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all roads will lead me back to you

Chapter Text

David

David gripped the steering wheel, skin still hot with tears as he blew past the town sign.

Part of him felt a catharsis leaving it all behind; but the other part knew he was just trading one set of problems for another.

“I like you. I don’t want to like you, but I do.”

He pinched his eyes closed and tried to bury the memory. David was always on the receiving end of pain and hurt - it was the reliable pattern that followed his long string of failed relationships. He wasn’t used to being the one who inflicted disappointment on someone else.

“And so sharing a space with you as roommates isn’t gonna work for me.”

He had liked her too. He still did, really. Stevie was beautiful and fun, sharp and quick. He hadn’t expected to meet someone like her in this town, but she really had been the best thing to come out of the whole mess.

David knew he could have kept sneaking away to empty motel rooms, drinking and smoking and laughing about the absurdities around them. He could endure the embarrassing lectures from his parents if it meant more time with her, feeling closer to someone than he probably ever had.

They were so alike, with biting wit and an aversion to all things sincere. It bolstered him to know he could lean on someone like that; a friendship that wasn’t held together with what David now realized were tenuous threads like money and status. They’d simply enjoyed each other’s company - in bed, yes, but outside of it most of all. He’d never had anything like it; it was so unfamiliar that he didn’t even know how to hold it, as though it was scalding hot and could burn him if he kept it too long.

He thought drawing a line in their relationship would preserve the friendship they had, that he could keep it special and safe and take it with him to New York. He hadn’t thought it through.

Now he’d ruined it, which certainly tracked when considering his past. He’d hurt his one friend - and how pathetic did that sound? - and then he’d disappeared.

It’s fine, David thought. So they didn’t sell the town. He could still get out. This whole year had been an aberration anyway; Schitt’s Creek was just a place where he’d been forced to land to survive the shock of losing their money. But David still had connections; people owed him. He could drive to New York, get his bearings and call in some favors. He didn’t need his parents or their money.

But although this nebulous plan kept his foot on the gas, the doubts of it panning out needled at him. If he couldn’t pull it off, where would he go? He had some cash and still hadn’t quite hit the limit on a few credit cards - but beyond that, David would need more. He needed this to work.

He turned up the radio and wiped his eyes. Just keep driving, and don’t look back.

***

David had been driving for nearly six hours straight through the night; he needed to get gas and he needed food.

Taking note of a few signs, he veered off an exit in the middle of nowhere and found himself at a truck stop, huge and bright sitting in a sea of darkness. He slid out of the truck and stretched, grimacing at the beat-up pickup. Certainly not his first choice, but it had gotten him this far.

It wasn’t exactly busy inside, but after hours of driving without seeing a single car, it was a little jarring to watch the people milling about the store. David’s stomach growled at the sight of the fast food counter where a family on some leg of their vacation journey had gathered, the parents doling out burgers to their sleep-addled children - but even that seemed too expensive. You still need to get to the city, he reminded himself.

David opted for a yogurt and some peanut-butter crackers, mentally patting himself on the back for making healthy and financially responsible choices. Still, he winced at the cash when he had to pay $70 to fill the tank.

Back in the truck, David allowed himself a few quiet moments to eat and think about his next moves. It had been nearly a year since he’d spoken to any of his friends from New York; no one had even sent so much as a text to check in on him.

He wasn’t a fool - not long after moving to Schitt’s Creek it had become painfully obvious he couldn’t call them friends, especially not after he’d found Stevie. But he knew how transactions worked, and he hadn’t been on the receiving end nearly enough. Virtually every friend had spent time with him so they could get into the hottest clubs, run up the Rose bar tab, meet the celebrities who ran in David’s circles - it was high time that he collected on his end of the bargain.

The obvious place to start was of course with Sebastien; the most clear-cut case of all. Not only had he used David’s gallery connections to grow his reputation as a photographer, he’d flat-out borrowed money to wine and dine his patrons, purchase equipment, and travel for his shoots.

Borrowing was a generous way of putting it, though, since he’d never paid him back.

