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When You’re Ready

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“Hey, Patrick?” David calls, his voice unintentionally wavering. It was partially due to having just ran up three flights of stairs, but mostly because of his fear escalating with every passing second of silence. He has been knocking persistently for the past two minutes, but wanting to protect his rings, he switches to planting his ear against the door. Patrick’s apartment remains quiet, which heightens David’s anxiety to a new degree.

His boyfriend was meeting with a potential supplier in Elm Valley today. While David offered to accompany him for the long drive, his boyfriend insisted that he stay at the store to avoid closing early. They were supposed to get dinner together at the Cafe when he got back, but he had been radio silent all afternoon.

Patrick constantly reminds David to have more trust in people and not assume the worse for every situation. He lovingly argues that without a leap of faith, David never would have taken a chance on a relationship with him, which often shuts David up whenever he goes on a flustered rant. Patrick’s encouragement fortunately allowed for great progress in this area. David loves the small, proud smile Patrick has whenever he exposes new layers he had never shown anyone before. But now that his safety blanket is the one in danger, terror replaces any foundation of security that’s been built.

Becoming impatient, David fumbles with his key and franticly enters the room. His heart sinks as he scans the apartment, its eerie stillness indicating Patrick was still not home. The windows cast dark shadows across the floor, making David bite his lip in worry. If Patrick had left that morning like he said he did, there is no way he wouldn’t be back by nighttime. Imagining the possible fate of his boyfriend further enforces the need for a distraction. David pulls out his phone in a fruitless attempt to call again, when he finally sees him.

At the foot of the couch in his living room sat Patrick, his legs pressed against his chest, arms desperately clenched around his shins. With his head resting back on the cushions, he squeezes his eyes shut and lets out a pained sigh, completely oblivious to the commotion David caused outside.

David exhales a breath of relief, but continues to pace by the door, unsure how to respond. The image of Patrick looking so...small, curled up on the floor sparks a settling of dread in David’s stomach. Usually, it was Patrick who is the secure one, ready at a moment’s notice to support David and provide him strength. Talking him through his panic attacks, listening to his angry rants about Alexis, offering techniques on how to make the store less stressful. Now that the roles are potentially switched, David undoubtedly knows he has some big shoes to full.

David cautiously approaches his boyfriend and joins him on the ground in front of the couch. The creaking of the floorboards beneath him causes Patrick to slightly flinch, his hands tightening their grip on his calves. David desperately wants to touch Patrick and hold him close, but his uncharacteristically closed-off appearance hints that it’s best to give him space. After a few seconds of quiet, David realizes Patrick needs to be prompted.

“Um, hi. Is everything ok?”

David fights the strong urge to smack himself on the head. Of course Patrick isn’t ok! His ever-present doting eyes had not made a single appearance, since he entered the apartment. Instead, he is avoiding eye contact all together, releasing his hands from his legs to press against his forehead.

“I’ll be ok”, Patrick offers hesitantly, cringing at his slight voice crack, “I’m just really drained from the trip and I sometimes get migraines when I’m driving for too long”.

David tries to hide his disbelief, but knows how unforgiving his expressions become when in distress. It seems highly unlikely that something as minuscule as carsickness could bring Patrick to this state. Racking his brain for any possible instigators, the only thought that comes to mind is an issue with the store.

“Did the meeting with the supplier go well? You seemed kind of nervous about it yesterday”.

Patrick tentatively lifts his head off the couch cushions, but doesn’t quite meet his gaze. He is intently fixed above David’s shoulders at the door behind him. Very rarely did Patrick get distracted while talking to David, always looking for new source material for playful teasing or soothing words to ease his nerves. There is a glint of desperation in his boyfriend’s eyes that David had never seen before. Maybe a little when Rachel came to Schitt’s Creek or after his “almost-date” with Ken, but never to this level.

This realization causes his heart to race, hands fidgeting at his side. David quickly catches himself and clenches his fists together, wincing as his nails dig into his palms. This is supposed to be about Patrick, David internally scolds, Stop making everything about you! Be the strong one for once in your life! Sensing his anxiety, Patrick removes one of his hands from his forehead and places it comfortingly on David’s knee. The gesture sparks a twinge of guilt, yet he can’t help but feel his heart melt; even when Patrick is obviously upset, he still made an attempt to make him feel safe. Patrick knew him so well: every nervous tic, every eye roll, every grin. He swears at times that his boyfriend can read his mind. What did David do to deserve him?

