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His life makes a sharp left on a Wednesday. 

[Ray]
A theatre director wants to meet with you about a project. 
Shall I push him to after SNL? 

Patrick glances down at his phone resting next to him on the piano bench, ignoring a few push notifications from Instagram as he picks it up and swipes it open. What on earth does a theatre director want with him?

What’s the project?

[Ray]
I wasn’t able to get any details. Ronnie was remarkably tight lipped. 

Patrick doesn’t know who Ronnie is, but the secrecy is interesting. Surely they must know that he and his camp are going to need more than that to go on before agreeing to anything. Even a meeting. 

Which theatre director?

[Ray]
David Rose.

Patrick inhales sharply, and the jarring sound the piano makes when his phone hits the keys barely registers. 

Turns out he doesn’t need more to go on after all. 

I’m free tomorrow. 

[Ray]
You’re not actually. 

He bangs his knee in his haste to stand and curses his agent for being so practical, because nothing can be more important than this. 

I am now. 

But Ray doesn’t know. No one knows, not really, and that’s the way it has to stay. 

Book something at Crosby Street. Apologize to whoever you have to. 

He paces from the piano to the front door and back again, wondering if he has time to get a run in before his dinner meeting. He has to burn off this excess energy before the tour promoters think he’s high on something (not that that would be new territory for them). 

He changes quickly, trading jeans and a tee for shorts and a different tee before sitting down on his steps and shoving his feet in his sneakers. His phone chimes again before he even has a chance to lace them up, and he glances down, frowning at Rachel’s name on the screen. 

[Rachel]
Um, why did Ray just tell me I need to reschedule the New Yorker interview? 

He winces. Ray could have warned him that the person he’d be apologizing to is the pint-sized firecracker who’s been kicking his ass at beer pong since they were sixteen. 

Something came up.

A vaguery she won’t buy for a moment.

[Rachel]
What could POSSIBLY be more important than this? Is it a doctor’s appointment? Are you dying? It’s a COVER FEATURE, Patrick. 

And he bites his tongue before he snaps back that it’s not his first. It’s not even his tenth. Rachel, of all people, knows this. 

He drops the phone back on the step and rests his elbows on his knees, hanging his head as he stares at the hardwood floor. He could tell the truth. So much of so many things would probably make sense to her if he did. It’s not like she doesn’t know he’s gay, but… 

She’d discovered them once. The tickets.

She asked why he’d been keeping supposedly unrelated mementos in a shoebox when he lost the stub from their first date before they’d even left the movie theater. When he couldn’t even find the yearbook from their senior year, in which she wrote a very heartfelt note next to her photo. She’d asked and… well. 

He lied. 

At the time, he honestly didn’t know why he’d kept them. There was something about David’s work that he’d always been drawn to. In the beginning, it was just the recognition of his name on a sandwich board outside a nondescript building in the Village. A familiar beacon in the rough sea of the unknown; one so deep and dark, he could easily drown. 

But he had an experience in that basement blackbox that reordered his brain and rewired his heart. That spoke to something he didn’t even know was buried. That brought it out and shoved it into the light. 

It’s a something he still feels, and it has him hopping up from the step and pacing once again, from the piano to the door and back. 

His phone chimes in his hand, and he doesn’t even stop walking as he quickly checks it.  

[Ray]
David is confirmed. He will see you tomorrow at 2pm. 

And Patrick is so busy reading and rereading the text that he runs right into the wall. Naturally, Ted chooses that moment to walk through his front door. 

“Oh,” he says, as Patrick rubs his forehead. “Everything okay?” 

“Peachy.” 

Ted clocks his workout gear and raises an eyebrow. “Going for a run?” 

“Contemplating it.” 

Ted nods. “Would you like me to make a pro and con list? Or maybe get you an ice pack?” 

Patrick chuckles ruefully. “I was hoping you missed that.” 

“It’s not the first time I’ve seen you run into a stationary object.” 

“Okay, we were seventeen, and that hydrant tripped me.” 

“Um, it was last week, and that mailbox was definitely there first.” Ted’s phone vibrates in his hand, and he swipes it open. “Why am I booking a suite at Crosby Street tomorrow?” 

Patrick turns and plucks his beat-up running hat from the hall closet. “Business meeting,” he says succinctly. 

“Oh?” Ted asks leadingly, but Patrick remains silent. “Oh,” he says with an altogether different tone. 

“Oh’? What does that mean?” He shoves the hat on his head with more force than necessary, and it causes his ears to stick out like a Disney cartoon.

“Nothing, just…” Ted shrugs, “oh.” 

Patrick narrows his eyes, but Ted just looks innocently back. After a long moment, he breaks. 

“Patrick, you only ever have me book Crosby Street when you want to impress somebody.” 

“What? That’s not true.” It’s absolutely true. 

“So who is it?” Ted asks, not beating around the bush. “I thought you were doing the New Yorker at the Ritz.” 

“Rachel’s moving that.” 

Ted’s eyes widen. “Does Rachel know that?” 

“She does now.” 

“Ah,” he says, gesturing up and down at Patrick’s outfit. “This makes sense then.” 

Patrick rolls his eyes and grabs his Airpods from the side table, popping them in his ears. “Just a quick one. I’ll be back in plenty of time to look respectable.” 

“Patrick, one of these promoters has a rap sheet longer than a CVS receipt. ‘Respectable’ is not the name of the game here.” 