David didn’t mind it when they were together, because it had felt like they were building something, a power couple in the eyes of New York’s art world. It was so easy to help Sebastien when they’d show up together at parties, gallery openings, premieres - David in his designer suits and dark hair perfectly coiffed, Sebastien with his well-manicured scruff and linen shirts. David had felt strong and powerful knowing the world saw him that way - that someone like Sebastien would proudly take him by the arm and smile for the cameras.

It was nice while it lasted, anyway.

David pulled out his phone and scrolled through his contacts. He’d wait to see Sebastien in person; surprise him even. David didn’t want to give him a chance to run and hide. He took a deep breath as though it might infuse him with confidence, hoping he could make it last until he got to New York.

He briefly let his thumb hover over Stevie’s name - he should call her, explain himself, tell her he was safe. At the very least he could send her a text. But cowardice won out, and David let out a tiny cough before finding his sister’s name instead.

 

He wondered if Alexis was as worried as he’d been all those times he had to track down diplomats at embassies or send her colored contacts. Had his family even realized that he was gone, or were they still consumed with the disappointment of the failed town sale?

Alexis

Today 3:02am
David:I’m going to New York. I’m almost at the border. I’ll text you when I’m there.

It was three in the morning, so he was surprised to get a response so quickly.

Alexis

Today 3:02am
David:I’m going to New York. I’m almost at the border. I’ll text you when I’m there.

Alexis:David, did you really steal Roland’s truck?

Not his finest moment for sure, but what choice did he have? David had needed to get out, and there was no time for planning.

Alexis

David:We’ll sort it out once I get there.

Alexis:Mom and Dad are gonna kill you

Alexis:She won’t shut up about some bag you took.

So much for concern. David closed his messages and opened his GPS, tapped in Sebastien’s address, and started the engine.

***

Another hour in and David felt his eyelids growing heavy. He hadn’t slept in nearly a day and the emotional rollercoaster he’d endured had finally caught up with him. He should have gotten a coffee at the truck stop.

The highway stretched on, dark and open, still a few hours until daylight and even longer to New York.

Somewhere up ahead David could see a figure rising to its feet on the side of the road. As he got a little bit closer, the truck’s lights revealed a man standing next to a huge bag, thumb kicked out.

He didn’t know why he did it - David was no stranger to true crime documentaries, and even if this guy wasn’t a serial killer, he was at best a smelly vagrant that David shouldn’t choose to share a vehicle with.

But David was alone, and he was tired.

He pulled over just past the man, who promptly lifted his bag and tossed it into the bed of the truck.

“Wow, thanks man,” the hitchhiker greeted him, slamming the door shut and reaching for his seat belt. “I haven’t seen anyone for hours. Almost put up my tent right along the road there.”

David started driving, sneaking a quick look at the man from the corner of his eye.

He hadn’t accounted for this. His new companion was unfairly attractive for someone wearing a toque on his head, a red windbreaker and cargo shorts, and he did smell like he could use a shower or three - but David didn’t even mind it.

“Yes, well,” David cleared his throat. “Where are you headed?”

“Down to the states, then out west. But wherever you can get me between here and the border, I’d be grateful.”

David felt a pang in his chest that he couldn’t quite name. It was something akin to jealousy as his brain began to supply his own narrative about the stranger next to him, someone with the time and wherewithal to wander his way out west.

But that wasn’t the only thing making David feel off - there was something else.

“I’m driving down to New York. I can get you across the border.”

“Amazing!” David looked over at the man’s wide grin, sincere and bright, and he wanted to hate it because David was most certainly none of those things, but instead that uncomfortable knot in his chest turned into something warm and satiating.

Goddamnit.

After a minute he realized the man was sneaking his own glances, and even had the gall to look bashful when he was caught.

“So what’s your story?” The man asked, his tone a mixture of genuine interest but also - amusement?

“My story?” He stalled, trying to think of something that didn’t include the words broke, ruined, desperate...lonely.

