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outrageous fortune

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“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”
-Hamlet, Act III, Scene i

FINALE

Hamlet Review: Patrick Brewer a Charming Prince in an All-Consuming Marvel

Patrick Brewer is an Impressive Hamlet in Uneven Toronto Production

Patrick Brewer-Starring, David Rose-Helmed Hamlet to Open on Broadway in April

Hamlet Set to Begin Performances March 19th at the Broadhurst

Shubert Organization Plans to Beef Up Security When the Internet’s Boyfriend Makes His Broadway Debut

🎭  🎭  🎭

David does not have enough hands for this bullshit. 

He’s got his phone in one, clumsily fumbling out a text to Stevie with enough typos that even his autocorrect is like fuck it, a script under his arm, and a coffee and his keys held like a claw in his other. Something is surely about to go crashing to the floor and it sure as fuck won’t be the coffee. 

“David, are you even listening to me?” Ronnie’s voice says, deadpan through the bluetooth headphones in his ears. Because apparently he’s not multitasking enough.                           

“Do I ever listen to you?” He tries to lift the elbow not holding the script to greet the Uber driver idling outside the studios on 48th Street and nearly sends everything to the pavement. 

“Would you like to work again?” his agent asks. 

“Yeah, okay,” he snaps, before groaning as the show at the Longacre across the street lets out. He continually tries to beat the rush and get out of midtown before the Sunday matinees can end, yet every week, the endeavor is a masterclass in failure.  

“David?” the driver asks as he gets the door open and drops his script on the seat before crawling in after it. 

“That’s me. Soho, thanks,” he manages, slumping back against the leather and sighing towards the roof. 

“When are you heading back to Toronto?” Ronnie asks, and he startles because for a brief, blissful moment, he forgot she was still in his ear. 

“Probably not for a few weeks. My agent kinda booked me solid.” 

“Your agent wants to renovate her kitchen."

Then his phone buzzes in his hand with a new text from Stevie before he’s even gotten a chance to reply to her first one. “Oh my God, why is she being so needy?” 

“What? Who?”

“Stevie!” 

“I don’t know, David, why is she,” Ronnie pointedly replies. It’s definitely not a question. Not with that tone.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” 

“It means that you’ve called me li-ter-al-ly every hour today.” 

Um, no. “Not every hour. That’s not - ” 

“Fine. Every hour and twenty minutes. Don’t make me get your stage manager on the phone to corroborate.” 

“Kay, yep, that won’t be necessary.” Oh God, has he been just as bad? It’s not his fault his best friend and boyfriend are in another country! 

Okay, it’s kind of his fault.

“Where are you?” Ronnie asks. 

“Oh my God, I’m in a car from the rehearsal for the reading you made me take! You know I don’t do musicals!” 

“Could have fooled me.” 

“Okay, Hamlet is not a musical. It is a play with music.” He is tired of having to explain that. You’d think that every writer of every article announcing the Broadway run had never actually stepped foot in the theatre district. 

“I’ll be sure to have them emboss that on the Broadhurst’s marquee,” Ronnie drawls. “Are you having a good time?” 

And fuck her, yes he is. He feels fulfilled artistically, which hasn’t happened back-to-back for a solid decade. But he also misses the important people in his life like someone misses a limb so it’s a tradeoff, he supposes. 

“Where are you now?” she asks before he has a chance to answer her previous question. She probably doesn’t need him to anyway.

“Jesus Christ, I’m still in the car! Did I not just say that?” And he still hasn’t texted Stevie. God knows what she’s posting about him on the internet in retribution. “Sorry,” he mouths to the poor driver in the rearview mirror who absolutely did not sign up for this. 

It’s late September, Hamlet has opened to almost universally good reviews (save for a few petty bitches) and word just broke about Broadway. He’s barely had time to contemplate his next meal, let alone when he’s next shipping off to Toronto in between the projects everyone is suddenly clamoring for him to do. David Rose is in demand, and he honestly forgot what that felt like. 

Fortunately, his next meal has already been planned and by someone other than him. Unfortunately, said meal is with his family and it’s Sunday, so there’s no getting out of it. If being the victim of revenge porn doesn’t excuse him, nothing will. He has just enough time to get home, wash the day off, and change before heading back uptown, but as the car turns onto Greene Street, he hits the metaphorical wall and all he wants to do is shower, slide into his comfiest joggers, and climb under the covers. 

Being in demand is exhausting. 

“Are you home yet?” 

Why do you keep asking me where I am? Would you like me to share my location?” 

Ronnie’s answering eye roll is practically audible. “If it would actually get you to our meetings on time, then yes.” 

“I’m just pulling up outside, if you must know. And I cannot imagine what this conversation has done for my Uber rating.” 

But the driver just chuckles as David gets the door open and tries to gather all of his belongings once more. Luckily, the coffee cup is empty by this point so when it inevitably falls to the ground, he’s not nearly as depressed as he might have been twenty minutes ago. 

“Sorry, thanks!” he shouts as he elbows the door closed and tries to unhook his keys, which have somehow gotten tangled in themselves. It was a mistake not to bring his bag today, but if it isn’t one thing, it’s another these days. 

Door unlocked, he hits the button for the elevator and sighs obnoxiously as he steps inside. “What were we talking about again?” 

You called me.

He pauses, frowning at the numbers as they tick by. “I did?” 

“Oh for the love of - call your boyfriend. Let him deal with your nonsense.” 

He wants to. Oh, he wants to, but - “I can’t call my boyfriend. He’s probably still showering the blood off.” 

“Well, now I know you don’t read your rehearsal reports. The show started at 2pm instead of 3pm.” 

“What? Why?” he snaps as the elevator slides open and he steps off. 

“Some Toronto holiday celebration thing. I don’t know. But I know the show started at 2pm, which is why I also know he’s probably been finished for about two hours, give or take traffic.” 

“Traffic?” He frowns as he shoves his key in his lock and opens the door. “Then why hasn’t he called - ” but the me that was supposed to end that question dies on his lips as swiftly as everything in his hands goes crashing to the floor. “Patrick.” 

Who is inexplicably standing in the middle of David’s living room, hands shoved into his pockets, small smile lighting up his tired, beautiful face. 

“Oh my God,” David breathes. “What-what are you doing here? What happened? What’s wrong?” 

“Wow, hello to you, too,” Patrick laughs softly. 

“But - how did you - ?”

“The perk of having access to a private jet.” 

“Now I don’t want to hear from you before the start of business on Tuesday,” Ronnie snaps in his ear. 

“Did you do this?” he asks her, but all he gets is a disgusted noise in response before she hangs up. It’s not a no. She’s certainly expressed her sentiment in odder ways but never quite something this momentous. This needed.

But he can’t care about that when Patrick, whom he hasn’t seen in weeks, who was onstage not two hours ago, who looks unfairly good, is coming around his sofa, stepping over the detritus he dropped, and cupping his slack jaw in his hands. 

“Hey,” he whispers, pressing a slow kiss to lips that take more than a second to respond. It’s sensual, but also sweet; a Hi, I’ve missed you and a Hello, I want you. 

“What are you doing here?” David gasps as he pulls away long enough to get the words out, but the space is already too much, and he’s wrapping Patrick in his arms before giving him a chance to reply, holding on like someone is going to come and take him away. 

“Burn, David,” he laughs, again approximating an entirely too convincing imitation of his sister, but it doesn’t have nearly as much bite. Then Patrick tightens his grip and sinks into the embrace, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly, the heat of his breath warming David’s neck. “It’s our anniversary,” he whispers, rocking David’s world. 

“I beg your pardon?” He pulls away once more - just far enough to look him in the eye. No, it’s… it’s not, is it? He’s not even sure what this is yet. It’s something, yes, but surely not the kind of something that requires anniversaries.  

(Unless there are gifts, and then the topic can be revisited.) 

“One year ago,” Patrick begins, stepping back towards the couch and, as if he’d heard David’s inner monologue, carefully picking a small box up from its hiding spot on the cushion, “you came to the Crosby Street Hotel.” 

Oh. 

Well, that’s… that’s a something worthy of an anniversary. 

He wants to be profound, to say anything sentimental to mark what is clearly a momentous occasion, but instead, what comes out of his mouth is, “That was a year ago?” 

Patrick laughs and moves closer, sliding his thumb beneath the tape holding the white box closed. “‘Fraid so.” Then he lifts the lid to reveal four perfectly iced red velvet cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. On the underside of the lid, a short note, hastily written in black sharpie, clearly in Patrick’s own hand: 

Thanks for taking the meeting. 
- M. Hall

“Patrick,” he breathes, shaking his head, throat gone tight. He could tell him that he still has the slip of paper, two lines written on the back of a Playbill insert asking people to turn off their cell phones. He could tell him it’s just over there, in the basket beneath the turntable, safely tucked in between Banjo Hitter and Shoestring Catch, awaiting a frame David is sorely tempted to put it in. He could tell him he wants to hang it on the wall so the world can see what it means, but it’s too much so fast so he doesn’t. Instead, unable to find his words, he lets Patrick’s do the job for him. After all, David doesn’t need to read the note to remember what it said:

 “You made something special here,” he whispers. “Maybe we can do it again.” 

Patrick’s face goes through a million tiny transformations, like it’s trying to break down and build itself back up. It shouldn’t be able to move that way, but it does, and what’s left is one of the most beautiful things David has ever seen. 

“We did make something special, David.” Patrick murmurs, eyes a little misty, and David hears the words he doesn’t say: In more ways than one. 

Patrick leans in for another kiss, but because David is David, he abruptly rears back and blurts out, “And everything’s really okay? You’re not, like, here to tell me you’re quitting or something?” 

“No, David,” he says fondly. “Not quitting.” 

He accepts the kiss then, before the realization of what he actually was arriving home to do comes at him full force. 

“Oh God, it’s Sunday,” he groans. “Shit, I have dinner - ” 

But Patrick just smirks. “I called your parents.” 

“You… you called my parents?” Oh-oh no. That’s… that’s not good at all. 

“Yes. They’re lovely people. It’s a shame you’ve barely let me say two words to them before swooping in and whisking me away,” he says knowingly. 

“Excuse you, I don’t swoop.” 

“Your hair begs to differ.” 

Wow. Okay.” He takes a step back as Patrick’s hands chase him, finding purchase on his hips and tugging him back in once more. 

“I love your hair.” 

“Uh huh.” 

“I’ve missed your hair.” 

“Keep talking.” 

“I’ve missed you.” 

But David doesn’t have a reply to that because how can he tell him that the last couple of weeks have seen him utterly and completely adrift? He’s always been a balloon on the breeze, but Stevie and now Patrick have been the weights holding him down. The hands gripping his string tightly but lovingly, afraid of letting him float away on the next gust of wind. Without them, he thinks he could be carried off if someone just blows hard enough, and it’s a terrible existence, feeling so unmoored. 

But here Patrick is, in New York and not Canada, close enough to catch David’s string and bring him back down to earth. It’s almost too much for David to handle. 

“How long do I have you for?” 

“For the next 43 hours,” Patrick replies, and the feeling of disbelief in David’s gut morphs into desire, into want, accompanied by something he cannot yet name. 

“Then we better make the most of them.” He takes Patrick’s hand, the one not holding the cupcakes because he’s not a neanderthal, and begins to lead him to the stairs. Everything he dropped remains on the floor, and he still doesn’t know exactly how Patrick got into his apartment, but none of that matters because Patrick is here and Patrick is staying for the next 43 hours if nothing else. 

David takes his time undressing him, peeling back his layers, memorizing what he’s missed in the intervening weeks. He clocks a still-healing cut from where a fight call went awry and a bruise from when Patrick was rushing to answer his call and clipped the corner of his coffee table. David looks at it all, every change, every mark, every map; this time spent away from him and the memories they won’t ever share. 

He’s not sure when he started thinking like that. Of shared and not. 

Of together and apart. 

“David, please,” Patrick pants, naked and spread out in the middle of David’s California King. It’s been too long and there’s no way this will last, but fuck if they won’t give it their all. Their everything. 

David falls on top of him, arms braced on either side of his shoulders and noses along his jaw. God, he’s missed this man. 

He takes it slow, kissing a careful line down Patrick's heaving chest, his tensed stomach, his trembling thighs. He takes him in his mouth, moaning as he relishes his taste, grunting as Patrick’s fingers tug at his hair just on the edge of too hard. 

It’s a rush after that - a hasty prep with spilled lube and grabby hands with digging fingers, leaving red marks on skin that will take time to fade away. The sound that leaves Patrick when David first enters him echoes in his brain, is branded on his heart. Will haunt his dreams until he can hear it again. 

“Fuck,” he whispers, dropping his forehead down to press against Patrick’s as he tries to acclimate to the heat, to the pressure. To the emotion. 

“You feel so good, baby,” Patrick murmurs against his lips before trailing his mouth to his ear. “You’re so good.” 

David whimpers and just tries to hold on as he pushes his hips in, pulling a guttural grunt out of Patrick that has David’s hips snapping forward again. ‘Slow’ is a lost cause after that, and tenderness gives way to necessity. The headboard bangs against the wall, Patrick’s heels dig into the backs of David’s thighs, and their cries reach a crescendo that makes David grateful he’s on the top floor. 

Patrick spills over his fist and David manages a “God, fuck” as he follows right after him, trying to milk Patrick through his aftershocks as David’s body shudders through an orgasm that flays him down to his bones. He honestly thinks he whites out for a moment, because next thing he registers, Patrick is murmuring nonsense in his ear as he strokes the back of David’s head where it rests on Patrick’s shoulder. 

The nonsense, though, eventually takes shape and David hears the “You’re okay. You’re okay” beneath the hum of pleasure and sated desire still coursing through his veins.  

“Jesus,” he slurs, a string of drool horrifyingly dripping onto Patrick’s skin. 

“Patrick,” he corrects, and David doesn’t even have the energy to groan at the joke. He’s not alone, though. Patrick’s chest is still rising and falling like he just ran a marathon, and his heart hammers against David’s like it’s a competition. His legs fall open, pressing them together once more and they both groan at the oversensitivity. 

David manages to get a hand between them to hang onto the condom as he pulls out, pressing a kiss to Patrick’s bent knee before disposing of it without the care he usually takes. He’ll have to check the hardwood floor later. He stands on wobbly legs and runs into the doorjamb of the ensuite, before getting a warm washcloth because his hand is still covered with Patrick’s come and Patrick’s chest is a gorgeous disaster. 

Skin clean and washcloth tossed somewhere, David collapses on the bed, right into Patrick’s waiting arms, and exhales heavily.  

“We needed that,” Patrick whispers, running his fingers around the curve of David’s elbow where it’s draped across his chest. 

“Fuck yeah we did.” He still sounds drunk, his vowels long and his consonants sloppy. Patrick’s answering chuckle rumbles behind his ribcage, the vibrations tickling David’s jaw and causing him to laugh in return. 

They’re quiet for a moment, just enjoying the heady bliss that comes from a reunion following a separation. Not that it was particularly long. It’s not like David sent Patrick off to the front or something, but still. There’s something… different, about the first time back. Something precious that he’s still not quite ready to let go. 

He eyes the cupcakes that Patrick had the forethought to place out of harm’s way on the dresser and sighs. They’re too far and he’s too fucked out. And that’s saying something, David Rose turning down baked goods. 

“We didn’t get together then,” he murmurs, his brain not quite in sync with his mouth yet. 

“Hm, what?” Patrick asks. 

“A year ago. Today isn’t really our anniversary. We didn’t start dating then.” 

Patrick just hums. “It’s an anniversary, then. Not ours.” He goes quiet for a moment and David thinks he’s done, until he softly says, “I wanted to.” 

David inhales, wondering how this man can just be so cavalier with his honesty. How he can just say things like that. And yet - 

“Me, too.” 

He can hear the rustle of Patrick’s head on the pillow as he lifts it and looks down. David refuses to meet his gaze; it’ll be too much. Patrick lays back down without comment, even though David knows he has one, so naturally, he gives into his desire to fill the silence. 

“We’ll just have to… celebrate twice. As long as it involves cupcakes for the next five or however many years.” 

Patrick lifts his head again. “Oh, so you think we’re gonna be together five years from now?” 

David squeezes his eyes shut. 

He didn’t mean to say that. 

“I think I need an overabundance of sweet treats, for all celebrations, in whatever way you wish to shower them upon me.” 

Patrick laughs and presses a kiss to the top of David’s head. “Got it.” Thankfully, he doesn’t press the subject. He doesn’t needle David to further explain what he meant, because he knows when to back off. He knows when David isn’t ready. 

The fingers running up and down his forearm slow and eventually stop, Patrick’s grip on him going lax as he starts to gently snore. Despite David’s rather spectacular orgasm, sleep proves elusive, and some time later, he blindly fumbles for his phone on the nightstand, careful not to jostle Patrick who has somehow gotten them both on their sides and is spooning him from behind. Not that David minds. 

He thumbs open his phone, purposefully avoiding looking at the time, and winces as he clocks Stevie’s unread texts: 

[Stevie]
I’m going to take your silence as proof that he arrived in one piece. 

It’s late but not too late for a Broadway baby the night before a day off, so he thumbs out a response, because she deserves one: 

You’re a good friend.

Her reply is immediate, like she knew. 

[Stevie]
Gross. 

And then: 

[Stevie]
I know.

He grins and sets his phone on the nightstand once more, pressing back against the sturdy chest behind him and matching his breaths. 

“Happy anniversary, Patrick,” he whispers. 

He can feel a smile against the back of his neck, the sleepy soft reply just as quiet: 

“Happy anniversary, David.” 

🎭  🎭  🎭

Grammy Nominations Revealed! See Who Got What

Grammy Awards: Complete List of Nominees

Grammys: Patrick Brewer in the Lead with Seven Noms

Patrick Brewer Has More Grammy Nominations Than Anyone Else This Year

Brewer May Want to Rethink Broadway

🎭  🎭  🎭

PATRUVK OH MT GOD 

He can’t even be bothered to fix the typos. Not when his boyfriend just got seven fucking Grammy nominations. 

He paces from one end of the apartment to the other, still in his pajamas, still without caffeine because his alarm went off at 8:26am, leaving him zero time to turn his espresso machine on before he had to bolt downstairs and cue up CBS This Morning. 

Seven nominations. 

He can’t believe he’s not there with him. (He also can’t believe he’s awake at this hour. Yes, it’s almost 9am but still.) His group text with Patrick and Stevie has been going strong, but when the nominations for Album of the Year were announced, putting Patrick to a grand total of seven, the responses from his boyfriend dropped off, not that David could blame him. Whatever major publication/network/news outlet Rachel undoubtedly is calling him with obviously takes precedence. David remembers the morning of his first Tony nom. It was so insane, he didn’t even eat until 3pm, which is saying something. And that was only one. 

This is seven.

His phone buzzes in his hand and for a moment, he thinks it might be Patrick despite all logic saying otherwise, and sure enough, he looks down to find Stevie’s name lighting up the screen with an incoming FaceTime call. He can’t be disappointed, though, because she’s with Patrick and that’s the next best thing. 

“Holy. Shit,” she greets before her features have even come into focus. Her manic expression is evident even through immense pixelation. “David, holy shit.” 

“I know!” he yells, sounding entirely too much like Monica on Friends. “Where is he? Is he okay?” 

Stevie’s also dressed in pajamas, currently situated in Patrick’s living room with a mimosa in the hand not currently holding her phone. Patrick had asked David if it was okay if Stevie spent the night so he didn’t have to be alone the morning of the nominations. It was honestly very sweet and David, of course, offered to let Patrick borrow his best friend, though truth be told, he’d rather be there himself. 

With them both. 

“Hang on, he’s just…” she trails off and the phone jostles, sending the picture momentarily out of focus once more. “Oh, I think he’s on with Variety?” She flips the camera around and David sees Patrick just through the sliding door, pacing the back patio, phone to his ear. “Maybe it’s Entertainment Weekly. I dunno. A big one,” Stevie says, turning the camera around again well before David has looked his fill. “He shouldn’t be long, though.” 

David’s excitement deflates, but only a bit. It’s fine. He’s used to this by now. 

“That’s what you face. When you partner with me.” 

After all, he signed up for it. 

“Please remember you have a show to do tonight,” he reminds as Stevie downs what is definitely not her first mimosa.  

“That’s why God invented naps.” 

“Stevie.” 

“And electrolytes.” 

He bites his lip, knowing she’ll give him shit for this, but he can’t help himself. “Let me see him again?” 

Sure enough, she snorts. “Wow.” But she flips the camera around dutifully anyway, because she’s a good friend who will never admit that she misses David as much as he misses her. And she’ll never acknowledge that he misses Patrick probably even more, so instead, she’ll hold a phone up to a patio window so David can watch his boyfriend laugh towards the sky, hand tucked into the joggers that he wears, socked feet probably very cold on the stone given the fact that it’s late November in Canada. 

“Isn’t he freezing?” he asks.

“Adrenaline high,” Stevie says sagely. 

“Please hand him a coat if he stays out there too much longer.” 

“Yes, Mom.” 

He ignores the quip and really examines Patrick. He looks good, relaxed. He laughs again at something the reporter on the phone is saying, and David is reminded that this isn’t his first rodeo. Or even his second. David idly wonders who decided what the proper amount of rodeos is to know all you’re supposed to know. 

It’s been over a month since he’s seen him, since Patrick showed up in his living room with a box of cupcakes and his heart written on the lid. Work obligations in New York kept David from going to Toronto for Canadian Thanksgiving, and Patrick will still be doing the show for the American holiday. Patrick invited Stevie to the Brewers and David cannot adequately describe the FOMO he felt that weekend without potentially jeopardizing his relationships with the two most important people in his life. 

Alexis had to step in with distractions. It was embarrassing and absolutely necessary. 

“Hello?” Stevie’s voice cuts through the lingering sadness (it really was Not Good), and he startles enough to almost rethink the need for coffee (almost). 

“Sorry, what?” He can’t see her, the camera is still directed at Patrick, but he’s sure she rolls her eyes. 

“I asked if you had booked your flight for closing.”

“Oh. Yeah, the other day.” That’s a lie. He booked it the second the damn show opened, and he hates that it’s still three weeks away. He hopes she believes him. 

“Uh huh,” she says. She doesn’t. 

But at least he’ll be occupied in the meantime. Thanksgiving is this weekend, and his family has insisted that they celebrate together. He could get out of it on a technicality - it’s a Thursday, not a Sunday - but the terrifying part of it all is the realization that he doesn’t actually want to. Then it’s gearing up for holidays, plans which he does not have yet, and the closer he gets to the new year, the more he has to switch his focus back to Hamlet. There are some changes to make, some things to adjust for Broadway. A bigger budget, for instance, which means an upgrade to the costumes and some of the set pieces. Some script and music revisions that never quite landed in front of an audience, no matter how many changes they went through during previews in Toronto. Ruth has already reached out to him about setting up a regular production meeting and he was so happy to receive the email, he nearly cried. 

Okay, that’s an exaggeration but also not really. Working on a project as special to him as Hamlet makes every reading, workshop, and subsequent venture pale in comparison. Which is exactly what Ronnie wants to hear when trying to book his next gig. 

He goes back to staring at Patrick. His shoulders are now bunched up around his ears to ward off the chill. “You really should get him to come back inside,” he says, and he hears Stevie sigh behind the camera. 

“I’ve tried. He says the cold keeps him alert.” 

“He talks to the press all the time. I’ve never seen someone as laid back as Patrick was when sitting across from Diane Sawyer. No one should be laid back in front of Diane Sawyer!” 

“Well,” Stevie starts, “he’s got a bit more to keep to himself these days, doesn’t he. Sometimes he needs to remind himself when he can talk openly… and when he can’t.” She says it in a way that indicates it’s not the first time she’s talked about it, and David wonders just how many conversations like these she and Patrick have had while David can’t be there. 

He hates that he’s jealous. 

“Don’t be jealous,” Stevie murmurs, and he hisses “What the fuck?” because did he actually say that out loud? “You’re obvious,” she states. 

“I am not.” 

“David.” 

“Fine.” 

“Look, you know I’m just a… a fill-in for you, right? Or for Ted? I’m here and I’m someone to talk to.” 

“That’s not true.” He knows Patrick adores Stevie and the feeling is mutual as much as she might try to deny it. 

“It’s getting harder for him,” she says softly. “To keep you to himself.” 

And that - that’s a lot for his severely under-caffeinated brain to handle. 

“I’ve seen him almost slip so many times,” she murmurs.

Patrick turns to the window, as if he knows they’re talking about him, and his face just - lights up. David can see it even through a screen, some glass, and the 345 miles between them. He gives a little wave and David’s heart leaps and then plummets. How can he take joy from coming so close to ruining everything? 

“I don’t want him to slip,” he whispers. 

“I know,” Stevie replies. “And he doesn’t either. He wants to protect you.” 

“I don’t need protecting.”

“Years of knowing you would disagree.” 

“Hey!” 

“Hey.” But the voice that greets him isn’t Stevie’s. It’s Patrick’s.  

“Oh, um, hi,” he says rather dumbly as the phone changes hands and Patrick’s beautiful face comes into view. “Congratulations,” he breathes. 

“Thank you,” he replies just as quietly, like the moment is too fragile to break. 

“I’m so proud of you.” It’s not like he can take any sort of credit for this, though. The entire album was recorded before Patrick ever knew him. But then “Store 785” flashes in his brain and David bites his lip because maybe he did influence Patrick in some small way. Maybe he made an indelible mark on this man the way he has been marked in return. 

“Thank you, David.” 

“Remember, that’s my phone. No inappropriate photos. No bodily fluids.” 

“Stevie!” Patrick yells, scandalized. 

“I meant drool, you pervert.” 

“Uh huh,” David murmurs, smiling fondly as Patrick shakes his head, obviously watching Stevie walk away before returning his eyes to the phone. “So, busy morning.” 

Patrick hums. “I wish you were here.” 

“I do, too.” So badly. David likes all versions of Patrick, but this one might be his favorite - soft and sleep-rumpled and about a minute away from telling David to come back to bed. It’s a rare morning that finds David Rose up before his boyfriend, but when he is, it takes very little persuasion to coax him into his arms once more. “Please remember to eat before the show tonight.” 

“I know. Rachel’s got a few more interviews lined up and Ted promised to bring breakfast, or lunch, I honestly don’t know what time it is.” 

“Dawn.” 

Patrick laughs, and David silently savors his victory. “How are you?” 

“Me? My boyfriend just got seven Grammy nominations, I’m great!” But as soon as the words are out of his mouth, the idea pops into his head unbidden of actually going to the Grammys with Patrick, which of course cannot happen. It deflates the balloon of joy in his chest faster than getting sold out of VIP tickets to Beyonce’s Formation tour. 

“Well, you know the show is the priority at the moment,” Patrick says, possibly misreading whatever Eeyore expression has taken over David’s face. 

“No, no, I know. I’m not - I have no worries about that. At all. Hell, you could go up on To be or not to be and I wouldn’t even be remotely mad about it. I mean, Heather would murder you, but I’d be fine.” 

“Fine with my murder? I’m wounded.” 

David scoffs and says entirely too heatedly, “If someone murdered you, I’d scorch the earth.” 

Patrick’s face goes from teasingly offended to horrifically fond. Ugh, it’s wonderful. “I don’t doubt it,” he murmurs. “Likewise, by the way.” 

And that makes David feel a certain way, a certain way he’s still unwilling to examine, because no one’s ever been willing to do bodily harm for him. Then again, seeing Patrick’s reaction after Sebastien released the photos, bodily harm would have been the least of Sebastien’s troubles had Patrick gotten within reach of him. 

“Brewer, I’m not your secretary,” Stevie suddenly snaps, and her hand shoves itself into frame, holding Patrick’s buzzing cell phone. 

“Oh,” he says, tone apologetic. “Must be time for the next one.” 

“Duty calls,” David whispers quietly. 

“I’ll talk to you tonight?” 

“Yeah. When things calm down.” But will they? He wants to tell himself that it won’t always be like this, but it will. Sure, they’ll be together for Hamlet, but there will always be another show, another tour, another obligation. 

“I’ll get you before half hour, I promise.” 

“You better.” 

Patrick hands the phone back to Stevie and David hears him answer the call from Rachel, connecting him with whatever journalist is up next. 

Stevie is looking at him knowingly and a little pityingly and that is just unacceptable. He clears his throat and lifts his chin. “He’s going to call me later.” 

“Of course he is. You two are gross like that.”  

Are they? 

Case in point, though, David makes a mental note to send Patrick a gift basket from Tim Horton’s because flowers are all well and good, but sugared carbohydrates are the way to Patrick’s heart and Timmies delivers. 

“I should leave you to it,” he murmurs and that balloon of joy in his chest has inflated, but not by much. 

“Should you?” Stevie presses and David honestly isn’t sure if she can’t see right through him or if she’s just being contrary because she’s downed a bottle of prosecco already. Before he gets his answer, though, Patrick jogs over and mutes his call, leaning in close to the screen. 

“I’ll see you next month?” 

David swallows and nods, because how could he say no to that face? And why on earth would he ever want to? 

“I’ll see you next month.”

God, he hates this. 

Staring at Patrick’s name long after the call disconnects, he opens Instagram and finds the photo he took at Patrick’s concert almost a year ago, debating for all of a moment before reposting it to his stories. It’s not nearly the word he wants to choose or the pride he wants to express - 

He hopes the pride comes through anyway. 

Seven.

🎭  🎭  🎭

David uses his key to unlock his parents' front door, never so happy to not have Hector there to greet him. Despite their multiple foibles and general lack of societal niceties, Moira and Johnny Rose have always been good about giving staff time off on holidays, deigning to open their own doors and pour their own drinks for a few days a year.  

At least they still have Georges who, being French, has no care for the American holiday beyond what new dishes he gets to try. And thank God, because if he didn’t work, David doesn’t know how any of them would eat. The image of his mother mashing potatoes makes him giggle, though, and he’s still smiling when the elevator doors slide open into the living room. 

“Happy Thanksgiving!” Alexis trills from her spot on the couch, kneeling on the cushion like she used to when she was a child. 

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he murmurs with far less enthusiasm, the smile sliding from his face. Though he has much to be thankful for this year, he’s not feeling a ton of gratitude towards his fellow man at this particular moment. Part of it is typical holiday malaise and part of it is the fact that everyone he wants to spend time with is currently out of the country. Unfortunately, that means he’ll have to settle for those he’s blood related to. 

“David, why does your face look like that?” 

“Like what?” 

“Like someone just stole all the marshmallows off your sweet potatoes.” 

“Georges made sweet potatoes?!” 

“Oh your face doesn’t look sad anymore, yay!” Alexis claps and flops back down onto the couch, and he can’t help but huff out a laugh as he heads for the tray of wine someone has put out (Alexis, probably, going by the way the glasses have been arranged in the shape of a lopsided pumpkin). 

He pours himself a glass of Pellegrino first, considering he spent the morning watching the parade with Stevie via Facetime and enjoying multiple bloody marys. They took a drink whenever any of the pop stars wobbling by on floats fucked up their lip-syncing, which meant that David needed to take a mid-afternoon nap because it turns out they fucked up a lot. He grabs a glass of red wine as well and takes his place next to Alexis, who’s flipping through the Vanity Fair their mother was featured in more than a decade ago. 

“Where is everyone?” 

“Dad is continuing the yearly fiasco of attempting to help Georges make dinner and Mom is measuring the table. Ever since you got her that book about Downton Abbey high tea - ”

“I was trying to not-so-subtly suggest she host one.”

“... she’s obsessed. Like, she made Hector dig a ruler out of the supply closet yesterday.” 

It’s no surprise that Moira Rose cares about presentation. But it’s fucking mind-boggling to expect her to take care of it herself. 

“Well, this I have to see.” 

“Tiptoe,” Alexis hisses, hopping over to join him as he inches his way towards the dining room. “You don’t want to spook her.” 

“She’s not a gazelle and this isn’t The Lion King!” 

“Have you seen her try to walk in Louboutins?” 

Which, fair. 

David peeks in through the crack between the double doors that have been left slightly ajar and watches the cat-eye glasses perched on his mother’s nose slide down as she gets up close and personal with a water goblet. 

“Oh my God, I’ve turned her into Carson.” 

“Like she’d be caught dead in a uniform she didn’t design herself,” Alexis whispers, her chin perched on David’s shoulder. 

“David? Is that you?” His mother lifts her head and adjusts her glasses, gaze shrewd behind the lenses.

“Fuck,” he hisses, trying to figure out how he can sneak away and down that glass of red before she notices, but Alexis thwarts his escape by accidentally (or not) stepping on his foot. “Ow!”'

"David?"

"Um, yeah," he manages, stumbling through the door. "It’s me - I am here." He feels like he’s ten-years-old and getting caught going through her wig room all over again. 

"How fortuitous. I would like your opinion on this napkin folding technique. Swan or Sydney opera house?"

"Neither, please, God," he blurts. There is a level of kitsch he just cannot abide and tourist traps made out of a cotton-polyester blend absolutely fall under that category. 

“Um, Mom, how much wine do you think we’re having?” Alexis asks, counting off the variously sized glasses on parade at each place setting. 

“Georges set out one for each course. Naturally.”  

David leaves her to it because he’d honestly be happy with a simple meal of some turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and canned cranberry sauce, which is both terrible and delicious. 

“It’s such a shame sweet Pat isn’t joining us,” his mother starts before he can make his escape. “I heard he loves a cabernet,” she says, adjusting a wide red wine glass. 

“Again, that’s a hard no on Pat. And he’s a little busy at the moment.”

“He’ll be missed,” she intones, like he’s died or something.

“It’s not like he’s never coming back!” 

“Well, he could stand to visit more often.” 

“He’s performing in a show you’re producing!” Then he narrows his eyes at her. “I think you like him more than you like me.” 

She whirls around and the long wig she wears (Marta, maybe?) nearly destroys all of her careful measuring and half their glassware collection. “Now, David, what a villainous accusation to lay at the feet of the woman who bore you.” 

“Ew.” 

“Of course I like sweet Patrick.” Then the facade slips for a moment and she levels him with a knowing look. “He sees you for all that you are.” 

The words take a minute to wash over him but when he absorbs their meaning, his head whips towards Alexis so fiercely, he hears something pop. She just stares back wide-eyed, though, and shakes her head, mouthing It wasn’t me, but who the hell else could it be? He’s worked very hard to keep the true nature of his relationship with Patrick a secret, for Patrick’s sake as well as his own. Adding Moira Rose into the fold is like wrestling a herd of feral cats into a burlap sack.

Not that he’s actually tried

“But we need not speak on the sensitive subject further,” she suddenly clips, tapping the side of her nose and turning on her heel, clip-clopping back to the kitchen to no doubt torture Georges some more.

And David doesn’t think he’ll ever stop underestimating his mother. 

“Are we that obvious?” he asks when the door has safely swung shut behind her. 

Alexis shrugs, toying with a napkin that David thinks is supposed to be the Eiffel Tower. “Only around people who know you. Know you well. Like, Dad doesn’t know. Oh my God, can you imagine?” 

And yes, he can, because his mother could barely pick him out of a lineup until a few years ago (he knows this for a fact - she had to once). It makes no sense for her to know about their relationship because every time she’s seen him with Patrick, they’ve been in work mode, like before the workshop presentation or during the press performances in Toronto. 

But then he remembers a private moment he and Patrick stole during the opening night party at Casa Loma after word got around that the review from The Globe and Mail, the first one in, was a rave. He remembers how Patrick slid their fingers together as David stood against the wall by the bar and gave him a gentle squeeze and a suggestive tug, silently urging David to follow wherever it was that Patrick wanted to lead him. 

They ended up in a small room on the first floor, Sir Henry’s Study (or so the sign by the door where Ivan stood guard said). Nothing untoward happened, just a few quiet words and a long, much-needed hug. But when they returned to the party - separately, David would hasten to add - he found his mother looking at him keenly, before offering him a small smile and a slight tip of her champagne flute. At the time, he thought she was toasting his success, but maybe she saw more than he cared for her to. 

His phone vibrates in his pocket and he extracts it, smiling slightly at Patrick’s name on the screen before glancing at the time - 7:14pm. He must be getting ready. But then he looks at the message and his heart kicks into overtime. 

[Patrick]
Do you wanna come to the Grammys? 

What? He thumbs out a hasty reply:

With you?

[Patrick]
No, with Adele. 

Oh with Adele? Then yes. 

[Patrick]
But not with me? 🙁

He snorts. 

Be serious. 

[Patrick]
I am. 

… Is he? He can’t be. That would be - that would…

Patrick, think about what that would look like. 

[Patrick]
I think it would look good.

He sharply inhales, ignoring the look of concern Alexis throws his way. Being seen with Patrick is all he wants and yet he also respects and completely understands the desire to keep it to themselves. The need. Hell, he agrees.

And yet. 

Have a good show. 

He knows they can’t.

[Patrick]
Happy thanksgiving. 

David notices that he didn’t answer the question and Patrick didn’t press him for it. Neither of them said thank you, either. Maybe they’re both feeling a little bruised. 

“What happened?” Alexis asks softly. 

“He asked me to go to the Grammys,” he says a little hollowly, still staring at the screen. 

“But…” Alexis begins, “I didn’t think you could.”

“I can’t.” He sighs and shoves his phone back in his pocket when an ellipsis indicating Patrick is typing never shows. 

“So why did he ask?”

Patrick would never purposefully cause him pain - he’s not Sebastien - but David does wonder if Patrick realizes what even hypothetically asking a question like that does to him. 

“I don’t know. I think he knows I want to go. I think - I think he knows me.”

Alexis nods. “You let him know you. And I think he changed you a bit,” she offers. “Maybe he’s hurting just as much as you are, which is why he asked.” 

“Yeah,” he whispers. “I just didn’t think it was going to hurt quite this much.” 

“It matters,” Alexis says with a simple shrug; with a sageness he never thought her capable of. “Of course it hurts.” 

And isn’t that a truth bomb of nuclear proportions. 

He feels… something, something itchy and pressing and unavoidable. “I think I need a hug or something,” he whispers.  

She laughs lightly. “Sure, David.” But he doesn’t move and the smile slides from her face. “Oh my God, David, really?” 

The feeling grows stronger. Urgent. “Uh huh, yep. I need a hug.” 

“Aww.” She reaches out to boop him, and he smacks her hand away.   

“Alexis, will you please give me a hug?” Has he always sounded that hysterical? 

But she quickly drops the act, much like their mother had done just moments before, and steps forward, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight. He exhales against her shoulder and sinks into it, breathing deeply. 

A hug is such a simple thing. 

But he never realized that when Patrick started offering so many, just how much he would miss them when they stopped. 

Chapter Text

Patrick Brewer’s Hamlet Run Comes to an End

Rose’s Hamlet Heads to Broadway as Toronto Tryout Wraps

David Rose Spotted at JFK

Hamlet Closes at the Princess of Wales This Weekend

🎭  🎭  🎭

The line for Starbucks in the Delta terminal is obscene and it’s not even that early in the day. Why does everyone need caffeine so badly and why did the architects for this airport design its food and beverage offerings so poorly? David audibly whines as he drops his leather carry-on the ground, not even bothering to think about the thousands of shoes that have trod across it since it was last cleaned. 

The line slowly shuffles forward and David checks his messages, making sure to update Ivan on his arrival time. He reminded Patrick just last night that a morning meeting prevented him from landing any earlier than Sunday, which of course was a complete and total lie, seeing as it's Saturday afternoon and he’s yet again enormously grateful for TSA Pre-✅. Patrick was suitably disappointed, but he’s seemed to make a career out of catching David off-guard and every so often, David likes to return the favor if he can. It wasn’t a complete fabrication, though. Various obligations on both of their ends have prevented them from getting together before the closing weekend. Patrick has spent his days off keeping up with his day job of being one of the world’s most famous musicians (one time, even flying a private jet to London post-show on a Sunday night to record a charity single with Paul McCartney on Monday and fly back to Toronto on Tuesday). It means they’re both exhausted and grumpy and inadvertently snapping at each other remotely, which doesn’t bode well for a fledgling relationship. 

“That’s what you face. When you partner with me.” 

It’s worth it, though. 

And David Rose hasn’t been able to say that about much in his life. 

Macchiato finally in hand and almond croissant half consumed (with a canned cold brew chaser for the flight), he makes his way towards his gate, waiting for the espresso to kick in, slightly bitter that the Delta Sky Lounge is not close enough to warrant a jaunt to their free buffet. 

“Excuse me, Mr. Rose?” a voice says, and David almost looks to see if his father is walking beside him. He was definitely not invited, despite the fact that his name is on the program’s title page. 

“Um, yes?” he replies, turning around to find a young girl standing in front of him, nervously shifting her weight from foot to foot. He rarely gets recognized outside of the Broadway box, unless he’s standing next to Alexis, who is significantly more famous than he is, more for her headline-making exploits than her short-lived reality show. Even her critically-panned single is making a resurgence on dance floors in clubs across the country (unfortunately). She keeps threatening to bring up the idea of a duet with Patrick. 

But back to the young girl. She looks pre-teen-ish age? Who knows. She’s close enough to being considered a child that David is tempted to run in the other direction. 

“Nadia,” a woman nudges from just behind her. 

“I’m sorry to bother you,” the kid (Nadia, apparently) dutifully says. “But could I get a picture?” She holds up a phone that’s almost too big for her hand. 

“Uh, sure.” He’s terrified to ask how she knows him, because none of his shows would be considered appropriate for her (and God knows his own headline-making exploits aren’t), but then she goes and says - 

“And, um, would you give this to Patrick for me?” In the hand not holding the phone is a small card he’s pretty sure she just bought at the Hudson News and hastily scribbled a note in. 

A few years ago, he might have felt a certain way about someone stopping him just to pass along a message to someone more famous, but he finds he doesn’t mind. He’s proud of Patrick. He’s proud to be associated with him. 

“Of course I will,” he murmurs, smiling slightly and reaching out for it before leaning down and allowing her to snap a selfie. Normally, he’d demand photo approval, but she’s just a kid. Though knowing his luck, she’s probably a massive TikTok star. 

“Are you a fan of Patrick’s music?” he asks and Nadia nods enthusiastically. “Me, too.” 

“I’m hoping to see the show when it comes to New York.” 

“Do you like Shakespeare?” 

Nadia gives a little shrug. “I haven’t had to read him yet.” 

David hums. “He can be an acquired taste, but maybe start with a comedy. I’d recommend Twelfth Night,” he says with a wink. 

“I will,” she gushes, glancing back at her mom who nods approvingly. 

“We’ll hit the closest bookstore,” she promises, and if Patrick starring in Hamlet gets more kids reading Shakespeare, then David is all for it. 

He holds up the card. “I’ll put it into his hand myself.” 

Nadia lights up. “Thank you so much.” She skips back to her mother, who mouths a grateful thank you to David. 

He nods and slides the note into the inside pocket of his carry-on for safe-keeping and watches them disappear into the travel rush. Just before he boards, his phone buzzes with a notification that someone has tagged him on Instagram. Considering that the only people who usually do are Alexis and Stevie, he rushes to check the evidence, but it’s just Nadia. She’s already posted the photo (which is actually fucking adorable with perfect filter application, bless), accompanied by a caption that nearly makes him choke up: 

thank you for being so nice @davidrose. break a leg with hamlet. i’m so excited to start twelfth night. 💗

She’s cheekily tagged Patrick over the card David is holding in his hand, but it still makes his heart warm. He double taps the photo and because she doesn’t have a ton of followers, he feels safe enough to comment with a 🎭 which is a little on the nose, but the espresso is taking its sweet time to kick in. 

The rest of his travel goes without incident from either flight delays or selfie seekers, and before he knows it, he’s landing at Pearson and taking his phone off airplane mode to find a slew of texts from people waiting for him to arrive. Ivan and Ted were the only two people he told that he was coming early. And for good reason: 

[Stevie]
so I made some changes since you were last here? i decided ophelia should come back to life in act 5.

She’s the worst. Luckily, he knows she cares too much about the work to actually take her seriously. He sends her a middle finger emoji and opens the next message: 

[Ivan]
Lena will pick you up. Just let her know if you would like theatre or home.

Home. He could get used to that. Then: 

[Lena]
I’m waiting in baggage claim. Welcome back. 😊

He smiles and types out a quick: 

Thanks. See you in a few. 

And finally: 

[Patrick]
24 more hours. Can’t wait to see you. 

Likewise. he replies, taking an inordinate amount of delight in the fact that Patrick’s estimation will have to be more than quartered to be accurate. His business class seat allows him to deplane quickly, and he grabs his carry-on from the overhead bin and thanks the crew who brought him two delicious mimosas during the relatively short flight. 

Sure enough, Lena is waiting for him in baggage claim, thankfully forgoing a sign that reads Mr. Rose because when you’re practically a witness to someone’s first kiss with your boss, signs become superfluous. 

“Good trip?” she asks as she attempts to take his suitcase from him and he bats her hand away. 

“Uneventful. Except for a young girl who recognized me and very kindly used me to get to Patrick. But I think I got her to read Shakespeare so the universe will balance out eventually.” 

“Ah yes, I saw that,” Lena replies, leading him into the sunlight.  

“You saw it? How?” 

She laughs, loudly and beautifully. “Mr. Rose, if you think we all don’t have you on Instagram alerts, then you’ve got another thing coming.” 

“Wait, what? ‘All’? Who’s all?” 

But she merely laughs again and uses his distraction to steal the handle of his rolling bag from him. She doesn’t answer, though, and he has such a swell of… something. Warmth. Fondness. Gratitude. A sense of protectiveness in return for the people who guard the man who’s rapidly becoming the most important person in his life. 

“You’re very defensive of him,” he murmurs. 

She just shrugs, but there’s a smile on her face. “Comes with the job.” 

“No.” He shakes his head, not buying that for a minute. “It’s more than that.” 

“He’s a good boss,” she replies, clicking the key fob in her hand and unlocking the massive white SUV in front of him. Then she stops abruptly and pins him with a look that halts him as well. She could give Ivan a run for his money in the intimidation department. “He’s a good person,” she says.

David licks his lips and swallows, nodding in return. “I know that.” 

“Good.” Then she gives him a radiant smile, like she didn’t just vaguely threaten him with bodily harm without actually saying a word, and opens the hatch, hauling his suitcase into the back like it weighs nothing, despite the fact that David paid an outrageous overweight baggage fee. After all, he didn’t know how many days he was packing for. They're technically all supposed to fly back on Monday, but he was too afraid to ask Patrick how long he wanted him to stay.

His phone buzzes in his hand as he slides into the front seat, and he glances down to find another text from Ivan. 

[Ivan]
Flight tracker says you are on ground. 

He smiles, loving the fact that though Ivan’s Eastern European flair is almost completely gone from his accent unless you know to listen for it, his texting still sounds like he’s a bit player in The Hunt for Red October. 

On ground and in car. he replies. 

[Ivan]
Mr. Brewer just arrived at theatre. Lena has key to house. 

David checks the time on the dashboard, eyebrows rising. He knows Patrick likes to get to the theatre early, but even this is impressive. It’s barely 6pm. 

Thanks. 

He slides his phone back in his pocket and watches through the windshield as Lena navigates out of the short-term parking lot. 

“Copacetic?” she asks. 

“Copacetic. Patrick is apparently at the theatre already and Ivan says you have a key.”

“That I do."

Then the obvious occurs to him: "So who's driving him if you're driving me?"

"A trusted car service. We have one in every city, just in case."

"I could have taken that," he says, but she's already shaking her head.

"He would want it this way." And isn't that just something. "What time would you like to get to the theatre?”  

He’d like to wash the plane off, despite the fact that the flight wasn’t all that long. Patrick hasn’t seen him in three weeks and David wants to remind him of what exactly he’s been missing. 

“I’ve been texting with Lydia, the house manager. She’s going to sneak me in through the lobby so I don’t have to go backstage. So maybe just before curtain?” 

Lena nods as they drive down the 409, merging onto the 401 and making their way through North York towards Rosedale. David hasn’t been back since opening, and he hasn’t seen Patrick since the man showed up in his living room on an unsuspecting Sunday evening. David is no stranger to long distance relationships - even his paramours living in the same city felt long distance more often than not - but this is the first time that the miles between them have grated. And that doesn’t bode well when one’s partner tours the world for a living. 

Lena turns onto May Street and pulls into the driveway of the familiar two-story brick home, and before she can even kill the engine, the front door is opening and Ted is waving enthusiastically from the entrance. 

“Guess I won’t need the key,” Lena says with a fond smile as Ted bounds down the walkway. 

“Hey, bud!” he greets as David gets the door open, pulling him into a hug that David wasn’t quite prepared for, considering the sum total of their mutual conversations probably adds up to less than an hour in length. 

“Hi, Ted,” he manages, grunting as Ted squeezes him harder before letting go. 

“Any problems with the flight?” 

“No problems.” Only then does he notice that Ted’s wearing an apron that reads I loaf you dough much above a sourdough graphic. David hopes to God he brought it from his own place. 

“Patrick said you like Italian a while back so I just whipped something up. I’m no Giada, but hopefully it’s pasta-tively amazing.”

He definitely brought it from his own place.

David bites his lips to keep his opinion on puns to himself and turns to grab his bag only to find that Lena has, once again, hauled it from the back of the SUV like she’s a fucking Hemsworth. 

“Oh. Thank you.” 

She winks as she passes the handle over. 

“Lena, want a bite?” Ted asks, gesturing with a thumb back towards the house. 

“I’ve got some errands to run, but I’ll be back in time to get you guys there by curtain.” 

“Oh that’s okay. I can drive us,” Ted offers, pointing towards the beat up sedan parked next to Lena’s pristine SUV. It makes David realize he doesn’t actually know if Patrick owns a car. He must… right? Like, there’s a two-car garage in the house and everything. 

“Okay,” Lena says, breaking David’s runaway train of thoughts as she looks at him, “then I’ll be back post-show to bring you home.” 

“See you then,” he murmurs as Ted takes his suitcase handle from him. Will no one let him carry his own bag? 

Ted leads him into the house and rolls his bag towards the stairs before letting go and heading for the kitchen to stir something on the stove. David takes a moment to breathe in the familiar and comforting scent of Patrick that he hasn’t experienced in far too long. 

Penne for your thoughts?” Ted asks, but David can’t even roll his eyes. Not when this man helped David actually pull this off. 

“Just - happy to be here.” 

Ted looks at him keenly, the wooden spoon in his hand slowing its careful turn. “You sure about that?” 

David glances at him then. Is he really so transparent? He could lie and blame whatever expression is happening on his face on the travel, but this is Patrick’s best friend. He deserves the truth. “It’s been a long couple of months.” 

The concern on Ted’s face softens in understanding, and he nods as he places the spoon in its ceramic holder and wipes his hands on his ridiculous apron. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re not the only one who’s felt that way.” 

Well that’s - that’s a comfort. 

“It does,” David says with a small smile. He’s always had a sneaking suspicion that he’s cared more, that he’s been the more invested partner, in every relationship he’s ever had. With Patrick, though, he’s never had to wonder. 

“In fact, you’re all he’s talked about,” Ted continues. “Kind of annoying, actually.” 

That gets a laugh out of him. “Alexis says the same thing.” 

“Ah,” Ted says, restrained in a way that honestly makes him look a little constipated. “And is she… well?” 

David can tell that there are a million other words that want to tumble from Ted’s mouth regarding his sister, but he holds them in. David wonders if that’s what his own face looks like whenever Patrick’s name comes up in casual conversation. 

“She is. Um, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you, if you, you know, get a moment.” In fact, David knows she would. It’s literally all he heard about last Sunday when he accidentally let slip that Ted helped him arrange his early arrival. Alexis’ attempts to be subtle are about as glaring as a Lady Gaga red carpet look circa 2010. 

Ted, however, looks like David just lifted the weight of the world from his shoulders. “Wine?” he buoyantly asks, holding up a bottle of red that he must have magicked from somewhere and David nods as Ted gestures back towards the stove. “I’ve got this handled if you want to get settled.” 

“Thanks.” David accepts the glass Ted pours and makes his way over to his bag by the staircase, picking it up and making the familiar trek up to Patrick’s bedroom. It’s interesting to see his house like this, when he hasn’t been expecting company. Not that Patrick is a messy person (and David knows for a fact that he has a housekeeper), but he still doesn’t have a habit of leaving pajama pants tossed on the end of his bed or a towel forgotten on the bathroom floor when he knows David is coming over. It’s charming and amusing and more intimate that David initially realizes. This peek behind the curtain. The person beneath the paragon. 

He places his bag down on the bench at the foot of the bed and takes a long sip of his wine, stretching out his neck and fighting the urge to faceplant on Patrick’s pillow and breathe him in. It’s been entirely too long since he’s inhaled the familiar and comforting scent of Patrick’s detergent and shampoo, and he lingers, staring longingly at the high thread count sheets, before setting his glass down on the dresser and pulling out a fresh outfit instead. He heads into the bathroom, hanging up Patrick’s towel and grabbing a fresh one from the linen closet, turning the knob on the shower and letting the rainwater head turn hot. 

He returns to the bedroom to rescue his more fragile knits from the crush of his suitcase and grabs his toiletry bag, before toeing off his shoes and stripping his sweater followed by his jeans. He heads back to the dresser to take one more sip of wine and notices a sheaf of papers stacked neatly and bound by brass brads, watermarked diagonally with Patrick’s name. David knows a script when he sees one and because he just can’t help himself, he leans over the top page, eyes widening as he reads the title of the film David first saw printed in Variety when Patrick’s cameo part was finally announced last month. He bites his lip and ignores the way the humidity from the still-running shower is licking at his hair, sorely tempted to peek at least at the first page, but Patrick was taking his responsibility to uphold the secrecy of Rian Johnson’s plot very seriously, refusing to tell David even the name of his character. 

And honestly, David would rather be surprised anyway. He turns back towards the bathroom and takes his glass with him this time, leaving the script alone because he’s a good person. 

The shower jolts him awake yet also calms him down, the anxiety from keeping a secret - even one as fun and happy as this - weighing him down. He dries off and moisturizes, finishing his glass of Brunello in between steps, and changes into his You know you missed me outfit before heading back downstairs where Ted is spooning something that smells absolutely sinful into bowls. David groans without meaning to, alerting Ted to his arrival. 

“Hey, man. How was the shower?” 

David hums. “Thorough.” And illuminating. He and Patrick will definitely be utilizing the detachable head later that evening. “What’s all this?” 

“Oh just penne in vodka sauce. I wanted to do a bolognese, but I thought Patrick might get a bit suspicious if I showed up on his doorstep five hours early asking to use his kitchen.” 

“A bit, probably,” David agrees, refilling his glass as Ted brings their bowls to the table by the sliding glass doors that lead to the patio. “Um, thank you again for, ah, helping with everything,” he says as he sits. 

Ted does this head shake-shoulder shrug combo that should be ridiculous but comes off endearing, driving home the point that his casual, “Oh no sweat, bud,” really is that. No sweat. 

David nods and digs into his pasta, chewing thoughtfully. Patrick has a very small, tight group of people around him - people he’s had for half of his life, long before he became someone who can’t go to the grocery store anymore without a bodyguard and a back alley exit plan. David has always wondered how exactly he fits into that group - if it was a sort of begrudgingly accommodating collision as so many of his ‘friend’ groups have been in the past - but then he thinks of Rachel and her advice and Ted and his puns and Stevie bulldozing her way into Patrick’s heart like it wasn’t already open for her, and he realizes that, yes, it was a collision, but a cohesive one. A kind one. Gentle in a way that only Patrick seems to be with him. 

“So he really doesn’t know I’m coming?” he asks, despite all evidence to the contrary. 

Ted smiles and… blushes a bit? “Considering the last thing he said to me was, ‘David’s staying over tomorrow night, please forget you have a key to my house,’ I’m gonna say it’s a safe bet.” 

David feels his own cheeks heat because he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t imagined what that particular aspect of their reunion would look like multiple times over the last few weeks. Often enough to have to bulk order more lube from his favorite online shop. 

“And do you… often show up at Patrick’s unannounced?” he asks, voice pitching slightly higher. Because that is a conversation that he and Patrick will be having post-haste. 

“Oh no. At least not since Patrick forgot I was coming over to pick up his guitar and I overheard a call that was in-TMI-mate, if you catch my drift.” 

David chokes on his penne. “The drift is caught, Ted. It’s more caught than ‘To Catch a Predator.” 

“You were on speaker,” he explains, like that’s helpful. 

“Jesus Christ.” 

“Hands free, ya know?” 

“Oh my God.” 

Needless to say, the pasta loses some of its flavor after that. Luckily, they don’t have time to linger if David wants to get to the theatre before curtain and by the time he gets in the car, he thinks his skin has returned to its normal shade. He hasn’t looked that burnt since Paris Hilton told him to try her new tanning bed when she hadn’t read the directions first. Even his practically Sicilian complexion took weeks and several coats of aloe to heal. 

The ride to the Princess of Wales is relatively quick, even given the post-work rush. Ted parks in a garage right beneath the theatre as David texts Lydia, the house manager, to let her know he’s just a few minutes out. She responds with a thumbs up and greets him just inside the glass doors of the box office lobby when they arrive. 

“Good to see you, Mr. Rose.” 

“Good to be back, Lydia.” 

His phone tells him it’s 7:58pm and there are a few stragglers hurrying up to the box office to grab their tickets. The familiar ding of the ticket scanners immediately calms David’s rabbiting heart, a feeling that’s helped by Ted appearing at his shoulder with a sippy cup full of wine. 

“Thanks,” he murmurs. 

“Sure thing, bud.” 

“We do have a pair of seats set aside for you farther in the back than you’d normally be because - ”

“The cast knows where I usually sit,” David cuts her off wryly. “I appreciate the forethought.” Never underestimate a house manager. 

She nods and heads up to an open window to grab his envelope, scanning the tickets with the device in her hand with the precision of someone with decades of practice before passing them off with a wink. “Hamlet runs two hours and twenty minutes with a fifteen minute intermission. Please silence your cell phones.” 

He nods and allows Ted to lead him to the back of the house, lingering for a moment until the house lights start to dim. It’s good to be back - comforting, like slipping beneath a well-loved blanket. He’s missed this company, he’s missed this show - not the least of which are the two people at its core. 

As a director, he’s slightly ashamed to admit that he zones out for the first few minutes, imagining what Patrick is doing backstage. In fact, he knows exactly what he’s doing, because David has witnessed it firsthand. He starts by stretching and then does his vocal warmups, the same as he would for any concert. Then he sits silently for a moment or two, “grounding” himself, which was his response when David first asked why the fuck he was staring at his makeup wipes on his counter. Then he straps on his weapon (not a euphemism) and heads out into the hall where he and Stevie share a wordless high five as he passes by her dressing room to head towards stage right just before - 

“Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe...”

And David can’t help the way he sucks in a breath at seeing Patrick in full costume once more. At seeing the way he commands the stage before he’s ever even uttered a word. It’s fucking magical. And David doesn’t say that about many shows, particularly his own. 

The first act flies by in a blur and David is grateful that he has tomorrow’s final matinee to absorb more because, to be perfectly honest, Patrick’s ass in those pants and his face displaying those emotions are almost too much for David’s already fragile state of mind to handle. 

He passes on another glass of wine at intermission because he’d like to be coherent when he faces his cast once more, hiding out in Lydia’s office just in case he’s recognized. Act two goes by at a more manageable pace, and David beams at the moments that still land and laughs at others, mentally making note of the cheeky liberties some of the cast have taken with the text. It seems a little pointless to mention it, given that they only have one performance left, but considering this is a stepping stone to an even more important production, he just might. 

After all, his actors know well enough that David Rose can’t resist giving a note. 

Before he knows it, the stage is thrust into black, signaling the end of the play, and he elbows Ted and gestures with his head to the aisle so they can sneak out before the bright curtain call lights come on, potentially illuminating him before he’s ready. Ted nods and follows him to the back of the house, but David pauses before reaching the door, turning back and watching as his cast takes their bow underscored by a much deserved roar of applause. He finds himself getting a little choked up as Stevie bows and then Patrick as the ovation swells once more. David waits in the shadows until the cast gives one final full company bow before heading into the wings, and David turns to catch up to Ted where he’d been waiting at the door. 

The ushers certainly know them by now, so they’re not stopped as they curve around the lobby and head to the door that leads backstage. 

“Want me to check?” Ted asks and David nods, hovering just outside as Ted slips in. David didn’t want his reunion with Patrick to be in the middle of the hallway surrounded by other people. He wanted a moment to himself, to bask in the presence of the man he’s missed far more than he’s willing to admit. The door cracks open again and Ted sticks his head through. “All clear.” 

David steps into the hallway, smiling and waving at various dressers as they hurry about, arms laden with already-disrobed costumes. He keeps his head down as he strides towards the staircase heading towards the basement where the dressing rooms are. Being the lead, Patrick’s is on the first level, closest to the stage, and David pauses on the bottom step to gather himself. Helen catches sight of him from the doorway of her own room just beyond and she gasps, but he quickly brings a finger to his lips and gestures with a head tilt towards Patrick’s closed door. Helen mimes zipping her mouth before blowing him a kiss and disappearing back inside, and David steps up, hand poised, ignoring the jolt that just reading PATRICK BREWER on the sign gives him as he knocks. 

“C’mon in, Cee,” Patrick calls, incorrectly assuming that his dresser, Cecilia, has come for his costume. 

David grabs the handle and turns it, eyes landing on Patrick sitting at the vanity, face buried in a towel, scrubbing away the blood. He tucks his lips behind his teeth and takes a moment to enjoy this, before clearing his throat and delighting in the way Patrick’s head shoots up to meet his gaze in the mirror. “So, I have some notes.” 

Patrick turns. He blinks. He breathes. 

“David.” 

Luckily, Patrick remembers to slam the door shut before pressing David up against it.

🎭  🎭  🎭

Word must have traveled fast that David had arrived early and their intense makeout session (which sees Patrick’s costume need a new button and David’s hair need a hell of a lot more) is cut short by Stevie banging on the door like Jack fucking Torrance. 

“David! I know you’re in there!”

David pulls away with a gasp, even as his fingers dig harder into the back of Patrick’s head, keeping his lips close to his neck where Patrick is currently mouthing at the sensitive skin. 

“If we don’t say anything, do we think she’ll go away?” 

“If we don’t say anything,” Patrick pants, tugging on David’s earlobe and making him whine, “I think people are gonna wonder what has our mouths so occupied.” 

“Nosy bastards.” 

Patrick hums, but slows his assault on David’s jaw, gentling his kisses from nips to soft presses. 

“I missed you,” he finally admits. Not that David didn’t already know. Not that David didn’t sympathize acutely. 

He pets the back of Patrick’s mussed hair and presses a kiss in between his brows. “I missed you, too.” 

“I can’t believe you’re here.” 

“Surprise,” he whispers, almost letting himself get sucked in again, before - 

“Don’t make me get Ivan, Brewer!” Stevie calls, and Patrick snorts, resting his forehead against David’s chin, ticking his nose with his hair. 

“He’s on my side!” 

“You sure about that?” 

Patrick glances up at David like he’s not necessarily. Sure, Ivan’s on Patrick’s payroll, but it’s no secret that he harbors a massive crush on Stevie. 

“Well, no doubt the entire building knows I’m here now thanks to that hellion’s caterwauling, so we should…” David gestures towards the door and fumbles behind him to grab the handle that’s digging into his back, but Patrick pouts like David just took away his favorite toy. “Don’t look at me like that. You know I’m right.” 

“I know you’re right,” he mopes, reaching for the handle himself while running his free hand through David’s hair, straightening it as best he can. “How do I look?” 

“Like you just got mauled by a bear.” 

Patrick blanches and turns to look in the mirror. “Seriously?” 

“No!” David snaps. “I’m a professional!” He gets the door open before Patrick can reply to that particular claim, nearly sending Stevie tumbling into the dressing room. “Yes?” 

She hastily straightens and brushes her hair out of her face like she didn’t just almost faceplant onto the carpet. “What, don’t have time for the rest of your cast? Only Number One?” 

David recognizes the sincerity beneath the snark and he opens his arms only to have Stevie wrap hers around him tightly with nary a noise of disgust. 

“Missed you, asshole.” 

“Likewise.” Over her shoulder, David can see Helen hovering along with Candice and Byron, all waiting their turn to say hello. Stevie finally releases him and he’s pulled into the hall to greet the rest, and by the time David finally looks back over his shoulder towards the dressing room, Patrick has changed out of his costume and is leaning against the wall, watching the various reunions with a smile on his face as he talks quietly with Ted. Naturally, Ivan lurks nearby, giving David a nod when he catches his gaze, which David gladly returns. He’s incredibly grateful to the gentle giant, not only for helping him plan this but also for protecting the man the plan was for. 

“You’re here already?” Shannon, their company manager, says at a decibel that gives away the panic underscoring the question. “But I didn’t book the hotel until tomorrow!” 

Oh fuck. He didn’t think about that. Why would he have when he has a perfectly good bed waiting for him at Patrick’s? With Patrick preferably in it?

Before he can even open his mouth to bullshit a response as the blood rapidly drains from his face, Stevie steps in. 

“He’s crashing with me. He didn’t want to bother,” she says with almost a straight face. The day David Rose doesn’t want to bother is the day Sebastien apologizes for the various horrors he’s inflicted.  

“That… is… correct,” he manages, as Shannon lets out a relieved sigh. 

“Oh good. I think the hotel is completely booked up tonight, but you’ll be able to check in tomorrow.”

“Great,” he replies, looking nowhere in Stevie and Patrick’s direction. He feels bad for wasting the money but no cost is too high to protect what he and Patrick have. 

The group breaks up, eager to be on their way with promises for longer catch-ups at tomorrow’s closing party, and Ted claps David on the shoulder as he passes by. 

“Heading out?” 

“Yeah. Have some stuff to take care of ahead of closing. Those emails won’t write themselves!” 

But David can only shake his head at the dad joke. “Thanks again, Ted.” 

“Have a good night, David.” And then he’s gone. 

Stevie waits until they’re alone once more in Patrick’s dressing room before asking, “So are we hanging tonight or are you two going to be predictably boring and gross?” 

Patrick pauses shoving his belongings in a backpack and glances over his shoulder at David with a look that silently says, Your call. 

David knows what he wants to do. He wants to take Patrick home and fuck his brains out, but he also knows that that would make him a terrible friend. 

“Um, we can - we can hang,” he manages, his fantasies of getting Patrick alone as fast as humanly possible rapidly dissipating. 

Stevie can barely contain her laughter. “Wow, did that hurt? Are you okay?” 

“Shut up.” 

She rolls her eyes and disappears into the hallway, leaving them to catch up. Patrick sidles up to David and slips a hand in his back pocket, squeezing.

“It was the right call.” 

“Your hand is telling me otherwise,” David grumbles, but he follows Stevie out the door, reluctantly walking away from Patrick’s grip. It’s been so long since he’s been back, he honestly forgot about the stage door of it all until they exit into the alley and are greeted by a wall of sound. 

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters as he’s blinded by dozens of cell phone camera flashes going off at the same time. Stevie is already armed with a black sharpie and approaching the first fan closest to the door behind the metal barricade. David turns in time to see Bruno, the doorman, hand Patrick a marker as well. 

“Do you want to wait in the car?” Patrick quietly asks. 

“Is that wise?” he whispers, just before Stevie loudly calls over, “We’re all riding together, right?” The pronouncement is accompanied by a knowing eyebrow arch, and David breathes out a relieved sigh. Seriously, how did he ever think he could pull this off without her?

“Yeah, that’s good,” Patrick replies, raising a hand to Lena who’s already dutifully waiting. David heads over to the idling SUV, grateful for Stevie’s quick thinking which allows him to get into Patrick’s car without tongues wagging and rumors flying. If all three of them go together, it’s a group thing. A cast outing. 

Nothing more. 

Perhaps he hadn’t thought through the extraction enough when he planned this surprise. 

He opens his mouth to ask Lena how her evening was, when a voice calls out to him. 

“Wait, David, can I get your autograph?” 

He turns to find a young man reaching over the barricade, program held tightly but carefully in his outstretched hand. “You want mine?” Because when the fuck did that last happen? 

The boy nods. “I want to direct. And that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen,” he gushes, a little breathless.  

“Oh. Um, thanks. Sure.” David glances around because he didn’t think to grab a sharpie from Bruno. He didn’t know he’d need one.

“David!” Patrick calls and David barely turns in time to catch the marker he tosses at him. He fumbles the execution but emerges with it clutched awkwardly between his fingers. 

“Excuse you, what have I said about team sports!” 

“That given today's political climate, we don't need to divide ourselves any more than we already have,” Patrick chuckles as he turns back to the young woman in front of him and leans down to take a selfie with her. 

“Best you remember that,” David gripes before uncapping the sharpie and returning his attention to the poor kid who made the mistake of asking for David’s autograph in the first place. “Sorry.” But the kid is holding back laughter, as is everyone who apparently witnessed that ridiculous back and forth. “And, yes, if you’re wondering, the entire rehearsal process was like that. Do not go into directing,” he says with a smile as he signs the program with a flourish he hasn’t allowed himself to enjoy in far too long. 

“Sign mine, too?” a girl says just next to the boy, which is how David finds himself signing almost as many items as Stevie and Patrick, even stopping to take a few photos along the way. He still reaches the SUV before either of them, though, smiling warmly at Lena as she waits patiently for the rest of her charges. Ivan hovers by Patrick’s shoulder, far enough away to give him a sense of privacy and autonomy, but close enough to step in should any of the fans have designs on his virtue. 

David leans against the car and just watches; watches Patrick in his element, meeting and charming and encouraging everyone who talks to him: kids who look up to him, teenagers who want to be him, adults who want to fuck him (the encouragement is less then, obviously, but the stuttered responses to the flattery are no less endearing). Stevie joins David against the car a moment later and surreptitiously digs her elbow into his side. 

“You’re staring.” 

David tears his gaze away from his boyfriend and looks down at his best friend instead. “Well, if you deigned to do anything interesting, I’d look at you instead,” he clips. She glares at him and they both turn to look at Patrick once more, crouched down low to chat with a tiny girl who’s entirely too young to see Hamlet and so who’s probably just at the stage door to see her favorite singer. He signs something for her and David hears him say “May I?” to the girl’s mother who nods, before he’s reaching over the barricade and lifting her to sit on top, holding her steady as the mom snaps an adorable pic of the two of them. 

David might be scouring Patrick’s tagged photos on Instagram for it later. 

Next thing he knows, Patrick is calling out, “Thanks, everyone!” and walking up to the car. “Ready?” 

“Yep, uh huh,” David replies, reining in the desire to wrap his arm around Patrick’s waist, which would not be good in front of all of these eyewitnesses armed with unlimited data plans.

“You sure about that? You sound a little tense.” 

“Gross,” Stevie mutters as she climbs into the car, and Patrick gestures for David to follow. He gives one last wave to those still waiting before sliding in next to David and getting a hand on his knee the second Ivan shuts the door behind him. 

“Sorry,” he murmurs, looking sheepish and a little self-conscious, but David merely shakes his head. 

“Not everyone would take the time you do to make those that support you feel seen.” 

Stevie makes a retching sound to his right and he ignores her, politely neglecting to point out the fact that she took almost as much time as Patrick did with her dedicated public. The three of them bicker all the way to Rosedale, falling into the familiar rhythm of a well-loved tricycle, navigating the various cracks in the pavement that so much time apart has caused. 

Lena pulls into the driveway just as Stevie is regaling them with the time Aldridge nearly missed his cue because he and Stevie were locked in a vicious rock, paper, scissors battle backstage (which is really not what David wants to hear). They pile out of the car but not before Patrick leans over and presses a kiss to David’s temple, branding him. They’ve been plastered together, David scrunched in the middle of the seat, knees practically up to his nose with the heat of Patrick’s thigh seeping through his jeans, and yet that simple kiss is the most they’ve done. Besides the mindless patterns Patrick has been tracing on his leg, driving David to distraction. 

They bid Ivan and Lena goodnight, and Patrick hits on the lights and heads straight for the fridge, letting out a low whistle at the sight of the leftovers as he grabs a beer for himself and one for Stevie.

“You certainly were busy.” 

“Ted was,” David amends, grabbing a fresh wine glass out of the cabinet. 

“Where’s your stuff?” 

“Upstairs. You think I fly commercial and don’t immediately shower upon landing?” 

Stevie sneezes out a word that sounds suspiciously like snob. David ignores her. 

“Speaking of...” he trails off and steps forward, wiping a thumb across a stubborn splatter of fake blood by Patrick’s hairline, “you might want to follow my example.” 

Patrick hums and catches David’s wrist, pressing a kiss to his pulse point and staring at him like he thoroughly wishes David could join him. Instead, he clears his throat and steps away, opening his beer and taking a fortifying swig. “Probably for the best. Budd, you know where the towels are.” 

She salutes his retreating form with her beer bottle while David stands still as stone by the kitchen island. “I’m sorry, the towels? Why do you know where the towels are? And why do you need one?” 

She looks down at herself and gestures to her smeared makeup. “Because I’m going to shower, too. For reasons which I hope are obvious.” 

“Do you often shower at my boyfriend’s place?” Has his voice always been that high?

She shrugs. “He let me leave some stuff in the guest bathroom. It saved time when I would come over and keep him company before a day off.”

What the fuck? Stevie has a whole bathroom and David doesn’t even have a drawer. 

“Don’t do that.” 

“Do what?”

“Make that face.” 

“Make what face?”  

“It’s doing a thing.” 

“It’s my face!” 

“Oh my God, David, are you jealous?” 

He remains stubbornly silent, giving her all the answer she needs. Instead of mocking him, though, she looks… angry. Which is not what he expected. 

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe we bonded over the fact that we both just really missed you? Did that thought ever happen?” Then she groans and takes a long chug of her beer before all but stomping away from him towards the stairs. 

He stares after her because in fact it hadn’t. He’s spent the past few months bitter that Stevie got to see Patrick every day and celebrate his nominations and spend national holidays with him and his amazing parents, while David can’t even make a soppy Instagram post about the fact that his boyfriend is the most decorated artist in the Recording Academy this year. The bitterness and jealousy has been a constant companion, spending more time with him than either of the other two people in this house, and he can’t even fault them for it when it’s his own damn project that sent them away. Still, he leans into the feeling, basking in its familiarity, as toxic as it is. 

David is no stranger to toxicity.

He turns with a huff and yanks the cork out of the bottle of red that he and Ted opened earlier, forcing himself to gently take hold of the glass lest he snap its fragile stem. 

“Look,” Stevie’s voice says from the doorway, but his bruises are still too fresh to acknowledge her return. “I know this is not how you wanted to spend this evening, so I won’t stay long,” she begins and he peeks a glance over his shoulder, but she refuses to meet his eyes, shifting her weight from foot to foot, like the words physically pain her, “but he doesn’t get to have a monopoly on your time.”

David pauses mid-pour and turns to stare at her. 

Oh. 

In all of the months since Patrick came into his life, David never considered any scenario in which Stevie might be the jealous one - not of his romantic or sexual relationship with Patrick, but of the deep, developing friendship that anchors the whole thing. So David continues to silently stare because Stevie doesn’t have feelings as pedestrian as jealousy or love or anything remotely relating to the heart. He’s the jealous one, full of petty and pesky feelings about the time she and Patrick have gotten to spend without him over the last couple of months. 

And yet. 

David looks at his best friend, whom he only just called his ‘best friend’ for the first time a matter of weeks ago, at the start of this important thing that means so much to both of them; he looks at her and he sees every heart-related thing she refuses to give voice to. 

“You were there first,” he says softly. He promises. 

She visibly swallows and gives him a single, firm nod. “And don’t you forget it.” Then she turns without a word and disappears upstairs, taking all of the warmth from the kitchen with her. 

The breath he exhales is slow and uneven, and he doesn’t even realize he’s still holding the wine bottle until it nearly slips from his hand. He takes a sip from his glass, but the taste has gone out of it and he turns with a sigh and places both bottle and glass on the island, before setting his hands on the cold, granite countertop and letting his head hang down. 

He’s such a shit. 

After a few minutes of silent self-castigation, he hears bare feet pad towards him on the hardwood floor before strong arms wrap around his waist from behind. 

“Hey,” Patrick murmurs, and David feels him press a kiss between his shoulder blades before reaching up and planting one on the back of his ear, his damp hair tickling the sensitive skin. “Everything okay? I heard raised voices.” 

“Yeah. I think so,” he quietly replies, leaning back against Patrick’s sturdy chest and letting him take some of his weight. “In what I’m sure is shocking news for everyone, turns out Stevie and I aren’t great at processing our emotions. Or, you know, missing each other. Sharing.” 

Patrick’s laugh is warm on the back of David’s neck. “Sharing what?” 

“You, mainly.” 

“Me?” Patrick’s voice sounds as startled and confused as the sudden tension in his body suggests. 

David hums and turns in his arms, pressing a kiss to that furrowed brow. “Stevie’s jealous of us. I’m jealous of you two. And neither of us knows how to use our words.” 

“David,” he says so brokenly that David can’t help but wrap his arms around him. 

“It’s okay. We’re fine now.” Well, not fine. Nothing about them is fine and any certified psychologist would likely back him up on that assessment. 

“Did I do something?” Patrick quietly asks against his neck and David shakes his head. 

“No. We’re just idiots. Stevie missed me. I missed both of you. And apparently we’ve become so codependent, we don’t know what to do without the other.” He pulls away and cups Patrick’s perfect face. “You were exactly what she needed. And I think I’m just now seeing that.” 

“But it hurt you,” Patrick argues.  

“Nothing that helps Stevie hurts me.” That’s a lie, but he’s having a moment. A moment of growth.

“It’ll get better,” Patrick promises. “When we get back to New York, it won’t be as hard.” 

Won’t it be, though? 

It’s the thought that keeps plaguing him, despite how many times he tells himself the same thing. Just get to New York and everything will be fine. They’re still hiding, though. Still sneaking around. The thought of outing Patrick still wakes him up in a cold sweat in the dead of night, unable to temper the staccato beat of his hammering heart until dawn. 

He could tell Patrick, let him share the burden, but he doesn’t want what they have to ever be considered a burden.

“It’ll get better,” he whispers instead, pressing a soft kiss to Patrick’s softer lips, drawing whatever comfort he can from that oh-so-optimistic face. 

It has to. 

“Is it safe to come back in?” Stevie calls from somewhere in the vicinity of the stairs, and Patrick huffs out a laugh against his mouth but stays silent, letting David answer. 

“Yeah,” he replies, watching the doorway over Patrick’s shoulder for her cautious approach. She looks as unmoored as he feels, wet hair in a messy pile on her head, wearing the clothes she had arrived in. David should feel self-conscious about what of their conversation she overheard after her ridiculously fast shower, but whatever it was seems to have softened her previously prickly exterior. 

“So… am I expected to get my own drink or…?” She waves her empty bottle in their direction and Patrick chuckles as he steps forward and takes it, leaving the two of them to stare awkwardly at each other as he heads to the fridge for another. “We good?” she asks. 

“We’re good.” Then he opens his arms and she steps into them, curling into his chest in a way she hasn’t done since Emir broke her heart in the green room of the VMAs. 

True to her word, Stevie doesn’t stay beyond one more beer and an hour’s worth of conversation. They catch up on all that they’ve missed, from backstage shenanigans to stage door stories to the Rose Family Thanksgiving which dominates the rest of the evening’s conversation. Eventually, their yawns outweigh their quips, and Patrick orders Stevie an Uber under one of his aliases as David walks her to the door. 

“Good to have you back,” she murmurs. 

“We’re on the same plane home. You’re never getting rid of me now.” 

“Gross,” she says with an eye roll, but the final hug she bestows betrays the look of disgust on her face. “Brewer.” 

“Budd,” he replies, but his voice sounds tight. David spares a second to wonder what that’s about, but then a black car is pulling up to the curb and Patrick takes a step behind the door. Canadian niceties only extend so far, and David is sure The Star would love to get their hands on Patrick’s home address. 

David waits until Stevie is safely ensconced inside the Mercedes, holding a hand up in a wave, before shutting the door and leaning against it, watching Patrick watch him with an entirely too knowing look. 

“Don’t."

“Didn’t say anything, babe.” 

“Didn’t have to, honey.” He reaches out and tangles his fingers in Patrick’s t-shirt, tugging him closer so he can turn a kiss into a sigh, a soft gust of breath against lips that part readily for him. Patrick is gentle as he presses him up against the door, his body firm enough to hold him there but loose enough not to keep him should David wish to walk away. And he does, frankly. He’s spent enough of the evening with a door knob digging into his lower back, and he uses his lips as a distraction to get his hands on Patrick’s hips and clumsily walk him into the living room and push him down onto the couch. 

“Oh, hello,” Patrick says, grinning as David gets a leg over his lap and settles down. “Kind of envisioned doing this with you in a bed but I’m adaptable.” 

“Too far,” he whispers, cupping Patrick’s face and pulling him towards him as he grinds his hips down, drawing a grunt from between his swollen lips. 

“Fuck, David.” 

“Yes.” He wanted to take his time; had fantasized about dirty pageantry that took weeks and weeks to plan, but he’s too keyed up. And going by the way Patrick’s fingers are digging harder and harder into his ass, he’s not the only one. Patrick’s hands migrate under his sweater, gently scratching at the sensitive skin of his lower back, pulling a whine from between David’s lips and his sweater over his head. 

David doesn’t even watch to see where Patrick places it, too focused is he on divesting him of his own shirt. 

“You were so good tonight,” he whispers, holding the t-shirt to his chest. “You’re so good every night.” 

Patrick pulls away from David’s neck long enough to grace him with a shy smile. “Thank you, David.” Then his soft eyes darken as he reaches for the button on David’s jeans. 

“Wait, here.” David lifts his weight off Patrick’s lap and taps his hip, urging his butt off the couch so David can slide the cotton tee between Patrick and cushion. “Okay, now we can get naked.” 

“I notice that’s my shirt.” 

“I notice you have five more just like it in your online Costco shopping cart.” 

Wow.” His chuckle is deep and throaty, tugging at David’s gut, zinging down his spine. His fingers don’t stop working at David’s zipper though, and before David can mentally prepare for what it will feel like to have Patrick’s hands on him again, his jeans are being tugged open and his briefs are being lowered. 

He’d be embarrassed by the noise he makes against Patrick’s lips if Patrick didn’t echo it a second later as he takes him in hand and strokes him once, twice. David refuses to be sidetracked, though, and it takes some maneuvering, but they eventually divest themselves of their remaining clothing. Patrick takes a moment to fix the shirt he’s sitting on before leaning back and guiding David onto his lap once more. They didn’t discuss it, but this is how they’re doing things tonight. Sometimes they don’t need words. Terrifyingly, it’s happening more and more often. 

Patrick gets a hand on him again, stroking slowly but firmly, and David’s head falls back, letting Patrick’s tongue trace his throat. Something goes crashing to the floor a second later and he squints an eye open to see that Patrick has knocked a picture frame off the side table with his free hand’s blind fumbling. 

“Shit, sorry. Hang on.” He lets go of David’s cock but holds onto his hip as he leans over and tugs the small drawer open, pulling out a bottle of lube and a condom, much to David’s sex-dazed delight. 

“Um, do you always keep lube in your living room?” 

Patrick actually has just enough blood in his cheeks to look bashful. “It’s been here ever since opening night.” 

“Ah.”

Opening Night. One of their best. After they finally managed to make it to the bedroom where all of the important and necessary supplies were. 

David takes the lube from him and pops the cap, carefully pouring some along Patrick's fingers. “You got me?” 

Patrick swallows hard, like it’s the first time, but nods confidently, like it’s not. “I got you.” Then his hand disappears between them and David’s breath hitches as it finds its target, circling gently. David buries his face in Patrick’s hair and inhales his shampoo, exhaling hotly as Patrick’s first finger slips in. “Okay?” 

“Mm.” He relaxes after a moment. It’s been a while. “Perfect.” 

Patrick prepares him carefully but thoroughly, using his free hand to map the skin he hasn’t gotten to touch in entirely too long when he’s not using it to reapply lube; tickling a rib, pinching a nipple, biting a lip, tugging an ear. By the time Patrick removes his fingers and quietly asks, “Ready?” David is a quivering mess in his lap, precome painting Patrick’s stomach and sweat shining on his skin. 

“Yeah. Need you.” 

Patrick rolls the condom on and slicks himself up, hastily wiping his hand on a tissue before helping David kneel up on legs that don’t quite want to work. “Easy, easy.” He guides him into place and slowly helps him down, and while this isn’t exactly the take-charge fucking David initially had in mind for this evening, he thinks it’s something better. Patrick takes a moment to groan against David’s chin and, yeah, it’s definitely something better. 

“Holy fuck, Patrick.” 

“You okay?” 

“So fucking good.” He starts to move then, a slow rocking that gradually finds its rhythm. Patrick flops back against the couch and bites his lower lip, his fingers digging into David’s flexing thighs like he’s just trying to hold on; like he’s never felt pleasure like this and David is the only one who can give it to him. His hands slide up David’s legs, thumbs pressing into the dip of his hip as he starts to grunt with every roll of David’s body. This isn’t going to last long - David’s barely holding on by a thread and the look on Patrick’s face tells him he isn’t doing much better. He reaches down and gets a hand on himself and the brief touch alone is enough to set his nerve endings on fire. He gets his free hand around the back of Patrick’s neck and leans down, pressing their foreheads together as he picks up the pace. 

“Oh God, David,” Patrick finally groans, sitting back up and moving his hands to David’s ass, pulling him tight against him and thrusting one, two, three, times before coming with a cry against his mouth. David grinds down and strokes just twice more before he’s coming all over Patrick’s stomach and clumsily pressing his lips against any part of him he can touch, both of them shivering through the aftershocks. 

“Ngh.” 

“Yeah,” Patrick croaks, gently stroking up and down David’s heaving back as his heart rate attempts to return to normal. 

“I can’t move,” he manages, and it’s true; his muscles are burning and he really should have listened to his trainer more when he extolled the virtues of leg day. 

Patrick chuckles lazily against his jaw before nosing his way back over to David’s mouth and pressing a sated kiss to his lips. “I’ll help you,” he whispers, kissing him again. Then he gets a hand on David’s knee, leans forward, almost dipping David, and scoots to the edge of the couch so there’s enough room for David to straighten his legs, before wrapping them around Patrick’s waist without dislodging him. “Better?” 

David hums, holding him close. Things will get rather disgusting in a minute, but for now, he just clasps his wrists behind Patrick’s neck and presses his face into his hair. “That was good.” 

“Agreed.” 

He sighs deeply and gives in to the feeling of Patrick’s guitar-calloused fingers tracing patterns on his skin. 

“Want off?” 

“Yeah, probably.” 

Patrick kisses his chin and then takes hold of his ass once more, picking David up without disconnecting them before turning and gently laying him down on the couch, right on top of the t-shirt. He gets a hand on the base of the condom and pulls out, tying it off and pressing another kiss to David’s upturned knee. 

“Water?” 

“Water would be good,” David replies, still too blissed out to do anything but paw blindly at Patrick’s face in an approximation of a pat. He hears Patrick’s laughter as he drifts away towards the kitchen and minutes later, a cold glass is pressed into his hand. He blinks his eyes open to find Patrick kneeling next to the couch like he’s fucking Prince Charming about to kiss some someone who should have listened more to her after-school specials awake. “Thank you.” 

“Got it?” 

“Mm hm.” David sits up enough to crane his neck and take a gulp, passing it back to Patrick as he sits on the edge of the cushion and takes a drink himself. They stare at each other for a moment, just taking the presence of the other in. 

It’s been a long few weeks. 

“Flight okay?” Patrick quietly asks, like he’s still afraid to break the moment. 

David nods before he remembers a little girl with wide eyes and a question full of hope. “Oh, hold on, I have something for you.” 

“You do?” 

He hums as he leans over the side and grabs his carry-on from the floor, grunting as he tugs at the zipper to pull the note the girl gave him from the inside pocket. “Lovely Nadia recognized me and wanted a photo. It’s on Instagram and, frankly, I look great. Then she asked if I would give this to you,” he says, handing over the card. “I promised her I’d place it directly in your hand, though when I made said promise, I did not expect us to be naked and I feel a little dirty about that, but here we are.” 

Patrick laughs as he slides a finger beneath the seal, pulling out a generic (if tasteful) thank you card and flipping it open. He reads for a moment, then two, inhaling sharply as his lower lip does a thing that takes a chisel to David’s perpetually softening heart. His eyes scan the page and then he reads it again, smiling slightly even though his eyes are a little wet. David is growing concerned. 

“Honey?” 

“Here,” Patrick murmurs, pushing the card into his hands.

“What?”

“Be right back.” And then he gets up completely starkers and walks to the stairs. 

“Where are you going?” David calls after him, but Patrick just disappears into the basement. He looks down at the card in his hand and opens it, beginning to read Nadia’s shockingly neat (if hastily scrawled) handwriting. 

Dear Patrick,

My name is Nadia and I am eleven years old. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. I was in the hospital for awhile and they poked me a bunch and needles are the worst, but mom was with me the whole time. My dad died when I was six, so it’s just us. We listened to your music a lot. Like a lot. And it helped. It made me happy when I was sad and strong when I felt weak. We watched your interviews and laughed, and mom read me some of your articles. I’m doing a lot better than the doctors thought I would. They didn’t actually tell me that, but I knew. This year, I’m going to learn the guitar.

So I just wanted to say thank you. I saw David in the airport and I needed you to know. 

I hope you are well and I can’t wait to come to see Hamlet.

Your fan for life,
Nadia Anwar 

PS Thank you, David. 

David reads it again, making sure he absorbs every word. He had been annoyed when she interrupted him, but what had he really been doing? Drinking mediocre coffee and counting down the minutes until he could hold Patrick again. And this girl had - 

Well, what she’d lived through in her short and apparently borrowed time puts David to utter shame. He swallows hard and tries not to drip tears on the note that one of them will definitely be keeping. 

Patrick returns a moment later, and David is disappointed to see that he’s pulled on a hoodie and a pair of gym shorts and, perhaps even more concerning, slung his guitar across his back. 

“Um, what’s all this?” 

But Patrick has that determined look on his face as he bends down and pulls his phone from his jeans pocket on the floor. “You said she tagged you on Instagram?” 

“Yeah. Before I took off.” He watches Patrick’s thumb fly across the screen before he pauses, his face softening as he stares. 

“Good picture,” he murmurs, and David hums.  

“I appreciated her filter usage.” 

“Cute kid.” 

“Yeah.” You’d never know she was still fighting a battle the experts had all but told her was unwinnable. 

Patrick clears his throat, as if he’d been thinking the same thing, and hands the phone to David, camera open and set to video. “If you wouldn’t mind.” 

“What are you doing?” 

“You’ll see.” Then he winks. It’s terrible. 

David sits up, still as naked as the day he was born, and sits cross-legged (on the t-shirt, thank you very much), as Patrick takes a seat opposite him on the couch. When it becomes clear David has no idea what he’s supposed to do, Patrick clears his throat and nods towards the phone as he swings his guitar around into his lap. 

“How do I look?” 

“Like you just fucked me senseless,” David replies, before holding up the phone horizontally. “Ready when you are, though, I guess.” 

Patrick runs a hand through his helpless hair, only succeeding in making it stick up in tufts at the front instead of in the back, before he nods. David hits the red button on the screen. 

“Hey, guys,” Patrick begins, strumming lazily on the strings. “Been a while since I’ve posted anything. Been a little busy, as you might imagine.” Another wink. Another eye roll from David. “But I wanted to test out one of the new covers I’ve been working on… maybe for a future tour… or, ya know, just one of these,” he says, grinning at the camera. “This one is going out to Nadia, for being far stronger than I could ever be.” He looks at the camera again. “Thanks for the note. It means the world.” Then his eyes meet David’s briefly before flicking back down to the lens. “I’m looking forward to meeting you in person at Hamlet whenever you can come.” 

The notes start to take shape, sounding vaguely familiar and poppy - which immediately sets David on edge. Though he’s never heard a Patrick cover he hasn’t liked, he does feel the need to brace himself whenever Patrick veers into the pop canon. He narrows his gaze in warning, but Patrick only has eyes for his guitar as he plucks out a slow, mournful tune. 

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from cavin' in?”

Well. 

Katy Perry isn’t usually David’s first choice, despite the fact that she made sure he stayed hydrated at the Grammys afterparty, but he has to admit, given the circumstances, it’s not bad. Bang on, even. Especially the way Patrick has slowed it down, simplified it, and somehow made it completely his own. He builds toward the chorus, the delicious vein in his neck popping as the ballad slowly morphs into an anthem, one befitting Nadia and the war she’s waged. 

“'Cause baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth...”

And David is having a hell of a time keeping his hands steady as the man he… likes (a horrifying amount) takes time out of his evening to make a little girl’s day. Not many people would do that. 

Then again, not many people are Patrick. 

And if his voice breaks slightly on You're original, cannot be replaced” well, David is too choked up himself to call him out on it. 

🎭  🎭  🎭

@pbandjamsessions: HAVE WE SEEN THE SONG?
      @ellamaysay: WE HAVE.
@brewsclues: hot take - p has a secret someone
      @pbandjamsessions: what makes you say that?
@brewsclues: who filmed it? 
      @pbandjamsessions: so there are these things called tripods?
@brewsclues: unless there was an earthquake happening in the greater Toronto area, there’s no way that thing was on a steady surface. 
@brewsclues: also, you can see a finger over the lens at the beginning. seriously. go look.
      @pbandjamsessions: *softly* oh.

Chapter Text

Of all of the closings David has been to (and there have been many), this is by far the most joyous. Because it’s not the end. It’s intermission. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you soon.  

He and Patrick made sure to arrive separately. In fact, Stevie came over to Patrick’s first because David was supposedly staying with her and she’s a saint (her words), and they hopped in an Uber while Lena drove Patrick ten minutes later. 

He’s barely stepped foot into the lobby of the Princess of Wales before a wall of people approaches him. Investors like Don and Bev (ugh) and creative team members like Twyla and Bob (“Sorry, Bob, I haven’t seen Gwen.”). Ronnie and Ray are by the bar, naturally, and she raises her cup of amber alcohol (because it sure as hell isn’t juice) as he tries to make his way to her. 

“So sorry - yes, just one second,” he says to no one in particular as Bev Taylor digs her french tips into his forearm, “uh huh, yep, Ruth and Miguel will be handling opening night ticket allotments, Bev.” 

Ruth chooses that moment to swoop in and intervene before David has a chance to throttle someone with his backstage pass lanyard. He uses the momentary distraction to duck his head down (a hard thing to accomplish given his hairstyle of choice) and make a beeline towards his agent. 

“Here,” she grunts, shoving a plastic cup full of… he sniffs… yup, vodka, into his hand. 

“Bless you, my child,” he mumbles around the rim of the lid as Ronnie makes a disgruntled noise of disgust. 

“David!” Ray booms, even though he’s all of two feet away. “So good to see you again.” 

David groans as the alcohol burns its way down his esophagus. “You too, Ray.” And honestly, it has been a while, now that he and Patrick no longer need their agents to coordinate their schedules and plan their meetings. If for any reason he can’t reach Patrick directly, he reaches out to Ted or Ivan. Or, more recently, Stevie, to which she constantly replies, “I am not your fucking secretary.” 

“David!” a familiar voice calls and he turns just in time for a blur of red hair and Burberry perfume to envelop him. He grunts as Rachel’s petite form holds him tight, continually surprised by her strength, and he holds his drink away so he doesn’t spill down her back, despite the lid on top. They’re faulty at best. 

“Hi, Rachel,” he murmurs, allowing himself to sink into the embrace. He knew she’d be here, considering they’d exchanged texts last night. In fact, her message to him popped up nearly as soon as Patrick had posted his video: 

[Rachel]
Please tell him he’s not allowed to announce a tour, even a vague one, without giving me a heads up first. I’ve told him this countless times, but perhaps he’ll listen to you. 

David had replied with: 

What makes you think he listens to me? 

But all she sent back was: 

[Rachel]
🤐
Oh and I’ll reach out to Nadia’s mother and arrange a date. 

Get them a hotel room for the night in the area. On me. 

[Rachel]
🥰

No, he hasn’t seen her as a threat since Patrick assured him she wasn’t, and ever since their conversation about what it’s like to be with Patrick Brewer, he’s realizing more and more that he views her as an ally. A confidant. A friend. 

“How are you?” she asks as she pulls away. 

“Good. Feeling good. It was a good run and the next will be even better,” he states with a confidence he almost feels.  

She hums, narrowing her eyes. “But how are you?” 

And he can hear every word she isn’t saying beneath the four she does. “It’s been tough,” he says quietly. 

She nods and briefly cups his cheek. “I know.” Then she raises her own beverage, cheersing her wine against his vodka. “So let’s drink up.” 

“Let’s.” 

“To a job well done.” 

He feels his cheeks flush and mumbles, “It’s not done yet” into his Grey Goose. They haven’t even gotten through the end of the year. Christmas is around the corner and then they start rehearsals again in February for March previews and an April opening. The road is long. And winding. And dotted with alligator-infested swamp waters.

David takes another healthy gulp of his drink. 

“Like riding a bike,” Rachel says calmly, like she knows exactly what was going through his head. 

“Yeah, I don’t know how to do that.” 

“Oh my God, David!” a voice suddenly calls from behind him and he freezes, staring at Rachel with increasingly abject terror. 

No.

“This is so exciting!” 

Oh no. 

He turns, already wincing, to find Alexis trotting over to him, wrists bent and fingers wiggling like some creature out of a Guillermo del Toro movie. 

“What are you doing here?” 

“Um, hello to you, too! I know you banned Mom and Dad, which, rude actually, considering they’re paying for most of this, but Ted invited me.” 

“Um, when - when did he do this?” Ted made no mention at all of inviting Alexis in any of their conversations the day before.