“Then what a wonderful standard we’re setting,” he quips, glancing in the hall mirror to make sure he looks perfectly nondescript. “Can you do me a favor?” 

“Sure.” Because anytime Patrick asks something of Ted, the answer is usually ‘yes’ before the question is even out of his mouth. 

“Can you get me a pair of tickets to The Crucible tomorrow?” 

Sure enough, Ted nods, even as he frowns. “The one about the witches?” 

Patrick smiles. “Actually, it’s about McCarthyism, but yes, the one about the witches.” 

“No problem.” 

And Patrick doesn’t have the heart to tell him it actually might be a problem because tomorrow is the last performance that this production will ever play. And Patrick knows firsthand the nature of supply and demand. He crashes the Ticketmaster website on a regular basis. 

“I’ll stand in the back if I have to,” he says. “Just get me in.” 

Ted gives him an enthusiastic thumbs up as Patrick cues up his running playlist and then opens his text thread with Rachel, debating. Biting his lip, he types three words and stares at them for a long, loaded moment. 

It’s David Rose.  

He hits Send and then puts his phone on Do Not Disturb, turning his music up and heading out the door before he can talk himself into checking the message Rachel has undoubtedly already sent back. 

Four miles and one entanglement with a leash full of corgis later, he pushes back through his front door and smiles at the bottle of water Ted has left on the side table because he knows Patrick doesn’t drink enough. 

“I’m back!” he calls, unlacing his shoes and toeing them off before chugging half of the water as he starts up the stairs. 

“Down here!” Ted replies, so Patrick reverses course and heads into the basement, stopping on the bottom step to watch Ted inventory equipment for a moment. “Feel better?” he asks, which only serves to remind Patrick that he still hasn’t checked his phone. Rachel’s probably set fire to something by now. 

“To be determined.” 

Ted hums and ticks something else off on his checklist. “We should probably leave by six. Traffic’s gonna be a mess.” 

Patrick nods. “Where’s dinner?” Usually he just shows up wherever Lena drops him. 

“Del Frisco’s.” Off Patrick’s face, Ted continues. “Yeah, I know you hate the atmosphere, but they’re staying in midtown to be close to the Garden. Don’t give me that look. You love their filet.” 

He does love their filet.

“I’ll go shower.” He hasn’t looked at his phone to determine the time, but he assumes it’s late. Not that it takes him particularly long to get ready. It’s a talent that Rachel praises and bemoans in equal measure. 

“You know, you never did tell me who Crosby Street was for,” Ted says pointedly just as Patrick turns to go.

“Did you book it?” 

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“I’m not avoiding it. Which name is it under?” 

“You’re actively avoiding it,” Ted laughs. “As we speak. And yes, I booked it. It’s under Massey Hall.” 

Patrick nods and retrieves a wayward guitar pick up from the floor, tossing it in the jar on the table with the others. “A theatre director wants to meet with me about a project.” 

Ted finally looks up from his checklist. “There. Was that so hard?” 

Patrick shakes his head because that’s the thing about Ted. He never pushes. He knows that if there’s information Patrick wants or needs him to have, it’ll be imparted when Patrick is good and ready. 

It’s not how Rachel operates. She knows that sometimes, if left to his own devices, Patrick will hoard truths like a dragon guarding its gold, and that a loving but vicious shove in the back is the only way to get him to share. 

“You know I can’t manage you if I don’t know what I’m managing,” Ted says, dropping the clipboard on an already packed stack of cases and crossing his arms over his chest.  

Huh. Maybe he is ready to push. 

Ted hasn’t pushed Patrick since they were fourteen and Patrick claimed that Homeward Bound 2 was better than the original. 

“And before I’m your manager, I’m your friend,” Ted continues, raising an eyebrow.  

“I know that,” Patrick replies somewhat defensively.  

“I’m just saying. Must be some theatre director to get you to bump a New Yorker journalist and face Rachel’s wrath.” 

Patrick licks his lips, swallows… and lies. Again. “It’s no one.” 

“Okay,” Ted simply replies, backing off. Not pushing. “Then please go shower so we’re not late for our meat and greet.”

Patrick stares at him for a long moment and then snorts. “That was awful.” 

“Yeah, not one of my better ones.” Ted picks up the clipboard again with a sigh and a disappointed shake of his head. “I’ll work on it.” 

“Tenderize it, if you will.” 

Wow.” 

Patrick retreats upstairs with a smile on his face and the sound of Ted’s laughter at his back. His shower is quick and his outfit is easy, and before Ted can come up with a better steak-related pun, Ivan is leading them out the door and into Lena’s idling SUV. 

Patrick hates most midtown steakhouses, as good as the food might be. The music is too loud, the laughter too forced, and the clientele too obnoxious. Luckily, they’re given a table on the balcony in the back, and Patrick shakes hands with Kevin and Steve, the promoters who are spearheading the Full Count tour. They've already booked the gig so thankfully, the smoke-blowing is kept to a minimum, and despite their rather unorthodox way of doing things, it’s clear that they’re very good at their jobs. Ted wouldn’t settle for anything less. Their ideas are exciting, and all in all, the meal isn’t nearly as tedious as Patrick thought it was going to be. 

They say their goodnights with handshakes and “We’ll be in touch soons” and sneak back out through the kitchen on 48th Street, dodging the few paps who’ve camped out by the main entrance on 49th. 

“So,” Ted starts as the lights of midtown flash across their faces, “you don’t need me for this super secret meeting tomorrow?” 