“Don’t get me wrong, I really do appreciate the lift. But I can’t say I was expecting you to be the one driving this truck when it pulled over.” His eyes raked over David’s black Zara sweater, leather-shouldered and pulled over a white collared shirt.

“Mmm. Well - I’m taking that as a compliment. I have a business opportunity in the city, but a...man in the town where I was staying, he leant me the truck so I could get down there. Not exactly my aesthetic, but what can you do?”

The man nodded, but still looked skeptical.

“What kind of business opportunity?”

“I’m a gallerist,” he blurted out quickly, because that’s what he was. At one point. And maybe that would be an opportunity once he got to the city. Sebastien was still connected to the scene, and he owed him.

“Wow, what kind of art?”

“What about you?” David deflected. “What’s your story?”

“Oh, I - I guess I’m sort of working through an early mid-life crisis,” he replied with a self-deprecating laugh, running his hand along the back of his neck.

“Okay.” David wasn’t going to press him on that, but about a thousand questions had stacked up in front of him.

“I needed a change - a big one,” he continued. “My cousin works for a state park in the Redwoods, so he got me a job out there. A total 180 from what I’ve been doing. It’s perfect.”

“And you couldn’t just book a flight?” David asked, truly shocked that someone with such a specific plan had chosen to cross the continent by foot.

“Like I said,” the man went on, somewhat guarded now. “I needed a change. And I needed to clear my head.”

“Fair enough,” David answered. He still didn’t understand it, but it had him intrigued. “Anyway, I’m David.”

He shrunk into his seat at the notion of putting himself out there, as though this person even cared what his name was.

“Patrick,” the man replied, settling in and looking out the window.

And that was that. They sat in comfortable silence and David kept on driving, tearing across the empty highway, the sun just starting to paint the night sky with strokes of blue and gold.

***

They made it through the border crossing with ease, and Patrick pulled out his phone.

“I might have you bring me to a bus station so I can shoot out west a bit more before I hitch again.”

“Okay,” David agreed, because Patrick was mainly talking to himself, and David was simply a ride.

He peered over and noticed Patrick’s body had tensed, knee bouncing nervously, bottom lip caught between his teeth.

David wanted to bite it himself.

No, nope. He couldn’t go there.

“I saw a sign for a diner,” Patrick began. “Want to grab a bite before you drop me off? My treat...for the ride.”

David hated the thrill that shot through him, so much that he almost declined. But he would have been an idiot to turn down a free meal.

“You don’t have to do that,” he replied.

“No, I’d like to.”

David couldn’t tell if he imagined Patrick’s shaky voice, or if it was just wishful thinking.

“Okay, yeah. Thanks.”

They found the diner sitting right off the exit. David braced himself for unwelcome locals and cold stale coffee, but when they stepped inside it was quite busy with both townies and travelers, and his mouth watered at the smells of bacon and pancakes wafting through the air.

Patrick settled across from him in the red vinyl booth, heaving a sigh of exhaustion and pulling off his hat. David watched the mop of curls spring loose; and then he watched Patrick run a hand back through them, looking down and examining the menu.

“What do you think you’re gonna get?” Patrick asked, still scanning his options.

David’s eyes dropped quickly. He cleared his throat. “Well, I could go for an omelette. But those pancakes smell really good...”

“Get both. My treat, like I said.”

Before David could argue, a waitress stopped by for their orders, looking at him expectantly.

“I’ll have the Greek omelette with french fries instead of home fries, a stack of blueberry pancakes, and the biggest cup of coffee you can carry.”

“You got it,” she replied, scribbling onto her notepad. “Would you like whipped cream on the pancakes?”

David desperately did not want to be seen as a child here, but also, the answer was obviously -

“He would,” Patrick replied, shooting him a smirk. “And I’ll do the same, but a tea for me.”

Patrick brushed away the curls that had fallen over his forehead again, still smiling. He really was good looking.

“So do you have like, an apartment or something in New York? What’s happening when you get there?”

Begging my ex for money and a place to crash, David thought.

“I’ve got an AirBnb until I sort that out. Just excited to get back to the city.”

“So you used to live there? Why did you leave?”