“He texted me last night and asked if I was coming, and he seemed very upset when he found out I wasn’t.” She shrugs. “So I hopped a flight this morning.” 

“So he didn’t actually invite you.” 

“It was implied, David!” she hisses with a slap to his shoulder. 

He turns back around for a little bit of sympathy, but Ronnie has disappeared and Rachel and Ray are watching the argument like it’s a Real Housewives marathon. 

“Hey, girl. So good to see you,” Alexis says, all but shoving David out of the way to wrap her arms around Rachel. In what is obviously a blatant show of betrayal, Rachel hugs back hard, blowing a kiss over her shoulder in response to David’s dismayed face. 

“Okay, Benedict Arnold, thanks so much.” And with that, he turns and all but stomps off towards the backstage door again, ignoring the various shouts of his name as he pushes his way through the crowd. 

Glancing at his phone, he sees it’s 2:38pm, not so close to the 3pm start that Patrick won’t still be in his dressing room. He bangs into the hallway, ignoring Ken where he’s taking selfies with Malcolm and Carl, which he really shouldn’t be doing this close to curtain. Or at all, really. That’s what the fucking party is for. 

“Not the time, Ken,” he mutters as he passes because, after all, the Assistant Director should actually want the actors to get into character, final performance or not, and his frustration has him nearly skidding to a stop in front of Patrick’s open door to - “Oh.” 

“Hey, bud,” Ted greets, where he sits on the couch, obviously mid-conversation with Patrick at the vanity.  

“Hey.” Actually, this works. “So, my sister’s here?” he says, crossing his arms over his chest as Ted’s eyes blow wide. 

“She is?” His Adam’s apple visibly bobs. 

“Huh huh. Yep. Know anything about that?” 

“Uhhhhh,” Ted glances from David to Patrick to David again. “I honestly don’t? But, I’ll just - ” He gestures vaguely towards the door, but David doesn’t move an inch, forcing Ted to slide sideways past him before all but sprinting to the lobby. 

He turns back to Patrick. “Really? Best friends since 14?” 

Patrick laughs and nods, taking a swig from his water bottle. “Best friends since 14.” 

David huffs and uncrosses his arms, stepping into the room so he can close the door. “I know Alexis could do, and has done, much worse. But can he just, like - give me a heads up when he inadvertently invites my sister to my closing performance and she jumps on a plane faster than Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle?” 

Patrick chuckles as he stands and wraps his arms around David’s waist as David drapes his over his shoulders. “I’ll have a talk with him.” 

“See that you do.” 

“How is it out there?” 

David sighs into his neck. “Insufferable.”

Patrick’s chuckle rumbles against David’s ribcage. “You’re welcome to hide back here if you want. The snacks are fully stocked.” 

And while David appreciates Patrick for seeing him as the ravenous chipmunk he is, he can’t do that. “And miss my last chance to see you do Hamlet for another two months?”

Patrick shrugs. “I wouldn’t blame you. There are a lot of people out there who want a piece of David Rose.” He squeezes his ass to drive the point home, but David just shakes his head. 

“Nothing could keep me from watching you tear that stage apart one last time.” 

Patrick smiles softly and presses a kiss to his lips. “It’s not the last time.” 

But before he can respond to that, a knock sounds at the door and they’re quick to jump apart as Cecilia, Patrick’s dresser, sticks her head in. If she notices the way they both look like they just got caught mid-bank robbery, she doesn’t say anything. 

“They’re about to call fifteen. Hey, David.”

“Hi.” 

She holds up the shirt she’s obviously been steaming and gives Patrick a look. “No more tea in costume, yes?” 

“Yes,” he replies sheepishly. 

Cecilia went to university with Patrick, and though they had lost touch over the years, Patrick knew vaguely what she was working on through social media. In fact, during David’s early Instagram stalking, @ceestitches was one of the limited accounts @patrickbrewer followed. So when Ruth and Miguel asked him who he wanted as his dresser, an arguably intimate job, Patrick reached out to Cecilia and plucked her from the Canadian national tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Having known “Patty Brew” since before he became Patrick Brewer to the world means she doesn’t let him get away with anything, no matter how many Grammys he’s nominated for. David likes her enormously. And not just because she introduced him to the nickname her hockey-playing boyfriend bestowed on his left winger. 

“Tea? Really?” 

“Could have been worse,” Patrick replies with a challenging gaze and, boy, does David know it. He lost count of the amount of times intense, clandestine makeout sessions almost resulted in inappropriate stains. 

His face heats and he darts a gaze to Cecilia, but she just moves about the space, ignoring them, doing her job by making sure Patrick doesn’t walk out onstage with a vital piece of his costume missing. He slips off his tee to change, and David’s eyes go wide at the sight of a bite mark at his shoulder. Patrick must catch the look on his face and he glances down, his face blanching. 

Oops, he mouths, but that’s a fucking understatement if David’s ever heard one. It’s not the first time he’s ever marked Patrick, but it is the first time he’s realized he’s not the only one who gets to see him this disrobed. 

Does she know? He nods towards Cecilia, who’s at the rack in the corner, running a lint roller over Patrick’s black pants one last time. Patrick shakes his head, but he doesn’t look all that convinced, and David buries his face in his hands. 

By the time he peeks up again, Patrick has pulled the newly clean shirt over his head and is adjusting the collar and staring at David while trying not to look like he is.

I’m sorry, David mouths again. 

I don’t mind, Patrick replies, but he should. He should mind. He shouldn’t have to worry about people knowing his most intimate business just because David can’t keep his fucking teeth to himself. 

“Turn,” Cecilia instructs, holding up the belt and scabbard, because though the costumes are decidedly more contemporary, there was no way in hell David was putting guns on his stage.  

“Yes, ma’am,” Patrick replies, meeting David’s gaze in the mirror as he holds his arms out so Cecilia can wrap hers around his waist. “I’ll see you after?” It’s okay.

David swallows and nods. “See you after.” It’s not the goodbye he wanted to give him before the closing, but it’ll have to do. He starts to head for the hall, but Patrick calls out to him again.  

“David?” 

He turns. “Yeah?” 

“We’ve got this.” 

David nods and knocks on the doorframe just once. “Never doubted it. Not for a single moment.” 

Patrick smiles the smile that’s just for him, and Cecilia hides a pleased grin as she adjusts the strap on Patrick’s shoulder. Maybe she does know. Or maybe she at least has a feeling. 

And maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. 

“Good luck.” 

Patrick grins. 

“It’s ‘break a leg.” 

 🎭 🎭 🎭

The closing performance is electric. Like, the kind of electric that makes the Eiffel Tower look like a fucking matchstick.

Alexis is practically vibrating in the seat beside him; the seat that the box office somehow magically procured for her at this very important, sold out performance. At least it means he’s not next to Ken. After all, what notes would he have to give? There will be no show to implement them. At least not for another three months. 

And because of that, he’s feeling rather emotional right from the downbeat, his throat going tight the second the music he hears in his sleep fills the house. He’ll never get tired of watching people actively straighten in their seats when they hear it. As if they realize this is not a Hamlet they’ve ever heard before. And when Patrick enters? Forget it. Silent tears spill over, tracking down David’s cheeks because he’s just - so fucking proud.  

Alexis reaches over and grips his arm, leaving her hand there for the entirety of the first act except when she needs it back to clap. Which happens quite often, actually. Intermission passes by in a blur of euphoric producers and hobnobbing attendees. Someone (Ronnie? Rachel?) shoves another drink in his hand, and then it’s back for act two and Alexis’ fingers digging into his cashmere once more. By the time his actors take their much-deserved bow, David’s blotchy skin is a lost cause, a disaster worthy of FEMA. He watches Patrick gesture everyone into his sides, getting an arm across Stevie and Helen’s shoulders. It’s not a customary part of the curtain call (at least not the one that David staged), but he appreciates the solidarity. He loves the fact that his actors love each other, love this work, and want to show that love to the people who’ve paid to see it. Patrick’s face practically glows in the bright lights, eyes dancing and lips pressed together in barely contained emotion. If melancholy joy had an expression, it would be that. 

David groans as he wipes at his cheeks and reminds himself, once again, that it’s not goodbye. It’s see you soon.

“Come on,” Alexis murmurs, gently pushing him into the aisle, but he can’t move. Not until every last actor has left the stage. 

Their huddled line takes one more bow, a clumsy thing that has them all laughing, and then they break apart into smaller clusters, as if not a single one of them can bear to exit alone. Patrick takes Stevie’s hand and presses a kiss to the back of it, the cheers and catcalls still deafening, but his eyes sweep over the crowd once more, lingering in the area of the orchestra where he knows David usually sits. He probably can’t see him - not over the glare of the lights and the sea of cell phones raised to record this final moment, but David finds himself raising a hand and going on his toes anyway, just in case.  

There’s a spark of recognition, one that David keeps for himself, as Patrick presses his free palm to chest and then waves to the audience once more, before allowing Stevie to tug him stage right and off into the wings. 

Now David can go. 

Or, he would if the throngs of people weren’t all trying to accomplish the exact same task. Accolades are shouted at him from all directions and hands pat his shoulder as he tries to move through the melee. Alexis has a firm grip on his waist and is actively steering him like he’s the jet ski she once used to escape a private island in the Caribbean. 

The lobby isn’t much better, though, despite the ample real estate. It’s like the audience has grown and multiplied and plotted together to keep him from sneaking out the back door towards the dressing rooms. The second he lets go of one hand, another is there to take its place as various investors are only too willing to let him know their thoughts on everything from creative decisions to marketing strategies. There’s literally an open bar a five minute walk away. If he has to listen to these necessary suggestions, can’t they all do it over a cocktail? Alexis intervenes when she can, but they’re vastly outnumbered and even Rachel steps in to deflect some of the questions about press. Eventually Lydia, Ruth, and Miguel start to herd everyone towards the lobby leading to the street when a voice rings out over the din:

“David!” Ted calls from the door David is still glancing back at longingly. “Got a minute? You’re needed.” 

“Yes!” he all but screams, elbowing his way through the masses like a salmon swimming upstream and leaving his sister to fend for herself. He’s practically panting by the time he gets to the door, and Ted claps a hand on his shoulder. 

“You okay, bud?” 

“Jesus Christ. They’re fucking velociraptors.”

“Well, hurry,” Ted says theatrically as he ducks them into the hallway, “I don’t think they saur us.” 

God. It’s almost endearing. 

Almost. 

“Is everything okay?” he prompts when Ted doesn’t elaborate on why he’s been summoned. 

“Oh sure,” Ted replies with a shrug. “You just looked like you needed to get out of there.” 

Truer words were never spoken. “Thanks.” He cranes his neck but doesn’t see Ivan loitering anywhere. “Um, is he still in his dressing room or on his way to the party?” The glad-handers must have kept him occupied for longer than he realized. 

“Neither.” 

“Neither?” 

But then, without a word, Ted tells David exactly where Patrick is with just a simple nod of his head. 

“Ah.” David turns for the door that leads towards stage right, pausing once more as Ted calls out to him again. 

“The performance was dino-mite, by the way.” 

Oh for fuck’s sake. David’s groan echoes down the empty hallway, mingling with Ted’s laughter, which follows him into the wings. He cannot believe that his sister is as besotted with a man as ridiculous as Ted Mullens. Then again, she could do worse. As he’s said many times, she has done worse. He thinks of Ted and his veterinary aspirations and his punny aprons and his loyalty to Patrick; thinks that Ted isn’t so bad because he’s not actually bad at all. 

David’s boots click quietly on the deck, barely heard over the crew members already bustling around, wrapping up and breaking down. Moving on. He walks towards the line where the dark of offstage bleeds into the glow of on, but he remains behind the proscenium, watching the ghost light stand tall at center stage for a moment. Sticking his head out, his eyes scan the empty theatre - but not that empty, as he spies the man he’s looking for sitting in the back of the orchestra. He tries to figure out the best way to get to him, but the stairs they use during tech have long since been broken down, and to go the usual way would mean braving the lobby once more. Deciding there’s nothing for it, he steps out onto the stage and heads for the edge, getting a hand on the deck and gingerly hopping down, still landing with an indelicate grunt. 

“You been going to the gym?” Patrick calls. “Because that looked effortless.”

“Yes I have, and thank you for noticing.” He huffs as he makes his way up the slightly inclined aisle. He has not been going to the gym and never has that been more apparent than right this second. 

“How’d you know where to find me?” Patrick softly asks as David settles down next to him in the vacant, velvet-lined seat. 

“You love an empty theatre.” 

Patrick smiles. “And how do you know that?” 

“Ted let it slip once. Said you were romantic like that.” He raises an eyebrow at Patrick’s answering eye roll. “Also, I have Ivan on speed dial.” 

That gets a chuckle. “Fair enough.” 

David inhales and looks around. Ted wasn’t wrong, though. There is something romantic about an empty theatre, the ghost light holding court over a sea of invisible players. 

“I always take a moment in every auditorium I play,” Patrick murmurs, tipping his head back to stare at the ornate ceiling. “As if to say thanks. To pay my respects.” 

“Even the stadiums?” 

“Especially the stadiums.” 

Leave it to David to go ahead and fall for Sporty Spice. He finds Patrick’s knee in the dim light and squeezes. “You were great up there.” 

Patrick places his hand on top of David’s and lifts his head. “Thanks to you.” 

But that’s - that’s not right at all. “No, I might have helped, but I didn’t do that.” 

Patrick is still staring at him. “Yes, you did.” 

David swallows hard, wanting to look away, needing to look away, but it’s like the force of Patrick’s gaze won’t let him. He can’t stop losing himself in brown eyes that have upended his entire world. 

You did that,” Patrick says again, more fiercely even, as if willing him to see what seems to be so plain to everyone else. 

David turns his palm and joins their hands, squeezing again; hoping the simple gesture conveys the words he can’t.

“Come on,” he finally manages, clearing his throat and squeezing again before releasing his hold, “let’s get sloppy drunk so we can nurse our hangovers on the flight home tomorrow.” 

Patrick tenses again, the same expression coming over his face that he wore the night before when Stevie stood at the door and David said, “We’re on the same plane home. You’re never getting rid of me now.” 

Patrick hasn’t moved, and an uneasy feeling drops into David’s gut. There’s a party back at Soho House again, the attendees of which are all probably waiting for them to arrive, but it feels like Patrick has something to say first. David opens his mouth to ask him what’s wrong, but before he can, the words come:

“They shifted filming.” 

It’s such a non sequitur, that for a moment, David’s thrown, but it’s like his heart knows before his brain can catch up because it’s already cracking. “What?” 

“Yeah. I’m called on Tuesday.” 

This Tuesday? As in the day after tomorrow?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Oh.” No wonder Patrick tensed any time someone mentioned going home. After all, Patrick won’t be joining them. David feels a stab of betrayal he thoroughly tries to ignore. “When were you going to tell me?” 

“When you got here. I didn’t want to do it over the phone, but then you and Stevie had that discussion and you seemed so upset over being apart and I just - I wanted one more night. Where you didn’t know we had to say goodbye. We’ve had enough disappointment.” 

David swallows past his tight throat and manages a nod. “Right. And then it’s the holidays.” 

“And then it’s the holidays.” 

Silence descends, broken only by the occasional bang from backstage. David had thought it would change once the show closed, and though ‘braced for disappointment’ is his factory setting, it still hurts. 

“Come with me,” Patrick finally murmurs. 

“What? Where?” 

“To Charleston. Come with me. I’m not there long. It’s not a big role.” 

“Patrick, you know I can’t.” 

“Yes, you can. We’re having work meetings. Everyone knows we’re prepping for the show. Come down, hang on set for a few days. And then - then maybe we can swing by my parents’? They’ll be south for Christmas.” 

God, he looks so hopeful. 

“I can’t miss the holiday party. My parents would kill me.” 

“Then we’ll fly back for it.” 

David doesn’t miss the we. “I can’t keep you from your family at Christmas.” 

“They’ll come with us. Mom loves the Rockettes.” He still looks so hopeful. 

To be honest, David is feeling kind of hopeful, too. 

“Okay.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

 
BrewsClues: anyone else notice that david rose was tagged in this photo at JFK yesterday? 
      PBandJ: and?
BrewsClues: look at who posted it. 
      PBandJ: OMG NADIA. Aw. David clearly gave Patrick a note from her. That’s so sweet! 
Ampersand: I didn’t think the Roses were known for their sweetness. 
     BrewsClues: back off, i would die for alexis. 
PBandJ: I would die for moira’s wardrobe.
     BrewsClues: the POINT is that David was probably the one filming. He’s in town for Hamlet’s closing. So, there goes the secret someone theory. 
PBandJ: bummer. I love intrigue. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

South Carolina is as festive as a humid state can be at the holidays. Though whoever thought putting Christmas lights on palm trees was a good idea clearly needs to take an anatomy class. David hasn’t inappropriately giggled this much since Nathan Lane invited him to a downtown production of Lysistrata after three martinis. 

They had parted ways with Stevie the day before at Patrick’s house, leaving her to take the pre-booked flight home while David joined Patrick on the jet taking him south. Shannon, the company manager, didn’t seem suspicious when he informed her he wouldn’t need his ticket, like David accompanying Patrick to a set for a film he had no involvement in just made sense. Then again, Shannon never asks a lot of questions and that’s why David likes her. 

The production puts Patrick in the Presidential Suite at Charleston Place, which is a little stuffier and old school than David would like, but that was before he felt the thread count of the sheets and got a look at the offerings from the spa. He spends Patrick’s first day on set getting a full body pampering, literally from his head to his toes, before lounging on the patio with a spritz and a novel he never seemed to have time to finish. 

“Thought I’d find you out here,” Patrick says, and David tips his head back, feeling delightfully buzzed, watching upside down as Patrick saunters up to him, baseball hat pulled low and sunglasses hooked into his shirt.  

“Who gave me away?” 

“Dominique from the concierge.” 

“Mmm. She recommended the Aperol spritz.” 

Patrick chuckles lowly, using his body to block the gesture as he runs his fingers through David’s hair. “I can see that. She also made us a dinner reservation.” 

“Ooh. Where?” 

“The Peninsula Grill.” 

“Keep talking.” 

“Famous for their coconut cake.” 

“Sold.” He hauls himself out of the chair, swaying slightly as the prosecco in his head sloshes around. 

“You gonna make it?” 

“Unclear. Unclear if I’m gonna make it.” He allows Patrick to steady him, though - just a sturdy hand on his bicep, nothing more - before Ivan leads them through the lobby and directly onto a waiting elevator. Getting off on the top floor, he walks them to the door of the Presidential Suite, before heading to his room just across the hall. 

Luckily, the suite boasts a sofa bed, and apparently no one blinked an eye when Ted called to explain that a friend of Patrick’s would be staying with him in the living room. Which is why David can breathe easy as he follows Patrick inside, drops his book on said sofa bed, and grabs a bottle of water from the kitchen, downing half of it in one go. By the time he meanders into the spacious bedroom, Patrick is already half naked and the groan that leaves David’s mouth is entirely inadvertent. He blames the prosecco for that, too. 

Patrick pauses in unbuttoning his jeans. “See something you like?”

“You know I do.” 

Their shower is not brief, but it certainly is thorough, as they get clean, get dirty, and then get clean once more. 

“Get it all?” David asks (slurs more like) as Patrick presses a sloppy, sexed out kiss to his shoulder blade.

“Mm. Yeah.” He runs the wash cloth over David’s ass again just to be sure, before swatting him gently. 

They dress quietly and methodically, the hush that had fallen over them under the rainwater shower head following them into the bedroom. They have time. After this, they go to the Brewers’ and then to New York and then - 

And then, life is theirs. 

Or as theirs as it can be. 

David smooths down the front of his sweater and watches as Patrick shrugs into an adorably boring blue blazer. He pairs it with a grey v-neck t-shirt and his usual jeans, though, and David has to admit that if he didn’t just come all over the marble wall in the shower, he’d absolutely get to his knees for the vision before him. 

Instead, he grabs his iPad and tucks the stylus into its holder in the leather folio, clutching it to his chest as he checks his pocket for his phone. 

“What’s that for?” Patrick asks, pointing at the iPad, soft smile still in place. 

David pauses, raising an eyebrow. “To make this look like a work dinner.” 

“Oh.” Whatever happiness that was on Patrick’s face dims a bit. Truth be told, David’s dims a little too. “Right.” 

Too often, David is the one being talked down from the emotional cliff that long distance (secret) relationships perpetually teeter on. Too often, Patrick has been the one with a wise word or a hand to hold, keeping David from sliding down that spiral; keeping his feet firmly on the ground. 

Perhaps now, though, David can return the favor. 

“Hey.” 

Patrick glances up from where his eyes had locked onto the folio. 

“It’s just a prop.” He shrugs and drops the iPad on a side table. “Just pretend. The people in this hotel and in that restaurant? They’re the audience. That,” he says, pointing to the folio, “is nothing. This, however…” he steps closer and ghosts his fingers down Patrick’s lapels, “this is everything.” Then he lets go to cup his face in his hands. “This is real.” 

Patrick swallows hard and nods, the light back in his eyes. “It’s real.” 

“You got me?” 

Patrick smiles and whispers, “I got you,” against his lips. 

“Good, because you said something about coconut cake and I have yet to lay eyes on a slice.” He lets go of Patrick’s cheeks to grab hold of a different pair, urging him out the door and snagging the iPad once more before they go. 

They get on the elevator and it stops three floors down. David watches as Patrick lowers his head and steps slightly behind Ivan’s hulking form to better hide himself. Luckily, it’s just an older gentleman with a Flannery O’Connor short story collection tucked under his arm who gives them all an oblivious, if genuine nod. He seems to have absolutely no idea who Patrick is, which is kind of refreshing, David has to admit. Like that time he met a guy from Newcastle in a bar who’d never heard of Hamilton before. 

Ivan leads them out of the elevator and beneath the Venetian chandelier in the lobby towards a bespoke-suited gentleman wearing a pair of glasses that David envies. 

“Good evening, Mr. Brewer, Mr. Rose,” he greets, nodding at each of them. “I’m Erich, the General Manager of The Peninsula Grill.”

“Nice to meet you, Erich,” Patrick replies, ever the gracious guest. 

“Hi,” David manages, eyes still darting around to see if anyone recognizes them, but Erich chose a good place to wait for them in the shadow of one of the spiral staircases. 

“Please, allow me.” He gestures briefly towards the side door before heading that way, leaving Patrick, David, and Ivan to follow. 

When Patrick said it was close by, David didn’t realize he meant literally on the next block. 

Erich leads them across Meeting Street and through the garden gate and into the cobbled courtyard, dotted with greenery and gas lamps. “We’ve prepared two tables for you - one inside and one out. What is your pleasure?” 

Patrick looks at David whose shrug turns into a shiver. Despite how lovely the afternoon had been, it is still December and the south gets shockingly chilly at night. Patrick chuckles. 

“Inside, I think. Thank you, Erich.” 

Erich nods and leads them easily past the windows of the main dining room and through a side door to a table tucked in the back, partially hidden by a large bamboo palm. David lets Patrick take the seat facing the wall because he knows the drill, as Ivan sits at a different table off to the side. 

David grandly rests the iPad smack in between them, and Patrick rolls his eyes just as a black-vested waiter comes up to them. 

“This is Henri,” Erich introduces. “He will be taking care of you this evening. Anything you need, you let either of us know.” 

“Thank you.” 

Erich leaves, and Henri takes their drink orders. David starts with a Manhattan, and Patrick orders a gin and tonic as he peruses the wine list. 

“I’m helpless with this, despite how much Rachel has tried to train me.” 

“Give it here.” Then David launches into a TED talk about wine pairings and that since they’re likely getting seafood, they should be looking at whites. They each order a cup of the famous She Crab soup and split a dozen oysters to start. Patrick goes for the scallops while David gets the lobster because the texture of scallops has never tasted right to him. 

“Says the guy willing to toss a raw oyster into his mouth,” is Patrick’s suitably sarcastic reply. David could make any number of remarks about the things he’s willing to put in his mouth, each one more inappropriate than the last, but while Ivan is the only person he can see, who knows who could be hovering on the other side of the bamboo palm. The risk is just too great. 

Patrick smirks and then winks, like he can hear the response anyway. 

The meal passes like any good dinner meant to savor - slowly and enjoyably. David is more than happy to let Patrick regale him with his exciting stories from his first day on set. The cast is great and so welcoming, despite the fact that Patrick is basically parachuting in at the very tail end of their shooting block. David feels a pedestrian little spark of jealousy, but Patrick assures him that the company doesn’t compare to Hamlet. He’s probably lying though, because Gillian Anderson is in the cast and even David would desert his actors to spend just an hour in her company. Which he’ll apparently get to do because, midway through the coconut cake (which is exactly as good as everyone claims), Rian Johnson himself wanders over from another part of the restaurant, eager to meet David. He firmly shakes his hand and waxes poetic about Orestes for the better part of ten minutes. David isn’t sure what to do under the praise from a director he admires so much, and when he looks over and catches Patrick’s eye, the pride there is nearly overwhelming. 

“Please come tomorrow. Whenever you’d like,” Rian urges. “I’ll make sure we send an extra pass with Patrick’s driver.” Then he leaves them to their dessert with assurances he’ll see them soon. 

They finish their meal, ankles pressed together beneath the white linen tablecloth. 

The iPad isn’t touched once. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

@deuxmoi: patrick brewer and david rose spotted having dinner at peninsula grill in charleston, sc. anon pls.

🎭 🎭 🎭

The rest of the week passes in much the same way. Lena is back in New York, but the driver that the film production has hired is waiting for them outside the following morning with the as-promised production pass. David is a hit on set, meeting the actors and being introduced to the crew by Rian himself. He’s settled into a director’s chair in video village and given a headset, and he’s never felt more like Hugh Grant than he does in this moment.

And sitting there, David is... blown away. He knew Patrick was funny - his lighter moments in Hamlet (few though they may be) are gold - but watching behind the monitor as he navigates his dialogue with the comedic timing of a Monty Python founding member, David has to bite his lips to keep from ruining the takes. His boyfriend is fucking hilarious. 

It all passes much too quickly, and they invite him back the next day, but he politely declines. He doesn’t want to overstay his welcome. More importantly, there are things he wants to see in Charleston and conference calls and virtual meetings he has to take. He also doesn’t want to tip their hand, and he knows that the more time he spends in Patrick’s presence, the more likely it will be that he gives their relationship away. A glance here, an aborted touch there. 

Regardless, David is such a hit that he gets invited to the cast dinner at the end of the week (where’s he seated next to Gillian; thank you, Patrick) followed by the more official wrap party, whose photo booth graces them with their very first one-on-one picture. At the various openings and closings they’ve attended, David has made sure that every photo has been a group one, and though they keep it friendly in the booth in case someone accidentally picks their strip up from the dispenser before they can, the goofy faces they pull are still some of David’s favorites. 

The next day finds them nursing twin hangovers as they try to pack their belongings that have somehow managed to scatter themselves all over the suite that might actually be bigger than David’s apartment. Luckily, one of them (not David) had enough presence of mind to call down the night before and order enough breakfast to satisfy a hobbit, complete with two large coffees and, more importantly, two bloody marys.

David makes sure to set up the sofa bed (as he’s done every morning since they arrived), solely so he can mess the sheets up again. 

They part ways with Ivan in the hotel’s garage (after another clandestine trip through the kitchen) where a rental car is waiting for them. Ivan, who has off for the next few days, will meet Patrick back in New York for the Roses’ Christmas Eve party. David has tried to stress to him that he will be a guest attending, not a bodyguard working, but Ivan takes Patrick’s protection very seriously, and David doesn’t want to even verbally spar with a man who could very likely break his arm with just a thumb.

The tinier Charleston gets in the rearview mirror, the farther David’s shoulders drop away from his ears. Charleston was lovely - the history, the architecture, the food, the film - but inside the bubble that is this Audi A4, David has Patrick all to himself. When they reach the open highway, he rests his hand on the console, palm up, and watches the smile slide across Patrick’s face as he lets go of the wheel and laces their fingers together. 

David will never forget that smile. 

A classic rock station plays in the background instead of holiday music because there’s only so much Bing Crosby that David can handle at any given moment. He loves the holidays, but until he can update this year’s playlist, he’s not taking his chances on whatever Sirius has to offer. 

“So what does a Brewer family Christmas look like?” 

Patrick laughs and runs his thumb along David’s palm. “Depends. Sometimes Mom and Dad stay in Canada, sometimes they head south. I always go to them. Regardless, it’s lots of baking. Lots of movies.” 

“Go on.” 

“Love Actually, The Holiday, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street.” 

“Acceptable.” 

“Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story.”

“Eh.” 

“And enough empty booze bottles in the recycling bin that my mom divvies it out over the following weeks because she thinks the collectors are judging her.” 

David laughs and adores Marcy even more. “I guarantee it can’t be worse than ours.” 

“Oh you haven’t seen my mother wine-weep her way through It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

“She’ll have company then.” 

Patrick hums. “We usually save that one for Christmas Eve, but we’ll be a little busy this year.” He squeezes David’s hand. 

“I’m really glad you’re coming.” 

“Me, too.” 

“And I’m really sorry your parents are giving up their usual holiday to attend my family’s clown car of a tradition.” 

“Oh they’re excited. After three chardonnays, my mom will definitely let slip that she’s secretly a massive Sunrise Bay fan.” 

No.” 

“Oh yes. Warn your mother.” 

“Warn her? It’ll be the best fucking news she’s heard all season!” 

Patrick squeezes David’s hand again as a familiar bass beat kicks in through the speakers. Quick and almost inadvertent, like a reflex. “Do you remember this?” he softly asks after a moment. 

“This what?” 

“Hearing this.” He nods at the radio. “At my house.” 

David frowns. He’s heard this song many times as it features on multiple carefully curated playlists, but he can’t recall ever listening to it at Patrick’s, New York or Toronto… Unless it played at the party that he got white girl wasted at - 

“You were pretty drunk at the time, so I won’t hold it against you if you don’t.” 

Fuck. 

“Oh boy,” he manages, shifting uneasily in his seat, but Patrick just lifts his hand and presses a kiss to his knuckles. 

“You told me to listen to the lyrics.” 

“Oh. And... did you?” He’s not sure why yet, but he has a feeling the answer is important. 

Patrick takes his eyes off the road long enough to meet his gaze and hold it for a moment. “I did.” Then he faces forward once again, which is for the best because David’s not sure he could handle those eyes on him when he sings along to “Each time you leave me I start losing control, you’re walking away with my heart and my soul, I can feel you even when I’m alone, oh baby, don’t let go...” To drive the point home, Patrick pulls David’s hand to his chest and rests it over his sweater, warm and secure against the steady thump of his heart.

It stays there even as the song changes. Even as they cross the county border. Even as they pull up to the gates of the development where David’s favorite security hut sits to welcome him to this home away from home. He’s kind of disappointed it’s not Joe waving at them as they slow. David’s gotten used to being greeted by him.

“Hm,” Patrick says with a slight frown. 

“Hm, what?” 

“I don’t know her. She must be new.” He pulls to a stop and rolls the window down since the rental car doesn’t have the community’s decal on the windshield indicating they belong. 

“Good afternoon,” the young woman greets, squinting in the sun.

“Hi,” Patrick replies. “Just visiting family for a few days.” 

“Absolutely. Name?” 

Patrick clears his throat. “Brewer.” 

The woman’s eyes go wide as recognition slowly dawns on her face. “Right.” She fumbles with the clipboard in her hand, finger rapidly scanning the guest list. “Right. Brewer, until the 24th.” 

“That’s correct,” he says with a winning smile. 

The poor thing hands him a visitor pass with a trembling hand which he tosses on the dash. “Thanks. What’s your name?” 

“Oh, Dorothy.” 

“Nice to meet you, Dorothy,” he says, sticking his hand through the window. “I’m Patrick.” 

“Yes,” she blurts as she takes it. “I mean, nice to meet you, too.”  

“We’ll see you around!” he calls as he lifts his foot off the brake and slowly drives away, and David turns in his seat to watch Dorothy drop her face into her hands, mortified. 

“You know, I have to say, it’s quite fun watching you meet new people.” Though David’s sure that Patrick’s favorite response is no response at all. He thinks of the old man in the elevator in Charleston and wonders how relieved Patrick was to be a nobody, if only for a moment. 

“I’ll never forget getting stopped on the street for the first time,” Patrick murmurs as the car curves around a pond. “It was that first trip to New York when I saw Art. Someone recognized me from The Bitter End. I wasn’t even in the Village. I was near Rockefeller Center for some reason, and this person realized it was me. In a city as big as New York, it was just… unexpected.” 

“They appreciated your music and wanted to share that with you.”  

Patrick nods. “It was nice. It still is.” 

And though David knows that Patrick appreciates his fans, he also recognizes the toll it takes. But before he can give Patrick the space to express that, to tell him it’s okay to feel that way and it won’t make him seem ungrateful, they’re pulling into the driveway of the house he’s missed entirely too much for it being only his third time here. 

The car is barely in park when the front door bangs open and Marcy hurries down the porch steps, arms flung wide. They’re both so eager to get out of the car, they rather embarrassingly get tangled in their seatbelts.

“Boys! You made it!” she calls when they finally get their doors open, jogging across the gravel driveway and pulling Patrick into her chest. “Oh I’ve missed you.” 

David hangs back and wraps his arms around his torso in the chill from the shade of the old oak tree, watching with a soft smile as Marcy strokes the back of Patrick’s head. 

“Okay, your turn, David,” she says, letting go of Patrick and reaching for him, holding him just as tightly as she held her own son. He closes his eyes and sighs deeply into her shoulder, relishing the feeling of her palms running up and down his back. “How’ve you been, sweet boy?” 

“Good,” he whispers as he pulls away. “Better now.” 

“Good,” she says just as quietly. “Come, come. Clint’s already out back getting the fire pit going. Let’s get your bags.” 

But when he and Marcy turn, Patrick has already grabbed the luggage from the trunk and is watching them with a soft but inscrutable expression on his face. “Shall we?” 

“Okay, way to make me look completely useless in front of your mother. Give me one.” 

“You can take mine,” Patrick says with a cheeky grin, knowing full well that his is most definitely the lighter one. David narrows his eyes if only to hide his smile. 

“Fine. You’re welcome,” he replies dramatically but with a grateful smile. He wants to make a good impression. 

Marcy leads them up the porch and into the house, which smells more strongly of pine and cinnamon than it did before, listing in detail the food she’s prepared for the day. David’s practically drooling by the time they reach the foot of the stairs. “Go ahead and get settled. I’ve got apple cider mimosas ready when you come back down.”

“Oh my - ” David almost drops the bag and does an about-face towards the kitchen, but Patrick blocks him with the suitcase in his arms. 

“Nope. If you get distracted now, I’ll never get your attention back.” 

David whines, especially when he catches sight of the Christmas tree nestled in the corner’s bay windows, tastefully decorated of course, and the fire roaring in the fireplace just beyond. 

“It’ll all still be here when you get back, sweetheart,” Marcy promises and that’s the only thing that gets him moving once more. Because despite David’s rather cynical take on life - he loves Christmas. He loves the hope and the joy and the love and the togetherness, even if the closest he’ll ever get to that in real life is through watching the Hallmark channel. 

They get to the top of the stairs, and if there ever was any question about whether or not Marcy and Clint know about their relationship, it’s banished when Patrick says, “No, this way,” as David tries to head left towards the guest bedroom. 

“What?”

“You’re in here,” Patrick continues. “With me.” Then he stops in the doorway, back still to David, and carefully lowers the suitcase to the floor. “Is that… okay?” He sounds so unsure. 

God, the poor man can’t even look at him when he asks, like David might possibly answer with anything other than of fucking course. Like he even could

He slowly walks down the hall and places Patrick’s bag next to his own, hooking his chin over his shoulder as he wraps his arms around his waist. “Yes.” 

Patrick practically sags back against him, and David more than happily takes his weight. 

“So I take it your parents know, then.” 

Patrick’s soft huff of a laugh rumbles beneath the palm splayed on his chest. “You mean my mother’s exuberance at finally meeting you at first preview wasn’t evidence enough?” 

David presses a kiss to the back of his neck. “I think it was more their insistence on helping after everything went down with Sebastien.” Mortifyingly, he finds his throat closing up. “Did they know then?” 

Patrick places his hand over David’s and threads their fingers together. “Yes. I mean - I didn’t tell them, but… they knew. ” 

“The email they sent was… really nice.” 

Patrick turns in his arms and rests his hands on David’s hips as David’s arms loop over his shoulders. “They’re nice people.” 

David hums in agreement. “Did you know I called your mom?” 

“What? When?” 

“When you were in England.” 

“Why?” 

But David thinks of armadillos and drainpipes and shakes his head. None of that is important right now. “I told her that she should want me to stay as far away from you as possible. That I - that I wasn’t good for you.” Patrick’s grip on his hips tightens, as if the thought alone could separate them. David licks his lips and continues. “But she said, ‘David - ” and he has to clear his throat again, “sweetheart, why would I want you to stay away from my boy when you make him so happy?” The sentence ends in a whisper, because if David speaks any louder, he knows he’ll fall to pieces. And he knows that’s what she said, those words exactly, because they’ve been branded on his heart and replayed in his mind ever since they were spoken. 

Patrick gets one hand on the back of his neck, presses their foreheads together, and just breathes. “So happy, David.” 

“She said I was all she’d heard about. And that my name hadn’t been absent from conversation well before that.” 

Patrick laughs a little bashfully. “Yeah, she always did wonder why I couldn’t stop staring at the Rose Video holiday cards. And she never did ask where they disappeared to every year.” 

“Do you really still have them all?” 

“Mmhm. Not here, though. They’re in New York.” 

David spares a moment to be mortified that his awkward teenage years are immortalized on fine if mass produced stationary, before pulling Patrick into a hug and looking over his shoulder around the room. He’s never actually been in here before. The first time he visited, they weren’t a thing yet, and the second time, Patrick wasn’t with him. In a shocking turn of events, he didn’t actually want to go snooping without him. It’s a room not dissimilar from the others - generic enough for a new house, but dotted with little ornaments here and there that clearly define it as Patrick’s.

“Want to unpack or anything?” Patrick asks against his neck, and David shakes his head. 

“Want an apple cider mimosa. And to see your father.” 

“In that order.” 

“Yes, but don’t tell him that.” 

David doesn’t need to worry, though, because by the time they come downstairs, Clint is the one mixing the cider and prosecco. He grabs Patrick in a bear hug before turning to David and offering him one as well. Then he steps back and hands him a champagne flute with a knowing look. 

It’s sad that he feels so seen by someone he’s met literally twice. Sad and also kind of wonderful. 

This is the first vacation Patrick has had since, well, since David met him. First he was prepping for the tour, then writing the show while touring, then doing the workshop, then performing at Glastonbury, then writing a new album, then rehearsing for and performing in Toronto, then the movie. And that doesn’t include all of the other interviews and meetings and press appearances and charity work David doesn’t even know about. But the show is done, for now, Patrick is going back upstate in January (an idiotic notion in David’s not-so-humble opinion) to hopefully finish writing the new album, and there aren’t any concerts he has to prep for. He isn’t even performing on New Year’s. 

It means he can do what he’s doing now: collapsing in an Adirondack chair around the fire pit outside, ankles crossed, and head tilted back towards the sunny sky. David watches as the stress lines ease from his face, making way for the smile he graces Clint with as he takes a seat beside him. 

Marcy presses into David’s side, reaching up to pat his shoulder. “We’re very glad you’re here.” 

“Thank you,” he replies quietly. “I’m glad I’m here, too.”

Then Patrick holds out his hand, eyes still closed, head still tilted back, and adorably wiggles his fingers. 

“Go on,” Marcy whispers with a smile, giving him a gentle shove forward, and he realizes that it’s the first time he and Patrick have ever outwardly shown any kind of affection in front of the Brewers. Every time David has met them, other people have been around. So David is going to relish this - this simple, but revelatory acceptance - as he takes his hand, watching Patrick’s smile grow, allowing himself to be tugged down into the chair on Patrick’s other side. 

Allowing himself to be happy. 

“Don’t spill my drink,” he grumbles, just because if he doesn’t, he might drown in the wave of affection rolling over him at the moment.

“You’re a professional. I trust your skills,” Patrick replies, finally opening his eyes as he places a kiss on the back of David’s hand. 

“Okay, we just got here. Your parents don’t need to know how much of a lush I am yet.” 

Patrick barks out a laugh. “My parents are the ones who literally handed you a mimosa the second you walked in the door.” 

“It’s the holidays,” Marcy scolds, playfully slapping at Patrick’s arm as she passes to take the chair next to Clint.

And David realizes that this is what it’s like to be a part of a well-adjusted, loving family. Not that the Roses aren’t loving. But ‘well-adjusted’ is not the word he would use to describe them. With the Brewers, the banter is teasing, but soft; the jokes funny, but never mean. They love each other, but also genuinely like each other. It’s an incredible thing to witness, which David does with relish over every meal around their handcrafted kitchen table. 

When he and Patrick go to bed that night, he asks, “Your parents are really okay with me staying in here?” 

Patrick answers by telling him to check out the ensuite, on whose counter rests the entirety of David’s skincare routine. On a folded card in front of the neatly lined bottles is a note in Marcy’s hand: 

One less thing to pack next time! 

“Yeah,” Patrick whispers, where he leans against the door frame, watching. “I’d say they’re okay.” Then he takes David to bed and kisses away the tears that fall on his cheeks from such a gesture. He presses him into the mattress, reminding David when he starts to protest that his parents’ room is downstairs and on the other side of the house, so David allows himself to be taken apart and put back together by the only man who ever bothered to learn how. 

The next few days pass in a haze of luxurious breakfasts followed by river path walks, afternoon baking followed by indulgent happy hours, delicious dinners followed by the holiday movie of choice. Obviously, David’s tastes line up with Marcy’s. Naturally, Clint and Patrick don’t argue with their respective partners. 

And that’s how David feels here in this house, with these people. Like a partner. 

The day before their scheduled departure back to the city, his phone buzzes with a text from Rachel as he perches on the end of Marcy’s bed, helping her pick a party outfit. He pulls the cell from his pocket and glances at the screen: 

[Rachel]
Um, how does one score an invite to this exclusive holiday soiree? Tiger Beat says it’s the place to be.

He snorts and quickly types back a response: 

You’ve been talking to Stevie too much.  

[Rachel]
Who else am I supposed to get snarky with while you two are being gross south of the Mason Dixon? 

Definitely talking to Stevie too much. 

“Everything okay, dear?” Marcy must misread his eye roll as annoyed instead of fond. 

“Oh, fine.” He lifts the phone. “Rachel.” 

“Patrick’s Rachel?” she asks a second before her eyes widen and she claps a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry - of course she’s not his.” 

“It’s okay, Marcy. I know what you meant.” But she still doesn’t look appeased. In fact, she looks increasingly upset. “Marcy, really. I know about their history. Patrick told me.” He doesn’t mention the 24 hours he spent thinking they were still dating because his penchant for emotional melodrama is on a need-to-know-basis and Marcy isn’t quite there yet. “They’re best friends. Of course she’s his. And he’s hers.” 

He thinks of Stevie and a quiet conversation had around a kitchen island. “He doesn’t get to have a monopoly on your time.” 

“We’re all learning to share,” he finishes with a smile which Marcy finally matches. “Rachel’s been really great to me. A big help.” 

“She’s a wonderful young woman.” 

“That she is,” he replies, chuckling down at his phone as he types out a response:

Consider the invitation extended and open-ended. Please come.  

“I think she’ll be joining us on Christmas Eve.” 

“Oh! Oh, that’s so lovely.” 

[Rachel]
Good. I already have a dress. 

Don’t you want to spend Christmas with your family instead of my bag of feral cats?

[Rachel]
Chag Sameach. 

Ah.

[Rachel]
They’re back in Canada anyway. 

Then consider yourself adopted for the evening. 

When he looks up, Marcy is staring at him softly. 

“What?” 

But she just shakes her head. “You have a kind heart.” 

Oh. Well - “That’s not something anyone’s ever said about me before.” 

“More’s the pity, then.” Then she gives him a wink and holds up another dress. “How’s this?” 

“Perfect.” And it is. 

They spend one last day in the South Carolina sun and one last evening laughing together through dinner. The next morning, they wake early (by David’s standards) to catch a private plane out of Hilton Head back to Teterboro, where Lena is waiting for them with a large smile and a Santa hat.  

Patrick wasn’t wrong - Marcy does love New York at Christmas and David listens with affection as she coos and gasps at the decorations dotted around the city. It makes his jaded, Scroogey self sit up and take notice once more, tapping into that childhood delight that faded long ago. 

The car drops David off at his loft first before it heads uptown with Patrick and his parents. They say a muted, restrained goodbye - that is, until Marcy gets an elbow in Patrick’s side and he laughs, leaning in and pressing a kiss to David’s lips. 

“See you tomorrow.” 

“See you tomorrow.” 

And how wonderful is that? The promise of tomorrow. The certainty of soon. 

His wakeup call on Christmas Eve is not nearly as relaxing or restorative (or randy) as it had been in South Carolina. His phone is buzzing so incessantly that it rattles itself right off his bedside table, thunking loudly on the hardwood floor. 

He mumbles out a greeting, not even bothering to check to see who it is first (something that has come back to bite him in the ass multiple times) but it’s just his mother, screeching at him in pitches only dogs can understand. Of course, he should know by now that there’s no just about Moira Rose, especially before she’s due to greet her public. And somewhere in the multisyllabic lexicon that is his mother’s lament, he realizes something catastrophic. 

In all the stress from closing Hamlet and visiting the film set and staying with the Brewers, it never occurred to him that she’d want to do The Number. It should have, considering they’ve performed it every damn year since his voice dropped and he could properly harmonize. 

Beyond scrambling out of bed, applying under eye-patches, and making coffee, his first order of business is calling Patrick and telling him in no uncertain terms that he is not allowed to attend. Naturally, David’s protestations only make Patrick want to come more.

“David, I watched you eat a cupcake out of the trash last week. There is literally nothing you could do that would make me rethink what we have.” 

David knows there is, but his brain is too wrapped up in the what we have of it all. 

Resigning himself to his fate, he arrives at his parents’ house two hours early to get ready and rehearse. (‘Rehearse’ meaning ‘agree to his mother’s increasingly insane song suggestions before she takes a Xanax and goes with Paul’s original arrangement’). He doesn’t flatiron his hair, but he does make Stevie, Patrick, Rachel, Alexis, and the Brewers lock up their phones in the safe that houses his ticket from the Mariah Carey concert so no photographic evidence can be taken of the performance. He never thinks to confiscate Ronnie’s, though, which is obviously his first mistake of the night. 

She texts it to Patrick after her third gin and tonic because she’s a menace. 

Alexis, Rachel, and Stevie are good bouncers; David had asked them to help him steer any overly enthusiastic attendees away from Patrick so both he and Ivan could actually enjoy the night.  

The evening is as extravagant and deranged as any Rose Family soiree can be and by the time David sneaks Patrick away to his childhood bedroom for a kiss and a grope, his mother and Marcy are holed up in a corner chatting about the various ways Vivian Blake has been killed off, Ivan and Ronnie are playing pool in the game room, Clint and Paul are discussing their favorite Toronto-based bands while his dad nods like he knows what they’re talking about, and Alexis, Rachel, and Stevie are piled up on the couch, giggling (giggling) with their hair down and their heels kicked off.  

It’s honestly all so bonkers and wonderful that he almost forgets what’s coming next. 

🎭  🎭  🎭

“We’ll be right back with E!’s live coverage from the Grammys red carpet just after this.”

Chapter Text

His freezer contains four different pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and David’s biggest conundrum of the moment is deciding which one to start with first. Half-Baked is a strong contender, but he loves a peanut butter/pretzel/chocolate combination, even if Chubby Hubby is a terrible name for a dessert. 

The red carpet is playing on low in the background, and the inane banter between the hosts was enough to get him to open a bottle of wine two hours ahead of schedule. He takes a sip of Cabernet and shivers in front of the open freezer, finally pulling out his chosen pint, placing his glass down, and popping off the top. Yanking open a drawer and finding a spoon, he briefly forages for the ideal chocolate pretzel/vanilla ice cream ratio, before stuffing the bite into his mouth and groaning so loudly, he doesn’t even register the sound of his front door opening. 

“Oh my God, David, no.” Alexis stops in the entryway with a look of disgust on her face. 

He swallows fast enough to give himself a brain freeze and looks her up and down. She’s wearing… pajamas? “What are you doing here?” This is Wallow, party of one.

“What, you think I’d let you watch your boyfriend take someone else to the Grammys alone? God, David. It’s like you don’t know me at all,” she clips, adjusting the messy bun on top of her head and prancing (because there really is no other word for it) over to the counter, placing the paper bag in her hand down on top. “And that’s enough of this,” she says, taking the pint from him and replacing it with his wine glass. “For now, at least. I brought pho.” 

And it smells delicious, but he can’t stop staring at her. She busies herself with putting the ice cream back in the freezer and unloading the containers from the bag while trying not to look like she’s squirming under his scrutiny. Finally, she snaps. 

“Ugh, what, David?” 

“Why are you doing this?” spills out of his mouth. 

“Doing what?” 

This!

She huffs out a sigh and adjusts the collar of the overly large sweater she’s wearing. “Look, I know you’re disgustingly happy in your relationship and all that,” she flicks her wrist and makes a face, “but that doesn’t mean that this still doesn’t suck. It should be you on that red carpet with him. But it’s not. And for the moment, it can’t be, and I’m your sister and I’m not going to let you be miserable on your own.” She finishes by booping him, and he can’t even flinch or bat her away. Not after that. Instead, he places the wine glass down on the counter with a trembling hand and wraps his arms around her, burying his face in her shoulder because he didn’t know he didn’t want to be alone until she breezed in and showed him he didn’t have to be. 

“Thank you.” 

She sighs and holds him tighter. “You’re welcome. Now where are your wine glasses, because there’s no way I’m doing this sober.” 

“Um, hanging on the bar cart.” 

“Kay.” She taps his shoulder, and he knows the hug is over, so he lets go and surreptitiously wipes at his eyes as she helps herself to his Cabernet. 

He follows his nose back over to containers and, as he pokes at the one closest to him with a curious finger, his phone lights up by his elbow. He’s stared at it enough today to recognize the familiar outline of Patrick’s name even from far away. Alexis gladly picks it up and swipes it open because the only business she loves more than her own is other people’s. Which is precisely how she somehow always knows his passcode, no matter how many times he changes it. 

“Aw.” 

He doesn’t want to read it, but because he can’t help himself, he peeks over her shoulder.

[Patrick]
I wish you were here.

It’s just one in a long string of unanswered texts. David knows it’s petty, he knows he’s probably ruining this day for Patrick, but his FOMO has reached depths that not even a personalized invite to the Met Gala from Anna Wintour herself could assuage. Stevie hasn’t texted at all because she knows David. She knows how he’s feeling because she’s felt it herself. 

“They’re probably in the car by now,” he murmurs, ignoring Alexis’ overly casual eyebrow raise. 

“Stuck in traffic outside the Staples Center and bored out of their minds. Aren’t you going to answer?” 

“Don’t want to bother.” 

She hums but doesn’t push. She’s gotten shockingly good at knowing when to press his buttons and when his distress is serious enough to leave well enough alone (for the moment). 

Because the thing is - Patrick did ask. 

He texted that Thanksgiving evening and said, Do you wanna come to the Grammys?  

David is the one whose reply was a flippant Be serious.

And now his best friend is attending the ceremony with his boyfriend on the other side of the country as David eats his body weight in Vietnamese food while wearing his second favorite pair of pajamas. 

Patrick, think about what that would look like.

I think it would look good. 

And David is terrified enough to consider that he actually meant it. 

“I heard the marquee is going up tomorrow,” Alexis says as she loads up a plate, the conversational detour obvious but no less appreciated. 

David hums.

“The key art looks good.” 

That gets his attention. “How do you know what it looks like?” 

She shrugs. “Mom showed me.” 

“How does Mom have it?” 

Alexis looks at him like he’s an idiot and takes her plate over to the couch. “Um, she’s literally the lead producer. And I’m your press rep - ”

“Mine. Not the show’s.”

“Naturally, I should see it,” she continues as if he never spoke, sitting daintily on the edge of the cushion she’s one emphatic gesture away from spilling on. 

He huffs, but grabs his soup and moves to join her, bringing the bottle of wine and his phone with him. “I’ll probably swing by the theatre tomorrow night. See it all lit up.” 

She nods distractedly as she takes in one of the bolder fashion choices. “Ugh, I told Phoebe that that color didn’t work with her complexion. When does Patrick come back?” she asks without looking at him. 

“Um, depends on how tonight goes, I guess. Win or lose, Stevie will need an extra day just to sleep off the hangover.” 

His phone chooses that moment to vibrate with a push notification, and he can’t help the way his stomach lurches when he sees @patrickbrewer added to their story across the top of the screen. He hastily taps it before it has the chance to go dark, holding his breath as a black and white picture of Patrick looking out a car window and holding a beer bottle close to his lips in profile assaults his senses. The story disappears before David’s had a chance to look his fill, and he quickly swipes right to watch it again. Unfortunately, between the stark filter and the closeness of the shot, it’s too difficult to get a sense of what Patrick really looks like, and he’s so tempted to text Stevie and tell her to tap into her inner Annie Leibovitz and do better that he aches with it. 

“When was the last time you talked to him?” Alexis asks as she takes a pointed sip of her wine. 

“Um, last night.” He thinks of their rather stilted phone call as David tucked himself in between the sheets. Patrick tried to overcompensate for David’s disappointment at not being there which just made for an awkward, overly chipper, relatively one-sided conversation. Eventually they said a muted goodnight and that was that. David had wanted to FaceTime today as they got ready but decided not to. 

He’s still not sure why. 

His phone vibrates in his hand and he jumps, having gotten lost in the melancholy memories. As if she read his mind, he finds a text from Stevie because he’s still not convinced she’s not actually a witch. 

It’s a picture, one infinitely warmer and more casual than the moody piece Patrick posted to his Instagram. She caught him mid-laugh, head thrown back, hand over half of his face. There’s no filter, just pure joy, and David can just see the cuff of his tone-on-tone color palette: the turquoise shirt beneath the teal tie and the Adriatic sheen of the blue silk suit. 

He’s just zooming in on a pair of cufflinks that were not shown to him for prior approval when another text comes in. 

[Stevie]
Thought you might like this one more. 

He smiles softly and hearts her comment but doesn’t reply with anything further as he focuses back on the picture. 

God, he’s beautiful. Pale, lightly-freckled skin with auburn hair that looks almost molten in the sun. 

David zooms in again on the silver cufflink, frowning as he tries to discern its shape. If the quality of the camera can pick up Patrick’s almost non-existent eyebrows, surely it can tell him what this circular piece of jewelry is - 

But he must be mistaken because it… well, it honestly looks like a rose. 

“What does this look like to you?” He keeps the photo zoomed in and all but shoves the phone under his sister’s nose. She goes cross-eyed trying to stare at it before taking it from his hands and holding it at a more respectable distance. 

“I don’t know, like a flower? Ohhh. Oh my God, David,” she whispers, looking from him to the phone and back again. 

“Yeah,” he rasps as he takes it back. “That’s what I thought.” 

He pulls up his text thread with Patrick, feeling nauseated at the slew of unanswered messages, and lets his fingers fly across the screen before he can even process what he’s typing.

I wish I could be with you, too. Regardless of what happens tonight, I am so so proud of you. 

“... looks like Jeremy is about to have the man of the hour himself, seven-time Grammy nominee tonight, Patrick Brewer!”

David’s head whips towards the television in time to see Patrick finish getting out of the SUV, a pair of sunglasses that weren’t in either of his photos perched on his nose. He looks good. He looks hot. Considering the fact that the Grammys red carpet is home to some of fashion’s most iconic - and most outlandish - looks, he seems relatively understated and yet no less delectable in the suit David picked out for him. It’s brighter (and tighter) than anything Patrick usually wears, but he said that, for once, he actually wanted to stand out. 

He turns back to the car and holds out a hand, helping Stevie exit in her red gown with a slit high enough to make David blush. And he’s seen it all. 

“Are you ready for this?” Alexis asks, and when did she scoot closer to him? Or refill his wine glass? 

“No,” he answers honestly, taking a hearty gulp. 

On the TV, Patrick waves to the fans screaming his name before hooking his arm and letting Stevie take his elbow. Which is for the best, really. David’s seen her in stilettos before. There’s a reason she wore Converses to the Drama League luncheon. 

At least they’re not holding hands. 

Patrick leans down so Stevie can whisper something in his ear and he laughs again, not quite as loud and uninhibited as in the picture from the car, but David knows the difference between Private Patrick and Public Patrick. 

“They look, like, really good.” 

David nods. “They do.” He can’t deny it.

His phone vibrates again and for a split second, he thinks it’s Patrick, but David is literally watching him pose for a photo. There’s no way he’s texting him. He glances down and sees a message from Rachel instead. 

[Rachel]
Please text him. If I have to hear your name one more time, I’m going to lose my goddamn mind. No offense. 

He leans forward and squints at the TV, trying to spot fiery hair amidst a veritable sea of color palette choices, but finding Rachel on the red carpet is a fucking couture Where’s Waldo. Finally, the camera shifts to a wide shot just before going to commercial, and he spots her in a black suit with a plunging neckline standing just off to the side with Stevie. David can’t wait to read what the gossips have to say about that. 

I did text him! 

He looks back at the TV, but they’ve already cut to commercial. 

[Rachel]
When? He’s been acting like a kicked puppy all day and for a seven-time Grammy nominee, that is not a good look. 

Fuck. 

Not long ago. I think you were in the car. 

They were mid-process of getting out of the car, but Rachel doesn’t need to know just how much of a dick David’s insecurity sometimes makes him. 

[Rachel]
Okay. I’ll make sure he checks. 

Sorry. If I fucked anything up. 

Please don’t let him have fucked anything up. 

[Rachel]
David, I know this sucks. And trust me, he knows this sucks. We all handle it how we need to. 

Not well. That’s how David’s handling it. 

Now everyone’s going to think that Stevie and Patrick are dating.  

His pout is so apparent, it’s like he included an emoji. 

[Rachel]
Probably. Yes. Which is why she and I are showing more PDA on this red carpet than Patrick and I ever did. 

A selfie comes through next showing Stevie pressing a kiss to Rachel’s smiling cheek while also flipping David off. 

He rolls his eyes but types back, A match made in hell. 

[Rachel]
You know it. 

How’s he doing? 

His phone goes silent for longer than he’d like, especially considering the question he just asked. He tries to tell himself she’s probably making sure Patrick hits his mark and stands at the right angle, but he’s found that when it comes to the tough stuff, Rachel always chooses her words carefully. 

[Rachel]
He’ll be better when he reads your text. 

Then: 

[Rachel]
It was a nice text, right? 

David gasps indignantly. 

Yes!

Though given his recent behavior, she’s right to check. Realizing that Alexis has been remarkably silent throughout this entire exchange, he glances over at her to find her nose buried in her phone. 

“Um, Rachel’s going to make sure Patrick sees my text.” 

“Uh huh. Yeah, she told me.” She holds up her own phone with a smug grin before going back to texting. Probably yet another group thread he is the main subject of but one he is not allowed to participate in. 

On the television, the commercial break ends, and the red carpet host is just calling Patrick over as Rachel whispers something in his ear. 

“Really?” the microphone picks up him asking as he pats his pocket for his phone. 

“Patrick,” the host greets again, trying to garner his attention. 

“Ugh, let him check his phone!” David snaps. 

“How are you, man?” 

“Great, good,” Patrick gamefully replies, shaking the hand of the interviewer - Joshua? Jeremy? Who cares. He didn’t let Patrick look at his phone. 

“You look great!” 

“Thanks. Tom Ford.” Courtesy of David’s introduction, but Patrick can’t say that. 

They go through the usual red carpet spiel, commenting on the fact that Patrick is the most nominated artist of the evening, which is news to absolutely no one with a working internet connection and/or data plan. The host brings up Hamlet and asks how it’s going. Patrick says that they’re just gearing up for rehearsals to start, and that he’s excited to get back into the room with everyone. 

“Speaking of, last time you were on a red carpet, you dropped the Hamlet bomb. Any other breaking news you’d like to report?” The host nods knowingly at Stevie, standing just off to the side, and she blatantly rolls her eyes. God, David loves her. 

Patrick, though, looks like he’s about to be sick. 

“Um, no,” he croaks, managing a tight smile. “Nothing else.” 

David pretends it doesn’t hurt. He reaches for the remote because not even Patrick in the cut of that suit could make him feel better at the moment, but before he can hit the TV’s power button, Patrick is clearing his throat and leaning closer to the microphone once more. 

“But, um, I’m happy,” he says, looking directly into the camera, like he knows David is watching. Like he knows David is hurting. “Happier than I’ve been in a very long while.” 

“That’s great to hear,” Jerome responds, clearly disappointed not to get a scoop as he claps Patrick on the shoulder and turns back to the camera to drone on about something David doesn’t care about. He’s too busy watching Patrick step to the side and immediately pull his phone out of his breast pocket, swiping it open. 

Patrick’s shoulders visibly relax, and David can practically hear the relieved sigh leave his mouth, despite the fact that there’s no microphone nearby. Patrick looks back towards the camera, smile soft and eyes absolutely unreasonable as he mouths a silent thanks.

David trades the remote for his phone once more. 

You’re welcome.

“Love this for you,” Alexis whispers, cuddling into his side as the live feed is finally thrown back to Giuliana.

The awards themselves are tedious, but David lives for every shot of Patrick and Stevie in the audience, and given who Patrick is, there are a lot. He nabs Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song almost right out of the gate, following it up with Best Americana Album (but not Best Rock Album? Who knows. David doesn’t really understand the categories anyway). His speeches are short and bashful and funny. Heartfelt, sure, but not really real. Not really him. 

Best Short Form Music Video is midway through the ceremony, adding to Patrick’s haul, and David and Alexis break out the Ben & Jerry’s again just to make it through the country collection. Finally, it’s the last four categories of the night - the big ones. The Best Pictures. David leans forward and carefully moves their wine glasses out of the way just in case he needs to flail. 

Turns out he does because after Best New Artist, which Patrick hasn’t been for a while, he picks up Record of the Year and Song of the Year for Back To You. The presenters don’t even let him walk offstage - they just keep sending him back to his seat for the next category. Patrick just tied both Beyonce and Adele for the most wins in a single night , and David is so hyped up on adrenaline and anxiety that he just keeps pacing up and down the living room as Alexis bounces in place like a deranged bunny rabbit. 

Before David can properly draw air into lungs, Alicia Keys is stepping up to the mic and announcing the nominees for Album of the Year. Alexis grabs his arm on his next pass by and grips his hand tight. 

“And the Grammy goes to… Full Count, Patrick Brewer.” 

The noise that punches out of David drowns out the sound of the audience leaping to its feet. Alexis throws her arms around him as a steady stream of “Oh my God”s leave his mouth. On the TV, Stevie hugs Patrick and he whispers in her ear before kissing her cheek as he dazedly buttons his jacket and waits for his producers and engineers to head up the steps to the stage again as one. 

Fucking seven. A clean sweep. Full count, indeed. 

Patrick squints in the lights, truly looking like he didn’t expect this, despite the course the night was taking. “Um, wow, thank you,” he starts, shaking his head a little in disbelief. “Thank you very much. I’m forever grateful to these geniuses beside me. They made the album what it is, and they’re the reason we’re standing here today.” Then he laughs a little. “Um, I honestly only had one speech prepared, and I’ve used bits and pieces of it all night, so I’m a little at a loss for words. I, uh, I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the last year has changed my life.” He pauses and swallows hard. “Professionally and personally. Thank you to my parents for absolutely everything. To my friends, Rach, Ted, Stevie, Alexis - “

She squeals, naturally.

“And David,” he breathes, looking directly into the camera. “I wouldn’t be here without you.”

David knows he means it as a collective you, but he takes the words and holds them close, letting them cross three thousand miles and tie a string around each of their hearts. 

Patrick holds up the Grammy and steps away from the mic with a nod, getting an arm around one of his producers and heading off the stage. David doesn’t even realize that he’s a) started crying or b) still holding Alexis’ hand. All he knows is that he has to reach out to Patrick ASAP, but his phone is exploding with notifications, the Hamlet group text contributing to the majority of them. He ignores Candice’s string of emojis and scrolls through the influx, managing to find one from Stevie time-stamped right after Patrick’s name was called that just says: 

That’s love. 

What? What’s love? But before David can unwrap that, his phone is ringing and Rachel’s name is popping up on the screen. 

“Rachel?” 

“It’s me,” Patrick says, and David gasps. “I can’t talk. I just really wanted to hear your voice.”

And David didn’t know how badly he needed to hear Patrick’s until this moment. “Patrick,” he breathes, “honey, you did it.”

“I did.”

“I’m so proud of you.”

“David.” Someone shouts something in the background, and Patrick groans. “One minute!” Then he comes back, voice softer; a tone only for - “David.”

“I’m here.” 

“But you’re not.” 

He bites his tongue, because he could be. Patrick fucking asked. “Honey, go. It’s okay.” 

“I - ”

“It’s okay.” And it’s not, but it is. David understands. “We’ll catch up later.” 

“David.” It seems to be the only thing he can say. 

“I’m here.” Because he’s not, but he is. 

“Thank you,” Patrick breathes, and David hears someone vying for his attention again in the background. 

“Go.” 

“Okay.” 

“Bye.” But Patrick’s already gone. 

Hours later, after he and Alexis have finished off the bottles of wine and the pints of ice cream, David’s phone pings with one last notification: 

@patrickbrewer posted a photo 

David swipes his phone open, practically yanking it from his bedside charger in an effort to get a better view. The picture shows a pile of seven Grammys, some stacked, some tipped over, and David’s sure that’s probably exactly how they landed when Patrick dumped them on the table, because Patrick doesn’t care enough to artfully frame a photo, even for the ‘gram. The caption, though. The caption says it all: 

Thank you @recordingacademy and to every person who helped me get here. You know who you are. 

And there in front of the seven Grammy awards rests a single cufflink. 

A rose, dead center, in pride of place.

🎭 🎭 🎭

Brewer “Happier Than He’s Ever Been”

Patrick Brewer Dominates the Grammys

Does Stevie Budd Have Patrick Brewer Giddy?

Best Dressed on the Grammys Red Carpet

Brewer Should Wear Suits Like That More Often

🎭 🎭 🎭


PBandJ: Does anyone think it’s weird that he thanked two of his exes with his current girlfriend in the audience?
BrewsClues: Do we honestly think he dated Alexis Rose? They were seen leaving a bar together once.
PBandJ: Holding hands. 
BrewsClues: With her brother. I hold hands with my friends. Doesn’t mean I’m dating them. And who says he’s dating Stevie Budd? Did you clock that chemistry on the red carpet?
PBandJ: What chemistry?
BrewsClues: Exactly.

🎭 🎭 🎭

TMZ.com
After a short-lived but no less passionate romance with Alexis Rose, it looks like Brewer has moved on with his co-star from the Broadway-bound Hamlet, Stevie Budd. Sources say that the two grew close while performing out of town in Toronto last fall, making their red carpet debut over the weekend - 

David minimizes his browser and sighs as he looks up at the marquee glittering against a sky that will never be as dark as it should be considering the lights of Times Square glow just down the block. His head thunks back against the window of Sardi’s, blessedly closed on a Monday night, as he stares at the black and white artwork, his breath misting in the frigid evening

“Minimalistic. I like it,” a voice says to his left, and he’d know it even if it was the last thing he heard on this earth. 

“I thought you were still back in LA,” he murmurs without turning his head. 

Stevie sidles up beside him and crosses her arms, nudging him none too gently as she does. “We left first thing this morning.” 

He tries not to show how much that surprises him. “And how hungover are you still?”  

“Very.” 

He sighs again as they stare at the building in silence. The shows are dark but the lights are still on, and that’s something David has always been comforted by. The grey stone of the Broadhurst nestles up against the towering edifice of the Shubert Theatre. It’s his favorite part of this godforsaken area - 44th and 45th Street with Shubert Alley connecting one to the other. When the sun goes down and those vintage bulbs fire up, it’s magic hour. 

It’s been a while since he’s had a show on Broadway. It never stops feeling surreal. 

The title Hamlet towers over the street in white, cracked lettering on a pitch black background. The outline of a thin, red, almost childlike crown sits above the E and the T. It’s austere yet effective, just how David prefers. 

                                                                             

On the official show poster next to the box office doors, Patrick’s face stares back at him. Well, just his left eye, more precisely. The image is cracked just like the show’s lettering on the marquee, giving it the feeling of a marble statue tipped over; marred perfection. The black and white photo had been taken during a shoot in January before Patrick disappeared once again to his murder cabin in the woods to continue writing his new album. Half of Stevie’s face is on another poster, then Aldridge and Helen, lining the walls in between the lobby and the stage door. 

                                                                                      

The morning that the box office opened, the line wrapped around the block, and the show’s website crashed twice before noon. David knows they don’t actually need Patrick’s face to still sell a show in his name. 

“How’d you know where I was?” he asks without looking over. 

“How do you think?” she says, and it’s not a question. 

“Alexis,” seems to be the obvious answer and yet - 

“Ronnie.” 

“Ronnie?” That gets him to look at her. “How the hell does Ronnie know where I am? Oh my God, did she finally tap my phone?” He honestly wouldn’t put it past her. He’s been convinced she’s secretly CIA for years. 

“Okay, Ethan Hunt, settle down. She said the marquee had gone up. And she and I both know you can’t resist a new marquee, especially when it’s your own.” 

He hums, because she’s not wrong. But at least he comes to judge it at 9pm on a Monday when most of the buildings around them are dark and the street has cleared out as much as it can, considering it’s just off one of the busiest intersections in the world. 

He clears his throat and tears his eyes away from the theatre to stare at the ground. “Did you have fun?” 

She sighs. “Which answer do you want?” 

“The honest one.” 

“Then yes, I did.” 

“I’m glad.” And he is. “Thank you for the picture.” 

“You’re welcome.” 

He smiles just at the memory, the image of Patrick with his head thrown back ingrained in his brain. “What did you do to make him laugh like that?” 

“Told him about New Years 2013.” 

He whips around. “You didn’t.” 

“Oh I did.” 

“Stevie!” 

“What? Your boyfriend should know that you got tossed from Mark’s Club when you challenged Judi Dench to a polar bear shot contest then lost spectacularly.” 

“Mmm. She’s small but mighty. I can’t show my face around Mayfair ever again. And fuck you very much for that.” Stevie dissolves into laughter and he joins her, giggling against the window for a moment he sinks into and draws out. After a minute, he sobers. “Did you know about the cufflinks?” 

She hums. “I helped him pick them out.” 

He sucks in a breath that catches in his throat, thinking of Stevie and Patrick poring over something they are by no means experts in, just because it meant something to David. Because it meant something to Patrick to represent David. To have him there in spirit, if not in person.

“Do they pass muster?” she asks and it’s teasing, but it’s also genuine. She cares whether or not David likes them.

“Yeah,” he rasps. “They do.” God, they do. They’re gorgeous.

“So what’s wrong?” She knows him too well.

“Why do you think something’s wrong?”  

She takes his phone from his lax hand and unlocks it, because apparently Alexis isn’t the only one capable of cracking his passcode, before turning it around and showing him the article he had been reading just before she arrived. 

“It’s nothing,” he starts but she cuts him off.

“It’s clearly something. Does it bother you?” 

He shrugs. “Better they gossip about you than me.” 

“David, does it bother you?” 

But what does he say? Yes, it bothers him. Of course it does.

“Look,” Stevie starts, “I haven’t commented because Patrick makes the very valid point of not discussing his personal life, and no one has ever cared enough to bother with mine… But if it’s eating you up, then maybe one of us should.”

But David is already shaking his head. “Like you said, Patrick doesn’t talk about his personal life.” 

She holds up the phone again. “Well no one seems to have gotten the memo.”

“It’s precedent.”

“It’s painful! It’s hurting you, David. Precedent or not, Patrick wouldn’t want that. Why didn’t you go with him?”

He scoffs and it gets stuck in his throat. “Why? You know why!” 

“He told me he asked you.” 

“He wasn’t being serious.” 

“How do you know?” And, well, she’s got him there. Fuck, she’s stubborn. “Did you two even talk about it? I mean really talk about it. Not whatever version of talking it is that you two do.” 

“Hey.” 

“I’m just saying, maybe that policy needs to be reconsidered.” 

“And I’m just saying, it’s Patrick’s decision.” 

“Good. Then why don’t you ask him about it?” 

“I will.” He wishes Sardi’s was open. He could really go for a drink. 

“Yeah, I mean now.”

“What - ” but then he catches sight of that Blue Jays hat he would know anywhere hovering under the awning for John’s Pizzeria. “Oh.” Patrick has his chin buried in the collar of his coat and his hands shoved into his pockets, but he keeps glancing over at them, just waiting for his cue. 

Stevie pushes off the window and squeezes David’s arm. “I know conversation doesn’t come easy to people like us, but this one needs to happen.” 

She’s not wrong. “When did you get so wise?”

“It’s the hangover.” Then she glances across at the theatre once more. “Damn, I look good.” 

David chuckles as Stevie saunters away, high-fiving Patrick as she passes. He and David stare at each other for a second before Patrick starts to make his way over. 

“Hey.” 

“Hi.” 

Patrick settles into Stevie’s vacated spot by the window and looks across the street for a long moment. 

“Congratulations,” David whispers. 

“Thank you,” Patrick replies just as quietly. 

“You’re back early.” 

He shrugs. “Missed you.” 

David presses closer to him, as close as he dares in public, and tries to feel his warmth through the wool of their coats. 

“The cufflinks are beautiful.” 

Patrick swallows hard enough that David can hear it over the sounds of the city. “I didn’t know how else to say all that I wanted to say to you.” 

“You really did want me to come, didn’t you,” he whispers, almost a little wondrously.  

Patrick nods. “I did.” 

“You know what that would have looked like.” 

He nods again. “I do.” 

“Patrick…” 

But a group of rowdy tourists interrupts as they exit Carmine’s down the block and that is unacceptable, so David grabs Patrick’s wrist, checking the traffic quickly before tugging him across the street and under their marquee. It takes him much longer than it should to let go, and when he does, Patrick almost sways into him. 

“Okay, but… are you ready for that?” Are we ready for that, he wants to say. 

“I think I am.” 

But Patrick can’t think it, he has to know it. Because there’s no going back once it’s out. Once he’s out. 

“But I also don’t want to distract from the show,” he continues. “Stevie and I did a lot of talking this weekend, made a lot of lists, a lot of pros and cons. You and I both know that this is going to be a shitstorm. It’ll dominate the news cycle, and I want the show to stand on its own.” 

“So what are you saying?”

Patrick takes a step forward and glances around them before reaching out and taking hold of David’s hands. Patrick’s palms are warm from his pockets, and David holds on like he might never let him go. 

“I’m saying that after opening, I’d like us to go public. If that’s something you want.” 

“Oh.” Yes, it’s something he wants and at the same time, he knows his life will never, ever be the same. And yet - “If you want it, I want it. It’s just - ”

“Yeah?” 

“Well after opening, the show isn’t really over.” 

Patrick laughs. “I should hope not. I signed a six month contract with a possible extension.” 

“No, I mean - if we get nominated for anything - Drama League, Outer Critics, Tonys - that’s a whole other circus.” And circus is a kind word for it. 

“How much longer?” Patrick asks. 

“How much longer what?” 

“Would we have to wait?” 

“Well, we open mid-April and the Tonys are the first Sunday in June.”  

“Oh.” 

“Yeah.” 

But then Patrick tugs him closer still. “That’s not that bad,” he murmurs. “David, we’ve waited this long - what’s a few more weeks?” 

His stomach flips and he sucks in a breath. “You sure?” 

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life,” and he says it with such conviction that David has no choice but to believe him. 

“So, after the Tonys?” 

Patrick nods, gaze flicking down to David’s lips for a second, before meeting his eyes once more. “After the Tonys.” It’s a promise. “Speaking of, um, I was going to do this later over dinner or maybe tomorrow morning if we got distracted,” he says with a naughty smile, before finally letting go of David’s hands, pulling his phone out of his pocket, and swiping it open. “I want you to see this.” 

“What is it?” David asks as he takes the phone. 

“It’s a copy of a short statement Rachel and I mocked up. Stevie’s already approved. If you’re good, Rach will put it out tomorrow.” 

David’s eyes scan the words in Patrick’s Notes app, moving too fast at first to actually take anything in:

Given the recent influx of interest, Stevie Budd and I want to set the record straight. We are not, nor have we ever been, in a romantic relationship. We’re doing a Broadway show together, and that’s it. It’s long hours, so chances are you’ll be seeing us in pictures a lot, but there’s nothing more to it than good friendship, a respectful working relationship, and a shared love of Stephen King. Please come see us. Previews start March 19th. 

“Nice plug for the show,” he finally manages after he reads it once, then twice. 

“Is it okay?”

David looks up as he tries to hand the phone back. “You’re breaking your rule.” 

Patrick doesn’t take it. “You’re worth it.” 

And whatever composure David had been holding onto slips away irrevocably as he sucks in a wet breath. 

“Your face can’t do that when I can’t hold you,” Patrick whispers, pressing closer but keeping his hands to himself this time. 

“I’m okay. It’s good. This is good.” It’s too fucking cold to cry in public, and yet here he fucking is. “Really, I’m so fine.” 

“You don’t seem fine.” Patrick finally takes the phone with a look of concern so disarming, it nearly sends David to the pavement. 

“It’s short, it’s charming, it’s funny. It’s you.” 

“Are you saying I’m short?” Patrick teases, and David barks out a laugh and raises an eyebrow. 

“Compact.” 

Patrick smiles and fiddles with the phone for a moment, opening up something else in his Notes app that’s too far away for David to actually read. “Um, there’s another one we’re working on. But it’s not ready yet.” 

“For when you come out?” 

Patrick nods and swallows. “For when I come out. But in the meantime, I’d like you to have this.” He trades the phone for something else in his pocket, something he grips in the palm, preventing David from seeing it. 

“Um, what is it?” 

“It’s a key to my house,” he says, finally opening his hand to reveal the small piece of brass attached to a tiny ring. “I want you to use it. I want you to feel comfortable knowing that you are welcome there any time.” 

David slowly takes the key, staring at it as reverently as Hamlet stares at Yorick’s skull. 

“Are you sure?” 

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,” Patrick quotes with a smile.  

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy, is how that ends, and David laughs because, really, why is it so hard to believe? Why can’t David just let himself have this? Why can’t he just… be happy? 

He pockets the key as he swallows hard, running his finger over the skin-warmed metal; holding tight to this piece of Patrick he’s privileged enough to have. 

“Now come on,” Patrick starts, “Stevie’s waiting around the corner in the car with Lena and Ivan, and we have a reservation at Masa in ten minutes.”

“You got us into Masa?” 

Patrick shrugs and for some reason, David hears Elle Woods’ voice in his head: “What, like it’s hard?”

“We’re celebrating,” Patrick says as he leads them past the Broadhurst towards 8th Avenue, where the black SUV is idling on the curb. As they approach, Ivan gets out of the passenger seat (where he’d no doubt been watching them like a hawk) and opens the back door. Patrick steps back and allows David to slide in first, scooting next to Stevie who gives him a knowing look. 

“Lena,” David softly greets. 

“Mr. Rose,” she replies, nodding in the rearview. “Theatre looks mighty fine.” 

“Agreed,” David says, watching as the man depicted on its walls hops in next to him. Before he can really think about it, he’s grabbing hold of Patrick’s lapels and pulling him into a fierce kiss that curls his toes. 

“What was that for?” Patrick breathes as he pulls away. 

“Congratulations,” David replies. “Properly this time.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Time is fake. 

David has no idea how less than a year ago he was sitting in the VIP section at the Garden, listening to Patrick troll him with an unfairly good cover of Kiss From a Rose. And now that David has kissed Patrick (thousands of times) since that concert, it’s all he can think about as he lies in bed, staring at his ceiling, remembering the first time Patrick leaned in and David’s preconceived notions went from no way to just maybe. When they were tipsy at a tour wrap party and Patrick explained what Full Count meant. 

Three balls and two strikes on the batter. Could go either way.”

Tomorrow could go either way. This whole show could go either way. 

Determining that sleep is going to be elusive and that their decision to spend the night before first rehearsal apart is dumb, David throws the covers back and stuffs his feet into his Uggs, unplugging his phone from its charger and giving his teeth another brush. He heads downstairs and pulls his coat on over his pajamas, grabbing his keys from the dish by the door (making sure the most important one is on it) as he hails an Uber from the app. 

Rodrigo (4.98 stars) picks him up in record time for midnight on a Sunday, and they make their way uptown towards 81st street. The townhouse is dark when they pull up outside, and David thanks Rodrigo as he exits the car, careful not to slam the door too loudly. He wouldn’t want to wake Wendy and make her wonder why he’s sneaking into Patrick’s so late at night. He quickly climbs the stoop, pulling the key ring out of his pocket and pausing just as he slides it into the lock because...

Well, it’s the first time he’s actually used it. 

He takes a moment to savor this; to think about how far he’s come. Not a single previous partner has ever given him such access to their life before; has ever wanted him to have such access. David can come and go as he pleases, and it’s actually encouraged. Like, what is that about? 

Huffing slightly in disbelief, he turns the key and listens as the heavy door swings back with a squeak. The house is dark, and he pulls his Uggs off just inside, leaving them on the mat as he turns on his phone’s flashlight to illuminate the way. Passing the kitchen and the living room, he continues up to the top floor and turns the flashlight off as he gets to the closed bedroom door. A self-described ‘morning person,’ there’s no chance Patrick is awake right now, but David still holds his breath as he turns the knob, watching the soft light from the perpetually lit hall lamp spill onto the rug and the bed beyond. Sure enough, gentle snores are all he hears because Patrick sleeps like he took an Ambien with a melatonin chaser. 

David closes the door, thrusting the room into darkness again, and navigates his way by sheer memory, tiptoeing his way towards the bed and coming around to Patrick’s side. The moonlight from the windows shows him sprawled on his back, one hand resting on his stomach, the other tossed up above his head. David takes a moment because he so rarely gets to see Patrick like this, completely unguarded. To be perfectly honest, there’s hardly ever a time when Patrick is asleep and David is awake. 

Smiling softly, he makes his way back over to the empty side, to his side, and removes his coat, draping it on the chair in the corner. Then he lifts the comforter and gingerly slides into the sheets made warm by the human furnace that is Patrick Brewer. 

“Mmph, David?” 

There’s something wonderful about Patrick being woken in the middle of the night and automatically assuming that it’s his boyfriend in his bed and not some serial killer. Or maybe David just watches too many true crime documentaries. 

“It’s me,” he whispers, scooting closer, pressing his cold nose to Patrick’s bicep where his t-shirt has slid up. Even in the dark, he can see Patrick smile sleepily as he turns, gets an arm around David’s waist, and yanks him closer. 

“Mmm, you used the key.”

“I did.” 

“Finally.” He closes his eyes and puckers his lips and who is David to deny him? He leans forward and cups his cheek, pressing his cool mouth to Patrick’s warm one. 

“Sorry I woke you.” 

“S’okay. S’always okay. You alright?” He tries to keep his eyes open but only succeeds in blinking sluggishly. David really does feel bad. 

“Just… can’t sleep.” 

“Mm. Nervous?” 

He shouldn’t be - he’s certainly done this before - but Patrick’s voice lacks any of the teasing David loves so much. It’s genuine curiosity and concern with zero judgment at all. 

“Yeah, I think I am. I didn’t expect to be.” 

“S’a big deal.” 

Is it? But David doesn’t say that because he knows it is. “There are a lot of people counting on me. And even more waiting for me to fail.” 

Patrick sighs and scoots closer still, wedging his knee in between David’s legs. “I think you might be surprised by how many people want you to succeed. Look at how you handled the Sebastien stuff.” 

David is about to argue until he reminds himself that the public at large didn’t witness the multitudinous emotional breakdowns he experienced during those weeks. 

“You deserve a win,” Patrick continues, gently tracing David’s eyebrow with his thumb. “And I think people want that for you.”

“I’m never going to win a popularity contest.” 

Patrick just hums sleepily. “You’re not the same person you were ten years ago. None of us is.” 

No shit, he wants to say, but the words are too harsh for such a gentle moment. Instead, he presses his cheek into Patrick’s hand and allows the careful fingers threading through his hair to lull him into the kind of deep sleep that seemed so elusive not an hour ago. 

Because now he’s not alone. Now the world is quiet. 

Sort of. 

“Hey,” someone whispers, and he blinks his eyes open hours before he’s ready to. He just fell asleep. It has to be dawn, at least. 

“Time is it?” 

“Early,” Patrick whispers as he presses a kiss to David’s forehead. 

“Why are you damp?” 

“I just went for a run.”

“Ugh, you’re gross.” David tries to push him away, but his hand gets caught in the sheets and he only succeeds in nearly punching himself in the face. 

“Good morning to you, too. So you don’t want this coffee?”   

“Mm you’re hot.” He throws in a sleepy shimmy for good measure. 

“Better,” Patrick chuckles, placing the steaming mug down on the bedside table and leaning back enough so David can prop himself up against the headboard. “Sorry to wake you, but I noticed you didn’t bring anything with you and figured you’d want to head home to get ready.” 

David lifts the mug and takes a long sip. “Probably a good idea. The cast would have something to say if I showed up looking like this. Helen especially.” 

“That’s because Helen rolls in wearing leather pants and stilettos more often than not.” 

“Oh to be 65 with the ass of a 20-year-old.” 

Patrick laughs and steals a sip of David’s coffee, wincing at the sugar. “I’ll have to watch my back. Clearly I have competition.” 

“I do love an older woman.” 

Patrick squeezes his knee over the blanket and stands. “I’m gonna shower. Stay as long as you want, but Lena’s downstairs whenever you’re ready.” 

“She is?” 

“Mm. She’ll drop you off and then come back up for me.” 

“That’s so inconvenient. I hope you didn’t ask her to do that.” 

“She’s the one who suggested it,” Patrick says as he shrugs and tugs off his sweaty t-shirt. “And I know better than to argue with Lena.” 

But David doesn’t know better and, yes, he is tempted to argue because why would Lena drive half the length of Manhattan in rush hour traffic twice just so David can put on proper clothes because he was too stressed and nervous to remember to pack anything last night? Like, who does that?  

“Hey,” Patrick says again, looking at him with that softly fond expression that does something to the cartilage in David’s knees. “She offered because she likes you. My entire team really likes you, David. They like us. And if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that they’re willing to do just about anything to help us protect what this is.”

“And what is this?” He doesn’t mean to ask, and it’s entirely too serious a conversation to have when Patrick is half-naked and David hasn’t yet looked in a mirror, but he can’t take it back now. 

And the thing is: he knows what it is. And Patrick does, too, going by the shit-eating grin he has on his face. Sure enough, the words he says next aren’t sweet or fond or soft. They’re fucking sassy. 

“You tell me,” he says with yet another terrible wink, before disappearing into the bathroom. 

David allows himself all of two sips before checking the time on his phone (fucking daybreak), before throwing back the covers and padding after his boyfriend. The bathroom is thick with humidity, the mirror already fogged over, and David wants nothing more than to stand under the hot water and let it beat down on his tense shoulders. He pulls his sweater over his head and pushes his joggers to his ankles. He truly didn’t have anything sexy on his mind when he came over last night - panic was too busy knocking on his ribcage - but arousal pulses low in his belly as he watches Patrick turn his face into the spray, putting that perfect ass on display through the wet glass. 

David opens the door, and Patrick yelps as cold air blasts in. “Oh. You joining me?” 

But David can only grunt and then moan as he hip-checks Patrick out of the way to get under the heat. He doesn’t miss the way that particular noise affects Patrick south of the border, but he closes his eyes and lets the water soak his head, dripping down his back. 

“You sure you have time for this?” Patrick asks, lips pressing against David’s shoulder blade. 

“It’s so early, it’s practically yesterday. Yes, I have time.” He leans back against Patrick’s broad chest. “I’m the director, I’ll make time.”

Patrick snorts. “Bet Heather would love hearing that excuse.

David hums but doesn’t say anything because his long-suffering stage manager has certainly heard worse from him. It’s too early in the day and too soon in their relationship to bring up the period in his twenties when Heather had Mutt frequently conduct proof of life checks on him. It… wasn’t a good period. 

“Thank you, by the way,” he murmurs, nearly nodding off again as Patrick gently traces patterns on his chest. 

“For what?” 

“Last night. Letting me wake you up. Talking me down.” 

Patrick presses another kiss to his shoulder and holds him tighter. “Of course. That’s why I gave you the key. I want you here.” 

And David is glad his face is already wet because how else would he explain the tears welling in his eyes? He’ll blame it on the tried-and-true combination of stress and sleep deprivation, but no one has ever said something as simple as I want you here and meant it before. As if he knows, Patrick cups his cheek and turns his head, wiping the water away from his skin with his thumb and pulling him down into a kiss. It’s a soft thing, a whisper in the morning, but the want that had coaxed David from the bed and made him abandon his coffee sparks again like a match head dragged across a striker strip. 

Patrick makes to pull away, but David whimpers and holds his hand to his face, deepening the kiss and bringing it from a whisper to a plea. From a plea to a demand. Patrick answers in kind, sliding his free hand down David’s stomach and wrapping it around the base of his cock. David grunts into his mouth and tries to turn in his arms, but Patrick keeps them back to chest, shifting slightly to slot his thickening cock between David’s cheeks. 

“What do you need?” he whispers, and David blinks his eyes open, shaking away the water. 

“You.” Then he covers Patrick’s hand with his own and gets it firmly around himself, guiding his strokes at a slow and steady pace. They don’t need anything fancy; he’s not awake enough for that. He just needs the connection, the feel of Patrick against him and the care that he tends to David with, conducting a sinful orchestra only he can hear. Patrick presses kisses to the back of David’s neck, nipping occasionally at his ear as he methodically takes David apart, coaxing him closer and closer to what will surely be an absolutely mind-whitening orgasm. His hand disappears for a moment and David whines briefly before a sharp gasp replaces it, Patrick’s palm coming back slicked up with soap. He grinds his hips into David’s ass, his breath hitching against David’s skin. And that’s perhaps the best part of this: the pleasure Patrick gets from him in turn; the most beautiful feedback loop that ramps them up higher and higher. 

“Fuck, Patrick,” he breathes, dropping his head back on his shoulder as he braces his hand on the marble wall to better push back against him. 

Patrick moans as he picks up the pace, thighs slapping together, grunts and groans echoing off the glass. “Close, baby,” he manages, twisting his wrist in a way that nearly buckles David’s knees. 

“Just - ” but before David can tell him just what he needs to send him over the edge, Patrick is sliding the hand that had been gripping David’s hip down between his cheeks and pressing against his hole, because he knows.  

“Oh fuck,” David cries, spilling all over the floor, letting go of Patrick’s hand on his cock to brace himself against the wall. “Oh my God,” he murmurs, shivering through the aftershocks of an orgasm that Patrick seemed to pull from his toes. 

Patrick steps up against him once more, still hard and panting against David’s skin, and David reaches back and gets a sluggish hand on his hip, urging him on again. 

“Come on, honey. Come for me.” 

But Patrick wasn’t kidding when he said he was close, and he manages to roll his hips only twice before he’s moaning as he comes between David’s thighs. David turns and gets a hand on him, encouraging the last few aftershocks from him and whispering words that mean both nothing and everything against his temple.

“So good, honey. That was so good.” 

“Jesus,” Patrick finally slurs, wrapping his arms around David’s waist and hugging him tight as the hot water washes everything away. 

“Mmm, and a good morning was had by all,” David murmurs, and Patrick chuckles against his collarbone. 

“Every day should start like that.” 

And David hopes the sound of the shower drowns out the gasp that leaves his lips at the implication. Because for every day to start like this, every night would have to end like this. Sure, keys have been exchanged, but that’s a conversation that hasn’t been broached yet. And it can’t be, because how the hell can they live together when no one’s supposed to know they even share a bed? 

He shakes his head, refusing to be morose as he pulls away and presses a kiss to Patrick’s forehead. 

“I should go. I’m going to need to reshower at my place just to tame my hair.” 

Patrick smiles and runs his hand through it, giving it a gentle tug that makes David legit growl. Patrick raises a suggestive eyebrow and then pouts as David rolls his eyes and reaches over to turn the knob.

They towel off, moving around each other in the spacious bathroom in a dance that’s almost automatic: Patrick hands David his moisturizer without him having to ask because even though he’ll be showering again, his skin dries out quickly and Patrick knows that he’ll be uncomfortable on the journey home if he doesn’t apply some. David then sits Patrick down on the bench at the foot of the bed and smooths some of the product he bought for Patrick’s fledgling curls through his hair. It’s so domestic, the two of them still in their towels, slowly discovering a routine neither of them has had before. 

Patrick begins to get ready for the day, pulling on his jeans and the button down he’ll wear to the meet and greet before stripping down to the white tee beneath it once rehearsal starts. But David only has his pajamas, and he can feel Patrick’s eyes on him as he pulls his joggers back on. 

“I know I look ridiculous,” he says, gesturing to his still drying hair and, well, everything, “but I’m hoping Lena won’t judge.” 

But Patrick just pads over to his dresser and digs out a clean baseball shirt from a drawer, handing it to him. “You know… if you did want to leave some stuff here, that would be - I wouldn’t mind that.” 

David pauses as he pulls it over his head. “Yeah?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Okay,” he replies, tucking his lips into the corner of his mouth, as Patrick nervously scratches at the back of his neck. 

“I know it’s, um, incorrect to hang sweaters, so I’ll clear out a shelf in the closet and a couple of drawers.” Then he smooths his hands over David’s chest, looking his fill. “As much as I like you in my clothes, I figured now that we’re in the same city…” he trails off and clears his throat, and David understands because it’s been a long fucking time coming. “Now that we’re here and we’re this,” Patrick continues, barely slipping his fingers beneath the waistband of David pants, “maybe you’d want to wear your own things.”

“I’d like that,” David whispers.   

“Then it’s settled.” 

A key, a shelf, and some drawers. 

Who knew it could feel like Christmas?

🎭 🎭 🎭

As David steps out of the car onto 42nd Street, New 42 greets him like the old friend it is. 

It’s for the best that he and Patrick didn’t ride together because he spots a few paps loitering just down the block, cameras at the ready. He’s not surprised that they figured out where they’re rehearsing considering it’s the second time they’ve used these studios, but he is surprised that they’re still here. It’s just the natural order of the universe that Patrick arrives before him to anything, so surely they got whatever shots Ivan managed to not block. But then he’s further thrown for a loop when they raise their cameras and aim them at him.  

“What the fuck?” he mutters, hurrying towards the glass doors as Darius gets one open for him. 

“Morning, Mr. Rose.” 

“Hey, Darius.” 

“Been there since 7am,” he says, nodding at the lone photographer who dared to come closer.

“Seriously?” 

“Mmhm.” 

“Surely someone famous has to be doing something interesting somewhere else in the city.” 

But Darius just shrugs. “Even famous people aren’t Mr. Brewer.” 

As someone who’s seen ‘Mr. Brewer’ cry at holiday commercials, David finds that ridiculous, but such is the nature of celebrity. 

“Floor seven again?” 

“Lucky seven again,” Darius replies, and David hopes it is. He hits the button for the elevator and gets in when it opens with a ding a moment later, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. 

This is now the third time they’ve done this, if you count the workshop. The people are the same, the coffee is the same, even the bagels are the same, though there’s nothing wrong with that. 

David knows this. David’s done it. So why is he so fucking nervous? 

The elevator doors slide open and for a moment, he thinks he’s stepped into a rehearsal for Dante’s Inferno. People are bouncing and laughing and screaming and the red walls are really enhancing the whole bacchanal feel. 

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters, watching as Candice practically throws herself at Byron in a fierce hug. 

“David,” Ruth greets as she sidles up to him.  

“What the fuck did you put in the coffee?” 

But she just shrugs. “That’s pure serotonin. Though I can’t vouch for what’s in your mother’s.” 

“My mother’s? Why is she - ”

“Day-vid?” 

“Oh fuck.”  

He turns towards Studio B to find his mother tottering over to him on her platform heels, a black top hat with some sort of feather thing perched on top of a pink wig. 

“What are you doing here?” 

“Your father and I wanted to wave the green flag of your theatrical Grand Prix.” 

He stares blankly. “What?” 

“Oh don’t be obtuse, David. We’re paying for this endeavor and you know your father loves a Zabar’s spread.” 

His stomach grumbles because David, too, loves a Zabar’s spread. And at that moment, Heather exits studio A with a plate containing an everything bagel with cream cheese, a piece of fruit, and two mini muffins. 

“Cap. Thought you could use some sustenance,” she says, handing it over because she’s perfect.  

He groans and stuffs one of the muffins into his mouth completely whole, tipping his head back and not caring in the slightest that Ruth and Heather are watching him with matching expressions of fond judgment. 

Candice transfers her affections to Helen in another chorus of excited squeals, and David has to remind himself that though he’s seen Stevie and Patrick regularly, most of his cast hasn’t laid eyes on each other in two months. Even David’s seen most of the creative team at his production meetings in the weeks leading up to this. 

“You ready?” Heather asks. 

“I think I am,” he replies (once he swallows), letting that familiar feeling of giddy anticipation fill him up. 

She leads him to Studio A, where everyone else seems to be milling about. His father and Bob look like they’re trying to solve the problems of the world as Twyla talks shop with Mutt. Across the room, Stevie is flirting with Jake (yes, David can tell), and over by the windows, he spots Patrick in the corner, laughing about something with Aldridge and Malcolm. 