In the rearview mirror, Patrick sees Lena’s gaze flick to him briefly as Ivan shifts in his seat. Clearly no one is a fan of Patrick having a super secret anything. 

“I’m good,” he says, hating that it comes out more clipped than he means it to. 

“Alright, just warn me if I need to get you tap lessons or something.” 

Patrick snorts. “Trust me, he’s not that kind of theatre director.” 

“Oh! He. We’re getting somewhere,” Ted teases as they pull up in front of the townhouse and Ivan gets out of the car. 

“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. If something comes of it, then you'll be the first to know. If it crashes and burns, then it’s one less thing for your overloaded brain to think about.”

“What time is this super secret meeting, Mr. B?” Lena asks.

“Two o’clock downtown, but I’d like to get there early. Can you get me at 12:30pm?” 

“I’ll be here,” she replies, as Ivan opens Patrick’s door. 

“And I appreciate you for it,” he says as he slides out and nods at his bodyguard. 

“I’ll be here by noon, unless you need me earlier.” 

“Noon is great. Thanks, Ivan.” 

“Have a good night, Mr. Brewer.” 

Patrick trudges up the steps and slides his key in the lock, turning to wave goodnight to everyone and watching as Ivan slides back into the passenger seat. It’s heartening to know that Ivan doesn’t shut the door until Patrick shuts his. 

He drops his keys in the dish on the hall table, toes off his shoes, and thunks his head back against the wall. He can’t avoid it anymore. If the texts in his phone go unanswered for much longer, the NYPD will be banging down his door to do a wellness check thanks to an anonymous caller from the greater Los Angeles area. 

He pulls his cell out of his pocket and closes one eye, wincing as he opens up his messages, hits Rachel’s name, and scrolls to the beginning: 

[Rachel]
Like Rose Video David Rose? Tony Award Winner David Rose?

He appreciates that she didn’t say something like Tabloid Headliner David Rose? He would have had strong opinions about that. 

When he hadn’t responded within 30 minutes, she texted: 

[Rachel]
Are you ignoring me? 

Then at 6:07pm, she wrote: 

[Rachel]
You’re probably on your way to dinner now so you’re definitely ignoring me. There’s no way you go this long without checking your phone. 

And two minutes after that: 

[Rachel]
I moved the New Yorker to Friday after The Today Show btw. It’ll be a long day, but that’s your own fault. 

Probably after they were finishing their ridiculously priced shrimp cocktail, she texted again: 

[Rachel]
FaceTime me when you’re home. 

He sighs. He doesn’t really have the energy for a lecture, yet he hits her name anyway as he pads up towards the kitchen. The call connects, and he blames the rollercoaster of a day for his lack of brain-to-mouth filter: 

“Rach, I’m tired.” 

“Hello to you, too.” 

“Hi,” he says, glancing down pointedly. “I’m tired.” 

“Clearly. You always did get cranky when sleep-deprived.” 

He ignores the quip and pours himself a glass of red from the bottle he’d opened for Ted the other night. Normally he’d go for a beer, but the promoters had splurged on a very nice bottle of Cabernet with dinner, and it’d be a shame to ruin his palate. 

He flops on the couch and rests his elbow with the phone on the arm, making Rachel wait by taking a long, slow slip. She’s clearly on her back patio nursing a glass of white, and the hot pink and burnt orange of the sky behind her almost makes him miss LA. 

Almost. 

“So, David Rose, huh?” she asks after a loaded moment. 

“Thanks for moving the interview.”

“You’re not getting out of answering the question.”

“Oh, was there a question in there?”

“Patrick...”

“Seemed more like an insinuation.”

“Okay - ” 

“Everyone is accusing me of avoiding things today!”

“And thank God you’re not getting defensive about it,” she says with eyebrows that hit her hairline. 

“And why do you care who I meet with?” he snaps. “You’re not my manager or my agent. You’re my publicist.” 

It’s low. It’s so low, it’s kicking up dirt, and Rachel’s shocked face carves yet another tally mark on his heart, counting all of the ways he’s hurt her over the years. 

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, looking down. It’s not enough. “That was… I’m sorry.” 

He’s lucky she doesn’t hang up on him. 

He exhales slowly and takes another sip, daring to finally look at the screen. The muscle in her jaw jumps as she stares out over the hills, carelessly swirling the glass of pinot grigio in her hand. He knows it’s pinot grigio because she hates chardonnay and thinks sauvignon blanc is too sweet. He knows she’ll put an ice cube or two in there because it’s never cold enough, but only at home, never in public. Only in front of people who won’t judge. He knows her like he knows the grooves of his first baseball glove. They were a perfect fit, but only for a time. Only until he outgrew them.

Why is he defensive? Neither Ted nor Rachel has been out of line. They’ve just been doing their jobs. Or, trying to do their jobs, and Patrick hasn’t exactly been making it easy for them. 

“I’ve never asked, you know,” she murmurs when it becomes clear that he won’t be saying anything further. 

“About David?” Because she did once. Sort of. 

She looks at him then, and if he wasn’t already sitting, he’d stagger under the weight of her gaze. “About anyone.” 

“Is this you asking?” His voice cracks. He’s exhausted again. 

She tilts her head and studies him through a screen, 3,000 miles, and eighteen years of shared history. “Do you want me to?” 

Does he? Does he want to open that shoebox that may as well belong to Pandora? There are so few people he can talk to about this, even if ‘this’ isn’t something he can put a label to. So few, in fact, that he can count them on one hand. 