“Oh, well, my family -- well we wanted to take a little breather from the busy lifestyle. Reconnect with our Canadian roots.”

“Can’t blame you there.” The waitress walked by and dropped off their drinks, and Patrick took a long sip from his mug. “Where abouts have you been staying?”

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t tell this beautiful, curious stranger about staying in Schitt’s Creek, living in a roadside motel, sharing a room with his sister.

“Elm Lake.”

There had to be one around there somewhere.

Patrick eyed him carefully, taking another sip. David squirmed in his seat under Patrick’s gaze, for more reasons than one. He had an itchy feeling that he’d been caught in his lie, but did that even matter? In a few hours, this guy would be on a bus headed for California.

Finally Patrick shook his head. “Nope, don’t know it.”

David let his shoulders fall and took a long pull from his own mug. He really needed this caffeine.

“So, I’ve got to ask again - why are you making it so hard on yourself? California is just so far.”

Patrick folded his hands on top of the table. “It is,” he agreed. “But I’ve always thought the journey was part of the adventure.”

“So...you like hitchhiking? And lugging that huge bag around with you everywhere?”

Patrick laughed. “I like meeting new people, and no I don’t mind the bag. There’s just a lot to see out there, you know? There’s something nice about taking your time, not knowing how each day will play out and what stories you’ll walk away with.” He shrugged, looking down at his mug. “Besides, I’ve lived my whole life with a road map, every detail marked for me. I’m over it.”

“I understand,” David offered knowingly.

But David didn’t understand. He’d lived a whole year of uncertainty, met a lot of new people, and gathered plenty of stories (that he wholeheartedly wanted erased from his brain).

“So,” Patrick continued. “I’m just going to get there at my own pace. I’ve got the time. I’ll probably grab a few nights in hotels for the clean shower, but I’ll get in some hiking, camping...check out some towns I’d probably never find if I just took a plane.”

As far as David was concerned, this plan seemed objectively miserable. But Patrick’s face lit right up, so who was he to judge?

Their food arrived and David abandoned all sense of manners, digging into his pancakes first, then dousing his fries in ketchup before shoving them into his mouth three at a time. It was probably too long before he looked up from his ravenous eating to see Patrick staring at him, a playful look in his eye.

“When’s the last time you ate? You’re like a feral dog.”

“Well that’s rude.”

“I agree.”

David wanted to retreat, hide under the table even, but the playfulness hadn’t left Patrick’s expression, so he met his gaze and sipped his coffee.

“I haven’t had a full meal in a while, close to a day. It’s been an emotional...departure for me.”

Patrick softened a bit and then took a bite of his omelette.

“I know how those go,” he nodded. David was curious about that, but he wasn’t going to pry.

They finished their breakfasts wordlessly. Their plates were cleared and David sat back, satisfied and bone tired. Patrick pulled out his phone.

“We’re about an hour and a half from the bus station I was thinking of. Is that okay?”

David nodded, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back.

“When did you last sleep?” Patrick asked, his voice rising with concern.

David wasn’t used to people being concerned for him.

He shook his head, opening his eyes. “I’m not sure. But I’m only a few hours from the city now.”

Patrick dropped his hand on the table, palm up.

“Let me have your keys. You can at least get a little sleep until you drop me off.”

David could barely think anymore, so he complied. Patrick put his toque back on (a crime, to be honest), went to the front counter and paid their check, then summoned David. They returned to the truck and David buckled himself into the passenger seat, letting his head fall against the window.

Somewhere in the back of his head he thought, maybe letting a stranger take the wheel of your car isn’t the safest plan. But Patrick seemed honest, and he was taking care of him, and David couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt cared for by anyone.

***

He woke up to Patrick gently nudging at his shoulder.

“Sorry David, but we’re here.”

David blinked a few times and sat up straight, looking around the parking lot. “Okay. Thanks for taking over, I guess I needed that.”

“No problem.” Patrick grinned at him, warm and genuine. “Had to turn the radio up though to drown out the snoring.”

David’s stomach dropped. “You’re joking.”