Christ, he’s even happy to see Ken. 

As if he feels the weight of his gaze, Patrick looks over and catches his eye, smiling softly. David would commit crimes in the name of that smile. 

Heather comes up next to him and crosses her arms, surveying the scene. 

“Cap?” she prompts. 

“Yeah?” he replies, not bothering to look away from the sight. 

“It’s a beautiful day for Broadway.” 

“Yeah,” he breathes, because he really can’t argue with that. “Yeah, it is.”

🎭 🎭 🎭

NYPost.com
Patrick Brewer’s Hamlet Begins Rehearsals Today - But Can It Live Up to the Hype? 

Chapter Text

“End of day, everyone. That is end of day,” Heather calls. “Thanks for a good one!” 

David stands and closes his script, pleased with how far they’ve gotten. The new music and choreography are landing well, and the actors are really coming into their parts, not that they weren’t already, but it’s a progressive growth. An inhabiting that only time, familiarity, and passion can encourage. It’s also impressive that hardly anyone has to call ‘line’ anymore, even after months away from the material. More than once, David has awoken in the middle of the night to Patrick, dead asleep, muttering his soliloquies under his breath. 

“Anything for me?” Ken asks, his perpetual eagerness having been wrangled into something finally resembling subdued professionalism in the intervening weeks. 

“Um, yeah, would you mind giving Carl that note about ‘good madam, stay a while.'? He’s making a tasting menu from Le Bernardin out of it.” 

Ken smirks. “Sure.” 

David watches him go for a second. “Hey, Ken?” 

“Yeah?” 

“Good work this week.” 

Ken lights up brighter than the LED panel outside the window. “Thanks!” 

David had been wary of getting into a room with him again, concerned for his enthusiasm towards Patrick and his dedication to what he was actually being paid to do here. But over the last couple of weeks of rehearsal, Ken has been attentive and detailed, offering suggestions to David but never stepping out of line. It’s a relief, to be honest. Finding a new AD at this point in the process would be disastrous. 

David looks over at Stevie who looks like she’s plotting something with Helen and Candice, never a good thing. Finally, he glances at Patrick who’s packing up his bag in the corner. Brenda approaches him to take the prop letter he’d apparently still had in his pocket, and they exchange a few words and a laugh as he swings his backpack over his shoulder and makes his way across the room. 

“Have a good one.” 

“You, too,” David quietly replies, physically forcing his eyes back on his own bag. 

They had decided to do a date night before tech began and things got even crazier than they already are. Given the fact that the show closed in Toronto not all that long ago, David agreed to a slightly truncated rehearsal process, a decision that he’s trying not to regret as he stares the start of tech down this upcoming Saturday. Those days are long for the actors and even longer for the crew, sleep is a dream, and caffeine and sugar are the only sources of nutrition. 

So if he and Patrick want to share a meal that’s not been microwaved backstage or delivered by Uber Eats, they need to do it before the weekend. It’s something they’ve tried to do weekly, at a restaurant under the guise of “prepping the show” or at one of their apartments where they can hold hands and make out against the kitchen counter with abandon. Admittedly, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing: 

“Thursday?” Patrick pitches. 

“You have Good Morning America on Friday. You’ll want to be well rested.” 

“And what would make me not well-rested?” Bless Patrick and his ability to waggle what brows he has. “Friday then.” 

“I don’t want to have to get up for rehearsal the next morning.” 

“What would keep us up so late that you wouldn’t want to get up for rehearsal in the morning?” 

“Shh!” 

“Fine,” Patrick sighs. “How about Saturday?” 

But David just looks at him. “It’s Valentine’s Day.” 

“I know. And?” 

David is getting really frustrated with being the responsible one. “Look, let’s just do Sunday instead.”

“You have family dinner.” 

“They’ll understand.”  

“We can do tomorrow.” 

“I have drinks with that playwright.” 

“Well, obviously we’re running out of options, and I haven’t yet become powerful enough to either make more days of the week or change Equity’s rules, so.” 

More often than not there were weeks where they didn’t see much of each other outside of the rehearsal studio, but even having the ability to collapse into bed together at night just to sleep was better than being an international border away. Now, it’s the night before press day when they let the wolves into their sanctuary and show them a snippet of what they’ve been working on, and David might vibrate out of his skin. He’s supposed to sneak his way over to Patrick’s because there’s no way he’ll be fit for public consumption, but even a meal at home requires acts of espionage that would make MI6 proud. 

He glances up in time to watch Patrick greet Ivan in the hall before the studio door swings shut, blocking his view. When he turns back, Stevie is standing in his space. 

“Jesus!” 

“Stevie,” she corrects. Sometimes, she sounds entirely too much like Patrick. “So what’s the getaway plan tonight?” 

He shrugs as he slides his script into his bag. “Walk around the block, wind my way through Shubert Alley and under the Marquis, maybe through the Edison, too. Pick up a car.”

“Can’t be too careful,” Stevie intones with a nod, and David glares because he’s honestly not sure if she’s mocking him or not. 

He took me by the wrist and held me hard’ isn’t landing,” he says, just to be mean. To be fair, it’s not, but he doesn’t need to needle her about it now.  

“Yes, I’m well aware,” she glares. “Don’t be a dick just because you need to get laid.” 

“I’m getting laid just fine, thank you,” he snaps, blushing furiously when Ken chokes on his spit next to him. “I did not realize you were there. Have a good night.” And with as much dignity as he can muster, he picks up his bag and slots his sunglasses into place despite the fact that it still gets dark at 5pm. 

Most of the actors have either managed to scurry out or are taking their time, which means David is alone when he presses the button for the elevator. Luckily it’s empty when the doors slide open (though last week he rode down with Denzel so he really can’t be mad about that), but just before they shut, a tiny hand jams itself into the crevice, bouncing them open once more. 

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he mutters as Stevie gets in, head held high. 

“You need to be more fucking careful,” she snaps. 

You started it!” 

Thankfully, the doors shut before anyone else can join them, and he leans his head back against the metal wall, takes the glasses off, and inhales like he’s in a hookah bar. 

“How long can you keep this up?” she quietly asks, and honestly, he preferred her snark. 

“As long as it takes.” He doesn’t tell her that he and Patrick said after the Tonys. She doesn’t need that kind of ammunition in case one or both of them can’t hold up their end of the bargain. 

The doors slide open again into the dark lobby, and he waves a goodbye to AJ behind the desk before bracing himself for the blast of cold March air. 

“You want me to drop you anywhere?” 

But she shakes her head. “No, I take the subway like a normal person.” 

“What’s normal anyway?” he mutters, glancing around, glad to see that the paps have tapered off. There’s only so much money they can get for a picture of Patrick in basically the same outfit wearing the same damn hat daily. But this has become his new normal: always looking over his shoulder to see who might be watching. 

“See you tomorrow,” he offers as she parts ways with him by the subway stop on the corner.  

“Yeah, enjoy your dinner.” 

“Best wishes.” 

“Warmest regards.” 

He makes a left onto 7th and walks north two blocks, making another left onto 44th Street and giving the Broadhurst a little salute before cutting right through Shubert Alley. He pulls his phone out as he cuts under the Marriott Marquis and orders an Uber to Glass House Tavern. Jaywalking once again across 46th Street, he uses the shortcut through the lobby of the Edison Hotel before making a left out of the revolving doors and standing outside the restaurant. He contemplates if he has time for a quick drink, but inevitably he’ll run into someone he knows, and he doesn’t have the time or desire for conversation. He’s convincing himself of this just as his car pulls up, and he opens the back door, affirming that yes, he is David, and yes, he’s heading uptown. 

God, the hoops they jump through for a little bit of privacy. How much easier it would be to just hitch a ride with Patrick. 

They hit traffic on Central Park West, having determined it to be the lesser of two evils compared to the West Side Highway at rush hour, but David doesn’t mind, sitting back against the leather seat and scrolling through his neglected emails. There’s one from the CEO of the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, of which David is a board member, asking not-so-subtly if David knows of anyone who might be willing to perform at their gala. He flags the email and tries to make a mental note to bring it up with Patrick later. It could be a box of Pandora proportions, and he’s not sure he wants to ruin their last date night for a while with heavy topics of conversation. 

The car turns onto 81st Street, and he thanks the driver as they pull to a stop. Hauling his entirely too heavy bag that will inevitably send him to the chiropractor off the seat, he trudges up the stone steps to Patrick’s townhouse and barely gets his key in the door before it’s swinging back, revealing Patrick, standing there wide-eyed and not a little panicked. 

“I swear this wasn’t my idea,” he blurts before David can even say ‘hi.’  

“What wasn’t -” but his words trail off as he steps into the living room and comes face-to-face with, well, practically everyone in his life. Alexis and Rachel are seated on one couch with Ted perched on the arm. Ronnie and Ray are on the other couch as Stevie fills a glass from the wet bar against the wall. 

“Oh my God, is this an intervention?” Then he rounds on Stevie. “And how the hell did you get here so fast?” 

She shrugs. “Gotta love the C train.” 

No, you do not. “Did you know about this?” he asks Patrick, who gestures around at the decidedly romantic lighting and the jazz playing lowly in the background that David is just now noticing. 

“Do I look like I knew about this?” 

“What’s going on? Who died?” 

“No one died,” Ronnie finally says, sounding bored already. Next to her, Ray beams. 

“Hello, David!” 

“Hi, Ray,” he replies monotonously, still rather flummoxed by whatever the fuck is happening.

“David, sit down before you fall down,” Alexis clips, patting the limited space beside her. 

Patrick saves him by getting a hand on his hip, and David hates that his initial reaction is to flinch away from the touch. But everyone in this room knows about them. There’s no reason to hide. He offers Patrick an apologetic smile, but he just kisses David’s shoulder in return. 

“It’s okay. Come on,” he murmurs, guiding David over to the large leather ottoman that’s been shoved towards the fireplace at the head of this little demonic triangle. Clearly they’re meant to sit there. 

They sink into the cushion, knee-to-knee and hip-to-hip, and stare at the people who mean well but whom David resents enormously at the moment. 

Finally, Rachel sits forward. “We wanted to talk about a game plan for tomorrow.” 

“What, and you thought you had to enact a coven?” 

“David,” Patrick whispers, getting a hand on his thigh and squeezing slightly, but David is having none of it. 

“No, no. We’ve made it eight months without your help. I think we can handle one Broadway press day.” He thoroughly ignores the way Patrick’s mouth does that upside-down-smile-thing he loves so much at the mention of ‘eight months.’ 

But before anyone can address that claim, the front door swings open again, and Heather and Mutt stride through. “Sorry we’re late,” she offers as she sheds her coat. “Had to send the report.” 

Oh my God.”

“You know?” Patrick asks, sounding entirely too young and small. It’s David’s turn to place his hand down on top of Patrick’s. 

“Yeah,” Mutt states rather succinctly, “we know.” 

“Does everybody know?” 

It’s not comforting that they all have to look at each other for an answer. 

“I mean - not everyone,” Ted manages. 

“Does the cast know?” 

But Heather shakes her head. “The cast doesn’t know.” 

“Just me,” Stevie mumbles around the lip of her drink. 

David can feel Patrick inhale shakily beside him, and he turns to press a kiss to his shoulder. Maybe they do need the help. 

“David, Patrick,” Rachel begins again, clearly the lone voice of reason, “everyone in this room loves you and just wants what’s best for you.” 

Luckily, both Stevie and Ronnie choose that moment to make obnoxious sounds of skepticism, which breaks the ice and even gets Patrick to chuckle, despite the fact that he still looks vaguely nauseated. But it’s true, the only people missing are their respective parents. Speaking of - 

“Where are Mom and Dad? Shouldn’t they be in on this? They’ll be there tomorrow.” 

“Well,” Rachel looks at Alexis who just rapidly shakes her head, “your dad’s still in the dark and we thought it best we leave him there.” 

“How is that even possible?” He knows his Dad is oblivious, but Jesus. He almost walked in on them making out in the pantry during the holiday party. “What about Mom?” 

“Oh last time I tried to prep her, she just patted my hand, said, ‘Mummy’s home,’ and continued on with the interview. She’s fine,” Alexis says with a flick of her wrist.

“So. You wanted a game plan,” Patrick starts, jaw tight. “I assume that means you have some ideas.” 

Rachel tilts her head, her mouth hard but her eyes sympathetic in a way David’s sure she’s used on Patrick before. It says, we’re trying to help, don’t be a dick and I love you but I will fuck you up if need be. And then she kneecaps them: 

“We’re going to separate you.” 

“I beg your fucking pardon?” he blurts as Patrick spits, “Absolutely not.” 

“Spatially, Jesus Christ,” Stevie mutters, finally coming closer to the conversation but still keeping her distance like she might contract something. 

“It’s too obvious when you guys are right there standing next to each other with an HD camera shoved in your face,” Ronnie offers. 

“She’s right,” Ray agrees. 

“Yeah,” Ted concurs. 

And David can only stare at them open-mouthed. Adelina used to ask him if he was trying to catch flies. “What the fuck,” he breathes. 

“We’re the co-creators. He’s my director. I think they’re going to want to interview us.” Patrick sounds livid. 

“And they will,” Alexis sunnily replies, clearly not reading his tone, “just not together.”

“And you don’t think that’s going to tip people off that something’s a little bit wrong? I can see the headlines now: ‘Something’s Rotten in the State of Denmark as Hamlet Creators Feud.” 

“Okay, well that’s a little dramatic,” Alexis says, like she doesn’t have ‘drama’ tattooed on her hip in Ancient Greek because some ex told her it meant ‘beloved.’ Her next boyfriend, the tenured Classics professor, had to break the news. 

Patrick shifts his weight on the seat again, gripping his hands between his knees so tightly, his knuckles are white. “So, what, you all thought you’d get together behind our backs and try to plan our lives?” 

“Try to coordinate the presentation of your show,” Ronnie states pointedly, reminding Patrick with just a look that not everyone thinks he’s one of GQ’s Men of the Year. It’s to his credit that he doesn’t cow under her withering gaze. 

“Okay, so I get why the agents and press reps are here.” David points to Heather and Mutt. “What about you two?” 

“Interference, if need be.” 

“An extra set of ears and eyes,” Rachel offers. “Alexis and I will be with you the entire time - ”

“But just in case we’re not, Heather and Mutt can step in and, like, create a diversion.” 

“A diversion?” He doesn’t want the show’s press day to become one of Alexis’ Never Have I Ever submissions.

“An excuse,” Heather says much more rationally. “No one is interviewing us, so if you need an out, we’ll get you out.” 

“And you?” Patrick finally aims at Ted. 

“Support, bud!”

“Right.” 

“We’ll start you on opposite sides of the room. David, you’ll begin with Clive from Broadway.com, and, Patrick, with Julie from SiriusXM On Broadway,” Rachel explains. “O&M is setting them up on opposite sides of Studio B so you can work your way around towards the middle, where we’ll have the step-and-repeat for photos.” 

“I assume we’re not allowed to stand next to each other for that either?” David snaps. 

“Sounds like you have it all figured out,” Patrick replies, not a little resentfully. 

“It’s what you pay me for,” Rachel points out. 

There’s some measure of comfort in their bickering, but then something occurs to David that derails any further line of thought he might have had: “Is Antonio going to be there?” 

Patrick’s hand tightens almost painfully on his knee. Seems like the thought didn’t occur to him either. 

Ronnie clears her throat. “The Post was not invited to attend.” 

David doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath until it rushes out of him in a gust of relief. Patrick’s hand tightens again, less painful this time, his thumb rubbing soothingly back and forth over David’s jeans.

“Good,” they both say. David has no desire to lay eyes on Antonio, and he’s not entirely sure Patrick wouldn’t lay fists on him either. 

“Is that it?” Patrick asks, standing abruptly. “I’d invite you all to stay for dinner, but I’m afraid I only planned for two.” 

“Honey,” David quietly admonishes, because he’s honestly never seen Patrick be this outright rude before. They are among friends, annoying ones at that, but still.

“No, he’s right,” Ronnie, surprisingly, says. “We pushed in on your evening.” 

“Look, it’s not - ” Patrick huffs out a frustrated breath and pinches the bridge of his nose, “this isn’t forever. It won’t always be like this. We’re going to - I’m not - ” he sighs again, shoulders slouching in defeat. 

“Hey, man,” Mutt starts, “it takes as long as it takes.” 

They all start to stand, taking their cue to leave, but then Patrick finds his words: 

“We’ve decided to go public after the Tonys,” he blurts, and everyone freezes; everyone but Rachel, who of course has known this all along. Then Patrick gives a little self-conscious shrug. “Just in case we have a little luck there.” 

A possibility that David hasn’t dared to let himself think about yet. 

“I don’t want my coming out to be the headline when everyone should be talking about the work.” He looks down at David still sitting on the ottoman. “We talked about doing it after opening, but I was reminded that the Broadway season goes a little longer than that. So.” 

David takes Patrick’s hand and presses a kiss to the back of it. 

“Sorry for,” Patrick gestures with a free hand at, well, himself, “you know. We, uh, we won’t let you down tomorrow.” 

“We didn’t think you would,” Ray says with an enthusiastic clap, finally drawing a smile from his client’s tired and stressed features. 

“Sorry you guys felt you had to come all the way up here,” David manages, and he sounds as sincere as he’s capable of being when all he wants to do is kick everyone out and wrap his boyfriend up in his arms.  

“You were on the way home,” Heather replies.

Mutt shrugs. “I have a date around the corner in ten.” Of course. 

Ronnie and Ray head towards the door, and Ronnie pauses in the foyer, looking back at him shrewdly. He knows that look. It says Tomorrow is necessary. Tomorrow is important. The don’t fuck it up is just implied by now. 

He swallows and nods, Patrick’s words echoing through his head: “We won’t let you down.”

Surely they can control themselves for a single fucking morning, right? If not, then what hope do they have of making it until June? 

Heather and Mutt head out next, and David watches as Rachel hugs Patrick, whispering something in his ear for only him to hear. Alexis hovers by the door in a way that is not subtle in the slightest, and when Ted approaches them to say his goodbyes, David finally snaps. 

“Ted, please go take my sister out for dinner before she injures herself trying to look casual.” 

“You got it, bud,” Ted says, clearly not needing to be told twice. “I’ll text you!” he calls back to Patrick, who can only shake his head and chuckle as Alexis grabs hold of Ted’s hand and all but yanks him out the door. 

When David turns, Rachel is standing before him, hands clasped behind her back, head cocked in question. “Are you mad?” 

He sighs. “I’m not mad, I’m…” annoyed? Offended? Worried we actually won’t be able to pull this off? 

“He’s mad,” she murmurs, nodding towards Patrick who’s made his way across the room to Stevie.  

“Well. He’s entitled. It’s his life.” 

“It’s yours, too,” she reminds, and it’s pointed enough that he’s forced to look down at her once more. She’s not wrong - his life is rapidly becoming their life. And isn’t that a fascinating prospect?  “Take care of him, okay?” 

“I will,” he replies. 

“And take care of yourself.” 

“We are grateful, you know. I know that tonight was… messy - ”

“Maybe a surprise intervention wasn’t the best execution.” 

He laughs. “Probably not.” 

“Noted for next time,” she replies with a wink, before going up on her toes and pressing a kiss to his cheek. “See you tomorrow.” 

“See you tomorrow.” 

“Ready?” Rachel asks and Stevie nods. 

“We’re sharing a car downtown,” Stevie explains as she downs the rest of her drink and hands David her glass. Like a pleb. 

“No words of wisdom?” he snarks. “No pieces of advice?”  

She looks at him for a long moment that he almost wants to flinch under. If anyone sees him, she does - Stevie and the man standing behind her - but he just lifts his chin, submitting himself to her scrutiny. 

“Nah,” she finally says. “You got this.” Then she turns before he can catch any glimpse of emotion on her face, and she and Rachel are out the door. 

As soon as it clicks behind them, he turns to Patrick who’s watching him carefully by the wet bar. “Do we?” 

“Do we what?” Patrick asks tightly. Tiredly. 

“Have this?” 

“I dunno, David.” 

Not exactly comforting. Then again, David isn’t the only one in need of comfort. 

“C’mere.” He holds his arms open and Patrick immediately strides over and steps into them, holding him tightly, suggesting that he was more in need of a hug than David originally realized. “We do, you know. Have this.” 

Patrick nods against his shoulder, but doesn’t let go. 

“Come on. It’s date night and I’m starving.” 

Patrick doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t have to. David knows his focus is still on the previous conversation, but that’s okay. He’ll get him to the present.

“Let’s go.” He tugs his hand and leads him towards the stairs and up to the kitchen, turning the low lighting up just a bit so they can see what they’re doing. “Honey,” he breathes when he catches sight of the candles dotted around the kitchen island and the bouquet of flowers sitting in the center of the table in the breakfast nook. “When did you do all of this?” 

“About two minutes before the first person knocked on my door. Although, that’s an exaggeration. The first person was Ted and he has a key. I came downstairs from putting the food in the oven to find everyone already sitting in the living room. Stevie arrived shortly thereafter, followed by you.” 

David sniffs the air, smelling something sinful involving garlic and tomato sauce. 

“Chicken parmesan. I prepped everything this morning. All I had to do when I got home was light the candles and throw the dish in the oven.”

David groans and wanders over, groaning again at the sight of the casserole dish, bubbling away. 

“Good thing I planned for comfort food,” Patrick says a little testily before leaning down and blowing out the nearest wick. 

“Hey, no. Don’t do that,” David admonishes, already looking around the drawers for the lighter. “This is our night. Well, now it’s our night.” 

But before Patrick can reply, his phone chimes on the counter, and he reaches over to tap the screen. 

“Who is it?” 

“My mom.” He unlocks it and reads the text, huffing out a laugh. “Looks like Rachel gave her a heads up that you and I were getting ambushed. She wants to know if we’re okay.” 

David tries not to show how ridiculously touched he is by that. “Mm, TBD. How is she?”

Patrick opens his mouth like he’s about to rattle off some reflexive response, but then he pauses, biting his lip. “She’s worried.” 

“What? Why?” 

Patrick puts the phone down without responding and leans his elbows on the granite. “She’s worried about us. About the strain of having to keep this quiet added onto the stress of putting up a Broadway show.” 

“Maybe for good reason,” he says pointedly, brandishing the found lighter and igniting the candle again with a mock glare. 

“Yeah, I know,” Patrick murmurs sheepishly. 

“You got really mad.” 

“Yeah.”

“And rude.” 

“Okay.” 

David sits on one of the stools at the island, tugging Patrick by his belt loops in between his knees. “Talk to me.”  

He’s silent for a moment, looking over David’s head at something unseen in the distance. “Do you remember what I said to you on the dock at my parents’ place?” 

That wasn’t what David was expecting. “Which time?” 

“The first time.” 

“Oh. Yeah, I do.” 

“Do you ever wonder what’s true?” 

“And then what I said in the back of the car?” 

He doesn’t need clarification for that one. There’s only one car that he kissed Patrick Brewer in for the first time. 

“Your personal life is your personal life.” 
“But it’s not personal. And it’s not my life.”

David clears his throat. “You said it wasn’t your life.” 

Patrick nods and licks his lips, his voice breaking when says, “Yeah. And sometimes, I just - really wish it was.” 

David stands and pulls him into a hug, cupping the back of his head and letting him breathe uneasily against his throat. “I know. I mean - I don’t know. I can’t imagine what this is like, but… I know.” He kisses Patrick’s temple and continues stroking his hair, wishing he could unburden Patrick’s shoulders from the weighty load he carries. 

“See, the thing is…”’ Patrick starts, breathing hotly against David’s neck, “they weren’t wrong.”  

“No,” David agrees. “They rarely are, unfortunately.” 

“No, it’s - ” Patrick pulls back and shakes his head, taking a deep breath, clearly fortifying himself for whatever it is he’s about to say. He starts, stops, and then tries again: “I never told you that I let it slip.” 

David’s fingers stop kneading into his shoulders. “What?”

“Yeah,” he laughs ruefully. “To Carol Chu of all the fucking people.” 

It’s not often that Patrick curses outside of the bedroom, but the bottom has dropped out beneath David’s feet too swiftly for him to even appreciate it. 

“She was talking about her partner, about how much she loves peanut butter chocolate Levain cookies - I don’t even remember how it came up - and I said, ‘oh just wait until you meet my boyfriend.” He huffs out a laugh. “Like it was nothing. Like it was just a part of a conversation I have every day. I didn’t even realize I said anything I shouldn’t have until she sort of, like, tilted her head in a ‘huh’ kind of expression.” He digs his thumb into the palm of his other hand. “God, the fear was… man, it was visceral.” He’s scared even now telling him this, David realizes. Patrick Brewer is fucking terrified. “And she must have known it, too, because she just softly said, ‘I think I already have.’ Then she patted me on the shoulder and left to make a deadline. And that was it.” 

David is still too stunned to speak, and Patrick must take his silence as judgment or something because he keeps rambling.

“We’ve spoken so many times, I honestly forgot the reason she was there. I felt so comfortable - ”

“When, um, when was this?” David asks, finally finding his words. 

“When she came back to see the show.” 

And that makes sense. She came for the first couple days of rehearsal in Toronto, but her schedule didn’t allow her to attend opening, so she caught it mid-run. 

“Why hasn’t she written anything then?” It’s a valid question. Reporters love a scoop.

“The interview was over. We were off the record.” 

But David knows how seriously Carol Chu takes her journalistic integrity. And he hasn’t spoken with her since Toronto because she was waiting until the Broadway production began to continue. Speaking of, he pulls his phone out of his pocket and fires off a text to his sister. 

Will Carol be there tomorrow?

She’s shockingly prompt in her reply, even if she’s probably sharing a noodle Lady and the Tramp- style with her vet wannabe. 

[Alexis]
Duh, David. Like, she’s writing a whole NY Times feature on you and you think she’s not coming to press day?  

He sighs and flips the phone around to show Patrick whose eyes widen. 

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” he whispers. 

David nods and pockets the phone once more. After months of interviews, he feels like he knows Carol Chu by now. If she hasn’t said anything yet, she likely never will; not until given the go-ahead by Patrick. But if the ‘come to Jesus’ moment their entire team just had with them wasn’t a wakeup call, then this news sure as fuck is.

“Are you okay?” he finally asks. It’s the question he probably should have started with. 

“Are you?” Patrick counters. 

And David honestly wishes Patrick had told him - it’s been months - but he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say much. “I’ll be fine. You?” 

“Yeah.” 

But I’ll be fine implies I’m not currently fine and neither of them points that out. Instead, they sit down at the beautifully set table because it’s date night, dammit, and Patrick pours them both a small glass of red wine. 

Conversation is slow and meandering over the (admittedly delicious) chicken parm, both of them lost in their own thoughts and fears; their own worries and recriminations. They go up the stairs and get ready for bed, David pulling pajamas from one of the drawers that Patrick gave him and folding his sweater on one of the shelves. They slide between the sheets with their clothes on and the silent agreement that they won’t be coming off. 

David doesn’t sleep that night. And going by the rigid line of the back he spends hours staring at, Patrick doesn’t either. 

🎭  🎭  🎭

He wakes with his face smashed against the pillow and his hand outstretched over a mattress that has long since gone cold. Lifting his head and squinting his eyes in the morning sun filtering through the windows, Patrick is nowhere to be found. David strains to hear, but the shower isn’t running, The Daily podcast that Patrick listens to every morning isn’t playing, nor are pots and pans banging against the stovetop. David glances at his phone; his alarm’s set to go off in two minutes anyway.

He slides his rings on from the dish Patrick purchased just for them on David’s side of the bed and throws the covers back, giving himself a moment to acclimate to consciousness, before grabbing his phone and heading for the kitchen. 

There’s evidence of Patrick’s presence - a still-warm kettle, a hoodie draped over a bar stool that wasn’t there the night before. David’s about to text him, asking if he left left already, before he spots a post-it stuck to the carafe of the coffee pot. 

Went for a run. Be back soon. xP.

David breathes. Well, at least there’s an x. Patrick wouldn’t leave him. He’s not Rihanna. 

He stumbles over to the fridge and pulls out his Peter Thomas Roth cucumber eye patches before pouring a cup of coffee because priorities. He’s seen a mirror. 

He applies the gel masks and pours a cup, adding more sugar than his doctor would deem appropriate before slouching at the island and perching his chin in the palm of his hand, eyes sliding shut. He’s not sure how much time passes - it’s fluid before 10am - but the sound of footsteps on the stairs jars him, and he blinks awake, trying to look as sexy as possible with bright green half moons beneath his eyes. 

His efforts are in vain when Rachel is the one who appears at the top of the steps with a garment bag slung over her shoulder. She stops dead at the sight of him. 

“You look like shit.” 

“Thanks so much.” Then he nods at the garment bag. “That for him?”

She hums and drapes it over the back of a bar stool. “Where is he?” 

“Running,” he says, and his tone makes it clear just what he thinks of that. He cranes his neck towards the bag, but the lining is completely opaque, giving him no clue what resides inside. He’s seen what Patrick’s worn to press events before so he’s not worried, per se? But he’s not necessarily confident. David’s own outfit is hanging on the back of the door of Patrick’s walk-in closet. It would have raised questions he doesn’t yet know how to answer if he had brought it to rehearsal with him yesterday, so he dropped it off last Sunday on his way to his parents’ for dinner, having planned the look well in advance.  

“I take it you have a key, too?” he asks. Maybe the gesture wasn’t that special at all. 

She shrugs. “He never asked for it back. And honestly, it makes doing stuff like this a hell of a lot easier. I swear he thinks his suits just magically appear when he needs them.” 

David does perk up at ‘suit.’ That’s promising. 

Press days are odd. Every play David’s ever done, it’s just been a series of interviews, one after the other, like talking head musical chairs. For a musical, however (not that this is one, mind you), there’s a performance element expected. The cast usually gets together in rehearsal clothes (black, grey, and white palettes only) and performs a number, but for this, David has decided on the scene between Hamlet and the Ghost of his father, ending with the musicalization of O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?’. It doesn’t showcase the entire cast, but it’s a perfect tease of what this show aims to be. It was also the first piece Patrick ever played for him in his living room on his piano all those months ago; a fitting bookend. When he first pitched it to Patrick, he was hesitant about it being all about him, but when David explained his reasoning, he came around. After that, it wasn’t hard to convince Gary, Derek, and his parents. 

The rest of the cast is just happy they don’t have to change twice. 

“So what’s all this about?” Rachel asks, waving a vague arm in his direction. 

“What?” 

“This…” she specifically points at the eye gels, “situation.” 

“Um, I want to look my best?” he says, running a hand through his bird’s nest of hair. 

But Rachel isn’t Alexis and she sees right through him (though credit where it’s due, his sister is accomplishing it more and more these days). “What happened after we left last night?” 

“Nothing.” 

“David.” 

But the question is out before he even thinks it; before he even means to ask. Before he even wants to: “Did you know about Carol?” He needs to know this. Badly. 

“Know what about Carol?” she asks, raising an amused eyebrow. “That she’s doing a feature on you? I do. And I hope you do, too, considering she’s been interviewing you for the better part of a year.” 

“No, that Patrick accidentally told Carol he had a boyfriend.”

Rachel stills much like David had. Outside, a dog barks. Somewhere, a clock ticks. 

“No,” she murmurs. “Seems he’s been keeping that one to himself.”

Right. 

But before either of them can dive into the implications of that or how it’s probably been eating away at Patrick for the last few months, the front door bangs open and footsteps skip up the stairs two at a time. 

“Oh,” Patrick blurts - sweaty, flushed, gorgeous - stopping dead at the sight of them, eyes darting back and forth. “Hey. What’s going on?” 

The tension of unsaid things hangs heavy in the air like fog on a damp morning. 

“David and I were just chatting,” Rachel says evenly, and David watches as an entire conversation happens between them in the space of a breath. 

He wonders if he and Patrick will ever get to have that. 

“Oh?” Patrick’s voice is high and tight, and David can read well enough between the lines. Maybe they will. 

“Why didn’t you tell me about Carol?” Rachels breathes, at once furious and concerned, and David hears the words Ronnie said in the aftermath of Sebastien’s betrayal echoing in his head: “You’re supposed to warn me about these things! How can I protect you if I’m not prepared?” 

Patrick visibly swallows. “David deserved to know first.”

“David deserved to know months ago,” he snaps, before his brain has a chance to catch up with his mouth. But it’s too late - the tension thickens, hardens, squeezing at David’s throat. “Sorry, ignore that.” They’re both on the kind of sharp edge that has nothing to do with their lack of sleep the night before. “It’s sleep deprivation,” he says anyway. “I’ll just - ” and before he can let anyone else get a word in, he bolts towards the stairs and back up to the bedroom. 

“He’s not wrong,” he hears Rachel say, though, just before he goes. 

Fuck. 

He shuts the bedroom door and leans against it, whining in the safety of the empty room’s silence. This is not how he wanted this day to start. He needs to bring his A game (whatever that is); he needs to be - he needs to be Miranda fucking Priestly (better) and to do that, he first needs to get in the shower (which needs to be cursory at best thanks to his snooze on the chef’s island). By the time he steps out onto the bathmat with a towel around his waist and applies his moisturizing routine, he’s feeling slightly more human. 

Slightly. 

Then he thinks of Patrick and the word vomit he projectiled all over him and slightly becomes minisculey. 

Padding over to the door, he cracks it open and listens intently, and though the soft murmur of harshly whispered voices is apparent, he’s too far away to make out specifics. He’s not equipped to find them out either, because (despite all claims to the contrary) he’s not nearly as stealthy as Alexis, who once accused him of tiptoeing like a drunk elephant. 

He shuts the door again and grabs a pair of briefs from his drawer, before walking over to the closet, stepping inside, and unzipping the garment bag. The size of Patrick’s closet rivals his, which is impressive considering David practically took out a spare bedroom for it. He stares at his suit for a moment: black and sleek; different from what he wore to the trial but just as effective. Just as protective.

“Hey,” Patrick’s voice says suddenly, and David jumps, banging his elbow on the shelf and swallowing back a curse, not wanting Patrick to know just how badly he startled him. 

“Hey,” he finally manages. 

The door still separates them. There’s a moment of painfully awkward silence. 

“Um, are you finished in the bathroom? I should shower. I’m pretty disgusting.” 

Disappointment flares hot and prickly in David’s gut. “Yeah. Go ahead.” 

“Thanks.” 

He lets his breath out slowly as Patrick’s steps retreat. On any other morning after any other night, Patrick would have him up against a closet shelf, his hands creeping beneath David’s towel, but this isn’t any other morning. And that wasn’t any other night. 

He sheds the towel and pulls the briefs on, resigning himself to the fact that this is just the tone for the day. The suit goes on piecemeal, systematically but carefully, and David straightens his cuffs as he looks at himself in the full length mirror. From the neck down, he looks good. The question is if the view from the neck up can fool the press. He kind of wishes Alexis was here. Brutal though her opinions usually are, they’re some of the few he actually trusts. Opening the closet door, he steps back out into the bedroom - 

And almost collides with Patrick’s bare chest. 

“Oh my God.” 

“Wow,” Patrick breathes, stepping away so he doesn’t get David wet, water dripping deliciously down his neck. Despite the fact that he could probably benefit from some cucumber eye patches as well, he looks good. Unfairly good. 

David distracts himself from the view by glancing at the garment bag waiting on the bed. “Is Rachel still here?” 

“Yeah. She’s downstairs. We’re going to ride together.” 

David nods. It’s just a further reminder that he and Patrick don’t have that luxury. 

“Listen, you were right. I should have told you - ”

“Look, let’s not do this now,” he interrupts, shaking his hands. He can’t reverse all of his hard work by doing something as pedestrian as crying. 

“Okay, David.” Patrick nods and takes another step back. David feels it like a canyon. “See you there?” 

“Yeah. See you there.” 

They both lean forward and, in an awkward dance they didn’t even do on their first date, bump noses as lips try to find cheeks. Jesus. 

“Okay, bye,” he blurts, face burning as he turns and hightails it out of the bedroom faster than a one night stand. He didn’t even pick up his towel from the closet floor, like some monster. 

He gets down to the kitchen to find Rachel sitting at the island, muttering at her phone. She glances up at the sound of his boots on the stairs, and he’s heartened by the way her eyes widen and brazenly give him a once-over. 

“Damn, Rose.” 

He hums and inspects his nails. “Okay, that compliment could move me to tears, but I’m not gonna let it.” Granted, it would have been so much more convincing had his voice not wavered at the end. 

“Did you talk?” 

“We’re going to talk after.” 

Rachel sighs and stands, dropping her phone on the granite with significantly less care than she should. “Don’t let him avoid it. He hates the tough conversations, but he kept something from you. Something that didn’t affect just him.” She grabs his lapels and speaks to him from experience. “Don’t let him get away with it.” 

He swallows and nods, unable to hold her gaze for long. 

She gives the lapels a gentle tug, and he smiles as he rocks forward on his toes. “You look good.” 

“Thanks.” 

“Now get outta here so I can sort him out.” 

“And why do I need to be out of here for that to happen?” he asks, eyebrow raised, feeling slightly better. Flattery will get you everywhere. 

“You distract him,” she admonishes. “Go.”  

He huffs out a laugh as he grabs his phone from his breast pocket and opens up the Uber app, heading down the last flight to snag his bag from the living room. As he opens the front door, he inhales the fresh air like he’s just emerged from some underground apocalypse bunker, before opening his eyes and catching sight of a black SUV already idling on the curb. He frowns and glances back down at his phone. He hasn’t ordered the car yet. 

Then the back window rolls down and his father’s face appears. “Son!” 

Christ.

David frantically looks up and down the street, but there’s only someone walking their dog at the end of the block near Amsterdam. “Keep your voice down,” he hisses as he descends the stoop and hurries across the sidewalk. “What are you doing here?”

“We thought we’d give you a ride! It’s practically on the way.”

It is not practically on the way. There’s an entire park between his parent’s place and Patrick’s. The largest inner city park in the country, in fact. The city councilman he flirted with at 21 Club told him that before he stuck his tongue down his throat in the coat check. 

But, well, they’re here and it’s free. 

“Fine.” He opens the door and slides in, squishing his father up against his mother. 

“Day-vid, you look positively splendiferous.” 

“You’ve seen me wear this before.” 

“Then there’s something about the light and the way it hits you - ”

“Oh my God, who told you?” There's no way they don't know. 

“Who told us what?” his dad asks, in what is absolutely a submission for this year’s Razzie Awards. 

“Jesus.” He’d drop his head in his hands if it wouldn’t mess up his hair. 

He doesn’t push it, though. If someone tipped them off that the morning had gotten off to a rocky start and they felt the need to do a drive by, well, it’s kind of… nice. The Roses showing up for each other is still something he’s getting used to. Some things don’t change, though, and he tunes his parents out as the car finally lurches away from the curb to fight the morning rush hour as it makes its way downtown. His dad rambles on about… merchandise? Maybe? - while his mom regales their poor driver about the time she was in tech for Evita and nearly fell off the balcony (“I was pushed!”). 

David’s phone buzzes in his pocket as they pull up outside of New 42 and for a brief second, anticipation sparks, but though it is a Brewer, it’s not the one he was hoping for. 

[Marcy]
David, it’s Marcy. I didn’t hear from Patrick last night after Rachel texted me. Just wanted to make sure you both were okay. 

But what the fuck does he say? He sighs and looks through the car’s window to find Alexis already on the sidewalk, waving enthusiastically, before trotting over and grandly opening the door. 

“Good morning! You’re on time for once! Yay, you!” 

Oh- kay.” He slides out and smooths his pants, checking his silhouette out in the reflection of the door’s glass. Behind him, his mother air kisses Alexis as his father is still trying to sell someone, anyone, on the idea of stocking the concessions bar with skull-shaped cups (“Product placement, son!”). Just no. This isn’t fucking Legends of the Hidden Temple.  

They march through the lobby and into the elevator, David sparing a withering glance at Darius who gives him a thumbs up in solidarity just as Alexis snaps, “Oh my God, Dad, enough with the skulls!” 

He does his 4-7-8 breathing all the way to the seventh floor, and when the doors slide open, Ronnie is waiting for him with a macchiato from Bluestone Lane and an expression that means Business. She doesn’t say anything; just hands it over silently and then turns to lead him into Studio A, trusting him to follow. Heather, Mutt, and Brenda already have the room set up with red chairs lined up against the back wall, and Ruth, Miguel, and Shannon have used what limited space is left by the mirror to set up a table with coffee and an assortment of fruits and baked goods, despite the building’s ‘no food in the studio’ policy. 

Alexis comes over, nibbling at a piece of cantaloupe like a bunny and pins him with a look that aims for casual and lands in the vicinity of maniacal. “Soooo, how did the rest of last night go?” 

“Fine.” And, yes, ‘fine’ is a good word for it. Covers all manner of sins. 

“Mmhm, mmhm, it’s just that, like, Rach might have texted this morning - ”

“Oh for fuck’s sake.” 

“... and said that things might have started at ‘fine’ and then taken a left turn towards ‘not awesome.” 

“Oh are we talking about it?” Stevie asks, appearing out of fucking nowhere wearing an admittedly very nice suit, and David cricks his neck whipping his head back and forth between the two.

“Oh my God, do you all have no better topic of conversation?” 

“Considering the fact that all of our careers depend on whether or not you two can keep your shit together, not really, no,” Stevie says flatly, before turning on her heel and heading for the mini muffins. 

“Like, she’s not wrong, David.” 

“Yeah, I know!” he snaps. He does not need yet another reminder of just how much hangs in the balance; of how much weight is strapped to the very thin thread that is his emotional stability and, frankly, his sanity. He stomps over to the baked goods because it’s better than staying to get life advice from his sister and crosses his arms as Stevie loads her plate. “Why the fuck did I agree to this?” 

“Because you’re a good person,” Stevie replies. 

“No one thinks that.” 

“That is correct. You agreed to it because it’s in your contract.” 

He grunts but doesn’t argue. It is in his contract, and Ronnie has reminded him of that fact ten times in the last week. “Are we stupid to do this?” 

“Which part?” 

“All of it.” 

She turns slowly. “I get the feeling we aren’t talking about the press day anymore.” 

“It’s just - so much. And I don’t - ” He bites his lip and gives voice to the question that’s been at the back of his mind for months; that’s been tapping on his shoulder in his darkest, most vulnerable moments. “Is it worth it?” 

“I don’t know, David,” she says, before nodding towards the door, “why don’t you ask him?” 

Oh God. Patrick's there. Did he hear? David doesn’t dare turn. Not yet, because his tongue is stuck to the roof of his mouth, heavy and leaden with all of the things he shouldn't have said; with all of the things he wishes he had. 

Behind him, Patrick clears his throat and his voice is tight when he asks, “Do you have any notes for me before I warm up?” 

David turns but keeps his eyes fixed on the hardwood floor. “No,” he whispers, finally glancing up and that brief look is enough to make him lose his appetite. Patrick is in black joggers and a grey t-shirt, traditional (if slightly nicer) rehearsal clothes. His face, though, his face says everything. 

There’s no way he didn’t hear. 

He nods once, says, “I’ll be in C if anyone needs me,” and disappears back into the hall. David stands there numbly, wincing as the heavy door shuts with an inadvertent slam. 

“You know,” Stevie starts, “for a theatre director, your timing is shit.” 

He doesn’t even have a response to that. There’s not much to say anyway. 

Time passes and the room fills. David watches as the various members of the press are greeted by his parents and take their seats, and he bounces slightly on his toes with every new face that appears in the doorway that isn’t Carol Chu. There’s Julie from Sirius and Dane from Variety and Clive from Broadway.com and thank God Antonio isn’t here because David isn’t sure he could have handled that on top of Carol knowing they know she knows. 

Finally, unable to stand the suspense any longer, David pokes his head into the hallway - only to find Carol and Patrick conversing quietly in the corner with Rachel hovering nearby. 

David freezes at the sight and maybe he makes a noise or a gasp or something, because suddenly all three are turning to look at him with expressions that run the gamut: Carol offers a warm smile, Patrick immediately looks away, and Rachel just stares at him sympathetically. 

It’s okay, she mouths, and though he trusts her implicitly, he’s not sure he believes her on this. 

The rest of the actors are sequestered in Studio B, and Patrick wraps up whatever he and Carol are talking about and moves to join them. 

“Good luck,” he whispers as he passes, and David’s breath hitches but he manages, “It’s ‘break a leg.” 

It’s something all right. An olive branch, maybe. 

But before he can overthink too deeply, as is his wont, Carol approaches him, hand outstretched. 

“Long time no see, stranger.”  

“Hi,” he replies, taking it. Her grip is warm and firm, and her eyes are kind. 

She must see the absolute panic in his face, though, because she pulls him a little closer and whispers, “He told me you know.” 

He nods. “Why didn’t you say anything?” 

“Wasn’t my place,” she says with a simple shrug as she lets go of his hand. “And it still isn’t. It’s not my story until he offers it to me.” 

He inhales shakily, feeling somewhat calm for the first time since last night. Granted, then he remembers what awaits him on the other side of those doors and his anxiety spikes again. 

“I’m happy for you both, though. Truly.” And then she disappears into Studio A and that’s that. 

Rachel lingers a moment longer, before opening her arms and giving him a hug that he sinks into. Over her shoulder, Alexis appears in the doorway, giving him some complicated hand signal that he’s pretty sure is supposed to ask All good? 

He nods as Rachel whispers, “Go knock it out of the park.” 

“I don’t play cricket.” 

She snorts and releases him just as Heather appears next to Alexis. 

“We ready?” he asks. 

“When you are,” she replies. “Ruth said they’re all here. Your mother is charming the pants off of everyone.” 

“Not literally, I hope. She’s tried that before,” he mutters before heading over to Studio B and opening the door to find his cast, his designers, and his team already in their pre-show ritualistic huddle in the middle of the waiting cameras and microphones. 

“Get in here, darling,” Helen calls and David smiles as Twyla and Derek part to make a spot for him. He gets his arms behind their backs and looks around the group, gaze never lingering on anyone for long so it’s not overly obvious that he can’t hold Patrick’s. 

He could go for something inspiring, but they’ve heard him make those speeches before. Instead, he goes with the only sentiment he’s capable of at the moment:

“Well, we made it this far and they haven’t booted us yet. Let’s do the damn thing.” 

Most laugh, some cheer, and Stevie offers a droll, “Inspiring.”

“Shut up.” 

“Basically Brene Brown.” 

“Wow.” 

After some good natured ribbing, which everyone participates in except the man whose voice usually rises above the rest, David leads them back to Studio A and steps aside as he gets to the door so he can give everyone a nod as they pass. The designers find seats in the back, and the cast lines up in front of the mirror off to the side in solidarity for Patrick and Malcolm, their Ghost, both of whom still linger in the hallway. 

David clears his throat and looks at his shoes as he faces them. “You both know this scene in your bones. You don’t need anything more from me. Just play it the way you always do, and we’ll be just fine.” 

When he glances up, both Patrick and Malcolm are looking at him seriously. Whatever drama might have surrounded the morning, it’s been put aside for now, and it’s that realization that gives David the courage to walk over the threshold of Studio A, stand up in front of a crowd of his mortal enemies, and say with pride, “Hello, everyone. I’m David Rose.” 

He gives a little speech not all that dissimilar from the one he gave before the presentation, and thank goodness, because his brain still isn’t 100% in it. He introduces the designers and the creative team who stand and wave, before he briefly sets the scene for the piece the press is about to see. After all, it really needs no introduction. 

Patrick and Malcolm step forward as David steps back. By the piano, Gary counts the musicians down before they begin the eerie underscoring, which is Patrick’s cue to start whenever he’s ready. 

“Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no further.”

“Mark me,” Malcolm replies. 

“I will.” 

“My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.”

David watches them like he’s never seen them before. He said to do it the way they always do and yet there’s something electrifying about this. Something real and brutal and devastating, a longing and a visceral need for connection that hasn’t been present in any of the rehearsals beforehand. Patrick is - luminescent in an unvarnished way that almost makes David need to look anywhere else if he thought he could survive missing even a moment of this performance. 

Malcolm exits and Patrick is left watching the space where the Ghost of his father once stood. Gary starts to build the piano as Patrick opens his mouth and begins to sing: 

“O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart;”

He places his hand on his chest, and David sucks in a breath because he knows the rhythm of its beat. The room fades away and all he sees is Patrick, Patrick, Patrick, someone worth everything as long as David is strong enough, brave enough to withstand the oncoming storm. 

“It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.'
I have sworn 't.”

The final chords fade away, bleeding into the raucous applause that erupts before Patrick’s even broken character. It yanks David back to the present, making him stand up straight from where he had slumped against the mirrored wall just to keep upright. He wants to go to him, but everyone is standing as the journalists move to congratulate the actors before getting set up in Studio B. There are just too many people between them.

And that’s the crux of it, basically. 

Too many people in this relationship of two. 

He watches Brenda hand Patrick a water bottle as Rachel whisks him away from a fawning Clive and into Studio C to change. David is tempted to follow but a sliver of whatever self-preservation he has left holds him back. 

Carol gives him a nod from across the room, and he returns it as best he can. His parents are buttering up the guy from The Post (Washington, not New York) as Ronnie finally makes her way over to him. 

“How do you feel?” 

“Oh God, don’t ask me that.” 

“I meant about the performance. I don’t want to hear about your messy ass love life unless I absolutely have to.” 

David smiles a smile only Ronnie could pull from him. “The performance was great.” Fucking spectacular, actually. 

“Yeah. Agreed,” she says, as if she heard the addendum. “Come on. Let’s get this over with.” 

They head into the hall where Alexis catches hold of his elbow and doesn’t let go until he’s placed before his first microphone. Clive is easy to talk to, mainly because he rarely lets you get a word in edgewise. It’s a good interview to start with. 

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Patrick enter (looking fucking delectable in his navy suit, white shirt, sans tie) and step up to the microphone bearing the SiriusXM logo. 

“David?” 

“Sorry, what was the question?” 

“I asked how it feels to finally be back on Broadway.” 

“An honor as always, Clive.” Trite, but effective. 

They all make their way around the horseshoe of journalists and, despite everyone’s desire to keep David and Patrick apart, the last two interviews each of them has left end up being side-by-side. David doesn’t want to listen in, but just like he doesn’t want to watch all 12 seasons of Bake Off in a week, it just happens. 

“Does this mean you’ve hung up your music career for good?”

He tries to pay attention to whatever it is that Dane is asking him, but Patrick’s answer to that is entirely too distracting; entirely too important. 

“David?” Dane prompts, and oh fuck why couldn’t this panic attack have started when he didn’t have an HD camera shoved in his face? 

Patrick just chuckles and shakes his head but, as if he senses something is wrong, he glances over at David, his expression at once morphing from humor to concern. 

“David, I asked what it’s like partnering with your parents on this.” 

Patrick can’t give up his career. Not for this. Not for David. He reaches for his collar, itching to tug his tie loose, because there’s a very good chance he’s about to pass out in front of every major theatre publication except The London fucking Times, but then his mother is getting her right arm around his waist in a shockingly sturdy hold as her left reaches for the microphone.

“We’ve traumatized him, clearly,” she grandly announces. “Poor thing didn’t expect to end up here when we dispatched him to NYU all those years ago.” 

“Okay, not so many years ago,” David has enough presence of mind to snap, and Dane delights in the banter, not realizing or not caring that David never actually answered his question. “Thank you both. Best of luck with the production,” he says with a smile as the bright light from the camera is switched off. Black spots dance in front of David’s eyes that have nothing to do with the high wattage of the bulb.

“Thanks, Mom,” he breathes. Two words he rarely says. Two words he didn’t think he’d need. She just cups his face in return and gestures her be-wigged head towards the door. He nods and beats a hasty retreat, finally yanking at his tie as he stumbles towards Studio C, on the cusp of hyperventilation.

The door is heavy enough to block out the sounds outside and he grabs hold of the ballet bar by the window, gripping the wood tight as he gasps for air. The door opens a second later, but he’s already shaking his head. He can’t deal with Alexis or even Stevie right now - 

But then the voice he least expected says, “Hey. You okay?” and that’s when the first tears start to fall. 

“Yep,” he manages without turning around.  

“Okay,” Patrick says quietly. “You just… don’t seem okay.” 

“Why didn’t you answer that reporter’s question?” He can hear Patrick shuffle closer. 

“Which one?” 

“The one about you leaving music.” 

“I’m not leaving music.” 

“Then why didn’t you say that?” 

“I didn’t really have a chance. Is that what this is about?” 

And because he’s always the one left holding the grenade, because self-destruction is all he’s ever known, David pulls the pin. 

“No,” he snaps as he finally faces him. “This is about me getting blamed if your music career suffers! Because I will! You know I will! They’d never dream of turning on Perfect Patrick Brewer, the internet’s boyfriend!” 

He hates himself even as the words claw their way out of his throat. Yes, Patrick is someone worth everything, but David isn’t brave. And David doesn’t think he’s worth the loss of all that Patrick has to offer. 

“In case it escaped your notice,” Patrick starts tightly, looking a little like he’s been slapped, “I just won seven Grammys. The music career isn’t going anywhere. What’s this really about?” 

It’s about not being good enough or smart enough or brave enough or strong enough. 

Enough. 

But he says none of that. 

“You know what, David?” Patrick starts with a rueful chuckle, a pained smile that contains little humor. “This is what you signed up for. People’s opinions, their insinuations. Maybe it’s time to reassess whether or not you can handle that.” 

“That’s what you face. When you partner with me.” 

Turns out, he can’t. And, really, who’s shocked by that? 

Patrick nods at David’s deafening silence and stares at the floor for a moment before turning quickly and yanking the door open. It slams shut, leaving David to stand there adrift, the lights of 42nd Street and the billboards from Madame Tussauds mocking him across the way. 

Well, it was bound to happen. 

Nothing good lasts anyway, not where David Rose is concerned. How could he think he’d get a man like Patrick Brewer, arguably the most eligible bachelor in the world? It’s a miracle he caught his attention in the first place. What on earth made him think he’d actually get him to stay? 

The heavy door creaks open, and Alexis pokes her head in. “There you are,” she huffs. “Come on. They want to do a creative team photo.” 

But he doesn’t move. He can’t. 

She must see it in his face, a clue that tells her that this is something different. Something serious. He isn’t being difficult just because that’s what’s expected of him. 

“David? What is it?” 

He tries to breathe. He fails. 

He’s failed. 

“Um, I think we just broke up.” 

Chapter Text

STAGE DOOR 

David stares up at the sign, its white lettering on a stark, black background more comforting than it has any right to be. He’s always been home here; doesn’t matter the city. Doesn’t matter the theatre. He walks through that door and he belongs. 

And he needs to feel that somewhere right now. 

“Um, I think we just broke up.” 

The only indication that Alexis heard him is the way her eyes slightly widen, and she goes utterly and completely still - no hair flips, no wrist flicks, no dramatics. 

“Okay,” she says more to herself. Then louder: “Okay.” Business mode. “David, I hear you and we will discuss that as soon as we can, but I need you to come take this picture, can you do that for me?” 

He honestly has no idea. Is he capable of that? Of standing not just in the same room as Patrick, but possibly even next to him, and having whatever expression finds its way onto his face captured for all eternity? 

“I don’t know.” 

“Okay. Do you want me to get Stevie?” And bless Alexis for realizing he might need more than her right now. 

He shakes his head. “Ronnie.” 

Alexis nods and disappears, and David stares down at his hands because he can’t really feel them. His fingers are numb yet tingly, and no matter how deeply he breathes, his lungs can’t get enough air. Is he having a heart attack? 

The door opens again, and Alexis leads Ronnie through. She stops dead at the sight of him.  

“Shit.” It almost sounds sad. 

“You gonna say ‘I told you so?” he rasps. 

“No. I’m gonna say that you need to hold it together for the next ten minutes and then you can have Ken run rehearsal so you can break down all you want. But for the next ten minutes, you’re mine. Got it?” 

He nods. He can do this. 

“You know, for a director, your timing is shit.” 

He can’t help it, he laughs. “Stevie said the same thing.”  

Ronnie turns to Alexis who still hovers silently in the corner. “Can you help with this?” 

She nods, and David isn’t sure what they’re referring to until Alexis magicks her bag from behind her back and starts digging through it, pulling various items out. She approaches him and, with a gentle, “Hold still,” dabs concealer under his eyes and mists his face with something that actually feels pretty damn good before pinching his cheeks and applying some delicately tinted lip balm. He knows he’s out of it when he doesn’t bat her hand away once. “Better?” she asks over her shoulder, and Ronnie nods. 

“He looks less like death.” 

“Thanks,” he mutters. 

“Let’s go.” Ronnie turns to the door and holds it open, and David’s feet only move because Alexis hooks her arm through his elbow and manhandles him towards it. 

The walk from C to B is a haze, and he tries not to look around too much. He’s not entirely sure he’ll be able to see Patrick’s face and his big, sad eyes without bursting into tears. Or worse, his narrowed, angry eyes. Patrick’s anger is worse than his sadness. David is angry enough at himself for both of them. 

“What the hell happened?” he hears Rachel ask, but Alexis makes a negating noise and nothing more is said on the subject.

“David! Great!” their press rep calls from where he’s lined up Derek, Gary, Twyla, Bob, Jake, Amy Grace, and of course, Patrick in front of the step-and-repeat. 

Naturally they want the director and composer in the middle, so David drifts over and slots himself in between Patrick and Twyla. Patrick is a rigid line next to him, body hot and nearly vibrating with tension, but he still gets his arm around David’s back, palm flat and warm against his spine. David nearly sobs. 

In the corner, Rachel, Stevie, Alexis, and Ronnie are huddled, and there’s no doubt about the topic of their conversation, but then the photographer raises his camera, says, “Everyone look here,” the light flashes, and  - 

“This is becoming a habit,” Stevie says next to him and he startles, remembering he’s in the middle of 44th Street, not 42nd, standing outside of his theatre and not in the middle of the rehearsal studio. 

“What is?” 

“You looking longingly at doors.” Then, after a moment: “Did you sleep?” 

“What do you think?” 

Stevie nods and faces forward once more. “Have you seen him?” 

“No.” 

Not after he did indeed turn rehearsal over to Ken for the afternoon, and left Derek and Gary to clean up the choreography and music, respectively. David went home claiming a migraine, got into his most comfortable pajamas, and buried himself in bed. He didn’t get up again. Not even for snacks.  

He can’t imagine the state of the group text that he and Patrick are not on. Fuck, and he never did write Marcy Brewer back. God knows what she thinks of him now. 

After he shattered her baby boy. 

“Let’s go. You have a show to tech,” Stevie says, hitting him in the back with her bag. 

“Ow.” But he steps forward anyway, pulling the door open and giving Ritchie, the security guard, a nod hello. 

“You’re late,” Heather says from the entrance leading to the stage, arms crossed over her chest like she was waiting for them. 

David looks at the clock above the call board, noticing Patrick’s initials next to his name immediately. “No, I’m not.” 

“Not you.” 

“Yeah, I know,” Stevie replies. 

“Actors are getting into mics and costumes,” Heather says to David with a pointed look at Stevie. 

“Yes, they are,” she salutes, hiking her bag higher on her shoulder and heading up the stairs. David watches her go because he knows that just off that first landing is a dressing room and behind its closed door is the man David is pretending not to miss. 

“David?” 

“Hm?” 

“David.” 

“Jesus, what?” He finally tears his gaze away, so naturally that’s the moment the door opens and he inhales sharply, whipping his head back, but only Cecilia exits, spare safety pins clenched between her teeth. She looks up and stops dead at the sight of him, delicately spitting them into her palm. 

“Ah.” 

“Ah? What’s ‘ah’?” 

But she just tilts her head and looks at him keenly. He doesn’t know Cecilia well, but he has a feeling she knows him. He wonders what she and Patrick talk about when it’s just the two of them in that room. 

“Your face looks like his,” she says softly, and fuck if that doesn’t just dice him in two. Then she hurries past him and down into the basement to fetch whatever costume piece Patrick needs. 

“David,” Heather says again, and fuck, he’s not entirely sure he’s going to make it through this day. 

“I heard you,” he grits out. 

“Is this going to be a problem?” she asks, and it’s a question Ronnie gave voice to not all that long ago. This time, though, he’s not entirely sure of the answer. Silence seems to be the best way to go. “Right,” Heather continues, a weary resignation in her tone. “Your table is set up. Ken is already here. Actors will be onstage at 12:30 for sound check.” No judgment now, no nonsense. Business as usual. 

He’s grateful for it. 

He nods and spares one last glance at the landing and the dressing room whose door remains stubbornly shut, before heading past her through the pass door and down the short, curtain-lined hallway that spills into the orchestra. He pauses as the house comes into view and takes it all in. It’s not his first time in the Broadhurst since they started loading in - he and the team have been by many times to check on the progress or address any issues that had arisen - but it is his first time knowing that this is it. It’s theirs now; to care for until the next one. 

Ken waves at him from their tech table, and David inhales deeply, fortifying himself for the day ahead. Various people greet him as he weaves his way through the seats, and he tries his best to reciprocate. Derek’s choreography table is set up just next to theirs in center orchestra, though ‘table’ is a generous word for it. It’s really a slab of wood angled and perched on the seats in the rows in front of them, and they’re given a giant, cushioned board to sit on that rests on the arms. It’s murder on the back, and whoever said Broadway is glamorous has clearly never worked a 10 out of 12. Good thing David of last week thought to make an appointment for a massage at Aire for tomorrow. 

“Good morning,” Ken greets, even though it's after noon. 

“Morning,” David murmurs, dropping his bag in the row behind them and sitting down at the table. 

“How are you feeling?”

Oh right. “Um, better.” He wishes. “Thanks again. For yesterday.” 

“Of course. It all went well. Patrick seemed a little off his game, but it was a long morning.” 

You have no idea.

“Yeah, I read the report.” It described some of the cast as ‘distracted’ and David didn’t need specifics to know which member it was referring to. He feels a bit like a coward for running, but there’s no way he and Patrick could have been expected to remain in the same room together without everyone knowing what exactly was going on. 

Off to the side, Heather settles in at her tech table decked out with monitors and opens her script, giving him a nod which he returns.

“Hey, man,” Derek greets as he sits next to him. 

“Hey.” 

The rest of the designers each have their own table scattered about the orchestra. Behind them, Bob is set up with his Assistant Lighting Designer, with Jake and his scenic associates to the side behind Heather. Amy Grace and her sound equipment are set up at the back of the house and Twyla’s table is to David’s left, though she spends most of her time running around from stage to dressing room, getting a closer look at the costumes. 

“Cast onstage please. Cast onstage for sound check,” Heather says into her god mic and then into her headset, which echoes around the cavernous room and into the dressing rooms, respectively. 

David clears his throat and busies himself with taking a careful sip of his macchiato, ignoring the background trickle of bodies walking onstage, trying not to focus on any one in particular. Eventually, it becomes necessary because how the hell can he do his job without actually seeing what he’s directing. 

He glances up and his eyes just find him - like a magnet to metal. 

He’s gorgeous. 

He’s broken. 

David did that. And he can see it from here. 

“Amy Grace, whenever you’re ready,” Heather calls, and their sound designer starts bringing the actors forward one by one to test their mics. Some spout off their lines, some tell the story of their life. Some say riddles or poems or naughty limericks until Amy Grace cuts them off with a laugh and a polite, “Thanks, we got what we need.” 

Patrick steps forward and, as if his mind is incapable of anything more complex, he starts reciting the alphabet, looking everywhere but at the center of the room; at everyone except for the man who dared to ask, “Is it worth it?” As if he didn’t already know the answer.  

As if he knew the answer and lied anyway. 

“That’s good, thanks!” Amy Grace calls, and Heather gets back on the god mic. 

“David, whenever you’re ready...” 

But how could he possibly be? 

“... The room is yours.” 

He doesn’t deserve it. 

“Right,” he croaks into his mic, sounding unsure even to his own ears. Ken shoots him a sideways glance, and he can feel the weight of his cast’s gazes like cinder blocks strapped to his ankles, pulling him down under the water. “Right,” he tries again. 

It doesn’t get better. 

The afternoon is slow and brutal. Tech can be tedious on its best days and terrifying on its worst because never has David been made more aware of the fact that the fate of millions of dollars rests on his shoulder than he is when he sees the fruits of its labors in all its technicolor glory for the first time. Add onto that the weighty burden of emotional heartbreak and, unfortunately, everyone in David’s immediate vicinity is feeling his pain. 

“Bob, what the fuck is that?” his voice booms over the god mic after the third time a lighting cue misfires. 

“David,” Heather warns, throwing him a sharp glance that he can see even in the dark. 

“Sorry. Bob, what, pray tell, are my eyeballs appraising?” 

“Better.”

But five minutes later, he snaps at Candice for goofing off, and Heather gets on the god mic once more. 

“That’s a ten, everyone. Ten minute break,” Heather says, before standing up, yanking her headset off, and making her way through the row of seats. “David? A word?” she bites out as she passes by, leaving him no choice but to follow. 

She leads him through the pass door and into stage right where he just catches Patrick storming offstage and up the stairs as the rest of the cast gives him a wide berth. Heather pauses by the door to the stage management office and points for him to go in, holding a hand up to Stevie who’s followed them. 

“Nope, me first. Then he’s all yours.” 

David winces because he knows he deserves exactly what’s coming to him, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it. Heather shuts the door in Stevie’s face and whirls around on him. 

“What the hell, David.” It’s not a question. 

“I’m sorry.” He’s been a complete shit.

“I’m not the only one you have to apologize to. I normally wouldn’t dream of speaking to a director like this - ” 

“But it’s me.” 

“But it’s you. And you’ve been a complete dick to everyone in that theatre.”

The hot prick of tears burns the corners of his eyes. He opens his mouth, but his throat holds his words hostage, which is good because he’s not sure what on earth he can possibly say other than the apology he’s already tried. He could try again. Try harder, maybe. Heather sighs and David watches the fight seep out of her. 

“David, I care about what’s going on with you because I care about you. But you cannot bring it into this building.” 

“I know,” he whispers, breath hitching, lower lip wobbling. Then he clears his throat and lifts his head. “Won’t happen again. I’ll be better.” 

“I don’t want that either.” 

Wait. “What?”  

“He was a mess in rehearsal yesterday afternoon. A mess.” David doesn’t need to ask who the ‘he’ in question is. “You’re both disasters. Do not make me bring Stevie in here to corroborate.” 

“Oh that’s - ” that won’t be necessary. 

But before he can say that, she’s stalking over to the phone on the wall, lifting the receiver, and flipping on the intercom. “Patrick to the stage management office. Patrick to stage management.” She hangs up and stares at David, a look of empathetic challenge in her expression. “Talk. Or else this production is going to fall apart.” 

Another knife slips in between David’s ribs, right next to the one that’s been lodged there since yesterday morning. Since the night before that, even. 

A knock sounds at the door and before David has even processed, well, anything, Heather is saying, “Come in” and the door is swinging open. 

“You wanted to see me?” Patrick asks. Then - “Oh.” His gaze darts from David to Heather and then to the floor where it remains. 

“I’m going to troubleshoot why the hell Bob’s cues aren’t firing,” Heather begins. “You two will stay here and not come out until you can promise me that there won’t be real bloodshed on my stage.” They look at each other and just as quickly look away once more. “You won’t be bothered. No doubt Stevie is on the door.” 

“Am not,” she calls from the hall, but then Heather’s gone, taking whatever buffer she provided with her. 

But Patrick can’t stop staring at the carpet, and David’s never been good at having the tough conversations, let alone starting them; especially when he’s the one who did this. When he’s the one who needs to speak first.  

“I’m sorry - ”

“Is it?” Patrick interrupts, throwing David off the train of thought he’d finally worked up enough courage to voice. 

“What?” 

“Worth it?” God, the pain in his voice. David put that there. The knives in his ribs twist. “It’s just - you asked if it was worth it and you never answered and I’d really like to know, David. I deserve to know.” He rattles it off matter-of-factly, like it’s the breakfast special at a fucking IHOP, and each word breaks a piece away from parts of himself David already thought long broken. 

But that’s the problem, isn’t it. Patrick had put him back together. David’s insecurities just preyed on the cracks that hadn’t quite mended yet. 

“Yes, it’s worth it - ”

“It’s just that if you’re not in this, then I need to know now, before I fa - ” he presses his lips together and his fingers into his chest, like a reflex. 

“I’m sorry. It was a stupid thing to say - ”

“But you said it!”  

“Well I’m hardly anyone’s first choice for a newly outed famous rock star, am I!” 

“You’re mine!” 

David’s heart is hammering and Patrick is panting and the tech is continuing onstage without them as you’re mine echoes in his ears. 

Oh God, he is. He’s Patrick’s. And Patrick is his. 

Why are they doing this? Why is he doing this? 

“God, Patrick, I’m so sorry.” And there it is: the words he needed to say in the tone he needed to say them. “I’m so sorry. I got into my head and made decisions for both of us without talking to you - ”

“I should have told you about Carol,” Patrick acknowledges. “But I was worried that you’d,” he gestures helplessly to David’s heaving, panicking form, “which happened anyway. I guess it was some sort of misguided attempt to protect you, but… It’s your life, too,” he whispers. 

And, in what might be the bravest thing David’s ever said outside of a court-mandated therapy session, he replies: 

“It’s our life. And it’s worth it.” He hiccups and when did he start crying? “Patrick, it’s so worth it.” 

“C’mere,” Patrick breathes, stepping forward and meeting David halfway across the room in a hug so hard, it makes each of them grunt on impact. Patrick cups the back of David’s head as David’s fingers twist in his shirt. Twyla will have things to say about that, but it’s nothing Cecilia can’t fix. Patrick presses a kiss to the side of David’s neck, just below his ear, and David heaves out another sob against his shoulder in a cathartic release he didn’t realize he needed until someone gave him the space to do it. The permission. The care. 

“So does this…” he inhales and pulls away just far enough to see Patrick’s face, “does this mean we’re back?” 

“Back what?” 

“Back together?” 

“What?” Patrick looks alarmed. “David, we didn’t break up.”

“We didn’t?” It sure as fuck felt like they did. 

“David, no. We had a fight, and I doubt it’ll be our last.” Then Patrick laughs, an abrupt sound full of relief, and buries his face in David’s neck again, breathing him in. “But guess what?”

“What?” 

“It’s worth it.” 

David tucks his smile into Patrick’s shoulder and nods, wrapping his arms tighter around his neck. They stand there for a long moment, just swaying gently in the center of the office. 

“What are you doing tonight?” Patrick murmurs, clearly not eager to let go anytime soon. 

“Well, considering we wrap at midnight, I’m going home, going to bed, and sleeping until my body repairs itself from the emotional wringer I put it through over the last 24 hours. Why? Did you have something in mind?” 

Patrick hums, and David can hear the smile in it. “Was kind of hoping I could convince you to come to me, and maybe I can hold you for a bit. Do a bit of emotional repairing myself.” 

“Yeah. That would be nice.” Which is an understatement of the highest order. “I can get a car after the production meeting. What do you have tomorrow?” It’s the day off, and David has never needed one more. 

“I have an Instagram live to raise money for Broadway Cares.” 

“Ooh your first Broadway Cares fundraiser,” he says with a squeeze. “It’s official: you’re in the theatre community now. What time?” 

“2pm.” 

David pouts. “I won’t be back from my massage.” 

Patrick raises an interested eyebrow. “You’re getting a massage?” Then he looks slightly put out. “I could have given you one.” 

“And as enjoyable as that would be for both of us, your townhouse, though impressive, does not have a series of thermal pools at varying temperatures set up like an ancient bath dedicated to mind and body relaxation.” 

“Okay, well, that is accurate. I tried, but I couldn’t get the permits.” 

David leans back and cups Patrick’s face in his hands, unclear how he’s managed to go so many hours without doing so before now. “I’m sad I’m missing your fundraiser.” 

“I’ll save it to my stories.” 

“Do you know how to do that?” 

“I do not,” he says with a smile before leaning in for a long, overdue kiss. It’s soft and slow, a reacquaintance; a hello. “I should wrap by 3pm,” he whispers as he pulls back. “3:30pm at the latest. Come back before family dinner?”

David nods and leans back in because, though they have a lot of things to talk about, he has a lot of kisses to make up for first, but then a knock sounds at the door, and Patrick rests his forehead on David’s chin with a sigh before stepping away and calling out:

“Come in!” 

David expects Stevie or Heather or maybe even Mutt, but the person who appears in the office is none other than Cecilia. 

“Cee?” Patrick blurts, shifting and automatically trying to fix his rumpled costume and tousled hair. 

“At ease, boys. Let me see the state of you.” 

David gawks at her as she spins her tool belt full of pins and makeup and other necessities around her waist. “You know?” 

Cecilia fixes him with a look. “David, no offense, but you’re about as subtle as Jennifer Coolidge in a rom com.” David gasps, because how dare, and Patrick snorts, which was a mistake because Cecilia levels her brutality on him next. “And you I’ve known since you were 18. You’re as stealthy as Big Bird at a black and white ball.” 

“Hey!” 

“Officer, I’d like to report a double homicide,” Stevie says only too gleefully from the doorway.

And David would love to lean into his indignation, but then he catches sight of himself in the mirror. “Oh Jesus, look at me.” He could land a role in Death Becomes Her. “I can’t go out there like this.” 

“Here,” Cecilia says, handing him a bottle of eye drops. “That’ll fix the redness. I have concealer in your skin tone.” Then she’s turning back to Patrick and holding up a lighter bottle. “Look up.”

He does as instructed, squinting in the bright lights of the dressing room-turned-office as she takes the pad of her ring finger and gently dabs the liquid makeup into his skin.  

“Anything you want to say to me?” he asks after a quiet moment, going for ‘nonchalant’ and falling more in the vicinity of ‘insecure.’

Cecilia doesn’t even pause her work. “Nope. Should there be? I mean I guess I could say that I’m happy for you, but I’m not supposed to know what’s making you so happy,” she does pause here, “or so sad,” she says, throwing a brief look over her shoulder to David. “So no, I don’t have much to say at all.” 

“Thanks, Cee,” he whispers, and she gently punches his arm. 

David clears his throat and tilts his head back, applying the eye drops, and when he straightens once more, Heather is back in the doorway. 

“We’re good out there…” The We good in here? is implied. 

Patrick meets his gaze, steadily. Surely. “We’re good.” 

Heather nods, but a decade of knowing her means David can see the relieved grin she’s trying to hide. “Then move your asses. You know I hate to be behind schedule.”

“Yes, ma’am,” they chorus as Cecilia steps back to give Patrick one more look. Then she turns to David and pulls another bottle from her magical Mary Poppins tool belt. “I assume you don’t need help?” 

“Oh my mother had me doing full face for my Little Mister pageants by age six.”

“So that’s a ‘no’?” Patrick genuinely asks, looking utterly confused as Cecilia hands the concealer over with an impressed look on her face. 

“Is there photographic evidence of this full face?” she asks, and David vehemently shakes his head ‘no’ as Stevie nods her head ‘yes.’ 

David glares but quickly applies the makeup in the mirror, watching in the reflection as Cecilia murmurs, “We’ll talk” to Stevie as Patrick whispers, “What the hell is a Little Mister pageant?” 

Heather herds the actors out of the office as David recaps the concealer and hands it back to Cecilia. “Thank you,” he says quietly, and she nods. “I don’t mean just for that.” 

She looks up at him and smiles softly. “I know.” 

“You’re a good friend to him.” 

“So are you.” And then she’s gone. 

He makes his way back into the house, thinking about her words, because he hasn’t felt like a good friend lately. Hasn’t felt like a good director, a good partner, a good son and brother. He alienated Stevie because of Patrick, Patrick because of himself, and the show because of everything he’s trying to keep safe. To protect. His family hasn’t helped, but then again, he never really gave them the chance. 

He thinks of Alexis on Grammy night and his mother at the press day and his father making stilted small talk in the back of the car just to distract David from the demons in his mind. 

Yes, he may be the director, but he’s not doing this alone. 

He arrives at his tech table where Ken has his head very purposefully buried in his script, side-eying David like he might bite him. 

David picks up the god mic and clears his throat. “Hey, can I get the cast and crew onstage please? Everyone in the house, can I have your attention?” He waits a minute or two until the actors and crew members have wandered out in their costumes and stage blacks, respectively. David’s palm starts to sweat around the microphone because candor isn’t exactly his forte. His eyes find Patrick lingering at the back with Stevie, a soft, supportive smile on his face that David can see all the way from mid-orchestra. “I owe you all an apology,” he says, making sure to look all around the room. “I’ve been a complete asshole today, and you deserve better than that from your director. I’m sorry. It will not happen again.” He glances over at Heather who’s looking at him with something akin to pride. “So let’s start over, shall we?” 

“We forgive you!” Stevie yells because she’s a bitch and he loves her, which gets everyone laughing and clapping. 

“It’s gonna be a great tech. Let’s go.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Even a great tech is still tech, and by the time they get to the end of day production meeting, David’s eyes are burning and not because of any tears he’s recently shed.  

“Sound?” Sam, their production manager calls. 

“Nothing for the group,” Amy Grace replies.  

“Costumes?” 

Twyla perks up from her seat. “I’m going to sidebar with the dressers to figure out why the quick change rig on Carl’s shirt isn’t working, but nothing for the group.” 

“Lights, we’re going to dry tech onstage at 9am on Monday and troubleshoot what happened tonight. Sound, you’ll get an hour of quiet time at 11am after lights wraps. Half hour is at 12pm with cast onstage at 12:30pm,” Sam says, looking at Heather for confirmation. 

“Yep, we’ll pick up where we left off. Thanks for a great day, everyone.” 

David stands and stretches, trying to get his body used to a tech schedule once again. He’s immensely grateful for tomorrow’s spa appointment. He’d sacrifice it, though, if it meant more time with Patrick. He feels physically and emotionally drained, an exhaustion seeping into his bones that has nothing to do with the long hours. 

“Enjoy your day off,” Heather murmurs as she passes. 

“You too. Sorry again. About today.”

“David, we started over. Don’t give it another thought.” Because she knows him. She knows he loves to dwell. 

He nods and packs up his bag, saying goodbye to the designers and crew members as he makes his way backstage. 

“See ya, Ritchie,” he murmurs as he passes the security guard and shoulders open the stage door, spilling out onto 44th Street, chin tucked into his coat, bracing for the cold. 

“Share a car?” Jake asks, coming up behind him. “You’re on the way.” 

“Um,” he bites his lips, thinking of the last time he and Jake shared a vehicle. What of it he can remember, at least. 

“Wanna come up for a whiskey?” 
“Nah, David.”
“Why not?” 
“Because Patrick wouldn’t like it. And in the morning, I don’t think you would either.” 

“I don’t think I’m headed in that direction,” he finally says and, with a response David files under ‘unexpected things,’ Jake reacts with a smile. 

“Glad to hear it.” Then he claps David on the shoulder and saunters over to 8th Avenue to hail a cab. 

When David turns back, Ken is standing there in the doorway, watching keenly. “Oh. Hey. Good job today.” 

“Thanks,” Ken replies with a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. Given how exuberantly he said goodbye to Patrick earlier, it’s natural for David to notice the difference. 

David can’t help but wonder if Ken holds some sort of hidden resentment towards him for how close he and Patrick have become. Maybe it’s a small mercy that Ken doesn’t know just how close. 

“Well, have a good night,” he offers when Ken makes no move to pick a direction. Perhaps he’s waiting for a car. 

“You, too.” 

Not feeling like standing in awkward silence for the time it takes to get his own ride, David walks to 8th and hails the blessedly empty cab at the corner with its light on. Opening the door, he slides in and says, “81st between Columbus and Amsterdam, thanks,” before muting the TV and leaning his head back against the leather seat. Central Park West passes by in a quiet blur. Saturday on the Upper West Side isn’t exactly a hoppin’ part of town, but David’s grateful for it. The last 24 hours have been an emotional carnival ride, from ups to downs and all of the swoops in between. He feels like he’s been spun in every direction and played every rigged game with no hope of even a consolation prize at the end. 

He does have a prize, though. He has Patrick waiting for him at home. And what a gift that is. 

Street light magic gets him to the townhouse in record time, and he pulls his key out, letting himself in. Patrick’s left some lights on for him, which he appreciates. It hasn’t even been 48 since he was last here, and yet he feels like he’s lived a lifetime in the interim. He drops his bag by the door and hangs his coat up in the closet, before trudging up the stairs. Idly, he wonders if Patrick would mind if he raided his fridge for snacks because nothing makes David hungrier than tech, and there are only so many Mallomars he can steal from Bob’s lighting table without feeling like he might vomit. 

“Hey.”

“Oh.” David pauses halfway towards the stairs leading to the top floor and backtracks. “I thought you’d be in bed,” he murmurs, wandering over to the more casual living room where Patrick is seated on the couch, a fireplace roaring in the grate and a glass of red wine in his hand. 

“Thought you could wind down a bit. I know I usually need to.”

David nods and accepts the glass Patrick is holding out before bending down and unlacing his boots with one hand. He nearly groans at the sight of the charcuterie board on the coffee table, and Patrick smiles smugly because he knows David entirely too well. David pops a cheese-topped cracker in his mouth, then another, washing them back with a sip of his wine as Patrick waits patiently. 

Music plays through the speakers in the ceiling, a quiet song that sounds vaguely familiar, and he sinks into the couch, nearly crying again when Patrick holds his arm out for David to lean into. 

There was a moment in the last 24 hours when he thought he wouldn’t get to have this anymore. He never wants to experience that moment ever again. 

“How was the meeting?”

“Hm? Oh. Good. ‘Nothing for the group’ is my favorite phrase.” He feels Patrick press a kiss to his hair and breathe out heavily. Maybe David wasn’t the only one who thought he lost something, despite Patrick’s claims that it was ‘just a fight.’

“So Cecilia knows,” Patrick murmurs. “Turns out the hickeys were more conspicuous than we thought.”

David snorts. “How’d she know it was me?”

“She has eyes.” 

David hums, ignoring the stab of fear that sharply pierces him. They can have this night. They can worry about the rest tomorrow. “Are you okay with that? With her knowing?”

“Yeah. I am. More than okay.”

But then the little voice in the back of David’s head says, Talk, and so he clears his throat. 

“Jake knows, too.” 

Patrick goes still beside him. “What?” 

“Yeah.” 

“How?”

“I didn’t tell him.” 

“I know you didn’t.” 

And that’s what gets the voice to say more insistently, Talk. Then: The truth. Because Patrick didn’t think David didn’t do it. He knew he didn’t. 

“Um, the night of the presentation, I propositioned him.” He’s really glad he can’t see Patrick’s face. “I know we had kissed, but then I saw you with Rachel and I didn’t understand - ”

“David, You don’t have to explain - ”

“But I do,” he says, sitting up. Facing him. “I want to.” 

“Okay,” Patrick whispers. 

“He turned me down. And when I asked why, he said, ‘Because Patrick wouldn’t like it. And in the morning, I don’t think you would either.” David shrugs, taking hold of Patrick’s hand with the one not holding his glass. “He wasn’t wrong.” 

Patrick lifts his hand and presses a kiss to his knuckles. “We weren’t together then. Not really. If he had gone home with you, I’ll admit, I would have been jealous. But I wouldn’t have had any right to be.” Then he leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his lips. “Thank you for telling me.”

David nods. “Jake’s discreet, if you’re worried about that.” 

“I’m not. I honestly had no idea he knew.” 

Patrick's words echo back to him: 

“How’d she know it was me?”
“She has eyes.” 

“Everyone was right the other night,” David murmurs.  

“About what?” 

“We’re too obvious.” 

Patrick sighs and leans forward again, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “I know.” 

Not yet. They can have this night. Just give them one night. 

As if the universe hears him, the song switches and Patty Griffin’s Heavenly Day filters in through the speakers. David closes his eyes, letting his head drop to Patrick’s shoulder as the gentle guitar intro soothes his still jagged edges. 

“You all right?” Patrick’s hand cups the back of David’s neck, kneading slightly. 

“Mmhm. Love this song.” 

“Oh, heavenly day
All the clouds blew away
Got no trouble today with anyone”

Patrick presses a kiss to the top of his head and whispers, “Dance with me,” against his hair.  

“What?” 

“C’mon.” He pulls away and takes David’s wine glass, placing it down on the coffee table along with his own. “Dance with me.” Then he stands and pulls David up, moving them to the center of the room as light from the fire bounces off the walls, twirling him in a careful circle before taking David’s right hand in his left and tugging him in close. 

“The smile on your face, I live only to see
It's enough for me, baby, it's enough for me
Oh, heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day”

“Okay, Mr. Brewer, how did I not know about this? I would have had Derek stage a dance in between all the murders.” 

Patrick chuckles as he leads him in a traditional arc around the room before looping David’s arms around his neck and wrapping his own around his waist. “Rachel and I took dance lessons. Back when we thought there was still a wedding to dance at.” 

“Ah.” It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to, thinking of Patrick marrying someone else. 

“Tomorrow may rain with sorrow
Here's a little time we can borrow
Forget all our troubles in these moments so few”

Oh because right now is only thing
That all that we really have to do
Is have ourselves, a heavenly day”

David presses closer, inhaling sharply when he feels Patrick hard against his hip. 

“Sorry,” Patrick murmurs, ducking his head and flushing. “Ignore it.” 

But David just exhales and presses closer, letting him know he’s not entirely unaffected either. 

“No one at my shoulder bringing me fears
Got no clouds up above me bringing me tears”

“What do you need?” he softly asks, running his nose along Patrick’s ear and listening to his breath stutter. 

“Got nothing to tell you, I've got nothing much to say
Only I'm glad to be here with you
On this heavenly, heavenly, heavenly, heavenly day”

Patrick breathes unsteadily against David’s neck as he reaches up and takes one of David’s hands, moving it down and pressing it against the seam of his jeans. 

“Are you sure? It’s late.” But David squeezes anyway, and Patrick’s hips rock into him. 

“Please, David.” 

“Okay, honey.” He presses a kiss to his forehead and listens to the song wind down, leaving his hand where Patrick put it, urging him to rock against him once more. 

“Oh, all the trouble gone away, oh
For a while anyway, for a while anyway
Heavenly day, heavenly day, heavenly day
Heavenly day, heavenly day, oh, heavenly day”

David steps away but laces their fingers together, following Patrick around the room as he turns off the fire, the music, and finally the lights, as if he can’t bear to be parted from him. It seems very Shakespearean, but he’s giving into it, because if anything can make him feel more dramatic than he already is, it’s an emotional calamity of his own making. 

Patrick leads him up to the bedroom, still holding on tight to David’s hand. Then he shuts the door and leans against it, pulling David to him and widening his legs so David can slot up snug against him. David exhales at first contact, moaning softly as Patrick’s hands on his ass urge him even closer. He captures Patrick’s mouth in a kiss that’s slow but not soft, brushing his tongue across lips that he nips with his teeth a moment later. Patrick is panting by the time he pulls away, eyes dark and dazed, body already leaning in for more. David nudges the bulge in his jeans with his thigh, and Patrick loudly moans, shattering the quiet as well as David’s resolve. Trembling fingers find his belt, undoing the leather and popping open the button. Patrick takes David’s hand and presses it against his crotch, grinding against it, head tilted back, looking like the epitome of debauchery. David nearly comes in his pants. 

Giving him a gentle squeeze, he pulls Patrick away from the door, feeling more than a little smug at the fact that Patrick’s legs don’t quite want to work. He leads him to the bed and deftly pulls Patrick’s zip down before abandoning his pants to get the sweater over his head. Then he kneels down and works the jeans and briefs over Patrick’s thighs and down his calves, turning his head to press a kiss to Patrick’s wrist when he needs to steady himself on David’s shoulders. Patrick lifts one foot and then the other, and then he’s standing there completely naked and hard as stone as David kneels before him fully clothed. 

He leans forward and presses a kiss to the tip of Patrick’s cock, listening to him suck in a breath as he attempts to steady himself again, but David doesn’t linger. He licks him and then sucks on his head, bobbing once, then twice, before pressing another kiss to the tip and standing up with a wince. His own cock is threatening to do irreparable damage to his zipper if he doesn’t get out of these jeans soon. 

Silently urging Patrick up the bed, he quickly sheds his own sweater and pops open his fly, moaning in relief as his tented briefs push through, already damp at the front. Patrick settles against the pillows and stares at him with pure want, hand skating down his chest to take hold of his cock, stroking it lightly. 

Finally naked as well, David crawls up after him and nearly cries as Patrick spreads his arms and legs, immediately welcoming David’s weight on top of him. He’s warm and soft and smells like the body lotion David bought him, each of them content to just hold and be held for a moment. 

Emotional repair, indeed. 

It’s David who breaks first, rolling his hips slightly, cock leaving a trail of precome along Patrick’s hip. Patrick answers in kind, grinding his hips up to meet David’s shallow thrusts as hands find hair and lips find skin. 

At some point, David breaks himself out of his haze of arousal to blindly lean over and find the lube in the bedside drawer. Patrick whines when he stretches too far, and David rubs a soothing hand on his stomach as he quickly gets the bottle and returns, nearly dropping the lube when he sees Patrick spread out on the bed, one hand hooked behind his thigh as the other reaches for David, who moans at the sight. 

He positions himself in between Patrick’s legs and slicks up his fingers, leaning down to press a kiss to Patrick’s bent knee, before lowering himself further to bury his face in his groin. Breath punches out of Patrick as he spreads himself further, the silent request apparent as his hips work against the bedding. David trails kisses around the base of his cock, breathing hotly over his balls, before tracing the seam with his lips. Patrick whimpers again and David takes pity, licking further back before dipping his tongue into his hole. The guttural sound that punches out of Patrick has David grinding against the sheets, and he quickly sucks his finger into his mouth before slowly slipping it inside. Patrick clenches down on him, and David glances up to see his head thrown back on the pillow, hands digging into the backs of his thighs so hard, his skin is white. David fumbles with the lube for a moment before one finger becomes two, and he opens Patrick methodically, scissoring his fingers, dipping them in and out. He avoids his prostate until Patrick drops his legs and presses his heels into the mattress, changing the angle. He moans as David’s fingers hit him just right, humping up against David’s hand before sitting up, getting a hand around David’s neck, and all but hauling him to his lips. David’s fingers start to slip out, but he adjusts, and Patrick practically sobs into the kiss as David gently fucks him open. 

“Please,” he whispers, the only word either of them has said since coming upstairs. 

David wipes away the tear that’s leaked from Patrick’s eye as he nods, pulling out his fingers and pressing another kiss to Patrick’s forehead as he reaches over for a condom. Patrick takes it from his hand and sits up, urging David to shuffle closer on his knees so he can get a hand around him, pumping him up and down. David bites his lip and watches that strong, capable hand bring him the kind of pleasure no one else ever has, before gripping Patrick’s shoulders so he can thrust into his fist. Fuck, it’s been too long. He wants Patrick constantly. 

Groaning as he finally rolls the condom on, David allows himself to be pulled down as Patrick flops back against the pillows and hitches his legs over his hips. David drops down to his forearm as his other hand holds the base of his cock and presses up against Patrick’s hole, but then he pauses for a moment -

Because never has fucking felt more like making love than it does here and now, but that’s not a word David says. That’s not a word they’ve used. 

Patrick cups his cheek, bringing him back to the present, asking the question with only his eyes. Okay?

David nods and presses a kiss to his palm. Okay.

Then he pushes in. 

It’s tight and hot and exquisite, and David can’t breathe as Patrick’s back arches beneath him; as his heels dig into his back and his chest flushes red. David guides his palms up Patrick’s arms, which he’s thrown over his head once more, until he reaches his hands and holds on tight. He pauses halfway in, letting them each get acclimated, until Patrick nods once more against the pillow and squeezes his fingers as if to say, Go ahead. 

David bottoms out, and his world once again rights itself. 

Patrick shifts against him, urging his hips in a slow, rolling wave, and David has just enough presence of mind to tell himself he wants to savor this. He wants to love making love. He presses against him and then pulls back, again and again, listening to Patrick’s sighs hitch with every steady thrust. Their breath mingles and their eye contact doesn’t break, and David doesn’t run from it because he’s safe here, in this home Patrick’s made for him in his arms. 

It just might be the slowest, quietest, most mind-blowing sex they’ve ever had. 

David’s only human, though, and eventually, his body reaches its breaking point. He wants to warn Patrick, to ask if he’s close, but then Patrick’s eyes are widening, his grip is tightening, and he chokes out a strained, “David,” before he’s coming, head thrown back in a silent scream as he paints his chest without a hand on him. David fucks him through it, gently but thoroughly, holding on for just a minute longer, before his hips stutter, his brain is rewired, his heart is done for.

“Patrick,” he breathes, and his name is all he needs as he collapses on top of him, trembling from the force of his orgasm. Unsteady hands come up and rub up his back before carding through his hair, and David wants to return the favor, but he seems to only be able to drool slightly on Patrick’s shoulder. Oh, it’s not drool - 

Apparently Patrick isn’t the only one to cry during sex. 

“You okay?” he whispers. 

“Yeah,” David manages.

“You’re shaking.” 

“So are you.” 

But Patrick just hums, gently rolling them over and hissing when David slides out of him. He carefully removes the condom, which is good because David still doesn’t have control over basic motor functions yet, and neither apparently does Patrick as he stumbles from the bed and ricochets off the door frame on his way into the bathroom. 

David closes his eyes, and he must doze for a moment because next thing he knows, a warm washcloth is gently cleaning the come from his stomach and the lube from his cock. The washcloth disappears, only to be replaced by strong hands tugging him back on top of Patrick once more, head pillowed on his stomach, which rises and falls with every breath he’s still trying to get back. Patrick’s soft cock presses into David’s sternum as his knees hug his torso. Fingers that deftly handle guitar strings and piano keys carefully stroke through David’s hair, twisting gently before smoothing away. David blinks sluggishly in post-orgasm lethargy as the hand that isn’t playing with his hair traces careful constellations on his back. He runs his thumb over a freckle at Patrick’s hip before turning his head, pressing a kiss just above his belly button, and resting his chin there so he can see Patrick’s face and the truths he can never hide. 

“If you want to come out before the Tonys, I will support you one hundred percent. Don’t let the show be the thing that keeps you from living your life.”

Patrick smiles and brushes his finger along the curve of his ear. “Thank you, David.” 

“I mean it. And I will be here. And we’ll get through it together.” 

And there it is, the truth he can never hide. Not with those eyes. 

“I know we will.”  

🎭 🎭 🎭

Never let it be said that Patrick Brewer isn’t great in front of a crowd. Even a virtual one. 

David smiles down at his phone and adjusts his AirPods in his ears as he catches the tail-end of the Instagram live from the backseat of the car. Aire was everything he needed, hopping from thermal bath to thermal bath with a 75 minute massage in between, but he kept finding his mind drifting after the man with the bell that rings every hour informed him it had reached 2pm. It’s hard to relax in the tepidarium when his brain is too busy wondering which song Patrick is singing or which story he’s telling. 

Patrick assured him it was a low key event, with just a moderator from BC/EFA fielding (appropriate) questions from the comments and navigating the conversation so all Patrick had to do was sit back and play some songs, maybe promote the show. Charm everyone, naturally.

On his phone, David can see that Patrick is seated at the piano where he first played for him and seems to be in the middle of telling a story involving Stevie, Aldridge, and a game where... they hide a lemon somewhere onstage mid-show? 

“I’m realizing now that I probably shouldn’t have told that story in a place where my director can learn about this,” Patrick chuckles, “but it’s for charity. Also, I know for a fact that he had an appointment this afternoon.” 

“Then I probably shouldn’t tell you that @davidrose just joined,” the moderator says with barely suppressed glee, and Patrick barks out a laugh, flushing slightly and giving a little wave to the camera. 

“Hey, David. You didn’t hear that.”  

He shakes his head and smiles, typing out a Oh I heard enough. 😏🍋in the comments, which seems to delight everyone, Patrick most of all. 

“So what other covers do you want to hear?” he asks, and David wonders if he’s actually asking him. Patrick has a habit of making you feel like you’re the only one in the room whenever those eyes are on you. 

But before David can even contemplate a suggestion, the moderator offers, “Someone said the Backstreet Boys,” and sure enough, David can see the plethora of comments popping up seconding and thirding the idea. 

“Backstreet Boys?” Patrick laughs and nods. “Yeah, I think I can swing that. Hang on.” He tinkers on the piano for a bit, humming as he tries to find the right key. “Okay. This one is a personal fave of mine,” and David honestly can’t tell if he’s being facetious or not. They’ve had multiple verbal battles about appropriate musical stylings from their adolescence. The Backstreet Boys sort of fell in No Man’s Land.

“Yeah
You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way”

The comments explode with heart emojis and SWOON comments, but Patrick keeps his focus on the piano like he’s playing fucking Beethoven instead of a boy band from the late 90s (though admittedly one of the better ones). He slows it down and takes the pop out of it, letting the keys turn it soft and mournful. 

“But we are two worlds apart
Can't reach to your heart
When you say
That I want it that way”

Maybe recognizing that things have gotten a little bit melancholy, he hams it up a bit on the next verse: 

“Tell me why
Ain't nothin' but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain't nothin' but a mistake
Tell me why
I never wanna hear you say
I want it that way”

The car turns onto 81st Street just as Patrick wraps the song up and pulls to a stop as the moderator says, “I think that’s all we have time for.” 

“And I mean, how can you top the Backstreet Boys anyway?” Patrick asks as David says a distracted goodbye to the driver and gets out of the car. “Guys, you’ve been so amazing and thanks to you, we’ve raised,” he leans closer to the phone and squints, “Is that right?” he asks the moderator who nods. “We’ve raised a whopping $237,488. That’s - ” he shakes his head, looking properly flabbergasted. It’s been just over an hour and he’s raised over a quarter of a million dollars. 

“Patrick, thank you so, so much for being here with us.” 

“My pleasure. Let’s do it again, man.” 