“Rach - ” But he doesn’t know the end of that sentence. 

And then, because she’s perfect, a slow, sly grin slides across her face. “Patrick Brewer, do you have a crush on David Rose?” she stage whispers, like they’re in third grade. Like the last five minutes didn’t happen. Like forgiveness comes as naturally as teasing. 

“No. I don’t know. I don’t know him.” 

She snorts. “Those are three different answers.” 

He laughs as he replays his reply in his mind. “You’re not wrong.” 

Her grin remains but her tone gets serious when she says, “And, yes, you do.” 

“What?” 

“Know him.” 

“I really don’t.” 

“There’s a stack of tickets full of history that says differently.” 

He glares at her but remains silent. This isn’t new for them. Even since he came out to her, she’s been seeing many things from their past in a new light. Patrick’s need to somehow catch all of David Rose’s shows was one of them. 

“So who approached whom?” 

Patrick clears his throat. “He approached me.” 

“Oooh, so he knows who you are!” She’s so excited, she nearly spills her wine. 

“Rach, no offense, but there aren’t many who don’t.” 

“So humble,” she teases, and he rolls his eyes, his tense shoulders finally easing away from his ears. 

“Sorry I made things difficult for you today.” 

“It’s the gig,” she says with a shrug. “Patrick, of all of my clients, you’re shockingly the easiest.” 

“Shockingly? I’m a delight!” 

Rachel laughs. “I wouldn’t go that far. But given the nature of your celebrity, you’re surprisingly low maintenance.” 

“It’s the Canadian in me.” 

She hums. “So. Tell me about this meeting.” 

“I don’t know. He apparently wants to talk about a project.” 

“Are you nervous?” 

He could lie, but she’d see through it faster than the Long Island Medium. “I’m freaking out.” 

She bites her lip and grins at him. “That’s kind of adorable.” 

“It’s really not.”

“It kind of is. And you don’t know anything else about it?”

Patrick shakes his head. “Ray said the agent didn’t give him any details.” 

“Mysterious. Branching out into theatre could be fun. God knows you haven’t shut up about Gavroche for the past twenty-five years.” 

And he knows he’s pouting without even needing to look at the screen. Rachel’s laughter is confirmation enough. 

“I’ve known you can act since high school. A lot of doors could open,” she muses. “But what do I know? I’m just your publicist.” At least the wound has healed enough to joke, but he knows the bruise is still tender. 

“Hey,” he admonishes quietly. “You know you’re more than that.” 

“I do.” Then she leans forward and drops her chin in hand, grinning. “So have you thought about what you’re gonna wear?” 

“How were the Emmys?” he asks instead, because no, he has not.

“Okay, you’re deflecting again, but I’ll allow it because, oh my God, you won’t believe what happened at the after-party.” 

🎭 🎭 🎭

His Thursday begins with an ass-kicking by a former Marine named Bax in a private studio at the Equinox on 76th, as it always does in the lead up to a tour. 

He met Bax, short for James Baxter, backstage at a gala for FourBlock Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting returning service members in their transition from the military to civilian careers. Patrick was playing a short set because an old friend of his father’s was on the board, and Bax was one of the volunteers that night. Bax was bemoaning the fact that he didn’t know what to do with his life, and Patrick was complaining about needing to get in tour shape for Banjo Hitter. They bonded quickly, and the next morning, Bax made Patrick meet him at 6am at the Bethesda Fountain and had him sprinting up and down the steps until he puked in the bushes. 

Bax has helped Patrick prep for every tour, and Patrick has played for every gala since.

“Dude, that’s the third time you’ve dropped a dumbbell,” Bax points out as Patrick bends down to pick it up. “What’s going on?” 

Patrick likes Bax. Bax doesn’t give a shit how many albums Patrick has sold. He only listens to Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel and probably couldn’t pick out one of Patrick’s songs if he had a gun pressed to his head. 

“Nothing. Sorry. Just - late night. Big day.” 

Bax raises an eyebrow that has a scar slicing down the middle, his silent way of saying elaborate please.

“I didn’t sleep well. I have an important meeting later.” 

“About what?” 

Patrick huffs out a laugh. “I don’t actually know.” 

Bax frowns. “Isn’t that why you have all of those people who hang around you?”

“You mean my management team?” 

“To figure out what these meetings are about before you have them?” 

Patrick laughs. “Yeah, kinda.” 

“Well, someone dropped the ball,” Bax says, laughing to himself as he moves over to the medicine balls. Patrick groans because God help him if Bax and Ted ever meet. “So how do you know it’s important?” 

Patrick hides his silence by picking up his water bottle and taking a long drink. 

“Unless the person you’re meeting with is the important part,” Bax guesses. 

Patrick swallows and raises the bottle in his direction. “Smarter than you look.” 

“Fuck you,” Bax laughs. “So it’s a crush that’s got you dropping weights and tripping over ropes.” 

“It’s not a crush,” Patrick argues, but his face says otherwise. He can feel it heating in a way that has nothing to do with the workout. He takes another sip, but the cold water sliding down his throat can’t hold a candle to the metaphorical bucket that gets dumped on his head when Bax says: 

“Must be an impressive lady.” 

Because there it is. 

The lie he lives. 

“Yeah,” he chokes. On his water, on his silence. “Must be.”

🎭 🎭 🎭

Google is being less than helpful when it comes to figuring out what David Rose likes to eat. 

Sure, there are photos of him nibbling on canapes at cocktail parties and housing a hotdog at a basketball game he looks like he really doesn’t want to be attending, but in terms of a lunch spread, Patrick is at a loss. 