“I am,” Patrick confirmed, and then laughed, so loud and clear and joyful.

It was for the best that he was leaving.

“Anyway, thank you for the meal as well. That was...kind.”

“Cheaper than airfare,” Patrick replied, and the guy actually winked.

They both hopped out of the truck, David returning to the driver’s seat and Patrick grabbing his bag from the back.

Patrick seemed to hesitate, then stopped by the open window. “Good luck in the city, David.”

“Good luck with the trees, Patrick.”

He disappeared through the doors of the bus terminal. David punched Sebastien’s address back into his phone.

Patrick

Patrick blew into the lobby, looking around frantically for a schedule so he could buy a ticket and just move.

If he didn’t, he’d be too caught up in his head, and at the moment that was a bad place to be.

He bought a ticket to get him through Pennsylvania, which he’d heard felt like a pretty long stretch of road. Then he went to the bathroom and pulled off his hat to wash his face.

Patrick glanced at the mirror, and Jesus, it was a sight. He looked tired and ragged, face sunburnt and hair untamed. Had he really spent hours in the car with David, who looked like a fucking model?

Maybe David was a model. He had clearly lied when Patrick asked about his story...but instead of feeling bad about it, Patrick was only more intrigued. A super hot guy in designer clothes with no money driving a run down truck on no sleep? There had to be a hell of a history there. But Patrick wasn’t ever going to find out.

He returned to the main terminal and collapsed on a bench, leaning into his pack. He’d bought it for backpacking through Europe when he graduated high school, and used it on hiking and camping trips every summer since. It was once bright orange, but time and wear had dulled the color. It was filled with all he’d need to start over in California - Patrick didn’t want to drag along anything else from his past.

His knee vibrated anxiously. It had been a good start to his trip - he’d seen some beautiful stretches of road and forest on his trek to leave Canada, met some characters, and cleared his head, which had been the whole point.

Now, his head was not clear. It was instead full of regrets and bad memories, uncomfortable moments and painful arguments. He wasn’t quite sure what had stirred them up, but he couldn’t shake them. Patrick looked down at the ticket and considered hours on a bus with nothing but those thoughts - no way.

He ran to the booth and collected a refund before throwing the bag’s straps over his shoulders and cinching it across his waist and chest. Grabbing his phone, Patrick pulled out a map and followed the roads that pointed west.

***

“Redwoods, huh? What are you going to do there?”

Patrick sat in the passenger seat of the sleek BMW, still shocked it had stopped for him. The man driving was a corporate type in a pricey suit, dark hair slicked back and eyes hidden behind a pair of aviators. He was handsome and stylish, but not in the same way David had been, and not nearly as quirky or interesting.

“Whatever they need me to. It’s for a state park, so I’ll help with trail repair, park maintenance - maybe some work with the public, I’m not quite sure.”

“And you quit an accounting firm for that?” His tone was definitely judgmental, and yet the man’s expression seemed wistful.

“Life isn’t all about work,” Patrick replied firmly. He knew better than anyone that stability didn’t always bring happiness.

“Hey, whatever - you do you. So where exactly am I dropping you off again?”

Patrick scrolled through his phone until he found a campground and plugged it into the driver’s GPS.

They drove for a few more hours until the sun went down and they finally hit a brown and white road sign for camping pointing towards an entryway on the right.

“Thanks again, man,” Patrick offered his hand to shake.

The guy took it. “Good luck out there.”

“Thanks. Have fun visiting your parents. I hope that lasagna’s as good as you remember.”

He nodded and laughed, and Patrick pulled his pack from the trunk. The office was like every campground he remembered, small and quiet and covered in framed maps and nature photographs. The woman at the desk pulled back her frizzy hair and set him up with a map of the camp sites, circling his with a pink highlighter and drawing a route to find it. He bought a bundle of firewood and made his way out.

The site was private and surrounded by dark forest, but he passed a few car campers on his way in. Once he began to set up his spot, he could hear distant sounds of children playing and parents trying to wrangle them in for bed.