The BC/EFA account leaves the live, and it looks like Patrick taps something on his screen, but his stream keeps going. David wonders if he plans on playing a few more covers for his audience because it’s a rare thing, this kind of access. He’s honestly shocked that Patrick doesn’t have a social media manager, but then again, Patrick’s idea of social media is posting a story every three months and a photo every six. How he has thirty-something million followers is beyond David, whose fame just by association has garnered him a couple hundred thousand new fans. 

As Patrick goes back to toying around on the piano, David realizes with a growing sense of concern that Patrick doesn’t realize he’s still streaming, poor thing. 

You’re still live. he texts from the stoop, hoping Patrick will see the message and end it before David walks in the door. The phone is facing the piano whose bench is in the corner, though, so even if David did walk in, he wouldn’t be on camera. There’s that at least. 

He waits a minute, but when Patrick only continues to play a tune that sounds vaguely familiar, David pulls his key out of his pocket, inserts it into the lock, and holds his breath. The door swings back, and Patrick immediately looks up, his expression brightening and his words damning: 

“Hey, baby.”

David’s eyes blow wide and he spins his phone around, pointing at it in a frantic way that he hopes conveys You’re still fucking live!

Patrick’s eyes go even wider in a petrified expression of cartoon proportions that David would be impressed by if terror wasn’t rooting him to the floor. 

And then, in a performance that should win Patrick a fucking Oscar let alone a Tony, he turns to the camera, gives a cheeky smile and small laugh. 

“Oops.” Then he winks like they’re all in on the joke. 

David looks back down at the phone in his hand as Patrick reaches forward and disconnects the live. Properly, this time. 

Fuck.  

🎭 🎭 🎭

@brewsclues: SECRET SOMEONE THEORY IS BACK ON PEOPLE
          @pbandjamsessions: IT’S A BIT MORE THAN A THEORY AT THIS POINT

Who is Patrick Brewer Dating? 

Patrick Brewer Has Secret Someone

With two words, ‘hey, baby,’ Patrick Brewer Broke the Internet - And Our Hearts

🎭 🎭 🎭

“Jesus,” David mutters as he scrolls through the various headlines that seem to be multiplying by the second. “That didn’t take long. Oh - ”

His phone buzzes with an incoming text, and the chime of Patrick’s echoes it a moment later. 

[Rachel]
Are you fucking serious? 

“There’s Rachel,” David says rather obviously, staring at the text she sent to both of them. His phone buzzes again with a text from Stevie, including a photo of her standing outside Buvette in the Village with someone else’s phone held up, showing the date and time. 

[Stevie]
Tempted to post this as proof it WASN’T me.

“Aaaaand Stevie.” 

“I cannot believe I did that.” Patrick still sits on the piano bench, head in his hands, as frozen as a fucking Rodin. 

“I can’t believe you went with ‘oops.” David laughs as Patrick groans. “I mean, hey - it could be worse. No one saw me, you didn’t say my name. I didn’t even speak. The mystery remains a mystery,” he says, pocketing his phone and walking closer so he can run his fingers through Patrick’s hair. 

“But they know there’s someone. And that always makes the scrutiny so much worse. They analyze my body language, my quotes, Jesus, my snacks like we’re all living in some Dan Brown novel.” 

David shudders, and it’s not all for show. “The horror.” 

“David, I’m serious.” 

“Um, so am I. Have you read The DaVinci Code?” His hands migrate from Patrick’s hair to his shoulders, kneading at the tension. “I feel like this is a bad time to tell you I was coming over to ask if you’d perform at Stonewall.” 

The Stonewall?” 

“Is there another?” But Patrick still looks like that simple question is too much for his already overloaded brain. “I do not need a decision now.” He pauses. “But I do need one by Tuesday.” 

“That’s the day after tomorrow.” 

“That… is correct.” 

“David - ”

“I’ll tell them no.” 

“No, don’t do that, just - ” he groans and rubs at his temples, leaning his forehead against David’s stomach. 

Going for levity, David murmurs, “I can’t believe I’m the calm one right now.” And it works because Patrick laughs. 

“It was bound to happen at some point,” he says, glancing up as he grabs hold of his hips and squeezes him, as if remembering the time before first rehearsal for the workshop when he had a panic attack in the middle of Studio C. 

“I, uh, I don’t get stage fright. I thrive in front of a crowd.” 
“I know.” 
“And I was good. I felt fine last night - ”
“Yes, fine enough to torture me with your Interflix choices.” 
“Exactly! But David… I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified in my life.” 

And then when they switched places once more: 

“I thought we were supposed to be focusing on the show.” 
“You are the show.” 

“Come to dinner,” David murmurs, bending down and pressing a kiss to his hair. 

“Really? But it’s Family Dinner.” 

And David is so close to replying, You are family that it honestly scares the shit out of him. Instead, he says: 

“Well, clearly you can’t be left alone around electronics with working wifi connections.” 

Patrick laughs. “Fair enough.” Then he closes his eyes, the corners creasing with little stress wrinkles that make David want to reach out and smooth them away. “I don’t deserve to perform at Stonewall.” 

“Hey,” David says firmly, shaking him a little. “None of that.” It comes out more forceful than he means it to, and Patrick blinks his wide eyes open. “No matter your orientation or how public it may or may not be, you have done so much for the LGBTQIA+ community. You should be proud of that work. I am. They asked for you. They want you.” 

Patrick nods and swallows. “I’ll think about it.” 

“Thank you,” David replies, bending down and pressing another kiss to his head.  

Then Patrick’s phone rings where it’s still strapped to the tripod, and he sighs when he catches sight of Rachel’s name on the screen. “I’m about to get yelled at.” 

“Probably, yes. Want me to step out?” 

“Hell no, I’m putting it on speaker. If I’m going down, I’m taking you with me.” 

David laughs because, frankly, there’s no other place he’d rather be. 

Patrick hits Accept and then Speaker with a wince. “Rach -”

“Jesus Christ, Patrick. I gave you a tutorial.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

“Mr. Brewer!” Hector booms, genuinely delighted to see Patrick exit the car after David. 

“Hector, how are you?” he greets, shaking his hand. 

“Can’t complain. Sorry, Mr. Rose, it’s good to see you, too.” 

“Don’t worry,” David says with a smile, “I know I’m not the draw here.” 

Hector makes a dismissive noise as he walks them over to the door and opens it, gesturing them inside. Like he can’t bear to hear David put himself down, even in jest. 

“Please give Adelina my best,” David murmurs as he gets in the elevator. 

“Mine, too,” Patrick pipes up. 

“I will, indeed,” Hector replies, waving them off as the elevator doors close. When they open once more, David is surprised to see Stevie sitting alone on the couch, looking like she’s about to record a hostage video. 

“I didn’t know you were joining us.” 

“Neither did I,” she replies.  

“What, were you kidnapped?” 

But before Stevie can answer, Alexis bounces into the room, giving David all the answer he needs.

“Oh good, you’re here. We have important things to discuss.” 

“We do?” he grits out, and Patrick places a placating hand on his back. 

“Um, duh, David. You of all people should know.” 

He whines because this was supposed to be just dinner. The first one Patrick is attending. And now it’s been hijacked by his sister and her grand illusions of internet dominance. 

“I can’t believe you actually posted that photo.” David says to Stevie, practically stomping over to the couch and taking the seat at the opposite end of her, leaving Patrick to sit between them. He’s, of course, referring to the one she texted him outside of Buvette marking the date and time. She’d sent it to her stories with a very helpful Not it. attached. 

“What? We just went through the trouble of putting out that statement. I wasn’t going to let your boyfriend undo all of my hard work.” 

Your hard work?” Patrick asks, complete with faint eyebrow raise, which David thinks is rich considering he knows for a fact that Rachel did most of the heavy lifting when it came to putting out that particular fire. 

Anyway,” Alexis snaps. “The social media team thinks Stevie should do an Instagram takeover for first preview, which I think could be fun, but obviously we’ll need to establish some ground rules given recent events.” 

“What? No,” David blurts. “That’s a terrible idea.” 

“Yeah, I think we can all agree that won’t be good for anyone, least of all the show,” Stevie concurs.

“Aw, you’ll be great,” Patrick says, nudging her with his shoulder, like he didn’t just experience the pitfalls of mishandled blue check mark accounts. The views for the clip of his live are in the millions. David’s checked. 

“It’ll be fine," Alexis urges. “Just post some videos, some photos, get Patrick to wave, the people will love it.” 

“He’s not a performing monkey!” David snaps. “And it’s first preview! They’ll be stressed enough!” Sure, he has ulterior motives and worries, his boyfriend getting outed being at the top of them, but he is also a director genuinely concerned about his actors. 

“I think I can handle a wave, babe,” Patrick whispers, and David doesn’t mean to speak for him, but it’s only been hours since everything nearly went oh so wrong. Yes, he was calm in the immediate aftermath, but Rachel put the fear of God in them, and David still hasn’t quite recovered. 

Just then, his mother swans into the room, lipstick redder than the blush on Patrick’s face that afternoon. “And how are our social media butterflies this evening?” she greets, arms open wide, Eleanor perched on her head. 

“Oh my God, how the hell do you know? You don’t even have Instagram!” 

But she just taps the side of her nose and winks, and conversation devolves quickly after that, but Patrick doesn’t leave his side, getting a hand on his knee or a finger in his ribs whenever David needs silent comfort or admonishment. Stevie eventually does agree to the Instagram, and David still has robust reservations about it all, but they move on to different topics after that. 

By the time they sit down for dinner, the clip has broken YouTube’s record for most views in a single day. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

The rest of tech goes worryingly well - like, seamless in a way that David has never experienced before - which means that by the time first preview rolls around, he’s braced for fucking catastrophe. Given the well known rule that if your dress rehearsal goes off without a hitch, your first performance is doomed,  and the fact that Stevie is running around with access to the official @HamletBway Instagram account, David is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. 

“Is he okay?” Cecilia asks Patrick, nodding at David who’s curled up in the corner of the couch in Patrick’s dressing room. 

“He’s fine,” Patrick casually replies. Like this is a normal evening. Like this is something David just does. (In Patrick’s defense, this is exactly what David looked like while watching Atonement so he’s not wrong, but still.) 

Cecilia merely nods and continues fixing Patrick’s hair as Mutt calls fifteen over the intercom. 

Stevie has taken to social media like a fucking Kardashian. Upon his arrival, she shoved her phone in his face with a Barbara Walters-worthy, “How are you feeling this evening?” and he was so startled that his response was just to numbly stare into the void. He found out after the fact that she was fucking live, and he’s been hiding from her ever since. 

“Okay, you’re good,” Cecilia says, stepping back. “Need anything?” Patrick shakes his head. “I’ll be back before ‘Places’ just in case.” 

He nods and watches her leave in the mirror before turning to David with a contemplative look on his face. In fact, Patrick’s been oddly quiet all evening. 

“How are you so calm?” David finally snaps. 

That gets a laugh out of him. “I’m really not. But I get the sense that only one of us can freak out at a time, and it appears to be your turn.” 

“Look,” he starts, pushing himself up from the couch and pacing the length of the modest dressing room, “we are already on thin fucking ice here. It feels like the world is just knocking on that fucking door. And then with the show?” He stops and presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. “I’m just - I’m feeling a lot of pressure.” 

“David?” Patrick murmurs, sounding much closer than he was a moment ago. 

“Yeah?” 

“Listen to me,” he says, taking hold of David’s shoulders. 

“Mmhm.” He’s got his serious face on. 

“Working in theatre, directing, putting yourself out there can be very scary. But it can also change people’s lives.” 

Well, that’s… not wrong. David’s has certainly changed. 

“And what you’re doing is very brave. Very generous, okay? And I don’t want to add more stress to your day...” 

No more stress, please. 

“... but I love you.” 

Chapter Text

David has a vague recollection of sitting down in front of the television when he was six-years-old as Adelina put in the VHS tape of The Little Mermaid and hearing “But, Daddy, I love him!” for the first time. 

“But I love you.”

In a film filled with talking fish and fabulous villains, not to mention a pretty hot prince from an animation point of view, he’s not sure why that moment stuck with him. Perhaps it was the drama of it all. David does so love a messy bitch.

“But I love you.”

He remembers being eight and looking out into the audience at his school’s talent show and seeing only Adelina in attendance. Afterwards, with the kind of broken heart only a disappointed child can experience, he asked her if she loved him more than his parents did. “I love you just the right amount,” she replied. Problem being, David didn’t know what that was. 

“But I love you.”

Fourteen saw him watching Titanic for the first time and yearning for something like that (but without the disaster and death). 

“But I love you.”

Fifteen saw him getting together, making out with, and getting dumped by Annalise Escott all at the same dance, and he knew that wasn’t it. It wasn’t when he was sixteen and getting fucked for the first time in the mansion’s pool either. 

“But I love you.”

He remembers being seventeen and eighteen and nineteen and making a dangerous daisy chain of bad decisions that could have killed him and nearly did. He remembers being twenty and finding something close to that with Stevie and coming to the axis-tilting realization that it was too important to lose. 

“But I love you.”

He remembers being twenty-five and finding the kind of success he never dreamed of having, even with the grand illusions from Disney and the lifestyle he had grown accustomed to occupying his head. He remembers the success not lasting and seeing the love he thought he had as the smoke screen it always was. 

“But I love you.”

He remembers being thirty and feeling so desperate for connection, he’d take it any way he could find it. He remembers Sebastien preying on that like the vulture he is, teasing David with just enough affection to keep him coming back, until eventually Sebastien left first, taking parts of David with him that he never intended to return. 

“But I love you.”

And then he met Patrick, who knocked down his walls without even trying. Who looked at him, a man who saw an animated film and wanted the drama if it meant he got the love, and thought, Yes, you. You’re it for me. Patrick, who is a miracle and who somehow is miraculously still speaking - 

“... And hey, I don’t expect you to say it back to me right now, you say it when you’re ready. Just felt right to me in the moment.” 

This was the moment? he wants to yell, but his mouth has stopped working. 

“Places, places for top of show,” the intercom booms. “This is your places call.” 

This was not the moment. 

Patrick smiles like he knows exactly how broken David’s brain is. In fact, he looks kind of smugly pleased, the asshole. 

“Have a good show,” he whispers with a wink, like David is the one performing. Like David is the one capable of basic English, let alone iambic pentameter right now. And then Patrick’s gone, but unlike so many before him, he’ll be back. 

“But I love you.”

David turns and leans his hands on Patrick’s vanity, letting his head hang down. He knows he loves Patrick. He’s known it for a while, longer than he’ll ever admit, even if he was too reluctant to actually give it a name - 

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

David smiles and shakes his head as he recalls his Romeo and Juliet. That’s absolutely something Patrick would say, just to troll him. 

The door creaks and he glances up in the mirror to find Stevie lowering her phone. “You are worthless to me right now,” she moans, looking down at the screen. “Actually - ” she tilts her head, “that’s not half bad. I mean - it’s not great, but you don’t look terrible.” 

When he remains silent, she looks up, slightly concerned. 

“What, no snappy comeback? No pithy response?” 

And when his mouth finally opens, when his words finally come, what he says is: “Patrick loves me.” 

Stevie snorts. “Well, duh.” 

“No, I mean he told me he loves me.” 

And, well, that gets her eyes to widen. “What? When?” 

“About a minute ago?” 

What?”

“Though to be fair, I’m not sure how long I was standing here before you showed up.” 

“David, oh my God,” she whispers, and gone is the teasing and the snark and the bite, because she was there. She’s been there for every year since eighteen, watching from the side as David looked for love and came up short every goddamn time. 

“Yeah.” Then he clears his throat and wipes his cheeks - when the fuck did the tears happen? - before turning around and finally facing her. “What are you doing? You have a show to perform.”

“And you have a preview to note. Did you say it back?” 

“What?”

“Did you say it back?” 

His silence is answer enough. “Look, in my defense, he didn’t really give me a chance? One minute, he was saying ‘I love you’ and the next, Mutt was calling places, which FYI, they called places,” he says pointedly. 

Naturally, she ignores him. “Do you remember what I texted you the night of the Grammys?” 

He got a lot of texts the night of the Grammys. Hardly any of which he responded to. “You mean the photo?” 

“No, after he won.” 

Given the recent turn of events, it shouldn’t take him as long as it does to remember: 

“That’s love,” he murmurs. “Yeah, why did you send me that?” In the excitement of Patrick’s win and with everything that came after, David had honestly forgotten, and it ended up getting buried under the mountain of messages that have come in since. 

“Because the first thing out of his mouth when his name was called for his seventh Grammy Award was ‘I need David.’ Not ‘I want David,’ not ‘I miss David.’ ‘I need him.’ I knew it was love then and I know it’s love now. And if it’s not, then explain to me why your face looks like this.” She flips the phone around and shows him the photo she just took, having managed to capture him the moment Patrick’s words finally registered, the mirror in front of him loudly broadcasting the small, disbelieving smile on his face. 

“Will you send that to me?” he asks softly, and she doesn’t even mock him for it. 

“Sure.” 

“There you are!” Brenda gasps, skidding to a halt in the doorway. “Ken’s freaking out because you’re not in the house yet. Shannon gave him your tickets.” 

“Right, I’m going, I’m going.” He groans and swipes at his face again, and Brenda, bless, doesn’t question his red-rimmed eyes or why he and Stevie are hanging out in Patrick’s dressing room. 

“Hey,” Stevie says as he passes, grabbing hold of his arm. “Welcome back to Broadway.” 

“Fuck, Stevie,” he groans, dissolving into tears again as Brenda just chuckles and shoos him down the stairs and through the pass door. He gets a hold of himself as he enters the house, already packed and bustling with eager theatregoers holding their first preview tickets. 

Craning his neck, he can see Ronnie standing at the back of the orchestra, not with Ken but not far away from him either. David’s parents are chatting with someone by the bar in between the twin staircases to the mezzanine, and David makes his way up the side aisle, smiling and nodding furtively at people who recognize him. It doesn’t help his cover when Alexis enthusiastically waves from the middle of the fucking orchestra with Ted offering a just as happy, but perhaps less ostentatious greeting beside her. As David approaches the back of the house, Ken sees him first, letting out a huge sigh of relief as he hurries over, two tickets in hand, along with his pad for notes and a god mic in case anything catastrophic happens. 

“They’ve got us in row G, 113 and 114. Next aisle over.”

David nods and catches Ronnie’s eye. “Great, I’ll meet you there.” 

Ken nods and makes his way towards the stage right aisle as David walks over to his agent. 

“Cutting it a little close there,” she mutters. The bell rings and the lights flicker not for the first time, proving her point. Then she gives him a once over that would make a hardened contestant on Drag Race cower in the corner. “What the hell happened to you?” 

“Nothing, I’m fine.” 

“Mmmhmm.” She draws it out, leaving him to squirm in her skepticism. “The show in good shape?” 

“He said he loves me,” he blurts, and when her disinterested expression doesn’t change at that life-altering bombshell, he continues to ramble. “And I didn’t say it back because I’ve never said it to anybody, at least romantically, and I know you don’t like him - ” 

“I don’t not like him,” she offers begrudgingly, halting his tirade. 

“What?” 

She groans, like the words are being pulled out of her. “I don’t like a lot of things, David. I don’t like beets. I don’t like stewed tomatoes. Candy corn is a curse.” Which, agreed. “And there are a lot of people I don’t like, either. I don’t like Sebastien Raine. I don’t like that little shit from The Post. That man,” she gestures towards the stage with a nod of her head, “is not one of them.”  

David notices that neither of them has said his name; not in this crowd of people. He swallows hard at what she’s implying. 

“Look, I would hardly call myself an expert on this subject,” she continues, grimacing like every word physically pains her. “And by subject, I mean genuine human emotion, so I’m just gonna tell you what I know, and you can do whatever you want with that, okay?” He nods. “I know that over the course of your career, I’ve seen you go from prodigy to pariah - ”

Oh-kay - ”

“Hush. I know that this project has been different for you; special, in a way that I didn’t understand until recently. I know that we wouldn’t be here right now if you hadn’t met that man. And I know that there’s a reason his name comes up in conversation every time we speak.” She sighs and digs the toe of her boot into the carpeting, saying softly, “I know you’ve been burned. But I think it’s important to remember that sometimes it does work out, professionally and personally. I know that everything inside of you is telling you to protect yourself, but sometimes... sometimes it does work out. I also know that when you’ve got it, you shouldn’t let it go." She pauses, letting her words land and land they do. "Now I still think he looks like a thumb and I’m still gonna give him holy hell, but… David, you’ve got it. If you want it.” 

“I want it,” he breathes, knowing that that’s as close to a blessing as he’ll ever get from her. “Thank you, Ronnie.” 

She rolls her eyes and shakes off the sentimentality. “I just don’t want to lose my fee. Now I am not your relationship coach. Get outta here before I need an epipen.” 

He nods and squeezes her elbow, because they don’t do public displays of affection, even if she has physically pulled him from various bars over the course of their decade-plus relationship. He passes by his parents, his mother air-kissing him and his father shaking his hand, as he waits at the back of the house for the lights to begin to dim. He and Ken are sitting on an aisle so it won’t be an issue to slide in at the last moment, but then an usher offers him a Playbill, and he sucks in a breath because he hasn’t seen it before now. 

                                                                                             

God, Patrick looks good. 

He stares at the cover for a long moment, a replica of the character poster outside, and runs his thumb over the curve of his cheek before checking himself and surreptitiously glancing around. No one seems to have caught him, too busy hustling to their seats or grabbing one last overpriced concession from the bar. He flips through the Playbill, pausing at the title page and smiling at seeing his parents’ names proudly leading the list of producers. It’s a far cry from the old days when they tried to control his career like the fucking Wizard behind the curtain. 

“Mr. Rose,” the usher whispers. “We’re starting.” 

“Thanks,” he replies, giving her a smile before hurrying down the aisle. He’s kept his thumb in the Playbill, marking the title page, and when he slides into his seat next to Ken, he flips it back open before the lights can dim, quickly finding the bio he hasn’t been allowed to read yet:

Patrick Brewer (Hamlet, Composer) is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist who made his stage debut as Gavroche in the Toronto production of Les Miserables, a performance he’s been trying and failing to top ever since. He wouldn’t be here without the love and support of his parents, Rachel, and Ted, and he sends all of his heartfelt thanks to Ray, for the career, to David, for the opportunity, and to Tina, for the words. 

Are you fucking serious. His eyes glaze and his heart thumps. 

To Tina, for the words. 

Nevermind that she didn’t actually write the song, David knows what Patrick meant. And Patrick knows that only David would understand that reference. That only David would read those words and know exactly what he’s trying to say.

“But I love you.” 

Before David can even begin to process any of that, Helen’s voice is coming through the speakers in the recorded pre-show announcement, asking people to turn off their phones as the house lights fade to black. 

David sucks in a breath and holds the Playbill tight in his hands, closing his eyes just briefly enough to savor the applause that rings out before a single actor has stepped foot onto the stage. Then the music begins, music that Patrick put his very soul into, and what happens next is, well, it’s magic. It’s what happens when the right people come together on the right show at the right time and, fuck theatrical superstition, they bring the audience to its knees and then to its feet.

Intermission is a raucous affair - theatre snobs are deep in conversation, teenagers are crying in the corner, and tourists who had no idea what they were signing up for are just happy to have a souvenir booze cup. David tries to focus, to keep his attention on the details of the show, but all he can think of is Patrick, Patrick, Patrick, I’m so fucking in love with Patrick. He heads backstage under the guise of using the restroom in the stage management office, but really he just needs to get to his boyfriend because the cataclysmic shift his entire world just experienced seems to be too much for his mind and body to handle. Abandoning Ken to the masses, he hurries down the side aisle, offering distracted platitudes to everyone who approaches him, because Patrick just performed over an hour of fucking Shakespeare with only David’s stunned silence as answer to the very nice thing that he said. 

“I don’t expect you to say it back to me right now, you say it when you’re ready.”

But David is ready, and Patrick needs to know. 

He trips through the pass door, ignoring the startled looks the crew gives him as they changeover for Act Two. He really does have to pee, but the bathroom can wait as he bypasses the stage management office and takes the stairs to the first floor dressing rooms two at a time, despite his protesting hamstrings. He bangs through the door, not even bothering to knock, and promptly takes five years off of Cecilia’s life. 

“Jesus Christ!” she screams, whirling around and brandishing a lint roller as a weapon. 

“Fuck, sorry, hi.” But Cecilia seems to be the only one in the room. The ensuite is open and dark. “Where is he?” He even checks behind the door, like Patrick’s hiding or something, but nothing is there except the show’s monogrammed bathrobe hanging on a hook, a gift from his parents to the cast for opening in Toronto. 

“Stevie came and grabbed him for some Instagram picture in the basement.” 

“Fuck.” 

“Did something happen? We can page him.” 

“No, no, it’s nothing - nothing show related.” 

“You are the show,” he hears in his head. 

Cecilia hums. “You sure about that?” 

“Yeah, it’s - it can wait.” But can it? He feels like he’s about to vibrate out of his skin. However, the pressure on his bladder has been exacerbated by the excitement now and stopping by stage management on his way back to the house becomes paramount. 

“I’ll tell him you were looking for him,” she offers. 

“No, no. Don’t do that. I don’t want him to think something’s wrong and be in his head for Act Two.” He gives her a tight, disappointed smile. “I’ll find him after.” 

“Okay,” she whispers, grinning at him in a way that gives him pause. Like she knows exactly why he came bursting in this door like the ghost of fucking Banquo was on his heels. 

And maybe she does. She and Patrick do talk. 

He tilts his head and narrows his eyes leadingly. “Yes?” 

“Nothing,” she innocently replies, but her grin widens; her eyes dance. “It’s just good to see you back here. So soon.” 

Oh she definitely knows. “Okay,” he says, reaching for the door once more, disappointment flaring. Now he has to sit through another act of Shakespeare with this burden on his shoulders? Oh my God, is this what it’s going to be like all the time? 

“Looks good on you, though,” she murmurs.

“What does?” he asks distractedly. 

“Love.” 

He stops at that, eyes drifting towards the mirror before he can help himself. “It does, doesn’t it,” he says softly.  

“I won’t say a word.” 

“Thank you.” He gives her a grateful smile before heading out the door and back down the stairs, waving at Heather behind her desk as he pops into the bathroom. When he emerges once more, neither of them comments on how well the show is going, because a lot can go wrong in an act and theatrical superstition is still not something to be trifled with, no matter David’s enthusiasm at a stellar first half. 

He heads for the pass door once more, lingering a bit in the wings to see if Patrick makes an appearance, but whatever Stevie has him doing keeps him occupied. David makes a mental note to check out the @HamletBway account after the show. As he makes his way back to his seat, his phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out, breath catching at seeing Stevie’s name on the screen. In his haste to unlock it, he sends it flying to the carpet, nearly taking out an old lady on the aisle who gives him a dirty look as she unwraps a hard candy whose wrapper she’ll probably spend all of Act Two crinkling just to spite him. 

The text is the photo she promised to send, accompanied by three simple words: 

A director prepares…

Apt, really. There were so many things he was preparing himself for in that moment. Love, apparently, being first and foremost. 

It never does get posted to the official Instagram, which is good. 

David wants that one just for himself.

🎭 🎭 🎭

@HamletBway added to their story
[A video of Stevie sitting on a couch, makeup free, hair in disarray]: “Um, hi. It is Tuesday, March 19th. Tonight is the first preview of Hamlet, and I have been tasked with taking over the official Instagram account… I know, I don’t know why they chose me, either.”

@HamletBway added to their story
[A mirror selfie of Stevie brushing her teeth in a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt]: This is the kind of content you’re looking for, right?

@HamletBway added to their story
[A selfie of Stevie on the subway, beanie pulled low on her head, the red circle with a 1 in the middle of it visible just over her shoulder] A quick commute when the MTA decides to function.

@HamletBway added to their story
[A video of Stevie walking down the street]: “Okay, so, first things first: sustenance.” [She holds up a venti cup of something with an egregious amount of whipped cream on top.] “And then, it’s rehearsal because a preview is still a preview. The show isn’t locked yet, which means we can still make changes.” [She stares pointedly into the phone.] “Though honestly, we’ve been doing this thing for so long, I cannot imagine what’s left to change… [She goes back to looking forward.] “ And just for that comment, David will probably cut half my lines.”

@HamletBway added to their story
[A picture of Stevie outside the stage door, hand pointing up at the sign] Home!

@HamletBway added to their story
[A boomerang of Stevie’s dresser striking a pose in the mirror as she helps her fit her mic pack]

@HamletBway added to their story
[A black and white photo of Patrick standing center stage, hands on his hips, looking pensively into the empty audience] I think he’s ready. @patrickbrewer

@HamletBway added to their story
[A photo of a large sushi platter] Rehearsal is over. Now for dinner. Continuing the A+ content, I know. And yes, this is all for me. Thanks, Kodama.

@HamletBway started a live video
[Stevie walking down the stairs from her dressing room] “It’s half hour, which means all actors have to be in the building. We sign in and everything here and get yelled at if we’re late.” [Points camera at the call board. Byron goes flying down the stairs past her]
[Heather, off-camera] “No running!”  
[Stevie] “We get yelled at for a lot of things. Granted, we usually deserve it.” [Swinging the camera around to the chair next to the stage door] “This is Ritchie. He keeps us safe. You’ll see him at the stage door if you stop by after the show. Say hi, Ritchie.” 
[Ritchie, waving] “Hi.”
[The stage door swings open and David steps through. Stevie zooms in on him] “How are you feeling this evening?” [David just stares. Stevie turns back to the camera] “Some fiery words of inspiration from our very own David Rose. O captain, our captain, or whatever.”
[Live ends]

@HamletBway added to their story
[A photo of Helen and Aldridge in costume, clutching each other in a scandalous embrace with Patrick photobombing in the background, looking horrified] Gertrude and Claudius trying to keep it PG-13. Hamlet calling his therapist.

@HamletBway added to their story
[A clip of Patrick doing vocal warmups in his dressing room] I think this @patrickbrewer is really going places.

@HamletBway added to their story
[A boomerang from inside the pre-show cast huddle] Here we goooooo!

@HamletBway added to their story
[A photo of the cast, serious and contemplative, around a partially complete puzzle] Intermission decompression tradition. 

@HamletBway started a live video
[The curtain call, filmed from the wings. The full company bows and then Patrick steps forward for his own. The camera pans towards the house and the audience is going wild. Patrick waves and then holds his hands out for Stevie and Helen to take, bringing the cast downstage for another full company bow. They break apart and Stevie hurries offstage, smiling at whomever is holding the phone] “Thanks.” [The video shakes as it’s transferred back to Stevie. She flips it into selfie mode] “We did it!” [Patrick appears over her shoulder, followed by Byron, and Candice] “We did it!” 
[Patrick’s attention is taken by someone off-screen] “Hey!” [He disappears and Stevie follows him with her eyes as Candice and Byron continue to make funny faces at the camera.] 
[David, off-screen] “Can I talk to you?”
[Patrick, off-screen] “Yeah, everything okay?” 
[David, off-screen] “It’s fine, it’s good. Um - ”
[Stevie swings the phone around, blurring the view of the mass of bodies as Heather comes onstage] 
[Heather] “Cast photo! Everyone get together - ” 
[Patrick, off-screen] “Hey, we’ll talk at the party?” 
[Stevie, to the camera] “Cast photo, byeeee!”
[Live ends]

🎭 🎭 🎭

David is acquainted with himself well enough to know that he’s in no fit state to greet the masses that have gathered outside the stage door on 44th Street. Backstage was complete chaos with multiple professional photographers capturing the moment, not to mention Stevie continuing to be a menace armed with a cell phone and the @HamletBway login credentials. Thanks to the producers and investors waiting for them in the basement of Bond 45, not to mention the hundreds of fans actively stopping traffic outside, Patrick was rushed from the photo op to his dressing room to get out of his costume and out the door as quickly as possible. 

Now if only David could just get five fucking minutes alone with the man he loves so he can actually tell him. 

After giving out his tech notes at the production meeting and wanting to avoid the throngs he can hear cheering all the way from the middle of the theatre, he escapes through the lobby, pausing on the sidewalk for a moment to look at the NYPD attempt to wrangle everyone waiting for signatures and selfies at the stage door. There’s no way all of those people were at the show tonight. Jesus, is this what it’s always going to be like? David thought crowds this zealous outside of Broadway stage doors only happened when Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig did shows together. 

The cast will obviously be a while, and having no desire to head to the first preview party alone (or completely sober), David hurries across the street towards Sardi’s and hauls open the door, knowing full well that though their downstairs bar closes when the shows start, Geordie will whip him up a martini and let him hide in the corner until the chaos calms. 

Geordie’s been a good friend to David over the years, never paying attention to the gossip and always claiming not to read reviews, yet somehow always managing to know when they’re good. Every theatre worker needs a Geordie in midtown. 

A black-and-white movie plays on the tv in the corner - The Maltese Falcon, maybe; David’s always been partial to the Katharine Hepburn rom coms - and he’s just tucking into the extra olives Geordie gave him when a voice sounds from behind him. 

“You do know there’s a party with an open bar just two blocks north, right?” 

He turns to find Rachel leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest.

“Sorry, we’re closed,” Geordie starts, and David holds up a hand. 

“It’s okay, Geordie. She’s with me.” 

“Ah.” He gestures her in, and David pulls out the barstool next to him. “What’s your poison?” 

“Gin and tonic?” 

Geordie nods and pulls out a glass. “Any particular type?” 

“Sapphire?” 

He nods again and goes about making the drink as Rachel turns her keen gaze on David. He tries not to squirm.

“How’d you know where I was?” 

“I was on my way to Bond, and I saw your hair sneak across the street.” 

He glares and does not move to pat it down. She laughs like she knows he wanted to. “Were you at the show?” 

“No, a client had a photoshoot in Brooklyn. I’m coming tomorrow night, though.” 

Geordie places her drink down and pulls out the cash from the register. “David, I’m just going to run this upstairs. You okay for the time being?” 

“Wait, let me settle up.”

But Geordie just waves him off and leaves. David puts the cash down on the bar anyway as a tip for when he returns. 

“That’s nice of him.” 

“Geordie’s known me since I drunkenly treated myself to Phantom when I was eighteen and wept when the chandelier lit up.” 

“Everyone weeps when the chandelier lights up.” Then she squeezes her lime into her drink and licks the juice from her finger, giving him a careful look. “Did tonight… not go well?” 

“What makes you ask that?” 

She makes a vague gesture, alluding to the fact that he’s sitting in a technically closed bar drinking alone. He chuckles because, really, what else would she infer from that? 

“No, it was… it was amazing. They killed it. The audience was euphoric.”

“Sooo, why are you here?” 

He takes a fortifying gulp of his martini, followed by a deep inhale so he has enough air in his lungs to say everything he needs to: “Because Patrick told me he loved me, and I didn’t say it back because I’m emotionally stunted and I’ve never said that to anyone, but also because he didn’t give me a chance to, and then Ronnie made me realize that what I’ve been feeling has been love all along, but I haven’t gotten a moment alone with him despite multiple attempts and I’m genuinely concerned that the next time I see him, I’m going to blurt it out no matter how many witnesses there are.” 

She stares at him wide eyed as he catches his breath and takes another gulp. 

“Wow.” 

“Yeah.” 

But then her eyes go a little watery, but the good kind of watery, and it seems fitting that the first person he properly admits his love for Patrick to is the person that was there to love Patrick first. 

“I love him,” he whispers, and she laughs, a beautiful, joyous thing. Her genuine happiness for them is a gift, and it’s not one he plans to take lightly or for granted. 

“I know you do,” she replies, wiping at her eyes which makes him realize his own aren’t exactly dry either.   

“God, does everyone know?” 

She snorts. “Patrick doesn’t.” 

Yeah right. “Okay, that’s just ridiculous because I’m pretty sure I’m just a walking heart-eyes emoji these days.” 

“I mean, yes, don’t get me wrong, you absolutely are.” Then she sobers a little, possibly remembering their little intervention. David certainly hasn’t forgotten. “But it’s taken him over 30 years to finally love someone the way he’s always wanted to. He’s waited so long to have this, to have you, that I think he’s... cautious.”

And given David’s recent behavior, Patrick has every right to be. 

Rachel takes another sip of her drink and grins. “So how long are you gonna hide in here?” 

“Until that dies down,” he says, gesturing through the window towards the crowd with a nod of his head. “The last thing any of us needs is for me to go full rom com and announce my love in such a public setting. Despite my best efforts, I am not Colin Firth and this isn’t Love Actually.” 

“Fair.” 

They sip in silence for a moment, listening to the occasional cheer erupt from across the street whenever another actor exits the stage door. Thankfully, the play at the Shubert has already let out, or else the second act of the reportedly tense family drama wouldn’t sound nearly as restrained as the thespians on stage would probably like. 

“He told me about Stonewall,” Rachel murmurs, jostling him from his musings.  

“Hm? Oh. Yeah, I figured he would.” Then: “Do you think it’s a good idea?” It’s too late, despite what she thinks. Patrick’s already agreed, though if he did want to bow out, David would make it happen if need be. It’s not like anything’s been announced. Patrick is the ‘surprise guest’ teased in all of the promo materials. 

“Do you?” she counters. “It’s your charity. Your board.” 

He shrugs. “They want him.”

“And you?” 

“I always want him.” 

She makes a face at that, and he laughs. Being happy for your ex in love is one thing. Being reminded of your ex’s healthy sex life is another. “What does he want?” 

He shrugs again. “He wants to help, naturally, but he’s… he’s got complicated feelings around it.” 

“Imposter Syndrome?” 

David hums. “Something like that. He, uh, he doesn’t think he belongs there.”  

“And I’m not sure that’s something either of us can convince him of otherwise,” she murmurs, and he nods. 

He’s said it before and he’ll say it again: what Patrick is going through is very personal. And David meant it when he said he’d be there and they would get through it together. 

“Hey, look.” Rachel nudges him with her elbow and he glances outside to find that the SUV that had been idling on the curb (driven by Lena, no doubt) is gone and the crowd is dispersing. Patrick must be done signing, and the thought makes the vodka slosh in David’s empty stomach. His mother promised there would be food at this party and she better deliver. “Shall we?” Rachel asks. 

He nods and slides off his barstool, putting the money for Georgie under his glass and waving to the maître d' as he and Rachel bundle up to brave the cold. They run across the street and cut through Shubert Alley and then under the Marriott Marquis to the restaurant. He nods at the hostess, and she gestures them past the red velvet rope leading to the downstairs with a smile. Being slightly obsessed with their burrata chicken parmesan, David is well known to the majority of the staff.

He starts down the stairs and, as soon as he comes into view, the crowd screams, “David!” in a harmonized chorus as only Broadway babies can. 

“Jesus Christ,” he blurts, startled. No one’s been this happy to see him since he rolled into Bungalow 8 with his Black Card. He pauses on the steps, because if he wants to catch sight of Patrick, high ground is the likely place to do it from. A Marine he had a dalliance with taught him that. “Do you see him?” 

Rachel taps his right shoulder and he turns to see Patrick with David’s mother in the corner by the bar, laughing about something as he gets her glass refilled. David has warned him about Moira Rose on bottomless champagne, though if they all survived the Christmas Eve party, he’s not sure anything can faze them now. 

Patrick looks over and catches his eye, face brightening as he smiles. Hi, he mouths. 

Hi, David returns, trying not to grit his teeth because the problem with Patrick being in the corner is that there’s no clear way to get to him. Damn this open bar! 

“You could go back upstairs, and I could send him to meet you?” Rachel offers, but David shakes his head. 

“They’re still open for dinner. I don’t want anyone to know he’s here.” 

Tonight won’t take long; it’s just a first preview toast, it’s not opening, but David wasn’t exaggerating when he said he was worried about just blurting it out. He’s honestly not sure he can wait until the end of the evening. 

He’s waited long enough. They both have.

“What’s going on? You have your pouty face on,” Stevie says from the foot of the stairs. “You also haven’t made a beeline for the meatballs yet so something’s obviously up.” 

“You’re in good hands,” Rachel murmurs to him, nudging him down the steps and high-fiving Stevie as she passes.

“I need to talk to Patrick,” he says quietly as he gets closer, and she hums intently. 

“Is this why you took every opportunity to ruin my Instagram takeover?”

He gasps. “It’s not my fault you shoved your camera in my face like Mario Lopez on a red carpet! I was caught unawares! Speaking of, I notice Instagram duties have been redesignated back to the professionals,” he says nodding at Mike, their social media manager, who’s holding a phone up above the crowd. 

“Yeah, turns out that posting a video of a Tony Award-winner dropping multiple f bombs on the official account gets your credentials revoked. Helen thought it was hilarious.”

“I bet she did.” Twitter will have something to say about that, to be sure.  

“So you need to talk to Patrick?” 

He nods. “Somewhere private.” 

She rolls her eyes. “And I suppose it can’t wait?” 

“It absolutely cannot.” 

“Fine,” she sighs, before calling out, “Alexis!” who’s only too eager to abandon Ted with a boop and come trotting over. 

“You rang?” 

“I know you already cased the place, so where’s the nearest exit? Your brother needs to step out.” 

Alexis hums. “There were a couple of doors towards the back, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see if any of them are good for a getaway. But I know you’re not thinking of leaving, David,” she threatens. “Not before the toast. We need to make up for your poor performance on the socials. Show everyone you’re not a total noob.” 

Okay.” 

But then she’s grabbing his elbow and steering him through the crowd, past the delicious looking buffet, through another room, and around a corner towards a door. 

“Oh,” she blurts when she opens it to find nothing but a coat closet. “Well, it’ll do.” Then she pushes David inside, leaving him to wrestle with the hangers as she slams the door shut.

“Alexis - ”

But before he can argue, or find a light switch, the door is opening again, and David barely hears Patrick say, “Stevie, what - ” before he’s shoved against David’s chest, and they’re plunged into darkness once more. 

“Privacy!” Stevie yells through the wood. Jesus.  

“David?” Patrick sounds both alarmed and amused. 

“Yeah.” He can do this. 

“Um, we’re in a closet.” 

“Yeah.” He’s absolutely going to do this. “And please do not read anything into that other than the fact that it is literally the only room with a door we could find in this whole godforsaken place.” 

“David - ”

“I love you.” He did it. “I love you, and before anything else happens, before anyone else comes to bother us, I need you to know that.” 

“David,” he breathes, and it’s for the best that David can’t see Patrick’s face. There’s no way he’d survive. “David.” 

He can feel Patrick fumbling in the dark, and he’d really love it if Patrick was able to say anything other than his name, but then the light switches on and even squinting in the sudden brightness, the full force of Patrick’s feelings punches him straight in the solar plexus. 

“I needed to see your face,” Patrick whispers, gently cupping his cheeks. “Say it again.” 

So he does, because as it turns out, it’s the easiest thing in the world. “I love you.” 

“I love you so much,” Patrick laughs wetly before crashing their lips together. Up above, the hangers rattle against the rod.

“I know this isn’t the ideal place,” he manages in between kisses, “but I couldn’t wait.” 

“It’s perfect. You’re perfect.” Then Patrick pulls him into a hug, the kind that makes David wonder if he’ll ever let go, and buries his face in David’s neck, breathing him in. “I love you.” 

“I love you.” 

Loud laughter from outside disrupts the moment far sooner than either of them would like, and they each exhale because it was only a matter of time. 

“We should get back out there,” Patrick murmurs, pulling him down to place a kiss on his forehead.

David nods, reaching behind him to turn the knob and stick his head out into the empty hall. “Clear. You go first. I’ll follow in a minute.” 

“Okay.” Patrick inches out past him before turning and pressing another kiss to his lips, lingering a little longer than he should. 

“Go,” David finally laughs against his mouth, giving him a gentle shove. 

“I’m going, I’m going.” He watches Patrick walk down the hall, vowing to count to at least twenty before making his own appearance, but when Patrick turns the corner, he stops short for some reason. 

“Oh. Hey, Ken.” 

David’s eyes go wide as he disappears back into the closet, holding his breath while trying to hear over the thundering of his heart. 

“Oh hey, is the bathroom this way?” Ken asks. 

“Um, no I think it’s by the bar," Patrick casually replies. "Actually, I was trying to find it myself.”

David doesn’t hear whatever they say next, and Ken must believe Patrick because no one comes down the hall for another five minutes. And David should know, because he counted every fucking second.  

Alexis is the one to come collect him when it’s time to give the toast, and he brushes off her concern at his appearance with a flippant response. Patrick doesn’t seem bothered, though, so whatever he said to Ken must have been convincing. David allows the panic at the close call to recede as the knowledge that Patrick loves him flows back in, filling the hollow parts of him and warming things long gone cold. 

He has no idea what exactly he says in his speech as he holds a trembling champagne flute, but he does know he ends it with something as equally serious and heartfelt as all that came before:

“And I swear to God, if I see a single goddamn lemon on my stage, you’re all fired.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Previews march towards opening at a pace faster than David would like, and I love you’s fall from his lips far more often than he ever thought they would. All in all, things seem to be going well, though, with nary a lemon in sight. 

Which is exactly why David is so caught off guard when their first trainwreck arrives on an unsuspecting Thursday evening. He’d known something was amiss when one of the moving staircases didn’t quite hit its mark during an initial transition. At the next scene change, it stops working altogether, making for a perilous drop right where Patrick is about to enter. 

“Hold! Hold, please,” Heather’s voice booms throughout the theatre. “Cast, exit the stage.” 

“Fuck,” David mutters, leaning close to Ken. “Hang here.” 

Ken nods as David stands and hurries up the aisle in the dark, listening to the audience murmur around him. Luckily they were seated on orchestra left, closest to the pass door, so it doesn’t take long for David to make it backstage. 

“Someone talk to me.” 

A startled Candice jumps at his sudden appearance, but just behind her is Mutt on his headset, listening intently. 

“Computer glitch,” he says to David, nodding at whatever he’s hearing. “The programmer is going to reboot, but it’s going to take time.” 

“How much time?” 

“Ten minutes? Maybe fifteen?” 

David groans and holds his hand out for the mic their sound tech is already offering. He glances up at Patrick descending the steps leading to the second floor of the set and shrugs. “I mean, hey. We’ve been lucky so far. And if there’s one thing my mother taught me how to do, it’s vamp.”

“Sure, one sec,” Mutt says into his headset. “Heather says, ‘Go get ‘em, Cap.” 

“Yeah, yeah.” 

“Should we borrow some tap shoes from The Music Man?” Stevie asks, and David flips her off as he heads out of the wings. 

“Wait, what’s he gonna do?” he hears Patrick ask just as he steps into the bright lights of the stage. 

“Stall,” Stevie replies. 

Raising the mic and mustering up all of his Little Mister chutzpah, he walks to center stage and says, “Good evening, everyone, and welcome to live theatre.” That gets a laugh, and he relaxes a bit. He doesn’t live for the spotlight like his mother does, but he can hold his own. “I’m David Rose, the director of Hamlet.” To his shock, he has to pause for applause. “Thank you, thanks. Um, so we had a little bit of a technical glitch. As I’m sure you can tell from the staircase just chilling in the middle of the stage. I’m sorry if you thought you were seeing Harry Potter, but Cursed Child is the next block over.” More laughter. He breathes easier. “We’re just rebooting the program that runs all of the automation you see, and we hope that’ll take care of it. That’s why this is called a preview. Sometimes, shit happens,” he says to more laughter. “So we’ll be a few minutes…” Glancing into the wings, he sees Mutt flash two hands up. “Maybe ten more minutes, so now would be an ideal time to run to the restroom again or hit up the bar because nothing says Shakespeare like a $40 double scotch on the rocks.” He sees a couple of people nod in agreement and watches a few more head up the aisles. “In the meantime, I’ll just hang here. Because obviously I’m who you came here to see.” Self-deprecation is nothing if not his milieu. They’re eating out of the palm of his hand. “Anyone got any questions? I could tell some jokes? Granted, the jokes I have are my dad’s, and I can guarantee he first heard them in the 80s so the chances of them being both unfunny and offensive are high.”

But before he can point to the myriad of hands that fly into the air, a roar comes from house left as Patrick steps onto the stage and casually wanders over, offering a brief wave before shoving his hands into the tight pockets of his costume. 

“Hey.” 

“Hi.” David breathes, enormously relieved to not be out here alone, despite his apparent ease. 

“You good?”

“Oh, you know, just getting started.”

“I can see that,” Patrick chuckles. “Want some company?”

Yes. “Always.” The cheers almost drown out their words, and David takes advantage of the moment to lean in, holding the mic away from his mouth. 

“You don’t have to do this. You still have two hours of Shakespeare to stay in the mindset for.”

“David, I’ve been pretending all of my adult life. I’ve got this.” Then he winks (sort of) and shields his face from the bright lights so he can see Ron, their sound engineer in the back of the house. He taps his head, where his mic is hidden in his hair, and even from where he stands, David can see Ron nod and boot up Patrick’s sound. 

“Hey, everyone. How are you doing?” 

A cheer goes up and David shakes his head as 1,156 camera phones are raised. They’ll have to play Helen’s announcement again. 

“Sorry about the delay. And though I’m sure we’re all very eager to hear what jokes David has up his designer sleeves, I thought I might offer my services as well.” 

David bites his lip to hide his groan at the thought of Patrick offering his services and makes a mental note to remind him that he is not allowed to use phrases in public that he has absolutely used in bed before. He steps off to the side as Patrick wanders downstage to where Gary’s head peeks up from the pit. 

“Grace, do you mind?”

Gary’s head disappears, and he returns a moment later, handing a guitar up to Patrick. The audience goes wild again as Patrick loops the strap over his head and plucks at the strings, grinning down at an older woman in the front row who leans forward and says something David can’t hear. 

“It’s your birthday? Happy birthday!” The woman murmurs something else. “82? You don’t look a day over 28,” Patrick says, like a gentleman, and then he laughs and addresses the audience, “I want to make it very clear - I did not ask, she offered.” He turns back to her. “What’s your favorite song?” The woman blushes like a schoolgirl as she replies. “That’s a good one. Okay, for Evelyn on her 82nd birthday, here’s Billie Holiday’s ‘I’ll Be Seeing You.” 

Jesus.  

David has to lean against the proscenium just so he doesn’t fall down as Patrick strums out a stunningly beautiful cover, simple and quiet but no less devastating. By the end of it, Evelyn is in tears, perhaps for people in her life long gone, and David finds his own throat closing up as he watches the care Patrick takes in delivering this most special of birthday gifts. When he strums the final note, the audience erupts but Patrick only has eyes for Evelyn, kneeling down on the stage and holding his hand out, placing a kiss on her knuckles as she gratefully grips him tight. 

“Happy birthday,” David watches him say before letting go and standing once more. 

Patrick has time for one more request, and he somehow spots a young boy halfway up in the mezzanine, pointing him out. Naturally the kid asks for the baseball song, and Patrick is only too happy to oblige. As it winds down, David looks into the wings where Mutt gives him a thumbs up. He nods and waits until Patrick’s finished before getting his attention. 

“We’re good?” 

David nods and steps forward once more. 

“Thanks for your patience, everyone!” Patrick calls. “It’s been fun!” Then he takes the guitar off and hands it back to Gary, shouting down his thanks into the pit to Grace as well.

David raises the mic to his mouth again. “If you could just give us a couple more minutes, let some of our actors get back into character,” he says with a pointed look at Patrick who just gives him a cheeky grin in return as he jogs offstage. “Heather, where from?”  

Heather’s voice booms throughout the house again. “Company, we’ll take it from ‘The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.”

David keeps the mic with him, just in case, as he heads back into the house, choosing to stand at the back of the orchestra for the rest of the first act rather than take his seat and be a further distraction. He can write any notes he needs to on his phone. The reboot worked, though, and the rest of the show goes off without a hitch; no more floating stairways or dangling set pieces. David chooses to stand for Act Two as well, disappearing through the lobby to loop around to the stage door just before the company bows. He made a more public appearance than he usually likes, preferring to blend in with the masses, and he’d really rather not have attention drawn to himself at the moment. He heads to Patrick’s dressing room, knocking on the open door briefly as Cecilia glances up from the costume rack in the corner. 

“Hey.” 

“Hey,” she replies, confused. “You do know he’s still onstage, right?” 

“Yeah. Can you just let him know I’ll meet him at home?” 

“Sure. Everything okay?”

“Oh yeah. It’s all fine. I just… don’t have the energy for the usual espionage tonight. I’m gonna get a head start.” 

“I hear you.” She nods in sympathy. “I’ll make sure he knows nothing’s wrong.” 

“Thanks.” 

He texts Ken that he’ll email his notes and hops the subway, like a regular person, because he knows that finding a car in the post-show rush will be nigh impossible, and lets himself into the townhouse. Pouring himself a much-deserved glass of wine, he settles on the couch upstairs and fires off a few emails, killing time until Heather’s report comes in and Patrick finishes with the stage door. Both take longer than normal, and by the time he hears the front door open, he’s poured his second glass and dared to go on Google. 

“David?” 

“Up here!” 

Hamlet Performance Halted Due to Set Malfunction. Watch Patrick Brewer Serenade the Audience

He whines as Patrick’s familiar tread jogs up the stairs and holds his phone out when Patrick turns into the kitchen. “These are not the kinds of headlines we want. Though, I’ll admit you do look very adorable making that little old lady in the front row swoon.” 

Patrick laughs and steps closer, kissing the wine from David’s lips. “From what I hear, she wasn’t the only one swooning.” 

“What?” 

“Oh Brenda had a perfect line of sight on you from stage left.” 

“Fuck.” He drops his forehead to Patrick’s shoulder. 

“It’s okay. No offense, and this is not me tooting my own horn, but I sincerely doubt that any of the hundreds of videos already on the internet are focused on you, babe.” 

Which, fair. And thank God. But before he can check the internet just to be sure, Patrick’s phone vibrates in his back pocket, right beneath David’s palm where he had reached down to get a grope. He pulls it out and glances at the screen. 

“Your mom’s FaceTiming.” 

Patrick hums, squeezing David’s ass in return before taking the phone from his hand. “Probably checking in about tonight. She has the show on Google alerts.” 

I don’t even have the show on Google alerts.” 

“She cares,” he says as he moves to hit Accept.

“Oh my God, I can’t be here!” David suddenly yells, literally diving over the couch in an acrobatic feat anyone who knew David Rose in PE class would be thoroughly impressed by. 

“What? Why?”  

He pops his head up. “I never texted her back after our fight! Oh my God, she must hate me!” 

And Patrick outright laughs at him. “She doesn’t hate you, David.” 

“Um, how do you know? How can she not?” 

“Because I don’t,” he says simply. “In fact, I love you. She’s just been worried about you, but I’ve been keeping her updated. Now stop hiding behind the throw pillows. I spent a lot of money on them at Pottery Barn.” 

“Oh my God - ” But before David can properly dispute his decorative choices, Patrick is hitting the phone and crowding in beside him. 

“Hey, Mom!” 

And any fears David had about Marcy Brewer hating him are allayed when she lets out a gasp and claps her hands together, the eyes she gave to her son sparkling with genuine joy. 

“My boys!” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

The rest of the previews continue on without any more impromptu concerts or near-death experiences. A woman does end up passing out from excitement pre-show, but she comes to and insists she’s fine before the EMTs can even make it onto 44th Street. Which is good, considering it’s the first of the show’s press performances. David was given a full breakdown ahead of time of which critics are coming when and, despite Stevie’s continued insistent digging, those in the know were given a strict moratorium on letting the cast know anything.  

Naturally the Times is waiting until the end, though David is heartened to see Carol’s name on the spreadsheet. He trusts her and her judgment, though it does say something about the show’s status that the Chief Critic is reviewing herself. Given their evolving relationship over last year, David’s not sure Carol would have left this review to anyone else anyway. 

He’s so busy spending his evenings loitering in the back of the house, trying to see if it looks like the critics are enjoying the play that he completely forgets about the Stonewall Gala until the CEO emails him two days prior, asking how many songs Patrick would like to sing.

David should be happy, he’s getting a reprieve from Sunday Night Dinner for this, but all he can do is try to alleviate the anxiety that seems to have leveled his normally confident boyfriend. Which is a tough fucking thing to do when David is inside the bar with Alexis, and Patrick is waiting in the car with Stevie. There’s not much of a backstage space to speak of and given the fact that Patrick can’t just hang out in the corner until it’s his turn without causing a riot of a different variety, it was decided that David would do his board member duties with Alexis on his arm while Stevie stayed behind so Patrick wouldn’t be alone. They said they were going to grab a bite around the corner, but David can’t imagine there’s much eating taking place. He already had to talk Patrick down from a panic attack in the car after he brokenly whispered, “I’ve never been here before,” as the red neon of Stonewall’s sign threw his face into gorgeous relief. Like he’d somehow let someone down because of his prior absence. 

David has demanded updates from Stevie every ten minutes, but they’re vague at best. The last one just said, He’s fine, which David knows from experience means that Patrick is decidedly not.  

For his part, David has set up shop by the open bar after making his lap around the room and putting his face in front of the people that need to see it. Alexis has been surprisingly supportive, dominating the conversation whenever anyone tries to engage them, and making sure David is properly hydrated with the alcoholic beverage of his choice. And a lot of people try to engage them. Turns out that directing Hamlet with a global superstar was all David needed to do to become the most sought after person at the party. 

Patrick is the last act, so after Sara Bareilles performs and as yet another speech is made, David allows Alexis to pull him closer to the makeshift stage for support if nothing else. Given the way the evening began, it’s understandable that Patrick may need to see a couple of friendly faces in the audience. 

“Friends,” the CEO begins, “to close out our record-breaking evening, please welcome a very special guest... Patrick Brewer.” 

“Are you fucking kidding me!” someone exuberantly yells next to them as someone else screeches, “Oh my God!” 

Patrick hasn’t even stepped out from behind the curtain and yet it’s complete chaos. When he does, though… 

Jesus. David laughs out a rather undignified sob, an abrupt release of tension and anxiety; a burst of pure happiness that Patrick is greeted this way. That he’s welcomed this way. 

Patrick blushes right down to his chest, which David can certainly see because the little minx has unbuttoned an extra two buttons, as he nervously adjusts his guitar strap. “Wow, thank you. It’s truly an honor to be here with you tonight.” 

David can feel the eyes that aren’t on Patrick find him in the crowd, like they know David is the one who made this happen. None of them feel like Patrick’s though, who picks him out without even needing to look. 

“Let’s start with an oldie but a goodie, shall we?” he says, before launching into his first single from Banjo Hitter. If Patrick was worried that this audience wouldn’t know his work, well, he’s sorely mistaken. He drops out for an entire chorus, letting those in attendance scream the lyrics at the top of their lungs. 

“He’s so good,” Stevie whispers from behind him, and he jumps and spins, crushing her in a hug. 

“Thank you.” For being there when I couldn’t. For loving him like you love me. 

“You’re welcome,” she quietly replies, hearing everything he doesn’t say, before looping her arm through Alexis’ and cheering at the top of her lungs. 

Patrick follows his first single up with a hit from each of his albums, bantering with those in front and flirting with everyone who flirts with him. And it is everyone.  

When he finishes Back to You, the song that just won him a Grammy, he waits for the applause to die down before stepping up to the mic again. “There is a fourth album,” he teases as the crowd goes wild. “I’m working, I’m writing, but nothing I’m ready to share yet.” His eyes find David’s again. “Soon.” 

“What’s it called?” someone yells from the back, and Patrick grins, like he has a secret. He does, though. Not even David knows the title. 

“I guess I can share it with you, my close, personal friends,” he says with a wink. “You’ll keep it to yourselves, right?” 

Laughter almost drowns out the “Not a snowball’s chance in hell!” that someone yells from the vicinity of the bar. 

Patrick chuckles. “Fair enough. Got any baseball fans in the audience tonight?” A fair number of hands shoot into the air. “Well for those of you who are familiar with my previous work, you’ll see there’s a running theme...” He underscores his speech with something David’s never heard before, and David would know; he’s heard everything Patrick has ever done. He giddily wonders if it’s something new, but then Patrick continues: “Banjo Hitter, Shoestring Catch, Full Count… so in keeping with the theme, and I know my director David loves to stay on theme,” he murmurs, like the secret he’s been keeping is for David. And maybe it is. “This one is called Moon Shot, which is a long, high home run.” 

David inhales sharply.

“And I gotta say,” Patrick continues, “I feel like I’ve hit one of those lately.” Then he clears his throat and doesn’t dare look in David’s direction. “So there’s the scoop. Feel free to do with it what you will,” he says with a knowing grin, strumming the guitar strings, coaxing something vaguely familiar from them. “If any of you have been to a concert of mine - ” he’s interrupted by cheers, “all right. Thanks for coming. Then you know that I usually finish my set with a cover.” Even more cheers. “So I’m gonna slow it down a bit tonight.” 

The strumming becomes a melody and the melody morphs into a song, one that has David’s throat closing up before Patrick ever utters a word: 

“You've been on my mind
I grow fonder every day
Lose myself in time
Just thinking of your face
God only knows why it's taken me
So long to let my doubts go
You're the only one that I want”

He blindly reaches out for Stevie’s hand, and she grips it back hard enough to grind his bones. 

“I don't know why I'm scared
I've been here before
Every feeling, every word
I've imagined it all
You'll never know if you never try
To forget your past and simply be mine”

It’s a risky move, playing this song given the fact that the world at large knows it’s probably dedicated to someone now. But David can’t fault him for it. Not when it’s so goddamn gorgeous. 

“I dare you to let me be your, your one and only
I promise I'm worthy
To hold in your arms
So come on and give me the chance
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile
Until the end starts”

Patrick would walk that mile. He’d walk thousands of them, David knows this. 

“Come on and give me the chance
To prove that I am the one who can, walk that mile
Until the end starts”

And for the first time in his life, David sees a future that goes beyond the next month, the next year, the next decade. 

Patrick once teased him, saying, “Oh, so you think we’re gonna be together five years from now?” 

But David can see that and so much more. David can see a lifetime. 

And what better way to spend it when you have a man who looks at you like that by your side? 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Who is Patrick Brewer’s ‘One and Only’?

@adele: fucken ace, @patrickbrewer

Check Out the Best of the Patrick Brewer/Adele Memes

See Photos from The Stonewall Inn’s Annual Gala 

Hamlet Starring Patrick Brewer and Stevie Budd Opens on Broadway Tonight

🎭 🎭 🎭

Fucking hell, how did they get here? 

Opening fucking Night. 

On Broadway. 

He hasn’t seen Patrick since he left the townhouse that morning, both of them having too much prep to do what with Marcy and Clint arriving that afternoon and David needing to muster enough sentimentality to get through his opening night notes and enough rationality to quell his various anxiety attacks. They’re in good shape; he knows they are. And even if they weren’t, the critics have already come. As Stevie so helpfully pointed out, tonight’s just the party. Despite that, Ronnie’s been checking on him every hour as Alexis flits around with a faux casualness that’s grating more and more on his nerves. Even his mother offered him a Valium, and he knows it’s bad when Moira Rose is willing to share. 

Dressed in custom Thom Browne that Rachel somehow arranged through wit and witchcraft, he makes it to the theatre ahead of schedule to pass out gifts and give himself another once-over before walking the red carpet. 

Cecilia gives him a low whistle as he knocks on the door to Patrick’s dressing room, making him turn in a circle so she can get the full view. “Damn, Rose.” 

“Thanks, Cee.” It’s the first time he’s used Patrick’s nickname for her, and she brightens at the familiarity. “Where will this,” he holds up the gift in his hands, “be out of the way?” 

“I’m piling everything over there,” she says, gesturing to the coffee table in front of the loveseat where multiple bouquets and cards already rest. He moves to set the package down and, though he might not have the show on Google alerts, he does have a few key phrases, some of which might include Patrick Brewer and dating and David Rose. Just in case. 

Which is why he freezes while placing his painstakingly wrapped gift down when his phone chimes with a very particular notification.  

🎭 🎭 🎭

r/PatrickBrewer
Posted by BrewsClues
so here’s a wild theory, but… 
what if patrick brewer is dating david rose?
like that’s crazy… 

right?

Chapter Text

There are few things that David loves more than watching a show from the wings. Standing in the dark as everything moves around him like the eye of a storm, witnessing actors that he’s guided to this moment take their much-deserved bow. He presses his fist to his mouth as Patrick steps forward, listening to the roar of the crowd cheer for the man who has worked so hard to get here. For the man David made this with. For the man David loves. 

“Congratulations,” Mutt says next to him, clapping his shoulder. 

“You, too. Thanks for everything,” David replies, startling when Derek comes up and hugs him from behind. 

“Happy opening!” he gushes and David laughs, smelling the celebratory champagne already on his breath. 

“You, too.” 

“David!” Malcolm yells, and David's head snaps up because Malcolm should be in the middle of bowing at the moment, but then he realizes that all of the actors are looking into the wings and, oh that must be their cue. 

“Ready?” he asks. “Where’s Twyla?” 

“I’m here!” she says, hurrying through the pass door. “Bob, Jake, and Amy Grace are right behind me.” 

David waits until he has eyes on all of them before leading them onstage into the heat of the lights and the deafening applause. Shannon and a few others appear from stage left, arms laden with bouquets of roses, which they begin to hand out to the actors. One is eventually shoved into David’s hands, but he only has eyes for Patrick, who beams at him like he hears everything David cannot say: I love you. I’m so proud of you. Can you believe we fucking did it? 

Luckily Stevie launches herself at him before he can embarrass himself, and he wraps her up tight, nearly lifting her off the ground. 

“You did it,” she whispers.  

We did it,” he replies roughly, grateful that the curtain of her hair hides the moment his expression breaks from the audience just beyond. 

She squeezes him, like she knows he needs a second, and he pats her back after he gathers himself to let her know he’s good. She releases him and slides back to the ground, moving past him to tackle Twyla next. Press photographers have rushed down the aisles, snapping away to capture the moment, and everyone on stage attempts to line up in a messy row, occasionally getting distracted by finding someone they love in the audience. David isn’t much better: he spots Hector and Adelina almost immediately and nearly loses it all over again. After much jostling, he ends up standing next to Patrick, and he looks to his left as Patrick stares to his right, soft smiles on each of their faces. 

It’ll make a great photo. 

David can’t wait to find it. 

Eventually, they all bow and make their way into the wings, and David follows Patrick into his dressing room out of habit, but no one seems to notice because everyone has company tonight. The second they enter, Cecilia makes herself scarce, and David has to applaud his own restraint at waiting until the door snicks shut before wrapping Patrick up in his arms, not even caring that he’s wearing custom Thom Browne and Patrick is still sweaty from the stage. He just needs to touch him, to hold him, to save him from everything they have to face tomorrow.  

“What’s wrong?” Patrick murmurs, stiffening in his embrace. 

Fuck, of course he can tell. “Nothing’s wrong.” 

“Oh God, is it the reviews? Are they out? Are they bad?” 

“Shhh.” David presses a kiss to Patrick’s rabbiting pulse point and breathes deeply into his neck, smelling sweat and soap and home. “Yes, they’re out and, no, I haven’t read them yet.” With the advent of the internet came the heinous tradition of posting reviews online before the curtain barely has a chance to come down. In the good old days of print, at least if you got panned, you wouldn't know it until you were sleeping off your opening night hangover the following morning. 

“David.” 

“Hey," he starts as he pulls away and cups his cheeks, "it’s nothing we need to worry about now. It might not be anything we need to worry about at all, but we can talk about it later.” He will not ruin this for Patrick. His Broadway debut. His first big opening night. “Now come on. Rachel let slip that there’s a Valentino suit in that garment bag, and I’m desperate to see what that wool blend does to that ass.” 

“Oh, this ass?” Patrick asks, moving David’s arm down his side and placing his hand on the curve. 

“It honestly should be illegal.” 

“Gentlemen,” Cecilia calls through the door, “I, too, would like to make it to the opening night party before they run out of booze, so may I please have your costume?” 

Patrick laughs and steps away, blushing to the tips of his ears. “Come on in, Cee.” He strips his shirt off as she opens the door, and she doesn’t even bat an eye when he gets started on his pants. 

“Mkay, so how do I get paid to watch my boyfriend get naked on a daily basis?” 

“Out,” Cecilia responds, pointing at the door to drive the point home as Patrick laughs. Laughs!

“Wait, before you go, which one’s yours?” Patrick asks. 

“What?” 

“Which of these is yours?” he asks, gesturing to the table. “I want to open it tonight. The rest can wait.” 

“And what makes you think I got you something?” 

Patrick rolls his eyes and begins rummaging around, poking at tags. 

“Okay, okay, it’s that one, you raccoon,” he says, pointing at the long, flat box in elegant black paper with a cream colored bow. 

“Did you just call me a raccoon?” 

“Yes, but a very adorable one.” 

“Oh my God,” Cecilia groans, grabbing Patrick’s costume and practically shoving his underwear-clad self towards the shower. “There is a Balenciaga from Rent the Runway with my name on it!” 

David hears the water turn on, and he heads towards the door, but then Patrick calls out once more, “Hey, David?” 

“Yeah?” He turns to find Patrick’s wet head peeking out from behind the shower curtain. 

“Will you ride with my parents? Rach will be in the car, too.” 

“And where do you suggest I sit? Ivan’s lap?” 

Patrick laughs, shaking the water from his face. “No, Ivan’s riding with me and Stevie.” 

“Oh. Um, sure then. If you think no one will mind.” 

“It was my dad’s idea.” 

Well. “Okay. Oh, do you want me to take this?” he asks, pointing to the present. “I can leave it in the car.” 

“That would be great.”  

He grabs the gift and gives Cecilia a mock salute before heading up one flight and knocking on Stevie’s door. 

“Yeah?” Her voice sounds strange, and he’s wary as he lets himself in, finding her in nothing but her robe, staring at a familiar bright red box in her hands. 

“So you got it,” he murmurs. 

She blinks wet eyes up at him, groaning as she walks forward and crashes into his chest, as if angry that his gift has brought her to tears. 

“It’s beautiful.” 

He gently takes the box from her hand and looks inside, the gold necklace with a pendant depicting a loose palm holding a single flower 

“I know you don’t go in much for jewelry, but I wanted you to have something to remember this by. To remember the fucking masterclass you’re giving on that stage every night.” 

She hiccups and turns around, holding her hair up. “Put it on me?” 

He clears his throat, a pleased flush overtaking his features as he sets Patrick’s present down. “Of course.” 

He had the jeweler at Cartier design it from a photograph of Stevie’s actual palm. During the key art photoshoot, they had taken some photos of her as Ophelia holding some flowers to be used in various ads. Emilio, the photographer, took a close up of her hand, palm open in a way only sleep or death can cause. The final edit was ethereal and heartbreaking, and it seemed only fitting for David to immortalize it for her in such a way. It’s far more than he’s ever spent on someone not blood related to him (or someone he’s currently sleeping with). It’s more than he even spent on Patrick, but he can afford it and he owes her. None of this would be happening if she hadn’t dragged him out of bed, pulled up a Rolling Stone article, and shoved him into Patrick Brewer’s path. 

“All set,” he whispers, and she turns, the necklace falling perfectly on her pale skin. 

“Thank you,” she murmurs, pressing a kiss to his cheek. 

“Thank you. I’ll see you at the party.”

She nods. “See you there.” 

He grabs the gift and heads back down the stairs, bypassing Patrick’s room before he’s tempted to interrupt again and face the wrath of Cecilia, before reaching the stage door area, still overcome with unclaimed bouquets. 

“I hope you don’t have allergies, Ritchie,” he says with a laugh as he goes to push the door open.

“No, sir. And thank you for the card. That was awfully nice of you.” 

“Well, thank you for looking out for us. We all really appreciate it.” And with that, he exits into the night, the screams of fans across the street this time echoing even above the honking horns. David’s thankful the Shuberts decided to close down the sidewalk in front of the theatre, making way for the line of black cars waiting to take the cast down Broadway to the party at Gotham Hall. His eyes scan the line, looking for Lena’s familiar face through the windshields, but then he hears someone yell, “David!” and he turns to see Clint waving from the open passenger door of the black SUV just down the block. “Hop in,” he says as David gets closer.  

“Hi, Clint,” he greets, gripping tight to the enthusiastic hand shaking his up and down. 

“Congratulations. What a spectacular evening. C’mon in, Marcy and Rachel are already in back. Do you mind if I take the front? These knees don’t bend as much as they used to.”

“No, please,” David replies, slightly overwhelmed. 

“Hey, Mr. Rose,” Lena greets over the console as Marcy and Rachel cheer in the back. “You want me to pop that in the trunk?” She moves to unbuckle her seatbelt, but David waves her off. 

“No, no, I’ve got it, don’t worry.” He hurries around the car and places the gift in the back, before sliding in next to Rachel, who kisses him on the cheek. 

“It was so good, David. So good.” 

“Thanks,” he replies, proud but somewhat embarrassed as Marcy reaches across and lovingly cups his cheek. 

“Do you do reviews or do you not?” 

“I...” God, he’s tempted, “I do not.” But he has a feeling. 

Rachel gives him a coy look in response, which all but confirms his suspicions. 

They’re good.

“What’s out?” he asks, because he can’t help himself. 

“AM New York, Deadline, Broadway News, Variety, Theatermania, The Post - ”

“Which Post?” 

“Washington.” 

David breathes out. If anyone was going to give them a bad review it would be New York, but at least Antonio doesn’t do reviews. Just takedowns. 

“Not The Times?” 

“Not yet.” 

He nods and exhales slowly, and Rachel pats his knee as they inch their way through the post-show traffic to save themselves from walking eight blocks in their finery. 

“So, Clint, Marcy, what did you think of your son?” 

“Oh God, don’t ask, she just stopped crying,” Clint laughs as Marcy swats at him. 

“Your eyes weren’t exactly dry either, mister.” 

Patrick had asked them not to come until opening, and despite seeing it multiple times in Toronto, there’s something different about this. About Broadway. David can never explain it, but it’s a magic that only exists within this box where history lives and where history is made. 

“He was transcendent,” Marcy says, voice wobbling despite her best intentions. “They all were. You directed them beautifully, David.” 

“You did,” Rachel murmurs beside him as Clint chimes in with a “Hear, hear!” from the front. 

“Thank you,” he quietly replies, warm in a way that has nothing to do with the heat in the car. Then he turns to Rachel. “Are you meeting him at the door?” 

She nods. “He’s going to text when he’s pulling up and I’ll take him to the step-and-repeat. Is Alexis meeting you somewhere?” 

“God knows,” he groans. “She got one look at Ted in a suit and I lost her attention for the foreseeable future.” 

Rachel snorts. “I’ll adopt you for the night.” 

“Thanks.” 

Traffic breaks up when they turn onto 7th and get past 42nd Street, but they bottleneck a bit as they get closer to Gotham Hall. David had hoped the majority of people would choose to walk given the fact that it wasn’t far and the night was clear if cold, but eight blocks in uncomfortable shoes must have proved to be a bridge too far for most people as Lena slows to a halt and waits for her turn to pull up to the curb.  

“Oh my,” Marcy breathes as they get closer, the place already hopping despite their relatively early departure. 

“They reserved some tables for me inside. How about I walk you in and get you settled and then I’ll do press? Maybe by that time, Patrick will be closer to arriving.” 

“Thanks, David,” Clint says, and Marcy nods. Being the parents of a global superstar still doesn’t make any of this easy, he's sure. 

Lena pulls up and starts to hop out of the car to help, but Marcy stops her with a maternal squeeze to her shoulder. 

“You stay right there. It could get dicey maneuvering out of here,” she says, nodding at the black cars starting to flank them. 

Lena laughs and pats her hand. “Yes, ma’am.”  

Rachel slides out after Marcy as Clint and David come around from the other side. It’s pure chaos on the sidewalk as attendees jostle to get to the coat check tent set up to the left, as security checks party passes to the right. David pats his pockets because he honestly hasn’t laid eyes on his pass since Shannon handed it to him earlier that evening. 

“Oh thank God,” he blurts, pulling it from his inside breast pocket. Rachel raises an eyebrow at him. “It would be my luck not to be admitted into my own goddamn party.” 

Rachel and Marcy check their coats, and they all hand over their passes, going through the large brass doors of the former bank-turned-event space whose marble lobby opens up into the blue-lit grand ballroom. 

“Wow,” Marcy breathes, and David gets a hand on her back, expertly guiding her through the throngs already gathered outside the adjacent lounge where the press waits.  

“David!” various people call, and he holds up a finger with the hand not on Marcy’s back. 

“I’ll be right there!” 

A large dance floor sits in the middle of the oval rotunda, and a few tables with name tags fan out from there. Bars and food stations dot the periphery, and a DJ is already spinning records up in the mezzanine. It doesn’t take David long to find the tables with Rose on them, and Marcy sets her clutch down as David offers to get the first round of drinks. 

“No, no, you go ahead,” she says. “We’re all set.” 

“Marce, maybe he needs the drink to face the wolf pack,” Clint suggests, and David laughs. 

“I mean, he’s not wrong, but I should head that way.” He nods back towards the front where the press room awaits. 

“We’ll have one here for you when you get back.” 

“Thanks.” 

As Rachel walks with him to the front, no less than three people he’s never laid eyes on before stop him to congratulate him. No, he doesn’t read the reviews, but it doesn’t mean he can’t tell. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t know.  

There’s a distinct difference in the air between an opening night party for a hit and an opening night party for a bomb. A show starring Patrick Brewer was always going to be a financial success, but to be a critical one as well? To prove to everyone that David Rose isn’t a fluke? 

That’s fucking icing on an already rich cake. 

With Rachel at his side, he greets the first journalist with a smile and a giddiness that feels like he already downed the drink Clint offered to have waiting for him. He’s halfway around the room and in a pause between interviews when Rachel calls his name. 

“Hey, David, you good?” She holds up her phone. “I have to go get him.” 

He nods and shoos her away, but Alexis decides to make her grand entrance at that moment, sidling up to him and booping him on the nose.

“Congratulations,” she whispers. 

“You’re late,” he replies, but there’s no real heat behind it. 

Unfortunately, he’s mid-interview when Rachel reappears with Patrick and Stevie in tow, and David’s sentence meets a cliff there’s no recovering from. “Uhh…” Jesus, is he drooling?

Clive from Broadway.com raises his eyebrows and glances at Alexis in concern. “David? Everything okay?” 

David shakes his head, swallows hard, and decides to go with the truth (or some semblance of it): “So sorry. My two leads just walked in and I haven’t seen them in their opening night outfits yet. They’re gorgeous.” It’s not a lie - they both look fucking amazing - but lumping Stevie in with Patrick saves David from any unwanted insinuations. 

“Stopped you mid-sentence,” Clive crows, only too delighted by this turn of events. 

“That they did,” David agrees. “I mean, look at them.” The camera can’t turn that far, but Clive does, and he lets out a low whistle. 

“Showstoppers. Sentence-stoppers, more like,” Clive jokes, and David reins in his eye roll because to do so would mean taking his gaze away from the vision before him. 

Stevie wears a deep cut, black jumpsuit with red heels that match her lips. Patrick is dressed in a dark purple suit with black lapels and a black shirt beneath. He looks like a fine wine David just wants to drink, and his accompanying black bowtie will definitely be undone (by David) before evening’s end.  

Patrick catches his eye across the room and smiles, like he knows how good he looks and is well aware of how it’s currently affecting David. The asshole. 

Luckily, David manages to wrap up the interview without further incident, and he gets through the rest with haste. Now that the cast has started to arrive, he’s no longer the center of attention, and that suits him just fine. Alexis abandons him when their parents arrive, which is good because going by the way his mother is listing to port, it looks like she’s already broken into the celebratory Veuve. 

David heads back into the ballroom, and true to his word, Clint has a drink waiting for him upon his return to the table. He takes a hearty gulp before making a beeline for the buffet, piling up a plate with enough food for both Stevie and Patrick to share whenever they return. 

And return they do. David stops mid-mac-and-cheese-scoop as Patrick, Stevie, Ted, Rachel, and his parents hurry over to him, led by Alexis who’s brandishing a phone. 

“Oh my God, what?” he snaps, thoughts automatically going to the worst. His parents can’t have embarrassed themselves that badly. They were barely in the press room!

“The Times dropped,” Alexis breathes, eyes going wide, mouth going tight. 

Fuck. “Okay…”

“You should read it.”

“Alexis! I don’t read the bad, so I’m not reading the good. Is it good?” His eyes dart to Patrick, because his face doesn’t lie, but he looks as lost as David feels, so there’s no help there. 

And because his sister is a gremlin, she holds the device up to his face, and he scans the first few sentences of Carol’s review before he can help it, catching words like "magical," "electrifying," and "tour-de-force."  

“Oh my God,” he breathes, naturally trying to see more, but Alexis snatches it away and begins to read: 

“It’s a triumphant return for director David Rose, who’s had a rocky few years on the boards. His Hamlet is the Dane born anew, sympathetic yet held accountable. Under the care of his deft direction, his actors soar through an exquisitely edited text, ensuring that not a single false note sounds within any of these exceptional performances. With this thoroughly satisfying production, Rose proves that his Tony Award at age 25 was no accident, and he further solidifies his place as one of Shakespeare’s greatest interpreters.” Alexis stops reading and looks up at him. “You needed to hear that,” she says firmly. 

And he did. God, he did. 

He exhales heavily, nearly dropping the fucking plate of food before Stevie swoops in and takes it from his lax grasp. 

And before he can say or do anything, before he can warn him that it’s maybe not a good idea, Patrick is stepping forward and wrapping him up in a hug so tight, it squeezes the air from his lungs. 

“You did it,” he whispers. 

But David can’t reply. He just gasps against Patrick’s shoulder as his mother takes his hand and holds it tight, nodding. 

“Welcome home.”  

Not ‘welcome back,’ welcome home. Because David never really left. 

He nods in return, pulling away and looking at the excitedly expectant faces around him, all waiting for whatever words of wisdom he wants to impart. So, naturally, he blurts out the only thing that comes to mind: 

“Holy fuck! ” 

It’s not eloquent, but it’s effective. Stevie seems to agree:  

“DAVID, HOLY FUCK.” 

Patrick squeezes his shoulder again as Stevie puts the plate down and crushes him in a hug. Alexis hops up and down and kisses Ted as his dad grabs another champagne for his mom from a passing tray. 

“Where’s your libation, Day-vid? We need to pay obeisance to this prodigious conquest.” 

“Um…” but he has no idea where he left it. Maybe at the table? As he looks around, though, he spots Ronnie leaning against a high top across the way, watching him. There’s a glass of something in her hand, which she raises in silent salute. It’s a Congratulations and an I told you so. And maybe a little bit of I’m proud of you, if he looks hard enough. 

He bites his lip and nods because she got him here. She’ll never take the credit, but she did, and he’ll spend the rest of his career, the rest of his life, trying to prove it was worth it. 

Someone shoves a fresh drink in his hand, and Rachel must have gone to get the Brewers because they’ve joined their little impromptu gathering by the mac and cheese stand, which is good because this sudden influx of emotion has made him hungry. 

Glasses are raised and cheers go up as news of the review cascades over the revelers. Before David knows it, hours pass in a blur of exhausted relief and well-earned celebration, and by midnight, he has enough alcohol in his system to make full use of the mirrored ring light photo booth set up in the mezzanine. His cast even somehow gets him out on the dance floor for the Cupid Shuffle among other questionable song choices.

True to his word, Patrick’s bow tie is undone with an expert (and covert) tug when they bump into each other in the bathroom hallway, and the night ends at 2am with everyone in a circle, belting out Donna Summer’s Last Dance at the top of their lungs. By the time David stumbles back out onto Broadway, he’s a sweaty mess and he doesn’t even care.  

“Everything huuuurrrrtttttsssssss,” he moans into the night sky, arm thrown around Stevie, his suit coat hanging from a finger over his other shoulder. 

“Should’ve drank more,” Stevie wisely intones, but David’s head is already swimming. 

“Nope,” he says, popping the p. “Definitely drank enough.” 

Marcy and Clint come down the stairs with Moira and Johnny following. They, too, are sweaty and giggly and look a bit like the parents from Hocus Pocus when they’re finally allowed to stop dancing. 

Stevie leans more of her weight against David, and he grunts as he tries to keep them both upright. “Oh my God, if I fall down and it ends up on Page Six, I will never forgive you.” 

“It’s hardly the most scandalous news of yours that’s ended up on Page Six.” 

“Fuck you,” he laughs, and it’s a testament to how much he’s grown (or how tipsy he is) that the reference to Sebastien’s handiwork doesn’t hurt him as much as it once did. 

David looks around for Patrick, before his father steps up, blocking his field of vision.

“Son,” he starts, clapping a hand on his shoulder and staring at him with eyes that are half mast, indicating just how many scotches he’s had. “Congratulations. I’m very proud of you.” 

Oh, that’s… “Thanks, Dad.” And because he’s had just enough alcohol to permit this, he leans forward and hugs him. Hard. “Thanks for everything,” he whispers, and he means for more than just the pride. He feels his father nod against his shoulder and give him a squeeze. 

His mother comes up next and cups his cheek, gently untangling her husband and guiding him to their idling vehicle, somehow becoming the sober one. 

He looks around again for Patrick, but still can’t find him. Nor can he see Ivan’s hulking frame above the crowd. He’s not worried, but he would like to know where his boyfriend has gone off to. He’s just about to head back inside because, though they planned to spend the evening together, they didn’t work out the logistics of making it happen, when he feels a hand on the small of his back. He turns to find Marcy staring up at him knowingly. 

“Sweetheart, he took the back exit, but the car is coming around the far corner for you.” 

“Oh.” David pats his pockets and pulls out his phone. Sure enough, there’s a text from Patrick telling him as much. “What about you guys? Are you coming?”  

“Rachel’s staying in the same hotel as us. She’s getting us a car now.” Marcy nods over at the woman in question, who’s got her heels in one hand as she squints down at her phone in her other. David has many things to say about being barefoot on the streets of New York, but he can't think of them right now. 

“Dear, maybe go see if she needs help?” Marcy says to Clint with a small chuckle, though Clint doesn’t look much better.  

“I hope you packed Advil.”

“Oh don’t worry, I did.” Then Marcy turns back to him. “Congratulations, sweetheart. You’ve earned every bit of this.”

“Thank you, Marcy.” 

Across the street, the black SUV pulls up to the curb, and David makes sure that Stevie has a ride with Byron, who’s getting a car to Brooklyn, before he takes his leave. There are too many people around who know what Lena looks like, even if her generic black car blends in with the rest of the hired vehicles fighting for spots outside the hall. He waves another goodbye to his parents as they drive off and promises the Brewers to check-in in the morning. Then he jaywalks across Broadway (because hardly anyone’s out in midtown at this hour), quickly opens the back door, hops in, and promptly collapses against Patrick.

“Oh my fucking God,” he moans, pressing his face to Patrick’s shoulder, feeling his lips in his hair. 

“Congratulations, Mr. Rose,” Lena says with a laugh as she pulls away.

“Thanks, Lena. Ivan, I had no idea you were as light on your feet as you are.” 

Ivan grunts and shifts in his seat, ignoring the look Lena sends his way. “I like Whitney Houston. If she says she wants to dance with somebody, naturally I have to comply.” 

“I get that,” David mumbles, pressing his face against Patrick’s neck as he rumbles with laughter and holds him tighter. 

“I’ve never been so happy not to have rehearsal anymore,” he groans, and David makes a noise of agreement that peters off into a whine. Theoretically he knew that when the show opened, there would be no more daily rehearsals except for understudies, which he leaves to Ken and Heather to run, or an emergency put-in for someone going on for the first time at the last minute, which he would most definitely be attending. 

David’s spent so much time getting here, that he honestly hasn’t contemplated what’s next. No doubt Ronnie has a list of potential projects for him, and given the reviews tonight, David is almost certain that her phone will be ringing off the hook tomorrow, but he and Patrick will never have as much time working together as they did leading up to this moment, and that makes David immeasurably sad. 

As if reading his thoughts, Patrick leans down and presses a kiss to his hair. “S’okay. We have all the time in the world.” 

David doesn’t necessarily believe him, but he’s too tired to argue, and he must doze, because next thing he knows, the car is slowing to a stop outside the townhouse. He grunts as he pushes himself to sitting once more, throwing Patrick a sleepy smile as he helps. Ivan opens the door and the cold blast of early April air slaps him awake enough to get him inside without incident. Patrick waves from the doorstep as Lena and Ivan drive off and only then does David realize that he has his gift tucked under his arm. 

“When did you grab that?” 

“Ivan had it on his lap. Didn’t want me to forget it.” 

“That was nice of him.” David bends down and tries to unlace his dress shoes, nearly falling over in the process. 

“Easy, easy,” Patrick chuckles, getting his free hand on his hip. “C’mon. Let’s go up and change and then we can do presents.” 

“In bed?” 

Patrick snorts. “In bed.” 

They make it upstairs, and David only trips twice - thrice if you count the time he catches his foot on the bench at the foot of the bed. 

“I really am gross,” he groans as he peels off his shirt, and even across the room, he can see the sweat darkening Patrick’s already black top. 

“Yeah. Shower?” 

“Mm, shower.” 

Their suits get tossed over the chair in the corner for the dry cleaner, and the hot water feels heavenly on his already sore muscles. Patrick crowds in behind him and peppers kisses across his shoulders as he grabs the shampoo from the rack, squeezing a dollop into David’s hand before grabbing some for himself. It’s a cursory wash, both of them too exhausted to get up to anything else. And David will admit, the temptation of Patrick’s opening night gift is a worthy incentive to be quick. 

Conditioner applied and bodies washed, they rinse off and grab their towels, barely able to keep their eyes open as Patrick helps David through his truncated skincare regimen. Then they’re collapsing into bed, David nearly landing on the present he so painstakingly wrapped (he watched a YouTube video and everything). 

“Here,” he murmurs, passing it over. “Happy Opening, honey.” 

“Thank you, baby,” Patrick whispers, leaning forward and pecking him on lips which David helpfully puckers, before getting to work on the bow. 

David didn’t write a card. Should he have? It’s not like Patrick doesn’t know it’s from him. But before he can panic about it (Patrick doesn’t seem bothered), the paper is being ripped and Patrick is staring at the custom frame, eyes scanning its contents.

“I, uh, I found a website that creates soundwaves from songs,” David starts, his nervousness evident in the wobble of his voice. “This is 'O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?’ It’s, um, it’s the first thing you ever played for me. And it also looked like a heartbeat, so.”   

But who needs a card when, beneath the soundwave is a quote from that very soliloquy, Hold, hold my heart, accompanied by today’s date?

“And in case all of this hasn’t been clear,” David continues, “you have mine.” 

Patrick says nothing for a long moment, but just when David is about to worry, he looks up and a single tear falls on his pale cheek.

“I love it.” 

“You do?” 

Patrick laughs and wipes at his face. “Of course I do. It’s beautiful. Thank you, David.” Then he gets a hand around the back of David’s neck and pulls him in for another kiss that lingers. 

“Mkay, now gimme,” David pouts, making grabby hands at the gift he can see resting on Patrick’s bedside table. 

Patrick laughs as he sets his frame safely out of the way, trading it for the present he rests in David’s outstretched arms. There’s a card on top which David tackles first, a small but elegant note upon which is scrawled a single sentence: 

“Stevie was right,” he reads. “Oh God, why? What about? Stevie should never be right!” 

Patrick scoots closer and takes David’s face in his hands, stalling the rant that was inevitably about to leave his lips. “Do you remember my audition?” 

“Vividly.” 

“Do you remember Stevie whispering something to me?” 

“Vaguely?” He does, though. He asked Stevie about it later, and she said that she had merely told Patrick that he could do it. That it was a tiny pep talk at best. But clearly it was something more if it warrants recollection in an Opening Night gift card. 

“She said to me, ‘You can do this. And if you let him, he’ll make you better than you’ve ever been.”

“Okay, that’s…” very sweet, actually, “but what does it have to do with - ”

But Patrick is pushing the present into his hands before he can finish his question. It’s a flat square and relatively heavy. If David had to guess, he’d go with something framed, and how fucking typical would that be? The two of them gifting each other something so similar. 

He flips it over and tugs at the seam, removing the paper before slowly turning the frame back over. It’s not one thing held within, like the soundwave; it’s a bunch of little things, but what catches his eye first is the quote on the bottom, one sentence etched on a small brass plaque: 

You make me better than I’ve ever been. 
In every way.

And above it, every single ticket to every single play of David’s that Patrick has ever attended. 

“You kept them?” he gasps. 

“All of them.” 

His thumb traces over the glass protecting the neon piece of paper for Art that he and Stevie spent a weekend cutting themselves, and the rear mezzanine ticket for Orestes followed by the side orchestra ticket for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The house seat ticket for Waiting for Godot Off-Broadway that barely had a run, followed by a string of other shows that David would really rather not remember. Some of them he barely does. He will, though, if it now means remembering that Patrick cared enough to come. There’s even a ticket for the fucking Robyn musical and the regional run of Miss Julie he did in Chicago, followed of course by The Crucible. And finally, side-by-side, tickets to their first preview in Toronto and to their first preview on Broadway. 

“Patrick…” But it’s all he gets out before the emotion becomes too much. Patrick gets a hand on his knee and scoots closer to his side. “It’s just… this is a lot of years. I don’t think I realized just how many.” Then he laughs a little. “You must have had a lot of expectations when you met me.” 

Patrick hums. “I did. And imagine my lack of shock when you surpassed them.” Then he leans forward and runs his nose along the shell of David’s ear, breathing him in, holding him tight. “I love you, David.” 

David nods and swallows, turning his head and bumping their noses together. “I love you, too.” 

Because how can he not? 

They fall asleep wrapped in each other’s arms, their frames stowed away, safe in the knowledge that even if the show had flopped, they’d always have this. This gift. This them.  

It’s such a glorious end to such an amazing evening that David forgets he had anything to talk to Patrick about at all. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Patrick Brewer’s Risky Prince Reveals Method in the Madness

Hamlet Review: A Broadway Star is Born

David Rose’s Soul-Searching Hamlet a Hit

Patrick Brewer’s exquisite Hamlet is offset beautifully by Stevie Budd's graceful yet strong Ophelia…

Eager to Catch Patrick Brewer’s Hamlet? I Hope You Bought Your Tickets Last Year 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Normally, David treats himself to a vacation after a show opens to relax, yes, but to hide mainly. He doesn’t need to hide this time, but Patrick can’t come with him, so really, what’s the point? Besides, momentum for the show isn’t slowing down, and the awards buzz is only growing louder. David can hear it despite not reading any of the speculation. His presence is needed in New York, as Ronnie and Alexis made only all too clear. Which is why he’s sitting in a Le Pain Quotidien the Monday after opening, picking at his croissant and taking sporadic sips of his macchiato as he taps at his phone screen every twenty seconds, one minute ticking by into the next. 

It isn’t like Ronnie to be late. No, in fact, Ronnie’s threatened to up her own percentage every time he makes her wait, which is often enough to probably get her a house in the Hamptons. He’s just about to abandon his table, which he got here early to scout, and head across the street to Electric Lady when the door swings open and his agent finally enters, sunglasses perched on her nose as she makes a beeline for the bar. He waits until she orders her coffee, checking the time once more. It’s not the end of the world if he’s a little late to the cast album. It’s not like they’re recording his voice. 

“Should I call someone? Are you feeling all right?” he asks as she approaches, all mock concern. 

She grunts and sets her cup down loudly on the table. “The Tony nominating committee has designated you as a play,” she says without preamble.

Vindication! “What have I been saying? A play with music. Which we are now recording.” It’s still nice to know, though. It’s good to have an idea of what categories they may or may not be eligible for. 

She hums and slides her sunglasses off, folding them carefully and hooking them in her shirt. She still hasn’t met his eye, and he cocks his head, frowning at her. So much about this is wrong. 

“Why were you late?” he asks, and she finally looks at him for a long moment, before pulling out her phone and swiping it open. 

“There’s talk on Reddit.” 

“There’s always talk on Reddit.” 

“David. There’s talk about you and Patrick.” 

He clears his throat, ignoring the way his heart gallops and his palms sweat. “I know,” he clips. “I’ve seen it.”

If Ronnie is surprised that David is aware, she doesn’t show it. “Does Patrick know?” 

“It doesn’t mean anything.” 

“Doesn’t mean anything? David, these people are Jessica fucking Fletcher armed with high speed WiFi and maximum bandwidth. They will Murder She Wrote your entire relationship before Patrick can even turn the knob on the closet door.” 

“Okay, well that’s a little dramatic - ”

“Is it?” Then she spins the phone around, and he squints to read the post she’s pulled up: 

r/PatrickBrewer
Posted by BrewsClues
Re: david rose HERE ME OUT AND TAKE OFF YOUR HETERONORMATIVE SUNGLASSES

  • We already know he spent the night last year per People. <link>
  • He was the one filming Patrick’s song for Nadia. And have we talked about the bedhead? Because it’s BLATANT.
  • He went to Charleston and even visited Patrick on set. No confirmation on where he was staying, but I’m sure it was the same hotel.
  • And have we talked about the Glastonbury performance? Because THAT in the context of THIS? Oh. My. God.
  • And for the grand finale: those cufflinks are ROSES. FIGHT ME.

Okay, well that’s… thorough. 

Ronnie leans back, taking the phone with her. “It’s one of many. They’re combing through your entire relationship. And they won’t have to dig deep to find out the truth. You can’t put a limit on what anyone chooses to care about. Hell, there’s a Tumblr account dedicated to how often Patrick wears that goddamn baseball hat. It’s called @BrewJays. You feature on it prominently.” 

He tries not to bristle at that. “After the Tonys. We decided.” 

“Fine. And I respect that. But you cannot be surprised if it comes out before then.” 

His macchiato roils uncomfortably in his stomach. He’ll have to show Patrick, he knows he will. They’ve been on borrowed time for too long, and not to get dramatic, but their days are numbered. “Are they… are they saying anything bad?” 

“About Patrick?” 