Huffing out a sigh and tossing the menu on the table, Patrick calls down to the front desk and just orders one of everything, hoping something will appeal to David. He wanders over to the large window and stares out at the rooftops of Soho, his eye catching on the large water tank across the way. Ted is better at this. At managing. It was a mistake to try to do this on his own. 

He pulls out his phone and opens up his messages, hitting his thread with Ray. 

He has the right alias right?

The response comes entirely too quickly: 

[Ray]
IMG_5116.jpeg

Okay, I didn’t actually need a screenshot of the email.

[Ray]
Patrick, it’s the tenth time you’ve asked. I assumed this was easier. 

And, well, okay. 

Crosby Street knows him and sneaking him in through the back is was easy as ordering at Starbucks. It’s a quick trip through the kitchen and into the elevators to the tenth floor. Patrick promised not to leave the suite, and though he feels a little bit like he’s under house arrest, it means that Ivan doesn’t have to hover. 

He gets lost staring at the city, and when a knock sounds at the door, he startles badly enough to send his heart to his throat and his phone to the floor. It’s not yet 2pm. It’s probably just the food. 

“Jesus, Brewer,” he mutters, picking up his cell and heading over towards the door. 

Sure enough, a man in a hotel uniform with a name tag that reads Rafael is smiling on the other side. “Good afternoon, Mr. Hall.” 

“Hi. Come on in,” Patrick says, stepping back. 

“Would you like me to set up on the dining room table?” 

“Um…” Patrick looks at the table and its rather formal setting. “Actually, the coffee table would be great.” 

“Yes, sir.” Rafael gets to work pulling plates off the cart and setting them up while Patrick tries not to spiral about the fact that ordering one of everything was probably Too Much. There are so many plates on the table, he can hardly see the wood. 

Rafael asks if he needs anything else, and Patrick declines, slipping a generous tip into his palm as he shakes his hand and shuts the door behind him. With nothing to do to pass the time, he grabs a bottle of water and downs half of it, worrying the label with his thumbnail until his phone vibrates in his pocket. Seeing Rachel’s name on the screen is not nearly as comforting as it should be. 

[Rachel]
Remember. Any guy would be lucky to have you. 

Coming from anyone else, it would be a sweet compliment. Coming from Rachel five minutes before he’s supposed to meet David Rose for the first time, it’s the equivalent of getting pushed off the see-saw. 

It’s a BUSINESS meeting.

[Rachel]
Uh huh. I’m happy to be a reference. Talk up those brown eyes. Commend your kissing prowess. Promise to get rid of your braided belts. 

What is wrong with my belts?? 

[Rachel]
According to Vogue, everything. 

He glances down at himself, wondering if he should take the one he’s wearing off, but before his fingers can even move towards the clasp, a knock sounds at the door and his head snaps up faster than when his mother middle names him. 

Oh God. 

He’s standing outside of that NYU blackbox all over again. 

Logically, he knows he has the upper hand here. David is the one who asked for the meeting. He’s the one making the pitch. Patrick just has to listen. 

Before enough time can pass to make it awkward, he strides over and gets a hand on the knob, holding his breath as he pulls the door open and there he is: 

“David Rose.” 

Looking far more beautiful than he has any right to. The pictures did not do him justice. 

“Really nice to meet you,” he manages with a smile that’s probably a little too wide and a hand thrust that’s probably a little too enthusiastic. 

“Patrick,” David says, taking it anyway. “I mean David. Yes, you’re Patrick. I’m David.” 

Well, that’s amazing. 

Patrick laughs and steps back, breathing a little easier at the knowledge that he’s not the only nervous one. “Come on in. Can I get you anything?"

“Um.” David seems overloaded by the room’s decor, which is a valid reaction. It’s a lot. “Wow. I feel like Meg Ryan walking into Fox Books for the first time.” 

Patrick does not know what that means. 

“You’ve Got Mail?” David prompts. 

“Never seen it.” 

“Oh my God,” he gasps, reeling back like Patrick just insulted his sister. Or more importantly, his taste.

But Patrick would never. Not when that black sweater with the white lines fits him like he was born to wear it. 

“Well, lack of movie knowledge aside, I wasn’t sure if you’d eaten lunch or what you’d want, so I kind of just got everything,” he says, gesturing needlessly.  

David looks at the lunch spread, and Patrick watches his eyes go cartoonishly wide. “I did eat lunch, but I’m also always hungry, so.” 

“Good to know,” Patrick laughs, filing that bit of information away and leading him over to the sitting area. 

“Thanks for making time,” David says, taking a seat on the couch. “I know how busy you are.” 

Patrick shrugs and sits in one of the armchairs, grabbing a plate and passing it to David before taking one for himself. “Well, it’s not every day that David Rose reaches out to me and wants a meeting.” 

Playing your hand a little there, Brewer. 

“I honestly didn’t think you even knew who David Rose was,” is David’s cautious reply, so Patrick does what comes easily. What comes naturally. 

He trolls. 

“Oh yeah. Big Little Bit Alexis fan.” 

After a moment, David’s eyes narrow. “You’re fucking with me.” 

Patrick grins. “Yes, yes, I am.” 

David seems to begrudgingly accept this method of communication as he takes half a sandwich and settles back against the couch. “I don’t know what your agent told you…” he starts, looking up at Patrick hopefully. 