“Do you still want to head over to the Cafe for dinner? I can be ready in a few minutes”, Patrick asks unexpectedly, starting to retuck his dress shirt into his jeans and straighten his collar. David can only stare back at him in confusion.

“Patrick”, he begins carefully, “We were supposed to meet at the Cafe two hours ago. I’ve been trying to call you all night, but I guess...your phone was off?”

A pang of devastation clings to David’s chest, as he feels Patrick uncomfortably shift further away from him, his head dropping down to face his lap. He wants to lean in closer, but knows if Patrick rejects his effort, his heart might not be able to take it. He wasn’t use to this uncertainty, regarding intimacy. Usually, all movements with Patrick felt natural, deeply rooted in an mutual understanding of what the other wants in that moment. But this distance somehow feels like uncharted territory. Letting a few seconds ease the tension, David bravely closes the gap.

“Are you sure you don’t want to take about it?” David asks gently, rubbing his hand up and down Patrick’s forearm. He was unable to resist feeling Patrick any longer, and experiences minor relief when he feels his boyfriend slightly relax underneath his touch.

After five minutes of Patrick simply staring at the floor, David feels certain that he isn’t going to budge anytime soon. He desperately wants Patrick to open up, to feel vulnerable, have a shoulder to lean on, know someone is there for him. But, David knows he can’t force a moment. Patrick needs to feel ready, which he wholeheartedly respects. Preparing to drop the subject for another time, Patrick finally sighs and turns to face David.

“There is no supplier”, Patrick mumbles, barely audible.

The silence that follows is deafening. David removes his hold on Patrick, choosing instead to readjust the sleeves of his sweater. “Oh, um...ok” he manages, the words lingering awkwardly in the air. David wants to avoid the downward spiral this confession could cause him, but unfortunately knows it’s inevitable. Patrick never misses work, if it wasn’t for a business conference or meeting with potential vendors. A dark thought that David long ago dismissed makes a reappearance in the front of his mind: was being in a business and romantic relationship just...too much to handle?

The store has picked up a lot of traction over the past few months, and both of them had undoubtedly felt the shift. They started spending more time together at the store, greatly cutting into their personal lives. And with more work responsibilities, there are more decisions to be made, arguments to be had, tensions yet to be resolved. Patrick always gives off an air of confidence when it comes to business, mostly to compensate for David’s passionate, yet easily chaotic energy. But was it all a facade? Was the stress finally catching up to him after all?

“David, hey”, he hears a faint voice respond, “Everything’s alright. I’ll be ok. It’s not what you-“

David avoids eye contact with Patrick, but feels light fingertips attempt to stroke his palm, circling in a soothing pattern. Jerkingly pulling his hand away, David not only stuns Patrick, but also himself. Isn’t this what he wanted? To be comforted? Reassured? Now that Patrick had confessed something so major, it felt wrong to revert to a lovefest. David needs answers.

“So, if you weren’t at the store at all today, then where were you?” He asks, not recognizing the coldness in his voice. The words make himself shutter as they leave his mouth. Speaking up for himself is also a new skill David is learning to develop in this relationship. He was so used to letting his past partners dictate what he wanted, that he had to admit it was a relief to finally let go. Feel stable enough to stand his ground and know Patrick will always be willing to listen. But, maybe this moment was not the best time to assert his power. When David finally has the courage to face him, he is not prepared to meet the helplessness of Patrick’s sincere, brown eyes.

“Um, today was my... father’s retirement party”, Patrick says, clearing his throat before continuing, “My mom has been planning it for weeks and my whole, extended family was going drive there today to surprise him”.

David selfishly can’t help but feel a little relieved that Patrick is not concerned about their relationship, but the news still shocks him. He does not know a lot about his family, except that they’re very close and live a few hours away from Schitt’s Creek.This definitely sounds like something Patrick’s known about for a long time and was extremely important to him. Why would he keep this a secret?

“Patrick, you should have told me the truth. You didn’t have to make any excuses”, David returns his hand to Patrick’s back, rubbing in soft circles. “Obviously, your family comes first, and I would have been more than happy to drive with you there-”.

David feels Patrick slightly clench underneath, which causes his stomach to drop.