He nods, picking idly at his napkin. He’s looked, but he hasn’t looked that far. 

“No,” she says, not unkindly. “Not from what I’ve seen, at least.” 

He nods and swallows thickly. “That’s good.” 

“And even if they do,” she says as she stands, “they’ll have to fucking go through me first.” 

And that’s… that’s that, apparently. That’s nice. 

He follows her out into the sunlight and across the street, trying not to smile at her staunch defense. She whips the door to Electric Lady Studios open, not bothering to look to see if he’s behind her, and heads into the dark lobby. 

“Hi,” a woman greets behind a tiny desk. “Hamlet?” 

“Yeah, that’s us,” David replies, offering a smile since Ronnie seems to have used up her allotted politeness for the day. 

“Just downstairs. Studio A. Josie will take you,” she says, gesturing to a young woman in the corner wearing a fabulous pair of bell bottoms that fit right in with the theme. 

“This way.” 

The stairs lead down to a small lounge, complete with velvet couch, coffee table with a delicious smelling candle, and a vintage recording booth flanked by old school speakers playing a Stones tune on low. David leans down and takes a look at the candle’s label (P.F. Candle Co. Teakwood and Tobacco), and he makes a note in his phone to buy a box. A left takes them to a hallway that leads towards the studios, its walls lined with orange, yellow, and blue panels that would look more at home in a carnival fun house than in a West Village recording studio built by Jimi Hendrix. Then again… 

There’s a reason the lights are perpetually dim. The legends that have recorded here probably had a little too much fun the night before. 

“A is here,” Josie says. “The green room is to your left, the studio to your right, and the board is dead ahead.” 

“Thanks,” he replies, and Josie disappears, though he could have found the place using just his ears. Opening the door, he’s met with a wall of sound, his cast laughing from each of their individual booths in the burnt orange studio with its hanging Edison lamps or sprawled across the sofas in the (literal) green room with its record player. Gary is hard at work with the engineer behind the board as they try to get sound levels from the actors, who seem to have had a bit too much free coffee already.

David waves to everyone in the green room (Patrick is not among them) before joining Gary and looking through the window. Ronnie sinks into the black leather couch tucked in the back, and the white lamps that flank the table next to her cast a warm glow over the room. Her stern face says that her mind is still on everything they just talked about, and David glances through the window again, finding Patrick in his booth with headphones over his ears. He can’t help the smile that spreads across his face, despite the unease in his gut. 

David could wait to show him the Reddit link and just suffer in silence for the day, but he knows that Patrick could sing this music in his sleep (and has). He knows that Patrick would want to know. 

Inhaling deeply, he pulls his phone out of his pocket, finds the thread he bookmarked, shoots it off in a text, and waits. Through the glass, Patrick laughs at something Stevie says to him from her booth just next door, before pulling his phone from his pocket and glancing at the screen. A second later, he frowns. 

David bites his lip and holds his breath, phone pressed up against his mouth. 

Even from this distance, he can see Patrick’s face pale and his Adam’s apple bob. Then he lifts his head, and his eyes find David immediately. 

David shrugs minutely, and Patrick nods in return. It’s terrifying, yes, but there’s a what can you do? quality about it, too. Luckily the news is still only occupying a tiny corner of the internet. Patrick’s focus returns to his phone, and David’s buzzes a moment later. 

[Patrick]
Thanks. 

I’m sorry.

Patrick frowns up at him again and mouths, Why?  

This just seems to be getting more and more complicated.

When he looks up, Patrick is already typing. 

[Patrick]
You can complicate my life any day you want, baby. 

David tucks his lips into the corner of his mouth and nods, looking up once again and smiling. We’ll be okay, he mouths. 

We will, Patrick replies. 

David then looks to the booth on the right to find Stevie watching them closely. Okay? she mouths.

David nods, and Patrick must see him do so because he looks back down at his phone and sends her the Reddit thread on their group text. Her eyes blow wide when she receives it. 

[Stevie]
Fuck

[Patrick]
It’s fine.

It’s really not. 

[Patrick]
No. But 53 more days.

[Stevie]
Until the Tonys?

[Patrick]
Yeah.

[Stevie]
What, and you’re gonna come out in the press room? 

Sending back a 🖕🏻emoji, David hops off the group text and pulls up his messages with just Patrick. 

By the way, Ronnie is ready to murder for you.

[Patrick]
Um, murder FOR me or murder me? It’s an important distinction, David.

David smiles, glancing behind him at Ronnie firing off emails on her phone like fucking Legolas and his arrows. 

I’m just saying, if this comes out early, you have an army behind you. Birnam Wood will walk on Dunsinane before we ever leave you to do this alone. 

[Patrick]
I love you.

“Patrick, how’re you feeling?” Gary asks as he presses the button to the booth, oblivious to the fact that his director and two lead actors seem a little distracted. 

“Feelin’ good,” Patrick replies into his mic, gaze sliding to David for the briefest of moments. “Feelin’ really good.” 

“Great, let’s get started. Phones on silent, please!” Gary begs. “The last thing we need is for a ring to ruin ‘To be or not to be.”  

The plan is to bang the whole album out in one day, and given the fact that the musicians have already recorded their tracks, the vocals shouldn’t take that long. The leather couch is softer than he thought, and he makes a startled noise not unlike a squawk as he sinks down into it. 

Ronnie snorts next to him but remains blessedly silent as she solves the world’s problems from her 5G connection.

It goes well for the first two hours or so, before Helen holds up her hands, one of which contains her phone, and yells, “Wait, wait, wait, I have an announcement!” 

David stands from the couch because it’s never good when Helen has an announcement. The last time she did, it cost the production of Orestes $50,000 in legal fees. 

“I would just like to take a moment - ” And at that moment, Patrick’s phone starts buzzing, and Helen points at him. “It’s probably your publicist, love, don’t answer it.”

Patrick’s expression goes from startled to concerned. Undoubtedly, David’s mirrors it. “What? Why shouldn’t I - ”

“Because you and Stevie just got Drama League nominations, darling! So did the show!” 

It’s a cacophony after that, everyone cheering and grabbing their phones to look up an article to post to their social media accounts. 

David looks down at Ronnie, eyebrow raised. “And where were you with this news?” 

Ronnie holds up her phone, showing the livestream of the announcement, and only then does David realize that she has her AirPods in her ears. “I was waiting until a break, like a good agent.” 

David hums, turning back to the room and pressing the button. “Congratulations, everyone. Let’s get this done so we can celebrate properly afterward.”  

“What about you and Aldridge?” Candice asks Helen.

“Oh we’ve both already won, so we’re not eligible,” Aldridge replies with a wink.  

The Drama League doesn’t honor directors, just performances and productions, so David’s not miffed at his individual exclusion. In fact, he might be happier for Patrick and Stevie and the collective work of the company than he would have been had he himself been nominated. 

“You know what this means, right?” Ronnie asks. 

“Yeah,” David replies, meeting Patrick’s gaze over Stevie’s shoulder as she hugs him.  

It begins. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Nominations Announced for the 85th Annual Drama League Awards

What Drama League Nominations Mean for the Tony Awards

Behind-the-Scenes of the Hamlet Cast Album Recording

Hamlet Breaks the Broadhurst Box Office Record - Again

🎭 🎭 🎭

The lobby of The Greenwich Hotel is dark, but David knows it well as he navigates his way towards Locanda Verde, choosing to use the hotel’s entrance rather than the restaurant’s front door. Patrick has been training him. It’s getting to the point where David can’t walk into a midtown bar or eatery without getting stopped. Sure, he used to get the occasional, Hey, don’t I know you? look, but with every headline that extols the virtues of his direction, the venues where he can get a good cocktail without interference dwindle. 

Carol waves from a booth in the corner, and David removes his sunglasses as he slides onto the leather seat opposite. 

“Afternoon.” 

“Afternoon.” 

“Saw the pictures from the cast recording. Looked like it went well,” she says with an eyebrow raise and a rather undignified snort. 

He laughs, having scrolled through the joyous photos himself not long after they were posted. “You’d never know they were doing over 20 hours of Shakespearean tragedy each week.” 

Carol takes a sip of her iced tea and just watches him for a moment. Her recorder, notepad and pen sit off to the side. “It’s our last one of these.” 

He hums. “It is. Did you get everything you needed?” 

“I think so.” 

“Talked to everyone you wanted to?” It’s a leading question, and Carol knows it. 

“Your friends and family were remarkably forthcoming.” 

“That’s terrifying,” he mutters as Carol laughs, and he orders a club soda from the server who comes over, thoroughly tempted to tell her to toss some vodka in it as well.

“Now I just have to put it all together,” Carol says as the server leaves again. 

“So what’s this about then?” He gestures between them, and she shrugs.

“Loose ends. Last words.” 

“Sounds so final.”  

She hums. “It kinda is.” 

“So what nuggets of intel has my family provided?” He’d be lying if he said the question didn’t keep him up at night. If there was ever a family that needed a built-in edit button, it’s the Roses. 

“You’ll just have to wait and see.” 

He groans, dropping his head in his hands. “And the rest?” 

“You mean Patrick?”

He nods, squinting an eye open, bracing for her reply. She taps her notepad with her pen. “Sadly for me, this is full of things he’s said about you that I can’t use.” 

David straightens at that. “Why not?”

“Because this is scheduled to run the week before the Tonys. From what I understand, Patrick has decided not to go public until after that.” 

“So he told you.” 

“He did. I said I would be happy to help in any way.” 

“You want a story.” Which, though accurate, is probably not entirely fair. Going by the way she glares, Carol agrees. 

“I want to help Patrick tell his story in whatever way he wants to tell it. Before someone else decides for him.” She sighs and opens her menu as their server comes back over. “Come on, David, you know me better than that by now.” 

And it’s true. He does. 

He’s just… protective. 

Carol orders a salad, and David thinks he orders sliders? He honestly can’t recall. The server walks away, and Carol looks across the table pointedly. 

“Sorry,” he murmurs, meaning it. 

“Thank you. I get it, though. I do. You both are in for an avalanche of attention. It’s only natural to want to protect the man you love from that.” 

The man you love. 

He still can’t help smiling at the word. 

“I’m sure any help would be… appreciated. By both of us.” He clears his throat, and she nods, no doubt recognizing his less than eloquent words for the further apology he means them to be. “So if we’re… tying up loose ends and sharing last words, what do you want to hear from me?”

“Broad strokes,” she replies, busying her hands with setting up her recorder. “Basically, what has this whole experience meant to you, now as we get to the end?” 

But how to encompass what the past year and change has meant to him? The words haven’t been invented yet. None, at least, but one: 

“Everything.” 

But he can try. Over lunch, he allows himself to talk about things he’s never brought up before with Carol. About just how dark his world got before a paperback in the Strand turned on the light. He talks about a similarly bleak period years later and finding an album in a window on 18th Street and how the voice through the speakers gradually glued him back together. He’s not worried about Carol writing anything she shouldn’t - he knows she’ll massage the details if need be - but he tells the truth, because their truth deserves to be told. They’ve been heading towards each other for such a long time, and this show - this experience, as Carol put it - is the beautiful thing they made. 

When he finishes, Carol is staring at him with slightly wet eyes. His plate is gone and the bill has apparently already been paid. 

“You’ve got an incredible story. And I don’t mean just you. The two of you together - it’s special.” 

He smiles. “I like to think so.” 

She clicks the recorder off, closes her spiral notepad, and reaches across the table. “Thank you, David. I’ve really enjoyed this time with you.” 

“You know?” he starts, taking her hand. “Likewise.” 

“You sound surprised.” 

“I’ll be honest, I am. As you well know, I don’t have the best relationship with the press.” 

She shrugs and releases him. “Maybe we can change that.” 

“Maybe. Thanks for lunch,” he says as he stands, sliding his sunglasses back on his face. “And, uh, for listening.” 

“I’d say ‘it’s my job,’ but sometimes it's a real joy,” she says, checking her phone. “Oh and David?” 

“Hm?” 

“Congratulations.” She holds the device up. “You just got nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

[Patrick]
Does this mean I get to call you ‘nominee’ in bed?

[Stevie]
Omfg patrick this is the group text. 

[David]
Jesus Christ.

[David]
Also, absolutely not. 

[Ted]
Nice.

[Alexis]
Ew don’t, Ted.

🎭 🎭 🎭

After opening, the performance schedule switched from Sundays off to Mondays, which sadly still didn’t get David out of Family Dinner, given that curtain was at 3pm, but it does mean that none of them is working the night before the Tony nominations are announced. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because they could all use the distraction.

Nobody really wanted to be alone that Tuesday morning, which is how Patrick ends up hosting a literal sleepover at his house. Originally, he and Stevie were going to be at David’s place, but when they all considered that they might possibly need their publicists, Rachel and Alexis were invited, and David ran out of bedrooms. 

“David, is this enough snacks?” Alexis holds up a wooden cutting board large enough to hold half a cow, full of meats and cheeses and fruits and spreads, as David scrolls Interflix, trying to find something they can all agree on.  

“If we’re trying to make it through a nuclear winter, maybe.” 

“Please,” Stevie starts, “You ate twice that much at Hold Fast between shows on Saturday.”

“Excuse you, it’s not my fault that their wing sauce is crack!” 

“Children,” Patrick murmurs as he passes, patting David on the ass. He stops suddenly and backtracks, though, bending down to inspect the candle David just lit on the coffee table. 

“Why do I know this smell?” 

“Hm? Oh.” David goes back to scrolling. “Electric Lady.” 

“What, did you boost it? How’d it get here?” 

“Oh I ordered a bunch and brought it.” His box arrived yesterday, and he was all excited to share, but now he’s unsure. “Is that… okay?” 

But Patrick just grins and steps closer, wrapping his arms around David’s waist and tugging him down for a kiss. “You know I like you bringing things here.” 

“Get a room!” “Gross!” “Guyyyyyssss!” comes the chorus of groans from the kitchen, but before they can reply (or make out more), the doorbell is ringing, and Ted bounds up the stairs a moment later. 

“Did you know he was coming?” David asks out of the corner of his mouth.

“I did not,” Patrick replies, looking unbothered about it. In fact, he looks like he’s taking great delight in watching David’s face contort as Alexis reels Ted in for a kiss. 

“Ugh.” At least they’re less outnumbered now. 

They decide on Center Stage because it’s mindless but quotable, and Patrick seems to be on board (or at least too anxious to argue). The evening goes by with playful teases and an occasional barbed comment flying from one Rose to another, but all in all, it’s enjoyable. Not exactly a distraction, but a way to pass the time. 

They retreat to their separate bedrooms at a respectable hour, knowing that an early wake up is coming whether they want it to or not. Rachel goes in one room, Stevie in another, Alexis and Ted (bleh) in a third. Patrick gently shoves David down the hall to their own when he stops dead and glares a little too long at the door his sister just shut (and locked). 

Finally alone, David allows Patrick to carefully strip him of his sweater, but when his hand starts inching beneath his joggers, David takes hold of his wrist. “We are not having sex with two of our exes, my sister, and your best friend under the same roof.” 

Patrick utilizes the full force of his eyes as he pouts. “Uh huh, okay, but do you think Alexis and Ted will adhere to the same rules?” 

“Oh my God.

“How about quiet sex?” he asks, his hand continuing its journey down to cup David through his briefs. 

“Have you met you?” But David is the one who groans as Patrick squeezes. 

“Mm, yes, we’re well acquainted.” 

They do have sex because it’s the only way to shut their brains off, and it is quiet, thanks to the pillow Patrick buries his face into as David rims him into oblivion. 

When David wakes the next morning at a truly ungodly hour, it’s to Patrick’s mouth around his hardening cock, which makes the fact that he’s conscious before 8am infinitely more bearable. He comes with a choked gasp down Patrick’s throat, before hauling him up the mattress and getting a hand around him, letting Patrick bite into his shoulder as David deftly brings him off with a skillful twist of his wrist. 

Patrick pants against his neck as David strokes the back of his head with the hand that’s not covered in come, letting him catch his breath. When the heart thundering against his own calms to a much more reasonable pace, he presses a kiss to Patrick’s ear and whispers, “What time is it?” 

Patrick lifts his head to look at the clock on the bedside table. “8:07. We should head down.” 

David groans as Patrick rolls off of him, gingerly walking to the bathroom to get a warm washcloth. They clean up and brush their teeth, padding downstairs in their pajamas to find Rachel and Alexis already sipping coffee around the chef’s island as Ted flips pancakes on the stove.

“You all are entirely too productive for so early in the day,” David mutters, accepting the cup of coffee Rachel holds out for him as Patrick heads towards the TV. 

“What channel?” 

David yawns as he replies, “CBS. Stevie’s not conscious yet?” 

“Not willingly,” the woman in question mutters, stumbling down the last few stairs and pulling the sleeves of the hoodie she definitely stole from Patrick’s hall closet over her hands. 

David takes a sip and looks at the digital clock on the microwave. 8:23am. He glances at the TV to see that Patrick has the local news on mute. 

“You do know that if this goes well, you’ll have to get up just as early tomorrow, right?” Alexis needles, and David grunts. 

“What? Why?” Patrick asks, and David has to remember that, despite being the most decorated artist in the room, Stevie and David are the only two who’ve ever done this before. 

“The Meet the Nominees Press Reception,” Stevie replies. “If you get nominated, you have to go to the Sofitel tomorrow morning for a junket.” 

Then go do the matinee,” Rachel reminds, and Patrick makes a face. 

“I mean, potentially good problems to have, but still. It’s a long two-show day.” 

And it is. It’s brutal. Almost as brutal as Tony Sunday itself, which involves a crack of dawn dress rehearsal, a matinee, a scramble to get ready, a red carpet, and then a four hour awards show with no snacks whatsoever, followed by a night of partying that usually ends with a drunken singalong led by Chita Rivera around a piano at the Carlyle at 5am. 

Not that David would know, or anything. 

Suddenly Gayle King appears on the TV, and David gasps, his heart doing an Olympic-worthy high jump into his throat. 

“Ohmigod, ohmigod, unmute it!” Alexis demands as Ted scrambles for the remote. They all run over to the living room, Rachel taking one chair, David, Patrick, and Stevie in a row on the couch, and Ted and Alexis in the other chair. 

“... are here, John and Nora,” Gayle says once the proper button is hit, “coming to you live from The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. We’re joined by two-time Tony Winner Bebe Neuwirth and two-time Tony Nominee Brandon Victor Dixon,” she continues, breaking for applause from the press in the room. “Now you both know what this is like. How do you think most people are feeling?”

“Like they’re gonna vomit!” David yells, as Patrick presses a kiss to his temple. 

“Do you think some people are still sleeping?” Gayle asks, and Stevie scoffs. 

“Oh my God, how?” 

“I never bought that,” Gayle continues.

“Me neither,” David agrees as both Bebe and Brandon argue.

“I mean- you’re gonna know,” Brandon says. “Whether you’re asleep and your mom’s watching for you in the living room or if you’re glued to your phone, you’re gonna know if you get nominated this morning.” 

“I think there’s a level of not wanting to build up anticipation,” Bebe offers, “and just treating this like any other day.” 

“This small talk is very stressful for those of us who are awake,” Patrick mutters, and David rubs his shoulders, appreciating that the man who’s done this for every music award under the sun can still get the pre-nomination jitters.

“Well, for those of us who love Broadway, it’s a very exciting time,” Gayle continues, “so let’s get down to this year’s Tony Award nominations.” 

“Jesus, thank you,” David breathes. 

“We begin with Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.”

“Oh fuck,” Patrick blurts as David takes his hand. “I did not know they started with Best Actor.”  

Neither did David, honestly. “I think they’re only showing the big categories on cable. Can we pull up the livestream?” he asks as Alexis nods and grabs her computer. 

But before David can even think about the fact that Patrick’s last name begins with a B, Bebe is calling out, “Patrick Brewer, Hamlet,” and all hell breaks loose. 

Rachel screams, Stevie jumps up, Alexis practically throws the laptop, but all David can do is turn and bury his face in Patrick’s neck, feeling the thundering pulse beneath his lips. 

“You fucking earned this and don’t let anyone tell you different, do you hear me?” he demands, cupping Patrick’s dazed face in his hands. 

“Oh my God, David.” 

“I love you so fucking much.” Then he presses a fierce kiss to his lips, and whoever the other nominees are, Mariah I don’t know her dot gif because Patrick fucking Brewer is a motherfucking Tony Nominee.

“Patrick!” Stevie tackles him next (and David does mean tackles), pressing him to the back of the couch like a fucking linebacker as Rachel, Ted, and Alexis jump up and down. It’s only a matter of time before Rachel’s phone starts ringing. 

“Variety,” she says, looking at the screen. “You wanna take it?” 

Patrick looks at David who looks at the TV. “You’ve got time, if you keep it quick. With the exception of Best Revival, the rest of us will be on the livestream.” 

“Which is some bullshit right there,” Stevie mutters, and David concurs. She and Helen are considered Featured actresses and only Leading roles are shown on cable. 

“Okay,” Patrick agrees, nodding at Rachel who answers the phone.

“We’ll be quiet,” David promises, because it probably wouldn’t be good for a major publication to hear his voice in the background at 8:32 in the morning.

“Mmhm, one moment,” Rachel says, handing the phone over. Patrick takes it and begins to pace behind the couch as Ted turns the volume on the TV down, but not so low that they can’t still hear what’s coming up next. 

Leading Actress in a Play and Leading Actor and Actress in a Musical pass as Patrick gives his soundbites, and David watches with pride as the man he loves talks about his genuine shock and elation at being recognized by this community that’s embraced him so readily. But he’s worked hard for it, and he deserves every good thing that comes his way. 

“And the nominees for Best Revival of a Play are…” 

“So sorry, can you hang on one minute?” Patrick presses the phone to his shoulder and holds his hand out to David, who takes it and grips it firmly. Sure, a Best Director nomination would be great, but Best Revival is a recognition of the work that they’ve all done. Of what he and Patrick have built together. 

“... Arcadia… Betrayal… Cat on a Hot Tin Roof…”

H. If they name a play after H, they didn’t get it - 

“...Death of a Salesman… Hamlet.” 

More screams erupt, and David is startled to realize the loudest is coming from him. So much for being quiet, but Patrick doesn’t seem to care as he leans over the couch and kisses David like it’s the last time he’ll ever get to do so.

“I love you,” he whispers, phone still pressed to his shoulder. “Congratulations.” 

“I love you,” David replies, as Stevie’s arms wrap around his neck from behind. 

Patrick steps away and brings the phone back to his ear, laughing out a, “Sorry about that. It was a category I couldn’t miss.” The journalist must agree going by the way Patrick laughs again. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a party.” His eyes meet David’s again. “Family.”   

The nominations for Best Revival of a Musical are announced, followed by Best Play and Best Musical, which gives Patrick time to wrap up his interview. Gayle throws it back to the studio, just as Alexis casts the livestream to the TV, bringing Bebe and Brandon back on screen again. 

The first category up is Best Book of a Musical, which they’re obviously not eligible for, so David pulls out his phone (ignoring the slew of messages still coming in) and opens his notes app in an attempt to keep track: Best Actor, Best Revival. 

Two, so far. 

Most people would kill just for one. 

Bebe steps up the mic and says, “Now the nominees for Best Score, Music and/or Lyrics Written for the Theatre…” 

David holds his breath, because he’s not sure how this will go. 

“Patrick Brewer, Hamlet - ”

Fuck yes!” he screams. 

“Wait, what?” Patrick looks like it didn’t even occur to him that he could be nominated twice, and David never told him because he didn’t want to get his hopes up. “But it’s a play!” he argues as David kisses the words from his lips.

“With music!” 

“David, oh my God.” Poor thing looks completely overwhelmed, and David is so happy, he might never need another cup of coffee again. 

Derek doesn’t get nominated for Best Choreography, which David is disappointed by, but he’s honestly not surprised. Derek even said as much. The choreography in Hamlet is more movement than anything else. He can’t compete with the likes of Anything Goes’ ten minute long tap number. 

Gary gets a nomination for Best Orchestrations, and Jake gets one for Scenic Design just as Rachel’s phone starts ringing again. 

“Not yet,” Patrick says to her questioning look. Rachel sends the call to voicemail. 

Twyla gets honored for Costume Design, and Amy Grace gets recognized for Sound. Bob even gets a nom for Lighting Design, and thank God because David really put him through the wringer this time. 

David keeps making notes in his phone as Rachel’s phone keeps ringing. 

Finally, it’s time for Featured Actor and Actress, and a cheer goes up around the room as Aldridge is given the fourth nomination of his career, though he’s never won. 

“Next up, the nominees for Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play…” 

David gets his arm around Stevie’s shoulders as Patrick moves to her other side to take her hand.

“Stevie Budd, Hamlet…”

Everyone screams as (now two-time Tony Nominee) Stevie drops her head in her hands. David presses a kiss to her head as Patrick does the same, and the noise drowns out the next two nominees.

“Wait, wait, wait!” David yells, shushing them, because they’re not done. 

“... Nicola Walker, Arcadia… and Helen Walton, Hamlet.” 

And Stevie is the one who cheers the loudest for her. 

“Patrick, people are calling,” Rachel pushes, impatience finally starting to creep into her tone. She’s just trying to do her job, and David gets that. 

“They’ll find others to talk to,” Patrick evenly replies as he stands and moves back to David’s side. “I am not answering another call until Best Director is announced.” 

And there’s no arguing with him. There’s no arguing with that.  

They quickly get through the Featured roles for musicals, and David knows that there’s only one category up next. Well, two if you count Direction for both a Play and a Musical. But the plays are always done first. 

Patrick kisses his shoulder, reaches over, and threads their fingers together. Then, with his free hand, he gently touches David’s chin and turns his head to face him. 

“I want you to know that whatever happens in the next minute, this has been the best experience of my life and I will spend the rest of my days thanking you for it.’ 

The rest of my days.

“The nominees for Best Direction of a Play are…” 

“Patrick…” he breathes. 

“Watch the TV,” Patrick says with a smile. 

But David can’t. He can’t watch. He’s not sure he even wants to listen. 

“Jamie Lloyd, Arcadia…” 

It’s been ten years since he’s been here; since he’s woken up on a morning like this with the promise of possibility ahead of him. 

“... Pam McKinnon, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof…”

He bites his lip and glances at his phone again, tallying up the list.

Eleven. Twelve, if -  

“... David Rose, Hamlet.” 

He tilts his head back. He cries. 

Twelve. 

Chapter Text

British stage farces have nothing on them this morning. Doors are slamming, people are yelling, and pancakes are flying because David Rose’s Hamlet has twelve fucking Tony nominations. 

And they all have interviews to give, all with the same outlets, and though Patrick’s townhouse is enormous by New York standards, it’s almost too small for the personalities currently inhabiting it. 

“I have the Times on hold!” Rachel calls after Patrick, who’s running up the stairs to his bedroom.  

“Wait, I thought I did!” Alexis replies, looking down at her phone again. 

“Um, no, you said you had Deadline,” David snaps, rushing for the stairs to head down to the formal living room and trying not to kill himself in his socks.

“Wait, is Deadline for David or for me?” Stevie asks as he passes her. 

“Oh my God! Who thought this was a good idea?” 

“Someone who didn’t realize the absolute batshit insanity of having three Tony nominees under one roof!” Rachel yells.

“Especially when they aren’t supposed to be under one roof,” David growls, before turning towards his sister. “Put Deadline through, stay on the line, and then transfer them to Stevie. If anyone slips - ”

“If anyone slips,” Patrick calls down, sounding much calmer than the rest of them, “just say it was a cast sleepover.” 

“For 2% of the cast,” Stevie ever so helpfully points out. David flips her off as they each retreat to their separate ends of the house: Patrick in his room, David downstairs, and Stevie in the kitchen as Rachel and Alexis handle incoming calls like chain smoking switchboard operators. 

It’s David, of all people, who slips first, mentioning to Scott at The Hollywood Reporter how he tackled Stevie that morning in the post-nomination melee. Patrick doesn’t get a mention, probably because David’s been trained enough to omit Patrick’s name from his vocabulary whenever he’s talking to any press that isn’t Carol Chu. Patrick, apparently, slips second, also telling Scott at The Hollywood Reporter that Stevie was watching the announcements with him this morning. Scott, naturally, puts two and two together, and Patrick admits that, yes, there was a sleepover for some members of the team. By this point, David is listening wide-eyed in the doorway as Patrick deftly handles the conversation, making sure to mention Rachel, Alexis, and Ted by name. Ted, who’s been keeping everyone fed and watered and charged, and thank God too, because it’s almost 2pm before David’s ear gets a break. 

“Jesus Christ,” Patrick mutters, collapsing on the couch. “Is it always like that?” 

“Yeah,” David agrees, dropping down next to him and putting his feet in his lap. “Though I don’t recall it being quite so insane. Granted, it’s been a while since I was last in this position.” 

“I need a shower,” Stevie mutters from the chair.

“I was gonna say,” David teases, but he has no room to talk. They’re all still in their pajamas.  

“Also,” Stevie starts with a tone that immediately puts David on edge, “how is it that, of the three of us, I was the only one to keep my cool? You’re disaster gays.” 

“I’m not gay!” David argues. “As you well know.” 

“Ew,” Stevie mutters.

His phone is charging in the kitchen, but he can hear it buzzing from a distance with texts and messages and comments. When the interviews were finally over, they took turns doing a group FaceTime with the Brewers in Canada and the Roses across the park. Now Rachel and Alexis are popping champagne, and David closes his eyes and holds out his hand, hoping someone will take pity on him and place a flute in his grasp. 

Thankfully, Rachel does because she loves him more than his sister. 

“You’re the best,” he murmurs with a smile, before grumbling that the angle of the glass means he has to sit up to drink it.

“Oh my God, you’re such a baby,” Alexis groans as she takes a seat by his head, but there’s no edge behind it. 

“A Tony-nominated baby,” he reminds, his smile going from smug to grateful. “Thank you for today.” 

She grins and tips her glass in his direction, before leaning back and resting her feet on the coffee table. She really did kick ass today. She and Rachel both. 

Patrick squeezes his ankles, before digging his thumbs into the arch of David’s feet, pulling a groan from his throat. 

“Gross,” Stevie helpfully offers, but David’s too content to even flip her off. Rachel hands her a glass a moment later so she’s placated, and then she hands another to Patrick. 

“One each,” David warns. “I don’t need you getting wasted and falling off my stage.”

Patrick snorts. “To be or not to - oh my God.” 

“See, you laugh now, but you didn’t have to watch Juliet flip over the balcony railing in Stratford when you were sixteen, did you? Scarred me for life.” 

“Aw, I bet it did, babe,” he says comfortingly, squeezing David’s ankle again. 

Deciding he’s too far away from those lips, he sits up and flips around so he can lean against Patrick’s chest, tilting his head up and closing his eyes for a kiss Patrick is only too willing to bestow.

“So, now what?” David murmurs.

Rachel shrugs. “You rest. Because looking at this schedule, the next six weeks are going to be a lot.” 

“How much is a lot?” Patrick asks. 

“Bonkers’ is putting it mildly,” Stevie replies. And she should know. She’s the one who’s done it most recently. And no offense to that production, but Cabaret was no Hamlet. Not when you have Patrick Brewer above the title. 

“It’s the Tony press reception tomorrow, then the Drama League lunch, then the Tony Nominee lunch,” Rachel starts, before Alexis interrupts: 

“Lots of lunches.” 

“Then the Outer Critics Circle dinner - ”

“But only if you win,” David points out.

“Right, then the Tony Honors Reception, should you choose to go - ”

“Creative Arts nominees and Special Award recipients,” David explains off Patrick’s look. “Like the Oscars.” 

“Ah.” 

“And then the big night,” Rachel concludes. “All while doing two and a half hours of Shakespeare eight times a week. Not to mention your other press duties.” 

“Right,” Patrick responds with a shell shocked whistle. “So basically I’ll be staying in my pajamas until half hour.” 

David thinks that sounds like a fantastic idea.

So they do. 

Stevie reads out the full list of nominees, since they missed the majority of them that morning, as Ted refills champagne glasses, sneaking Stevie and Patrick a top-up when he thinks David isn’t looking. Someone finds a Golden Girls marathon on TV, and no one argues when it plays for the rest of the day. David secretly adores the way Patrick’s feet bop along to the theme song, and when Patrick catches him looking for it at the start of the third episode, he blushes. 

“What? My mom likes it.” 

And every time David thinks he couldn’t love Marcy more, he learns something new. “Honey, there’s nothing wrong with liking the Golden Girls. In fact, I’d judge you if you didn’t.” 

Eventually he rescues the kitchen counter from his phone’s assault on the granite. It’s still buzzing even hours later, and when he questions why Patrick and Stevie aren’t being hounded thus, they reply that they (smartly, not that he’ll tell them) put theirs on Do Not Disturb. 

The Hamlet cast thread dominates the proceedings and he types back a belated, Thank you. This is because of you. Which is an understatement of the highest order, but hopefully by the time he sees them in person later, his words will decide to work. After half a day of spewing them, he’s all worded out. 

There’s a text from Ken:

[Ken]
Congratulations!!! Thank you for giving me this opportunity & experience. 

And one from Adelina: 

[Adelina]
Congratulations, meu amor. 

One from Heather:

[Heather]
Tony Nominee David Rose 🍾

And most importantly, one from Ronnie. Oh fuck, he didn’t call Ronnie. 

[Ronnie]
Told you.

She did not tell him this. If she even thought it, she certainly kept it to herself. 

I’m sorry. I owe you a call.

She responds remarkably quickly for someone whose two biggest theatre clients got Tony nominations today.

[Ronnie]
You owe me nothing except my usual check. 

Then:

[Ronnie]
Enjoy this day.

Which is something he clearly needs to journal because never has Ronnie Lee said something so soft.

I will. 

And he does. 

The afternoon creeps by, and Ted and Alexis are the first to leave, neither of them having a show to perform that night. To be fair, neither does David, but there’s no way he’s missing tonight’s performance. There’s no way he’s missing the entrances of his newly-minted Tony nominees. 

Patrick and Stevie decide to ride together, because the cat’s out of the bag about the sleepover. Alexis even posted a (shockingly beautiful) black and white photo on Instagram (with permission) of the backs of their heads as they watched the nominations. Luckily it was when David and Patrick were flanking Stevie, so any questions of whether or not anyone was sitting too close are moot. David and Patrick share it to their stories, because it’s too perfect not to.

Rachel leaves next to coordinate Patrick’s outfit for the press conference in the morning. Unbeknownst to him, she’s had Tom Ford on standby for a week. She also offers to help David when she realizes that he hadn’t glanced at his closet once because he didn’t want to jinx anything. Hopefully her witchcraft will conjure up another Thom Browne ensemble. 

Considering that he doesn’t have to be there by half hour, David leaves last, staying at the townhouse and taking advantage of a long, hot shower and a deep conditioning hair mask, before mustering up the courage to read the statements that Patrick and Stevie gave that David didn’t get the privilege to hear. Playbill has thankfully put together a compilation, and he pulls it up on his phone, scrolling through as he gets dressed. Stevie, in typical fashion, is delightfully droll and self-effacing, thanking her cast, the crew, David, but most of all Insomnia Cookies for delivering until 3am. David snorts and moves on to Patrick’s: 

“It's truly been a career highlight playing Hamlet each night, while working alongside the most incredibly giving cast and crew. They’ve held me up in more ways than one, and I’m forever grateful to them. Thank you to the Broadway League and The American Theater Wing for the personal honor and for all of the Hamlet love. I am so proud to be sharing this work of art, night after night, and am thrilled that it’s resonating with people. Lastly, thank you to my director and collaborator, David Rose. He’s introduced me to a world I’ve only ever dreamed about, and I’ll never be able to repay the debt that I owe him.”

David sucks in a breath and puts the phone down, glad he didn’t read that while anyone was still here, but also furious that it happened after he already moisturized. Now he’ll have to reapply. 

What was that statement? You don’t owe me anything.

He ignores the fact that it sounds remarkably like a conversation he’s already had once today.

If anything, I owe you.

Patrick is the one who took David’s idea and breathed life into it. Patrick is the one who took David’s life and painted it with the brightest of colors.

Patrick doesn’t respond, and it’s probably because he’s in the middle of a PT session, so David resolves to hash this out in person, hailing an Uber and grabbing his keys as he runs out the door.

By the time he gets to the theatre, the underslings are already loudly advertising the 12 Tony Award Nominations that the show received that morning - quick work by the marketing team. He ducks his head, opens the stage door, and promptly inhales foil, squawking as he gets accosted by a pink and orange and yellow and purple metallic fringed monstrosity hanging from the door frame. 

“What the fuck is happening?!” 

“Let me help you out there, Mr. Rose,” Ritchie offers, gently untangling David from the party store clearance bin item. 

“What is this doing here?” He flicks the offending decoration for good measure.

“Don’t be such a Scrooge,” Heather says from the door of the stage management office. Then: “I don’t care how many Tony nominations you got this morning.” But she smiles and steps forward, wrapping him up in a hug. “Congratulations.” 

“Thank you,” he says, hugging her back tightly. “And it was just the one.”

“Technically two. You get one for Revival.”

If we win,” he admonishes, quickly finding a piece of wood to knock on. “Jesus, Heather.” 

“Could be worse. I could have said the Scottish play and then we’d be really fucked.” 

“Are you trying to give me an aneurysm? Also,” he flaps his arm back at the fringe. “Isn’t this a safety hazard?” He looks to Ritchie for help, but he just shrugs. 

“I don’t work for the fire marshal.” 

“Oh come on!” 

“Live a little, David. It’s Tony season.” 

And, boy, is it. The energy in the building is just… electric. He accepts more hugs and congratulations in the span of ten minutes than he did during the whole of his Bar Mitzvah. Helen and Aldridge are over the moon, each giving him far more credit than he really deserves, given their talent and history. It really doesn’t take much to direct either of them to a Tony nomination.

When Patrick finally returns from his PT session, David is sitting on the loveseat in his dressing room, reading all of the opening night cards Patrick’s kept on his side table. 

“Snoop,” Patrick teases. 

“Yes, you’ve met me. My first time in your house and I went straight for your bookshelf.” 

“Lucky me,” he murmurs, and David smiles.

“That’s not how you felt at the time,” he says, remembering the look of unease on Patrick’s face when David got close to discovering The Oresteia.

“Didn’t want to play my hand too early.” 

“Yeah, well, you waited so long, I nearly folded.” 

“Look at you with the poker terms!” Patrick says, delighted. 

“Ugh, I only learned to get Alexis out of prison in Istanbul.” 

Patrick tilts his head and his brow creases, like it always does whenever he hears a story about the Roses that he cannot comprehend. “Right. Obviously.” 

Someone shrieks in the hall, and someone else responds with, “TWELVE TONY NOMINATIONS.” It sounds remarkably like Malcolm, of all people, their mild-mannered Ghost. 

Patrick chuckles and shuts the door, sidling up to David on the sofa. “People are excited.” 

“They should be. Twelve is a lot for a play.” Granted, being a play with music gave them access to categories that other plays don’t have, like Best Score and Best Orchestrations. It also helps that their cast is stacked.

“Your parents are doing cake and champagne onstage after,” Patrick says, massaging David’s neck like he’s the one in need of PT. 

“What? How do you know that?” Oh that feels good.

“Shannon just sent an email.” 

David hums and pulls out his phone, tilting his head so Patrick’s fingers can get at the one muscle that always spasms whenever he’s stressed. Sure enough, there’s a message at the top of his inbox from the official company management address whose subject line reads COME CELEBRATE, and inside, a glitter cannon gif accompanied by a note that just says Post-Show Onstage - NO COSTUMES. Short and to the point. 

“Wanna stay over again tonight?” Patrick asks, and David grunts as his thumb finds a particularly stubborn knot. 

“So we can have sex as loudly as we want to?” 

Patrick snorts and adorably blushes. “I mean, that wasn’t the only reason…” 

David smiles and leans in for a kiss. “Love to. But only if Rachel can bring over whatever outfit she’s concocting.”

“She’s dropping it off here,” Patrick says as he stands again and makes his way over to the mirror to start getting ready.

“That’s nice of her.” 

“I told her there’d be cake.” 

David nods, because yeah, cake has been used to coax him places, too. “I won’t be able to stay over tomorrow night, though.”

“How come? I mean - not that you need an excuse or anything,” Patrick backtracks, looking flustered. David takes pity on him. 

“Ronnie just sent me an email saying she wants a meeting on Thursday morning. Tomorrow’s gonna be nuts, and I owe her that.” 

“I suppose I’ll suffer through,” Patrick murmurs, returning and bending down for a quick kiss, just as a knock sounds on the door. “Come on in, Cee.” 

“Gentlemen,” she greets without even looking over at David, like she just knows he’s there. She puts the costumes on the rack before turning and launching herself at Patrick, who catches her with a groan. “Congratulations,” she whispers and he smiles over her shoulder at David as he holds her closer. 

“Thanks, Cee.” 

Then she lets go and rounds on David. “You next. Up you get.” 

He grumbles, but it’s only for show as she wraps him up tight. And it’s not the first time it occurs to him that loving Patrick means getting adopted by all of the people that love him, too: Marcy and Clint, Rachel, Ted, Cecilia. It’s still taking some getting used to, this letting-people-in thing. Fortunately, Patrick’s left the door to David’s heart wide open. No appointment required. 

She lets go and goes about her job, and David decides to get out of the way as he heads for the door.

“I’ll see you after?” he asks, and Patrick is already halfway across the room to peck him on the lips.

“See you after.” 

He heads back down to stage management, screaming indelicately when Brenda shoots a leftover New Years confetti popper in his face. 

“I’m not cleaning that up,” Heather calls from behind her desk, but Mutt is already whipping out the broom, ribbons from a previous blast hanging in his hair.

It’s like fucking Bourbon Street, and David’s not even mad about it. 

The cake sits on a folding table in the corner, a three-tiered feat of impressive construction, considering it touts the play’s 12 Tony Nominations in 3D sugar words. Beneath the table, mail bins have been lined with trash bags and filled with ice, where multiple bottles of Veuve Clicquot chill. 

“Did you count them?” he asks Heather wryly.

“You bet your ass I did,” she replies. His money would be on Candice trying to make off with a bottle or two before evening’s end. 

He didn’t ask Shannon for a ticket, and that’s fine. He’s more than happy to stand in the back. Because being at the back means he gets to see the full audience reaction the second Patrick steps foot on stage; the second he starts a Tony-Nominated performance in a Tony-Nominated show among his Tony-Nominated colleagues. Sure, he normally gets entrance applause, but this is an ovation unlike anything David’s ever heard before. It brings the audience to its feet in a wave starting from the first row and probably ending in the back of the rear mezzanine, if it was possible for David to see that far. 

The same happens for Helen and Aldridge and Stevie and by the time they pop the champagne and cut the cake, David is all cried out. 

But not quite, apparently, because when they raise their glasses and offer a hearty, “To David!” he starts all over again.

🎭 🎭 🎭

PBandJ: @BrewsClues do you really think they’re together? 
      Ampersand: 🙋I do.
BrewsClues: I’m certainly not confirming anything. I’m just laying out the facts as I see them. 
      Ampersand: And the facts lead to the conclusion that Patrick Brewer is dating David Rose. Fucking him at least.
PBandJ: Whoa there.
      BrewsClues: Where’s your proof?
Ampersand: Trust me. 
      BrewsClues: sure jan dot gif

🎭 🎭 🎭

“Stop, drop, and roll, babe.” 

“Yeah, yeah,” David mutters, kissing Patrick’s lips as he reaches for the car’s door handle.  

“I’m sorry,” Patrick murmurs more seriously, as he always does whenever David bears the brunt of their secrecy. 

“Don’t worry about it,” he replies. “Truly.” Then he kisses him again for good measure, before sliding out onto Madison to walk the last block and a half to the hotel. He watches the SUV make its way down 45th to drop Patrick at the back entrance, before he turns left onto 5th and then right onto 44th, heading towards the hotel’s main lobby entrance. 

Are you here? he texts Alexis, because the sidewalk is already swarming with press and nominees alike. The large French flag billows above the revolving doors, and as David gets closer, people start to take notice: heads pop up, arms nudge, whispers spread:

“There’s David Rose.”

It’s… disconcerting to hear his name murmured with excitement and reverence instead of enmity and resentment. A refreshing change of pace, frankly. He lifts his chin and hopes his sunglasses hide his blush as he moves throughout the crowd, trying to spot Alexis in her towering heels to no avail. 

“Darling!” Helen calls, releasing the death grip that she has on Hugh Jackman to run over and take hold of David’s face. “Oh, you’re gorgeous,” she says, looking him up and down. And he better be. He almost had to put on Spanx to fit into the cut of this suit. “Where’s my son?”

David snorts. Helen adores Patrick, and the feeling is very much mutual. “Sneaking in the back door.”

“Lucky bastard,” she says, looping her arm through his and leading him past the gawkers and into the low lit lobby.

It takes him a moment to wonder if Helen assumed he and Patrick arrived together or if she was just asking if David had seen him yet. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. He’d trust Helen with his life and has, in fact, when he allowed her to take him to Joan Rivers’ 2007 New Years Eve party. 

The lobby looks like Sardi’s after the Shuberts’ annual holiday party, just without the booze. Everywhere he looks, there’s someone he’s worked with or partied with or, Jesus, slept with. He ducks his head and hopes Helen doesn’t ram him into a vase.

“Oh my God, David!” his sister chirps, and he looks up to find Alexis waving him over to a cluster of couches, upon which already sit Stevie, Patrick, and Rachel with Ivan lurking nearby. 

“How are you here early?” he blurts out as he sits down next to Stevie. 

“How are you here on time?” she replies, but Patrick just smirks. 

“You know how.” And Jesus, that should not sound as sexy as it does. Especially when they’re in public, surrounded by cameras and microphones, and David is still sore from Patrick railing him up against the wall last night. 

Truly one of their best. 

Patrick winks like he knows exactly what David was thinking about. 

But Patrick also likes to be on time, and if David wanted a ride, he had to allow himself to be coaxed out of the house with coffee and a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese. Speaking of, he needs to make sure he doesn’t have poppy seeds in his teeth before cameras start flashing. 

Helen bends down and places a kiss on Patrick’s cheek, rubbing the lipstick she leaves away, as David’s parents arrive. His mom’s wearing Diana and the green of the wig pairs nicely with the black of her dress. Thankfully, it’s one of her more subtle looks. 

The designers trickle in next: Twyla, Gary, Amy Grace, Bob, and eventually Jake, who shockingly doesn’t look like he put on the first shirt he found on his floor. Finally, Aldridge makes his entrance in a plaid, bespoke suit because of course he does, and the press reps for the show herd them up the spiral staircase to the event space where a massive black and white step-and-repeat is dotted with logos for CBS and The Tony Awards. Rachel takes Patrick’s elbow with Alexis taking David’s, as Stevie hovers between the two while Ivan watches nearby. 

Their show is arguably the biggest hit on Broadway at the moment, both critically and commercially. Naturally, people are curious, if the way almost every head in the room swivels towards them is any indication. 

“I feel like a goldfish,” Stevie complains, adjusting the strap of her black dress. 

“In shark-infested waters,” Patrick whispers as he passes, grazing David’s arm in the process. 

Someone from The American Theatre Wing approaches and passes on her congratulations, handing each of them a small circular pin not all that much bigger than a quarter, commemorating the fact that they’re Tony Nominees. David has no idea where his last one went, so it’s kind of nice to have a replacement. Next thing he knows, the pin (magnetic, thank God, because there was no way David was putting a hole in this suit) is plucked from his hand as Alexis attaches it to the lapel of his coat, adjusting his tie in the process. 

“Proud of you, brother,” she murmurs, booping him. He doesn’t dare stop her. How can he, when she marches right on up to the show’s press rep and starts working out a detailed plan of attack like she’s been doing this for years. She returns to him a moment later, but before she can open her mouth to tell him which outlet he’ll be speaking to first, there’s something she needs to know: 

“Alexis, I am continuously impressed by you,” he says.

She flounders for a moment at the clearly unexpected compliment, mouth opening and closing like a fish on a dock. David would mock her for it if the sheer surprise at such a comment wasn’t so heartbreaking. Wasn’t so them. Her eyes soften, and she smiles. “Thanks.”

He clears his throat, “You’re welcome.” 

“Ready?”

“Why not.” He glances to his left to find Patrick looking at them with the exact same expression he had on his face when David made him watch While You Were Sleeping for the first time. His eyes are soft and sappy, and his downturned smile should be illegal. 

“Don’t,” David mutters, but Patrick just grins. 

“Didn’t say a word.” 

David’s about to let himself be led towards the step-and-repeat, the first part of this marathon junket, when Stevie’s voice comes from his left:

“David,” she says tightly, and David knows that tone. It’s the tone she used when she found him dangerously high in the bathroom of Red Rabbit and had to take him to the ER for a dose of naloxone. It was the first and last time he ever touched heroin. Not that he remembers much of the night. But he remembers that tone. 

She moves in front of him, indicating over her right shoulder with her eyes. He follows her gaze to find something he should have expected, but didn’t. Some one he never actually wanted to see ever again. His stomach drops as he watches Antonio boredly twirl his microphone in one hand as he scrolls through his phone with the other, and David has such a visceral need to run in the other direction that his shoes actually shift on the carpet in an effort to take him anywhere that isn’t here.  

“What’s going - ” but Patrick must spot him because his words stop, his mouth goes tight, and his fists clench at his sides. David watches almost in slow motion as he steps forward, causing Rachel to promptly block his path. 

“Don’t you dare,” she says.

“Rachel, move,” he grits out as David gets a hand on his arm. 

“Honey, what are you going to do? Challenge him to a duel?” He can’t even be bothered by the pet name slip…

“I’m gonna fucking kill him.”

… not when his boyfriend is actively threatening to murder someone. It really shouldn’t be as hot as it is.

 Stevie shrugs. “I, for one, am all for watching Patrick maim that asshole.”

“Seconded,” Aldridge says as Bob raises his hand.

“We have bail money,” his mother offers as his dad asks, “Who needs bail?” 

David would be flattered by the solidarity if his feet weren’t still trying to carry him out of the room. 

Stevie looks at the show’s press rep. “I’m not talking to him.”

“No, me neither,” Jake says. Which wow. 

“He’s not getting a single interview from the Hamlet team,” Patrick vows, nearly vibrating, and David realizes his hand is still on his arm. In this room of hi-def cameras, he should probably remove it, but he can’t because he’s genuinely worried that the second he does, Patrick will be across the hall and throttling Antonio with his very capable hands. 

“Breathe,” David says, taking his own advice with a deep inhale and slow exhale. Patrick’s eyes still haven’t stopped boring holes into Antonio’s high forehead, but he listens to David as his chest rises and falls. “Good. Again.” 

The urge to run is thankfully starting to leave. He’s too concerned with keeping his boyfriend and leading man out of jail on this two show day, almost smiling as he remembers the words Patrick said to him on Opening Night in response to David asking how he could be so calm: “I get the sense that only one of us can freak out at a time, and it appears to be your turn.” 

This can be Patrick’s turn. 

“If I let go of your arm, will you stay put?”

The muscle in Patrick’s jaw jumps, but he nods, and David releases him, clearing his throat and glancing around the room. Those that had noticed the sudden uptick in tension quickly avert their gazes, while others seem to be rapidly putting the pieces together, glancing back and forth between the Hamlet crew and The Post’s set up on the other side of the room. 

“Are you okay?” David murmurs, and Patrick rears back so violently, he almost headbutts Ivan who had stepped up behind him. 

“Me? Are you?” 

“It was a valid question. You were thisclose to Million Dollar Babying him. And I’m fine. I’ve decided that I’m not going to let that man ruin this day. I am a motherfucking Tony Nominee, and nothing he says or prints can change that.” 

Patrick’s face does a thing that mends the parts of David’s heart that seeing Antonio again had cracked. “We should have made a code word.” 

“A code word? For what?” 

“For the things we can’t say right now,” Patrick quietly replies, and even if David didn’t catch his meaning, it’s right there in his eyes. 

And David knows: “The rest is silence.” I love you in the silence.

Patrick smiles. “The rest is silence.” I love you, too. 

Fitting that it’s Hamlet’s last line, because David would give him all of the words he knows if it would keep Patrick looking at him like that. 

Rachel approaches cautiously, still eyeing Patrick like he’s about to Kill Bill someone. “Should we get started?” 

Patrick looks to David, who glances around at everyone else. They stare back warily. “I’m good, guys. Really.” 

“Damn, I love a brawl,” Helen replies, actually putting the earrings that she had taken out back in her ears, oh my God.  

“Mkay, so just, like, follow Hugh around the room and try not to trip,” Alexis instructs, pointing to Hugh Jackman who’s just stepping up to the first taped X on the carpeted floor in front of the step-and-repeat. He’s nominated for some musical that David hasn’t seen yet. 

“Sounds easy enough,” Stevie mutters, though naturally, she trips on an extension cord two minutes later. 

They have entirely too much fun getting photos taken: individuals, group shots, even one of David and Patrick where they’re not making heart eyes at each other, miracle of miracles. They move onto the interviews, some of which they do separately and some they do together. If David keeps glancing over at the corner of the room where The Post is set up, well, no one calls him on it. 

Antonio is still just… checking his phone, looking increasingly angry. Has he even spoken to anyone yet? 

“Obviously, Hamlet is famous for its soliloquies,” Clive is saying just as David’s focus snaps back, thanks to a gentle nudge in his side from Patrick. “Do you have a favorite one?” 

“I do, I do, I think,” Patrick replies, stroking his chin. “Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I.’ It’s just a killer speech, man.” 

Huh. David didn’t know that.

“Oooh good choice,” Clive says. “And you, David?” 

“Oh, um.” He flounders for a moment. “Well I don’t know about a favorite soliloquy, but ‘the rest is silence’ is, uh, is a pretty good line.” 

He can’t look at Patrick, but he feels the brush of his sleeve as he gently knocks into him. 

“A favorite,” he softly concurs.  

They just have one more outlet to hit - Theatermania, which Hugh Jackman is wrapping up with. The only one after that is The Post and they have no plans to visit there. The closer they get, though, the more David can feel Antonio’s eyes on him, like a chill on the back of his neck that just won’t go away. 

“Thanks,” Hugh says, shaking the interviewer’s hand as he steps away from the camera.

“Wait, Hugh, there’s one more,” his press rep says, pointing at Antonio, but Hugh shakes his head.  

“Nah, I’m good.” Then he looks at David, winks, and walks away. 

David stares after him. “What the fuck.”

Patrick clears his throat and nods around the room. “I, uh, I think word spread.”  

And David suddenly realizes that this group of people, his colleagues that he’s spent years thinking hated him, have actually had his back all morning. Antonio doesn’t end up interviewing a single nominee. And David eventually steps out onto 44th Street, dangerously close to bursting into Let the Sunshine In. And show tunes only happen when Stevie slips him too much vodka and drags him to Marie’s Crisis once it kicks in. 

“Now what?” Stevie asks.

David looks at his watch. It’s only noon, and they technically don’t have to be at the theatre until 1:30pm, though both Patrick and Stevie prefer to have more than just 30 minutes to prepare. They could always order some food for delivery because going out is sometimes too much of a production when their time is limited. 

“You wanna walk?” Patrick asks, nodding his head west towards the theatre district. 

“Seriously?” David was so in his head about the support from his fellow nominees that it’s only just occurring to him that Patrick walked out the front door. Like a normal person. And Lena is nowhere to be found. 

Patrick frowns. “Yeah. Why not?”

Um, because half of midtown wants to maul you at any given moment, he wants to say, but he doesn’t because he is a part of that half, thank you very much. And he is the only one who gets to rip Patrick’s clothes off. 

David looks to Ivan for backup, but he’s no help at all. He’ll do whatever Patrick says. 

“We walking?” an actor from another show asks, and before David knows it, others have joined, creating a sort of cocoon around Patrick, allowing them all to walk to their respective theatres in their finery without being bothered. It’s actually… nice. The other nominees (those that David doesn’t know) introduce themselves and congratulate each other, none of them losing their cool in front of Patrick, who even gamefully poses for a group selfie someone takes and posts on Instagram. 

They lose a couple of actors heading to the Lyceum and a few more that turn north towards The Winter Garden. The rest of their little troupe continues on down 44th Street, some cutting through Shubert Alley to head to the Golden and the Hirshfeld while others continue through the passageway under the Marriott Marquis to the stage door of the Imperial and the Lunt-Fontanne. By the time they get to the stage door of the Broadhurst, it’s just the Hamlet crew: David, Patrick, Stevie, Helen, Aldridge, and Twyla who’s here for a quick fitting. The other designers headed off to their new projects, Rachel had another meeting, and Alexis left with their parents. 

“Are you staying for the matinee?” Patrick asks as he leads the way into his dressing room, and Stevie heads up to hers to get out of her dress.

David hums, but shakes his head. “I didn’t bring clothes, so I might go home to change. I’ll stay until you start.” 

“And then come back?” Patrick asks. 

“And then come back,” David agrees. 

When Stevie returns, they order some Thai from Obao on 9th, and true to his word, David does stay until they start. And then some. Armed with this newfound knowledge of which soliloquy is Patrick’s favorite, David slips in the back of the house once the lights go down and waits until it comes.

“Now I am alone,” Patrick says, watching where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exited into the wings. Then he turns to the audience and launches into it:

“O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!”

David’s breath hitches because Patrick is stunning. Manic and impassioned in a way David hasn’t seen before. It’s one of the few soliloquies that’s not musicalized, merely underscored by an ominous, melancholy motif that always puts David on edge, but not necessarily in a bad way. He and Patrick had gone back and forth about it a few times, but they ultimately decided that this was more powerful. These words. That performance. 

“For Hecuba!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have?”

Patrick paces the stage in a frenzy, running his fingers through hair that David smoothed down just that morning. 

“He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made.”

He’s a tiger in a cage, laying waste to a stage, and David has never been prouder.

“Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?
Ha!
'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,” Patrick pauses, his voice breaking in a way it never has before.
“Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle: I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench,
I know my course.” 

And as David watches Patrick give a performance that’s otherworldly, that’s mad and dark and yet light and comical, he allows himself to think something that he hasn’t dared to before: he could do it. Patrick could win that Tony Award.

And it would be deserved. 

“The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.”

David sneaks back out through the lobby, and it isn’t until the April wind hits his face that he realizes his cheeks aren’t dry. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Sushi? 

[Patrick]
Yes please. 

Your usual? 

[Patrick]
Perfect. 

David looks at the time on his phone and figures that if he places the order now, it’ll be ready by the time he gets back to midtown. He’s glad he got Patrick before he did the stage door, because that would have been another 30 minutes at least before David heard what he wanted for dinner. It’s not practical for Patrick to go out anywhere in the neighborhood on the break between shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Finding a place secure enough is near impossible, given the tourists finding food post-matinee and those coming to the evening show having a pre-curtain meal. David has started spending the breaks at the theatre, eating with him and frequently Stevie while they watch something on Patrick’s laptop, even if David doesn’t technically have to be at the show anymore.

Bag of food in hand, he heads back down 44th Street, grateful to see that he’s missed the crowds. Shubert security is already stacking the metal barricades back up against the wall until they’re needed after the evening show. 

“Hey, Ritchie,” he murmurs as he opens the door, fixing his hair after the crosswind had its way with it. 

“Evening, Mr. Rose.” 

“Good matinee?” 

“A lively one, to be sure.” 

“Glad to hear it.” Then a sign on the call board that wasn’t there before catches his eye. 

Drinks at Glass House on me! Come one, come all! - Patty Brew

David snorts at the signoff, before taking the stairs up to Patrick’s dressing room and finding him sitting at his station. 

“That Cecilia’s handiwork down there?” David asks. 

“Unfortunately,” Patrick grumbles in the mirror. The dresser in question is nowhere to be found, no doubt run out of the room by Patty Brew himself. 

“I hope she at least asked before she offered up your Black Card.” 

Patrick laughs. “No, that was my idea. The sign was hers. I wanted to go to Rudy’s.” 

“What is it with you and Rudy’s? I would have left you the minute the free hot dog was placed in front of me.” 

“David, you love hot dogs.” 

“Only at sporting events that I have been tricked into attending.” 

“So trickery is required,” Patrick says with a sly grin. “Good to know.” 

David ignores him and begins unpacking the bag on the coffee table, laying out containers of rolls and edamame and shumai and gyoza. 

“Are you watching again tonight?” Patrick asks as he wanders over and pops a piece of edamame in his mouth, nibbling the beans out as he takes a seat on the couch. 

“Ronnie thinks it would be good to greet Tony voters. Show my face, etcetera.” 

“So we’ve got Tony voters in the house tonight,” Patrick says, and David stills.  

“And I’m just now realizing I probably shouldn’t have told you that.” 

“It’s all right,” Patrick says through a chuckle. “Stevie explained that there will hardly be a performance that a voter isn’t at.” 

And it’s true. There are over 800 voters that need to see the show before June 7th or else they won’t be able to cast a ballot in any category that a show they missed is nominated for. They’ve been eligible to come since just after opening, but given the embarrassment of riches that Hamlet received yesterday morning, demand is bound to be higher than it already was.  

And it was really fucking high.

“I wasn’t going to stay for the whole thing, but if Rudy’s is off the table, then perhaps I’ll make an appearance,” he teases, and Patrick rolls his eyes. At this point, David has seen the show so many times, he’s pretty sure he knows Hamlet’s lines just as well as Patrick does. “I can’t stay at Glass House for long, though. Remember I have a meeting with Ronnie in the morning.” 

“How could I forget the thing that’s keeping you from my bed?” he grumbles through a mock pout, like he didn’t literally just fuck David up against a wall last night.

David is surprised by the bolt of want that shoots through him, but he shouldn’t be. His desire for Patrick is just a constant thing now, a new baseline. A better way of living. 

“Who said we need a bed?” he murmurs, smirking when Patrick chokes on his edamame. 

“David, what…?” 

But David’s already walking over to the door and slowly turning the lock on the knob with an audible click. It’s almost as loud as Patrick’s resulting swallow. 

“David,” he breathes, lips parted, eyes dark. It’s nice to know that Patrick seems to share a similar baseline. 

“Yes?” He returns to the couch and sits next to him, sliding his hand up his thigh. 

“Cee could - ”

“Could come back, yes, but she’s on her dinner break and she knows about us.” He traces Patrick’s inseam with his forefinger. “If she encounters a locked door, chances are she’ll just… turn right back around. Besides,” he whispers, leaning in to suck a spot just beneath Patrick’s ear, “I’ll be quick.” 

Patrick moans and turns his head to capture David’s lips just as David’s palm cups him through his jeans. His hips jerk up, but David presses his free hand to his chest, before sliding it up his throat to curl around the back of his neck. 

“God, David. The way I want you.” 

David nods. “All the time.” 

“All the damn time,” Patrick moans again, getting a hand around David’s head and deepening the kiss as David massages him, loving the feeling of Patrick hardening beneath his palm. He lets go to flick open his jeans and tug his zipper down more roughly than he’d like, but he did promise quick. And going by the way Patrick is panting into his mouth, he’s on track. The front of Patrick’s briefs are already damp, which is flattering, and David traces the stain lightly with a finger as Patrick whines and twists the front of David’s sweater in his free hand. 

“Easy, easy,” David whispers, and he’s not even talking about his clothes. “I’ve got you.” 

He’s never had a lover as responsive as Patrick, and it lights David up to his core to realize he has this kind of effect on somebody. That someone is willing to be as vulnerable and open as Patrick is every time David’s hands explore his body. The feedback loop of pure pleasure has given David the most mind-blowing orgasms he’s ever experienced. And as much as he’d love to tease and torture, this is not the time or place for drawn out foreplay, so he slides his hand beneath Patrick’s waistband, swallowing his grunt with a groan of his own as his fingers finally meet hot flesh. 

Patrick’s hand comes down and grips David’s leg as he starts to stroke, so David gets his arm around Patrick’s shoulders and tucks him into his side, letting go of his cock briefly to free him from his briefs. Patrick pants against David’s neck as David licks his palm and starts up a steady rhythm, neither of them thinking of storing lube in a place as public as the dressing room. Well, David thought about it. But he never acted on it, because he’s only sometimes an idiot. 

“God, David,” Patrick chokes, biting his lip in an effort to keep quiet. 

“That’s it, honey. You’re so good.” 

His pace is steady and brutal, ratcheting Patrick’s pleasure higher and higher as his hips lift off the couch, fucking into David’s fist as his fingers knead into his thigh. 

“You’re gonna make me come.”

David smiles against his temple. “That’s the idea.” 

“David… David…” 

“I’ve got you,” he says, coaxing Patrick into a fierce if clumsy kiss. Precome makes the slide easier, and Patrick begins moaning on every stroke. 

“Oh fuck, I’m gonna come,” he groans, and David tears his lips away from Patrick’s to duck down and suck the head of his cock into mouth just in time for Patrick to explode across his tongue. David can feel him curl over his head, his body jerking in spasms and his hand tangling in David’s hair as he bites back muffled moans. David swallows down everything he offers, gently slowing his movements until Patrick flops back against the couch and eases his hold on David’s hair, patting him gently in silent apology. 

David pulls away and kisses his overly sensitive tip softly, before tucking him back into his briefs, doing up his jeans, cupping his cheek and pressing a kiss to his still-parted mouth. Patrick pants towards the ceiling, whining a bit and reaching out blindly as David stands to unlock the door. 

“Wait, no. What about you?” 

“You’ll get me tomorrow. Now eat up. The gyoza is getting cold.” 

“Can’t move,” Patrick grunts. “Feed me.” 

And because David is hopelessly in love, he does. 

Cecilia returns to the dressing room an hour later, none the wiser. David greets the Tony voters utilizing all of his Rose Family charm, and the show goes off without a hitch, earning a standing ovation at its conclusion that runs long enough even for the actors to start to look bashful about it. 

He stays for two drinks at Glass House on the second floor which they’ve taken over, watching his cast celebrate and tease and bond. It’s truly the best company he’s ever had the privilege of working with, and if he had to go on this wild journey with anyone, he’s glad it’s them. Placing his empty glass down on the bar, he says his goodbyes and gives Patrick an innocuous hug of thanks for footing the bill. An entire conversation passes in the squeezes: a Goodnight and an I’ll see you tomorrow and a Text me before you go to sleep. Then he pulls on his coat and goes outside, hailing a conveniently passing cab to head downtown to an apartment that’s feeling less and less like home these days.

Had David known what was coming, he might have stayed longer, to savor the bliss of ignorance if nothing else. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Someone is chasing him with a chainsaw. Or hair clippers? Regardless, something is buzzing and it is not a pleasant sound, and it’s coming for either lock or limb. 

Rousing enough from his REM cycle to realize he’s not in mortal peril (though whoever is on the other end of the line is), he slaps at his bedside table, fingers making contact with the phone, which he lifts to squint at his sister’s name on the screen. His heart lurches in his chest as he bolts upright, smashes the Accept button, and blurts out: 

“Who do I need to wire money to?” For a moment, he’s not sure what year it is. 

“What? David, no - ”

“Then oh my God, why are you calling, Alexis, it’s dawn,” he groans, flopping back down against the pillows and staring at the glow just starting to peek over the building across the street. His heart is jackhammering harder than the construction site at the end of the block. 

“David, are you alone?”

And he stills at that, because the last time someone asked him if he was alone, his body ended up in the papers and his heart ended up in Glastonbury. 

“David, is Patrick with you?” Alexis snaps. 

“No,” he breathes. “No, I have a meeting in the morning.” Is it morning? 

But then she says three words that knock the breath from the lungs: 

“There’s a photo.” 

“Of what?” 

Then three more: 

“You. And Patrick.” 

“What are - ?”

And three more after that: 

“David, you’re kissing.”

Chapter Text

“David, you’re kissing.” 

In the utter blankness that is his panicked mind, only one thought pushes through:

“Does Patrick know?”

“Rachel is calling him now.” 

He doesn’t actually remember kicking the covers off and getting out of bed, but by the time he registers anything beyond Get to Patrick, he’s fully dressed and halfway to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

“It’s dark and a little blurry. We can spin it,” Alexis offers. “Pass it off as something else.” 

“Does Patrick want to pass it off as something else?” David will take Patrick’s lead here.

“I’m not sure. Rachel just texted me. She can’t get a hold of him.”

“Fuck.” He hangs up on her, but he really doesn’t think she’ll fault him for it, immediately hitting Patrick’s name in his contacts. It rings out, and his voicemail kicks in. 

“Hey, it’s Patrick. Sorry I missed you. Leave me a message and I’ll get right back to you.” 

BEEEP

“Honey, please pick up. Or call me. Or, just, call someone. I love you.” 

He drops his phone on the counter next to the sink and robotically grabs his toothbrush, trying to control his breathing so he doesn’t choke on his toothpaste. He’s honestly not surprised; frankly, it’s a miracle they made it this far, but still. That this decision was taken away from Patrick breaks David’s fucking heart, and he blinks away furious tears as his red eyes stare back at him in the mirror. 

He’s just spitting into the sink when a door slams downstairs. A second later, Stevie’s voice rings out. “David!” 

He hurries to the stairs and nearly bumps into her on her way up. “How the fuck did you get here so fast?” 

“Alexis called me first.” 

And, God, he kind of loves his sister for that. 

“Come on. We have to get out of here,” Stevie says, grabbing his hand and running past him, tugging him back to the bedroom so hard, he nearly slips in his socks on the hardwood. 

“What?” 

“Do you remember what it was like when the Sebastien photos leaked? We’re maybe five minutes ahead of the press. Pack a bag, let’s go.” Then she disappears into the bathroom, and he hears the clinking of bottles banging together. 

He moves on autopilot, since years of packing bags at the last minute to rescue Alexis ingrained in him the ability to be mobile in less than two minutes. He doesn’t even know how long he’s packing for, but he grabs three pairs of briefs, two pairs of jeans, three sweaters, and whatever pajamas are on folded on top in the drawer, just as Stevie returns and dumps what looks like the entirety of his medicine cabinet into the bag before yanking his phone charger from the wall and stuffing it in her pocket. 

“Let’s go.” 

He numbly pats his own pocket, making sure his phone is still there as they make their way back downstairs. Grabbing his keys from the table, he gives a cursory look around the apartment before unhooking his coat and allowing Stevie to literally drag him out the door. He tries Patrick’s number again in the tense elevator ride down, but this time, the phone goes straight to voicemail, and he curses again as Stevie holds her hand up so she can poke her head outside first. 

“Clear.” 

He feels like he’s in the worst straight-to-video action movie ever made. 

Whatever car Stevie took to get here is still idling on the curb, and when David slides into the back, he notices that his parents’ address is displayed on the driver’s phone as the intended destination. 

“We can go to Patrick’s if you’d like,” Stevie starts, noticing him looking, “but just in case anyone follows us, I didn’t think you’d want to lead them there.” 

He’s already shaking his head before she even finishes her sentence. “No. My parents’ is fine.” It’s probably where Alexis is heading anyway. He tilts his head back and takes his first deep breath since “David, are you alone?”

“Have you seen it yet?” Stevie murmurs. "The photo?"

He shakes his head again. “Have you?” 

“No.” Then: “Do you want to?” 

“Not yet.” He lifts his head and swipes open his phone, pulling up Rachel’s contact and hitting her number. 

“I don’t have him,” she answers on the second ring. 

“Is he home?” Worry strips away his armor with every minute that David doesn’t have news. 

“He’s not.” 

“Are you sure? Maybe he’s - ” 

“David, I’m standing in his living room.” 

Well that’s definitive. “Fuck. What about Ray?”

“Ray’s doing battle from his office. He also hasn’t heard from him, but Ivan’s not answering either, and Ivan always answers so I can only hope they’re together.”

David takes comfort in that. He’d hate for Patrick to be alone at a time like this. But then why the fuck is he not picking up his phone? he thinks, before immediately chastising himself. He can’t imagine what Patrick’s going through. David can’t fault him if he needs time. “Have you talked to his parents?” 

“Not yet. I was about to when you called… though I think they’d probably rather hear from you.”  

“Okay. Stevie and I are heading to my parents’. I’ll call them on the way.” 

“I’ll meet you there.” She hangs up, and David immediately pulls up Marcy’s number as the car hurtles up 3rd Avenue. 

“Sorry,” he starts, almost forgetting that he’s not alone in the car. “I - ”

But Stevie just places a hand on his leg. “David, I know I bust your balls on a regular basis, but today is not that day. Do what you need to do.” 

He nods and covers her hand with his own, hitting Marcy’s name and putting the phone to his ear.

“David, oh thank God,” she greets almost immediately. “Are you okay, sweetheart?” 

And, Jesus, just the sound of her voice is almost enough to crack him wide open. 

“Um, I’m okay, I think I’m okay,” he honestly hasn’t had a chance to think much, “but I can’t reach Patrick. Have you heard from him?” 

“No, we haven’t. We were sort of hoping you had.” There’s a change in background noise, and David can tell she’s put him on speaker. 

“No, I’ve called twice. I left him a voicemail the first time, but the second time, it didn’t even ring.” 

Her breath gusts across the line in a sigh. David still hasn’t let go of Stevie’s hand. “If I know my boy, and I like to think I do, he needs to process. He’ll want to get his head around this before he sees anyone.” 

“Even me?” David asks, hating how small he sounds. Stevie squeezes his thigh. 

“Especially you, sweetheart.” 

“I don’t - ” David’s throat goes tight and he licks his lips. “I don’t need him to wrap his mind around it. I don’t need him to be brave. I just need him.”

“We know, David,” Clint says. “And Patrick knows it, too.” 

“If you hear from him, will you…?”

“We’ll call you, David,” Marcy murmurs. “But he’s far more likely to reach out to you than us.” 

He smiles sadly. “Then I’ll let you know if he does.” 

“Thank you, dear.” 

“Hang in there,” Clint says. 

“I will. Bye.” 

“Bye, sweetheart.” 

He drops the phone in his lap and pinches the bridge of his nose with the hand that’s not still on top of Stevie’s. 

“Any idea where he could be?” she asks. 

“I don’t know. A hotel?” 

“You’d think he’d want to stay home. Build a fort.” 

And though a fort sounds amazing, particularly of the blanket variety, David shakes his head. “Not if he’s worried about them finding him.” 

Patrick has worked hard to keep his home address private. Sure, he said he has good neighbors, but given this recent news, any request for privacy can be swayed by the proper price. David would fucking know. 

The car makes a left onto 63rd before looping around down 5th to make another left onto 62nd. They’ve barely parked before Hector has the door open and is ushering David and Stevie across the sidewalk and into the lobby where Alexis is pacing in yoga pants, an oversized hoodie, a messy topknot, and zero makeup. 

“Oh my God, David,” she blurts, running over to wrap him in a relieved hug like he's a soldier returned from war. 

“Um, okay,” he says as he awkwardly pats her back. Over her shoulder, Hector looks on, concerned but also tense, like he’s braced for a fight. It wouldn’t be the first time the paps had descended on the Rose Family Manse, and Hector has handled them every goddamn time. 

“How is Mr. Brewer?” he asks, and David swallows as lets go of his sister. 

“Um, I’ll let you know when I hear from him.” 

Hector gives him a tight smile and a nod. “Well, tell him we’re thinking of him.” 

“I will.” And he absolutely will. Patrick will be blown away by how many people just want the best for him; just want his happiness. But it really shouldn’t be a surprise. Not for anyone who knows the man who gives so much of himself to everyone he meets. 

“Come on,” Alexis says, taking his bag from his limp grip and stepping into the elevator Hector so helpfully summoned. “Mom and Dad are upstairs.” 

“Mom’s awake?” 

“And plotting. Buckle up.” 

David waits until the doors slide shut before asking, “Has she broken into the bar yet?” 

“Nope. Shockingly sober.” 

Well, that’s… a surprise. Normally when drama of the highest nature befalls the family, Moira Rose relies on her allies, Hendricks and Schweppes. David, for his part, usually contacts Fortnum & Mason. 

The elevator doors slide open, and he’s immediately enveloped by feathers and Chanel. “How is dear Pat?” his mother asks in the closest approximation of a hug she can manage as David coughs around her plumage. 

“I don’t know,” he grinds out, because he should know. A good boyfriend would know. 

“Moira, let the kid breathe,” his father says, before raising a silver carafe. “Coffee, David?” 

“Jesus, God, please.” 

“Oh I had no idea you’d become so pious in your hour of need,” his mother says, just before Alexis grabs her elbow and steers her back to the couch. 

“Okay, Mom? Not helping.” 

David takes the cup of coffee his father hands him, not even caring how it’s prepared, that’s how desperate he is, and takes a large gulp. 

“Patrick’s off the grid,” he admits, and Stevie huffs out a breath behind him. 

“Who can blame him?” 

“But how did The Post obtain such an illustration?” 

Jesus. He thunks his cup down on the table with a finality that echoes around the room, because of course it’s at the fucking Post. Retribution for what happened at the Tony press junket, no doubt. 

“I haven’t even seen it,” he clips. "This is Antonio?" 

“Technically it was released on reddit and then TMZ picked it up,” Alexis explains with a wince. “But The Post is making a front page meal out of it.” Then she hands over her phone with the article pulled up and the photo enlarged. He takes it with bated breath and draws comfort from Stevie who crowds in beside him to look.

Alexis wasn’t wrong - it’s dark and blurry but unmistakably them. It could be passed off as nothing if spun like a political operative on the brink of a scandal, but David sees the way Patrick cups his cheek, fingers sliding beneath his ear as his thumb traces his jawline. He sees his own hand on Patrick’s arm, gripping tight to his bicep in a bid not to let him go. It could be spun, sure. 

But no one would believe them if they tried. 

“Where’s it from?” Stevie asks. “Opening?” 

“No,” David murmurs, looking closer. “We’re not dressed right. It’s…” he squints. “Oh you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

PBandJ: Do we think it’s real? 
      BrewsClues: Looks pretty real. Makes sense honestly. If you think about it. I could do a PowerPoint, but I feel like that would be overkill. 
PBandJ: I’ve been blind. 
PBandJ: @Ampersand’s being awfully quiet. Do you think they saw the pic ahead of time? They said they knew for sure. 
      BrewsClues: Whatever. I don’t care. I’m happy if he’s happy. 
PBandJ: They’re cute together. 
      BrewsClues: They really are.

🎭 🎭 🎭

Honey, I understand that you need this time. Just please tell me you’re safe. 

David stares at the unanswered text, the green instead of blue bubble damning. The lack of a Delivered beneath it heartbreaking. 

When Rachel arrived not that long after he and Stevie, she assured him that he shouldn’t read too much into this; that Patrick is a runner, always has been, but he always comes back. It’s how he processes. 

David knows that, and he and Patrick will be having a chat about those particular coping mechanisms post haste, but. He just - hates feeling so helpless. 

“He uses stadiums as pseudonyms,” he snaps to the room at large. “Surely, we must be able to crack this code. I know at least one of you watches sports!” He looks to his father, whose eyes are wider than the saucer upon which his espresso rests.  

“Son, you know those season tickets to the Yankees are for client purposes only.” 

“Jesus Christ.” 

Stevie’s on one laptop, looking up contact information for every hotel Patrick has ever stayed in on the island of Manhattan, thanks to Rachel. Alexis is on another, cross-referencing every arena Patrick has played at with possible names he might derive from them.

“M. Garden?” Rachel suggests. 

“The Garden was a big deal, David,” Stevie says, and David’s heart trips over itself remembering that night: 

“David, are you asking me what the title of my album means?” 
“Well, the fan sites only tell me so much.” 
“Do they. Well, enlighten me, please. I’ve never been on them.” 
“And neither… have… I.” 

“Wait, M. Garden? Or N?” Alexis asks, breaking David from his reverie. 

“What?” 

“M for Manhattan or N for New York?” 

“Ugh, this is a really stupid system,” Stevie groans, and David can’t help but concur. Still, she picks up her phone and calls the Empire because she’s a good friend and the hotel isn’t that far from Patrick’s house. It's the natural place to start. 

“Hi, do you have a Mr. Garden staying with you?... Ah… And not a Mr. Yankee… or a Mr…. Mets? Right, yep. No, appreciate it. Thanks, bye.” Stevie hangs up and looks around. “Yeah, that’s a ‘no.”  

“Oh my God. Try the Mandarin Oriental.” David knows it’s useless; he knows he won’t find Patrick until he wants to be found, but he has to try. Patrick has to know that every effort was made for him in this… this really shitty situation. 

It’s a ‘no’ from the Mandarin Oriental and the St. Regis and The Mark and the Four Seasons (both of them). From The Greenwich and The Warwick and Crosby Street and, Jesus, even The Waldorf. 

“What about Rose?” Stevie asks, looking like a lightbulb just went off over her head, Looney Tunes-style. 

“What?” 

“You said so yourself that his tour kicked off in Pasadena, and I made a point to remind you that the venue there is called - ”

“The Rose Bowl,” he and Rachel say simultaneously. 

Hope flares in his chest as Stevie starts calling all of the hotels again. 

“Hi, I’m looking for a Mr. P. Rose?” 

David doesn’t care that it’s technically P for Pasadena; he hears Patrick Rose in his head all the same, and his heart grows wings. 

Ten minutes later, his wings are clipped: it’s still a ‘no’ across the board.

“Fuck,” he whispers as Stevie hangs up with the last one. “And you’re sure he wouldn’t stay at a new hotel?” he asks Rachel, but she shakes her head. 

“He’d want familiarity. A place that Ivan knows and where he has contacts. He won’t want to worry about how he’s getting in and out.” 

David nods and checks the time on his phone. It’s well after 11am, and his stomach is letting him know it, but he can’t even eat the food that Georges laid out, as delicious as it looks. 

His mother, for all her other foibles, still knows the business, which is why he’s not at all surprised that the question he’s been avoiding eventually comes from her:

“What about the show?” 

David sighs and rubs at his forehead. “I don’t know. I have to get ready. I’ll need to get to the theatre.” 

“Is that wise?” his mother asks. 

“Well, I can’t just hide. One of us has to - ” but he bites his lip, because he’s honestly not mad at Patrick. He’s mad at this situation they’ve both been thrust into. Neither of them asked for this. 

“Can’t Ken go?” Alexis asks. “Isn’t that his job?” 

No.” And David’s response is vicious enough to silence everyone on the subject. “Sorry, just… no.” 

Stevie looks at him, because she knows now. Rachel might as well. If she’s put two and two together. 

Because the outfits they’re wearing in the photo are from the night of the first preview. And the location they’re standing in is the back hallway of Bond 45. 

“I got dressed in the dark. I need to…” he gestures vaguely to himself. “I need to do something. Here.” Shower, first and foremost. The double paned windows are thick, but not enough to drown out the sound of the gathering crowd outside, and he’ll be damned if he shows his face looking like he just rolled out of bed. 

Only Rachel seems semi-put together and by ‘put together,’ David means ‘ran a comb through her hair.’ He and Stevie and Alexis all look like ensemble orphans from Annie.

“But he has an understudy, right?” his dad asks. 

“Of course he does. We’re not idiots,” David snaps, but his hands shake as he pulls out his phone and texts Heather. 

Call Byron.

Her reply is immediate, like she’s been waiting. 

[Heather]
You sure? 

No. He’s not. 

But even if Patrick magically turns up, there’s no way David’s letting him do the show.

Tell him there’s a good chance he’s going on tonight.

He feels his mother’s hand on his shoulder, gentle but firm, and that’s what nearly undoes him; what nearly sends him to his knees. 

“It’s the right call,” she whispers as David’s phone buzzes once more. 

[Heather]
He hasn’t done it yet. We’ll need to do a put-in. I’m running out of time to call everyone. 

David’s thumbs hover over the screen, as if willing Patrick to text. 

He doesn’t. 

Do it. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

@brewsclues: You know I love being right, but not like this. Fuck TMZ and The Post. And fuck whoever posted that photo of them. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

The last thing David expects to see when he exits the bathroom is Ronnie Lee sitting in a chair in the corner of his childhood bedroom, like she’s fucking Jacob Marley come to haunt him for his sins. 

“Jesus Christ!” he yells, stumbling back into the door frame, banging his elbow in the process. If he bleeds through his white shirt, he’s gonna be pissed. “What are you doing here?” 

“We had a meeting,” she says simply.  

Yes, but not here. Not now. Not after that. “What if I hadn’t been dressed?” 

Ronnie shrugs and takes a sip of the espresso someone unwittingly gave her. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.” 

And, unfortunately, that is true, thanks to the period of his life that they accurately refer to as The Dark Ages. More than once, she had to haul his naked ass out of a stranger’s bed to get him to rehearsal on time. She’s never let him forget it, either. 

She puts the cup down on his dresser and leans forward, elbows resting on her knees. “How you doin’?”

“You know,” he huffs out a humorless laugh, “it’s been a bitch of a morning, I’m not gonna lie.” The fact that she’s asking at all is… concerning, but he tries not to focus on that. 

Ronnie nods and clasps her hands together, worrying her fingers in an anxious tell she doesn’t usually show. “Have you heard from him?” 

David shakes his head, because he can’t say the words out loud to one more person. Ronnie nods again like she’s not surprised. And maybe she isn’t. For all of her complaining about him, David has a sneaking suspicion that Ronnie understands Patrick better than most. 

“What, um, what are you doing here?” 

She looks at him like he’s an idiot. “I’m your agent, David. It’s my job to step in front of you when the bombs start going off.” 

He tucks his lips behind his teeth and bites down, because if he doesn’t ground himself, if he doesn’t cause himself pain, he’s finally going to lose it. And he has a feeling Patrick is currently losing it enough for both of them. 

“I get the sense that only one of us can freak out at a time, and it appears to be your turn.” 

“You get me?” Ronnie asks when David says nothing. 

“I get you,” he quietly replies, tamping down the urge to hug her. Or to tell her that stepping in front of him will only kill them both. He highly doubts either sentiment would be appreciated. 

“Good. Then explain to me what the hell that means,” she says, pointing at his shirt. 

He looks down at his sweater, reading the words upside down: 

WILD ALOOF REBEL

“Seemed fitting.” And it does: Patrick makes him wild, the press makes him aloof, the show makes him a rebel.

She grunts. “I like it.” 

And that’s about as close as she’ll come to approving any of his sartorial choices. 

They return downstairs to find Rachel and Alexis showered and dressed and in hushed conference in the living room as Stevie stares out of the window. Where they all got clothes, he’ll never know, though he was a little too in his own world to notice if either Rachel or Stevie brought bags with them. 

“How bad?” he asks Stevie, and she shrugs but doesn’t tear her eyes away from whatever is down below. 

“I mean - it won’t be a pleasant walk to the car, but luckily, the sidewalk is narrow.” 

“So like, on a scale of morning-after-Ibiza to Sebastien’s-photo-leak…” 

Stevie winces as she turns and raises her thumb into the air. 

“Fuck,” he mutters.  

“We will present a united front!” his mother announces, appearing from fucking nowhere with her black battle dress and platinum bob on. “Just like the US and Old Blighty during World War the Second.” 

Oh for fuck’s sake. 

“And as heartening as that is,” David begins, because it’s heartening and also terrifying, “we will not all fit in one car.” 

“Oh I had Artie call his brother,” his father explains. “He has his own car service out in Jersey.” 

David tries not to move his face and fails. “That’s so great for him.” 

But two cars means they can split up, and that’s what they do, determining that Alexis and their parents will ride in one car, while David, Stevie, Rachel and Ronnie follow in the other. They take the stairs to the lobby, and David braces himself as the noise from outside echoes off the marble walls. Hector stands guard at the door, but David can still see the hoards of people with cameras braced at the ready through the warped glass beyond. There’s a clear path from the door to the cars parked on the curb, though, and if David squints, he can make out a few hulking men in dark jackets almost forming a chain with their bodies. 

“Who are those guys?” 

“Oh, I called security at Rose Video and they sent some people,” his dad says, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels like it was nothing. 

David stares at him. It was everything. 

“That was really nice of them,” he whispers, and his dad nods, hearing the It was really nice of you that he means but can never quite get himself to say. At least not while sober. 

“You ready?” Ronnie asks, and David nods, allowing himself to be flanked by Alexis and Rachel and Stevie. His parents take the lead as Ronnie brings up the rear, and David almost chokes up when Hector opens the door for all of them and then stands next her to follow them out.

“David!” 
“David, over here!” 
“Is it true?” 
“Where’s Patrick?” 
“David!”

The wall of noise is obscene, a tsunami of shouting and reaching and clicking. Someone’s hand is on his back but he keeps his head ducked and his sunglasses on, letting Stevie slip her hand into his as Rachel takes his arm.  

Luckily, it turns out that Artie’s brother looks like he just stepped off the set of The Sopranos, and much like Ivan, he bats any encroaching paps away with a sweep of his beefy hand. David slides into the backseat after Rachel as Stevie jumps in behind him and Ronnie gets in front. 

“You hang in there, sir,” Hector says as he shuts the door and bangs on the side of the car. 

Artie’s brother (David still doesn’t know his name, but he looks like a Frankie) gets in the driver’s seat and nearly takes out a few cameras as he peels away from the curb, following the SUV carrying David’s parents and sister. 

“How you doing back there?” Ronnie asks, and David tilts his head against the leather and sighs towards the ceiling. 

“No idea, honestly.” 

“Fair enough.” 

Rachel’s hand comes down on his leg, and he glances sideways at her. “Please don’t be mad at him,” she whispers, pleading with her big eyes. 

“I’m not mad at him,” he replies. “I could never be mad about this.” And it’s the truth. 

She swallows and nods, giving his knee a squeeze but leaving her hand there. The ride to the theatre is slow, given the midday traffic, but uneventful. They’re just passing Carnegie Hall coming down 7th when his phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out to find Heather’s name on the screen. 

[Heather]
The stage door is insane. Shubert security is doing what they can, but I talked to our colleagues at the Schoenfeld. You’re coming in the back way. 

He leans forward to show the text to Ronnie, and she nods. “I should have thought of that.” Then she turns to Not-Frankie. “We’ll be heading to 45th instead of 44th.”

Not-Frankie nods and tightens his grip on the wheel, as David replies to Heather. 

Roger that. And thanks. 

“I’ll text Alexis the new plan,” Rachel says, fingers already flying away on her phone. She pauses for a moment before announcing, “They’re still going to head to the Broadhurst. Be a decoy.” 

“That’s nice of them,” Stevie murmurs, but David just rolls his eyes. 

“Please, my mother and sister live for the drama.” It’s not the first time Alexis has done a bait and switch, but it is the first time she’s done it for David. He’s… remarkably grateful. 

The car makes a right onto 45th and passes slowly through Times Square before pulling up to The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with its bright blue and yellow marquee. There’s a man standing just outside the glass doors of the box office, and he gives a small wave as Ronnie and Not-Frankie slide out of the car. 

“Looks clear here,” Stevie murmurs as Artie’s brother opens her door, and she climbs out with David and Rachel following.

The man by the lobby doors steps forward and holds out his hand. “Hi, David, I’m Arturo, the PSM here. Heather’s an old friend.” 

“Hey, Arturo,” he replies, a little dazed, taking his hand.  

“We’ll take you through the bathroom instead of the alley,” he says as he leads them into the lobby. “A bit more private.” 

“The bathroom?” Rachel blurts, but David’s known about the secret passageways between the theatres for years. The Schoenfeld and The Broadhurst are sister theatres, built by the same architect flush against each other.  

“Um, thanks for this,” David says as they’re led into the dark orchestra. “And sorry, you know, for the insanity.” 

Arturo just shakes his head as he takes them along the back of the house and down the stairs that lead to the basement. 

“Not a problem at all. You come this way anytime you need.” 

“Thanks.” It’s odd to be in a theatre that’s not his own after hours (or before hours), but it’s familiar in a way that’s comforting. They’re mirror images of each other. 

They pass the empty concessions stand as they cross the downstairs lobby into the men’s room, and a security guard stands at the far end, a ring of kings dangling from his grasp with an open door beside him.

“Just through there,” Arturo instructs, “I gave Heather a heads up you were on your way.” 

“Thank you,” David says, stopping briefly to shake his hand before making his way towards the guard.

“Oh and David?” Arturo calls out.

“Yeah?” 

“Anytime,” he reiterates. “And it goes for Patrick, too.” 

“Thanks.” David’s throat goes tight. “He, uh, he won’t need it today, but he’d appreciate it. I know he would.” 

Arturo nods, and then says simply, “They fuck with one of us, they fuck with all of us.” 

And that’s… that’s not a sense of camaraderie David’s ever had in this industry. Not until now. 

“Thank you.” 

Then the door on the Broadhurst side opens, and Heather stands there looking pale and drawn. David knows he’s not the only one who’s had a long morning. 

Ronnie claps Arturo on the shoulder and gently nudges David on his way. “We’re gonna be late,” she says, and he allows himself to be steered towards the door, giving the guard a tight smile as he passes. 

“It’s like fucking Narnia,” Stevie mutters, and Rachel laughs behind her. 

“I think I would have preferred the wardrobe.”

The second David steps into the men’s room of the Broadhurst, Heather gathers him up in her arms. 

“Thanks, guys,” she says over his shoulder to Arturo and the guard, and David hears the click of the door behind him. He’s in. He’s safe. Heather squeezes him and lets go as she addresses Stevie. “Go get into your mic. No costumes.” 

Stevie nods and grips David’s wrist tightly before hurrying out of the bathroom to get ready.

“How’s Byron?” he asks, but Heather waves away the question.

“How are you?” 

Everyone keeps asking him that, but fuck if he has an answer. “I’m fine. I just want to get the show up tonight.” 

“I recognize what you’re wearing,” Heather blurts, “in the picture, I mean.” And David shouldn’t be surprised because she misses fucking nothing. “Is it who I think it is?” 

He sighs. “If you’re asking me if the person who took that photo is in this building, then the answer is I don’t know because we’re still standing in the fucking men’s room.” 

“Wait, what?” Rachel yells, but Ronnie stays quiet because, like Heather, she misses nothing either. “Someone here did that?” And Jesus, Patrick once said Rachel could be scary but nothing prepares David for the unmitigated fire in her eyes or the way she starts to storm out of the bathroom before she even has a direction to aim her intended violence. 

“Okay, okay,” David grunts as he gets an arm around her waist and almost hauls her off her feet. “Jesus, Rocky Balboa - ” 

“Tell me who it was, David,” she demands, wiggling out of his grasp and brushing her hair from her flushed face. 

“I do not think that is the best course of action at the moment?”

“I say let her go,” Ronnie drawls. “She could absolutely take him.” 

David pinches the bridge of his nose, feeling a migraine coming on. At least the scuffle has gotten them closer to the bathroom door, because this is ridiculous on multiple levels. 

“Is he here yet?” he directs to Heather, but she shakes her head. 

“We had trouble reaching him at first.” 

“I bet you did.” 

Who?” Rachel demands, fists balled tight at her sides, and David can’t really blame her. He’d commit murder in the name of Patrick Brewer, too. 

Ronnie must notice that he’s already holding on by a very thin thread, because she places a hand on Rachel’s shoulder, and says, “I’ll fill her in. Go do your job.” 

He’s grateful both for his agent and for Heather’s hand on his arm, pulling him out of the bathroom (fucking finally) and into the lobby towards the stairs. 

“Is everyone in?” he asks. 

“No one else has called out…” She leaves her sentence dangling there, because Patrick technically hasn’t. It’s tough to call out when no one’s heard from you at all. 

“I should say something before we start,” he murmurs as they climb up to the orchestra, but she stops him with a hand on his elbow.

“David, I think you’ll find that the cast doesn’t need you to say anything. In fact, they might rather be the ones to do the talking.” 

“Oh God.” 

She smiles. “In a good way.” 

He does wish he wasn’t facing this alone, but not as much as he wishes Patrick wasn’t. He reaches the top of the stairs and takes a breath, relishing this moment of quiet just before the volume on everything reaches maximum.

The stage is bare, save for their set, and the only people in the orchestra that he can see are Derek, Mutt, and even Twyla who must be here to make last minute adjustments to Byron’s new costumes. She’s so hands on even when she doesn’t need to be, and David appreciates it more than he can say. 

“You’ll page me when he gets here?” he asks, and Heather nods. 

“Ritchie’s on the lookout. He’s going to send him in through the lobby. Make up an excuse.” 

“Thanks.” David starts to walk down the aisle, pausing when he realizes that the person bent over their laptop on the end of one of the rows is none other than their company manager. “Shannon,” he greets quietly, but her head snaps up as if he yelled all the same, eyes going wide. 

“Oh. Hi.” She looks at him with… not pity, precisely, but empathy, maybe. It’s a shitty situation for anyone to be in, and David is so used to people wishing shit upon him that this turn of events is still foreign. 

He clears his throat and focuses on business, because that might be the only way he gets through this day. “How many voters did we have in tonight?” 

“Seven. They’ve already been contacted to reschedule.” 

Davids nods as Shannon goes back to typing away on her laptop. 

“How is he?” she asks quietly.

David clears his throat. “I don’t know.” 

“Should I pull tickets? Are you sitting tonight?” 

“Definitely not,” he blurts, the thought of being surrounded by gawkers already making him squirm. “I’ll watch from the back.” 

“I figured, but… had to ask.” Then her typing slows, a thoughtful look crossing her face. “You never did need those hotel rooms, did you.” 

And he can’t help it, he laughs, a sad yet joyous catharsis. “No. No, I did not. I’ll reimburse the production.” 

“Don’t worry about it.” Then she grins. “I mean, technically it’s your family’s money anyway.” 

“Touche.” He pats her on the shoulder and continues on down the aisle, stopping abruptly when his phone buzzes in his pocket. He pulls it out and his knees nearly give out when he sees the one name he’s been waiting for finally flash across the screen. 

[Patrick]
I’m safe.

“Oh my God,” David blurts without meaning to, blindly feeling around for the nearest chair to sink into as his fingers fumble out a response. 

Where are you? Can I come to you?