“Ray said you had a project you wanted to talk about. A theatre project. But your agent was vague on the details, which was probably a safe call. Ray is loquacious at best and downright fantastical if left to his own devices. He’ll have you directing a musicless one-man Music Man in the round before you know it.” 

There’s a reason the world once thought Patrick was working on a super secret album to be dropped at midnight on Christmas Eve. And he can thank Ray and the two extra eggnogs he’d had at the WME holiday party for that.  

“Ronnie’s very protective,” David says with a laugh. “I know experimental plays and deconstructed classics are my niche, but I’d like to think I’m not that pretentious.” 

Patrick smiles. “Just pretentious enough.” He hopes David knows he means it as a good thing. A great thing. 

David takes the water bottle Patrick hands him in bemused gratitude. “So why M. Hall?” 

“Ah. Massey Hall was the first big gig I played. I use places that mean a lot to me. The street I grew up on, local bars, favorite baseball stadiums.” 

“What, like Y. Stadium?” 

Patrick snorts. “Not quite. C. Wrigley. B. Fenway. The usual.”

“The usual,” David parrots mockingly, and Patrick laughs again, utterly charmed. 

“I’m just giving away all of my secret identities. You’ll have to promise not to stalk me,” he says, feeling his cheeks heat, because what was that?  

“No guarantees,” David quickly replies, and Patrick’s cheeks heat for an entirely different reason. 

David clears his throat and takes a large gulp of water, looking like he also can’t quite believe the words left his very nice lips. He places his plate on the coffee table like the sandwich has personally betrayed him, and the fact that he can’t seem to meet Patrick’s gaze makes something in Patrick’s chest clench painfully. 

“So what are you thinking here?” he asks, giving him an assist. 

David quickly glances up, which is something, and scoots forward on the couch, which is everything. His excitement for whatever he’s about to pitch is palpable, and Patrick finds himself leaning forward as well. 

“I have an adaptation of Hamlet that I’ve been editing over and over for the better part of a decade. I want to… add music to it, original music, and use that to help convey his mental state. His depression, his grief, his… struggle. And I want you to compose and star in it.” The breath David inhales and holds is sharp as he stares at the flowers on the center of the table. 

Patrick should say something - David looks like he needs him to say something - but of all the things he expected David to propose, that did not crack the top ten. 

“You read the Rolling Stone article,” is what finally comes out, soft and a little awed. 

David doesn’t deny it. 

“It’s not a musical. I don’t think much of it would be sung through, actually. Probably only the soliloquies. And it would have stylized movement, but not full-blown choreography. Think Once, not Kiss Me, Kate. We’re not talking about Hamlet with eleven o’clock numbers.”

Patrick loved Once and though he’s never seen Kiss Me, Kate, he can guess at its more old-school aesthetic. “Fair enough.”

“Anyway, I thought you might like to try,” David concludes, finally glancing up at him. And Patrick almost wishes he hadn’t because the sheer force of the fearful hope in his eyes is enough to push him back against the chair. 

“I think I might,” he whispers. “Like to try.” Questions turn over in his mind as he tries to find the right words to put in the right order. “Do you have a genre in mind? Obviously, you’re coming to me, so something about what I do must fit your concept. Though I am adaptable,” he says with just enough cheek to get David to grin. 

“Well, we’re not doing Elizabethan collars and breeches,” David explains, and thank God. “It’ll be contemporary, but not today. Does that make sense?” It does not. “I mean - I know you’re influenced a lot by the singer-songwriters of the ‘70s…” Then he pauses, as if waiting for Patrick to agree, so he does with a nod. “When I first got the idea, I honestly didn’t know when I wanted to set it. And trust me, the 70s would not be my first choice.” There’s enough disdain there that Patrick snorts. “But then I saw the 2017 Fall Prada line, which was designed by Miuccia Prada, a self-proclaimed ‘leftist feminist’ and former Communist party member and mime artist.”

And that’s… “Fascinating.” 

“Right? Well, she created this kind of hybrid of contemporary and classical looks. It seemed to have all of the edge and none of the kitsch,” David explains, picking up speed with his enthusiasm. “Backstage after her show in Milan, she said, ‘I didn’t want to do the 1970s. But it just came out, naturally. It was an important moment for protest, for humanity. Which is now very necessary.’ And that struck something, I guess,” he finishes softly, chancing another glance at Patrick, pleased by whatever expression he finds on his face. Patrick thinks it might be astonishment. “I’m not time-stamping it and saying, ‘Yes, it takes place at this exact moment’ - I want to keep it nebulous. But that time period is… growing on me.” 

As someone rather fond of the 70s, Patrick smiles. 

“Also, I swear my costume designer, Twyla Sands, was at Woodstock in another life, so it works out well in our favor.” 

Our.

Oh, Patrick doesn’t miss that. Going by the way David’s eyes widen, he doesn’t either. 

And then, because David looks like he’s about to spiral again, Patrick corrects, “Except Woodstock was technically the 60s.” 

O-kay -” David snaps, and Patrick grins. 

“Do you want me to read something?” he asks, halting whatever adorably indignant tirade David was winding himself up for. 

“Read something?” 

“Yeah, like part of the script. You clearly know my music, but you said you wanted me to star - ” Unless Patrick misunderstood the last ten minutes. 

“We don’t have a reader for you,” David interrupts, sounding… well. 'Shell-shocked' wouldn’t be an overstatement. 

“A reader?” 

“A scene partner. Someone who reads with you during an audition.”