Oh. Oh.

“Patrick, do you not want your family to meet me?”

He instantly regrets the question, but the words ungratefully stumble out of his mouth before he has time to filter himself. The longer their relationship progresses, the greater the question weighs in his mind. Mostly due to proximity, Patrick has gotten to know the Rose family very well, almost too well for David’s liking. Patrick mentions his family quite infrequently, but he has seen him make a few Skype calls to his parents and sisters in the past. A twinge of guilt stabs David’s stomach, as he shifts uncomfortably on the floor. He should have asked Patrick about his family earlier and put forth more of an effort to get to know them.

David is about to relentlessly apologize, when two arms grasp around him, seeming to cling on for dear life. Patrick sinks his head into David’s shoulder, and he starts to feel the collar of his sweater become wet.

“I am so sorry”, a muffled Patrick whispers, his shoulders shaking, “I am so, so sorry”. David pulls him close and rests his chin gently on Patrick’s head. The choked sobs coming from Patrick leave David in shock. He’s never seen Patrick cry before. Maybe he’s gotten a little misty-eyed during a particularly emotional moment, but nothing more than a few tears. He finally comes to his senses and whispers reassurances in Patrick’s ear, before planting a gentle kiss in his hair.

As Patrick begins to pull away, David reaches for his boyfriend’s hands, but Patrick instead chooses to cup David’s face in his strong fingers. This gesture is one David is quite familiar with, but it never fails to ground him and dismiss all of his anxieties. At least for a little while.

“David”, he begins, his shaky voice still recovering, “I will never, ever be ashamed of you”.

The sincerity in Patrick’s voice makes it impossible for David to meet his firm gaze. There is no doubt in David’s mind that if he looks into Patrick’s eyes, the tenderness will nearly tear him apart. He finds relief in Patrick’s loving declaration, but he cannot help but let the nervous questions swirl in his head. Why didn’t Patrick want David to come with him? And why was he sorry? And most importantly, did David want to know why Patrick was sorry?

David anxiously waits for Patrick’s response, watching painfully as Patrick wipes his eyes on his shirt sleeve. He wants to give him time to collect himself, but the anticipation feels like it’s eating him from the inside out.

“I didn’t end up going. I was going to drive there this morning, but-” He looks nervously up at David, struggling to find the right words that won’t send David spinning, “-it wasn’t good timing”.

David nods like he understands, but something about what Patrick just said doesn’t sit right with him. He repeats the last part in his head over and over.

It wasn’t good timing. It wasn’t good timing. It wasn’t good timing.

Why would it have been a bad time to have a party for his dad? And then, the realization hits him all at once.

“Patrick, do your parents...know about us?”

The slight shake of Patrick’s head is enough to get David feeling teary-eyed. Here he was interrogating his boyfriend, when he should have been comforting him the minute he entered the apartment. What was wrong with him?

“You probably hate me”, Patrick breaks the silence, followed by an uneasy laugh. “I go off the map the entire day, leaving you to imagine the worst. Then, I keep this from you and-“

David interrupts him by taking hold of his hand. “Of course I don’t hate you, Patrick”. These words cause tension to leave Patrick’s shoulders, which makes David smile slightly. “Coming out is really difficult, especially to people you care about. I just wish we were on the same page”.

Patrick nods in agreement, returning the gentle squeeze David gave to his hand. He could tell by the way Patrick was biting his lip that he had more to say, so he returns an encouraging hand to Patrick’s back.

“I’ve been close to my family my whole life”, Patrick says, hugging his legs protectively to his chest, “But since moving here, I have barely seen them at all and they were beginning to sense that I was hiding something.Today would have been the perfect opportunity to tell them in person but...I just wasn’t ready yet. My mom has been texting and calling me all day to figure out where I was. I felt so guilty, so I turned off my phone a few hours ago. I am so sorry I worried you”.

David finds himself at a loss for words. It’s no secret that he’s not good at heart-to-hearts, constantly finding any escape route from expressing his feelings. Talking about his emotions does not come easy, but David knew how desperately Patrick needs him.

“Listen, I don’t really know what it’s like to have a great relationship with your parents growing up. My parents forgot my birthday this year, and they don’t even remember my sister’s middle name!” Patrick smirks at David’s attempt of humor, which makes his heart flutter. “Obviously, your mom and dad love you. I’m sure they would appreciate you telling them, but it is completely up to you. I would never want to pressure you into taking such a big step”.