He dug through his pack for a lantern, then set to work finding his tent and some clean clothes. Once the wood had caught and the fire was burning, Patrick threw on a hoodie, pulled down his toque, and dragged the picnic table near the firepit. He lay flat on his back across the bench, chewing on beef jerky and letting his eyes find the stars peeking out above the leafy branches that hung overhead.

Patrick had had a fucking year. He’d had plenty of trying years in the past, but this one certainly took the cake. After coming out, he’d ended his engagement, bought a condo, and started dating men. It had been good, better than good really - all of the discomfort he’d felt throughout his life was finally making sense, though that discomfort wasn’t totally gone.

And then he’d quit his job.

It happened fast, and he knew it was impulsive, but after all the other changes - the mundanity became so glaring. Patrick had taken stock of his life, and decided he needed even more time to reevaluate. And space to do it. So he called his cousin Josh, got a tenant for his condo, and prepared to venture out west.

“But what’s your plan?” his mother had asked, practically pleading when he kissed her goodbye.

“I need to not have a plan for a while.”

“I don’t understand it. You had such a good job - you have so many friends around here. This is your home.”

Patrick had rubbed his eyes, trying to gather his patience. “I - I don’t know if I fit in here anymore. Or if I ever did.”

It was the wrong thing to say. His mother’s lip began to tremble, and his father moved in to put an arm around her shoulder.

“It’s okay, Marcy.” He turned to Patrick. “Go find what you need. Just make sure you come back.”

Patrick didn’t make that promise, but he did leave, setting out with nothing but his hiking boots and his pack.

He’d been on the road for two weeks now, walking and hitching his way out of Canada. There’d been a full day on his feet until he got a ride - spoiled, really, since it was an RV, empty save for the driver and his golden retriever who kept Patrick company. Then he’d gotten a lift from an SUV full of teenagers, who he promptly lectured for picking up a hitchhiker, though he certainly appreciated the ride.

And then he’d walked again, along an endless strip of highway, until he’d found himself riding in a rundown pickup with one strikingly attractive guy.

David. How goddamn typical. In another scenario - like, if they weren’t both in the middle of nowhere, heading in opposite directions - he would have asked David out for a drink, or at least gotten his number. He was hot, but there was a sweetness about him that he tried to hide, and in the short time they were together, Patrick had been delighted to try and pry it out of him, watching him get flustered by every teasing remark. It had been fun, and he’d been good company. And yeah, there was his strong brow and dark eyes, tall figure and broad chest...well. It didn’t matter now.

Patrick let the fire die down before he killed it entirely, then crawled into his one-man hiking tent to sleep. The next morning he hit the road early and quickly hitched a ride with a guy in a moving van.

They drove and drove until they’d made it to western Ohio, and Patrick decided he’d probably never get picked up again if he didn’t shower. He routed the driver to a hotel, said his goodbyes and thank yous, and rushed inside to grab a room.

It was a little strange to have the comforts of clean bedding and running water after two weeks on the road, but it didn’t stop him from taking his time in the shower, and it didn’t stop him from napping through the afternoon on the queen sized bed.

When he woke up groggy and disoriented, Patrick decided to treat himself to a drink and a hot meal. He found some presentable clothes, a blue button down and jeans, and did his best to brush down his hair.

There was no bar or restaurant in the hotel, so he asked the woman at the front desk - she pointed to the left.

“Head on out the front, there’s a steakhouse right next door. That’s where everyone usually goes.”

Patrick took her suggestion and headed to the steakhouse - it was huge, with a bar right by the door, and two rooms filled with tables and lined with deep booths. It smelled good, like beer and fried food.

He scanned the bar, looking for a spot to sit - and there he was: David, just sitting there sipping a cheap glass of red wine, barely six feet from where Patrick stood.

“It’s you.”

David looked up, and a huge grin escaped him - it punched the wind right out of Patrick’s chest. He stepped closer and watched David try to hide the smile.

“It’s me,” David agreed.

Patrick pointed at the stool next to him. “So...is this seat taken?”

David shifted his leg and kicked it out.