Patrick scratches the back of his neck, feeling his skin flush. “Well, it’s Shakespeare. Pretty sure he’s got a monologue or two in there. If not, I might be able to remember something from my university production of Macbeth, but it was over a decade ago, so go easy.” 

David is staring at him. 

David won’t stop staring at him. 

Did Patrick misunderstand the last ten minutes? 

“You have a Grammy,” David finally states bluntly. 

Patrick shrugs. “And you have a Tony.” He’s not sure where David’s going with this. 

“That I won when I was 26 before anyone knew any better.” 

“A Grammy doesn’t mean that I know how to do Shakespeare, David.” 

“You did Shakespeare in college!” 

“Do it well, then,” Patrick amends. “Do it justice.” 

David honestly looks a little like Patrick just broke his brain. “Going into business with me doesn’t usually go well for people,” he admits, and Patrick huffs out a laugh.

“Do you always start pitch meetings like this?” 

“I’ve honestly never had a pitch meeting like this, so I’m kind of freaking out,” David practically squawks, fanning at his face.

Patrick smiles and leans forward, clasping his hands together so he doesn't reach for David's bouncing knee, because he knows that there’s no way David could talk him out of this. Whatever questions David asks, Patrick’s answer is probably always going to be yes. 

“David, I know this is a big deal for you. It’s a big deal for me, too. And I also know that you’ve never seen me do something like this.” 

“And you just - happen to have a Hamlet soliloquy memorized,” he says, his doubt apparent. “Prepared.” 

“No, but it doesn’t mean I can’t look it up and do it on the fly.” Can he? He’ll burn that bridge when he comes to it. 

“Okay,” David laughs, “You’re either very impatient or extremely sure of yourself.” 

Patrick grins again. “Threw you a bit of a changeup there.” 

“I don’t know what that means.” 

Oh, this is going to be fun. 

“Tell you what,” he starts, “how about you give me a couple of days and then let me play some stuff I’ve mocked up for you. I’ll read whatever you want. And we can take it from there.” 

Take it from there, David mouths. “Okay,” he eventually breathes. 

“Okay,” Patrick repeats. Then he picks his sandwich back up and leans his elbows on his knees. “Now tell me about You’ve Got Mail.” 

David blinks for a moment at the abrupt turn in conversation, before biting his lips and lifting his chin. “Mkay, well, the future of our potential working relationship might hinge on the answer to this next question…” 

And Patrick is mildly affronted that David seems to brace himself for disappointment.

“Do you know who Nora Ephron is?” 

Patrick laughs. “If you think my mother allowed me to move out of the house without having experienced When Harry Met Sally, then you don’t know Marcy Brewer.” Which is a stupid thing to say, because of course David doesn’t know her. 

“Well, I look forward to it then,” David replies, and… okay then. 

They lose an hour talking about bouquets of sharpened pencils and the lost art of the letter, and Patrick spends that time coloring in the outline of David Rose that he’s had in his head since the first Rose Video holiday card was pinned up on the staff room bulletin board. 

They finish their lunch, and Patrick says a long goodbye full of promise while David assures him he’ll text to set up another meeting.

It doesn’t occur to him until long after the door shuts that he never gave David his number. 

🎭 🎭 🎭

Keeping his baseball hat on inside a restaurant goes against everything Clint Brewer taught him, but if it means he can enjoy his beer in peace, Patrick’s willing to go against social etiquette for an evening. 

The bar is not one he’s been to before, which Ivan is less than thrilled with, but it’s small and cozy, which makes it easy to scope out but less easy to hide in. He and Ray have been set up in a side room that looks like it’s outside - there’s a tree and everything - but the roof is a massive skylight, protecting those below from the actual elements. A member of the wait staff is setting up a small bar in the corner for a private party coming in later that night. Patrick honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it’s for the show he’s about to see. 

The Breakfast Club is playing on the wall, and the sight of Molly Ringwald cozying up to Judd Nelson sparks something that’s been lingering in the back of his brain. He’s still not sure why. He glances at Ray across the table, interrupting his treatise on the underappreciated use of the percontation point, which is rich coming from someone who constantly answers rhetorical questions. 

“Have you seen You’ve Got Mail?” 

Ray’s eyes light up. “I have. It’s one of my favorite Meg Ryan vehicles. Though I’m partial to Tom Hanks in The Terminal.” 

Patrick nods. It wouldn’t be his top choice, but to each his own. He’s personally always preferred Apollo 13.  

“Why do you ask?” Ray continues. “Would you like to watch it?” 

Well, Patrick would. But not necessarily with his agent. “Someone brought it up to me today.” 

“Oh?” Ray asks, curious. Probably because Ray knows that the only person Patrick talked to today that wasn’t a member of his own team was David Rose. 

Patrick makes what he hopes is a disinterested noise, and it must be an intervention from some higher power that keeps Ray from pushing the subject further. 

“If you’re finished, I’m going to go pick up the tickets,” he says, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “The company manager knows to meet you and Ivan outside the doors just before 7pm.” 

Patrick nods and gestures for the check as Ray stands and buttons his too-large sport coat before departing. Ivan slips into his vacated seat and turns his chair so he can still see all of the exits. 

“You know I don’t mind if you join us,” Patrick says with a chuckle, but Ivan just shakes his head. 

“You might talk business. It wouldn’t be appropriate.” 

“Ivan,” he admonishes with an eye roll before draining the rest of his beer. “You hear me talk business all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re holding onto more state secrets than the NSA.”