[Patrick]
I’m not in a great head space yet.  

You know I don’t care. I mean - I CARE, but not like that.

[Patrick]
I know you do. I just need a bit more time. 

Okay. 

Then:

I love you.

[Patrick]
I love you, too. 

And then: 

[Patrick]
I’m sorry.

Don’t you dare apologize to me. You do what you need to do. I will be here when you’re ready.

Ellipses don’t appear again, and he exhales harshly as he sinks back into the velvet lined seat and throws his arm over his face. 

“Hey, man.” 

He sucks in a ragged breath at the sound of Derek’s voice, and the firm hand that comes down on his shoulder nearly breaks what little composure he has left. “Ugh, fuck. Hey.” 

He hears Derek sit in the seat behind him, but his hand remains where it is. He doesn’t ask if David wants to talk. He doesn’t ask how Patrick is (which is a shame, really, now that David finally knows). He just sits there, his hand large and warm and steady, and the weight of it slows David’s breathing and softens the hammering of his perpetually stuttering heart. 

“Is anyone else witnessing this?” David asks after a long moment of silence, and Derek’s resulting chuckle is low and comforting. 

“Nah. I mean, like, half the cast’s onstage, but other than that, no.” 

David’s head whips up hard enough to send him to the chiropractor, and he glares when all that greets him is the ghostlight. “Fuck you.” 

Derek squeezes one last time and stands, his laughter carrying throughout the theatre long after he disappears up the aisle. David pulls out his phone again and looks at his thread with Patrick. 

If you only knew how many people have asked about you. 

Which they’re clearly doing, even without using their words.

Then, remembering his promise to the Brewers, he pulls up his text with Marcy and quickly types out a message. 

Just heard from him. He’s safe.

Her response is immediate: 

[Marcy]
He just reached out to us, too. Thank you, David. Thank you for the way you love our boy. 

Which just wrecks him all over again, and it takes far longer to get himself under control once more. 

Mutt is the next to approach just as David is wiping his eyes on his sleeves, leaning against the seat in front of him and nodding back towards the stage. “You may want to head to Patrick’s dressing room.”  

“What? Why? Is everything okay?” Part of him wildly thinks that Patrick’s there, but he knows that’s not true. Not with the text he just received. 

“Someone may just…” Mutt shrugs, “appreciate it.” 

David frowns as he stands, brain immediately going to Byron, but before he can think further on it, Mutt’s hand comes down on his shoulder and squeezes much like Derek’s had. 

“We got you guys. You know that, right?”

David clears his throat, because he just got it together, and nods. “I know it,” he whispers, which is all he’s capable of at the moment. 

“By the way, your family’s in our office,” Mutt warns, as David heads for the pass door. 

“Oh God,” he groans. “Sorry about that.” 

“Why do you think I’m out here?” Mutt asks, and it’s true. He should probably be stage right, helping corral the actors, but if three out of four Roses were in his office, David would be hiding, too. 

He makes it backstage without running into anyone and tiptoes past stage management to get to the stairs, his family’s bickering following him up. He’s wary as he approaches the first floor, but when he pushes the door of Patrick’s dressing room open, he finds not Byron, but Cecilia sitting in the chair at the vanity, head in her hands. The door squeaks, and she looks up, eyes red in the reflection of the mirror. 

“Oh, Cee,” he breathes, and that’s it. She loses it. “Come here,” he says, holding out his arms. She’s up and in them a moment later, burying her face in his chest. Luckily for his sweater, she’s already cried off all of her makeup. 

Her arms come around his back as he holds her tight, and her words trip over a hiccup as she finally says, “I should be comforting you.” 

But he shrugs because… he’s honestly okay. Receiving a bit more attention than he’d normally like, but his family (chosen and otherwise) has done a good job of protecting him. His biggest issue right now is being apart from Patrick. 

“I’m not the one who just got outed,” he murmurs against her hair, but she just gives a little shrug in return. 

“Still. It’s not easy watching the person you love go through this.” 

No. No, it’s not easy at all. 

“Have you heard from him?” she asks as she pulls away, and David nods. 

“He’s okay.” Granted, he doesn’t tell her how recently he found that out, but it’s good knowledge to have. The best.

“Where’d the picture come from? How’d they get it?” 

But before he can answer, Heather’s voice is booming over the intercom: 

“David to the house, please. David to the house.” 

He sucks in a breath as his spine snaps into place, and even without looking in the mirror, he can feel his expression harden. “I think you’re about to find out.” 

Cecilia slips her hand into his without him having to ask, and he leads the way out the door, surprised when he doesn’t encounter a single person on the way to the stage - oh. 

It’s because they’re all already there. Sequestered in a huddle in the middle, but there. The only two people that aren’t are Rachel and Ronnie, but that’s because they’re waiting on either side of the door for David to appear, flanking him so he doesn’t have to walk out there on his own.

It takes far longer than it should for him to realize that… everybody is on the deck. Not just the cast or the skeleton crew needed for the put-in or stage management - the people that belong there - but also Shannon and Derek and Twyla, and even Ruth and Miguel, no doubt having been alerted to the change in staff that’s about to occur. 

And there, in front of all of them, is his family. His Roses. Ready to do battle from the high ground for one of their own. 

It takes every ounce of David’s willpower not to sob. 

Stevie breaks away and hurries over to them, giving Cecilia a quick squeeze no doubt in response to her still-red eyes, before falling into line next to Rachel. Ronnie looks at David, and David looks back. She wasn’t kidding when she said that anyone who came for Patrick would have to go through her first, because she looks like Henry the fucking V on the verge of a St. Crispin’s Day speech. 

Only the work lights are on, not the brights, which means it doesn’t take long for David to lock eyes with Ken just coming down the aisle. He slows. He stops. He stares. 

He knows. 

“Get the fuck out of my theatre,” David says. 

Whatever idle chatter had been happening stalls instantly. 

“It wasn’t me,” Ken blurts, realizing incredibly quickly, either through David’s words or the collective murderous gaze being leveled at him, that he’s quite fucked. “I mean - yes, it was my picture,” he admits. “But I didn’t leak it. My phone was hacked.” 

David doesn’t know if he’s telling the truth, nor does he really care. “Why the fuck did you take it in the first place? That wasn’t your business,” he spits, not waiting for an answer. “That wasn’t your right.”  

But before Ken can offer an explanation that David is not willing to hear, David’s father steps forward, stands at the edge of the stage, and lifts his chin, every inch a CEO. Sometimes David forgets that for all of his father’s verbal and emotional bumbling, Johnny Rose still runs an incredibly successful company. And he reminds everyone in the theatre quite forcibly when he stands up to his full height, looks Ken in the eyes, and says:

“This isn’t a company, it’s a family. And you’re not a part of it anymore. Get out.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Playbill.com
Patrick Brewer Out of Tuesday Evening’s Performance of Hamlet
The announcement comes hours after a photo was released online, allegedly showing Brewer kissing his director, David Rose. A reason for his absence was not given.

🎭 🎭 🎭

It’s times like these when David wishes the male ensemble wasn’t kept on the upper floors. His distinct lack of food today and lack of gym visits every day is making this trek up Everest dangerous for multiple reasons. His blood sugar levels are low, and a single swoon could send him tumbling straight to the basement, right into traction.

But he spent the afternoon hiding in the orchestra, directing from the fifth row to dodge the well-meaning, but persistent sympathetic glances his cast kept tossing his way. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk to them or appreciate their concern; he’d just really rather have Patrick with him to face their friends together. 

Which means it’s been six hours, and he still hasn’t had a private word with his Hamlet for the evening. The man picking up the baton and carrying them all across the goal posts.

He finally makes it to the top floor (huffing and puffing, but he gets there), knocking on the door frame and startling Byron who’s flipping through his script casually enough for David to know that the review is more a comfort than any last minute need to remember his lines. 

“Hey,” he murmurs. 

“Hey,” Byron says, glancing up into the mirror, before turning and gesturing for David to take a seat on the only space available. The ensemble dressing rooms are a far cry from the star ones downstairs, but David sits in the free chair and leans his elbows on his knees.  

“You know you can take his room. It’s closer to the stage. That’s how this works.” 

But Byron just shakes his head. “Didn’t feel right.” 

And David can’t unpack that. Not yet. Not when the love he has for this cast is threatening to burst the flimsy dam around his heart. 

“You’ve got admirers,” he says instead, nodding at the bouquet of flowers on Byron’s station.  

“Yeah, um, they’re from Patrick.” 

David blinks. “What?” 

Byron nods and hands the card over. “Delivered about an hour ago.” 

David takes the card with a hand that’s not quite steady, flipping it open to read the handwritten note inside:

You’ve got this. I’m sorry I can’t be there to cheer you on in person, but I know the play can be in no better hands. Tear it up, but most importantly, enjoy. It’s a hell of a ride. - Patrick

He chuckles ruefully. “You know, I came up here to tell you that you did great today and that you didn’t need to worry about anything tonight, but… it looks like someone beat me to it.” 

“Great minds,” Byron murmurs. Then: “Is he okay?” 

David nods. “He’s taking some time.” 

“Valid,” Byron replies. 

“And I honestly can’t say whether or not you’re going on again tomorrow.” David has no fucking idea.  

“That’s okay. What was done to him, to both of you, was really shitty.” 

And it was, but: “You don’t need to worry about that tonight. Just go out there and, like Patrick said, have fun. I’m not worried in the slightest,” he says, and he means it. “You’re gonna be amazing.” 

He hasn’t even allowed himself a moment to contemplate the fact that his cast just doesn’t care. Like, they care, but not in a bad way. God, he’d kiss every one of them if he could. 

“Thanks, David,’ Byron murmurs. “They’re big shoes to fill.” 

David stands and places a hand on his shoulder. “You wear them well.” 

And with that, he heads back downstairs, drained in a way that has nothing to do with the five flights he just climbed, and when he gets to the stage management office, he finds Rachel sitting in Brenda’s chair. 

“Have you been here all day?” he asks. Honestly, things were a bit of a blur after rehearsal started. He wasn’t aware of much beyond his immediate field of vision from the fifth row. 

Rachel shrugs. “It’s tough to do your job when your client won’t answer your calls.” 

Well, at least David isn’t the only one Patrick isn’t responding to. 

“If I have to say ‘no comment’ one more time,” she continues, “I swear to God, I’m breaking into Heather’s secret stash of champagne.” 

“It’s not so secret,” he replies, opening the door to the ensuite bathroom whose shower has been converted into a holdall for everything a stage manager might need - including booze. “Is my sister still here? Or Ronnie?” 

Rachel shakes her head. “Alexis had an idea she had to talk to Ted about - ”

“Frightening.” 

“And Ronnie had to ‘see a guy about a thing,” she says, using air quotes and all. 

“Ah. Yes. That’s Ronnie-speak for ‘Save David Rose’s ass. Again.’ I find it’s best not to ask questions.” 

“Probably a safe option,” she laughs, sobering quickly, and David remembers that, though Patrick is his now, he was Rachel’s first. And none of this can be easy on her. Especially considering a decent portion of the internet was still trying to find out details for their upcoming nonexistent wedding. 

“How are you?” 

“Me?” She looks surprised by the question, but she shouldn’t be. “I’m okay. I mean - Patrick and I have been talking about this moment for a long time, to be perfectly honest. This isn’t exactly how we wanted it to go, but. He wanted it out there.” She looks at him then, willing him to see. “I know neither of us is hearing much from him and that’s just what he needs right now, but… he’ll be relieved. I know he will.” 

And she would know. She’s had fifteen years of practice on David. 

He nods and swallows, hoping that’s the case. All he wants is what’s best for Patrick, but bringing Patrick onto this project has (despite all precautions) thrown him into this situation. 

“David?” 

“Hm?”

“I wasn’t being facetious when I said that Patrick and I have been talking about this for a while,” she murmurs, leaning forward. “Even before you came into the picture, it was something he wanted to do. Come out. Be himself. And then you gave him something he was proud of; through both this production and this relationship, he was proud of you. But you also gave him something he wanted to protect. He knew this was a possibility. He’s always known. I think he’s handling this better than you think he is, and that’s because this is the only way he knows how to handle things at all. He needs a minute, because he likes to be the one in control. He doesn’t want anyone to see him spiraling out.” 

“But that’s my job,” David argues. “To - to tether him.” 

“And he knows that,” she says simply. “He’s just not used to it yet.” She tilts her head and smiles sadly, and her hair slides across her cheek like a red curtain, hiding her expressive face. “I was never good at it. I didn’t do it right.” Then she looks at him. “But you do.” 

They haven’t had this conversation yet, the two of them: the ex and the next. They’re both so much more than that, though; David is well aware. He’s also aware that if Patrick ever heard him say those words, he’d take vociferous exception. But the closest he and Rachel have come to this conversation was that night in Sardi’s when David finally named the feeling that had been gradually growing within him. Gradually taking over his life. 

“I’m not sure about that,” he admits, but Rachel just smiles. 

“Alexis told me what the first thing that left your mouth was this morning. After she told you about the photo.” 

David barely remembers. 

“Does Patrick know?” Rachel recalls. “Didn’t matter that your personal business was splashed all over the internet and across front pages for the second time in less than a year, your first thought was for Patrick.” 

Well, of course it was. Why wouldn’t it have been? 

But then he remembers the moment Ronnie said, “Sebastien just sold them to The Post,” and how David’s first instinct was to run, to get as far away from Patrick as possible; and how Patrick’s was to get his arms around his waist to keep David from falling to the ground, before he even knew what the issue was. 

David wanted to run, not because of a lack of trust or faith in Patrick, despite the fact that they weren’t even dating at the time; it was protection. It was a need to come to terms with a new reality on his own before welcoming someone else into it. But Patrick kept offering help, even from afar, no matter how ready or not David was to accept that help. Patrick kept coming back. 

And that’s what David will do, too. 

“All of my thoughts are for Patrick,” he finally says, because it’s the most true thing that’s left his lips all day. 

But before Rachel can reply, Mutt comes in and grabs his headset from his desk, pausing for a moment as he glances back and forth between the two of them.

“Everything okay?” 

David nods. “Do you mind if I stay here until it starts?” 

“Nah, man,” Mutt replies. “You stay as long as you need.” Then he heads over to the intercom and calls Places, before disappearing to stage right. 

“Do you think he’ll be back tomorrow?” Rachel asks, looking stricken. 

“I don’t know.” He doesn’t say You know him better than I do, because after everything they just talked about, he’s honestly not sure at this point. 

Rachel nods, but her palm rests over her chest, like she’s trying to calm her heart. Then she says, “Nadia’s coming tomorrow,” and David hangs his head and sighs. 

“Dammit.”

Nadia.   

Patrick won’t want to miss that; won’t want to miss her. The invitation was his idea, after all, and the visit means so much to both of them. David honestly wouldn’t put it past Patrick to sneak back just for a photo op, assuming Nadia still wants to see him. 

He tries not to think too hard about it, about opinions, but people get funny when the pedestal they’ve placed their hero on wobbles about a bit. 

“Do you want me to stay with you?” Rachel asks, and David frowns, not understanding. “Out there, I mean,” she clarifies, nodding towards the door. 

“Oh. Um, no, I don’t think so.” He’d honestly rather hide in the dark on his own, because he knows that watching someone who isn’t the man he loves say those lines and sing those songs will make him feel some kind of way. Pride, yes, but an aching melancholy, too, because what they do is finite and temporary and eventually it will end. Tonight is one less opportunity that David has to see Patrick do this role. It isn’t anybody’s fault (except maybe Ken’s), but it’s a further reminder to savor the chances he does have. “But thank you.” 

Rachel gives him a soft smile and presses a kiss to his cheek just as the opening chords start up. He leaves the office and heads into the darkness, but Stevie catches him just before he gets to the pass door, hugging him so hard, he almost bursts into tears. In his defense, it’s just been a very messy day, and he’s one Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercial away from a complete emotional breakdown. 

Luckily no one notices him as he makes his way to the back of the house, and when he arrives, Joey behind the bar has a cocktail waiting for him. 

Thank you, he mouths, and Joey nods, placing a hand over his heart in more than just collegial respect. 

And from Hamlet’s first line - 

“A little more than kin, and less than kind.”

To his last - 

“The rest is silence.” 

… Byron gives it his all, his fucking everything, but it’s not the same. And how could it be? It’s an impossible task to place at the feet of even the most veteran of thespians, but fuck if David isn’t the one cheering the loudest when the man who isn’t Patrick takes his bow as Hamlet. Byron deserves that and more for keeping the curtain up when all David wants to do is wrap himself in it. 

He sneaks backstage through the pass door before the lights in the house go on. He had contemplated heading out through the lobby and looping around outside to the stage door, like he’s done so many times, before he remembered that there’s still a red carpet’s worth of paparazzi waiting outside, trying to catch a glimpse of David Rose, the man who snagged the internet’s boyfriend. So that was a hard no. 

The stage management office is always abuzz post-show, and his nerves are too fried for the commotion, so he heads one more floor up, sitting down on the loveseat in Patrick’s dressing room, trying not to remember the last time he sat in this spot; the last time he took Patrick apart, and then hand fed him shumai because David loves him and he asked. 

Stevie finds him after she's changed, holed up in the empty dressing room and staring at nothing in particular. She should mock him for it; call him pathetic and ridiculous and sad, but she doesn’t. And he’s not sure if he should be happy or hurt by that. 

“Do you want me to stay over?” she asks, and he nods, because he can’t face another night alone. Even if the last time he went to bed, he had no idea this is what he’d wake up to. He supposes that’s how it always goes, though: a life slotting into sections cordoned off by Before and After. 

“If you can bear to spend a night on the Upper East Side,” he says, because it’s easy. Because his bag is still at his parents’ and it doesn’t feel right to stay at Patrick’s without him there, no matter how welcome he might be. 

She rolls her eyes and drags her feet because she’s perfect and he doesn’t deserve her. “I mean - it’s gonna suck, but I’ll suffer through it.” 

Which is how they end up waiting in Patrick’s dressing room until Heather comes to collect them, personally walking them down to the men’s room so the security guard from the Schoenfeld can open the secret door back up and usher them over to 45th Street. He’d stayed despite the fact that his show is only a one-act, and David makes a note to send a gift basket to the theatre tomorrow with the kind of thanks he’s not sure how to fit on a greeting card. 

His parents disappeared long ago, after the unceremonious firing but not before asking Ruth and Miguel to order pizza for the entire company from John’s. They sent the car back for David, though, and when he and Stevie are escorted back into the house through the service entrance by Hector (here long after his usual time, as well, David notices), his parents’ greatest gift is making themselves scarce. Hector is the only person they encounter on the way up to the living room, and Georges must have read the news because there’s a plate of David’s favorite cookies waiting on the kitchen counter. 

Stevie takes the lot because she’s a hoarder, but he can’t regret it when they end up in his spacious bed with a bottle of wine and all of the chocolate chip maple oatmeal cookies they can eat between them. Then they curl into each other, nearly sharing a pillow, knees knocking and griping harmonizing as they try to settle in for the night, finding comfort in the steady breath and warmth of another person at their side.

And for the first time since Alexis last went missing, David sleeps with his phone not on silent, but that still doesn’t stop him from checking it every fifteen minutes between the hours of midnight and 4am, before finally passing out from sheer emotional exhaustion. He’s not exhausted enough, though, to sleep through the alert that comes through just after 9am, waking him with a jolt that nearly sends him to the floor in his haste to grab his phone.  

Patrick Brewer is sharing his location

🎭 🎭 🎭

Is the Photo Real? Is Patrick Brewer Gay? 

Patrick Brewer Allegedly Dating His Director David Rose

Is David Rose Sending A Message with Wild Aloof Rebel Shirt?

Petition to Censure The Post Crosses 500,000 Mark

🎭 🎭 🎭

“What the fuck?”

David squints at the screen, taps the map, and squints harder. Then he presses his nose so close, it bumps the glass. 

“Wazzamatter?” Stevie asks, rolling over and nearly smacking him with her palm. 

“There’s no way,” he mutters, pushing her flailing hand out of his face. 

But apparently there is, which is how David ends up getting out of a car on 5th Avenue and staring up at the imposing edifice of The Metropolitan Museum of Art less than an hour later after the quickest shower of his life. There’s a beanie firmly in place on his head, hiding the curls that didn’t have a chance to dry, and he ducks his chin and slides his overly large sunglasses on, bypassing the steps leading to the Great Hall and heading for the Members’ entrance on the left.  

Hector had called down for the car and snuck him out of the service exit again, once Stevie stopped asking questions about where David was going and why. Artie made quick work of the twenty blocks separating the Rose Mansion from The Met, even circling around Madison once to make sure no one was tailing them, though David has to admit that the paps seem much more interested in camping out outside of the theatre than they at do his home, which is both a blessing and a curse. 

He pulls out his wallet as he steps up the doors, the line nonexistent considering the museum only opened three minutes ago and most of the people who’d be waiting are tourists without access to this entrance anyway. He removes his Member Card from its leather slot and shows it to the guard who waves him through the metal detector. Sure, he’s more partial to MoMa and the Whitney, but it doesn’t mean he’s a neanderthal. 

Grabbing a sticker from the kiosk with today’s date, he pulls out his phone and briefly wonders if he needs to get a map from the information desk to figure out where the hell Patrick actually is. It’s not like he can walk up to the bored-looking guy in the blue blazer and say, ‘Hey, have you seen super famous and newly out Patrick Brewer wandering around? I hear he gravitates towards medieval and Byzantine art.'

Taking the stairs to the first floor, David’s greeted by a perfectly sculpted Greek ass on display next to the column from the Temple of Artemis, which is not a bad welcome, all things considered. He looks around the Greek and Roman wing, but it’s nearly empty, and Patrick is nowhere in sight. He must be on the second floor, because his GPS definitely indicates he’s on this side of the building. 

The nearest stairwell is blocked off by a rope, so David makes a right instead and continues on past the vases and the urns and the plates into the main rotunda, which is just starting to fill. He flashes his sticker for the guard standing at the foot of the Great Hall Steps and takes the stairs at a clip, winded by the time he gets to the top. Staring at his phone and the pulsing blue he’s trying to get closer to, he hurries through the Drawing, Print, and Photography hallway, slowing slightly by a vintage poster of the London Underground that catches his eye. He looks to the wall to see what exhibition it is and makes a mental note to come back at a less emotionally trying time to visit Modern Times: British Prints, 1913-1939. 

The Drawing, Print, and Photography hallway spills into 19th and Early 20th Century European Paintings and Sculpture. The pulsing blue dot is southwest of where David’s currently standing (or, like, ahead and to the left, sort of), and he passes by the Rodins, giving a special nod to his favorite, Orpheus and Eurydice, before making a right just past The Thinker into a room full of paintings that take themselves entirely too seriously. The room beyond that, though, is cordoned off with a red velvet rope as two Met staff stand guard on either side, and David frowns down at his phone, because it really does look like the blue dot is beyond there. 

Jesus Christ, unless he’s on the third floor. Is there a third floor? David doesn’t even know what’s up there! 

“Mr. Rose?” one of the staff asks, and he nods because that is his name, even though he has no idea what the fuck he’s doing here. “Just through here,” she says, unhooking the rope, and he shuffles forward just as a figure he hasn’t seen in far too long steps into view beyond the doorway.

“Ivan!” he shouts, a second before remembering that he’s not supposed to yell in museums. 

Ivan gives him a tired smile as he stops his pacing and beckons him into… yet another empty room. This one at least has more interesting paintings, David thinks, spotting a creepy but beautiful woods scene just over Ivan’s shoulder as the man tugs him into a brief but firm hug. Well, that’s new. 

David pats him on the back and tries to restrain the frantic Where’s Patrick? that wants to escape his lips. 

“Through there,” Ivan says gruffly as he lets go, like he heard David’s desperation anyway, nodding at the doorway beyond which a beige-painted room sits. The sign above the door tells him it’s the Janice H. Levin Gallery, though what exactly is in there, he’s not entirely sure. He can guess, though. 

Striding over, he pokes his head around the wall and finds everything he's ever been looking for: Patrick, on a bench in the middle of the room, a basic black hat tugged low on his head, the hood of the sweatshirt he’s wearing pulled over top, casually sitting there like he just stopped in to look at some art. 

“David,” he breathes. He looks so tired. 

“Oh my God, honey,” he whispers, practically running to the bench and - because he can now - gathering him in his arms.  “God, I missed you.” 

Patrick gets his arms around his waist, hugging David to him tight enough to hurt, but David doesn’t care. Not when this embrace signals the end of the longest 24 hours of David’s fucking life. 

“Are you okay?” he asks, knocking Patrick’s hat off so he can pepper his face with kisses. 

“I am.” 

“Are you sure?” He pulls back and runs his hands over Patrick’s head and shoulders and arms, looking him up and down like he might have suffered a physical blow in addition to the emotional assault. 

“I’m okay, David,” he reiterates, breathing deeply as he tucks himself back into David’s neck. “I’m better now.” 

“Okay, honey,” he whispers, choosing to believe him even though he’s skeptical. He runs his palms up and down Patrick’s back, turning so he can tuck his knee up on the bench and pull him in closer. “I was so worried about you.” 

“I’m sorry - ”

“No, no, I meant what I said yesterday. You do not have to apologize to me. Not for this. Not ever.” 

Patrick nods against his shoulder, but his fingers dig in tight against David’s back, and David can hear the Thank you he doesn’t need him to say. 

He looks at the painting Patrick was staring at and squints at the plaque beside it. “Seriously? ‘The Burning of Sodom’? Well that’s a little on the nose, even for you.” 

Patrick snorts and leans into him. David presses a kiss to his head. “Happenstance. I’m partial to the Impressionists, but Van Gogh was a little busy, even at this hour, and I can’t deny the people Monet.”

“Mm fair. Always had you down as more of a wholesome Norman Rockwell kind of guy, though.” 

“Yeah, well… wrong museum,” Patrick says with a smile and a shrug, not denying it. Not letting go of him either. 

“So, what, you come to the Met when you need to think?” he asks, petting gently at the back of his head. 

Patrick hums and nods. 

“How did I not know this about you?” 

Patrick chuckles. “Haven’t needed to come in a while,” he says with a little shrug. The Since I met you seems to be implied. “I sneak into places more often than you think.” 

“But… how?” David glances around at the fact that Patrick has essentially shut down a portion of The Met’s most popular wing on a Friday morning. 

Patrick nods towards the security guards posted at the entrance. “I donate a lot of money.” 

Damn, and David thought the Roses had pull on the museum circuit. 

They sit there in silence for a while, just basking in the presence of the other. It’s a little awkward trying to hug someone while sitting on a wooden bench - it’s impossible for David to hold Patrick as completely as he wants to - but he doesn’t dare let go. 

“We should talk,” Patrick murmurs, burrowing into him like he, too, wants to get closer. 

“Yeah, we should,” David agrees. “Do you really want to have this conversation here, though?” He has a feeling crying will be involved, and he really doesn’t need the ghost of Camille Corot judging him from afar. 

“Not particularly.” 

“Mkay.” He presses another kiss to Patrick’s head and stands, pulling him up and into his arms for the first proper hug he’s had in entirely too long, relishing the press of their bodies together, cheeks to shins, sinking into it. “Do we need to Ocean’s 8 our way out of here?” 

Patrick laughs. “You think I sneak into a place without a proper escape plan?”

“I mean, you did come here to look at this very sad painting of a woman turning to salt when The Costume Institute is literally around the corner.” 

“It’s in a basement, babe. Fewer exits,” he says with a wink. Then he clears his throat. “Ivan?” 

“Yes, sir?” the man says, appearing out of nowhere. 

“I think we’re ready.” 

“Right.” Ivan turns and nods at someone David can’t see, and then one of the guards that had been standing at their post when he arrived appears, gives Patrick a brief smile, before leading them to a pair of doors to the right that apparently leads to another hidden staircase. 

“How much fucking money do you donate?” David mutters as they’re led down what is obviously a staff corridor to an elevator that takes them straight to the underground parking garage where the familiar black SUV is waiting. 

Patrick shakes the guard’s hand as Ivan opens the back door and gestures for David to get inside. 

“Hi, Lena,” he softly greets the minute he slides in. 

“How are you, Mr. Rose?” she immediately asks, and in what is probably a break in protocol (not that Patrick ever adheres to that), she reaches back over the console and takes hold of David’s hand. And why shouldn’t she? She’s been ferrying them and forth from clandestine meeting to secret destination, and David knows that they would not have had the time they had without either of the two people constantly in the front seat of Patrick’s car. 

He grips her hand tight, stopping just short of bending down and pressing a kiss to her knuckles because he’s tempted. “Thank you, Lena. For absolutely everything,” he murmurs as Patrick slides in next to him, immediately getting an arm around his back. 

Lena squeezes his hand and lets go as Ivan settles into the passenger seat, before pulling out of the parking spot and heading up the ramp and into the sunlight of 5th Avenue. David has no idea where they’re heading but only when they make a left on 78th and a right on Park, just to turn back around onto 77th and pull into the parking garage beneath The fucking Mark does David get indignant. 

“The Mark?! Seriously? We called here!” he gripes as Lena stops and Ivan gets out to open his door, but Patrick just presses a kiss to his neck like David’s indignation means nothing. 

“Clearly we have to work on your espionage skills.” 

“Um, I’m sorry, have you ever had to pretend to be the Crown Prince of Greece to get your sister out of an arranged engagement?” 

“Not that I recall, no,” Patrick replies, getting a hand on the small of his back and gently ushering him out of the car. “Thanks, Lena,” he calls back, and she waves before he shuts the door. 

Ivan has his arms out, like a pap is going to jump out from in between the parked Teslas and Maseratis, before a woman in a crisp suit steps out of the hotel door to greet them. 

“Welcome back, Mr. Fox,” she says, and Patrick smiles.  

“Thank you.” 

“Fox?” David’s brain scours the lists Alexis made: the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, the Fox in Detroit, but before he can even try to recall if Patrick has ever played those two venues, Patrick slowly spells out: 

“F-O-X.” 

David stops dead. “Are you serious? Alexis and I tried, like, every fucking stadium name under the sun, and you went with You’ve Got Mail?!”

Patrick’s laughter echoes off the stainless steel appliances in the kitchen they’re being led through, and the employees must have been given a heads up because not a single person glances at them, which David appreciates. 

He's getting used to seeing kitchens in Patrick's company. He’s not getting used to being the object of everyone’s scrutiny. 

They’re led to a basement elevator and the woman (David never did get a name, but clearly Patrick is familiar with her) bids them farewell. Ivan stands to the side as they get in before taking his place in front by the door, back to them to provide some semblance of privacy. 

It’s a quiet ride, and it doesn’t stop. David doesn’t know if that’s the default setting for this particular elevator or if the woman in the suit did something. Regardless, it’s a quick trip to the 16th floor and when they step out, they’re greeted by a pair of dark double doors, which Ivan unlocks to reveal a truly ridiculous suite. 

“The penthouse?” David archly asks, and Patrick shrugs. 

“Call it an impulse purchase. I didn’t exactly want to be running into anyone in the hallway.” He takes off his hat and his hoodie, revealing a plain white t-shirt beneath. David leaves his beanie on because God knows what the state of his hair is like. 

“Do you need anything?” Ivan asks, and when Patrick shakes his head, he disappears down a hallway, and David hears a door shut a moment later. 

“He stayed here last night,” Patrick says, watching where Ivan just was with melancholy fondness. “He’s been worried.” 

And now that he says it, David can see why. Now that they’re alone, Patrick’s front slips just a bit. His hands tremble where they grip his sweatshirt, and yes, Patrick is confident, but that still doesn’t make any of this less scary. 

“Hey,” David murmurs, stepping forward and taking him in his arms once more. Patrick exhales against his neck and lets him take his weight. “I love you.” 

“I love you,” he whispers, pressing a kiss to David’s pulse point. “Have you seen the photo?” 

David nods and then holds Patrick tighter as he says, “It was Ken.” 

Patrick’s hands still on his back. 

“He says his phone was hacked,” he mutters with an accompanying eye roll strong enough to make him dizzy. 

“There might be some truth in that,” Patrick offers, displaying a magnanimity that David is not personally capable of. And certainly not right now. “Maybe he shared it with a friend who wanted to make a buck. I don’t think he actually wanted to cause me harm.”

“You, maybe. He likes you." A little too much. "Me, on the other hand…” 

“Then he’s an idiot,” Patrick says, simply but fiercely. “Because hurting you hurts me more than anything I could possibly go through.” 

David leans back far enough to press their foreheads together. “Are you okay? I mean it.” 

“I am. A little, um, terrified to look at my phone or see other people at the moment, but I feel good.” 

“You don’t have to do the show tonight. Byron could - ” David starts to offer, but Patrick cuts him off.  

“I want to.” 

“Okay. Then, like Alexis pointed out, the photo is dark and blurry. We could pass it off as something else. I could… just be your director for the evening. ” 

The stress lines on Patrick’s face rearrange, shifting into a variety of emotions, until finally settling into pure sadness. David wants to call back every word he’s ever said if it means never having to see that expression on Patrick’s face ever again. 

“I can’t ask you to do that,” he whispers. “I want them to know. I want everyone to know.” Then he licks his lips and glances down, like he’s incapable of looking David in the eye as he says this. “I was always going to come out. You know that, right?” 

“Oh, honey,” David breathes, cupping his face and making their gazes meet. “Of course I know that. We had a plan. It got fucked.” 

“I’m sorry if this overshadows the show,” Patrick whispers, but David just smiles at him, repeating the words he so desperately needed to hear himself not all that long ago: 

“You are the show.” Then he pulls Patrick out of the foyer and over to the white couch in the living room, sitting down and tugging Patrick into his side. “Listen. You once said that you didn’t know what was true,” he says, taking Patrick’s still trembling hands. “Do you remember?” 

Patrick nods. David has a feeling that that first trip to South Carolina was impactful for both of them. 

“Well, this is true. I am true. And even if our plans got fucked, I am not going anywhere.” He noses at the skin just beneath his ear and breathes him in. “I'll take care of you.”

And because Patrick is perfect and a troll and a perfect troll, he quotes David’s own work back to him: “It’s rotten work.”

And because this exchange from Orestes happens to be David’s favorite, he replies accordingly: 

“Not to me,” he says, lifting Patrick’s chin. “Not if it’s you.”

Patrick laughs wetly and leans in for a kiss, and David tastes the salt on his lips. When Patrick pulls away, he looks down at their tangled fingers for a moment, his hair brushing David’s cheek as he tilts his head in thought. 

“You okay?” 

“Wait, don’t move,” he murmurs, leaning into David’s side so he can extract his phone from his pocket. 

“What are you doing?” 

But it’s pretty obvious when Patrick opens up his camera and snaps a photo of their hands. Then he lets go and does some things on the device that David can't see from this angle. 

“I, um, I’ve been rewording the statement that Rachel and I had been working on. Circumstances necessitated some edits,” he says ruefully, “but she knows it’s coming.” And when he hands the phone back to David, he’s uploaded the photo to Instagram, tagged David, and copied and pasted a long caption below it: 

I’m Patrick Brewer. I’m a musician. I’m (newly) an actor. And I’m gay. 

This isn’t something I’ve always known about myself. Much like my foray into theatre, it was a recent discovery, and I’ve appreciated having the time and space to explore that away from the public eye. And I've been busy: I’ve gone on tour, I made a Broadway debut, I wrote another album. 

And I fell in love. 

I’m proud of who I am. I’m proud of our love. Our love makes me brave. 

David makes me brave. 

And I look forward to whatever adventures life decides to throw our way. 

Thanks for listening. 
P.

“This is the only picture that needs to be out there,” Patrick murmurs against his hair, but David can't stop starting at the beautiful black and white photo of their hands clasped together, David’s silver rings sitting prominently on top. At the gorgeous words he’s written for them. At our and life spaced so close together, sharing a single sentence. 

“Post it,” Patrick whispers, and David turns his head. 

“Only you can hit that button, honey.” Because so much has been taken from Patrick. David will not take this. “You’re brave all on your own.” 

Patrick’s lips curve into that upside down smile that David loves to kiss, and he lifts the phone from David’s hand and stares at it for a moment. Then he taps the word that encapsulates so much; both what they have together and now what they have to show to the world: 

Share

Chapter Text

“Mkay, but you’re sure you want to head to my parents’? Because I can think of, like, five other preferable places to get ready, one of which is literally the changing room of a sex club downtown.”

Patrick pauses in stuffing the small bag he’d brought to The Mark. “While that’s definitely a conversation we’ll be revisiting, I’d like a bit more breathing room before I potentially lead the press to my home, and I know you don’t want to go to the theatre looking like that.”

And while that’s absolutely accurate, David takes exception, tugging the beanie down further on his head with a pout. “Have you spoken to Rachel yet?”

Patrick shakes his head. “No. I mean - I spoke to her while I was waiting for you at The Met. She knew I’d say something, and she approved the caption. But I turned my phone off after I posted the photo, and I’m not turning it back on for at least another six hours.”

And David can’t blame him for that. His own phone has been on Do Not Disturb with the exception of his Favorites list since yesterday. His Favorites has also gained a few new additions: notably Rachel, the Brewers, Ivan, Ray and anyone else associated with Patrick who might need to get in touch.

“Use mine to call your parents then please. Just let me give Hector a heads up that we’re incoming. He’ll wait for us by the service entrance.” He unlocks his phone and dials the number Adelina made him memorize when he went trick-or-treating for the first time without adult supervision. She told him that if he ever got lost or abducted (or tempted by less than pleasant things, as he got older), he should call this number and Hector would come get him. David never did call, but he also never stopped believing he one day would.

“Rose Residence,” Hector answers brusquely, and David is caught off guard by the sharp tone from the man who reads Jane Austen and weeps on the regular.

“Um, hi, Hector, it’s David.”

“Oh David!” he says, tone immediately changing to something warmer. Softer. “I’m sorry. Reporters have been calling all day.”

David winces. “Sorry about that.”

“Eh, it’s not unusual,” Hector offers, and honestly, between his sister and his mother, David is more often than not the least of Hector’s problems.

“How’s it been over there? Patrick and I are hoping to pull a reverse Great Escape.”

Hector chuckles, as David knew he would. When he’s not devouring classic novels, he’s slowly making his way through cinema’s greatest hits.

“All quiet on the western front,” he replies, and David smiles.

“Good. I think we’ll get there in thirty or so. Patrick just has to make a phone call, and then we’ll be on our way. We’re not far.”

And they’re not. They’re 15 blocks north - a stroll by any New Yorker’s standards, but David will be damned if he lets Patrick leave this sanctuary without speaking to his parents. Marcy Brewer would never forgive him.

“We’ll be on the lookout, Mr. Rose,” Hector says, his fondness clear.

“Thanks.” David hangs up and holds the phone out for Patrick to take. “Call your mother.”

Patrick smiles. “Okay, David.” He glances down, then - “Oh.”

“Oh? Oh what?” Did he somehow find the thirst trap folder? David swears it’s password protected!

“Nothing, just - ” Patrick flips the phone around, “Carol Chu texted.”

“Oh. Um. When?”

“Yesterday. Sorry, I didn’t mean to look. My thumb must have hit your messages app when you handed the phone to me.”

But David waves his apology away, not caring about that. He hasn’t texted anything he wouldn’t be happy for Patrick to read. Not lately, at least. “And… what did she say?”

Patrick looks back down at the phone and clears his throat. “If there’s anything you and Patrick need, I’m here.”

David smiles softly, because it’s not the first time Carol has offered that. And he knows she’s meant it every goddamn time. But before he can comment on it, Patrick is hitting her contact and placing the call on speaker.

“David,” she greets on the third ring, all quiet concern. “How are you?”

“Uh, hey, Carol. It’s Patrick, actually.”

“Oh! Patrick,” she breathes. “How are you holding up?”

“Surprisingly well, all things considered. Granted, I have some pretty sturdy hands keeping me upright,” he says, meeting David’s eyes over the phone.

“I’m sure,” Carol replies. “What can I do for you? I mean, I’d offer to take a statement, but you seemed to do just fine all on your own.”

Patrick chuckles. “Thank you. No, I’m just calling to express my gratitude. You know, for everything. And to tell you that you can use whatever quotes you want in your story.”

David raises his eyebrows, and there’s silence on the other end of the line for a long moment.

“Are you telling me that I need to rewrite my year-long feature article whose first draft is due in mere days?”

Patrick laughs. “I’m telling you to consider all of those conversations on the record now. Do with that information what you will.”

“David? Is that all right with you?” she asks, like she knows he’s there. Then again, Patrick is calling from David’s phone; Carol may not be an investigative reporter, but it’s not a hard leap to make.

“It’s fine with me,” he replies. Then he smiles. “I’m good if he’s good.”

“He’s good,” Patrick murmurs, leaning in for a quick kiss.

“Thank you, guys. I appreciate the heads up. Hang in there.”

“We will,” Patrick says. “Thanks for the text.”

“It’s a standing offer.” Then she’s gone.

David tilts his head and studies his boyfriend. “So what did you tell Carol Chu over those hours of conversations?”

Patrick grins. “I guess you’ll find out.”

“Don’t think this gets you out of calling your parents.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he replies, face going soft when he realizes that David has his parents in his Favorites.

“A matter of both convenience and necessity when you stopped answering your calls.”

But Patrick’s smile only grows. “Sure, David,” he says, hitting his mother’s name and placing the phone on speaker once more.

“David,” Marcy breathes, relief evident. “Does that photo mean you’re with him?”

“How did you see it?” Patrick blurts. ”You’re not even on Instagram!”

“Oh, Aunt Bonnie sent it to me,” she says, and Patrick hangs his head in a way that distinctly expresses, Of course she did. Clearly David needs to hear more about this ‘Aunt Bonnie.’ “Sweetheart, it was just beautiful,” Marcy continues.

"Thanks. Um, it was the truth. All of it."

"We're so proud of you," Clint says in the background, and David watches the gorgeous moment when emotion overtakes Patrick's face. David doubts it's the first time Patrick has heard those words - unlike the Roses, the Brewers are generous with their affection - but it is the first time he’s heard those words in his new world. In this world that now knows Patrick Brewer as he fully is.

“Thanks, Dad,” he whispers, and David moves the hand that’s holding the phone out of the way so he can step closer and press his face to Patrick’s neck.

“Where are you?” Marcy asks.

“I’m at a hotel on the Upper East Side,” Patrick explains, scratching gently at the short hair on the back of David’s head. He nearly purrs. “But we’re heading out soon to go back to the Roses’ to get ready. Then I’ll go to the theatre. I’ll be back in the show tonight.”

“It’ll be good to get back, I’m sure,” Marcy offers with all the wisdom of a mother who knows the benefits of routines. And distractions. “David, are you there?” she asks, and David has to clear his throat before he’s able to answer.

“I’m here.”

“Would you do us a favor and see if there’s a pair of house seats we could purchase for tonight?”

“What?” David blurts, as Patrick blinks at him.

“What?” he echoes a moment later.

“We might have gotten on the first flight out this morning,” Marcy says.

“Meaning we might be talking to you from a hotel room on West 63rd,” Clint elaborates.

There’s stunned silence for a solid four and a half seconds before Patrick’s brain reboots. “Wait, you’re here?”

“We are, and don’t even think about seeing us before the show. You focus on what you need to do. We just wanted to be here for support.”

“Guys,” Patrick breathes, expression crumbling again.

David takes the phone from his hand before he drops it and tucks him into his chest. “That’s really nice of you guys,” he rasps. “I’ll take care of the tickets and find you in the theatre beforehand.”

“Thank you, David,” Clint says.

“We’ll see you after the show, sweetheart.”

“Okay, Mom,” Patrick replies, voice muffled from where his mouth still rests against David’s collarbone.

“We love you both.”

David swallows and allows himself to say four words he’s only ever said to one other person he doesn’t share DNA with. “We love you, too.” Then he hangs up and wraps both arms around Patrick’s back, rocking him side to side for a moment. “Nadia’s here tonight as well,” he eventually reminds, and Patrick pulls away with a smile.

“Yeah, Rach told me. To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t mind another night off because the thought of…” he waves vaguely in the distance, “that is still terrifying, but I should.”

“Honey, you do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. Byron was great, and Nadia will understand. And hey, maybe we can just sneak you together for a meet-and-greet.”

“No, I want to get back. I miss it. I miss everyone,” he says, though a wariness settles into his features that wasn’t there a second ago.

“Okay. Let me text Heather so she knows. And Shannon, for the tickets.” He opens up his texts and lets his thumbs fly over the screen. 

Byron’s off the hook. Patrick will be back tonight.

Her response is swift:

[Heather]
Very glad to hear it.

Then he pulls up another thread:

I know this is last minute, but any chance you’ve got a pair of house seats for the Brewers?

David appreciates that Shannon, like Heather, also seems to have her phone perpetually glued to her palm.

[Shannon]
Yep. Your pair is the last I release.

Thank you. I’ll text you a picture of my credit card.

[Shannon]
Don’t worry about it.

Someone needs to pay for them…

[Shannon]
The production can afford to get the leading man’s parents in on a day when he very much needs them.

David swallows hard.

Thank you.

When he looks up again, though, Patrick still has that strange look on his face. “Hey. You okay?” he asks, pressing a kiss to his temple.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”

David isn’t sure he believes him, but he asks, “Wanna get outta here?” anyway.

“Yes.”

Ivan is summoned from his room, and the woman who ushered them into their private elevator meets them at the door to personally escort them back down to the parking garage where Lena is waiting.

“You have a good day, Mr. Fox,” she says seriously, shaking Patrick’s hand.

“Thank you, Molly,” he replies. “And it’s Patrick from here on out.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Fox,” she says with a wink, stepping back as Ivan opens the car door. David slides in, and Patrick joins him a moment later as Lena steers them out of the parking garage and into the sunlight once more. It’s a quick ride down 5th Avenue, and Lena makes a left onto 62nd Street just as Hector is coming out of the building.

“Lena, there’s plenty of street parking. Please come in,” David says. “Georges makes the best pastries this side of Paris.”

She chuckles. “Twist my arm, then. You get inside. I’ll be in in a minute.”

They exit the car and are hustled into the building through the service entrance with Hector and Ivan providing a blockade worthy of Les Mis, despite the fact that no one seems to be around. David doesn’t draw a proper breath until they’re safely ensconced in the marble lobby anyway, watching Hector pull Patrick into an uncharacteristic hug.

“Thanks, Hector,” he hears Patrick murmur, clasping the man that cleaned up David’s scrapes as a child and hid his indiscretions as an adult on the shoulder.

“Anyone awake?” he asks, clearing his suddenly tight throat.

“Not that I’ve heard, sir,” Hector replies, and David’s honestly not surprised. It’s still relatively early by Rose standards. Anything before noon is basically dawn. “You go on up, sir. I’ll make sure Mr. Ivan and Ms. Lena are taken care of.”

Ivan nods at Patrick, who then stares at David. And David holds out his hand for Patrick to take, because he knows that from now on, they walk whatever path this is together.

Patrick insists on the stairs, for some sadistic reason, and David follows because he’s in love and also highly under caffeinated. The living room is empty, thank God, and David leads him up one more flight, sparing a thought to consider that Stevie might still be in his bedroom. After all, he did abandon her rather abruptly.

The sight he’s greeted with after he pushes his door open is answer enough, as Stevie snores against his pillow like the honorary Rose she is.

David wonders if he should explain the sight of his ex in his bed, but Patrick just wanders over, toes off his shoes, and climbs in right next to her. She responds by curling around him like this is just something they do, and David’s heart trips over itself as he watches Patrick bury his face in her hair as Stevie runs her hand up his back in a movement that’s habit. In a gesture that’s as comforting as a weighted blanket.

He almost feels like he should let them have this moment. He knows that they spent many a month finding solace in each other because he, their common denominator, was away.

But then Patrick asks, “You joining us?” as he blindly holds out a palm.

“Oh. Um. Sure.” He stares at Patrick’s outstretched hand, steady and stable as it hovers there, patiently waiting for David to grasp. He quickly unties his laces and removes his shoes, tugging off his beanie and not giving a fuck for the state of his hair as he slides in behind Patrick, tucking himself up against him, knees and hips slotting together like a puzzle piece.

“Let’s just stay here for the rest of the day,” Stevie says, and David can’t help but grunt out an agreement. Here is nice. Here is cozy. Here has his favorite people in the world.

Patrick gets hold of his hand and tugs it over his waist. It lands somewhere around Stevie’s hip, but her usual snark is silenced. She just tucks herself further into Patrick’s chest and throws a leg over his knee to tangle with David’s.

“I’m sure a certified therapist would have plenty to say about this,” he mutters.

“Shut up,” Patrick replies, scooting back against him, as Stevie murmurs, “Thank God I only see uncertified ones then.”

They doze on and off for a while; David isn’t sure how long. Eventually, Stevie rolls over with her back to them, and Patrick starfishes on his stomach like the greedy bed hog he is. David’s leg remains hitched over Patrick’s hip as his face presses into his shoulder, breathing him in, and David decides during one of his brief, waking moments, that the rest of his life can’t be so bad if the rest of his life looks something like this.

Stevie gets up to use the restroom before disappearing downstairs, probably in search of nourishment. David hopes she brings some back, but knowing she hoards snacks like a bear on the brink of hibernation, he doesn’t hold his breath. He scoots himself up against the headboard, daring to check the time on his phone. It’s getting into the early afternoon and while he doesn’t need to be at the theatre for some time, he knows they should arrive early anyway to beat the pre-curtain crowds.

Patrick snuffles as he rolls over onto his side once more, this time using David’s lap as a pillow, as David types out a text:

Is it too late to call a company meeting before half-hour?

[Heather]
I don’t think the cast will mind. Or be surprised.

Thanks.

Patrick may have reservations, and they can talk about them, but David would be a piss-poor director if he didn’t address the company as one. Especially considering he could barely meet anyone’s eye yesterday.

Patrick shifts and drapes his arm over David’s knees, rubbing his thumb sleepily against his thigh.

“You awake?” David whispers, but Patrick just shakes his head.

“No.”

David laughs quietly and runs his fingers through his hair. He doesn’t think either of them got much sleep last night, so he lets him rest and dares to check his emails, texts, and social media notifications just for something to do. Luckily, he doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, and his Instagram mentions are set to only people he follows. He’s not stupid enough to touch his tags, and their friends are smart enough not to weigh in on the matter, so it’s a quick glance and not much more. He decides to delete the app from his phone altogether, just for a couple of days.

By the time he’s done checking the weather, Stevie is pushing the door open, holding a white box with a plate of pastries balanced on top.

“What’s that?” he asks, already craning his neck to see if there are enough croissants for them all.

“Your mother informed me it was ‘couriered over with the utmost haste,” she says, doing a frighteningly good Moira Rose impression.

Patrick snorts against his thigh but doesn’t open his eyes, so David just continues running his fingers through his hair.

“Why are my parents receiving packages for you? My mother wouldn’t even sign for a case of a very nice White Burgundy, even when I offered her a bottle.”

“Because they like me more than you.”

“Harsh but probably accurate.” When she makes no move to open the box (or share the treats), he narrows his eyes. She’s obviously aware it was coming. “So what’s so important that you had to have it delivered here?”

“None of your business. Now I’m going to get ready in Alexis’ room since I know she didn’t use it last night - ”

“Ugh, gross.”

“... and I’ll see you both at the theatre.”

David sits up fast enough to almost dislodge Patrick from his lap. “You’re not riding with us?”

“No, I have to go in early,” Stevie replies as Patrick grumbles.

“What? Why?” Surely David would know if one of his actors was called ahead of time. He read the schedule (a rushed skim, but still).

“We’re creating a diversion,” she explains, and David blanches, because the last time Stevie created a diversion, she got banned from New York City Ballet and the Sugar Plum Fairy put out a restraining order.

“Um, the Love Actually kind or the Die Hard kind?” he asks.

“The making-your-life-easier-kind,” she snaps, before turning with the pastries and disappearing from the room.

“Rude.”

Patrick hums. “How dare she make your life easier.”

“How dare she not share Georges’ pain au chocolat.”

Patrick perks up at that, finally lifting his head and opening his eyes, sniffing the air like his nose alone can summon a baked good. “Should we get there early, too?” he asks, pushing himself up, and David sighs.

“Yeah, probably. But we’re going in the back way.”

“What back way?”

But David won’t deny himself the hilarity of witnessing Patrick’s reaction when they sneak in through the men’s room, so he mimes zipping his lips. Patrick’s look entirely too kissable, though, and he tugs him closer to take full advantage.

“I need a shower,” Patrick murmurs as he pulls away. “Shower first or coffee first?”

“Coffee in the shower?” David proposes, but Patrick shakes his head.

“Absolutely not. We know how that ended last time.”

And that’s true. Patrick probably doesn’t need or want David to spill his hot beverage on his naked ass again. Even if it did make it delightfully pink for a day.

“Then I guess you’re just going to have to wake me up another way,” he says in a coy tone that’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

“Oh yeah?” Patrick asks, leaning in for another kiss. “What did you have in mind?”

“Well, it’s been a while since we… connected.”

“Oh really? Because I have a vivid memory of you giving me a pretty spectacular handjob just feet away from all of our coworkers. Which I didn’t get a chance to repay.”

“As we have discussed, orgasms are not currency,” he argues, even as he leans in again.

“I know,” Patrick replies, nipping at his chin as he cups a hand over David’s zip. “Let me pay my debt anyway.” He presses down, and David groans. “I don’t suppose you have lube and condoms in this childhood bedroom, do you?”

“Ew, no.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate.”

“I do, however, have an emergency stash in my toiletry kit.”

“That’s better.”

They hurry into the bathroom, which thankfully got a reno literally the afternoon that David moved out. His NYU ID was barely even laminated before his parents ripped down his Mariah posters and converted his sanctuary into a proper guest room, like the mansion didn’t already have three others.

Patrick turns on the water and waits for it to heat up as David roots through his kit for the travel bottle of lube, grabbing it as he stares at the small box of condoms. He hears the soft sound of Patrick’s clothes hitting the ground before his warm body presses up against him, his arms wrapping around David’s waist, clasping his wrist over David’s swooping stomach.

“How do you want me?” he whispers.

David turns in his arms, meets his hooded but guileless eyes, and tucks the lube in the palm of his hand. “Get me ready?”

Patrick nods and curls his fingers around the bottle, leaning down to press a devastatingly delicate kiss on David’s clavicle, before tracing a line up his neck with his tongue.

“Fuck, Patrick.”

“Soon, baby.” Patrick’s hands find David’s hem and lift the shirt over his head. It gets folded and gently placed on the closed lid of the toilet seat, unlike Patrick’s clothes which are piled (neatly, but piled all the same) on the floor. Then his fingers find the button at David’s waist, and he pops it deftly, before pulling the zipper on his jeans down.

David honestly would have been happy with anything Patrick wanted, but he had a sneaking suspicion that Patrick needed a little bit of control after the last 24 hours spent without it. And David can give him that. Can give him this - himself, in whatever way Patrick wants.

Turns out what Patrick wants is to make David die of arousal, which is exactly what he’s doing by taking his sweet ass time.

Both finally naked, Patrick turns back to check the water temperature one more time, and David tilts his head to stare, because it really is a sweet ass.

“Ready?” Patrick asks, grinning when he catches him looking, and David nods. Then Patrick heads over to the kit on the counter and grabs the box of condoms, fishing out a foil packet.

“Wait.” David’s hand comes down on top of his, and he stares at them for a moment, this near recreation of the photo Patrick published just that morning. Then he slowly lowers their hands, his meaning clear.

Patrick licks his lips. “You sure?”

David nods. “Just you.”

“Okay, David.” Then he carefully places the condom back on the counter, but not back in the box, silently letting David know it’s there if he changes his mind.

David has never loved him more.

Patrick takes his hands and gently removes his rings, one by one by one by one, setting them down with a metallic clink that’s loud in the silence. Then he steps forward and kisses David, hand cupping the back of his neck as he walks him back towards the shower, pulling away so he can set the lube on a shelf and tug him inside, settling him under the warm spray. “Good?”

But David just groans in reply, because it’s perfect. Of course it is.

Patrick’s chuckle is low, echoing off the granite and glass walls as David tilts his head back and lets the water run down his face. Then he slowly turns and braces his hands on the wall in front of him. Even over the sound of the spray, he can hear the soft moan that's pulled from Patrick’s lips as David puts himself on display.

Patrick doesn’t pounce on him, though. David feels his palm on his lower back first, just pressing, fingers spreading as if trying to cover as much of David as he can. Then his arms come around and slide beneath David’s, grazing his stomach as he presses himself along the full length of his back, hugging him like he did at the counter, the length of his now-hard cock slotting in between David’s cheeks. And he just sighs and leans back, hands covering Patrick’s, because he knows Patrick will hold him up, hold him firm, for as long as David needs him to.

“This way?”

David nods.

“Okay, baby.” He kisses the notches of David’s spine as he lets go, and David braces his hands back on the wall again, as Patrick grabs the lube from the shelf.

He circles his hole, and David moans, the reverberation of it against the granite only serving to ratchet his arousal up further. Patrick prepares him slowly but thoroughly, one finger finding its target perfectly and then two stretching him deliciously. By the time Patrick has three fingers sliding in and out, David is all but drooling and it’s a good thing the water is washing the evidence away.

“Ready?” Patrick asks, and David hears the question beneath it. Still sure?

He nods and reaches for Patrick’s flank, clumsily tugging his hips up against him in silent demand.

Patrick kisses his spine again. “Okay, baby.” Then he lines up and slides in with a slow but steady thrust that punches a grunt from the depths of David’s core.

“Yeah,” he moans. “Just like that.”

“I have you.”

David nods and bites his lip because of course Patrick has him. Why wouldn’t he?

There’s no way this is going to take long, though. Not after everything they’ve been through. Patrick has a firm hold of his hips and drives into him with a pace that makes David want to sob. His hands grasp for purchase on the slippery surface, but he surrenders to the pleasure, leaning his forearms on the wall and dropping his head down to watch his hard cock get even harder.

“Fuck, Patrick.”

“David, Jesus.” His lips press against David’s shoulder blades, messy and uncoordinated and searing. David arches his back, and Patrick pounds that spot that makes David howl. “Yeah, let me hear you.”

“Oh fuck, it’s too good.”

“Always good with you, baby.”

David lets go of the wall and gets a hand around himself, moaning as he strokes. Patrick releases his waist and slides his palms up his chest again, his thrusts slowing and evolving into steady but firm rolls that still bring David to his toes. Patrick pinches his nipple as he grunts against David’s shoulder as David strokes himself in time with Patrick’s hips.

“You close?” David asks.

“So close,” he moans with an embarrassed chuckle, but David can only groan with relief.

“Thank God.”

It doesn’t take much. It hardly takes anything: Patrick kisses David’s neck as his hand covers David’s, helping him stroke his cock, and that’s it. David feels like he’s being wrung out as he comes all over the marbled floor, and Patrick’s teeth sink into David’s trapezius as he comes bare inside him for the first time.

“Fuck, fuck, David, oh my God.” He slumps against David’s back, moaning and shivering through the aftershocks, as David leans his forearms harder against the wall, trying to catch his breath.

“Honey, I can’t - ” He wants to say he can’t stay upright because what are knees at the moment, but Patrick must understand because he maneuvers them sideways and they collapse onto the in-shower marble bench as water continues to rain down on them.

David has never been so grateful for a full-scale, bathroom reno in his life.

“You okay?” Patrick softly asks, like his half-hard cock isn’t still buried in David. Like David isn’t still panting towards the ceiling as he sits on his lap.

“Perfect. That was…”

“Yeah,” Patrick sums up succinctly. “It was.”

It takes some time for David’s joints to start working, but eventually he removes himself from Patrick, standing on wobbly legs as come runs down his thighs.

Patrick groans at the sight and nearly drops to his knees, but he settles for helping David clean up, reverently washing between his legs as he kisses every freckle his lips can find. David showered that morning, but he takes the task of cleaning Patrick seriously, gently massaging the shampoo into his fledgling curls before rinsing it out and applying conditioner, dodging Patrick’s kisses to give it the appropriate amount of time to seep in.

Their fingertips are well beyond pruned when they finally get out and start to dry off, but Patrick’s routine takes significantly less time than David’s, and by the time David exits the bathroom, patting the last of the moisturizer into his face, Patrick is nowhere to be found; likely gone in search of sustenance and caffeinated beverages (at least David hopes so). He pulls on his briefs and tugs on fresh jeans, applying deodorant before blowing out his hair.

Patrick comes back a few minutes later with two mugs and a plate of pain au chocolat balanced on top of each just as David is pulling his sweater over his head. Patrick pauses and takes a good look (as he always does whenever David is half-dressed) before tilting his head and nodding at his sweater.

“Is that a statement?”

David glances down at himself, but his smile nearly gives him away. “What do you mean?” He knows exactly what he means.

Patrick nods at the words stitched across David’s chest, tracking over his heart:

I Believe in the Power of Love

Patrick clears his throat. The plates jostle on top of the mugs. “Is that a statement? Like ‘Wild Aloof Rebel’?”

And David frowns, because Patrick didn’t see him in that shirt yesterday. “You stalking me on the internet or something?” The tiny shrug he gets in return is answer enough, small and vulnerable and just a tiny bit guilty.

“Call it my punishment for leaving you alone to face the masses.”

“Hey.” David shakes his head and walks over, taking hold of each mug by the bottom and placing them on the side table before leaning in for a kiss. “None of that. I had an army around me. Your army, actually.”

Patrick smiles. “Our army.”

“Right.” Though David wishes he had taken some of them for himself. But - “You did what you needed to do, but you didn’t leave me alone. And those photos you saw are the only ones that were taken of me yesterday. Because that army only gave them one opportunity.” David hasn’t seen any of them, but they can only be from his hasty journey from his parents’ house before he hopped (was shoved) into the car. “And yes, I do wear clothes like armor.” He pauses. He swallows. “Which is why you’re the only one who’s seen me without it lately.”

Patrick grins. “Damn right I have.” Then his smile turns a little less lecherous and a little more soft, as he gets a hold of David’s belt loops and gently tugs him closer. “Well, if that’s not a statement, I don’t know what is.”

David swallows hard. “And it’s not one I make lightly.” Hell, just a year ago, David wouldn’t have dreamed of putting much stock in love. Then Patrick opened a hotel room door and now David can’t imagine his life without it.

“I know, baby,” Patrick whispers, hearing all of the things David isn’t saying as he places his palm over the words on David’s chest. “I love it.”

He leans in and pecks him. “You ready for this?”

Patrick chuckles. “Do I have a choice?”

“Yes,” David says, probably more fiercely than he means to, given the way Patrick’s eyes widen. “You always have a choice.”

He licks his lips and nods. “I’m ready, David.”

“Okay.” Then he takes Patrick’s hand (and his snacks) and leads him downstairs where Lena and Ivan are chatting amiably over coffee. “Did you both get everything you need?” he asks, and Lena groans.

“Lord, if Georges brings me another puff pastry, you’ll have to find someone else to drive you to the theatre. I’ll be in a food coma on the nearest flat surface.”

David laughs, because he’s certainly been there. “Did Stevie leave already?”

“Yeah, about twenty minutes ago.”

David watches as the tips of Patrick’s ears go pink as he coughs around his pastry, because he knows exactly what they were doing 20 minutes ago, but luckily Lena is too busy trying to clean the powdered sugar from her fingers to notice, and Ivan looks like he’s debating another espresso he does not need, if his shaking hands are anything to go by.

“Um, have you seen my parents?” David asks, always a trepidatious question, and the look that Lena and Ivan share isn’t helping matters.

“They also left about twenty minutes ago.”

“For where?” Sure, his dad heads to the office when needed, but his mother is barely seen in daylight hours unless a national television spot requires it of her.

“I didn’t think it my place to ask,” Lena says, raising an eyebrow, and David feels Patrick’s hand on his hip.

“Right, sorry, sorry. When my parents leave the house before cocktail hour, I just assume the sky is falling or something…”

“A fair assumption,” Patrick says, squeezing him. “Which is why we should probably go.”

And they probably should. Early afternoon has creeped into late and even though it’s an 8pm curtain, they’ll want to be there well before the early birds decide to grab a pre-show bite. A quick call down to Hector ensures that the coast is still clear, which is odd but also not. No word has been put out that Patrick isn’t doing the show again like yesterday. The paps probably assume that their best best to catch a glimpse of him is at the theatre.

They each scarf down a quick breakfast (Brunch? Lunch? Last meal?) before getting bundled into Lena’s own Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. Traffic is awful but it is a Friday going from the Upper East Side to Midtown West, and David watches out of the corner of his eye as Patrick fidgets more and more the closer they get to the theatre district.

“Hey, talk to me.”

“I’m good,” he answers too abruptly. Too quickly - like he was waiting for David to ask.

“Okay.” David doesn’t push, though, because he knows by now that Patrick is like a rubber band. Stretch him too far, and eventually he’ll snap.

Patrick never does ask about ‘the back way’ again, so his brow is adorably furrowed when they pull to a stop outside the Schoenfeld one block north from where they’re supposed to be. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t worry about it,” David murmurs, reaching across Patrick to open the door nearest to the curb but not properly pushing it open until Ivan is just outside. “Hey Arturo,” he says to the man standing on the sidewalk. “Sorry if we dragged you in early.”

“Nah, we have a put-in.” Then he nods at Patrick. “Patrick, I’m Arturo, the PSM here.”

“And what are we doing here?” he asks, even as he takes his hand.

David grins at Arturo. “Thought he should experience Narnia all on his own.”

The stage manager laughs. “You got it. This way.”

Patrick is confused when they’re led into the basement of the Schoenfeld and mildly horrified when David pushes him into the bathroom, but then his expression changes to one of pure wonder when David nudges the door that Heather left unlocked at the back to reveal the men’s room of the Broadhurst.

“Has this always been here?” Patrick asks.

“Since 1917.”

“Wow.”

Then David turns to Arturo. “Thanks again.”

“As I said, anytime. If we’re ever not here, just contact the Shuberts, and they’ll put you in touch with whichever security guard is on duty.”

“We really appreciate it,” Patrick says, shaking Arturo’s hand again, before allowing David to lead him into the Broadhurst side of the block, out of the bathroom, and into the lobby. “Is this how you got in yesterday?”

David nods. “People were… really great.”

Patrick grabs hold of his wrist and gently tugs him back, eyes wide and grateful and relieved. “I’m really glad.” Then he leans in and places a soft kiss on David’s lips, here in the basement, next to the locked up booze.

It’s perfect.

David rubs his hands up and down Patrick’s shoulder. “You ready?”

“I think so.”

“Then let’s go.”

They head towards the stairs and begin to climb, but just before they get to the top, Patrick turns abruptly and nearly sends David tumbling back to the basement.

“Whoa, what’s wrong?” he asks, grabbing hold of Patrick’s hips where he stands on the step above him.

“I lied,” he blurts. “I’m not ready.”

“What?”

“What if they don’t react the way that I think they will?” He sounds so young. So scared.

Oh, Patrick.

“Honey,” he breathes. “I can’t speak for them, but I can tell you that I wasn’t lying when I called them an army. They went to battle for me, for us, in a way that made the day bearable.” He takes his face in his hands and stands up on his toes to press their foreheads together. “Everything you are feeling is valid, and this is scary as fuck, but I do not think that whatever awaits us in that theatre will be a problem.”

“I love you,” Patrick breathes.

“I love you.” But when David said those words, he truly didn’t realize just how right he’d be. When they finally reach the top of the stairs and turn towards the aisle, they stop dead at what greets them in the center of the stage:

Their entire cast is lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, each wearing matching jeans, white t-shirts, and that damn Blue Jays hat. The uniform of Patrick Brewer.

“Oh my God,” Patrick breathes, leaning into David who barely has enough strength left in his body to keep them both standing.

Because it’s not just the cast - Heather, Mutt, Brenda, Ritchie, Shannon, Cecilia, the rest of the dressers, the sound ops, the wig team, the props guys, the programmers, Ronnie, Ray, Rachel, Alexis, Ted, his parents, fuck even the designers who don’t even need to be here: Jake, Twyla, Bob, Amy Grace - anyone who’s walked through the stage door today has been wearing the same thing. Has teased the paps and been photographed by the cameras, while the real story, the real people, snuck in through the back door.

David stumbles down the aisle, grabbing hold of Patrick’s hand and tugging him along. Holding him up. Making him see.

“Stand ho! Who’s there!” someone calls, and David - because he knows this script in his bones - calls back:

“Friends to this ground.”

He thinks.

He hopes.

“About fucking time,” Jake calls, decidedly less eloquent than the Bard, but it does the trick in breaking David out of his stupor.

“Who did this?” he asks, when he gets close enough for his voice to carry, broken though it is.

“Ted and Alexis,” Rachel offers. He looks at his sister who merely tosses her hair over her shoulder with a bashful smile. “Alexis came up with the misdirect. Ted ordered the hats and shirts.”

“And you all…” Patrick tries. “You…” But he can’t finish the sentence.

David places his hand on Patrick’s back as his throat works. He can feel him trembling beneath his palm.

“I mean - we kinda knew, darling,” Helen says, glancing meaningfully between the two of them. “You’re like fucking lighthouses around each other.”

And Patrick can’t help but chuckle, a laugh that grows and grows until David starts to get concerned. Then he braces his hands on his knees and sighs audibly, before standing once more and wiping tears that David doesn’t think are necessarily due to whatever humor he finds in the situation. “I can’t believe you all did this.”

“What - wore cheap cotton blends?” Stevie gripes.

“No. Became Blue Jays fans.”

The chorus of groans and boos that erupts muffles whatever heartfelt things might have been said next as Yankees and Mets fans duel it out in verbal sparring. David is utterly lost, but he doesn’t take his focus from Patrick, who glows with the knowledge that he is completely known. Completely accepted. Completely loved. As he is.

“The paps were preeeeeettty pissed,” Candice says, as Rachel grins.

“Especially since those of us with longer hair tucked it up beneath the hat.”

“We basically all looked the same. It was awesome,” Byron adds, taking far too much delight in other people’s misfortunes, though if pressed, David would admit to being pretty fucking pleased that Getty images wouldn’t pay for any of the shots the paps got today either.

“But how are you, dear boy?” Aldridge finally asks, and David holds his breath as every eye in the building finds Patrick.

“Um, I’m…” but Patrick trails off, looking up at them and clearly deciding that the height difference is unacceptable considering he fucking mountaineers his way up to the stage a moment later.

“Um, okay…” David mutters trying to attempt the same with half as much grace. Luckily everyone is too focused on Patrick to notice when he flops on the deck like a beached whale.

No one except Stevie, of course, which is unfortunate in the extreme.

He hastily gets to his feet just as Patrick begins to speak.

“I’m sorry I abandoned you all yesterday.”

“Patrick, darling, no - ” Helen begins, but Patrick holds up a hand.

“No, I did. Without a word. I didn’t even call out,” he says, looking at Heather and Mutt and Brenda, and particularly Byron. “Everyone just had to… assume I wasn’t going to show up, which is never the kind of person I want to be. I’m sorry about that.”

Everyone is already shaking their heads, but because Heather knows her actors like she knows the Equity handbook, she is well aware that he needs this: “Apology accepted.”

Sure enough, Patrick’s shoulders ease away from his ears as a relieved sigh escapes his lips. “Thanks.”

“So you all got here early?” David asks. “Solely for this reason?”

“Like we’ve said,” Stevie starts with a wicked grin, “there’s a group text that you’re not on.”

“Jesus, how many group texts are there?”

“Oh multiple,” Ronnie says.

Terrifying.

“Let’s document this convivial conclave for the masses,” his mother suggests, but David holds a hand out.

“Wait, wait. Only if Patrick wants to.”

Patrick shrugs. “Why not. Only if - ”

“Yes, we’ll tag the Blue Jays,” Rachel interrupts with an eye roll, stepping forward. “I’ll take it.”

“Thank you,” Patrick grins, pressing a kiss to her cheek as Heather wrangles them into formation.

“David and Patrick in the middle.”

“Oh God, really?”

“Yes, David,” Alexis snaps. “We’re surrounding you in solidarity.”

And surround them, they do. He and Patrick stand dead center, arms thrown over each other’s shoulders, as some company members kneel in front and others flank their sides. Rachel snaps a bunch of pictures on her phone to text to Alexis who has access to the @HamletBway account.

“I’ll post it to the show’s official insta first, and then you all can share from there,” Alexis says, swiping and tapping away as Aldridge wanders over and whispers something in her ear. Her eyebrows raise. “Say it again?” Aldridge whispers once more as Alexis nods and types away on her phone. “Uh huh, uh huh. Good. Did you come up with that?”

Aldridge smiles. “No, my dear.”

“Okay, what is going on?” David snaps, the anticipation becoming too much, especially when Alexis has access to thousands of followers with the touch of her finger. “I have photo approval in my contract.”

“No you don’t,” Ronnie mutters.

“Ugh, here, David,” Alexis huffs, handing over the phone. David looks at the group shot (great angles, perfect filter), but he sucks in a breath when he reads the caption below:

@HamletBway “I would not wish any companion in the world but you.”

Oh.

Patrick’s chin rests on his shoulder as he looks at the screen. “What’s that from?” he asks softly.

“The Tempest.”

“If I recall, it was always one of your favorites,” Aldridge murmurs.

When David looks up, his vision is a little blurry for completely normal, natural reasons. “It is. Thank you, Aldridge. It’s perfect.”

Alexis loudly clears her throat, and David rolls his eyes. “And thank you for the filter. Don’t go taking credit for the photo. That was all Rachel.”

“You’ll send it to me?” Patrick asks, and Alexis nods.

David hands the phone back and glances around at their team. “Are you all staying for the show tonight?”

“Heck yeah,” Bob says, and David looks to Shannon. He can’t imagine having enough room to fit everyone in. He’s seen their box office returns.

“Standing room only,” she explains. Then she winks at Patrick. “Except for a couple of last-minute VIPs. I’m not taking the boxes away from our student rush.”

“Good.”

“Hey, why don’t you go to your dressing room?” Brenda suggests, and David blanches.

“Oh God, why?”

But Brenda just frowns at him, like he’s the one making a questionably motivated suggestion. “To get ready for the show?”

David stares at Patrick for a moment before looking at his phone. It’s hardly time for the cast to get ready for the show.

“Oooookay, maybe we should…” Patrick trails off, but David is too weirded out by Ray’s constant megawatt smile to honestly pay much attention. How could he when he’s convinced Patrick’s agent is one disappointing coffee order away from becoming a serial killer? “David.”

“Fine, yes, let’s go to your dressing room so you can prepare for a role you’re three hours away from performing.”

They start to exit stage right towards the stairs when Patrick pulls up short and makes a beeline for Byron, hovering in the back.

“Hey, man,” he says, immediately grabbing him in a hug, and David is just close enough to make out what he says. “I heard you were great. Thank you for last night.”

But Byron just pulls back and shakes his head. “Dude, I got to play Hamlet on Broadway. There is nothing you have to thank me for. I should be thanking you. You teed this ball up perfectly.”

“And you nailed it.” He squeezes Byron’s shoulder and begins to walk back to David, but then Byron says:

“Thanks for the flowers, too. You’re a class act, man.”

Patrick turns and places one hand over his heart as he blindly reaches out for David with the other. David threads their fingers together and holds on tight, leading him towards the stairs, but as they start the climb towards Patrick’s dressing room, David holds his breath like someone is about to jump out of an electrical closet and snap a photo of them.

But then he exhales because, while it’s still an insane invasion of privacy… it doesn’t actually matter anymore. A million pictures can be taken of them together and it doesn’t matter because they’re together. Out there. For everyone to see.

And for the first time in almost 36 hours, he feels like everything’s going to be okay - like it is okay - and he breathes easier as his shoulders finally drop the burden they’ve been carrying.

Which, of course, is his first mistake and why he isn’t even remotely prepared to push Patrick’s dressing room door open and immediately get assaulted by dozens of hot pink, heart-shaped, helium balloons.

“What the fuck?” he shrieks, but Patrick just laughs.

“Oh my God.” Then he tugs one closer by its string and laughs even harder. “Oh my God.”

“What?” David snaps. “This isn’t that fu - ”

But he stops, because he realizes that the balloons have something on them; something taped to the sides. He waits until one twists around enough for him to get a good look and is horrified to be faced with his own black-and white headshot from Lyon’s Eye Talent, his first one since his Little Mister days (and that glamor shoot Alexis made him do for her seventh birthday).

“Yeah, that was me,” Stevie grins from the door, immensely proud of herself.

“How the fuck…?”

“Oh your mom helped.”

His mom hasn’t helped a day in her life and this is what she starts with?

“You were on Dateline?” Patrick asks, and David spins around because how can he possibly know that - only to find that he’s pulled one of the headshots off a balloon and is reading the (meager) credits on the back.

“Oh we don’t need to get into that.”

“A two-episode arc,” Stevie says as Patrick “Oohs.”

Oh-kay.”

“His performance was so riveting, people really thought he was the Valu-Mart victim.”

“Stevie!”

“What? They did!”

“Oh my God. You’re the worst.”

“You’re the best,” Patrick grins, leaning in and kissing her on the cheek.

“Nope, don’t like that,” David says, gesturing between the two of them and their Abbott and Costello act. Like they weren’t curled around each other this morning. Like they don’t cahoot together at every opportunity.

He hates that he loves it so much.

“Ophelia? Find a river,” he snaps. “But get these out of here first.”

“Oh no, David,” Patrick says. “These aren’t going anywhere.”

“I will never sleep with you again if this is what I have to face every time I come into this room.”

“Sure you will,” Patrick replies with a confident wink, turning and going so far as to tie a balloon onto his chair so he sees it every time he looks in the fucking mirror, but then he freezes mid-knot, the ribbon sliding through his fingers and floating up to the ceiling. “What’s this?” he softly asks.

“What’s what?” David grumbles, still feeling very ganged up on.

“This.” Patrick points at his station and only then does David notice the two identical photos in two matching black frames sitting side by side with a hastily scribbled note beneath it:

Now that it doesn’t matter who sees.

David leans closer, sucking in a breath when he realizes it’s the curtain call shot from opening night, when he and Patrick stared at each other for a long moment, every feeling plain as day on their faces. The one he vowed to find later and never did.

He looks up to find Stevie still standing in the doorway.

“Yeah, that was me, too.”

🎭 🎭 🎭

David didn’t realize what a bubble he’d been kept in until it popped, and now he’s pretty sure he knows what the seals in the zoo feel like.

He’s plastered himself against the back wall of the theatre, arms crossed over his chest to hide the words that naturally draw attention as eyes stare and whispers abound.

This was a terrible fucking idea.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go backstage?” Judy, the house manager, asks as David looks at the timestamp on the text from Marcy that came in four and a half minutes ago.

[Marcy]
In line to pick up tickets.

“I said I’d meet the Brewers here. I’ll stay.” He doesn’t want to, not when he’s feeling more and more like a goldfish with every passing glance, but he will.

Then a shadow falls on his phone screen, and he glances up to find Ivan looming over him.

“Ivan? What are you doing here?”

“Mr. Brewer asked me to stay with you tonight.”

Oh, that’s… “Um, you sure?”

But Ivan just steps to David’s right and puts his back to the audience currently entering from 44th Street, essentially blocking David from view for anyone unless they pass by him and then turn.

Which someone does:

“David!” a tiny voice shouts, but before David can spin and see whom it belongs to, small arms are wrapping around his waist and squeezing tight.

Ivan must have a ‘don’t scare the children’ policy with Patrick because he barely flinches.

“Nadia, we ask before we hug,” a woman says with fond exasperation, and David glances up, recognizing the mother from the airport.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Nadia blurts, immediately letting go and stepping back as if burned. David has the completely inexplicable need to pull her back in and ease the worried frown from her young face.

“No, um, it’s okay. Hi, Nadia,” he says, leaning down and opening his arms once more, almost without trepidation. Nadia immediately steps back into them. “It’s really good to see you.” And it is. She looks even better than she did last year.

“It’s good to see you, too. Thank you so much for giving Patrick my letter.”

“You’re very welcome.” He glances up at her mom again and holds out his hand. “Sorry, we didn’t properly meet last time. I’m David.”

She steps forward and takes it. “Sonal. Thank you so much. You’ve made her year.”

“Did they tell you what to do after the show?”

Judy, who’d been hovering on the periphery, nods. “They’re going to stay in the house, and I’ll take them backstage. The Brewers, too.”

Nadia’s eyes blow wide. “Patrick’s parents?”

David laughs and nods. “You’re getting the full family set tonight.”

Then she tugs him down again and whispers, “I didn’t know he was your boyfriend.” Her eyes are bright like they’re sharing a secret, and David wonders how he could have ever thought that this joyous child would react with anything but just that.

“Well, to be fair, no one did, so I promise you’re not too far out of the loop.”

“Nadia, that’s none of your business,” her mother says warningly.

“But he posted about it on Instagram!”

David chuckles. “It’s true. He did. Cat’s outta the Birkin.”

Judy and Sonal tilt their heads at the word choice, but Nadia isn’t fazed. “Oh and I read Twelfth Night!”

“Yeah? Did you like it?”

“I loved it. What should I try next?”

She might be a little too young for the evil machinations of Macbeth, but David remembers Aldridge’s gesture from that afternoon and how much those words meant to him. “How about The Tempest? It’s got storms and shipwrecks and magic and love,” he says, watching Nadia’s eyes get wider and wider. “Can’t go wrong there.”

“Sounds awesome.”

“Yeah, the show account actually posted a photo with a quote from it earlier today.”

“Oh I saw! Patrick just posted it, too. But he had a different caption.”

“Oh?” David has to admit, he’s curious. “I deleted Instagram from my phone this morning. Just for a few days.”

“Probably for the best,” Sonal murmurs with a smirk, nodding at Nadia who’s already tapping away and pulling up Patrick’s profile before turning it around for him to see. The photo is the same, but the words beneath it are decidedly different:

“I count myself nothing else so happy
As in a soul remembering my good friends.”
#gojays

“Oh,” he breathes. “It’s, um, it’s from Richard II. Not the hashtag, obviously. You can ignore that. I usually do.”

Nadia giggles and looks up at her mom.

“We’ll add it to the list,” Sonal says with a laugh. “Come on, I’m sure we’ll see David after the show.”

“Absolutely,” he promises, waving goodbye and realizing that Nadia succeeded in both distracting him from the scrutiny and keeping others at bay. She’s going to give Ivan a run for his money.

But then another voice is calling his name, a voice that has him tearing up before he can remind himself that crying in public is incorrect, and he turns just in time for Marcy to get her arms around his neck and pull him into the kind of hug he could lose himself in.

“Oh, sweetheart,” she whispers, squeezing for a second before leaning back enough to cup his cheeks. “Come here, let me look at you. Have you slept? Did you eat?”

“Marce,” Clint laughs behind her as he shakes Ivan’s hand, “take a breath.”

“Hi,” David smiles, gently holding her wrists and letting her motherly gaze sweep over him, inspecting for things like depression and malnutrition. “I’m so glad you guys are here.”

“Us, too,” Clint says, getting a hand on David’s shoulder when it becomes obvious that Marcy won’t be letting him go any time soon. “How’s Patrick?”

“He’s…” David trails off and shakes his head, throat going tight again. “He’s amazing. Your son is incredible.”

And then Marcy goes and says, “You’re pretty miraculous yourself, sweetheart.”

He tilts his hand back, face crumpling. “Marcy, crying at work is a life choice I’m really trying not to make these days.” Luckily, the bell rings and the house lights flicker, urging people to their seats.

“Come on, Marce. You’ve emotionally devastated our son’s partner enough for one evening,” he jokes with a wink.

“Oh hush, you,” she says as she swats at him, but David’s brain is still stuck on the speed bump that is our son’s partner.

“That’s what you face. When you partner with me.”

When he first heard those words, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be prepared to face that. At the time, he wasn’t sure he was even being given the option.

But the option is his now, just as much as the privilege.

David is his partner. And he is ready. Because Patrick is worth it.

“I’ll find you afterwards? I might hide backstage at intermission,” he says with a wince.

“Completely understandable,” Marcy says. “Ivan, you’ll stay with him, right?”

Which warms David right down to his core.

“I promised Mr. Brewer I would.”

“Good,” she replies with a smile as Clint gently leads her away to follow Judy who personally takes them to their seats.

David waves one last time, before plastering himself against the wall again to hide from the stragglers getting their drinks and the almost-latecomers hurrying to their seats. Rachel appears at his side a moment later, and David glances down at her.

“Have you been here the whole time?”

She hums. “I walked Nadia and her mom in, but then I saw the Brewers and I didn’t want to interrupt the moment.”

“You could have.”

But Rachel shakes her head. “I know I would have been welcome, but I didn’t want to.” Then her smile turns devious. “They’re your in-laws now.”

David chokes on his spit.

“Excuse me?”

But before she has a chance to reply, they’re joined by the designers and Ronnie and Ray, by the people who showed up for Patrick today and won’t leave until the ghostlight goes on. Luckily, they’ve changed out of their Blue Jays paraphernalia because if they hadn’t, David would absolutely be pretending not to know them right now.

“How are you feeling?” Twyla asks, concern as apparent as her freckles on her expressive face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous for another human being in my life. And that includes the time Alexis decided to heli ski down the Matterhorn,” David replies, rubbing his hands up and down his arms. The anxiety is making him cold and skittish, and he’d really love nothing more than to climb back into bed with Patrick and pull the covers up on the world.

“That makes sense,” Twyla replies. “I remember the night before my step-dad went on trial for arson. My mom distracted herself by setting up an ax-throwing bullseye in the upstairs hallway. Almost got a free haircut when I stepped out of my room to see what all the racket was about.”

“Twyla, have you ever thought of writing a play of your life story?” he asks only semi-rhetorically.

“Oh yeah. My agent told me that the world wasn’t ready for that kind of darkness,” she replies sunnily.

“Right.”

Over Twyla’s shoulder, he sees Alexis and Ted settle in next to Jake, as Judy leads his parents in. He honestly didn’t expect them to come back after what David’s sure was a wine-soaked steak dinner at Gallagher’s, but here they are, standing in the back just like the rest of them.

Then the house lights dim, the music starts, and David’s heart leaps into his throat as he closes his eyes, unable to open them again until Patrick’s cue line:

“Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.”

And if David thought the applause that went up after Patrick stepped onstage for the first time as a newly-minted Tony nominee was a lot, well this… this is fucking deafening.

The first part of Aldridge’s monologue gets drowned out, as it frequently does when Patrick makes his entrance, but the sustained applause on tonight of all nights stops Aldridge dead after “Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death The memory be green.” The actors hold, waiting for a lull to continue, but the applause doesn’t stop. In fact, people are starting to stand.

“Oh my God,” he breathes as Rachel grabs his hand, covering her mouth with her palm.

Even from the back of the orchestra, David can see Patrick’s lip wobble and his throat work, and thank God he doesn’t have to say a line any time soon because David’s honestly not sure he’d be able to get through it. Candice places her hand on Patrick’s back, a small gesture not necessarily visible to the audience, but David is looking for it. David can see the strength that Patrick draws from it as all 1,156 people in the Broadhurst Theatre show Patrick Brewer just how much support he has.

Patrick finally breaks and hangs his head, and by now, the rest of the actors are starting to lose their composure. Candice cuddles up to Patrick as Byron clasps his shoulder, and beside David, their family and friends catcall and whistle and cheer. If David thought anything but a sob would leave his lips, he’d join right in.

Finally the audience calms enough for the scene to continue, but another round of applause starts back up when Patrick says his first line, “A little more than kin, and less than kind,” sustained through Aldridge’s reply: “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?”

And when Patrick opens his mouth for his next line, his voice wobbles, cracks - and then fails.

“Come on, honey,” David whispers, clasping his hands in front of his mouth. “You can do it.”

Patrick clears his throat and tries again:

“Not so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.”

Helen steps forward and, in blocking David definitely did not direct but he certainly appreciates tonight, takes Patrick’s face in her hands, looking at him clearly.

“Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.”

Then she places a lingering kiss to his cheek, briefly presses their foreheads together, steps back, and continues:

“Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”

By the time she’s finished, Patrick has gotten himself together and delivers, “Ay, madam, it is common,” with all of the strength and edge he usually does. He settles back into the role, and David watches as he becomes Hamlet once more, losing himself to the part and disappearing into the world that David helped him build.

When Patrick’s first (interminable) stretch onstage is finally finished and he exits, David’s mother leans forward down their row and blows him a kiss as her mascara cuts a dark river down her cheeks. His father gives a proud nod before leading her back into the lobby, and David watches for a moment, long after the door closes behind them, relishing the fact that they showed up in the first place. Everyone else stays, though, despite the fact that they’ve seen it enough times to probably recite a majority of the lines. They haven’t seen it like this, though. They haven’t watched this man do that.

For an already phenomenal performance, what Patrick is doing up there is unprecedented.

By the time intermission rolls around, David realizes he hasn’t removed his clasped hands from his lips. In fact, he feels like he’s been stunned into silence; Medusa’d into stone by love and luck and some fine fucking theatre.

“Let’s get you backstage,” Ivan murmurs, getting a hand on David’s elbow that doesn’t give him much room to argue. Not that he’d want to. Patrick is backstage. Obviously he wants to go there.

They hurry down the aisle and through the pass door, and David tries to block out the whispers he leaves in his wake. Taking the steps to the deck, he rushes past the stage management office and up the first flight of stairs, knocking briefly on Patrick’s closed dressing room door.

“David, that better be you,” comes his voice, and David pushes the door open just as Cecilia hurries past him with a wink.

“Come here,” he breathes, holding out his arms for Patrick to fall into. “You’re a fucking marvel.”

Patrick groans and holds him close, tucking his nose into David’s neck. “Sorry about the top.”

“Mm hm, nope, we are banning that word from your vocabulary for the next 36 hours at least. You were phenomenal. It was beautiful. Everyone in that house is on your side.”

“David,” he whispers, breath gusting hot against his neck.

“I’m here.”

“Did my parents make it?”

David snorts. “Like a natural disaster could have kept them from this. They’re here. They’re great.” Then David clears his throat. “Nadia, too.”

“Oh,” Patrick breathes, pulling away a bit. “And she’s… okay?” With me? David hears, watching the old anxiety begin to creep back onto Patrick’s face.

“She’s possibly even more excited to meet you than she was before.”

“Oh.” Patrick looks down, lips pulling into a small smile. “That’s nice.”

But David doesn’t want him thinking about other people’s opinions at the moment, good or bad; not when he still has half a show to perform. “Are you going back to The Mark tonight?”

Patrick shrugs and gets his arms back around David’s waist. “I checked out, but I can get it again if need be. What do you want to do?”

“I want to go home.”

“Oh.” Patrick lets go again and steps back this time. “Okay.”

David realizes his mistake a second too late. “No! No. Sorry, um. Your place. I want to go home to your place.” Oh my God.

But it’s true. Patrick’s has been feeling more and more like home than any roof David’s ever had over his head.

“Oh. Good.” Patrick’s eyes have gone on a rollercoaster from surprise and hurt to relief and joy. It’s almost too much for David to handle. “Um, and I have something I want to play for you when we get there.”

“Oh?” He tries to go for nonchalantly intrigued, but inside, his heart is doing a Phil Collins drum solo.

“Yeah,” Patrick replies, eyes dancing, like he knows how badly David wants to know what it is.

Because the only thing Patrick could possibly want to play for him must be something from the new album, which David has heard nothing from despite multiple attempts to coax even a vague melody or a short whistle.

“We doing act two or not?” Stevie asks from the doorway, and Patrick gives David’s ass a gentle slap.

“Coming.”

“Ugh, don’t think this gives you two permission to be gross all over my workplace.”

“We are professionals!” David snaps.

“At making out,” she mutters like a surly teen.

Okay,” David starts, but Patrick cuts him off (and doesn’t help his argument) by pressing a kiss to his lips.

“Gotta go.”

“Fine. Good luck.”

“It’s ‘break a leg.” He pecks him one last time on the cheek, winks, and follows Stevie out the door.

David waits for a moment, deciding to quickly use Patrick’s bathroom before making his way back to the house. When he exits into the stairwell, Ivan is still standing there, waiting for him. David gives him a smile and leads the way through the pass door back into the hubbub of the house. He timed it well, and the lights are just starting to dim as he reaches the top of the aisle. The rest of his family and friends are all still standing at the back, most of them having gotten drinks during intermission. Ronnie holds out a cup for David as he passes her, and he takes it with a grateful smile.

Patrick dominates Act Two in much the same way as Act One, and by the time Hamlet takes his last breath, David knows he’s not the only one crying. The sniffles coming from everywhere are enough for David to wonder if the concession stand should start stocking tissues.

People are on their feet before the stage even goes into its final blackout, and the roar of the applause thankfully drowns out the strangled noise that leaves his throat. He’s so fucking proud.

The cast takes their bows and when Patrick steps forward for his, the emotion on his face is overwhelming. He’s quick about it, though, stepping back for the final full-cast bow. The cast isn’t having it, though, and Stevie and Helen shove him forward for yet another solo bow. Even from this distance, David can  see Patrick bite his trembling lip as he presses a hand to his chest, over his heart, and bows one last time. And David knows that the drop of water that falls from his face to the stage isn’t sweat. Patrick straightens once more and mouths Thank you as he backs up into the cast, but in what was clearly a pre-planned move, his fellow actors immediately close in on him, crushing him in a group hug as the audience goes wild.

“Did you know they were going to do that?” Rachel asks, and David laughs.

“I did not. But I’m not mad about it.” Even if it seems a little morbid to be so joyous after all of that death.

Eventually the actors leave the stage, still one big huddled mass, moving as one, and only then does the audience start to spill out into the aisles.

“Would you like me to take you backstage?” Ivan asks.

“No, I think I’ll wait for the Brewers. We’ll all go back together.”

Ivan nods and takes up his position in front of David, trying to block him as much as he can from people standing on their tiptoes, trying to get a good look over his massive shoulders. The designers say their goodbyes, expressing in some form or another how good Patrick was, like this was a new performance they’d seen. Then again, it kind of was. Ronnie gives him a nod as Ray offers a cheerful wave, before turning and heading out. Alexis and Ted approach next, but instead of also bidding him goodnight, Ted takes up a place next to Ivan and widens the shield.

“Here they come,” Rachel says, and David has to assume she’s referring to Clint and Marcy because he can’t actually see anything at the moment. “How about you take them back, and I’ll follow with Nadia in a bit? Patrick may want a moment with them before he sees anyone else.”

“Sounds good.”

Ivan steps back, finally revealing Marcy who rushes forward and pulls David into another hug. “That’s a night I won’t soon forget,” she whispers wetly.

“Me either,” he quietly replies. “Let’s go see him.”

Clint claps him on the shoulder, and Marcy loops her arm through his as Ivan and Ted lead them backstage. Alexis keeps up a running commentary on some topic David really isn’t paying attention to. He just wants to see Patrick, but he also knows that Marcy and Clint need to see him first, which is why he gently unhooks Marcy’s hand from his arm when they get to the stairs and nods up to the first door. Marcy cups his cheek and whispers, “Thank you,” as she heads up with Clint behind her.

David blows out a steady breath and shakes out his arms, like he’s trying to loosen the grip his emotions have had on him all night. All day. All fucking week, it seems.

The door opens and he hears Patrick’s delighted, “Mom!” and Marcy’s responding “Hello, sweet boy,” before it shuts again behind them.

“We’re going to grab a drink around the corner, if you all want to join,” Ted offers. “Call me old fashioned but everyone needs time to wine down.”

Even Alexis groans at that and proceeds to pull him out of the stage door by his shirt. David appreciates the speedy exit because he cannot handle Ted’s puns on top of everything else that’s currently running through his brain.

“David!” Nadia calls as she catches sight of him at the bottom of the stairs. “That was amazing!”

“I’m glad you thought so,” he says warmly, glancing up at Sonal whose eyes are rimmed red.

“I’ve never seen her respond to something like that.”

He looks back down at Nadia, who’s practically vibrating with energy, bouncing on her tiptoes.

“Patrick’s just saying a quick hello to his parents," he explains. "Then I’ll take you up.”

“Oh we don’t want to interrupt,” Sonal says, but David waves her worry away.

“He’s really excited to meet you both.” And just as the words leave his mouth, the door swings back and the man himself stands there grinning.

“You must be Nadia.”

“Patrick!” She yells, flying up the stairs.

“Nadia,” her mother warns.

“Sorry, do you hug?” the girl immediately says, and Patrick laughs.

“Yes, I hug. Get in here.” Then he crouches down in time for Nadia to practically plow into his chest.

Personally David is not a fan of small humans, but even he can admit that the sight before him is warming the deep, dark crevices of his cold soul.

“After you,” he says to Sonal who just shakes her head as her daughter chatters away a mile a minute. Gone is the shy child from the airport, and David watches with delight as she’s introduced to the people responsible for their mutual favorite person. Clint and Marcy are utterly charmed, and photos are taken and Playbills are signed while Nadia and Patrick talk about everything and nothing.

Just as they’re wrapping up, Patrick says, “I have something for you,” as he pulls an envelope from his station and hands it over to Nadia.

Nadia opens the envelope and quickly scans its contents, before her head snaps up. “Guitar lessons?!”

“You mentioned in your letter that you wanted to learn, and this guy is the best teacher in your town. Maybe next time I see you, we can play together.”

“I would love that!” she gushes, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around him again. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Rachel leads them back down the stairs, and David, Patrick, and the Brewers follow as Heather greets them at the bottom.

“Have you thought about an extraction plan?” she asks.

The roar of people waiting outside echoes even through the metal stage door.

“I have not,” Patrick admits, eyes going a little wide at the implication.

“You don’t have to do the stage door,” David says. “We can sneak you out the way we smuggled you in.”

And the thought is honestly tempting, especially given the ever-growing cheers outside. David would love nothing more than to magic himself into Patrick’s townhouse, preferably under a blanket with a glass of wine in his hand.