Patrick rests his head on David’s shoulder, nestling into the crook of his neck. David finds comfort in their closeness. Now that they cleared the air, he noticed they were both breathing easier, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off their shoulders. It’s finally Patrick that breaks the silence.

“How did you come out to your family?”

The question takes him by surprize. No one has ever asked him that before. Even though he only dated girls leading up to high school, most people always assumed he liked guys as well, because of his flamboyant personality. It has been a long time since he thought about that night. Of course, it was uncomfortable, like most interactions were with his family. But also, kind of sweet and endearing.

“I never really came out per se”, David explains,”I was seventeen. Alexis was at a party, and I thought my parents were out of town. I had a boy over at our house. As a kissed him goodbye on our porch, of course my parents had to open the front door!”

He feels Patrick’s chest compress against him, in attempt to stifle a chuckle. When David turns to face him, a look of panic washes over Patrick’s face.

“Oh, David. I am so sorry. I shouldn’t be laughing. That’s so inappr-”

“No, no it’s fine!” David reassures quickly, “The conversation afterward was a little awkward, but my parents were more upset by the sneaking around, rather than the fact that it was with a guy. And Alexis was beyond excited, when she heard the news. At the time, it was probably because she lived for any high school gossip she could get her hands on. Nonetheless, she was supportive and that’s all that mattered to me in that moment”.

That last confession made Patrick smile, releasing his grip on his legs and moving his arms around David’s waist.

“Were you scared when your parents found out?”

Wow, David was not expecting this conversation tonight. He looks off to the side and thinks about it for a second.

“You know, I was a little. It’s not really like me to reveal personal things about myself. I’m not exactly an open book”.

Patrick covers his hand with his mouth, but can’t suppress his laughter this time.

“”But then, I realized it didn’t really matter. I mean it obviously matters because it’s an important thing about me, but it’s not a defining attribute, you know?”

A sense of understanding settles on Patrick’s face, as he nods slightly. Like his words confirmed something inside him that he’s been struggling with for years.

“This is the most important to me”, Patrick says gently, stroking up and down David’s arm, “I don’t want to mess this up”.

David looks down and sees Patrick playing with his rings, fingers intent on tracing the silver bands. This was a tactic David noticed Patrick used when he was feeling unsure, usually after exploring unfamiliar territory. He grasps his hand around Patrick’s and pulls it up to his mouth. He leaves a kiss on his knuckles, before meeting his eyes.

“There is absolutely no rush, Patrick. You tell them when your ready, and I’ll be here”.

Without hesitation, Patrick pulls him into a deep hug, his head sinking into David’s chest. He jumps a little bit in Patrick’s arms. After over a year with Patrick, gestures of affection still felt foreign to him. But they were always welcomed, as David tugs them closer.

“Is it bad that this is...kind of nice?” David asks, mouth pressed into Patrick’s shoulder.

His boyfriend slowly shifts back, flashing a look of uncertainty.

“No, no! I mean, it’s usually me who needs a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk me off a ledge. I just like that I can do the same for you”.

The grin that stretches across Patrick’s face makes David feel like he’s floating. How could just one smile make him feel so happy? It’s scary, really. It’s terrifying how much his life depends on that beautiful smile.

“I love you, David”.

“I love you, too”.

Patrick leans in to kiss David’s cheek, but instead of pulling back, he hovers close for a few seconds longer.

“ For the record,” Patrick whispers, lips brushing against his ear, “you will always be the messy one”.

David laughs, but quickly wrinkles his nose in disgust. “I don’t think messy is the word I chose to describe myself”.

“C’mon”, Patrick teases, as he pulls David off of the floor. David jokingingly resists, but eventually gives in and follows Patrick onto the couch. He crosses his legs, allowing Patrick to rest his head in his lap. Once they are settled, Patrick looks up at David and smiles sincerely.

“Thank you, David. For everything”.

David responds by running his hand through Patrick’s hair, smiling when Patrick lets out a content sigh.

After a few minutes, he feels Patrick’s breathing slow, his eyes finally fluttering shut. Watching Patrick sleep soundly gives David the peace of mind he needs to drift off himself. He smiles, as he rests his head on the cushion.

Everything is going to be just fine.