been trying really hard.”
“Okay, you’re not that different.”
“Yes I am, David! I have empathy now!”
“Oh, do you?”
“Yes! For one thing, I made a human friend like you told me to.”
“I don’t know if I would qualify you and Rachel as ‘friends.’ I think she would have to actually want to talk to you to meet that designation. And she’s not a human any more, so.”
“I saved her life!”
“You just wanted to punch a werewolf so you could say you did it.”
“I have been doing all my homework!”
“You only do that so Ted will lean over you and compulsively correct your mistakes.”
“I am very nice to Stevie and Twyla!”
“Yeah. We know. You’re charming and capable of not being a complete bitch all the time. But they’re both magical beings, that’s not exactly a stretch for you.”
“I have been there, very loyally, with Stevie for three whole full moons with snacks and blankets for Ted and Rachel. Risking my own life and everything! Ted said yesterday that I was, and I quote.” She hits the ‘t’ really hard and boops him on the nose to get his attention. He bats it away. “I quote,” she repeats, “very helpful. Unquote.”
“That’s just because he likes you and is trying to get on your good side.”
David clenches his teeth, not sure if he should give in and compliment her for doing literally the bare minimum. Should he be reinforcing her behavior or holding to higher standards? He squeezes his fists and then relents with an exhale. “Okay. Fine. I guess I can say that these past few months you have had some…learning and growth.”
“Thank you, David.” She boops his nose again, this time with more tenderness. “Was that so hard?”
“It was excruciating, actually,” he mumbles.
“And I just want to say that you, also, have learned and grown and changed so much. And I’m so proud of you with your little human boyfriend and your party planning and your little librarian job. It’s straight out of your diary from when you were twelve.”
“I’m putting a timer on. You’re not allowed to talk to me for at least another four hours.”
She only lasts thirty seconds.
“So you really think Ted likes me?!”