Just then, Nadia steps forward and taps Patrick on the hip, curling her finger in a ‘come here’ gesture when he looks down at her. Patrick bends down, and she whispers something in his ear, and whatever it is has Patrick’s brow creasing as his mouth curves into David’s favorite downturned smile.

“Thank you,” he whispers as she steps away, waving one last time as she and her mom exit into the night with the promise to keep in touch.

“What’d she say?” David asks.

Patrick clears his throat and tries to casually brush his hand across his face. “She said I was very brave.” 

David gets an arm around his waist and presses a kiss to his shoulder, nodding at the door. “You might need to be to face what’s on the other side of that. Which I reiterate, you do not have to do.” 

“No, I want to. That audience out there was…” but his voice breaks, and he shakes his head. “I owe it to them to say thank you.”

“Okay,” Heather starts, “then how about you go out, sign and take photos, and then come back inside so we can send you out via 45th Street. Then no one can tail your car, and David and your parents can stay here.”

“I like this plan,” Ivan says.

“Okay,” Patrick agrees, watching as Ivan texts Lena the update.

“We’ll hang here,” David murmurs, gesturing to Clint and Marcy, and Patrick nods, swallowing hard as Ritchie hands him a sharpie. “And remember, if halfway through, you decide you’re done, then you’re done. This is not part of the job, despite what people say.”

“I know, David,” he whispers with a smile. “Thank you.”

Just then, Helen descends the steps and sidles up to Patrick with Stevie hot on her heels.

“Shall we?” Helen asks, looping her arm through Patrick’s as Stevie takes his other side.

“You coming with me?”

“Oh, darling, I’m not leaving your side.”

And that appeases David because if anyone can handle the rude, uncouth masses, it’s Helen fucking Walton. And going by the serious nod that Ivan and Stevie share, she’ll have plenty of backup.

“Okay. We’ll, um, we’ll be here,” he says as Marcy’s hand presses against his back. He hates sending Patrick out there alone, but he knows his presence would not help matters. 

“Okay,” Patrick quietly replies, looking like he’s debating something, before stepping forward and pressing a quick kiss to David’s lips.

It’s the first time they’ve done that outside of his dressing room.

“See you soon,” he says, passing by Ritchie who’s beaming like a dance mom watching her child nail a tap solo.

Then the door opens and the cacophony is almost enough for David to need to cover his ears. He leans against the wall, flanked by Rachel and Marcy with Clint on Marcy’s other side, listening in to see what the general tone is, which is a hard thing to do when the door slams shut, muffling it all. He can make out some “We love you, Patrick!”s and various expressions of happiness, which is good. Someone even yells out an “I knew it!” that makes everyone laugh, Patrick included. Then -

“Are you engaged?” a tiny voice asks, hopeful and optimistic, and David nearly slams his forehead against the door in an effort to hear the answer.

“What?” Patrick asks, laughing. “Why do you think I’m engaged?”

“The rings!”

David’s head snaps down to his right hand and the silver bands around his fingers.

“Ohhh,” Patrick says. “No. We’re not engaged. David’s had those for a while. Well before he met me.”

“Oh.” The kid sounds very put out, which is… kind of sweet.

David looks up wide-eyed at Patrick’s parents, who seem to be watching his reaction like fucking Must See TV. “We’re not… that’s - that’s not - ”

Marcy finally takes pity on him. “We know that, David,” she says with a giggle.

But the thought crosses his brain, which is… something.

Finally, after ages, Patrick reappears inside, looking overwhelmed and exhausted but in a good way. David has to admit it was probably not a bad idea for Patrick to see how much support he has, even from total strangers.

Especially from total strangers.

“Home?” Patrick asks.

David exhales.

“Home.”

🎭 🎭 🎭

Patrick Brewer Gives an Electrifying Performance in Emotional Return to Hamlet

Not a Dry Eye in the House as Brewer Rejoins Company

Hamlet Cast Shows Their Support During Curtain Call

Watch the Hamlet Cast Group Hug

Patrick Brewer Gets By With a Little Help From His Friends

🎭 🎭 🎭

They drop the Brewers off at their hotel after getting assurances from them that they’ll come over for breakfast and stay in the city long enough to join everyone for Sunday Night Dinner.

Which is a thing that is happening.

By the time Ivan unlocks Patrick’s front door (because the bodyguard has not let Patrick go anywhere unaccompanied since he walked offstage), David is ready to fall to his knees and kiss the hardwood floor, as the familiar smells of the townhouse envelop him.

“Can we just lock the door and stay here forever?”

“Tempting,” Patrick chuckles, “but considering tomorrow is a two-show day, I’m gonna say ‘no.”

David groans and heads for the stairs, but Patrick halts his approach with a hand on his wrist. “Wait.”

David turns and raises an eyebrow. “You okay?”

Patrick hums and nods, but tugs him towards the living room, past the fireplace and to the corner where the baby grand sits -

Right. He had something he wanted to play.

David’s heart immediately kickstarts. “You have the energy for this?”

“David, I’ve been wanting to share this with you for a while. Honestly, I think it’s the only thing keeping me upright at the moment.”

“Oh.”

Patrick pulls the ottoman closer to the piano and pats its cushion for David to sit. David does and watches as Patrick settles onto the bench, adjusts, and then adjusts again.

“I, um, I just might not be able to look at you while I do this. If I want to get through it. So don’t, uh, don’t read anything into that.”

David swallows around the golf ball that’s just lodged itself in his throat. “Okay. I won’t.”

“This is the fifth song on the album. But it’s not the first single. It is, however, for you. I think you’ll find it familiar… which is why it’s called Reprise.”

Then Patrick places the pads of his fingers on the keys… and begins to play.

David recognizes it immediately, the motif from Make Me Feel Right having been carved into his bones years ago. But while the original starts off loud and angry before staying loud but growing hopeful, Reprise starts soft and sweet. Happy. Make Me Feel Right was always about being stuck in a life that didn’t feel like your own, directly countering its more optimistic title. Maybe that’s why David empathized with it so acutely, but this…

This is someone who’s content.

When Patrick sings “You make me feel right,” David actually believes him.

The song veers off into its own rhythm and magic then, the lyrics molding into something fresh and new. David stares, rapt, feeling just like he did the first time he ever heard Patrick play a Hamlet composition.

And the lyrics… Jesus, the lyrics. David’s going to need him to play it again as soon as it’s done, because it’s impossible to take them all in. Not when his brain is trying to keep time with his heart.

“I loved you in the silence
Because it seemed like all I could do
But silence wasn’t right for us, babe
A cufflink couldn’t do justice to you”

By the time Patrick finishes, David is in tatters; a man completely undone. The final chord rings out, and Patrick’s fingers hover over the keys before resting gently on top, softly enough not to make a sound. He still doesn't look up. 

David’s resulting sob is overly loud in the silent room, an affront to all that came before. He stands on trembling legs and slides onto the bench next to Patrick, taking his hands and clutching them to his chest as he presses his forehead to Patrick’s shoulder.

“You wrote this for me?” he whispers, and Patrick huffs out a watery laugh, using his nose to nudge at David’s head, finally forcing their eyes to meet.

“David, you’re my moon shot. I wrote all of it for you.”

Chapter Text

How Patrick Brewer and David Rose Hid in Plain Sight

Patrick Brewer and David Rose are Basically Relationship Goals

One Million Moms Calls to Boycott Patrick Brewer. See the Internet’s Best Responses

Bravo to Re-Air Episodes of A Little Bit Alexis

David Rose’s The Crucible deserved better. In this essay I will - 

Toronto Blue Jays Extend Open Invitation for Patrick Brewer to Throw Out First Pitch

🎭 🎭 🎭

If David has to dodge one more unknown number, he’s going to throw his phone across the room. Which he nearly does anyway when his boyfriend bursts into his apartment two minutes later.

“Have you seen this?” Patrick demands almost as explosively as he sends the front door flying back, brandishing his phone like it’s informed him the baseball is cancelled. 

David startles where he’d been reading a script on his couch, his stomach dropping as his heart gallops. “Oh God, what?” 

“This!” 

David stands, the script falling to the floor with a dull thud. “Honey, I still don’t know what ‘this’ is, and I need you to tell me quickly because I am rapidly careening towards Worst Case Scenario. Especially considering you’re supposed to be at the theatre right now - ” 

“You didn’t win the Outer Critics Circle Award!” Patrick shouts, panting like he’s run a marathon. 

Oh. David cocks his head, trying to keep his adrenaline levels in check. “That’s what’s got you so indignant?” 

Yes! ” 

“Jesus.” He places his hands on his knees. “I thought something terrible had happened!” 

“It has! This is ridiculous!” 

“Patrick, they’ve never liked me. I honestly wasn’t expecting it. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not!” he shouts again, and David has to bite his lips because he’s pretty sure that smiling besottedly in this moment would only make his boyfriend’s blood pressure skyrocket further. 

“It really is, honey,” he says, straightening once more and walking over to cup his flushed face. His cheeks are too-much-whiskey red. “Who won?” 

“Ugh, some septuagenarian who’s won it like a thousand times.” 

If it’s the septuagenarian David’s thinking of, he’s only won it seven. “You’re cute when you’re cranky.” 

Patrick pouts. “No, I’m not.” 

“Not helping your case,” he says, kissing his nose and pulling him over to the sofa. “Glad to see your key works, though.” David had finally given him one in case of emergencies, despite the fact that they spend more time at Patrick’s than at the loft. Especially considering a few dedicated paps have this place staked out like an FBI raid. “And even if it hadn’t, I’m pretty sure you would have Wile E. Coyote’d your way through the door regardless. Anybody out there?” he asks, pushing Patrick down into the cushions and settling in beside him. 

“Just Joe,” he grumbles. Joe is the one photographer who’s literally always here. David doesn’t know where he lives - he’s either homeless or a magician - but his stamina (and framing) is impressive. David will admit to googling a couple of his shots. At least he’s nice.

“Where’s Ivan?” 

“With Lena in the car. I got the news while we were on our way to the theatre. We had enough time to make a detour.” 

David hums and scratches at the short hairs on Patrick’s nape. “So who else won?” he tries to ask casually. But Patrick just frowns and says nothing. David tries to keep his disappointment at bay. “Did you not win? Don’t make me call Ray. I hate calling Ray. He doesn’t shut up about his closet reorganization side hustle.” 

Patrick smiles at that and then has the audacity to blurt out, “No, I won, but it doesn’t feel as good if you didn’t win, too!” 

“Patrick, you won?! Oh my God!” For fuck’s sake, this man. “Lead with that information, Jesus Christ!” 

But his adorably surly boyfriend just groans and buries his face in his hands. “Stevie won and the show won, too.”

“Patrick!” David scrambles for his phone to shoot off several belated congratulatory texts. “What the fuck!” 

“Yeah I know, I know. But why am I the one breaking this news to you? Why didn’t Ronnie or Alexis call?” 

“I turned my phone off so I could read a script because I am easily distracted! You know this! How the hell was I supposed to remember the winners were announced today!” 

“Because I saw you put it in your calendar!” 

“Which is in my phone!” 

“Wow,” Patrick laughs as David curses at his cell, willing it to boot up faster. Sure enough, he has multiple missed messages. 

[Stevie]
You’ve called them the Outer Space Circle Awards in the press, so really, are we surprised? 

[Ronnie]
They’re idiots. But congratulations on the show win.

[Patrick]
David, answer your phone. I’m coming over. 

He looks up at the last one. “And here you are.” 

Patrick just shakes his head. “You’re really not upset about this?” 

“I’m really not. You forget that between Orestes and now, I’ve had many years of getting used to disappointment.” 

“David - ”

“And you and Stevie will have a lovely time eating the ridiculous cheese plate at Sardi’s. If it can even be called that. It’s a bowl of cheez whiz and some saltines.” 

Patrick pauses, a frown carving a line on his face. “Wait, does that - does that mean you’re not coming?” 

David sighs. “Patrick, the dinner is only for winners.” 

“But the show won! Your show!” He’s back to being indignant.

“And my parents, as producers, will accept, God help us all. Make sure no one is filming.” 

“Then come as my date,” Patrick suggests, ignoring the quip. 

“Honey, do you really want the first awards show we attend together to be the Outer Critics Circle?” 

“Are you not coming to the Drama League lunch on Friday?!” Poor thing sounds nearly hysterical. 

“Whoa, hey,” he says, grabbing hold of his flailing hands. “Of course I’m coming. But it’s different - we’re not seated together. They have all you actors up on a cute little dais and everything.”

“And where will you be?” Patrick sounds mildly appeased that David is coming, but still completely affronted by this new information. 

“I’ll be at a table with the rest of the cast and producers, gorging myself on lukewarm chicken, I’m sure. I promise to make eyes at you the whole time,” he says, getting an arm around Patrick’s shoulders and pulling him in so he can kiss his temple. 

“The whole time?” 

“The whole time.” 

Patrick sighs in defeat and tucks his nose into his throat.

“Congratulations,” David murmurs, pressing another kiss to his head. 

“Thank you. You’re really not gonna come?” 

“It’s just a dinner. You have this moment.” 

“David - ”

“No. You said you didn’t want us to overshadow the show. Well, if I show up as your plus one to that dinner, that’s going to be the only headline that people run. You won Best fucking Actor. That’s the fact that people need to focus on.” 

He can tell Patrick sees his point, even if he’s not happy about it. “But you’ll come on Friday?” 

“Of course I’ll come on Friday. It’s an open bar at noon. I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”

Patrick chuckles. 

“The Outer Critics don’t deserve us anyway. I mean, who the fuck has a gala dinner on a Thursday?” 

Patrick somehow manages to smile while pouting. “You tell ‘em, baby.” He glances at the abandoned stack of papers on the floor. “So what’s this script?” 

“Probably something I’m not going to do. The playwright uses comic sans non-ironically.” Patrick snorts as David points at the pile of unread scripts on the coffee table. “Ronnie messengered these here this morning. Clearly she’s anticipating a massive depressive spiral when the Tonys are over.” 

“Why?” 

“Because then my job on Hamlet is sort of finished.” Granted, he fired his AD. Until he hires and trains a new one, he and the stage management team will be taking on the brunt of the understudy rehearsal duties. And on a limited run like Hamlet, it almost makes sense not to hire someone new… but he has some ideas. 

“And you’ll move on?” Patrick asks, his brown eyes wide and dark, conveying the sheer depth of how much that thought scares him. 

“We all move on eventually. But no,” David whispers, placing his hand over his heart, “I’ll never move on from this.” 

Patrick licks his lips and nods, finally looking somewhat placated. “Good. Um, and as for Friday, I don’t plan on doing any press. Not yet.” 

“That’s fine. The Drama League lunch isn’t exactly carried by the major networks anyway. The red carpet is a step-and-repeat on the fifth floor of the Marriott Marquis. You’ll be lucky to get a YouTube video.” 

“I have enough YouTube videos for a lifetime,” he snaps, and David raises an eyebrow. It’s one of many emotional 180s Patrick is doing these days. 

“Not that I don’t love you in every mood, but you are awfully grumpy today. And I know it’s not just because of the Outer Critics.” Patrick’s been tetchy ever since some online tabloid did a rather bitchy recap of David’s various brushes with fame, highlighting in particular his past romantic dalliances (not that romance played much of a part in any of them). 

Which in turn has made Patrick less than gracious towards the media, which he didn’t necessarily welcome in the past, but he certainly tolerated. Being the good guy is who he is; the boy next door who breaks your window with a stray baseball but then offers to fix it himself just after he brings you a plate of freshly baked cookies. It’s gotten serious now, though. It’s gotten personal. Hell, last week he turned down Oprah. 

And David wouldn’t dream of telling Patrick how to handle any of this, but like - Oprah.

“Maybe one day. But not now,” Patrick had said. “And certainly not before Carol can publish whatever it is she’s publishing. We owe her that.” 

“Fine,” David grumbled. “But I swear to God, if Oprah interviews you and you do not take me to her rose garden, we are breaking up.” 

“Duly noted.”  

David stares at him for a long moment that has him shifting under the scrutiny. “You know I’m okay, right?” 

“What?” 

“I mean, if this whole V for Vendetta thing you have going on against the press is because of me…  you know I’m okay, right?” David Rose is no neophyte when it comes to being picked apart on the daily; cut up into tiny pieces for the sole purpose of being placed under a microscope. Patrick himself has witnessed it firsthand. 

But David also remembers a conversation on this very couch, when Patrick laid out in very plain terms just how difficult it is to date someone like him. 

“They tore her apart with lies, stalking - Jesus, death threats and… and I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch someone I’ve loved for half of my life go through that.” 

Patrick may not have loved David for the first half of his life, but David certainly hopes to lay claim to the second. 

Which is a thought that he just had. 

That is neither here nor there at the moment. 

“Honey, I made my television debut in utero. They wrote me into Sunrise Bay as Vivian’s lover’s identical twin brother’s baby.” 

Patrick shakes his head, and the look of adorable befuddlement on his face would be kiss-worthy if David wasn’t trying to make a very important point. 

“What I’m trying to say is that this is not new to me. And as sweet, and hot, as it is for you to go all knight in shining armor, I don’t actually need you to be Richard Gere in the limo with the rose.” 

Patrick blinks. “What?” 

“Ugh, we’re adding Pretty Woman to the movie night list. I’m saying that I’m okay.” He takes Patrick’s hands again and presses a kiss to his knuckles. “And I love that you love me enough to dirty up your squeaky clean, nice boy image. And if you still want to, that’s fine. That is your choice. I’m just saying that I don’t need you to.” 

“You don’t deserve to be dragged through a million click bait headlines just because you’re with me,” Patrick says fiercely, looking just like he did the morning of the Tony press junket when David was pretty sure he was one poorly thought through decision away from knocking out Antonio’s teeth. 

“Maybe not. But if a million click bait headlines is what I have to go through to be with you, then,” he shrugs, “no contest. I’d go through Sebastien’s revenge porn over and over and over again as long as I had you with me.” 

Patrick inhales sharply and leans down to press his forehead to their still-clasped hands. “I’m with you.” 

“I know.” David knew it was never going to be a walk in the park - going public - and in some ways, it’s honestly not as bad as he had been braced for. He just… hoped not to be doing it in the middle of a very busy awards campaign for a show he cares entirely too much about. It’s easy to say awards don’t matter when you preemptively brace yourself for disappointment. But he wants the Tony. Not even for himself. He wants it for Patrick and for Stevie and, most of all, for the show. 

But a Tony for himself wouldn’t be half bad either. 

“So you’re not doing press at the Drama League,” he confirms with a kiss to Patrick’s still-bent head. 

“And you’re not coming to the Outer Critics,” Patrick murmurs against his hands. 

“That is correct.” 

Patrick looks up and, finally, smiles. “I love you.” 

“I love you, too.” 

Then Patrick leans in and nips at his lower lip, before sucking it between his own for a moment as he deepens the kiss. “I’m not a squeaky clean nice boy,” he whispers, and David hums.  

“Maybe not. Nice boys don’t kiss like that.” 

“Oh yes, they fucking do.” 

David shimmies as he gets his arms around Patrick’s shoulders and allows himself to be pressed back against the cushions. “I knew making you watch Bridget Jones would work in my favor…” 

Then he grabs hold of Patrick’s hips and stops them from rolling against his own. 

“But you have a matinee in an hour.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭


PBandJ: anyone know if there’s a red carpet for the drama league awards?
      BrewsClues: i don’t think so. it seems very low key. the most i can find from other years are some photos and maybe a broadway.com interview
PBandJ: @Ampersand seemed to know a lot about the awards shows. 
      BrewsClues: @Ampersand left the server.
PBandJ: oh. huh. so what’s next? drama league is tomorrow… 
      BrewsClues: there’s a tony nominees lunch on tuesday at the rainbow room, and the outer critics circle dinner is at sardi’s on thursday. 
PBandJ: but david didn’t win.
      BrewsClues: which we’re still not speaking about. 
PBandJ: which we’re still not speaking about. I just need ONE RED CARPET PHOTO OF THE TWO OF THEM.
      BrewsClues: well. there’s always the tonys
PBandJ: there’s always the tonys.
      BrewsClues: holy shit.

🎭 🎭 🎭

The Drama League Luncheon is low stakes, all things considered. 

No one outside of the industry knows about it or even really pays it any attention, but to the Broadway and Off-Broadway communities, it’s just behind the Tonys and the Lortels. Whoever wins the Distinguished Performance Award is usually a pretty good indication of who’s taking home Ms. Antoinette Perry (if it’s a Broadway show they’re in. Unlike the Tonys, the Drama League recognizes Off-Broadway performances). 

Granted, they only give one. And it could go to any actor in any of the eight performance categories: leading, featured, play, musical. 

“Ugh, David, look at me!” Alexis snaps. 

“What? Stop fussing! I’m not a toddler you just lost in the grocery store!” 

“Then stop acting like one!”

He slaps her seeking fingers away from his lapel and goes back to staring up at the glass elevators skyrocketing to the ceiling. 

“Children,” Ronnie dryly admonishes from her arm chair in the hotel lobby on the 8th floor, not even bothering to look at them as she takes a slow sip from her coffee and flicks through emails on her phone. 

“She started it,” he mutters, and Alexis uses his distraction to finally pluck whatever it is she was trying to pluck from his suit coat. 

In the chair next to Ronnie, Stevie lounges in her jumpsuit and heels, her gaze somehow even more judgmental from beneath her smokey eye makeup as she shakes her head in mock disappointment. David sticks his tongue out at her because he is an adult.  

They had decided the night before during a team meeting (pre-arranged, less like an intervention) to arrive separately and try not to be photographed together until they were safely ensconced in the ballroom. Which means David is hanging out in the 8th floor lobby so Patrick can make a beeline straight to the 5th floor, because Ronnie knows her clients only too well and told David and Stevie they needed to be there at 11am instead of 11:30. Naturally, they arrived at 11:23am because neither of them has met an important event they haven’t been late for. 

“Did he arrive?” he asks Alexis for the fifth time. 

“No, David,” she snaps. “Rachel said she would text.” 

He huffs and continues pacing, crossing his arms over his chest before realizing it will likely wrinkle his suit. He drops his arms once more and feels a prickling on the back of his neck, like someone is watching. He glances around and sure enough, a man is nudging his partner at the check-in desk and nodding in David’s direction. David’s ears burn as he turns and puts his back to them, but that just allows a teen to catch his eye across the lobby, and he watches as her walking slows and her mouth drops open. She lifts her phone to snap a photo just in time to run into her older brother. 

“I don’t want to be here anymore,” he abruptly says to Ronnie, because if anyone is going to listen to him, to hear how serious he is, it’s her. 

She blinks up at him, her keen gaze roving over his face for all of a moment. “Okay. Let’s go.” 

“But Patrick hasn’t arrived yet,” Alexis says.  

“Tough,” Ronnie replies, standing and buttoning her suit jacket. She leads the way back towards the elevators, and David keeps his head bowed and his eyes on her heels to make sure he’s walking in the right direction. It’s checkout time, though, and the elevator bank is packed with suitcases and shopping bags and, more disappointingly, people. “Escalator,” Ronnie gruffly suggests, and David is fine with that. They’re only going three floors down. He’d rather take a bit more time if it means not being sandwiched in a glass case of emotion with a family of five from Wisconsin. 

“What happened?” Stevie quietly asks as soon as they begin their descent. 

“Felt a little too exposed.” 

She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t tease. Instead, she just places a hand on his shoulder, squeezes once, and then lets go. Alexis is remarkably silent as well. It’s a day for miracles, it seems. 

The trip down to the 5th floor goes by quickly, and when they arrive, it’s already bustling with activity, the pre-ceremony cocktail hour well underway. Which is certainly something, considering it’s not even noon. The actors who are indulging must figure they can sleep off whatever buzz they get well before their 8pm curtains. Some of his cast are already hanging out, and they wave as they catch sight of him. 

“Hey, you’re on time!” Candice says, sounding entirely too surprised, and David grumbles as he throws Ronnie a mutinous look. 

“Thanks to an early morning bamboozlement.” 

His agent just shrugs. “What can I say? I’m good at my job.” 

He feels better now, though, surrounded by his friends and colleagues, despite the fact that the press is already lined up. They’re really not all bad. Most are actually like Carol, kind and generous and covering this industry because it’s what they love. 

They aren’t all TMZ. They aren’t all Antonio. 

David has to remind himself of that as one of the journalists catches his eye and gives him a friendly wave. He tries his best to return it. 

“Incoming,” Alexis says, staring at her phone, and David’s heart kicks into gear like he didn’t just kiss Patrick goodbye this morning. 

“What should I do? Should I go in?” 

“Will it look like you’re avoiding each other then?” 

“Oh my God, will it?” Because to not greet each other would be even more of a story than if they did. If there’s anything the press loves more than a recently secret relationship, it’s an unhappy recently secret relationship. 

“Eyes up, look sharp,” Ronnie instructs, and David reels back. 

“Um, okay, Saving Private Ryan.” 

But then Patrick is coming around the corner from the elevator bank, chatting away with Ray and Rachel as Ivan brings up the rear. A ripple of hushed whispers trickles over the attendees milling around, and just like in the lobby, David can feel the weight of dozens of gazes land on him. 

“Oh God, what’s my face doing?” 

“It’s mooning,” Stevie replies. 

“What?!” 

“She means, you look like an idiot in love,” Ronnie drawls, but his situation isn’t helped by the fact that Patrick chooses that moment to lock eyes with him. 

Hey, he mouths. 

Hi, David replies. Then Patrick winks before stopping so Ray can introduce him to a Drama League board member. 

“Hey, David!” Hugh Jackman calls as he passes, and David takes a surreal moment to wave back. 

Then he looks around and realizes that there aren’t any live cameras, no one is screaming. The camaraderie feels like it did the morning of the Tony press junket. Everyone is just genuinely happy to see each other. 

“Hey,” Patrick murmurs, suddenly right next to him. God, he is wearing that grey suit.

“Oh. Hey.” 

“I thought we were going in separately.”

“Change of plans,” Ronnie interjects, somehow typing away on her phone and surreptitiously clocking their surroundings.

Patrick doesn’t miss the tension thrumming through her, and his gaze darts back and forth between them. “Did something happen?” 

“No. Not really,” he says. “Just, um - we were killing time in the lobby so you could go in first and I started getting noticed.” 

“Did anyone say anything?” Patrick steps forward, brow furrowed like it usually is when he’s yelling at the little man in the sports stripes on the TV.

“No, nothing like that. It’s just still… new.” 

Patrick’s expression softens into understanding, and he takes a less pugnacious step forward. Like he wants to wrap David up in his arms and knows only too acutely that he can’t. Not at the moment. 

“Let’s go in together,” Patrick suggests, and David’s thoughts trip over themselves. 

“Really?” 

“I mean - you weren’t planning on doing the press line, were you?” 

“God no,” he blurts, as Alexis makes a strangled noise. “I’ll do a photo. That’s it.” 

“Thank you,” she murmurs, before going back to pretending she isn’t listening in to their conversation. In fact, all of their friends seem to have become more than interested in the hideous pattern of the carpeting. 

“No photos of just us together,” Patrick murmurs. “But I’d be honored to walk into that room with you.” 

David’s lips tuck into the corner of his mouth. “Likewise.” 

“Okay then.” 

Rachel and Alexis lead them over to the step-and-repeat, and Stevie and the rest of the cast are smart enough to slide in between them. David takes a few photos on his own before stepping to the side so the rest of the cast can take their turns. Then they’re called back for a group photo that places Helen in between them. She grabs hold of each of them around the waist and gives them a squeeze. 

“Don’t get handsy, you two,” she murmurs under her breath. “Don’t want to accidentally cop the wrong feel.” 

“Oh my God,” David mutters as Patrick dissolves into laughter on the other side. The photographer is delighted.  

They break apart after that with the rest of the cast heading towards the press line as David and Patrick head back around towards the ballroom. 

“What do you mean he’s not doing any interviews?” someone asks testily, but Rachel is right there, a snappy comeback at the ready. 

“Check his Instagram. I’m pretty sure he said all he needed to on the matter.” 

Patrick smirks, and David assumes she’s talking about Patrick’s caption beneath their photo, but he still hasn’t reinstalled Instagram onto his phone so who the hell knows. All he’s aware of is the way Patrick reaches out and slides their fingers together, tugging him gently into his side. 

“You good?” 

“I’m great.” 

“Good. Then let’s go.” They begin to walk forward, and those hanging around seem to part like the Red fucking Sea as Patrick’s thumb rubs a careful crescent along the skin of David’s hand. 

“Patrick, great cover!” someone calls, and before David can question what the hell he’s talking about, Patrick is responding with a bright, “Thanks.” 

They enter the ballroom, dim with purple lighting and packed nearly wall to wall with circular tables covered in white linen, and David doesn’t care that people are staring and others are whispering. It’s different than it was upstairs. In this room, in this space, no one raises a camera; no one picks up a phone. People smile at them, like they’re happy for them, and it’s been a long time since anyone’s been happy for David Rose. 

Patrick inhales sharply as he catches sight of the tiered seating on the stage at the front of the room, and David squeezes his hand. 

“Nervous?” 

“A little.” Then he gives a tiny shrug. “It’s my first theatre award nomination.” 

And David didn’t really think about that; about the fact that Patrick may have enough Grammys to build a small fort, but he’s never been recognized for this. 

This old talent, but new side of it. 

“Sadly Gavroche didn’t earn any accolades,” he continues ruefully, and David huffs out a laugh.  

“Their loss,” he replies, wanting so badly to lean in and kiss him. But holding hands is one thing. They’re easing into this ‘PDA by the press’ thing. 

“We’re over there,” Ronnie says, appearing out of nowhere and pointing at a table near the center of the room. “Alexis went back to help your parents navigate,” she gestures vaguely behind her, “that.” 

“But you have to stay with me,” Rachel interrupts, grabbing hold of Patrick’s sleeve. 

“What? Why?” 

“Because all of the actors walk in together.” 

“It’s true, they do,” David says. He’d forgotten that. 

“Like a parade?”

“I mean, not unlike a parade…” 

“So this is goodbye?” Why are his eyes so loud? 

“Until after the ceremony, probably yes.” 

“Okay.” Patrick looks very pouty about it, but then he’s stepping forward and pressing a quick kiss to David’s cheek. 

Oh. 

“I’ll miss you.” 

“I’ll miss you, too.” 

“Jesus Christ,” Ronnie mutters, popping the bubble of elation David felt at being kissed (granted, on the cheek) in public (sort of) by one Patrick Brewer. 

“She’s not wrong, you guys are disgusting,” Rachel unhelpfully adds, tugging Patrick one way as Ronnie shuffles David off the other. 

When he gets to the Hamlet table, Helen and Aldridge are already partaking of the white wine, previous wins making them ineligible for this year’s Distinguished Performance nomination. He takes a seat closer to the door, which puts him farther away from the stage, sure, but it means he’s facing it, so he can watch Patrick throughout the afternoon without having to turn around and make it obvious he’s doing so. 

The table fills with personality if not people once his parents arrive, his mother air-kissing her way across the ballroom as his dad glad-hands every major producer still capable of writing a check. More and more people approach to actually speak to David, which is a thing that happens now, congratulating him on Hamlet and asking him what’s up next. His standard reply is that he’s just trying to make it through the season, but he’s got a few irons in the fire. Whatever that means. Ronnie keeps sending him vaguely threatening emails about finding something new, but she also knows that David won’t be able to focus fully on anything until the Hamlet awards circuit is complete. By the time David sits down with a negroni Alexis all but shoved into his hand, he has to stand back up as someone announces this year’s Distinguished Performance nominees. David turns towards the far door of the ballroom as the actors walk in to applause. He finds Patrick in the crowd immediately, chatting away with one of the guys they left the junket with as Stevie walks beside him, her arm looped through his. As if he knows he’s watching, Patrick pauses in talking long enough to find David across the room, and he winks. David shakes his head because it still hasn’t gotten better, but God, he’d hate it if it changed now. 

The actors take their places on the tiered stage just as lunch is being served. Stevie and Patrick are separated, taking their seats in the second of three rows on opposite sides of the podium that stands in the center of the top tier. 

A plate is placed in front of David, and he tries to clue into the conversation happening around him, but his eyes keep getting drawn to the front of the room, watching as Patrick strikes up yet another conversation with the actor on his right like the amiable man he is. 

Midway through the meal, his phone vibrates on the table, rattling his silverware. 

[Patrick]
How’s your chicken? 

David smiles and glances up at the stage. Patrick is staring at his lap, no doubt where his phone rests. 

Dry. Yours? 

[Patrick]
Shockingly delicious. They must like us more than you.

Really, who’s surprised?

[Patrick]
It’s weird to eat lunch with a whole room watching you. 

David snorts. 

I’m the only one watching you.

[Patrick]
Creeper.

You love it.

[Patrick]
I really do.

“Stop flirting with your boyfriend,” Rachel hisses beside him. “You’re distracting him.” 

“From what? Cold green beans?” 

But before they can argue further, the host of the evening, an actor who abandoned Broadway for TV comedy years ago, is stepping up to the microphone and introducing the Executive Director of the Drama League. David zones out as he spears a roasted potato and takes a bite, vaguely listening in as the Executive Director goes on about what a special season it is and extolls the artistic integrity of each individual show. Before too long, he’s announcing the winners for Outstanding Production of a Musical and Outstanding Production of a Play, neither of which is a surprise to anyone paying attention. Their competition in their respective categories is limited. Who knew the Revivals would feature such heavy hitters? 

Outstanding Revival of a Musical goes to the (thankfully) updated Kiss Me, Kate, and David has never been so happy to be at an awards ceremony where speeches are only made by half of the honorees. He’s not even sure the winners of the play/musical categories actually get awards. The Drama League has always been about Distinguished Performance, and David is fine with that. 

But it doesn’t mean he still doesn’t want to win.

“... and the Drama League’s Outstanding Revival of a Play is… Hamlet!” 

“Fuck!” he blurts, because though he wanted it, he didn’t actually expect it. Their entire table erupts, but his ass is glued to his cushioned seat, because David hasn’t been a winner in so long that he honestly forgets how it goes. Thank God he isn’t expected to speak, Jesus Christ. 

“David!” His sister is bouncing up and down in front of him, as Rachel reaches over and grabs his arm. 

Onstage, Stevie and Patrick are catcalling and clapping, and David hates that they’re so far away. Still, he can feel the weight of Patrick’s gaze like a hug he didn’t think he’d need at this moment. 

Things finally calm, and the host is back to introduce the non-competitive categories, at least until Distinguished Performance, which is always saved for the end. He toasts Ronnie across the table with his now diluted negroni as his phone buzzes again. 

[Patrick]
Congratulations. 

David smiles so hard, his cheeks hurt. 

To you as well. 

He glances up in time to watch Stevie lean forward and mouth something to Patrick that has every actor seated in between them bursting out with laughter. Patrick’s jaw drops in indignation, and he mouths something in return, just as the host pointedly clears his throat. 

David sighs as he opens up the group text. 

Will you two behave.

[Stevie]
He started it. 

[Patrick]
Oh NOW you want me to focus.

Jesus Christ.

A couple of people from the next table over notice the exchange and chuckle, and David has a feeling he’s rapidly losing whatever respect he’d manage to garner in the last three minutes. 

A feeling that isn’t helped when Ronnie texts (from across the table) a moment later: 

[Ronnie]
Knock it off.

David sits back, chagrined, and the acceptance speeches for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and Unique Contribution to the Theatre go by in a blur. He barely even pays attention to the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing, which he probably should, considering that he one day hopes to win it. 

[Patrick]
Pay attention.

David huffs out a laugh.

How can you tell I’m not?

[Patrick]
Because I know you. 

And he does. Thoroughly and completely. 

Why are you not freaking out? he texts as previous winner Glenn Close steps up to the microphone. 

Across the room, he can see Patrick grin. 

[Patrick]
Because there’s no way I’m walking away with this award. Salut. 

David looks up again in time for Patrick to cheers him with his glass of beer. 

“Unbelievable,” he mutters. 

“Oh Patrick Brewer isn’t taking something seriously?” Rachel whispers. “That is shocking information.” 

David wants to laugh, but it’s not entirely true. Patrick takes many things seriously: his music, his relationships, this show, the sports. He’s never put much stock in awards, though, despite admitting he was nervous earlier. He appreciates the recognition, sure, but he doesn’t need the validation of a win. 

Glenn introduces each nominee, a ritual that turns tedious whenever she talks about someone who isn’t in his cast (which is most of the time). Their various accomplishments are shared with the kind of adulation reserved only for award ceremonies and funerals. 

It’s anyone’s guess who’s going to win, though David is heartened by the raucous applause both Patrick and Stevie receive when their names are called. But while Stevie has been in enough shows to be considered a ‘vet,’ Patrick is new. He could still be seen as an outsider; an interloping megastar playing in a theatrical paddling pool, though David challenges anyone who saw even a minute of his performance to think him undeserving of the honor. 

Still, half of the theatre's finest actors are sitting on that stage, and it’s only because the other half have already won it. The award could go to any number of people up there. 

But though Patrick might have resigned himself to losing, David certainly hasn’t. 

David never will. 

Glenn slides a finger under the lip of the envelope, and the snick of the sticker is loud in the microphone. “And the 85th Annual Drama League Distinguished Performance Award goes to…” 

David holds his breath as his stomach churns. He regrets eating so many potatoes. 

“Patrick Brewer, Hamlet!” 

“Are you fucking serious!” he screams, definitely more loudly than he means to. Luckily, the entire room is cheering so it drowns out the fact that he can’t stop saying “Oh my God” over and over and over again. When did he stand up? 

“David, holy shit!” Rachel yells, tackling him in a hug so fierce, he uses one of his few remaining brainwaves to wonder if she was a linebacker in another life.

“He won!” 

“He did!” 

“Oh my God!” 

Everyone is standing, though that’s probably to be expected from this magnanimous bunch. Everyone except Patrick himself, who’s still sitting there, looking as genuinely shell-shocked as David would be if Mariah Carey called out to him by name. To the point where the actor next to him has to give him a gentle nudge with a laugh that seems to say, Yeah, that’s you.  

Patrick stands slowly and fumbles as he tries to button up his suit coat. Stevie nearly takes out several actors in her effort to get down the row to hug him, and she slams into him so hard, he stumbles back a few steps before lifting her clean off the ground. 

David can only clap his hands on his cheeks as he sees (more than hears) Patrick say, “Oh my God,” once he puts Stevie on the ground. Then he asks, “Where do I go?” as he glances around for the easiest way to get to the podium one tier up. Stevie shoves him towards stage left, and Patrick is quick to hurry around, only tripping once. By the time he reaches Glenn, his cheeks are red and his eyes are bright and he’s so, so fucking gorgeous. 

David swallows around his tight throat as Alexis and Rachel crowd in on either side, each grabbing hold of one of his elbows. He’s still clutching his face in his hands and watching the man he loves press a kiss to Glenn’s cheek as she hands him his glass award. 

“Patty Brew!” Derek yells from their table, just as it starts to quiet, and David laughs as Patrick glares into the dark as he finally steps up the podium. 

“Thanks for that.” 

“You’re welcome!” Derek calls back. 

Patrick chuckles and then clears his throat as he looks down at the award in his hand. “That’s um, that’s… Wow.” He shakes his head. “Thank you so much. I really wasn’t expecting this, and I have the text messages to prove it,” he says with an embarrassed laugh. “Thank you to the Drama League and to Madam Vice President, Glenn Close.”

He fucking would make an Air Force One joke. 

“If I thought this was even remotely possible, I would have prepared better,” he says, self-consciously scratching the back of his neck. “Um, first of all, a thank you to all of you for welcoming me with such open arms into this amazing community that is… unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. I’m humbled, truly. Thank you to Moira and Johnny Rose and all of our producers, to our brilliant creative team, to my cast - ” a cheer goes up from their table, and Patrick laughs as he tries to talk over it, “there they are. Particularly to Helen Walton and Aldridge Luranah, who know what this feels like, and to the divine Ms. Stevie Budd, who no doubt one day will,” he says, and David’s breath hitches as Stevie blows Patrick an uncharacteristic kiss. His breathing doesn’t get much better when Patrick’s gaze finds him in the audience a moment later. “But, um, none of this would have been possible without one man in particular. Thank you to David, who…” he trails off. He swallows. He clears his throat and tries again. “To David.” Then he sighs, a happy, weightless thing. “God only knows what I’d be without you.” 

David inhales a wet, ragged breath as Patrick steps back from the podium and raises the award. 

“Thank you very, very much.” 

And the applause is immediate and deafening, but David can still hear Rachel’s whispered, “You okay?” to which he replies with an emphatic, “No.” He wipes at his eyes and groans when Alexis tries to hand him a napkin. “Are people looking?” 

“No,” Rachel says too quickly. 

“Definitely not,” Alexis adds, and David has learned her tones enough by now to know she means the exact opposite. 

“Ugh, fuck.” All of a sudden his body is turned around, and he blinks his swollen eyes open to meet Ronnie’s dead on. 

“He did good,” is all she says, as she holds up a tissue and shields him from the rest of the room trying to get a look. David blows his nose and dabs his eyes, clearing them enough to see the stage again. 

Patrick is being held hostage for photos with Glenn and the Executive Director as the rest of the actors either mingle with each other or attempt to find their way back down to their show’s table. He tries to spot Stevie instead, only to realize she’s already halfway across the ballroom floor and making a beeline straight into his arms. 

“David, holy fuck,” she blurts, grabbing hold of his shoulders and giving him a shake. 

“Right?! I just - did you think that was gonna happen?” 

“Did you?” she retorts. 

But in lieu of a response, he spins back around to his agent. “Jesus fucking Christ. Ronnie, he could do it. He could win the Tony.” 

“Aw shit, Rose,” she says. “I’ve known that for months.” 

He blinks, and he stares, because if anyone was going to willingly (even eagerly) voice doubts about Patrick Brewer, it would happily be Ronnie Lee (“The man looks like a thumb”), but here she is, yet again taking David’s preconceived notions and Simone Biles-ing them onto their head. 

“And that’s hardly the most romantic thing he’s done today,” Stevie murmurs, gently checking his hip.  

What? “What are you talking about?” 

Stevie just looks at him like he’s an idiot. “I thought you had him on alerts. Don’t think I didn’t know that, by the way. When this all started,” she says, gesturing between David and the man still pausing for pictures onstage as Rachel tries to rescue him. “Before even.” 

“Before what? Stevie, English, please. ” 

“Oh for fuck’s sake. Do you really not know?” 

“Know what?” 

But she’s too busy pulling her phone out of her clutch and swiping away, eventually turning it around to show David Patrick’s Instagram profile. He squints as he tries to take it all in; it’s admittedly been a few days since it’s seen it, not that Patrick posts often enough for David to miss much - 

Except there’s a new square with a new video, and even from the relatively blurry thumbnail, David recognizes Patrick’s living room. “What is this?” he whispers, thumb already hitting the post. It’s time stamped from that morning, and Patrick is still dressed in the same pajamas he was wearing when David left him to go get ready at his loft. His hair is still mussed from David’s fingers, and his lips are still swollen from David’s kiss goodbye. 

“Ahead of any acceptance speeches I may or may not be giving in the coming weeks,” he starts, lazily strumming at the guitar across his lap, “I just wanted to say this first and foremost.” Then the strumming becomes a melody, a slow, strummy, twangy thing that David vaguely recognizes. 

“I may not always love you,” Patrick sings, before looking at the camera and quickly saying, “Yes, I will.”
“But long as there are stars above you,” he continues.
“You never need to doubt it 
I’ll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I’d be with you.”

David bursts out laughing even as he holds his hand out for another tissue that someone places in his palm, because Patrick knows David deleted Instagram from his phone. He knows David wouldn’t see it immediately. And yet he went and said “God only knows what I’d be without you” in an acceptance speech he never thought he’d get to give. 

It’s just the kind of trolling Patrick loves to do. 

And David loves him for it. 

But it’s the caption that does it. That lays David bare and makes it emphatically clear who Patrick is singing to without even using his name: 

Hey, baby.

Needless to say, David reinstalls Instagram after that. 

🎭 🎭 🎭


PBandJ: FLING ME INTO THE SUN. THAT VIDEO OMG
      BrewsClues: Between this and the hands photo and his story about Nadia, this is the most Patrick’s posted in like a year. 
PBandJ: Is it weird that David hasn’t posted much? He didn’t even repost Patrick’s Nadia story, even though he was tagged in it. 
      BrewsClues: I don’t think he’s been spending a lot of time on Instagram. Granted, if I’d had my nudes leaked without my permission, I wouldn’t be feeling too generous towards the whole of the internet either.

🎭 🎭 🎭

Thursday finds David in his kitchen, pouring a very nice Super Tuscan into a wine glass and trying not to regret his decision not to attend the Outer Critics dinner. 

He didn’t go to the show, despite the fact that they had Tony voters in, and the clock on his microwave tells him Patrick should be killing Polonius right about now. Even though there weren’t any cameras inside the Drama League lunch, news of Patrick’s speech was still splashed all over gossip sites, including a grainy video that continues to climb up the YouTube hit chart. 

David can neither confirm nor deny that his own IP address has contributed a fair amount. 

But skipping the dinner (and the show) means that David hasn’t seen Patrick since that afternoon, and he’s never wanted to be one of those clingy partners, but the separation is starting to itch. He should be used to it. Hell, almost the entire beginning of their relationship was long distance, but he’s gotten accustomed to the proximity now. 

Which will make it all the harder when they’re separated once more. 

But, no. He’s not thinking about that. Patrick still has four months left on his Hamlet contract with the option to renew. The Shuberts are already eager to extend the limited run for as long as the company is willing to perform, especially considering the show continually tops the box office grosses. 

It’s a conversation they’ll broach when his brain isn’t already full of anxieties. After all, Patrick has another album to record and, presumably, a tour to accompany it, but first, he has an awards season to navigate and with tonight’s Outer Critics, they’re two down, one to go. 

David takes a sip of his wine and groans as the vibrant taste bursts over his tongue, which unfortunately is not loud enough to drown out the sound of his front door opening. He looks over his shoulder in time to see Alexis swan in, wielding a paper bag that better have another bottle of wine in it. 

“Um, why did no one tell me they want Patrick to perform at the Tonys?” she asks.

“Um, maybe because it has absolutely nothing to do with you?” he replies, moving towards the island to unpack the dim sum delivery that had arrived minutes before his sister. 

“I had to find out from Dad. Do you know how embarrassing that is?” 

David has to bite back a laugh, because yeah, that’s pretty embarrassing. 

“So what’s he going to do?” She clunks the bag in her hand down on the counter with a promising thunk that could be a bottle. 

“We haven’t decided yet.” 

“Is it going to be fully staged?” 

“What part of ‘we haven’t decided yet’ do you not understand?” he asks, brandishing a set of chopsticks at her. His indignation doesn’t stop him from actually answering, though. “And no, he’ll probably just be at a piano.”

Alexis hums, her gaze careful as she pulls out a wine glass for herself when it becomes clear he won’t be doing so. “How was the nominee lunch?” she asks casually as she perches on a stool and snags the open bottle.

David shrugs. “Very similar to the Drama League. Same people. Better food. Great view.” You honestly can’t beat the Rainbow Room.  

“But you still didn’t get to sit with Patrick.” 

“Nope. They wanted everyone to mingle or whatever.” He spits the word like an epithet. 

“You could have tonight,” she points out. 

“And if people still didn’t know about us, I probably would have gone, but people do know about us and this night should be about Patrick. And Stevie. And the show.” 

“I get that.” Then her eyes narrow as she gives him a careful glance up and down. “Are you regretting not going?” 

‘“Jesus Christ! I thought you said you were coming to be helpful.” 

“Don’t think I ever said that,” she replies as she finally pours a glass, and at least his annoyance with her is distracting him from his simmering guilt at abandoning Patrick for the evening. But Patrick has Rachel and Stevie has Ronnie. His parents are there as well, not that adding Moira and Johnny Rose to any situation usually contributes much in the way of support. 

Entertainment value, sure. But emotional stability? Not so much. 

“Speaking of the socials,” Alexis continues, clearing her throat, and David raises an eyebrow because when were they speaking about ‘the socials’? “How come you haven’t posted anything?” 

“About what?” 

“About you and Patrick,” she says, reaching in for a dumpling. 

“It’s no one’s business,” he replies, slapping her hand away. “You of all people should know that.” 

“I do! It’s just - Patrick seems to be sharing more these days and you’re…” 

He abandons his dumplings and stands up straight. “I’m what?” 

“Well…you’re not.” 

“I added his coming out post to my stories,” he says, and he knows he sounds defensive because she’s right. He hasn’t said much. And he’s not unaware of the online chatter enough to not realize that people are talking about it. His lack of a comment. He’d been trying to take his lead from Patrick, but the truth is… he’s been gun shy since Sebastien. The last post he made at all was a picture of the Playbill on Opening Night with a generic Hallmark caption talking about how proud he was of everyone. 

Not wrong. But not real, either.  

“Did you ever think that Patrick’s sharing more because he’s happy?” she quietly asks. “And he wants people to know?” 

“Wait, has Patrick said anything to you about this?” 

“No, oh my God, of course not.” She plays with the paper wrapper her chopsticks came in. “Has he said anything to you?” 

David shakes his head. But Patrick wouldn’t, would he. 

“Do you, um… do you think I should?” Alexis is, like, the last person he wants to go to for advice, but she’s here and he can (begrudgingly) admit that she knows more about this than he does. About social media etiquette and, like, emotional communication in general. Sort of. 

“I mean,” she fidgets uncomfortably, and he sympathizes, the sudden shift into sincerity feeling like a sweater that’s a size too small, “do you want to?” 

“What, tell the world? Of course I want to. Why wouldn’t I? Patrick Brewer loves me. I’d take out a full page ad in the Times if it wouldn’t cost me more than my college tuition.”

“Which you didn’t pay.” 

“Which I didn’t pay, but that is neither here nor there.” 

Alexis moves her wine out of the way so she can lean forward on her elbows. David takes a gulp of his own, because he has a feeling she’s about to get “serious.” 

“David, you should do what you want to do. What you and Patrick both want. Patrick is obviously still protective of you and what you have, but he clearly has no problem with the world knowing you’re his.” She shrugs. “And he’s yours.” 

And he’s yours. 

David smiles, because it’s not like her to get so soft. Especially not with him. 

“Just like me and RPatz.” 

And they’re back. 

“Alexis, you went on, like, two dates.” 

“Ugh, we’re talking about you, David.” 

He rolls his eyes and stuffs a whole pork bun in his mouth. “Are we, though?” 

“Fine,” she huffs, spinning on her stool and taking her wine glass with her. 

He stares at the rigid line of her back and reminds himself that she’s trying. And despite the dismount, it actually was a decent point she was making. 

“Sorry,” he murmurs. 

“It’s fine,” she replies, but she still doesn’t turn around. 

He hangs his head and worries his lower lip between his teeth, before inhaling and coming around the island, taking the seat beside her. Sometimes he forgets that the girl who used to steal his eyeliner and tried to crash his Oscar watch parties is now the woman who handles red carpets as deftly as Meryl Streep handles an accent. 

“In his post, Patrick said he was proud of our love. That was the word he used: ‘proud.” He smiles to himself and looks down at his hand, tracing the lines on his palm. “I would hate to think for even a single second,” he voice trips, and he clears his throat, “that Patrick wondered if I wasn’t proud, too.” 

“Patrick could never think that,” Alexis whispers, finally turning to face him. “And if you’re worried about it… then do it. Post something. But only on your terms,” she says, punctuating every word with a poke to his arm.

On your terms. 

She has no idea how similarly they think sometimes. 

He nods and reaches back for his phone where he’d left it on the counter. “Stevie took this photo right after Patrick told me he loved me. She, uh, she didn’t know what had happened at the time, obviously. It was before first preview, during her Instagram takeover, and God forbid she asks before she invades a private moment, but the result is…” 

Well. He holds out the phone and shows her. 

“Oh my God, David,” she breathes, staring at it for a long moment. Then she softly says, “Look at your face,” and for the first time in their lives, he knows she means it earnestly. 

“I know, right?” he agrees with a small laugh. 

“Yes.” She taps the screen. “This one.”

“Okay.” 

“Ooh, ooh but also… ” She grabs her bag off the counter and roots around for a moment, eventually pulling out her phone and tapping away. “I took this at the Drama League Awards, um,” she pulls at her messy braid, as if suddenly self-conscious, “just after they called Patrick’s name.” 

Then she flips the phone around and shows him the photo she’s pulled up. He’s almost in profile, jaw dropped but smile tugging at his lips as his hands press against his cheeks and his eyes swim. He is a man shocked, a man overjoyed. 

A man in love. 

If pride is what he wants to show, he can think of no better depiction. 

“Alexis, it’s beautiful.” 

She shrugs and takes the phone back, like it’s nothing. Like she alone wasn’t the one to capture this precious moment for him for all eternity. 

He grabs her hand and stops her typing, forcing her eyes to meet his. “Thank you.” 

She smiles. “You’re welcome.” 

His phone vibrates a moment later, and he pulls up the picture she sent, saving it to his photos, and then flipping back and forth between the two. 

“Both?” he asks after a moment. 

“Both,” she replies. 

Then he nods at the TV. “I’ll caption, you queue.” 

“Hundy p,” she says, hopping off the stool and making her way over to the couch, grabbing the remote off the coffee table. 

He creates a post and loads the pictures, before slapping a black and white filter on each, the same one that Patrick used on his photo. Then he stares at the blinking cursor, willing the words to come. Speeches have never been his forte, prose even less so, which is amusing given what he does for a living. His thumbs start moving, though, the words slow to start but finding their rhythm. They eventually begin to trip over each other in their haste to find their proper place in a sentence, and he knows he’ll have to reread, because even autocorrect can’t keep up with his pace. 

He looks it over once. Then twice. 

“Alexis?” 

“Hm?” 

“Come read this.” 

She trots over, and he winces as he holds out his phone, holding his breath as she scans what he’s written:

The first picture was taken about two minutes after @patrickbrewer told me he loved me for the first time. Yes, we’re in the theatre. Yes, he was about to go onstage. No, I don’t regret a single detail about it. Except perhaps my stunned silence. I could have workshopped that a bit. 

The second was taken five days ago, after I watched him win the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance Award for a show we created together and a role he’s made his own. Tonight he accepts another. 

I’m so proud of this man I love. I’m so glad he chose me. 

“Yes,” she whispers. 

Share, he hits before he can change his mind.

Alexis then takes his phone and grabs his hand, tugging him over to the couch and pushing him down into the cushion. She carefully places the phone on the coffee table, out of reach unless he stretches, with a look that says You aren’t to touch it until it makes a sound. 

He groans and pouts and crosses his arms but listens to her anyway, watching petulantly as she settles in next to him and hits play on some show about wine hosted by an actor she once had a fling with. At least the scenery is nice to look at (and the actor, David has to admit). 

Two episodes later, the phone vibrates with a push notification. David nearly knocks over his glass in his haste to grab it.

@patrickbrewer commented on your photo

He inhales sharply and taps the alert, exhaling slowly when he finally reads the words:  

@patrickbrewer I love you so much.  
      @patrickbrewer But I’m pretty sure you chose me, babe. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Shut It Down. Everyone Go Home. We Will Never Have What Patrick Brewer and David Rose Do

How Patrick Brewer and David Rose Ruined Love For Me: A Thesis

Not to Get Dramatic, but My Relationship Expectations are Higher Than David Rose’s Hair

🎭 🎭 🎭

Time ticks by and days tick off in the march towards the first Sunday in June. David can tell by his rising anxiety levels. 

There’s something magical about seeing Radio City like this: covered in tech tables and monitors and various companies just lounging around, waiting to take their turn on the massive stage - one of the most famous in the world. The orchestra is dotted with large, white placards, each containing a headshot above the name of the person sitting there, nominees and presenters alike, and cameras are placed and tested and moved and tested again. Yes, it’s all magical… 

And yet David is about one kick ball change away from losing his goddamn mind. 

“Cap? They’re ready for us,” Heather says, and he groans as he tries to pull the sticker that tells people he’s allowed to be here from his sweater. 

“Jesus, do they have to be so fucking adhesive?” 

“They’re called stickers, babe,” Patrick says, materializing at his side. 

“Where were you?” he asks as he starts down the aisle towards the stage, still struggling. 

“With the cast of Kiss Me, Kate.” Naturally, his tone implies. 

“Why?” 

Patrick stares at him. “Because they’re nice. Are you feeling okay?” 

“Fine. Why?”

“Oh no reason,” he says with a shrug, pointing out a large cable on the ground just ahead to keep David from tripping on it. “It’s just that your voice is about two octaves higher than it normally is and you’ve been struggling with something they give kids at doctors offices for the past fifteen minutes.” 

David whirls around and trips on the cable anyway. “They do not give these to children. It’s fucking duct tape with a decal.” 

Patrick looks like he’s going to laugh. He better not laugh. “I want to take you on a date before the Tonys.” 

“Ugh, why?” David asks, giving up on the sticker and continuing his march down the aisle. 

“Ouch. Love you, too,” Patrick murmurs behind him. 

“Sorry that’s not - I mean - ”

Patrick stops David by getting his fingers around his wrist, before gently taking hold of his hands. “I know what you meant. It’s okay.” 

“It’s just that they’re three days away, so our options are limited.”

“I know.” 

“But yes,” he says with a shaky inhale, “I think that would be… nice.” 

“Good. I know I could use a break.” The unspoken I think you could, too is practically booming out of the onstage speakers. 

“Yeah,” he says, chuckling a little ruefully. “Sorry.” 

“S’okay.” Patrick’s eyes flick down to David’s lips, but they’re in the middle of Radio City, surrounded by quite literally the majority of Broadway, not to mention more than a few studio executives. Patrick settles for squeezing the hands that he still hasn’t let go of and shooting David his third most favorite smile. “Saturday?” 

“Saturday’s good.” 

“Odeon?” he asks, and David laughs. He would pick the scene of their almost first date. Granted, Alexis was there and David ran away after they kissed, but still. 

What a meal it was. 

“Sure.” 

“Guys, we’re on the clock,” Heather urges, and David blinks up at the stage where the Tony team is waiting with Mutt and Brenda around a piano that’s already been put into place. David gestures for Patrick to head up the tech stairs ahead of him, and Patrick takes them two at a time like the eager-to-please puppy dog he is, despite being arguably the most famous person in the building at the moment.  

Rehearsal shouldn’t take long. It isn’t even technically rehearsal; it’s just camera blocking, and theirs won’t be complicated because Patrick’s just sitting at a piano. For all intents and purposes, he probably shouldn’t even be performing - they’re a play with music - but CBS knows he’s a draw and the networks do love their ratings. Considering the Tonys continually come in last behind every other major awards show, they’ll use any means necessary to not make a complete embarrassment of themselves. 

Patrick adapted one of the songs so it could truly play as a solo piece, without any scene work needed to get in or out of it, and frankly, David thinks it sounds beautiful. He brought up releasing it as a single at last week’s Sunday Night Dinner, and Patrick agreed (because he and Stevie have become frequent attendees), but only as long as the proceeds were split among various mental health non-profits. 

“Do you guys need me to play?” he asks as he situates himself on the bench and accepts the ear piece from the sound tech. 

“Once through, if you want,” Glenn, the director, says. “Get used to the sound and the reverb, not that you’re a stranger to these things. We have the scratch tape so we know the run time.” Then he looks around, eyes landing on David. “Ah, David, do you want to come up and see this?” 

David climbs the stairs and lets Glenn walk him through the planned camera moves. He had done a dummy video with just an iPhone and a keyboard in the theatre to give the Tony people some ideas on how to make just Patrick sitting at the piano more dynamic (not that David doesn’t find the simple act of Patrick breathing dynamic). Their plan is very similar to David’s original concept, but he’s pleased with their new ideas. 

David and Glenn return to the house to watch Patrick play on the monitors. He looks serious and brooding and sexy, everything you want a Hamlet to be, but his lips still curve into a smile like he just can’t help himself. 

“What do you think?” he asks as the number winds down, and Glenn smiles. 

“I think he looks and sounds amazing. This is gonna be great.” 

David nods in agreement and looks across to Heather who gives him an impressed eyebrow raise. 

Applause breaks out from the companies waiting their turn, and Patrick grins, giving a bashful little wave before squinting and looking into the dark house. “We good?” 

“We’re good, Patrick. Thank you!” 

He nods and removes the ear piece, handing it back to the sound guy as the stage managers begin to clear and set up for the next number. The full dress rehearsal won’t be until Sunday morning when they’ll really get sound levels and test costumes. Patrick will be in his Act One ensemble, which Cecilia will prepare as soon as he finishes the matinee, but they’re saving his performance for later in the telecast, probably so they can tease audiences with him at every commercial break for the first two hours. 

By the time David says goodbye to Glenn and his team and he looks up onstage, Patrick is nowhere to be found. 

“Ready?” Heather asks as she approaches, but David just frowns. 

“Have you seen Patrick?” 

She shakes her head, but before either of them can properly look around, his phone chimes with an Instagram alert. 

@patrickbrewer added to their story

David immediately taps the push notification and is greeted with a selfie of his boyfriend posing in front of David’s cardboard placeholder with a thumbs up and the caption: Hope I get his number. Think I got a shot?

David rolls his eyes, even as a smile splits his face. He studies the angle of the seat in the photo and then looks across towards orchestra right where, sure enough, Patrick is with his nose buried in his phone. 

Patrick tagged him in the story, so David adds it to his own with a cheeky, Outlook good with a Magic 8 Ball gif. Then he murmurs a “Be right back” to Heather and wanders over, looking at his placeholder resting in the red velvet seat on the aisle:

                                                                                           

DAVID ROSE

HAMLET

NOMINEE

He’ll never get tired of seeing that word. Then he looks at the row directly in front of him. 

                                                                                           

PATRICK BREWER

HAMLET

NOMINEE

It’s even better there. 

“Wait, why aren’t we sitting together?” Patrick asks, coming up next to him. 

“Honey, this isn’t the Golden Globes. There are no round tables.” 

“But then why aren’t you next to me?” 

“Because I’m a director. In any other year, they’d have me halfway up the aisle. But you’re Patrick Brewer and they want you front and center and me just over your shoulder in every camera shot.” 

Patrick frowns. “You know, you could just be my date.” 

David reels back. “And usurp your mother’s spot? Absolutely not.” 

“She wouldn’t mind.” 

“She likes me. I want to keep it that way.” 

“She loves you,” Patrick corrects, a concept that David is still getting used to, but before he can comment, Stevie’s headshot catches his eye directly across the aisle:

                                                                                               

STEVIE BUDD

HAMLET

NOMINEE

David wonders if the Tony organizers know what they’re doing by putting the three of them so close together. Surely something inappropriate will be caught on camera before the end of the night.

He looks back at Patrick to say as much, but Patrick has his nose buried in his phone again, and the easy smile is sliding from his face. “Oh.” 

“Oh? Oh what?”  

“Have you checked your email?” 

“What? No. Why? Should I?” Patrick’s right: his voice is perpetually two octaves higher. But instead of putting him out of his misery and just telling him what horrors might be waiting for him in his inbox, Patrick simply flips his phone around and shows David a note from cchu@nytimes.com addressed to them both. 

Dear David and Patrick, 

In tomorrow’s paper. Front page of the Arts section. Above the fold. 

Thank you for your time and your trust. 

Yours, 
Carol 

Before he can properly think about it, his finger is hovering over the attachment and tapping the pdf. The document loads, the article laid out exactly as it will appear in print, and his eye is immediately drawn to the photo in the top left-hand corner of the page from the photoshoot he did for them a few weeks ago.

“Holy shit,” Patrick blurts, pressing in close to stare at it. “Oh I’m framing that.” 

“Don’t you dare.” 

“Try and stop me.” 

He gets to the first part of the first sentence, There is an art to being David Rose, before he immediately has to nope out of the file. 

“I can’t read this here,” he breathes, already feeling his panic rising. 

“Okay,” Patrick responds, immediately getting a hand on his back. “We’ll go home.” 

It’s still early afternoon; they have plenty of time before the show. And yet there’s something about the way Patrick just - drops everything with a simple, “Okay. We’ll go home.”

Like it’s nothing. Like of course they will. Because it’s what David needs. So go they do. 

Ivan meets them at the back of the orchestra and leads them out the side door to the waiting SUV on 51st Street. Lena drives them west and then north on 8th Avenue, winding around Columbus Circle and up Broadway before making a right on W. 81st Street. There’s silence the whole way and not even Lena or Ivan breaks it. 

Patrick murmurs a “Thanks” and a “See you soon” as he guides David out of the car, but David’s brain is still stuck on There’s an art to being David Rose because, frankly, being David Rose hasn’t felt very artistic. 

Patrick gets the front door shut behind them and presses a kiss on the back of David’s neck as he squeezes his shoulders. “Where do you wanna be?” 

David nods towards the stairs, and Patrick takes his hand, leading him up. He pauses on the first floor, because David didn’t make it clear how far up upstairs meant, but David just pulls him past the kitchen and to the couch, toeing off his shoes and folding himself into the corner, before tucking his knees up to his chest. 

“Read it to me?” he asks. Patrick sits next to him, but facing him, and pulls out his phone once more. 

“You sure?” 

David nods. 

“Okay, baby.” He opens the email and clears his throat. 

With one last glance at David, he looks down and begins to read… 

🎭 🎭 🎭

THE COMEBACK KID
By Carol Chu

There is an art to being David Rose, which is to say that his clothes and general presentation are as carefully curated as the plays he chooses to direct. Like a gallery, there’s an austerity to Rose that purposefully puts the focus on whatever piece he’s picked for display. The first time we meet, it’s a custom tee that reads “DON’T” beneath a black leather jacket - possibly an indication of just how pleased he is to be talking to me.  

And who can blame him? Less than a month before our first meeting, Rose’s ex, Sebastien Raine, was brought up on revenge porn charges (a Class A misdemeanor in the state of New York) for releasing intimate photos of Rose from their time together. Raine was charged $1,000 in criminal court and given two years probation. The photos were removed, but for Rose, the pain - and the notoriety - remains. 

It is late afternoon in Manhattan, and we’re meeting over a coffee at the Ace Hotel. The location was Rose’s suggestion, one he seems at ease in, but that still doesn’t stop him from arriving in sunglasses large enough and dark enough to face an eclipse. Upon first introduction, he projects an air of mystery that leaves little in the way of getting to know the man beneath it all, which is no small feat considering he’s been gracing TV screens, magazine pages, and Rose Video holiday cards alongside his family since he was barely out of diapers.

Our paths have crossed multiple times on opening night red carpets and awards show press rooms, but this is the first time we’re sitting down for an actual on-the-record conversation. To describe Rose as ‘wary’ is to put it mildly. The sunglasses remain, even though the lighting in the lobby is practically nonexistent. That he manages to navigate his way over to me without taking them off (or taking himself out) is a feat worthy of Lewis and Clark. 

He orders a complicated drink that seems to fit him as well as the jacket he wears, and the sunglasses only come off when the macchiato hovering at his lips fogs up his lenses. We have a cordial conversation, but it’s guarded in a way that Rose has never been before. Mystery he may be, but when he’s passionate about something, you will certainly know. Right now, the man sitting in front of me is closed off and skittish, constantly glancing around for eyes that might be watching, ears that might be listening. It’s a new existence he’s experiencing, both in the aftermath of Raine’s betrayal and in the new, rather famous, company Rose is keeping. 

But more on that in a minute. 

A young woman has spotted us. She approaches like a National Geographic photographer afraid of spooking its subject, and the wariness that never quite left Rose returns full force. Turns out the young woman saw Rose’s production of The Crucible at The Westside Theatre and wanted to express her admiration. She’s student at NYU in the same Tisch program that Rose graduated from, and the unease falls away over the course of this all-too-brief interaction. The young woman apologizes for interrupting and bids us goodbye, and Rose watches her go. It’s a moment of genuine connection before the mask slips back and the sunglasses slide on. Fair enough. There is an art to being David Rose. 

 

Now, the artist has returned. It’s been seven years since Rose last had a show on Broadway, the misguided but ambitious all male adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Given the play’s themes, the vision didn’t quite translate, but a lack of critical support has never stopped Rose before. At 26, he became the youngest director to ever open a show on Broadway, let alone win a Tony Award for it, and it’s been a few highs and a lot of lows ever since. With that early success came privilege and access - two things he always had before, given his family’s credentials, but now it was coming from an industry he wanted to be in; people he wanted to work with. Did it change him? 

“A bit, yeah,” says actress Stevie Budd, who’s known Rose since college. “Not to go all therapy on you, but David’s only ever wanted validation. After Orestes, he was finally getting it from people he cared about. That would have gone to anyone’s head.” 

What followed was a bout of hard partying and even harder introspection. When Rose wasn’t landing in jail for drunk and disorderly and the occasional indecent exposure, his exploits could be found on the pages of any tabloid magazine or entertainment news website.

“It wasn’t a good time,” he says succinctly during our second meeting, finally addressing the tumultuous years in between Virginia Woolf and The Crucible. “I thought I was being carefree, just because I was stumbling out the back door of the club instead of the front, but really, I was just being careless. I would wake up with the worst hangovers. Hangxiety, I call it. ‘Who did I talk to?’ ‘What did I do?’ It was months - years, maybe - of me losing nights like that. Losing myself. Sebastien didn’t help,” he admits, referring to his time dating the photographer playboy. Then he shrugs and examines the silver rings on his fingers in the first candid moment we’ve had all afternoon. “I don’t really do that any more.”

Clearly, there has been a personal evolution to match the professional one, but there’s one project that’s been with Rose since the start. That’s been on his mind since a particularly dark time mentally at NYU sent him scanning the aisles at The Strand and picking up a copy of the Arden Hamlet. At the time, he chose it purely for aesthetic reasons: “There was something haunting and eerily beautiful about the cover of [that edition]. It just drew me to it.” He rediscovered Shakespeare’s most personal (some may say) work that very afternoon in a coffee shop around the corner, approaching it not as a petulant teen who’d been forced to read it in school, but as an artist; one who wanted to be taken seriously, who saw something of himself in the cracks of the Dane’s mental state: grief, depression, the burden of high expectation. Rose could relate. 

So he gathered some of his closest collaborators: designers like Jake Harbough and Twyla Sands, with whom he has a shorthand; actors like Helen Walton (who won a Tony for Orestes) and Budd (“Who literally dragged me out of bed when I was moping after The Crucible.”); and perhaps most surprisingly, his parents, Johnny and Moira Rose, as lead producers. It’s a complicated history the family has. After Virginia Woolf, Rose learned that his parents had been keeping what was supposed to be the follow-up success to Orestes afloat almost single-handedly by buying out the house and handing out the tickets for free. It was a blow that Rose is still coming to terms with. 

“The success I thought I had earned was complete bullshit. It made me doubt everything. I don’t think it’s a surprise that my work suffered after that. How can you pour your soul into something when you don’t trust any of your own instincts?” So why go to his parents now? “Partnering with them gave me a sense of ownership. Of control.” Rose admits that his parents were well-intentioned, even if the execution left something to be desired. 

“It was a misstep,” Johnny Rose says on a call from the set of the Sunrise Bay reboot where his wife, Moira Rose, is reprising the role of Vivian Blake. “A misstep, to be sure. But we’re glad that David felt comfortable enough to come to us on Hamlet. It’s a collaboration, one we're incredibly proud of.” 

Rose agrees. “This meant too much to me to hand it over to anyone outside of the family. God, we sound like the mafia.” 

But this Hamlet wasn’t like any that had come before. It was a Hamlet set to music, and the score was meant to be the beating heart of the piece. Before the designers and the cast, Rose needed a composer. 

Enter Patrick Brewer. 

“He was Stevie’s idea,” Rose admits with a laugh. “And the first words out of my mouth are not fit for print.” 

Brewer was an ambitious choice - but not a wrong one. 

Raised by a lawyer father and English teacher mother, he was brilliantly gifted from the get-go, leapfrogging from playing piano in his living room and strumming guitar in the park to taking music classes at The Royal Conservatory in Toronto that resulted in a recording contract before he even left his teens. By 24, he was famous, his voice making its way out of radios across the world, and soon after, he became a record-breaker with a clutch of Grammys, Brits, and a Golden Globe nomination. Today, Brewer has sold more than 120 million records globally – a feat almost unthinkable in the modern era, especially off the backs of only three albums.

We may live in the time of star casting, but Rose bristles when asked if that’s why Brewer was approached for Hamlet. “It’s not that I didn’t want him,” he says defensively. “But it wasn’t calculated. I didn’t ask Patrick to do this because I thought he’d make the most money at the box office. He was the best - and only - person for the job. End of story.”

But it’s not the end of the story. This is where the story truly begins.

 

I must say, it is pretty wow to actually meet Brewer in the flesh for the first time, as I do on an overcast but humid Wednesday in July. For reasons not immediately apparent, he’s asked to meet at Cooper Hewitt on the Upper East Side, housed in Andrew Carnegie’s one-time mansion facing Central Park. As I walk into the gardens, I anticipate being greeted by the entourage that pop culture has taught us to expect surrounding the rich and famous, but the only person there is Brewer’s manager and childhood best friend, Ted Mullens, who informs me that Brewer is hanging out just on the other side of a picturesque trellis. I head towards the patio, turn the corner, and there he is, perched at a table in jeans, a blue button down open over a white t-shirt, and that ever-present Blue Jays hat. He stands and takes it off as I approach like a good Canadian boy and holds out a guitar-calloused hand, offering the most disarming of greetings: “Hi, I’m Patrick. How are you?”

Typically, Cooper Hewitt is closed on Wednesdays, but the museum staff kindly opened it up specially for us (well, I say us). Brewer is eager to see the most recent installment of the museum’s signature contemporary design exhibition series: “Nature: The Design Triennial.” On display here at the Smithsonian’s temple to the culture of design, on upper Fifth Avenue, are objects you might once have expected only at a science museum: Proteins found in silkworms are repurposed as surgical screws and optical lenses. Electronically active bacteria power a light fixture. The museum shows how such substances replace destructive industrial materials, especially petroleum-based plastics. It seems an odd choice of event for a music megastar to want to attend, but then again Brewer has been surprising me from the start. And I’m not the only one. 

To talk to Rose about his leading man is to watch a flower bloom. 

“He blew me away from day one. I seriously didn’t know what to expect. We share an agency, so I brought the idea up with my rep, honestly assuming I wouldn't hear back.” Less than two hours later, a meeting had been scheduled for the following afternoon. “I think I choked on my french fry,” Rose admits. 

But back to Cooper Hewitt. Save for a handful of museum staff and the scant members of Brewer’s team loitering in the foyer, we have the place to ourselves. I ask if shutting down museums is a habit of his, and he gives a cheeky smirk. “Technically, the museum was already closed.” He misses being able to get to exhibitions, he says as we wander the rooms. If he plays his cards right, he gets “about 20 minutes anywhere” before the first fan clocks him and there’s a scrum. It’s the topic of many a social media post. There are accounts dedicated to his whereabouts at any given moment. 

Why theatre, then, if it puts a GPS pin in his forehead? Why Hamlet

“Most of my life is in a car or inside a building,” he says; the lot of the famous. “I live in New York because I like to walk. I want fresh air and somewhere I can see the sky. As for Hamlet, well, have you met my director?” 

Their partnership was an easy one from the get-go, Brewer says. Their first conversation involved sandwiches and a passionate treatise on the finer workings of You’ve Got Mail. Yes, that You’ve Got Mail.

“I had never seen it,” Brewer admits with a laugh. “David wasn’t happy.” 

“How do you miss You’ve Got Mail?” Rose asks indignantly when I bring it up in our next conversation. “It’s Nora Ephron!” 

It’s an oversight that Brewer quickly remedied, though, admitting on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that he celebrated a successful appearance on SNL by watching the film. 

“He likes to troll, even from a distance,” Rose says ruefully, but the smile tugging at his lips proves it’s all for show. ‘From a distance,’ though, is how the majority of their initial work was conducted. Brewer was starting his Full Count tour right after signing onto the project, so work sessions were done via phone call and video chat as audio files were emailed back and forth. “He finished incredibly quickly,” Rose recalls. “Like, shockingly ‘are-you-sure-you’re-finished’ quickly.” 

Did he have notes? 

Rose barks out a laugh. “Barely. It’s really unfair for someone to be that talented and to be able to multitask like that. The man was performing for 80,000 people at night and listening to me whine and hyperventilate the next morning. Like, who does that?” 

Brewer invited Rose to join him at a tour stop in South Carolina, where he played the full piece for him.

“It was transcendent. And terrifying,” Rose admits. “It was like Patrick had tapped into my brain, reached into my heart. It was exactly what I heard in my head as I read that Arden Edition, even if I didn’t know it at the time. It was frightening to be known like that. That hasn’t been easy for me.” 

It’s a connection that Brewer corroborates. “The music just came. It was the fastest bit of writing I’ve ever done in my life. I can’t explain it.” 

At our third interview, Rose’s phone chimes with a text alert, and I know immediately who it’s from. “How’s Patrick?” I ask. Rose looks positively terrified at my relatively benign question. 

I won’t learn why for another three months. 



Though each man has had a long and varied career prior to their partnership, one could argue that this production marks a turning point. Rose has never done something this ambitious before, and Brewer is making his professional acting debut (if you don’t count a stint in the Toronto production of Les Miserables at age eight, which Brewer definitely does: “Some of my finest work, to be honest.”). 

A six-week workshop was completed in June, shortly before I sat down with Rose for the first time. No press were invited to the presentation. The guest list was as exclusive as a Coachella afterparty. The out-of-town tryout was expected to begin in September at The Princess of Wales in Toronto with the hopes that Broadway would come calling in the spring. 

When I ask why they chose Canada for the out-of-town tryout when there was no shortage of U.S. theatres clamoring to host them, Rose’s response is simple: “They’re nicer.” 

And as stereotypical as that answer might be, it’s entirely accurate, a fact I learn when I’m invited to attend the first rehearsal. It’s been a couple of months since the cast has seen each other, and in the intervening weeks, Rose’s personal life has hit a landmine courtesy of Sebastien Raine.

“We finished the workshop and then my body was on every homepage,” Rose remembers over a strong cocktail at Toronto’s Soho House. How did he handle that? “I’m not going to go into that detail,” he says, “but I was ashamed. Embarrassed. I still am.” It is such a rare moment of non-confession that I fight the urge to hug him. “Needless to say, I didn’t handle it well.” 

When I bring it up with Brewer, he is equally protective of that time. “We got through it,” he says, and I note the ‘we.’ “Of course. What kind of person would I be if I abandoned my friend when he needed me?” 

What kind of person, indeed. 

 

Back in the rehearsal studio, I ask Rose if he’s nervous to face his company again, but the answer is plain on his face. If there’s any place David Rose feels more like himself, it’s here, with these people. 

“I’m home,” he says, and it’s true. Less than five minutes in the room is enough to tell me that this truly is a family affair, even for those without a shared surname. 

Having never gotten the chance to watch Rose in his element, it’s a masterclass in leadership, subtlety, and encouragement. Gone is the man who walked into a dark lobby like he was entering a witness protection program. In his place is the youngest Tony Award-winning director on Broadway who’s grown into a man unafraid to challenge the conventions that have policed this art form for decades; a man who’s been put through the wringer and come out the other side, possibly even the better for it. 

He asks me if I’m hanging around. I will as long as he’ll have me. “Stay,” he urges, as he circles up his family. “I think you’re in for a treat.” 

And he’s right. It’s clear from the first line that they have something special here. Apparently, in more ways than one. 

 

Patrick Brewer comes out to me on a Wednesday. 

He doesn’t mean to, but somewhere in between American League baseball woes and Levain chocolate peanut butter cookie praise, he says eight words that stop both of us cold: 

“Oh just wait until you meet my boyfriend.” 

Given the way his eyes widen and his skin pales, it’s clear that he didn’t mean to say it. Whatever our topic of conversation was, it’s off the record now [I have since been given permission to publish this].

I don’t ask him who his boyfriend is, but I do have eyes. I don’t pry, though. I leave him for the day, presumably to have a panic attack in peace. Or as peaceful as something like that can be. 

When we next meet, he exhibits that rare combination of confidence and shell shock; a person emerging from a long period of self-examination. 

“It’s David,” he says rather obviously. It’s a bashful side of Brewer that is not often seen. “And this isn’t a conversation that I can have without him.” I agree. “I respect him too much, and this isn’t my story. It’s our story. We’ll talk about what it is when we’re ready to talk about it together.” 

But it will be another three months before Rose is made aware that I know, a lapse in communication that Brewer admits was a sticking point between them. “I should have told him that I let it slip. But I was scared, and I didn’t.” 

“Yes, we’re together,” Rose confirms at our next lunch. It seems important to him to say that himself. “We’re very happy.” And it shows. 

I’ve noticed over the course of our meetings that while the messages hidden in Rose’s clothes have become more and more inviting, the attention he now receives has become more and more intrusive. During our last conversation over lunch at a downtown restaurant, I ask him if the scrutiny is hard. 

“Not if it’s for him,” he replies. 

Less than two months later, news of their relationship is shared with the world. ‘Share’ is a generous term, though, for how the world finds out. 

“One of the downsides of our fame is that privacy isn’t really in our control anymore, and a moment that you think is between two people that love each other very much is now a moment that the entire world knows about,” Brewer says diplomatically on a recent phone call, referring to the photograph that was taken of them kissing and subsequently leaked online. I ask him how he handled it, and his answer is much like his partner’s: 

“Not well. I ran.” It might explain his absence from a Thursday evening performance of Hamlet the night the news broke. A reason was not given, but anyone with a fiber of common sense could guess. Frankly, it’s impressive he only missed one. 

But he has his family; he has his Hamlet company and this Broadway community, who’ve welcomed him with arms and minds open (Brewer recently took home the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play and the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance Award). 

Most importantly, though, he has Rose, whom he credits for helping him navigate this new and sometimes unrelenting world. When I tell Rose this, he scoffs, but his eyes reveal just how touched he is. 

“He saved me first.” 

Though their relationship is relatively new, their paths have been running parallel for ages. It isn’t until our last conversation that Rose tells me just how long. 

During a particularly bleak time in his twenties, he was going for a walk (“hungover from my bad decisions the night before”) and passed by Academy Records on West 18th Street. In the window there was a record from a new artist Rose had never heard of before. There was something about the artwork, though, that drew him in because Rose is nothing if not visual. He walked in the door and walked out with Patrick Brewer’s debut album, despite the fact that he didn’t even own a turntable. 

“I still don’t know what the f*ck a Banjo Hitter is,” he says with a smitten sigh. “Don’t tell him.” 

When I ask Rose if he ever mentioned this to Brewer, he smiles and nods. I press for details, but he just shakes his head. “That one’s just for us.” 

He does send me a picture of the Opening Night gift Brewer got him, though; a frame filled with every ticket to every show of Rose’s that Brewer has ever attended, dating all the way back to his first. 

Clearly, it’s a long history that’s shared, even if neither was aware at the time. Shakespeare would surely have something to say about that. 

When I ask Brewer about the tickets, he turns coy, and I wonder if there comes a point when the work sometimes gets too personal; if the questions dig too deep. He’s never been afraid to pour his life into his music, but is it the therapy it’s cracked up to be? “I definitely feel like when my life is spiraling out of control, I want to be in the studio because no one can get to me there,” he replies. “I don’t have to deal with any issues, any problems. I think it’s less, ‘My world is falling apart, I need to go and write about it.’ It’s more just my safe space.” 

Is his world falling apart?

He smiles. “Not anymore.” 

I ask if the new album he’s been working on (aptly named Moon Shot) reflects that, and the smile morphs into a grin, like a little boy with a secret. “I love my lyrics on this record,” he says, his tone one of rare contentment. For someone admittedly so used to running, he seems just fine exactly where he is. “After the success of Banjo Hitter and Shoestring Catch, I think I was more in tune with what I thought people might want or not want on Full Count.” Which was not a disservice. It just won him seven Grammys. “With this one, though, I made the very conscious decision to say to myself, for the first time in my life, ‘What do I want?’”

Perhaps what Brewer and Rose each want has never been clearer. And it has nothing to do with their award-winning work. 

 

Speaking of, we’ve barely scratched the surface of the fruits of their labor, but you can read our full review of Hamlet here. Needless to say, we recommend it. It’s a searing indictment of the responsibility placed on a grieving party. Rose’s direction and Brewer’s performance by no means let Hamlet off the hook. He is entitled and manipulative even in the most capable hands and that’s okay, because that’s how Shakespeare wrote him. Humans are complex creatures and none more so than the man at this production’s helm. 

Complexities aside, it is a collaboration that works. A partnership that obviously flourishes, considering it’s gotten them 12 Tony Nominations, the most of any play this season. If Rose wins, and he very well could, he will still be the youngest Best Director Tony Award winner, in either category, second only to himself. So who knows what will happen this Sunday? Only time will tell. But he doesn’t need another award to validate his rightful place in the pantheon of modern American Theatre. 

There is an art to being David Rose. How lucky we are that he chooses to share his with us.

🎭 🎭 🎭

Patrick finishes reading, his unsteady voice trailing off. He lowers the phone and glances up, his lower lip trembling. He’s beautiful.

It’s beautiful. 

It’s more than David deserves. 

“Who knows what will happen this Sunday?” Patrick quietly asks, repeating Carol’s words. 

David holds out his hand, and Patrick firmly takes it. Maybe it’s just what he deserves. 

“Only time will tell.” 

Chapter Text

“You sure you want to do this tonight?” David calls as he lounges on the loveseat in the dressing room, mindlessly scrolling through his phone. There’s some really good Hamlet fanart out there.

“Yes, David,” Patrick responds from the bathroom. He sounds tired. 

“It’s just - tomorrow is a long, long day. Especially for you. And it’s already late.” 

Patrick pokes his head around the door. “Do you not want to do this?” 

“Of course I want to do it. I’m just thinking about you.” 

“David, it’s a celebratory weekend whether we win or lose, and I want to take you on a date so I can hold your hand on the table and not worry about who’s watching.”

David presses his lips together to fight his grin. “Okay.” 

“Now how do I look?” Patrick steps out of the bathroom, and David’s jaw drops. He’s wearing dark, form-fitting jeans (when are they not?), a white henley unbuttoned at the neck, and a blue sport coat. 

“Um, hello.” Patrick gives a little turn, and David responds with a low whistle. “All for me?” 

“Always for you.” He leans over and presses a kiss to David’s lips, before straightening and holding out his hands to pull David to his feet. “Though I can’t believe you invited my parents to date night.”

“I can’t believe you were going to blow your parents off the night before the Tonys!” 

“They’re my dates!” 

“So? They flew all the way here to celebrate with you. The least we can do is have a meal with them.” 

“A drink,” Patrick reminds. “They’ll have already had dinner. Dad can’t eat this late. It messes up his blood sugar.” 

David waves his hand in a whatever gesture. The Brewers had arrived just before the evening show, and they’re staying at the Four Seasons literally around the corner from Odeon. It would have been rude not to at least extend the invite. Besides, David wants to see them, and tomorrow he will be in no fit state for logical conversation.

“Fine then. A drink.” Then he leans in and presses a lingering kiss on Patrick’s cheek. “You can still hold my hand on the table.” 

Patrick smiles in that adorably pouty way, like he’s trying not to smile, but it breaks through anyway. He’s already done the stage door, and David has set his alarm for an ungodly hour to make it to the Tony dress rehearsal in the morning. All that’s left is a ride down to Tribeca.

“We probably should have picked a place around here, instead of going downtown only to have to go back up.” 

Patrick shrugs. “Or I could just crash at yours.” 

David looks at him. “Or you could just crash at mine. You don’t care if someone sees you coming in? Joe’s practically set up shop.” 

Patrick snorts. “The world knows we’re in love, babe. Pretty sure they assume we’re fucking, too.” 

And he can’t help the groan that leaves his lips at the word ‘fucking’ leaving Patrick’s mouth. “Mr. Brewer, that is unfair.” 

“So is being late for our reservation,” he murmurs against his ear, even as he smacks him on the ass. “Let’s go.” 

They head down the stairs, bidding farewell to Ritchie as they turn into the theatre to sneak out through the Schoenfeld. Ivan bundles them into the car, and Lena pulls away from the curb as David looks out the window, watching the lights glitter against the sky. 

There’s something in the air this weekend in midtown. A magic that hangs in the theatre district, afflicting all who step into it with an anticipatory giddiness. Even David isn’t immune, though he will absolutely lie like a rug if someone asks. 

Patrick texts his parents to let them know they’re on their way and then finds David’s hand on the leather seat, pulling his gaze from the window. 

“You good?” 

David hums. “Good.” And then, because Patrick’s eyes are more effective than truth serum, he admits, “Looking forward to this.” 

“To dinner?” 

And while, yes, David is always looking forward to food, specifically though - “With you. And your parents.” 

Patrick squeezes his fingers, and his soft smile could flatten mountains. “I love how you love them.” 

And thank God it’s dark because David is mortified when he finds himself saying, “They made you. How could I not?” 

Patrick huffs out a laugh, a small sound of disbelief, as he pulls David’s hand to his lips and presses a kiss to his palm. “Love you,” he ghosts across his skin. 

“Love you,” David replies just as quietly, here in this backseat bubble in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. 

Lena pulls to a stop by the restaurant’s service entrance on Thomas Street, where a manager is already waiting by the side door, and Ivan hops out of the front seat to come around and meet them on the sidewalk. The manager greets them with a handshake and a message that Lynn, the owner, sends her regards. 

“We have you at your usual table, Mr. Brewer, and your parents are already here.” 

“Oh great, thanks,” Patrick replies, getting a hand on David’s back and letting him go in first. David assumes that his usual table is the booth in the back, up against the far wall, where they sat last time. It’s closest to the rear exit which allows for an easy entrance and subsequent escape, but it’s not like the restaurant is large. Once they’re inside, word will spread. Fast. 

The manager leads them into the main room, and before David can even sweep his gaze around to see where Marcy and Clint might be, his eyes land first on the hostess walking towards them, and then on the person she's guiding to another table.

His vision tunnels, his heart thuds, his blood roars. 

Marcy’s voice comes from somewhere to his right, and he tries not to sway towards it out of instinct. Out of an innate need to be comforted. “David, sweetheart, what is it?” Then she’s stepping into his line of sight, her expression a perfect picture of concern. God, he can’t imagine what his face is doing. 

“David, what’s - ?” But then Patrick stills, and David knows he’s spotted him. 

“What’s going on?” Clint asks, following their gaze. “Friend of yours?” 

“Ghost of Christmas Past,” he says tightly. 

“Do we need to beat him up?” Clint asks, and Marcy releases David’s arm just long enough to swat at her husband. 

“Clint, you’re a pacifist.” 

“A man can change.” 

“It’s Sebastien Raine,” Patrick finally grinds out, and Clint immediately snaps to attention. Oh, he knows exactly who Sebastien Raine is. 

Speaking of, the man himself catches David’s eye and slows, his perpetually condescending grin turning smug. Turning ugly. He diverts course from his table and makes his way over to them, and David wants nothing more than to turn around and run out the back door, but his boots are glued to the floor. The manager hovers awkwardly behind him as Ivan takes a step closer to Patrick.

“David, so good to see you,” Sebastien greets, all fake charm. “Look at you. You look really… healthy.”

Oh, fuck off.

“How’s Broadway? Finally?” he adds, a twist of the knife. 

“How’s probation? Inevitably?” David returns. 

Sebastien ignores the dig and focuses instead on Patrick, who’s nothing but a tense line of barely contained rage down the length of David’s arm. “And of course I know who you are. Big fan."

“Can’t say the same,” Patrick replies tightly. 

“Bet you have your hands full with David here. And I have to say, I think you’re very brave.” 

A white hot fury ignites in David’s chest because how dare Sebastien take those words - Patrick’s words, Nadia’s words - and soil them with his disgusting mouth? 

“Okay, we’re done here,” he says, turning towards the booth that Marcy and Clint are still standing beside. Luckily, it’s late enough that the restaurant clientele has thinned a bit, and their table is hidden behind a pillar, so this spectacle doesn’t have as many witnesses as it could. 

“Are you still mad about the photos? David, that was the way you were meant to be presented to the world.” 

Patrick takes a step forward, and David halts him with a hand on his chest. His heart thunders beneath his palm. “Look at me. Honey, look at me,” he repeats when Patrick doesn’t tear his eyes away from Sebastien. “Patrick,” he says firmly, and the man finally listens, hard eyes softening the second they land on David. “He’s not worth it.”

David didn't know it was possible for someone to express loud profanities through extreme silence, but apparently Patrick has mastered this feat. 

And Sebastien clearly has no sense of self-preservation because he keeps talking. “Look, while my therapist said I should never feel sorrow, I do appreciate your pain.” 

“Funny, because I don’t feel much of anything when it comes to you,” he simply replies; a lie, sure, but not one that Sebastien needs to know about. 

The smug grin turns sour, David’s words somehow finding whatever soft underbelly manages to exist beneath that reptilian exterior. “Good luck tomorrow,” he says, before turning back towards the hostess who’s staring at them wide-eyed.  

“It’s ‘break a leg,’ asshole,” David snaps, taking great delight in watching Sebastien’s steps falter slightly, before closing his eyes and turning towards Clint and Marcy with a wince. “Sorry.” 

“Oh, don’t you worry about a thing, sweet boy,” Marcy assures before looking worryingly over David’s shoulder.  

“Patrick, come on,” Clint is quietly saying, getting a hand on Patrick’s still-stiff arm, but he only turns enough to face David. 

“Do you want to go?” he asks. 

“What?” 

“Home. Do you want to go?”

“No, we came here to have date night. We’re having date night.” 

Marcy gasps. “We’re crashing date night? Why didn’t you tell us?” 

Patrick looks pointedly at David. David ignores him. 

“Because I want you here.” 

“Well, we won’t stay long. Clint turns into a pumpkin past 10pm anyway.” 

Clint, though, is still looking decidedly murderous on David’s behalf. Like father, like son, he supposes. The thought warms him, even if he is concerned about getting bounced before he has a chance to eat the buffalo chicken dumplings. 

“Okay, baby,” Patrick whispers, gently ushering David over to the booth. He tries to get David to go in first, but David knows that Patrick will be less easy to spot if he’s closest to the wall. After some silent bickering, Patrick finally relents, sliding across the red leather seat as Clint and Marcy sit opposite them. Ivan settles at a table not too far away. 

“So that was Sebastien,” Marcy murmurs. 

“We don’t need to talk about it,” Patrick clips, and David places a placating hand on Patrick’s knee beneath the table. 

“Yes, that was Sebastien. Clearly my taste in men has gotten better,” he says, squeezing Patrick’s leg and breathing easier when Patrick gives him a small smile in return. 

“Looks like an asshole,” Clint offers, and Marcy smacks him again. 

“Clint!” 

“What? He does!” 

“He is,” Patrick confirms, and well, David can’t really argue there. But the knot of anxiety he’d felt at facing his ex for the first time since the courtroom slowly loosens, unwinding from around his lungs and curling up beneath the warmth of his heart. He has some staunch defenders in these Brewers, and it’s a continual surprise - realizing how unbelievably lucky he is. 

“Just because he’s an asshole doesn’t mean we need to dwell on his unfortunate indiscretions,” Marcy says diplomatically, and David snorts, which pulls a reluctant laugh out of Patrick as well. 

“Wow, Mom. You kiss your mother with that mouth?” 

It breaks the tension, and she gently kicks him under the table. “You know full well your grandmother cursed like a sailor on shore leave.” 

“That she did.” 

And David realizes that he doesn’t actually know if Patrick still has any of his grandparents, but given the way Marcy used the past tense, he assumes that at least his maternal grandmother is no longer with them. Maybe it was a while ago, because Marcy’s eyes are bright and her smile is wide as she regales them with one of her mother’s more colorful exploits. Sounds like Grandma Eleanor could have given Moira Rose a run for her money. 

The conversation remains on happier topics, and David leaves his hand on Patrick’s leg, rubbing gently as they catch up over a round of drinks. David and Patrick put in their dinner order, and then they go through the hectic schedule for the following day. 

“We’ll just meet you at Radio City,” Clint offers. “You’ve got enough going on with the show.” 

“That reminds me,” Patrick murmurs, reaching into the inside breast pocket of his blazer and pulling out an envelope. “Here are your tickets and party passes. Ted picked them up yesterday.”

“And don’t lose them,” David warns. “Security is tighter than the State of the Union.” 

Marcy slides them into her purse with a wink. “I will guard them with my life. Are we near you?” 

“I’m sitting just behind you.” 

“Oh good. And who’s your date since we’ve stolen yours?” 

David chuckles. “To be fair, I think he was yours first.” Patrick’s hand covers his beneath the table. “Um, my sister. We have so much overlap with the nominations. Normally, I’d bring Stevie, but she has her own seat. Then Ronnie, but Stevie’s bringing her since she reps us both. And my parents are the producers so everybody’s kind of taken care of. Um, I’ve asked them to bring my childhood nanny and her husband who still works for us as their plus ones. They, uh, they’ve been really supportive my whole life. Even when I didn’t give them much reason to be.” 

“That’s very sweet of you, David,” Marcy says softly. 

“I didn’t know they were coming,” Patrick murmurs, and David shrugs. 

“It would feel wrong not to have them there.” 

Patrick presses a kiss to David’s shoulder, and the server comes out with their appetizers just as Clint finishes the last of his martini. “We should get out of your hair and let you get on with date night,” he offers. 

“Unless… you want us to stay?” Marcy asks, her gaze shifting over their shoulders, and David knows she’s clocking Sebastien in the middle of the room. 

David smiles. “I’m okay. But I really appreciate the offer.” 

“Then we’ll see you tomorrow,” she says, allowing Clint to help her out of the booth. 