But Ivan merely gives him a pleased little smile, like he knows exactly what’s in Area 51 and who really killed Kennedy. 

“Sorry we couldn’t get you a ticket. We tried, but it’s a sold out house.” 

“It is more important that you and Mr. Butani see it. Besides, I do not like witches.”

Patrick snorts. There's a story there. 

They wait in the restaurant until the time on his phone reads 6:55pm. He’s halfway to standing when he catches sight of someone who looks remarkably like David slipping into the night followed by a woman with long, dark hair, but before he can be sure, the door swings shut behind them. 

“Are you all right, sir?” Ivan asks, frowning down at Patrick’s ridiculous crouched position. 

“Um, yeah. Thought I saw someone.” 

Ivan immediately whips around, looking for anyone that might give Patrick pause. 

“Not a threat, Ivan. Just a face. At ease.” 

But Ivan still cranes his neck, like a Bond villain is about to rappel from the ceiling.

At 6:57pm, they hustle out of the restaurant to find a young man shifting his weight back and forth on the sidewalk just outside of the theatre. Most of the patrons have already gone in, so it’s not hard to guess if this is the aforementioned company manager. 

“Mr. Brewer, welcome,” he says, voice trembling slightly. 

“Patrick, please,” he replies with a winning smile, hoping to put the poor kid at ease. 

“We’re so glad you could come.” 

“Well, thanks for getting me in on such short notice. I really appreciate it.” 

“We have you on the aisle so you can slip in and out easily. Um, I’ll show you where you can stand until the show starts,” the company manager says, leading them in through the now-empty lobby. 

Well, almost empty. 

By the box office, Ray is talking with a formidable woman who’s nodding at whatever it is Ray is saying. Then she glances over at Patrick, looking deeply unimpressed by his mere presence. He tries to smile, because everyone likes him, but she just huffs out a laugh and disappears up the stairs. 

“I do not think she's a fan.” 

“Thank you, Ivan,” Patrick grinds out as Ray approaches. “Um, who was that?” 

“Oh, that was Ronnie Lee, David Rose’s agent.” 

“That was his agent?” And thank God the lobby is empty because he definitely just yelled that out loud. 

“Yes, a delightful woman. Very good at her job.” 

“Uh huh.” Despite not trading a single word of conversation, ‘delightful’ is not the word Patrick would have chosen. 

The company manager leads them up the stairs where they wait just out of sight from the rest of the orchestra. 

“I’ll be right here,” Ivan whispers and Patrick nods, because he always is, but then the lights are dimming onstage, and the company manager is ushering them up the last few steps to their seats.  

Patrick leaves his cap on low because the theatre is small and any number of eyes could be watching. Sadly, it’s too dark to get a look at the Playbill, but he makes a note to find David’s bio on the car ride home. 

Thunder cracks, and Patrick jumps as he settles in for the ride. And what a ride it is. 

For one hour and 27 minutes, he’s transported from present day New York to 1692 Salem, but it’s unlike any Salem he’s ever seen. It’s a little bit punk, a lot angry. It’s smart and sharp and full of performances and ideas that deserved to last much longer than this night. 

At intermission, Ivan whisks him back to Bea, where the host had offered to let them hide until Act Two. He uses the restroom and drinks a glass of water, before heading back into the theatre just as the lights come down to be transported once again from 43rd Street to a meeting house filled with far too many ghosts. 

The cast is electric and their fury is palpable. If he and David can do half of what they’re accomplishing on that stage, Hamlet could be quite an achievement, indeed. 

By the time the curtain call comes around, Patrick feels wrung out, emotionally exhausted yet somehow fulfilled. That is the David Rose he knows. That is the David Rose theatre he’s always sought, no matter the city. No matter the year. No matter the cost. 

And how incredible would it be to finally be a part of it? 

Ray ushers them out of their seats far before Patrick is ready, but he’s right, they should go. The cast hasn’t even left the stage before he’s greeting Ivan in the stairwell and heading down towards the lobby. 

“Lena is waiting outside,” Ivan says, but Patrick looks down at the Playbill in his hand. 

“Wait, wait.” He stops dead just before the doors. 

“Patrick - ” Ray warns, because people are trickling down, but he can’t leave like this. He just - he needs to lay eyes on David. 

Ivan steps in front of Patrick, blocking him from the theatregoers beginning to exit. Patrick looks around for what feels like ages but then finally - 

There he is. 

Standing with the tight-mouth grimace of a man just trying to make it through the night. Patrick knows it well. 

Doesn’t make him any less beautiful. 

“Do you have a pen?” he finds himself asking no one in particular. 

“A pen?” 

“Yes, something to write with.” He has to do this quickly because his window of anonymity is rapidly closing, but before Ray can even reach for his coat pocket, Ivan is thrusting a ballpoint beneath Patrick’s nose. “Thanks,” he says, turning so he can write on the Playbill insert up against the wall. But then - 

What the hell to say? 

He closes his eyes and thinks of everything he saw on that stage; of everything he imagined that afternoon. He grips the pen and the words finally come, brief but genuine, and he folds up the paper and practically shoves it in Ray’s direction. 

“Can you give this to him?” 

“You don’t want to say hello?” Ray sounds utterly confused. 

“Early day tomorrow,” he hastily explains, and it’s not a lie, but it’s not the truth either. 

Because Patrick just wrote down something that came from the heart. And he can’t bear to watch David read it.

You made something special here.
Maybe we can do it again.
416-555-9763
-M. Hall