David and Patrick stand to say their goodbyes with assurances to text when they’re on their way to Radio City. Once Clint and Marcy depart, David slides into their vacated side of the booth as Patrick returns to his seat and pulls his napkin into his lap. David stares at him intently though; intently enough to cause Patrick to ask an amused, “What?” 

Then David very deliberately places his hand on the table, palm up, and waits. Patrick inhales sharply at the gesture, eyes watering a bit as he huffs out a laugh and places his hand in David’s. 

“I did promise,” David whispers. 

“You did.” 

David doesn’t look around to see who might be watching; his fingers don’t twitch at the public display, and their hands stay there all through their appetizers, even when splitting a dumpling gets difficult to do one-handed. They pass on the offer of another round of drinks when their entrees arrive: salmon for David and steak for Patrick, who ordered the side of fries instead of mixed greens solely because he knew David would want some. Finally breaking apart, they grab their necessary utensils and dig in, and the single glass of wine David consumed is already making his eyes droop, like his body is preemptively sympathizing with the exhaustion he’ll feel tomorrow. 

“So after the Tonys, how often will you be coming by the theatre?” Patrick asks. 

David shrugs. “Whenever I want, really. Why? Eager to get rid of me?” 

“Only because you keep eating my snacks.” 

“You cannot keep a fully stocked mini-fridge and expect me to not forage for what’s inside,” he says, pointing his fork to drive the point home, and Patrick laughs. “I don’t have an AD. I’ll still be there for understudy rehearsals.” Then he clears his throat and spears another bite of salmon. “Speaking of, what do you think about Mandy?”

Patrick frowns. “My Mandy? I mean - Wendy’s Mandy?” 

David nods. “You said she was graduating this spring, right? I assume she’s back by now.” When Patrick merely blinks at him, David shifts under his unreadable gaze. “Look, I know she’s young, but she knows the show. It’s not like it changed that much since the workshop.”

“Except for all of the moving set pieces,” Patrick points out.  

“Sure, fine.” He clears his throat again and stuffs the bite in his mouth. “Well, what do you think?” It’s a miracle he doesn’t spray salmon everywhere.

“I mean, I love her, but is she ready?” 

“I’ll make her ready. I’ll train her throughout the summer with stage management, and she can take over full time in the fall. I won’t let her fail.” 

Patrick smiles and tilts his head, looking at David in that way that makes him feel fully known. It’s not nearly as scary as it once was. “I know you won’t. I think it’s a great idea.” 

David pulls his lips behind his teeth in an effort to hide how pleased he is. He respects Patrick. He wants Patrick to think his opinions are not only valid but inspired. “Then I’ll call her on Monday and have Ruth follow up if she’s interested.” 

“A chance to assist Tony Winner David Rose? I can’t imagine she wouldn’t be.” 

David rolls his eyes. “See? I’m a nice person.” 

Patrick hums, and the smile remains. “You’re a good person.” 

The words take a second to land, and David’s eyes narrow. “Hmm. It’s just I said, ‘nice person.” 

“I know.” Then Patrick pops a french fry in his mouth and grins like the little shit he is. God, David loves him.

Their plates are cleared, and dessert menus are handed out. They’re just debating over the crème brûlée or the sticky toffee pudding when movement out of the corner of David’s eye draws his attention: Sebastien has stood from his table and is heading towards the stairway leading to the restrooms in the basement. David’s quick to avert his gaze; he doesn’t want to catch Sebastien’s eye or draw Patrick’s to him. He’s best left ignored. 

David focuses back on the menu, now feeling like maybe just taking a pint of Odeon’s homemade ice cream to go. But which flavor? Chocolate or peanut butter? 

Both? 

Before he can suggest it, Patrick is clearing his throat and standing from the table. 

“Bathroom. Be right back.” 

“What?” he asks, entirely too alarmed. “Patrick, don’t - ”

“Don’t what? David, I really have to pee. I’ll be right back.” He presses a kiss to David’s head as he passes and waves Ivan off as he heads for the stairs. Oh that’s not good. Ivan should go. David tries to silently communicate that necessity to him, but Ivan’s too busy watching Patrick’s retreating form with a frown on his face. 

Patrick’s back was to the majority of the room. He was on the side of the booth facing away from Sebastien’s table. He might not have noticed him getting up and heading downstairs… 

David looks at the round pink and green neon clock on the wall, willing him to return, but the bathrooms are behind him and down a flight. There’s no way he can spy without being blatant about it. He tries eyeing the room in the tilted mirrors above the bar, but the angle’s all off. Ivan’s gaze still hasn’t left the doorway. 

Four interminable minutes and 53 seconds later, Patrick returns, sliding into the seat next to him, cheeks flushed and breath short. But he did just climb (no doubt athletically) a steep set of stairs. 

“Ready?” he asks. “I ordered two pints of ice cream to go.”

“What?” 

“Peanut butter and chocolate, is that okay?” 

How the fuck…? David shakes his head because his boyfriend’s apparent psychic abilities are too much to handle on top of whatever the hell just happened. So David flat out asks: 

“Patrick, what the hell just happened?” 

“Do you really want the details of my trip to the urinal?” Patrick asks with amusement and a raised eyebrow, but David isn’t crazy. He knows what he saw. 

The manager returns with Patrick’s credit card and a bag containing the two pints of ice cream. “Thank you for joining us, Mr. Brewer.” 

“A pleasure as always, Maurice. Ready?” he asks again, this time standing and holding out his hand for David to take. 

He numbly nods, grabbing hold, and they leave before Sebastien has a chance to return from the restroom. 

And if David notices the rapidly forming bruises on the knuckles of Patrick’s right hand, neither of them says a word. 

🎭 🎭 🎭


@deuxmoiworld SPOTTED: patrick brewer and david rose having dinner at odeon. sebastien raine was there too and rumor has it patrick put the fear of god in him in the gents.

@BrewsClues IT’S HERE. TONY SUNDAY IS HERE. ARE WE READY?
        @ellamaysay: NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST

@TheTonyAwards Tonight Is the Night! Don't miss "Live from the Red Carpet" before the Tony Awards! Sunday, June 9 beginning at 5pm ET - Watch LIVE on Twitter from @CBS #TonyAwards #RedCarpet #Glamour #AwardsSeason

🎭 🎭 🎭

Tony Award Sunday dawns warm and bright, and David has never been more miserable in his life. 

“This is hell,” he groans as the phone alarm blares entirely too close to his ear. “I’m in hell.” He swats at it and sends it flying to the floor, but fuck knows if he turned it off or just sent it to snooze. 

Patrick nuzzles into the back of his neck, breath hot against David’s already sleep-warm skin. “If this is hell, I can’t wait to see what heaven looks like.” 

“Patrick.” 

“David, it’s 8am.” 

“It’s dawn,” he groans, pulling the covers over their heads and ignoring the chuckle that rumbles against his back. 

“You technically don’t have to come. It’s not like you’re performing.” 

“Oh my God, can you imagine?” 

“I can, actually. I’ve seen The Number.” David gasps in betrayal, as Patrick just laughs. “I mean, hey, there’s room on my bench for two. Or would you prefer to lounge across the baby grand?” 

“I want to see what it looks like,” he grumbles, burrowing into the pillow before the full memory of last night hits him, shaking the last vestiges of sleep from his brain. “So… cops aren’t about to storm my apartment, are they?” 

Patrick lifts his head from the pillow so he can better see (half of) David’s face. “What? Why on earth would they do that?” 

But David just raises an eyebrow. “Oh I dunno, assault and battery?” 

The flush of Patrick’s cheeks is the only thing that gives him away; his face remains remarkably placid. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about, babe.” 

David takes the hand that’s pressed up against his chest and lifts it for Patrick to see. Even in the morning light, the bruises are apparent. “Well, let’s just hope they don’t do a closeup shot of you playing then,” he says tersely, and Patrick has the good sense to look at least slightly chagrined. Then David runs his thumb over the bruised knuckles softly. Patrick still hisses. 

“Are you mad?” 

But how can David be mad when this beautiful, gallant, perfectly flawed person put his career and reputation on the line to defend him? Sure, David takes issue, a bit, but deep down he has to admit, his own moral compass is a little skewed. 

“You’re a good person,” he murmurs, and Patrick exhales shakily. 

“That’s not ‘nice,” he whispers. 

David hums. “Well, it wasn’t.” Then he presses a kiss to that still-tender flesh. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it.” 

Patrick sighs and rests his head back on the pillow, pulling David tighter against his body. “How are you feeling?” 

Jesus, how is he feeling?

He blows out a slow breath. “Tired. Stressed. Excited. Nervous.” He pauses and thinks for a moment. “Happy.” He can feel Patrick smile against his neck. 

“Even though it’s dawn?” 

“Even though it’s dawn.” 

Patrick shifts against him, and David can’t help the sound he makes at feeling him not entirely soft in his pajamas. “How much time do we have?” 

“You’re the one with the deadline,” David replies a little breathlessly. Though the dress rehearsal starts at 9:30am, Patrick isn’t called until 10 because he’s not playing until the 11am hour. 

“Sorry, let me rephrase: how much time do you need?” 

David shrugs. “Forty-five minutes from coffee to car.” 

“I can work with that.” Then he rolls his hips against David’s ass, and David can’t help but grind back against him, moaning into the pillow as he threads their fingers together over his chest. Patrick’s thumb is precise as it finds his nipple through his sleep shirt and traces a circle around it, making David gasp. “This okay?” 

David nods and grinds back again, pulling a grunt from Patrick’s wandering lips. Then he untangles his fingers from Patrick’s and gets to work on the drawstring of his pajamas, gracelessly shoving them down his thighs before pulling Patrick back up against him. 

“Yeah?” Patrick asks. Like this? David nods again. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable later.” 

“Then don’t - ” but his words die in another moan as Patrick latches onto his earlobe and gets to work on his own pajamas. “Don’t… Fuck, Patrick.” Words, David. 

“I know,” Patrick says, like he hears them anyway, kicking his pants down to the foot of the bed before helping David shed his. “On or off?” he whispers, tugging at David’s shirt, and David answers by sitting up and pulling it over his head. Movement at his back tells him Patrick is doing the same so he settles down onto the pillow, groaning when the warm length of Patrick’s body snugs up against him once more. He shivers even under the heat of the covers and reaches out towards the bedside table, grabbing the lube from the drawer. Patrick places his t-shirt down in front of David before taking the bottle from his hand and pressing a kiss to his shoulder. 

The snick of the cap is loud in the quiet morning, and David tangles his feet with Patrick’s, pulling a hiss from his boyfriend when cold toes connect with warm calves. Patrick gets a hand on the back of David’s right thigh and gently pushes it forward, tracing a pattern on the back of his knee that makes David squirm and huff out a laugh, despite the arousal fogging his brain. 

“This okay?” Patrick asks, thumb rubbing between his thighs, and David nods. It’s exactly what he wants. He wants slow and he wants warm; he wants to feel Patrick all along his back, cocooned around him, holding him tight, solely so he doesn’t shake apart. 

The lube is cool on his skin, and he gasps as Patrick rubs it between his thighs, the gasp becoming a groan when he presses a knuckle to his perineum. Sufficiently slicked, Patrick guides David’s leg back as he scoots forward, moaning as he slides his cock into place, held firm between David’s thighs. It shouldn’t feel as good as it does - Patrick isn’t even moving - and yet David mouths at the pillow and grabs hold of the edge of the mattress because it’s so much.

Patrick wraps his arm around David again, his lubed hand taking hold of his cock as he rolls his hips, twin moans echoing around the room. 

“Okay?” Patrick asks. 

“Uh huh,” David moans again as Patrick holds him tighter, building their rhythm into something exquisite but never frantic. It’s a slow unraveling, an aching arousal that makes David’s fingers dig harder into the mattress. “Fuck, Patrick.” 

The sound of his hips slapping against David’s ass is almost obscene, rivaled only by the slick sound of Patrick’s hand stroking his cock. It’s barely been any time at all and yet David is embarrassingly close to coming already. A whine is ripped from his throat as he lets go of the bed to reach back and get a hand on Patrick’s ass, feeling those strong muscles move with precision. Intent. 

He looks down at his leaking cock, the head peeking out from Patrick’s fist, and he clenches his legs tighter out of instinct, pulling a groan from Patrick’s mouth as he bites into David’s shoulder. 

“Patrick - ”

“I have you, baby.” 

“Harder.” The slap of their skin grows louder but not faster, and David’s toes curl against Patrick’s shins. 

“You’re beautiful like this,” Patrick murmurs, and David whines again. He’s trying to hold on, to hold out, but he can’t. 

“Oh God, I’m gonna come.” 

“Do it.” Patrick twists his wrist and David’s just done.  

“Fuck oh!” He tries to keep his eyes open, to watch as his cock pulses, coming all over Patrick’s hand, but then Patrick slams his hips up against David’s ass, moans against his neck, and David feels him swell and release between his thighs. It makes him shiver through an aftershock and hold Patrick’s ass tighter, urging him on with a, “Come on, honey.” 

Patrick moans again and rolls his hips one final time, eventually letting go of David’s spent cock to hug him close, neither of them caring that he’s getting come everywhere. They pant in the silence, chests rising and falling in tandem, and David runs his foot up Patrick’s trembling leg, finally releasing the grip he had on his ass, patting it in apology. 

When David’s head clears, he looks down to see that Patrick’s t-shirt has caught the mess, and he spares a thought of appreciation for his boyfriend’s forward thinking. 

“That was good,” he manages after a long moment. He needed that. 

“S’always good with you,” Patrick replies, running his nose along David’s neck and up under his ear, making him shiver again. “C’mon. Shower,” he grunts, smacking a messy kiss on David’s shoulder that probably bears some teeth marks, before reaching over and plucking his soiled t-shirt from the mattress.  

“A necessity if there ever was one,” David manages, his words almost not slurring. The fact that Patrick can pull that kind of pleasure from him through just a handjob and some naked frotting is blissful torture. David already can’t wait to do it again. 

But maybe once his limbs decide to start working. 

Patrick laughs as David makes grabby hands at him, and he tosses his shirt in David’s hamper (a domestic move that makes David whimper) before coming around to his side of the bed and helping him to his feet. 

“You get started. I’ll bring coffee.” 

“Mm, love you.” 

“Love you.” Then Patrick taps David’s bare ass, sending him stumbling towards the bathroom, before he disappears downstairs.

The hot water is heaven on muscles that have carried around his anxiety, his excitement, his stress, his body; that have held up and given out, gotten stronger and weaker and then stronger again, somehow surviving day after day, even when David was sure they’d falter. 

The shower door opens, but David doesn’t startle; those muscles don’t seize. Patrick steps inside with a mug of coffee, careful to keep it out of the spray, and reaches up to push David’s wet hair away from his forehead. 

“Do not spill it on me,” he says softly, mischief in his eyes.  

David huffs out an obligatory, “Ugh, it was one time.” 

They take turns sipping and soaping, washing away their morning as they prep for the marathon day ahead. Given his head start, David finishes before Patrick, stepping out to get started on his skincare as Patrick rinses the conditioner David keeps for him (even though he hardly stays here) from his hair. 

Patrick finishes soon after, pressing a kiss to David’s bare shoulder as he promises to get more caffeine. He returns not five minutes later, while David’s on step 6, fully dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with a topped up mug of coffee and a croissant. 

“My, someone’s been productive. Where’d you get this?” 

“I had Ivan run to the bakery around the corner.” 

David groans and pulls a piece off, stuffing it in his mouth, even as the flakes stick to his newly moisturized skin. He glares at Patrick’s raised eyebrow. “What? I’m hungry!” 

“Work up an appetite?” Patrick asks with a wink, and David rolls his eyes, but yes, he did.  

Patrick takes one last sip before leaving the mug with David and heading back downstairs. David tries to hurry, but he won’t be rushed on today of all days. Especially considering this is the last time he’ll be back in his apartment until probably tomorrow. 

Face glowing and hair coiffed, he pulls on his comfiest jeans and a New York Times hoodie (he owes Carol some free advertising at the very least), before grabbing the garment bag containing his suit from the closet and heading out of the bedroom. 

As he winds around the spiral staircase, he finds Patrick standing behind his desk, staring at the Tony Award on his bookshelf. He’s not wearing his shoes yet, so his footsteps are soft and silent. Patrick hasn’t noticed him. He drapes the garment bag over the railing and steps closer, just watching. 

He’s beautiful in profile: strong jaw, sweeping eyelashes, an ear that David just wants to bite. His hands are shoved into the pockets of his jeans, and his head is tilted to the side, like the wall contains a problem that he just can’t seem to solve. 

“What are you thinking?” David finally asks.

Patrick shakes his head and shrugs, but doesn’t tear his eyes away. “Just that - after today it’s, well, not over but… different.” 

David nods. “It is.” The wild ride that is Tony Season comes to a close. The show goes on and it’s still exciting, but this journey they’ve been on to get here, to arrive at this day, ends. It’s a turning point, make no mistake. David’s been facing it like a fork in the road for weeks. 

“You know, I’ve been proud of every single award I’ve won. Even the ones I didn’t,” Patrick starts, and David can believe it. Hell, David can believe Patrick would be proud of his Little League’s participation award. “But I don’t think anything would come close to watching you add another one of these to this shelf.” 

Oh. 

David’s lips part and he sucks in a breath, finally allowing himself to actually look at the award that was both his saving and his undoing. His validation and his burden. He’s been chasing it and cursing it for nearly a decade, and avoiding this area of his loft for weeks. 

He’s not sure what to say to that; to Patrick’s incredibly generous statement. So he goes with the truth because what the hell else does he have? 

“Patrick, doing this show with you is all the award I’ll ever need. No matter what happens today, I want you to know that.” 

Patrick turns towards him then, his face an open book that David can’t wait to read in full. It’s love, though, from the first line to the last, that much he knows. That much he sees. Love and pride and hope that, despite all they’ve said, today will go their way. 

“We could do it.”   

“We could,” David agrees, walking towards him. “But if we don’t…”

“It’s okay,” Patrick finishes, getting his arms around David’s waist as soon as he’s within reach. 

“It’s okay,” David repeats, draping his on Patrick’s shoulders and pressing a kiss to his lips. 

And he firmly believes it is. Sure, he’ll be disappointed, but he also knows that there is nothing else he could have done. Hamlet contains his blood, his sweat, his tears, and his soul - every ounce of it he could afford to lose and then some. He tried his best. Hopefully it’s good enough. 

He pulls away and pecks Patrick one last time, before heading back over to the staircase and grabbing the garment bag where he’d left it. 

“You watching the show today?” Patrick asks, gesturing towards the suit, and David looks at him like that’s the silliest question in the world. 

“Patrick, it’s Tony Sunday. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭


PBandJ: has anyone found any news out of the dress rehearsal yet? it’s 1pm. they should be done by now.
      BrewsClues: unless something went horribly wrong…
PBandJ: true
      BrewClues: i doubt they lock up your phone but i’m sure they’ve got wicked strict protocols 
PBandJ: it’s definitely done. someone just posted a photo of patrick leaving radio city. [image]
      BrewsClues: he looks good. relaxed.
PBandJ: wait, here’s a wider shot with david behind him. [image] yes with the Times representation! tonight really can’t come soon enough
      BrewsClues: ginger get the popcorn dot gif

🎭 🎭 🎭

The fucking streamers are back. 

“Ritchie! I thought we talked about this!” David yells, feeling like he’s being pulled fucking twenty thousand leagues under the sea. 

“Don’t look at me!” Ritchie cries. 

“At ease, Cap,” Heather says behind him, navigating the tacky decorations like a manager at Spirit Halloween. “This was all me.” 

“How?! You were with us!” 

Mutt takes that moment to beat a hasty retreat back into the stage management office.

“I had backup,” she replies with a breezy smile as Patrick reaches over to help remove a length of foil that has somehow gotten wrapped around David’s neck.

“These colors are not soothing, Heather,” he grumbles. “If they were sand and stone, I might consider them.” 

“Mm, unfortunately Party City was all out of soothing color palettes.” 

“C’mon, babe,” Patrick urges, finally releasing him from his tinsel fringe restraints and pushing him towards the stairs. 

David spins around with dawning horror. “If your dressing room is covered in more balloons, so help me God.” 

“David, just go,” Patrick manages through a laugh. 

“This is not the kind of negativity we need to start this day!” 

“Would we call that negativity?” Heather calls, as Patrick surreptitiously pinches David’s ass.

“I think we started it just fine,” he murmurs, and David stumbles up the last few steps. 

Okay, well he’s not wrong. That part was delightful. 

And despite the ungodly hour, the dress rehearsal had gone off without a hitch, and the fans that packed the back of the orchestra and the mezzanines were particularly enthusiastic before, during, and after Patrick’s number. Tonight will inevitably be more muted since the house will be full of theatre professionals (in the loosest sense of the word), but that’s probably for the best since a woman shrieked so loudly when the song concluded, David was convinced she had fallen from the balcony.

He opens the door to Patrick’s dressing room with trepidation and breathes out a sigh of relief when he’s not accosted by helium-filled mylar. 

“See?” Patrick says, poking him in the side before getting distracted by a very nice bottle of champagne in a gift box sitting on his station. “Ooh,” he murmurs, before opening the gift card. 

“Who’s it from?” 

The smile slides from his face. “My label. Probably buttering me up so they can start bugging me as soon as possible about when the new album is coming.” 

David hangs his suit up on the costume rack with a frown. “Do you have a deadline for that? Like, a contract that says you need to finish it by a certain point?” 

“No. Not really. I did in the beginning of my career, but I make them enough money at this point that they’ve stopped hounding me.” 

David tries to collapse on the couch without looking like he’s collapsing on the couch. He knows they’ll need to work out some time for Patrick to record the album. He just has three more months on his Hamlet contract with the option to extend for another six, bringing them to a year-long run. It’s a massive commitment for any star of Patrick’s caliber to sign up for, and David has been promising himself he won’t try to sway him either way. The theatre owners want him to stay. The audiences want him to stay. David wants him to stay. 

But there are other audiences he’s beholden to. 

It’s just another conversation to file under the To Be Had column. The album’s written. Why deny the world the chance to hear it? 

“Penny for your thoughts?” Patrick asks, rousing David from his. 

“Just… thinking.” 

“About?” 

“The future.” 

Patrick’s eyebrows raise, and he nods, coming over to take a seat next to David on the couch. “And what part of the future? We talking later today? Tomorrow? Next year?” 

David shrugs, because he can’t quite explain it; how being on the edge of such a massive personal and professional endeavor makes him want to scroll through all of the days to come like he’s shuffling cards at a Vegas blackjack table. 

“All of it, I think,” he murmurs. 

Patrick cups the back of his head, fingers scratching at the base of his skull. “That’s a lot of future to ponder at one time.” 

David hums but doesn’t argue. He does feel a bit like David Tennant in the blue box, burdened with too much information and possibility. 

“I need to start getting ready,” Patrick says, pressing a kiss to David’s temple. And he does. It’s after 1pm and it’s a 2pm curtain because of the Tonys. “Can I get you anything?” 

And David can’t help laughing because of course this man, who’s already performed in a major awards show dress rehearsal and is about to do two and a half hours of one of Shakespeare’s hardest roles is asking him, David Rose, if he needs anything. 

It’s just the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard. And that’s saying something considering his father once dragged him to a private screening that Travolta hosted of Battlefield Earth. 

“How’d it go?” Stevie asks from the doorway, taking in David’s semi-maniacal laugh and Patrick’s look of growing concern. “That well, huh?” 

“No, no,” David manages, finally getting himself under control. “It was good. Really good. He’s gonna be great.” Then he turns to Patrick. “And no, you can’t get me anything.” 

“Not even a valium?” Stevie mutters, and David flips her off. 

“So do I get to see this dress yet?” 

Alexis had hooked Stevie up with a stylist and she apparently did not disappoint, considering Stevie hasn’t even let David in on what color the damn thing is. 

“Nope. Not until we leave.” 

David rolls his eyes, but even he can appreciate how effective an added layer of secrecy can be. Patrick doesn’t know what he’s wearing either, and he can’t wait to see his reaction. Poor thing thinks his own suit is a surprise, but Rachel clued David in weeks ago because she’s a good friend and an even better press agent, understanding how important it is for two people who may or may not be taking red carpet photos together to not clash. 

David has no expectations, though. He’s operating under the assumption that it’ll be like the Drama League Awards. Do the red carpet separately, no photos of just them, and he’s fine with that.  

Totally. 

And because fate has a sense of humor to rival a fucking Marx Brother, Rachel chooses that moment to knock on the door frame, two garment bags over her shoulder and a pair of heels hooked in her hand. 

“Hi.” Off of their blank looks, she raises her eyebrows. “Am I interrupting?” 

“No,” they all say simultaneously, which doesn’t help ease Rachel’s apprehensive gaze.  

“Right. I’m just going to go ahead and blame this Stepford Wives thing you all have going on on sleep deprivation and anxiety so what can I get you from Starbucks?” 

The comment breaks the tension, and they rattle off their orders, because now that she’s mentioned it, a macchiato sounds divine. Stevie disappears to her dressing room with another muttered quip about getting David a tranquilizer, and Patrick starts to warm up as David curls into the corner of the couch and allows his eyes to close. 

He must doze, because the next thing he knows, Patrick is murmuring, “Hey” an indeterminate time later, his warm hand finding David’s knee and his soft lips finding David’s forehead.

“Mmf, hey. What’s up?” 

“Coffee’s here,” he says, pressing the paper cup into David’s hand. 

“Oh thanks,” he groans as he sits up from where he’d slumped against the cushions. “Where’s Rachel?” 

“She was in and out. We didn’t want to disturb.” 

“Shit, I’m sorry. It’s your dressing room. I didn’t mean to - ”

“You needed the rest.” 

“I really didn’t.” 

“Uh huh, and how well did you sleep last night?” Patrick asks with a look that says don’t lie to me. And what would be the point? Running into Sebastien the night before the Tony Awards? Circumstances didn’t exactly lullaby him to sleep, and they both know it. 

He checks his watch. It’s already past half-hour. “Did you do your vocal warmups?” he asks, ignoring the question. 

Patrick nods. “In the bathroom. You slept through them.” 

Huh. Maybe he really did need the rest. 

“Sorry.” 

“Don’t be,” Patrick says with a soft smile. “It was calming, watching you.” 

David wants to make a joke, call him a ‘creeper’ like Patrick did at the Drama League Awards, but he can’t when he hears the sincerity behind every syllable. 

Cecilia comes in with Patrick’s freshly steamed shirt. “Oh good morning,” she greets when she spots David, even though it’s well after noon.

Patrick grins. “Cee says you’re gorgeous when you sleep.” 

The dresser’s cheeks go scarlet. “I did not! Peaceful. I said ‘peaceful.” 

“Mm pretty sure you said gorgeous, too,” Patrick says with a self-satisfied chuckle as Cecilia rolls her eyes and hustles out of the room. 

David takes another sip of his macchiato, burying his smile in the lid. “Why are you so smug? I’m the gorgeous one.” 

“That you are,” Patrick murmurs as he strips his shirt off to pull the costume over his head. David hums at the brief moment of skin.  

“And clearly I’m not alone,” he says, just to watch Patrick flush down past the v of his collar. 

“You can stay back here for the show. I really won’t mind.” 

But David’s already shaking his head. “No, I want to watch. I might sneak back here in the middle for some clearly needed skincare,” he says, referring to the emergency brightening serum and under eye masks he’d stored in a pocket of his garment bag, “but I’ll be there.” 

“Okay.” 

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your fifteen minute call. Fifteen minutes,” Heather’s voice booms over the intercom, causing David to nearly spill his coffee. Maybe the extra caffeine was a mistake for his obviously jangled nerves. 

Patrick sips his tea and gets into his headspace, not minding that David is watching quietly from the corner. It’s a level of trust that David is still acclimating to, and one he certainly doesn’t take for granted. 

Fifteen becomes five becomes places, and David stands, tossing his empty coffee cup in the trash can before kissing the tea from Patrick’s lips. 

“Good luck,” he whispers, almost reverently. 

“It’s ‘break a leg,” Patrick replies just as quietly, because this exchange, this purposeful mixup, is just another I love you. And that was never made more clear than when David vociferously corrected Sebastien the night before, because he’s not allowed to have that. He’s not allowed to say David’s line. 

That is theirs and only theirs. 

Patrick bumps his nose against David’s and pats his ass to send him to the door. “See you after?” 

“Eat ‘em up.” 

Patrick smiles widely, and the sight of it stays with David as he makes his way backstage, through the pass door, and up the aisle into the house. Some people nod or smile or point in recognition, but he ignores them, because it’s Tony Award Sunday and a few hushed whispers here in this safe space will be nothing compared to what’s coming later. 

He gets to the back as the lights are going down, and he settles in to watch this, perhaps not Tony-winning, but certainly Tony-worthy cast take this audience to church. 

And boy, do they, despite the fact that Act One has a couple of missteps, probably due to everyone’s perpetual giddiness and mounting excitement. David can’t even fault them for it, nor does he take any notes. How can he when he’s too busy pacing back and forth in the rear of the orchestra? 

He doesn’t even go backstage at intermission, instead choosing to step outside for a breath of fresh air, the early June humidity for once taking a break that his hair appreciates. He heads down towards the stage door anyway, away from the masses milling near the lobby, and nods at a couple of the crew members who are taking a smoke break. 

He’s just leaning against the wall and tilting his head back, trying to soak up as much vitamin D as he can (the serum only does so much), when a timid voice comes from his left: 

“Excuse me, David?” 

He opens his eyes and turns to find a young woman hovering on the sidewalk, her Hamlet Playbill clutched between her fingers. 

“I remember you,” he murmurs, hazy recognition dawning.  

“You do?” she asks, and his memory falters. 

“Don’t I?” 

“I mean - yes. We’ve met. But I didn’t think you’d remember.” 

“Yeah, you’re the girl from outside New 42,” he says with growing confidence. “The one who read my King Lear.” 

She nods. She was the quiet one, but he’s not likely to forget the single person who actually read his university thesis. Like, on purpose. 

It’s a small world. At least in the Broadway Box. 

“Is this your first time seeing the show?” 

She shakes her head, looking embarrassed. “I was at first preview and here on Tony nomination day.” 

He smiles. “All the biggest hits.” 

She finally laughs at that, her shoulders easing. “If you had sold tickets to opening, I would have been there, too.” 

He doesn’t doubt it. 

“Are you liking it?” It seems silly to ask, given how many hours she’s devoted to it already, but he’s not stupid enough to assume that Shakespeare is the draw for her here. It was Patrick’s album she was holding as tightly as the Playbill the day they first met. 

“I love it,” she breathes. “It’s beautiful. Your edit is judicious without losing any of the plot or poetry.” 

And that is… shockingly astute. “Thank you.” 

“Anyway, I don’t want to bother. I just wanted to say ‘break a leg tonight.” 

He smiles at the phrase and offers another genuine, “Thank you.” 

She nods and turns to go before spinning around once more. “Actually, I’m sorry, would you sign my Playbill?” she blurts out. 

And it might have been Patrick’s autograph she got first, but it’s his she’s asking for now. 

“I’d be happy to,” he replies, meaning it. He pats his pockets and then remembers where he is, poking his head in the stage door and getting a sharpie from Ritchie. “What’s your name?”

“Amelia.” 

“Amelia,” he murmurs, writing a customized note and signing his name. “Thank you for coming.” 

“Thank you for being so nice,” she says before hurrying back towards the lobby. 

“It’s just I said, ‘nice person.” 
“I know.”

He chuckles at the memory and makes his way back inside. Act Two settles a bit, the company seeming to have taken a collective breath on the break, and the lines dig deeper as the deaths hit harder. By the time the curtain call comes around, David is glad he never went backstage to apply his eye masks because he’d need another set by now. Especially when the cast parts to single out their Tony nominees - Patrick, Stevie, Helen, and Aldridge - giving them their own raucous round of applause from the stage. 

Clearing his throat and wiping at his cheeks, he hurries towards the dressing rooms before anyone in the audience can see him, only to be greeted by Stevie’s gently mocking laugh. 

“You still cry at this?” 

“Shut up,” he replies, grumbling slightly as she swings an arm over his shoulders. The actors scatter to their respective dressing rooms to get out of costumes, and Patrick is one of the last to walk offstage, chatting amiably with Brenda. 

“Hey, let me change, and I’ll do the stage door quickly,” he says as he catches sight of David just outside the stage management office. “I know we’re tight for time.”

“Okay, but I’m getting ready in Stevie’s dressing room so you can’t see my outfit before I’m ready for you to.” 

“Does Stevie know that?” she asks from the landing as Patrick pouts. 

“Don’t give me that look. It’ll be worth your while,” David says. “Trust me.”  

“And that’s our show for Sunday, June 9th, also known as Tony Day,” Mutt announces. Don’t forget to tip your servers and we’ll see you on the dance floor.” 

“I’m revoking his intercom privileges,” Heather says with an amused sigh as she returns with the call script. 

Patrick pecks him as he hurries upstairs to get out of his costume, and he must rinse off because his hair is wet when he returns not five minutes later in the jeans and t-shirt he was wearing that morning.

“Make it quick,” Heather warns. “This may not be the Oscars, but the red carpet still takes time.” 

“Yep.” He grabs a sharpie from Ritchie and opens the door to a wave of cheers. 

David leaves him to it and heads up to grab his garment bag from Patrick’s dressing room, pulling up short when he spies Rachel lining up products on the vanity. 

“Oh hey. When’d you get here?” 

“Around ‘Alas, poor Yorick,” she responds, smiling at him in the mirror before glancing at his garment bag. “Don’t worry. I didn’t peek.” 

“I don’t mind if you do. He’s the one I’m concerned about, which is why I’ll be pushing in on Stevie, much to her delight.” 

Rachel laughs. “I bet.” 

But the stage door will take Patrick a while, so David pulls out his eye masks and brightening serum and gets to work. 

He’s on minute 26 of the required 30 when Heather pokes her head in the doorway, laughing at the gold crescents gracing his cheeks. “It’s a good look,” she says wryly, before holding up a bottle of Veuve and a stack of plastic cups. “Here. Your parents sent over two cases for the company.” 

“That was nice of them,” Rachel says as Heather places the goods down on Patrick’s station. David could honestly use a little alcoholic fortification from northeast France.

“Actors have never been so happy to see a stage manager in their doorway,” Heather quips before disappearing back into the stairwell. Sure enough, laughter, yelling, and shrieking is filtering down from upstairs as someone starts blasting Beyonce. Forget the Sunday slump; everyone’s clearly ready to party. 

Downstairs, the noise of the crowd swells as the door opens, and Patrick’s voice echoes up. “I have to go get ready!” Then he laughs. “All right, one more,” he acquiesces, and a cheer goes up just as the door shuts again. 

“Such a pushover,” David mutters as Rachel sighs. 

“Some things never change.” She pops the champagne and pours three glasses, handing one to David just as the alarm on his phone goes off. 

He peels the masks from beneath his eyes and tosses them in the trash before applying the serum, fanning his face to help it dry faster. “How do I look?” 

“Glowy,” she replies. “But you should get going if you want to get out of here before he comes back. And if he’s not back in two, I’ll pull him.” 

“Thank you.” He doesn’t dare look at the time. It’ll only stress him out. Instead, he grabs the champagne bottle and tops his plastic cup to the brim, before grabbing his garment bag and heading up one flight to Stevie’s dressing room. 

“I’m here!” he calls through her closed bathroom door. 

“Thank God,” she deadpans, and he rolls his eyes as he gets to work. He’d treated himself to a facial at Joanna Vargas on Thursday and a mani-pedi during the matinee yesterday. No, he didn’t get much sleep the night before, but the masks have done wonders. It shouldn’t take him long to get ready. 

“I’m borrowing your hairdryer!” he calls, and she responds with an ever-so-helpful, “Whatever!” He wets a brush to tame the flyaways that his impromptu nap caused and sculpts his coif into something he can be proud of before topping it with some grooming spray for shine, volume, and hold (or so the bottle says). Then he unzips the bag from Thom Browne and steps back to admire the outfit. 

Business on the top, party on the bottom. 

He smirks as he unbuttons the white shirt, but pauses before pulling it from the hangar. “I’m about to get naked,” he calls, waiting for a response before he tugs his hoodie over his head. 

“Nothing I haven’t seen before,” she replies, and he doesn’t even bother flipping her off. What’s the point if she can’t see that he means it this time? 

Hoodie discarded, he slips his arms through the crisp white tuxedo shirt, buttoning it up to the collar, before trading out his jeans for the black pleated skirt that he buttons around his waist. Inhaling deeply, he looks in Stevie’s mirror (very grateful for the vanity lighting) and ties his black bow tie, fussing with it until it’s straight. 

A gentle knock sounds at the door, and he tenses. It would be just like Patrick to try and sneak a look like a kid on Christmas morning. “Who is it?” 

“It’s Cee.” 

“Oh. One second.” He slips into the suit jacket and pulls on his high socks and shoes to complete the look. Then he gives himself one last once-over in the mirror, before clearing his throat and announcing, “Come in.” 

The door creaks open and she pokes her head in, brandishing a lint roller. “Rachel said you were up here,” she starts before she abruptly straightens at the sight of him. “Oh,” she breathes. “You look amazing.” 

“Thanks,” he says, feeling his cheeks heat.  

She makes a twirling gesture with her finger. “Let me see?” 

He does a little turn, feeling the breeze against his knees. It’s certainly not the first time he’s worn a skirt, but it is the first time he’s done so for such a public event. He can only hope Patrick approves. 

As if reading his mind, Cecilia laughs. “He’s gonna lose his goddamn mind. Don’t let him paw at you and ruin all of your hard work,” she says, running the lint roller over his shoulders and down his back. 

“Did Rachel finally yank him from the stage door?” 

“Eventually,” she replies with an eye roll. “She’s wrestling him into his suit now.” 

David snorts at the image as Stevie’s stylist appears in the doorway, glancing around. 

“Where’s my charge?” 

“Hiding from me in the bathroom,” David replies. “We’ll get out of your hair.” 

He gathers up his things, which Cecilia offers to take back to Patrick’s dressing room, and as he passes by, he can hear Rachel and Patrick bickering behind the closed door.

He smiles and continues on down to the stage management office, knocking gently on the door frame and letting out a low whistle at the sight of Heather, Mutt, and Brenda in something other than black. “Look at you!” 

“Look at you!” Brenda replies, ogling him with a blatant up and down. 

Even Mutt offers a “Damn, Rose.” 

Entirely too pleased and, for once, at a loss for words, he raises his plastic cup. “Got any more?”

Heather holds up an open bottle on her desk. “Be my guest.” 

He tops himself off and heads towards the stage to wait. It’s a rare thing when he’s the first one ready. Then again, he didn’t just perform two and a half hours of Shakespeare. 

The ghostlight glows in the darkness of the stage, and the heels of his boots click loudly in the silence. He takes a sip of champagne and lets the bubbles pop along his tongue as he does a careful turn on the deck, his chest filling with…something. Everything. 

With nine years of wanting. With nine weeks of hoping. 

That’s how long it’s been since the first critics sat down in those seats out there, pens at the ready to pick apart David’s life’s work. 

But they didn’t. 

He sucks in a breath and hates that his eyes sting, but he can’t help it because it seems he’s having a moment, much like Patrick had earlier, and it’s one that he needs to honor and acknowledge because it’s been a long fucking time coming. 

Enough minutes pass for him to finish his champagne and for Beyonce to switch over Lizzo. He throws out his cup in the trash can on the other side of the stage and wanders back to stare at the lone light for a minute more, feeling himself calm. 

Seems that the theatre’s ghosts aren’t the only mischievous spirits it keeps at bay. 

“Whatcha doing?” Patrick asks, and David looks up in time to see him step into the circle of light. 

“My God,” he breathes. “You look…” The pictures of the suit did not do it justice. 

Patrick gives a little spin but when he turns back, his face is bashful. Pleased. “Yeah?” 

“Um, yeah.” The black lapels on the navy velvet jacket match the sleek tux pants and black bow tie. The dark colors pop against Patrick’s white shirt, and David has no idea what product Rachel put in his hair, but his fledgling curls are perfectly shaped. 

David clears his throat and glances down at himself, suddenly worrying about the fact that Patrick hasn’t said anything. Maybe the skirt was too much - until Patrick finally admits: 

“I’ve been watching you from the doorway for the last five minutes just so I could pick my jaw up off the floor.” 

The wave of anxiety recedes. The shy smile blooms. “Oh.” 

“You look fucking incredible.” 

Oh. Patrick knows what that word does to him outside of the bedroom, and it’s truly not fair that he looks too good to slam up against the wall of the set. 

“So… what are you doing out here?” Patrick asks, looking around the empty house.

“Just… taking it all in. You ready?” 

“Almost. Will you help me?” Then he holds out his fist and uncurls his fingers, revealing something that David would know just by feel in the dark - two rose cufflinks, resting in the center of his palm. 

“I’d be honored,” David murmurs, plucking up the first before carefully reaching for Patrick’s wrist. His suit jacket hid the fact that his cuffs weren’t done up, and David runs a finger over Patrick’s pulsepoint before lining up the button holes. He’s just securing the first and reaching for the second when Patrick opens his mouth once more, breath caressing David’s cheek in a hushed whisper not even meant for the ghosts: 

“Walk with me?” 

David glances up as he unhooks the cufflink. “Where?”

“On the red carpet.” 

His fingers stop working and the cufflink goes clattering to the deck. “Are you serious?” 

“Yes.” Patrick’s mouth is firm and his eyes are wells, deep enough to drown in. 

“I thought…” it was going to be like the Drama League Awards, is the end of that sentence. He thought they were going to walk separately and meet up at the end. No photos together, no joint interviews.

When he dreamed of this day, it didn’t look like this. 

“Are you sure?” 

And Patrick echoes the words he said in his Toronto living room, after David saw a book on a shelf and before he uttered nine words that changed David’s life: “Do you want to go to Broadway with me?” 

“Easiest decision of my life.” 

“Yes, yes, I want that, yes,” he nods, already getting his hands around Patrick’s head to pull him in for a brief kiss. Then - “Fuck! The cufflink!” 

Patrick laughs against his lips and bends down to retrieve it, pausing for a moment to admire David’s legs from this view. “You’re stunning,” he says, cupping David’s calf and squeezing. “I can’t wait to walk that red carpet with you.” 

“Likewise,” David replies, holding out his hand for the cufflink as Patrick stands once more. He secures it and leans in to press a lingering kiss to Patrick’s cheek, and as he pulls away, a soft “Gotcha” comes from stage right. He and Patrick turn to find Alexis lowering her phone. 

“Perfect,” she says, staring at the screen. Her shimmery gown cascades around her like a waterfall, and her hair is swept effortlessly to the side. She’s radiant. 

“Let me see?” he asks, and she trots over in her heels and holds out her phone so they both can look. 

“Can I post that?” Patrick asks, and Alexis nods, already sending it to him. “That okay with you?” he says to David. 

“Of course, honey.” 

Patrick kisses his neck. “Speaking of, my phone’s upstairs charging. Let me get it and we’ll go?” 

“Yeah.” He watches Patrick jog offstage, admiring the view from behind until he turns out of sight. 

“You guys are gross,” Alexis says, but she’s smiling; a smile that fades when her phone buzzes in her hand. “Ugh. Be lucky I’m saving you from the lunacy of our mother on awards day."

He has no idea what she’s talking about, but frankly, she owes him a save or two. 

She jams her finger on the screen and lifts the phone to her ear. “Mom? No. I told you - no wine before the interviews… Uh huh, did you eat?... What?... No, a heavy salad is not a casserole!” Alexis’ voice trails off as she disappears back towards the dressing rooms, and David chuckles lightly as he turns back to the empty house. 

It doesn’t take long for the overwhelmed feeling that Patrick had kept at bay to come crawling back. The all-consuming weight of expectation, both his own and those of the world at large. 

Heeled footsteps click across the stage again, and they’re too slow, too cautious to be his sister’s. He glances to his left and sucks in a breath as Stevie comes to a stop beside him. Her hair is pulled back in a low ponytail, sleek and parted in the middle. The red, one-shouldered gown is ruffled along the top, almost looking like a ring of flowers hugging her pale skin. It’s more romantic and elegant than anything she’s ever worn before. 

“You look incredible.” 

She rolls her eyes but worries her fingers. “It’s not… too much?” 

“It’s perfect.” He turns back and why is he tearing up? What is happening? 

After a minute, Stevie bumps his shoulder. “Okay, how many years have I known you? And I still can’t figure out what goes on inside your head.”  

“Join the club,” he laughs. The joke is easy. The banter familiar. But then he shakes his head, because they’re beyond that. This moment deserves more than that. “I had big dreams.” 

She frowns. “And you haven’t accomplished them?”

“I mean…” his words aren’t working. “I used to dream about this. Being ‘the comeback kid.’ About this show, the Tonys, Carol’s article. All of those nights I would lie alone in my bed, having just seen a play that I know I could have directed better, and all I wanted was for everyone to know that I’m not a joke. And that I’ve won. Even if I don’t.” 

“David,” she starts, almost scoffing, “look around you. You’ve won.” 

He hiccups and nods, because he needed to hear someone say it. He needed to hear someone he loves tell him that he did good. 

“I’ve won.” 

“Regardless of what happens today,” she says firmly, taking his hand. He squeezes back and clears his throat as Patrick reappears, sliding his phone into his pocket. He slows his approach as he gets a good look at David’s face in the glow of the ghostlight, expression morphing into one of concern. 

“Whoa, you okay?” 

Stevie steps out of way, squeezing Patrick’s wrist as he trades places with her. David immediately drapes his arms on shoulders that were meant to support him. “I’m so good.” 

“Yeah?” Patrick asks, raising an eyebrow. 

“Yeah.” 

“Gentlemen?” Shannon calls from the stage door. “The cars are here.” 

Rachel and Alexis reappear, press passes hanging from their necks, the former having changed into a stunning black gown and the latter having finally talked their mother into hopefully putting down the wine bottle. Bordeaux on an empty stomach usually means coaxing Moira Rose out of the closet before evening’s end. 

“You want to ride with us?” he asks Stevie, but she just shakes her head. 

“I already got a trip to the red carpet with him. This one’s yours.”

He looks at Alexis who boops him on the nose. “I’ll hitch with Stevie.” 

Behind her, Rachel smirks. “And unfortunately, you’re stuck with me, because somebody needs to help you two navigate the press.” 

Which, fair enough. Left to their own devices, God knows what they’ll say. 

They’re shuffled out the stage door to the waiting parade of cars with Tony Red Carpet passes on each of the dashboards, one for each of the acting nominees. Behind that is the bus waiting to take the rest of the cast, because David’s parents made sure to buy every member of the company a pair of tickets. 

David, Patrick, and Rachel hop in the first SUV while Ivan gets in the front seat. Patrick pauses to wave over the roof of the car at the fans gathered on the other side of the street before sliding in next to David. 

It should be a quick ride to Radio City, but traffic is a nightmare given the fact that they’ve closed down the roads around the venue. What is usually a jaunt has become a slow crawl, so David uses the time to practice his breathing because nothing winds him up like appearing on national television. 

He’s in the middle of his 4-7-8 technique when his phone vibrates with an alert in his pocket. Peeking an eye open to see that they’re still creeping along 50th, he pulls it out and looks at the screen.

@patrickbrewer tagged you in a photo

And he smiles, because there’s really only one photo it could possibly be (well, it better be). Sure enough, he opens the app and the beautiful moment that Alexis captured greets him. David is pressing a kiss to Patrick’s cheek as the ghostlight glows beside them with the empty theatre beyond. 

A kiss from a Rose, indeed. the caption says. 

David rolls his eyes but types out a response anyway. 

@davidrose the song is growing on me. 

“I wanted to then, you know.” Patrick murmurs, resting his chin on David’s shoulder to look at the photo.  

“What?” 

“Kiss you. At that final concert.” 

“It’s true,” Rachel offers. “He did.” 

And David remembers the moment at the tour wrap party, when Patrick whispered, “Three balls and two strikes on the batter. Could go either way,” before glancing down at his mouth and swaying forward with intent. 

“Well, now you can,” David offers, doing exactly what he wishes Patrick had done that night and leaning in to take the kiss from his lips. When he pulls away, a little dazed, Patrick still has his eyes closed, his lashes featherlight against his cheeks. His hand has found David's bare knee, and behind him, Rachel is pointedly looking away to give them privacy, but her smile is reflected in the tinted window. 

Patrick finally blink his eyes open just as they’re pulling to a stop by the red carpet security barricade. People are lining 6th Avenue and packed into the corners of 50th and 51st, trying to catch a glimpse of who’s stepping out of the cars. The sound is intense even through the thick SUV doors, and David takes another breath as they’re waved through to join the queue of cars dropping people off. 

“Are we ready to do this?” David asks, turning away from the window to meet Patrick’s steady gaze. 

“Open the door.” It’s confident and comforting, sexy and sweet. It’s exactly what David needs to grab the handle and pull. 

The wave of noise has him muttering a “Holy shit,” under his breath, and it only gets worse when he steps out onto the street and the people waiting realize it’s him. He turns back to the car and sticks his head in. 

“Not too late to turn back,” he warns, and Patrick laughs before holding out his hand. 

“Help me out.” As if he needs it. But David recognizes the gesture for what it is, this showing of solidarity; this offer of reassurance. This presentation of a united front. 

He grips Patrick’s palm and if he thought the screaming was bad before, he worries about the state of his eardrums the second Patrick’s shoe touches the asphalt. 

“Good?” Patrick asks, eyes only for David, who admittedly probably looks like a deer just before it meets a front bumper. 

“Good,” he replies anyway, squeezing Patrick’s hand before threading their fingers together. “Is this like the part in Love Actually where Hugh Grant gets caught kissing Natalie and we smile and give a little wave?” 

Patrick laughs. “Yeah, I think so.” So they do just that: turning as one, hands still linked together, and waving at everybody who all seem fucking ecstatic to see them together. 

“Over here,” Rachel shouts to be heard, leading them closer to the Radio City marquee. “Oh wait. Stop,” she says abruptly at the corner, and stop they do - so much so that Patrick bumps into David making them both burst out laughing. 

“What did you need?” Patrick asks once he’s recovered, but Rachel just shakes her head as she lowers her phone. 

“Nothing.” 

Patrick looks at her oddly, but she hurries them along, closer to the start of the tent-covered red carpet with its gorgeous flower wall backdrop. That’s one way to gussy up a step-and-repeat. They definitely didn’t have that the last time David was here. 

“Rach, who are you looking for?” Patrick asks, watching her contort her petite frame in an effort to see over the heeled masses. 

“Your parents. Ray said he’d have them under the marquee here. Aha!” She takes off, and David follows her trajectory to spot the Brewers standing by one of the doors with Ray and Ronnie. 

Patrick and David hurry after, smiling and nodding at anyone who glances their way - which is everyone. By the time he makes it to his destination, his cheeks hurt. 

“What are you doing here?” he asks his agent, and she raises an unimpressed eyebrow. 

“Waiting for Stevie.” Then she clears her throat. “That was quite an entrance you made.” Then her inscrutable look turns concerned. Or as concerned as Ronnie Lee gets. “You okay?” 

“Yeah,” he says softly, watching Patrick wrap his arms around his mother. “Yeah, I’m good.” 

“Good.” 

David takes his turn greeting Clint and Marcy as soon as Patrick is finished, and then they stare down the start of the red carpet. 

“I’ll be with you the whole way,” Rachel murmurs. “Except for the photos. Nobody wants to see me in those.” 

“Oh I wouldn’t be too sure,” Patrick says with a smirk. “I’m pretty sure there’s a whole corner of the internet outlining detailed fantasies of this threesome.” 

“Oh my God,” David blurts, as Rachel pokes a finger into Patrick’s chest.

“I swear to God, if you say that near a hot mic, I will murder you in your sleep.” 

“Ivan, did you hear that?” Patrick asks, but Ivan just shakes his head and makes a show of not understanding. “Traitor.” But then Patrick pales, his eyes going wide as he catches sight of someone over David’s shoulder. “Oh my God, Audra McDonald,” he hisses, and David finds it adorable that one of the most famous people in the world still gets starstruck. Granted, it’s Audra McDonald. ‘Starstruck’ is the appropriate response. 

“I once did Bikram yoga with her. Not, like, with her, but we shared a studio. It was awful and magical.”

Audra actually calls out to him by name when she sees him, and his tongue promptly sticks to the roof of his mouth. He somehow manages to introduce her to Patrick who honestly doesn’t fare much better. She congratulates them both before making her way to the press line and handling it like a champ. 

“Six Tony Awards that woman has,” David whispers. “Six.

Rachel all but shoves them in front of the step-and-repeat, and the photographers are ravenous, shutters clicking away as David and Patrick each get an arm around the other’s waist and hold on for dear life. By the time they finish, David is nearly legally blind from the flashbulbs, but his heart is full at being able to walk a path he’s walked over and over, but this time not alone. 

The interviews are shockingly painless. He and Patrick banter like Abbott and Costello, and the reporters lap it up. David will be the first to admit that their chemistry is usually on fire, but tonight it’s incandescent, all soft gazes, warm smiles, and biting humor. Any overwhelming feelings or dark thoughts he had are utterly blown away by the ray of light at his side. 

“Which award are you pulling for most?” Clive asks, and Patrick adorably rubs the back of his neck. 

“Look, whatever happens tonight, we’re so proud of our work and just really happy to be here together.” 

“David?” 

But how can he top that? “Exactly what he said,” he replies, and luckily Clive leaves it at that. 

“Thanks so much. Best of luck tonight and congratulations.” 

“Thank you,” they reply in unison, and that’s it. They’re done. They made it. 

Rachel guides them out of the tent and under the marquee again, giving them a moment before they wade into the chaos that is the Radio City lobby before showtime. David inhales deeply and watches Patrick match him, their chests rising and falling together. 

“We survived.” 

“We survived.”

“Now what?” Patrick asks. 

“A cocktail and a bathroom break,” Rachel says. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your parents are waiting for us in the downstairs lounge.” 

Which reminds David of something rather important: 

“Oh fuck, Alexis has my ticket!” 

“No, she gave it to me,” Rachel says, holding up three sleek silver and black passes in her hand. “Come on.” 

Ivan (and his security badge) leads the way inside, guiding them through the metal detectors and into the red and gold adorned lobby. It’s a slow process even when the crush of people isn’t stopping to congratulate them every two feet. Ivan has to put an arm out to more than one overeager fan. David grabs hold of Patrick’s waist, letting himself be led down the stairs and into the Grand Lounge, its mirrored pillars and black diamond carpeting an art deco holdover from decades past. After some spatial negotiating, they manage to make it to Ray and the Brewers without much incident, and Marcy, because she’s a goddess, is already holding out a vodka soda for him. 

“Oh bless you.” 

She taps her glass of champagne against his cup as Clint hands Patrick a whiskey neat. Ray is holding Rachel’s glass of bubbly and soon they’re all toasting and trying to take a moment to appreciate the fact that they’re here.  

“How are you holding up, sweetheart?” Marcy asks, rubbing his back. 

“Um, I’m honestly not sure. I almost convinced myself that the red carpet was the scariest part and the scariest part was over, but I just remembered there’s a four hour ceremony ahead of us during which I might be expected to speak and I am rapidly reassessing my level of fear right now.” 

“Did you prepare a speech?” 

“God no,” David says through his teeth when the first sip he takes is almost pure Grey Goose. “I think it’s bad luck. I’ve never prepared a speech, so why start now?” 

Marcy nods. “Patrick did. Makes him feel better. More in control.” 

For anyone who knows his boyfriend, that certainly comes as no surprise. Then David remembers the Drama League lunch and smiles. “He doesn’t do too badly when he has to wing it either.” 

His phone vibrates in his pocket, and he pulls it out, expecting it to be Stevie or Alexis, but he finds Rachel’s name on the screen, despite the fact that she’s five feet to his left. He frowns and opens up the message, smiling immediately he sees what she’s sent. 

[Rachel]
Thought you might want this.

It’s the photo she snagged outside when she asked them to stop and they completely fell apart. It’s a moment of complete unguarded joy, as Patrick tips his head back in laughter and David just stares, a soft smile tugging at his lips, like Patrick’s face can give him every answer he needs to know. 

They’re perfectly framed in front of the Radio City marquee, the cursive Music Hall that graces the corner curve dead center. David quickly uploads the picture to his Instagram, adds an appropriate filter, and thinks for a moment about the caption. Then he looks at the way Patrick just radiates joy and the words come easily:  

Never liked a smile as much as I like yours. 💫

He tags Patrick and hits Share before tilting his phone to show the photo to Marcy. 

“Oh that’s beautiful,” she gasps, asking, “May I?” before taking his phone and showing it to Clint. 

When David looks over, Patrick is staring at the picture on his own phone, smiling softly. He types something out, and Marcy says, “Oh,” when the notification makes David’s phone vibrate in her hand. She passes it back so he can read the comment: 

@patrickbrewer Feeling’s mutual. 💙

“If you’re quite finished,” Stevie’s voice says from their right, just before she knocks back a shot. “Do you know how many questions I had to answer about you two flirting via social media?” 

David winces. “Sorry.” 

“Ugh.” She gives a full body shiver for good measure just as the lights flicker. 

“We should get going,” Rachel says, and David asks, “Where’s Alexis?” 

“With your parents,” Stevie replies. “Clive from Broadway.com made the mistake of asking your mother about proper wig care.” 

Oh no. 

“She’s giving him a dissertation as every wig designer around her takes notes.” 

“Jesus. They’ll be lucky if they make it in before they announce Best Musical.” 

The lights flicker again and everyone finishes their drinks before running to their respective toilets. The guys pass by the large Stuart Davis mural on the wall, and it’s a massive men’s room so there’s hardly a line. David’s finished within minutes, and not seeing Patrick immediately, he wonders if he already left, but when he emerges back into the lobby, he’s wary when he finds not Patrick but Ronnie waiting for him. 

“David,” she starts solemnly, and immediately his heart kicks into gear. 

“Um, yes?” 

“Remember when I said it wasn’t your time?” 

He frowns. It sounds vaguely familiar. “Not precisely?” 

“After the Lortels last year. I texted you.” 

Oh. Right. He had asked her when then, and she never responded. A ringing endorsement if ever there was one. 

“David?” 

“Yeah?” he says, focusing back on her. And she almost knocks him to his knees when she says four simple words that carry the weight of the world:

“Now it’s your time.” 

And then she just… walks away. 

Are you serious

“Ronnie Lee, if you just fucking jinxed me, I swear to God!” 

“Baby, why are you yelling?” Patrick asks, coming up behind him and getting a hand on his back.

“Because Ronnie is an emotionally manipulative gremlin who is very good at her job.” 

“I mean - I agree one hundred percent, but maybe let’s have that conversation later. Alone. More quietly.” 

And, sure, David sees the value and common sense in that, but it doesn’t mean that his agent didn’t just make a very bold and shockingly benevolent comment. One that is not usually her brand of support. 

“Hey, c’mon,” Patrick whispers, gently tugging at David’s elbow. “They’ll start without us.” 

And since the first hour isn’t televised, David honestly thinks they would. 

The lobby has thinned out by the time he’s roused from the stupor Ronnie’s statement sent him into, and he looks around to find their friends and family waiting for them by the stairs. It’s a mad dash, but luckily David, Stevie, and Patrick’s seats are all on the aisles. Ivan gets Patrick and his parents to theirs before disappearing to the back with Rachel and Ray, and Stevie takes the seat next to the one Ronnie is already sitting in. David tries to glare at her across the aisle, but she ignores him. 

On the other side of the orchestra, he sees his parents sauntering down the aisle, his mother looking none the worse for wear, and Alexis comes in hot just as the lights start to dim. Their hosts for the non-televised part of the ceremony are announced, a young Tony Award winner from the most recent West Side Story revival and a Broadway vet who’s been nominated six times but never won. They’re amiable and charming so hopefully the hour won’t be as tedious as it could be. 

The eight design awards plus Best Orchestrations are handed out in the pre-show ceremony, which is some bullshit, but David can even get on his internal soapbox because the nominees for Best Costume Design for a Musical are being announced. Though interested, he doesn’t actually have any stake in the musicals, so he tries to keep an ear on the announcements as he takes in the room. Being this close to the stage is both thrilling and terrifying and severely hinders his ability to scope out who’s wearing what.

He’ll also have to watch his expression. Last time he was here, they had him so far back, he was practically in the box office, so it didn’t matter how many stink faces he made. Now, a well-placed camera will be happy to project it onto the massive screens on either side of the stage and into living rooms across the country. 

The Best Costume Design winner gives a presumably heartfelt speech, and then they’re announcing Best Costume Design for a Play. A loud cheer goes up from their section when Twyla’s name is read and an even louder cheer erupts when it’s said again. 

“Oh my God!” David is on his feet and clapping, looking around because he has no idea where his designers are sitting. Twyla comes skipping down the aisle in a floral gown, throwing her arms around David as soon as she gets within reach. 

“I’m so happy for you!” he cries, and she cups his face and says a sunny, “Thank you!” 

Her speech is a meandering mess of sincere anecdotes and wild stories, and she has the audience laughing joyfully and uncomfortably in equal measure. Eventually, she wraps up and is escorted offstage, presumably to the media room to inevitably scar more unsuspecting journalists. 

“Do you really think she shears her own sheep?” he hears the woman behind him ask, and he can’t help it, he snorts just as Alexis gets an elbow in his ribs. 

“Ow.” 

“Stop it,” she snaps.  

You stop it.” 

Marcy turns around and holds open her purse. “David, do you need a snack already? Patrick made sure I brought some.” 

And my God, if that wasn’t the most embarrassing thing, it might actually be the sweetest. 

“You brought snacks for me?” he asks, and she nods. 

Patrick turns around. “It’s not a burrito but it is your favorite protein bar that will hopefully sustain you until the afterparty.” 

He could say any number of things, not the least of which is ‘thank you’ and ‘you know I get hangry,’ but what comes out instead is, “I love you.” 

Patrick smiles the smile that only those three words can conjure. “I love you.” 

“Definitely later,” David says to Marcy who’s still holding out her bag. He also spots gummy bears and peanut m&ms, and Patrick is definitely getting laid tonight. 

They turn back around as the hosts return to present the next award. With Twyla’s win, it’s a wild ride right out of the gate. 

And one that apparently doesn’t want to stop. 

In an obscene cascade of good fortune, Bob wins Best Lighting Design, and Jake wins Best Scenic. Amy Grace takes home Best Sound, and Gary nabs Best Orchestrations, which is insane considering he was up against actual proper musicals. 

David’s thighs are burning from getting up, his hands are sore from clapping, and his voice is hoarse from screaming. He barely has a second to catch his breath before the voice overhead is booming that they’re going live in a minute. His name has been said from that stage so many times so far, he already feels like he’s won. 

Patrick turns in his seat and holds out a hand. He looks just as breathless as David. “Is it always like that?” 

“Um, if you’re Hamilton!” 

“Oh my God, David,” Alexis says, getting a hand on his arm. “Remember that party Daveed threw on that yacht off Fire Island?” 

David looks at her blankly. “What?” 

“Oh,” she pouts, “were you not invited?” 

“Oh my God.” But he probably wasn’t. Daveed hasn’t been a fan of his ever since a sound cue misfire made David spill his Junior Mints all over the stage during ‘What Did I Miss?’

He expected they’d have some luck, but he didn’t expect this. Granted, the night is still young and their show is a technological wonder, gorgeous in every respect. Hamlet was the front-runner for the design awards, but the big categories come later. The categories that can make or break a show depending on if they win or lose. That can either ensure a long, fruitful run or be a box office death knell. 

Luckily, with Patrick Brewer headlining, box office numbers aren’t going to be a problem for them, even if they don’t take home another award tonight. 

When they hit 30 seconds, a countdown begins New Years Eve-style on the screens flanking the stage, and David is honestly concerned for what they have planned, considering ushers are telling everyone to keep the aisles clear - always an ominous sign. Neil Patrick Harris is hosting, his first time back in a while, and the man knows his way around a musical number. He and David used to get rowdy in the early 2000s, so this could go multiple ways. 

Sure enough, the opening number is cheesy yet snarky and so over the top, it would put a drag brunch hosted by RuPaul herself to shame; it’s everything that David hates (and secretly adores) about musical theatre, and the audience evidently agrees, considering all of Radio City gives them a standing ovation when it concludes. Eventually, the massive amounts of actors Neil had recruited clear the stage, making way for the initial presenters. The first two categories are Best Book of a Musical and Best Choreography - the former they’re not eligible for and the latter, they didn’t get nominated in. 

David is honestly relieved because it gives him a bit of breathing room; a moment to decompress. A lot just happened in a very little amount of time, and his heart is still hammering out a drumbeat worthy of the late great Charlie Watts. 

The Best Musical front-runner takes home both awards, and the show order is never the same year to year, which is why David mutters a still very vocal “Fuck” when he realizes that next up is Best Featured Actress in a Play. And though he wants all of his colleagues to win, none of those colleagues are Stevie fucking Budd. 

And David hates that he has that thought because she’s up against Helen, and though Helen is a goddess and a talent that rarely has an equal, she already has her Tony. And he has a sneaking suspicion that if given the choice, Helen wouldn’t want it for herself either. 

The thing is, David would walk through fire for Stevie and then deny he did so, even as his body was being treated for third degree burns. 

He glances across the aisle to find her relaxed and calm, watching Jonathan Groff step up to the microphone. Relaxed and calm except for the white knuckle grip she has on her arm rest, which actually seems like a pretty good idea as David takes hold of Alexis’ proffered hand. 

“It is my pleasure to present the third award of the night to one of these fine actresses who’ve created moments so wondrous and inspiring that, apart from applause, the most fitting recognition for their stellar work is a nomination from their peers,” Jonathan says. “This amazing array of artists made invaluable contributions that added to the excitement of the theatre this season. The nominees for Best Featured Actress in a Play are… Stevie Budd - Hamlet, Elizabeth Marvel - Death of a Salesman, Phylicia Rashad - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Nicola Walker - Arcadia, and Helen Walton - Hamlet.”

David turns his head to watch his friend, his best friend, trying to stay calm with a camera shoved in her face because staring at Jonathan Groff won’t change the words about to come out of his mouth. And this - this he wants to see. 

“And the Tony Award goes to…” 

David grips Alexis tighter.

“Stevie Budd, Hamlet!” 

David has no idea what noise leaves his mouth as he watches Stevie drop her face into her hands. Beside her, Ronnie gets to her feet with a look of pride that he saw aimed at him in that Grand Lounge: Now it’s your time. 

Alexis has let go of him to jump up and down, and when did he stand up? How are his legs working? They carry him across the aisle so he can gather Stevie in his arms and crush her to his chest.  

“I’m so fucking proud of you,” he says fiercely in her ear, and when she pulls away, she nods, tears already streaming down her face. She opens her mouth to say something, but the words get stuck and she shakes her head, frustrated. 

“It’s okay,” he whispers. “I know.” 

When he lets go of her, Helen is waiting her turn, because of course she is. 

“You fucking deserve this, darling,” she says, kissing her cheek. “Now go get it.” Then she spins her towards the stage where Patrick is waiting at the foot of the stairs, elbow crooked to guide her to the top. 

She’s resplendent in her red gown, and Patrick kisses her on the cheek, whispering something in her ear as he lets her go that has her weeping all over again. David knows Stevie isn’t a crier, save for very important occasions, and he supposes your first Tony Award is certainly reason enough.

Patrick sits back down in his seat, and David grips his shoulder from behind. Patrick's hand covers it a moment later, as Stevie makes her way to Jonathan, who kisses her on the cheek and hands her the award. 

“Oh man,” she starts, as she steps up to the microphone, voice wobbly. “Um, thank you to the American Theatre Wing. This is…” she looks down at the Tony and spins the top, letting out an honest to God giggle. Who is this body snatcher? “Um, thank you to our producers, Moira and Johnny Rose. To Ronnie, the best agent around. To the entire cast, particularly the badass Helen Walton,” she places a hand to her chest. “I learned so much from you every day, and I share this with you. To Patrick, who led this company with such heart and created just - the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.” Patrick blows her a kiss from the audience. “And finally to David.” But she just laughs wetly and shakes her head. David inhales unsteadily. “David promised me this role in this production when I was twenty-one.” 

David nods, knowing full well the camera is catching his weepy expression in high def. Knowing full well that none of this would exist without her. 

“It took a bit, but we made it.” Her lower lip trembles and she raises the award in his direction. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you so much.” Then she steps away from the mic as David lets out an ugly noise that has Marcy turning around and handing him multiple tissues as Alexis awkwardly pats his shoulder. Patrick is still holding his hand, and he tugs it a bit closer so he can press a kiss to the back of it. 

“I’m good, I’m good, I’m so good,” he manages, nose stuffy, eyes swollen. Jesus, they just started. There’s no way he’s surviving this night. 

Luckily, he has a commercial break to try and get his shit together. His composure doesn’t last long, though, because when they come back, Aldridge wins Best Featured Actor in a Play. For an actor of his caliber to have never won before is unconscionable, and David is one of the first to lead the standing ovation he gets as he makes his way to the stage. He gives a speech as pithy and eloquent and naughty as only Aldridge can, making people laugh and blush in equal measure. 

By the time the next Best Musical nominee performance starts, David has done the math: They’re seven for eight so far, and that’s only because it was impossible for Stevie and Helen to both win. 

Fuck. 

“Are you okay?” Patrick asks on the next commercial break, and David barks out a laugh. 

“No.” 

“Do you need snacks?” 

David grins. “Soon.” 

Stevie returns to her seat after hitting the press room, trading out with the seat-filler who’d taken her place, but before she can sit, David stands and hugs her once more. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, either,” he murmurs in her ear. “Now let me see.” 

She laughs and gladly hands over the award. It’s heavier than David remembers. But then the stage manager is counting Neil down, and they take their seats, but not before Stevie teasingly tells him he can hold the award whenever he wants to, and the camera catches them flipping each other off across the aisle. 

Unfortunately, he knows that’ll be a gif before the local news can begin. 

They fly through Best Featured Actor and Actress in a Musical on a wave of endorphins, and David asks for the protein bar on the commercial break before Best Actress in a Play, a move he somewhat regrets because Best Actress in a Play means Best Actor is coming up. And if he thought he wanted Stevie to win badly, well, he can even quantify his feelings on Patrick.

Still, that doesn’t stop them from splitting the gummy bears during another performance by one of the nominated musicals, and Neil catches them at it, scolding them in jest on the next commercial break, a joke that gets the whole audience laughing when Patrick offers to share. 

“Seriously?” Neil asks. 

“Yeah, man.” 

“Thank God, I’m starving,” Neil says, coming down the stairs as Patrick stands and offers the bag. “This wasn’t scripted, ladies and gentlemen. David, do you mind sharing?” 

“Yes!” he yells, to another round of laughter. 

The stage manager starts to cue Neil in just as he finishes chewing, and he quickly bends down before they go live to ask Marcy if he has anything in his teeth. She clears him for live television and then he’s introducing Audra McDonald to present the next category. 

Patrick’s category. 

“You didn’t tell me she was presenting Best Actor!” he hisses as he turns around. 

David stares at him incredulously. “Do I look like I knew?!” 

Patrick turns back again, and David gets a hand on his shoulder as Alexis grabs David’s arm. He’s jittery in a way he hasn’t felt before, at least not without pharmaceutical enhancements. 

Audra steps up to the microphone, envelope in hand, and reads off the teleprompter: “And now five men whose courageous performances moved us to tears and laughter, warmed our hearts, provoked our minds, and touched our souls. For their exceptional portrayals in revivals and exciting new works, the nominees for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play are… Patrick Brewer - Hamlet…” 

David is heartened by the raucous applause he gets, and he squeezes his shoulder. Audra smiles warmly down at them before looking back at the camera. “Chiwetel Ejiofor - Arcadia, Ciaran Hinds - Death of a Salesman, Brian D’Arcy James - Juniper Springs, and Forest Whitaker - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She slides her finger beneath the lip of the envelope. “And the Tony Award goes to…"

David inhales. Alexis squeezes. Patrick doesn’t breathe. 

“Patrick Brewer, Hamlet!” 

David feels Patrick’s sharp gasp beneath his palm and Alexis’ death grip on his forearm, but not much else. 

Fuck, he did it. 

He fucking did it.

David leans forward and presses his forehead against Patrick’s hair, breathing him in. Then he stands and pulls Patrick to unsteady feet because David honestly isn’t sure he’d get there on his own.  

“I love you so much,” he whispers. 

“I love you, David, oh my God.” He’s dazed and distracted, but he allows himself to be pulled into a hug, his lips automatically finding the spot beneath David’s ear that was made just for him. David lets go because if Marcy and Clint don’t get their arms around their son soon, there may be a riot. 

Finally letting go of his parents, Patrick buttons his suit jacket and makes his way towards the stage, turning back one more time to look at David with an expression that seems to say Is this really happening?  

David nods and mouths yes as tears track down his face. 

Audra hugs Patrick heartily and says something to make his cheeks turn delightfully pink. Then she hands over the Tony and steps back as Patrick moves towards the microphone. 

“I, uh, I prepared this time,” he murmurs, which garners laughter from his fellow nominees and anyone who was at the Drama League lunch. “Though I’m honestly not sure I’ll be able to remember any of it. Um, thank you to the American Theatre Wing. To my parents, who are here. I’m so happy I get to share this with you. Mom, thank you for taking me to that Les Mis open call all those years ago.” 

Marcy laughs and blows him a kiss as the audience chuckles. You’d think Gavroche won him the Tony, the way he still talks about it. 

“To my fellow nominees, it’s been an absolute honor to be in your company. This is… new for me, and it’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve been watching and learning from you all for years. It’s been a true pleasure going on this ride with you.” 

On the overhead screens, the camera cuts to the nominees who all look genuinely happy for Patrick. David covers his mouth with his hands and tries not to audibly sob. 

“Thank you to our incredible producers, Moira and Johnny Rose, and to my cast and my crew. I particularly need to shout out Tony Winner Stevie Budd,” he says with a grin, “and my dresser Cecilia Allen, both of whom held me up, sometimes literally…” he pauses as his voice catches, “um, during what turned out to be an eventful spring for me.” He bites his lip and nods, staring at the award in his hand. Like looking around, looking at David, might be the thing that finally breaks him. 

The audience starts to clap, a wordless you’ve got this traveling across the seats and towards the stage, enveloping Patrick in a wave of support. He nods again and glances up briefly as he smiles and clears his throat. “Which brings me to someone else.”

David inhales raggedly, and Alexis grabs hold of his hand again. There’s a camera on him, but he just doesn’t care. He only has eyes for this brave, brave man. 

“Not a lot of people know this,” Patrick continues, “but when I was in high school, I worked for this little place called Rose Video. I know, right?” he says as the audience titters. “Now I didn’t really used to believe in fate, but I’m not sure how else to explain how I got here. David Rose has been weaving himself in and out of my life for years, and he never even knew it. When my agent - thank you, Ray, by the way - told me that David wanted a meeting about a project, I nearly fell out of my chair.” He chuckles and gives a little shrug. “David weaved his way into my life one more time and… never left.” Patrick finally looks up, finding David immediately and pinning him with a look that nearly levels him. “David, I didn’t know what right was supposed to feel like, and then I met you. You make me feel right. Thank you for this.” His voice catches again, and his lip trembles. “Thank you for everything.” 

David nods and mouths I love you as Patrick steps back from the mic, raises the Tony, and places his hand on his heart before Audra hugs him and ushers him offstage. David manages to hold out until Patrick disappears before finally dropping his head in his hands as Alexis rubs his back.

“Is the camera gone?” 

“The camera’s gone,” Alexis assures, handing him a tissue that he’s sure came from Marcy. Everything is a blur and he’s so busy trying to keep the grotesque sound that wants to escape at bay, it’s only when the next presenter is halfway through the next category’s nominees that he realizes it’s for Best Original Score. 

“Wait, this is score?” he asks, and Alexis nods. 

“Yeah, you were, like, having a moment and I didn’t want to interrupt, but they already said Patrick’s name.” 

How the fuck did he miss that?

“And the Tony Award goes to…” 

Wait, they just did this! He’s not ready for another emotional onslaught! David would hold his breath if he wasn’t genuinely worried about passing out. 

“Patrick Brewer.”

“Oh my God!” he blurts, looking across to Stevie and Ronnie who stare back with expressions of shocked wonder. What the fuck is going on?

Patrick starts to walk out from stage right, before turning and handing his Tony off to some unseen PA. David hates that he can’t hug him, but he just fucking won his second Tony. Being separated is a small price to pay. 

Patrick jogs up to the mic a little breathlessly and accepts the award from the presenter, looking a little embarrassed and a lot overwhelmed. 

“Okay, I know I said I prepared, but it was only for the one thing, so I’ll keep this brief,” he says to laughter. “Thank you again to the Wing, and to my fellow nominees. Your compositions are stunning and it’s not hyperbole to say I have no idea what I’m doing here.” 

David knows what he’s doing there. And anyone who’s heard Hamlet’s music knows, too. 

“A year and a half ago, not long after that meeting I mentioned, I played David a song on the piano - one you’ll actually hear later tonight - and hoped he’d give me a job.” 

The audience laughs, and David does too, because the thought of anyone denying Patrick a job is just ridiculous. 

Then Patrick’s gaze finds him, and he smiles. “Turns out he ended up giving me so much more. This is for you, baby.” 

David shakes his head fondly as Patrick steps back and disappears offstage again. 

“I literally have no more tears left to cry,” he groans when Marcy and Clint turn around to check on him. Luckily, they don’t look much better, so at least he has company. 

On the next commercial break, he stands and stretches, accepting a hug from Stevie that she couldn’t give him before. 

“How are you doing?” 

“I have absolutely no fucking idea. Did you know this was going to happen?” 

No. ” 

“I did,” Ronnie says casually, flipping through her Tony Playbill, and David wants to argue that there’s no way she could have predicted this, but… maybe she did. She had been skeptical at that first meeting when they pitched Patrick, but the second she heard what they had, she stopped voicing any doubts. 

David never noticed that. 

Best Musical Revival is up next, and after those speeches, when Patrick still hasn’t returned, Marcy turns around in her seat. “Is he still doing press, do you think?” 

David looks at his watch. “He’s supposed to be performing soon. I bet they kept him backstage to get him ready.” 

And David turns out to be right, because after Best Actor in a Musical, Hamlet is introduced as the next performance. The lights come up on Patrick sitting at the piano, the camera blocking they’d worked out days ago showcasing him perfectly. 

He starts to play O all you host of heaven!’, and from the first note, he shows absolutely everyone in that music hall exactly why he just became two-time Tony Award Winner Patrick Brewer. 

The song seeps into David’s soul, softening the jagged edges that the evening’s stresses had sharpened. He wants to close his eyes and just live in the moment, but that would mean taking his gaze from the gorgeous man baring his soul in front of millions. 

As he wraps up, David realizes that he was lying when he said he had no more tears to cry. His cheeks are wet and his breath is hitching as Patrick lets the final chord ring out, bringing the audience promptly to their feet. 

Patrick stands from the bench and takes a brief bow, blowing a kiss to David as he straightens before hustling off stage. And he must change Superman-quick because the Best Actress in a Musical winner is barely stepping back from the microphone when Patrick comes hurrying down the aisle to take his seat once more. 

“That was fast,” David remarks, and Patrick tilts his head. 

“Yeah, well, I had strong motivation.” 

And only then does David notice that the words Best Direction of a Play have come up on the screens. 

“Oh fuck me,” he blurts as the announcer introduces Sutton Foster to the stage. 

Patrick lets his arm drop into the aisle and he reaches back, holding out his hand. David is only all too happy to take it, to let his touch ground him before he floats away towards the curved ceiling. 

"And now the nominees for Best Direction of a Play," Sutton begins. "Through their ingenuity and inventiveness, they’ve enhanced their productions in service of the playwright. We honor their bold choices and creative ingenuity tonight. The nominees are… Jamie Lloyd - Arcadia, Pam McKinnon - Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, David Rose - Hamlet…” 

He grips Patrick’s hand tighter, not caring that the camera tilts down to catch it. 

“... George C. Wolfe - Death of a Salesman, and Jerry Zaks - Juniper Springs.”

“And the Tony Award goes to..." Sutton pauses as she opens the envelope. 

David looks across to Ronnie. She's staring back. 

Now it’s your time.

“David Rose.” 

Silence. 

At least, he hears silence. Around him, people leap to their feet and Alexis throws her arms around his neck and Patrick is tugging his hand to pull him to standing, but David can only shake his head because his name doesn’t sound like his own. 

“You did it,” Patrick says, kissing his cheek and crushing him in a hug. “You did it. ” 

“Did I?” 

“Yes,” Patrick laughs, and David can feel the shuddering sob that shakes both of their bodies, though which one of them it came from, he has no idea. 

Patrick moves out of the way so Stevie can get a hold of him, and over her shoulder, he sees Ronnie looking at him with tears in her eyes, which she does not do, nodding at him with pride. 

“Way to milk a moment,” Stevie groans even as she weeps, shoving him towards the stage. 

He’s numb, barely registering Patrick’s palm on his back or the touch of Marcy’s hand as she squeezes his wrist. The steps are interminable and by the time he reaches Sutton, who beams as she hands him his award and kisses his cheek, his mind is nothing but white noise. 

Marcy asked if he had prepared anything and maybe he fucking should have. 

It’s only when he steps up to the microphone that he realizes everyone is standing. Every. Single. Person. From the orchestra to the third mezzanine. 

For him. 

For David Rose, who was a punchline at this very awards show not all that long ago. 

“Hi,” he begins, voice echoing and startling him. “Um, thank you. I’m, um…” he trails off, words failing him for once. “You know, for someone who loves to talk, I’m finding it difficult to come up with anything coherent to say,” he says to laughter. “Thank you to the Wing. It’s, uh, been a while since I’ve been here, I know I don’t need to tell you.” He focuses on the red exit sign at the back of the house, if only to have something to tether himself to in this decidedly out-of-body moment. “I also don’t need to tell you how very aware I was of just how much was at stake in this production. Not a lot of people believed in me and because of that, the first person I have to thank is my agent, Ronnie Lee. She’s stuck by me through every high and all of the lows, and trust me, there were plenty,” he huffs out a self-conscious laugh. “I would not be here without her. I also wouldn’t be here without my best friend, Stevie Budd. She had to listen to me annoy her about this show for over a decade and then she dragged my ass out of bed one morning, quite literally, and threw a Rolling Stone article in my face.” In the audience, Stevie makes a show of rolling her eyes and shaking her head. David should look at the man sitting just across the aisle, but he can’t yet if he wants to make it through this. “But more on the subject of that article in a minute,” he says as the audience chuckles knowingly. “Speaking of lows, my family and I have had our fair share of them, but this production wouldn’t be what it is without my parents’ support and my sister’s guidance.” He inhales shakily. “I don’t say it enough, but I’m very grateful we’re stuck with each other. I mean that.” He finds Alexis in the audience, utterly radiant, positively beaming. Just down the row are his parents, and his mother blows him a kiss. “To Hamlet’s cast and crew, you are the hardest working people and you are so goddamn good.” Then he blanches because he definitely just cursed on live television. “Well, hopefully there’s a tape delay. Sorry, CBS,” he says to laughter. “It’s been an absolute honor to share a room with you. And finally…” he trails off, throat suddenly gone tight. “And finally to Patrick Brewer.” He stares down at the award in his hand, silver circle catching the light, because he still can’t look at him. Not yet. He shakes his head and wills the words to come. “To Patrick Brewer, who is one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. I still don’t know how the hell I convinced him to do this, but I’m really glad I did.” Then he looks up and has to take a step back at the expression on Patrick’s face. It’s love and pride and joy and everything David Rose never thought he’d get. Never thought he deserved. 

And the words eventually come, because how could they not when faced with that? 

“I’ve never felt as safe as I do when I’m with you. I’ve never known love like I have when we’re together. It’s not been an easy road for me, but knowing that you will always be there for me at the end of it makes everything okay. Our show might not have a happy ending, but I like to think that we do. Patrick Brewer, you are my happy ending, and I love you. Thank you.” 

Patrick’s expression breaks just as David’s voice gives out, so he steps back before the microphone can catch him absolutely lose it. Sutton approaches him as the audience starts to stand again, and David blinks owlishly, still unable to comprehend that all of this is happening for him.  

“Congratulations,” Sutton says, wiping a tear. “That was so beautiful.” 

“Oh, thanks,” he replies a little dumbly. “I meant it.” 

She laughs as she loops her arm in his and starts to lead him offstage. “I know.” 

He looks back into the audience to see Patrick wiping at his cheeks as he stands with everyone else, mouthing an I love you before David can disappear into the wings. It’s absolute chaos as he’s shuffled along in a fog of adrenaline and euphoria through the halls and out the door, across 51st Street towards the media room in the 3 West Club Hotel. 

Somehow he makes it onto another long red carpet with a massive, black and white step-and-repeat. And only when he steps off does he see his first familiar face. 

“Rachel,” he breathes in relief. 

“Fuck, David,” she gasps, dissolving into tears again. 

“Oh God, don’t. I just got it together,” he groans, and she laughs as she wraps him up in a hug. “Now what?” 

“I throw you to the wolves,” she says, nodding to the room beyond, packed full of journalists. 

He whines. “Do I have to?” 

“Unfortunately, yes.” 

He enters the room cautiously and steps onto the stage, pleasantly surprised when a big cheer goes up for him. 

Huh. That’s new. 

There’s a screen just to the right, showing the live broadcast, and he glances at it for a moment to see they’re just coming back from a commercial break. It’s getting late. The show should be winding down… 

Sure enough, Best Play is the next category, and he tears his attention away when someone asks: 

“David, how does it feel?”

“Um, I honestly have no idea. I might need another minute to come back into my body.” 

Everyone chuckles, and then someone else says, “You’re ten out of twelve so far. Did you expect that?” 

“Fuck, no!” he blurts before flushing. “Sorry. Um, no.” 

He tries to keep checking in on the broadcast, because yes, they’re 10 for 12 but there’s one to go, and it’s rather a big one. A few more questions get asked, and he thinks he gives proper, pithy answers, but then Rachel catches his eye from the corner and nods towards the television. 

Best Revival of a Play flashes across the screen. 

“Wait, wait, wait,” he shouts, his Tony Award hanging loosely at his side. “Can we turn this up?” Fuck, he doesn’t want to be here, but there’s no point in trying to make it back now. He’ll never get there in time, and if they lose, he’ll be stuck in limbo. He might as well stay. At least here he can see what happens. 

The powers that be manage to crank up the sound just as Diane Lane is stepping up to the microphone: “The five nominees for Best Revival of a Play have enlivened some of the world’s greatest works for new audiences.” She goes on in depth about what makes each production unique, from unconventional interpretations to bold new ideas. David’s heart leaps when she talks about Hamlet, pointing out particularly its soaring music and immaculate design. By the time she wraps up, his heart has moved into his throat. “And the Tony goes to…” 

He stares at the television, only too aware that an entire room of journalists is about to witness either the greatest or worst moment of his professional life. 

“Hamlet.” 

And somewhere in between Diane announcing the winner and the cheer echoing around the room, David’s legs give out. 

He crouches down on the stage, practically dropping his Tony, one hand bracing himself on the floor as the other covers his face. 

“David,” Rachel says in his ear. “Come on.” 

He looks up at her, desperation clawing at him. “I have to go.” 

“I know.” 

“Get him out of here!” someone yells, and then the rest of the press joins in, chanting at him to “Go, go, go!” 

It’s a two minute walk from here to the stage, but two minutes is forever in broadcast television. So David does the unthinkable: 

He runs. 

He runs out of the media room and past the step-and-repeat, across 51st Street and into Radio City. Down the labyrinthine halls and through the backstage chaos. 

“This way!” a stage manager yells as another PA points, “Over here!” 

It’s a group effort to get him where he’s going, and he’s never been so grateful. He passes by a monitor, pausing only because it’s focused on Patrick, who’s frantically looking around the stage, mouth forming the words, Where’s David? over and over. 

David quickens his pace, the Tony sweaty in his grasp, before he makes it back to the wings and a man in a headset guides him over a camera cord. 

“Patrick!” he yells without meaning to as the bright lights finally hit his face, and Patrick spins around, frantic expression immediately morphing into one of relief as he breaks away from the group of people around the microphone and starts to run across the stage. 

David meets him halfway, colliding hard enough to draw a grunt from them both. Patrick leans back, looking like he wants to say something, but David just gets a hand around his neck and pulls him into a kiss probably not fit for national television. 

But fuck it. 

Their play just won Best Revival. Their Tony tally is at 11. 

Nothing can take this moment away from them. 

“I love you,” he breathes, not caring that the rest of the cast and producers are half a stage away. Not caring that his mother has been given a microphone and a solid minute of airtime to say whatever she wants. Not caring that the world is watching. 

“I love you,” Patrick replies, pressing their foreheads together, swaying to only music they can hear. 

 

David dreamed of this once. 

 

And, oh, what dreams may come. 

Chapter Text

🎭 Now 🎭

There’s a cobweb in the corner. 

His step-stool isn’t high enough to reach, not that he can find it anyway in the FEMA-level disaster that is currently his loft. And even if the stool was tall enough, there’s no way he’s actually using it to remove the aesthetically incorrect monstrosity, because cobwebs are the homes of spiders, which are at the top of David’s Avoid At All Costs list, right behind moths and James Franco. 

But there’s a cobweb in the corner, and David feels like crying. 

If he stares at it hard enough, he might be able to forget, just for a moment. He might be able to ignore the pang that’s followed him around every time he’s glanced at his calendar, watching as months dwindled to weeks which drained to days. 

And now hours. 

He picks up the wrapped gift, his whole reason for coming here, snags his keys from the stack of boxes being used as an end table, and heads out the door. 

There’s a cobweb in the corner, and David feels like crying. 

Because no matter how many times he ignores the calendar, his show is still going to close today.

🎭 Then 🎭

“David, over here!” 
“Patrick!” 
“How does it feel?”
“Patrick, over here!” 
“David!” 

Patrick must be able to feel him trembling, because he slips his hand beneath David’s suit jacket and gently runs his fingers across his lower back. Granted, Patrick isn’t exactly calm either. David’s pretty sure that were he to let him go, he’d chatter himself across the stage like one of those wind-up toys from the dentist. 

“Thanks, everyone!” the Tonys publicist calls, as Rachel and Alexis step forward to save them from the photographic onslaught. 

“Can you see?” Patrick asks, bumping into David he tries to step off the stage. 

“Blind as a bat,” David replies, tripping over Helen’s train. 

“Darling, have you been drinking?” 

David scoffs. “I wish.” 

“Some of us plan better than others,” she says coyly, popping open her clutch to reveal the silver flask inside. 

“How the fuck…? They search bags!” And he knows they do because Stevie got busted the very first time they came. 

“Who said it arrived in my bag?” she replies with a saucy wink as she walks away. He gapes after her before turning to Patrick. 

“Did you - ?”

“I don’t wanna know,” Patrick cuts him off, and yeah, that’s probably for the best. 

The official Tony afterparty is at The Plaza, and David assumes they’ll swing through before settling at the Hamlet soiree at Sony Hall on 46th. Each show has its own gathering at various venues around midtown, and half the fun of the post-ceremony insanity is seeing how many you can crash before anyone notices. At least, that’s how he and Stevie handled things the first time around. 

He has a sneaking suspicion this year will be different. 

Still, all of Midtown West feels like a college campus on semi-formal night, with various people running around in their finery, party-hopping until dawn. 

They’re just exiting the 3 West Club Hotel and trying to find their various modes of transportation when a woman just next to them gasps and grabs her companions as Anna Wintour walks by. Sunglasses firmly in place, she gives the Hamlet crew a nod as she’s guided to her car, and frankly, David feels like he’s been blessed by the Pope. Of all the celebs at the Tonys, only this one can inspire panic and passion at the same time.

Ivan somehow manages to find Lena idling on 6th Avenue, and guides them towards the car as the rest of the cast either tries to find the bus or just says “fuck it” and walks to Sony Hall. They’re just doing a drive-by of the Tony Gala because the Hamlet party will be infinitely more fun, so David, Patrick, Stevie, and Rachel all squish into the backseat of the SUV as Alexis tries to make sure their mother doesn’t lose the Tony she was just handed. 

“I’m so hungry,” David groans. 

“What, the gummy bears weren’t enough?” Patrick asks, nudging him with his shoulder where they’re squished up against each other. 

“Not when you give half of them to Neil Patrick Harris!” 

“Three! I gave him three!” 

“I saw at least five leave the bag!” 

“Children,” Stevie and Rachel admonish in stereo, which is embarrassing on every level. 

They join the cavalcade of cars dropping people off in front of The Plaza and tumble out onto the sidewalk like they’re exiting a clown car. People shout in their direction, and David takes a steadying breath that’s helped by the feeling of Patrick’s hand on his lower back once more. It grounds him, anchors him; keeps him from being pulled in every opposing direction through that touch alone.  

“Hey,” Patrick murmurs, looking at him like they’re the only two on the pavement. “You with me?” 

“I’m always with you,” he says, because it’s just habit at this point. But he’s getting better at voicing his feelings, leaning into his emotions, so he tells the truth. “I just feel like I haven’t taken a breath since we left the Broadhurst.” 

“Then breathe with me,” Patrick murmurs, turning fully towards him and taking hold of his hips. “In…” he slowly sucks in a breath, smiling softly when David follows, “and out…” His breath ghosts across David’s face. “Good, again.” 

They breathe for a minute, appreciating the fact that Rachel, Stevie, and Ivan have given them space but not gone too far, hovering just enough to form a protective wall around this moment of calm that David so desperately needed. 

“Better?” Patrick asks, and David nods, finally opening his eyes. 

“Better.” 

“Good. Now let’s go live our best Eloise lives.” 

And David wants to point out the fact that his boyfriend knows Eloise, but before he can, Rachel abruptly bursts into giggles, nose buried in her phone.

“What’s so funny?” Stevie asks as she looks over her shoulder and promptly snorts. Which is never good. 

“Seriously, guys,” Patrick says, and David spins around fast enough to nearly have a wardrobe malfunction in the middle of 58th Street.

“I’m feeling very ganged up on!” 

“Buzzfeed already has an article,” Rachel manages once her laughter subsides. 

“Oh fuck. Of what?” He’s about to undo all of his breathing work.

Stevie snorts again. “Ten Davrick Tony Moments to Make You Swoon.” 

“Oh my God, I refuse to let that be our ship name.”

Patrick shrugs. “Could be worse.” 

Stevie hums. “Apparently there’s a Twitter user dedicated to posting your whereabouts called @BRoseBeforeHoes.” 

“That’s offensive.”  

Okay,” Rachel clips, interrupting the thesis David had been about to present on language education as a tool for empowering women. “That’s not actually the article I was talking about.” Then she pulls up something else on Buzzfeed and shows them the phone: 

Twenty Times We Needed a Thesaurus During Moira Rose’s Tony Speech

“Well, like, they’re not wrong,” David admits. Even he has no clue how she navigated her way from Point A to Point B by way of Point Z.

And because his mother never misses a cue when when she’s not sabotaging a costar’s performance, she chooses that moment to fling open her car door and throw her arms wide, brandishing the Tony in one hand and her phone in the other. 

“Day-vid! ‘Pettifogging’ is catching like the influenza epidemic of 1918!”

“Jesus Christ.” 

“Right behind ‘bombulate!” 

“That’s great news, Mom.” How she managed to fit both of those (plus at least 18 more, apparently) into a Tony speech is beyond David. Then again, she also somehow fit three chinchilla coats into a brown crocodile bag and smuggled them over the Peruvian border, so. Whatever. 

“C’mon,” Patrick says with an amused chuckle as he gets a hand on David’s elbow. “Let’s get you a burger.” 

“Oh my God, yes please.” Because nothing can take his mind off of his family’s shenanigans like Wagyu beef.

They make their way inside, heading down the escalator to the Todd English Food Hall, one of two floors open for the Tonys Gala, and it becomes obvious ridiculously quickly that they are as much of a draw as the mini crab-cakes. 

It’s a tornado of meetings and greetings, tuxedo and gown-clad actors, designers, directors, and producers all approaching to shake a hand or clap a shoulder. David is no stranger to attention, but these people, these colleagues, are giving instead of taking. Instead of chiseling away at him, they’re building him up. It’s amazing and overwhelming and just this side of too much.

And if David doesn’t get a carbohydrate in him soon, he’s going to pass out harder than Alexis on John and Chrissy’s yacht off Positano. 

He and Patrick get separated for a minute, engaged in two separate conversations, but when David finds a break to take a breath, Patrick is nowhere to be found. He’s just scanning the cluster of people around the dessert table, when his voice comes from behind him. 

“Hey.” 

“Oh, hi.” 

Patrick holds a plate full of every fried food David could possibly want and then some. 

“Fuck, I love you.” He must say it a little too loudly because Tippy Bernstein glances up from the platter of bacon wrapped scallops and gives him a dirty look. Probably because they beat the revival he produced in every single category it was nominated in.

David’s phone buzzes in his pocket just as he’s stuffing a risotto ball into his face, and he pulls it out to find a text from Alexis on the screen. Frowning, he glances around the hall, and he sees his parents reminiscing in the corner with Joel Grey, but no sign of his sister. 

[Alexis]
Heading to the hamlet party to meet ted. You can babysit mom and dad, right?

“Um, no,” he blurts, shoving his empty plate at Patrick so he can type emphatically with both thumbs. 

Um, NO.

[Alexis]
well I’m already at 50th and 7th so. 

He gasps. She would.

You’re such a little b.

“What’s going on?” Patrick asks. 

“Alexis has abandoned me and tasked us with chaperoning my parents.” 

“Notice you went from ‘me’ to ‘us’ there.” 

“Yeah, wel