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The call came at exactly 7:30 pm on a Thursday. The calls always came at exactly 7:30 pm on a Thursday. When Dad was working at the reception, and Mom was busy with the Jazzagals, and Alexis had somehow convinced Stevie to join her in Twyla’s yoga class. David was always alone on a Thursday night. And the caller knew that.

David answered because he couldn’t not.

“Hello David.”

God, David had missed his voice. It had been six months already since David had heard it through anything but a phone.

“Hello Patrick.”

*

Looking back, David still couldn’t remember why he had decided to go to the Apothecary during his day off. He’s pretty sure he didn’t think anything about the store’s door being locked. David knew something about the need to have short coffee breaks during long working days. Had the “be right back” sign been on the door? David really couldn't remember. What he did remember was Patrick and the surprised expression on his face and the knife in his hand and the blood - oh so much blood - and… the lifeless body on the floor.

*

“How are you?”

“How do you think?” David was aware of the edge in his own voice but he couldn't stop himself.

David heard him sighing. Patrick was never half as subtle about it as he thought he was. “Do we have to do this every time, David?”

And how dare Patrick sound so reasonable? Like he was the mature one and David was just overreacting? Like usual?

“Mm. I think we have to, yes.”

A brief pause and then: “I’m sorry, David.”

“But are you? Are you sorry that you took someone's life? Several someones?” David urged him. He wasn’t even sure why he kept pushing, but there was something inside him, something angry and visceral, and it wanted to hurt others as well as David. “Or are you just sorry that I found out?”

David could hear Patrick breathe deeply, in and out. “What answer do you wanna hear?”

“Well, not this one.”

"Would you prefer…. Not to talk tonig-"

"No!” exclaimed David, suddenly worried that Patrick would hang up. “No I… It's fine."

*

"I'm sorry, what is this again?" asked David when, after a few months of dating, Patrick presented him a particular… gift?

"David," replied Patrick, with the quiet, exasperated tone he got when something was really important for him and David was being difficult.

It was a phone, but a really, old, ugly model - one that didn't even have a camera. David didn't know they still made these crimes against nature.

"Please keep it on you. For emergencies," Patrick said, and the look on his face was enough for David to obey. And to keep it a secret from anyone else.

*

“Where are you now?” asked David, his voice low.

“Why? Are you coming?” replied Patrick, smile clear in his voice.

“Maybe.” David could feel his heartbeat pulsing in his neck. “Or maybe I’ll tell the police.”

Patrick’s laughter was as warm as always. David couldn’t bear it.

“I’d like to see you try”, Patrick said, his voice low and intimate. Familiar. It was his flirting voice.

David’s chest hurt. It would be so easy to close his eyes and pretend. Pretend that everything was alright. Pretend that this was his Patrick.

David focused his gaze on the wall. He didn’t even trust himself to blink. This Patrick was dangerous.

“Maybe,” he tried. “Maybe if you. Talked with someone - ”

“David,” said Patrick, and it sounded like a warning.

But David had to. “A… professional -”

“Don’t try to fix me, David. I’m not broken.” This time Patrick's voice was cold and threatening. David didn't know this Patrick.

He thought about finding Patrick with bloody hands and a lifeless body at his feet.

"But. Killing people is..."

David never thought he could find Patrick's amused smile so menacing. "What, David? Incorrect?"

Well. David could argue that Patrick was at least a bit broken. He really had thought that David wouldn’t care about him killing people that neither of them knew or personally cared about, after all.

“I think I’m gonna hang up now.” David could hear the hurt in his own voice and he didn’t like it. “Goodnight, Patrick.”

“No! Please stay with me.” Patrick’s voice was urgent now. “David. Please. I just really miss talking to you.”

I miss that too, thought David. He desperately wanted to cry. He forced himself to breathe instead.

"Not so many good conversationalists to be found on the run?"

"Well, definitely none as handsome as you."

*

David had known, of course, about the people disappearing between Elmdale and Schitt's Creek. It wasn't really that he made an effort to keep up with the news but people seemed eager to talk about it everywhere he went. His mother in particular always went back and forth between believing nothing so crass as murder could ever happen to her or her family, and being certain she was the next target. So David knew, and he paid attention, and he worried. He worried about Alexis, and his mom, and Stevie. But men were disappearing too, so David worried about his dad, and himself, and Patrick. He worried about Patrick the most. Ironic, really.

*

"Do you even care about me?" David asked and immediately wished he could take it back.

"You know I do."

David tried to swallow, but his mouth was too dry. "Enough to stop? If I asked you to?"

The following silence was the answer David was expecting. He didn’t even know why he did this to himself.

“I don’t know anyone else who can make me feel this way,” Patrick finally said, voice strained and choked up, like when he really meant it.

“Patrick…”

“You’ve shown me what love can feel like.”

“Don’t you dare,” hissed David.

He sounded…so earnest. So sincere. He sounded like regular old Patrick. But that Patrick was a lie. Wasn’t he? David couldn’t tell anymore. He could feel himself slowly losing it.

*

"They found another one. A woman," David said, and when he didn't hear a response he looked up to find Patrick focused on his laptop. Probably busy with Rose Apothecary's finances or something. "Patrick!"

"What?"

"Another woman was found dead!"

"You shouldn't follow the crime report so obsessively, David. You're going to have nightmares," replied Patrick, distractedly.

"That's beside the point! I think I know her."

At that, Patrick stilled and finally looked at him. "What did you say?"

"I think she was in our store! Like, a couple of weeks ago?" David pushed his phone under Patrick's nose. "Look! She was the one that 'didn't really approve' of our 'lifestyle,'" said David, making sure to use air quotes while repeating the woman’s words.

David remembered Patrick’s tense expression and the way he had ground his jaw to keep himself in check while that woman was in their store. The same way he was grinding his jaw right now.

A few moments passed while Patrick looked at the woman’s picture before his gaze met David’s again. His expression was blank, relaxed.

“I don’t remember her,” he said at last.

*

“Please, David”, Patrick was saying now. “Say something.”

David remembered Patrick begging that night as well, in much the same tone.

“Please, David. When I’m with you, I’m home. I don't want to leave you behind.”

David hadn't answered, could only stand silent as his emotions warred inside of him.

In the end, Patrick had asked for something before running away. And David hadn’t been able to deny him.

“Can I kiss you?”

David took a big breath, shaking off the memory to focus on the conversation at hand. Maybe he was just as broken as Patrick.

“David.”

“I wouldn’t change a thing about you,” David finally said, and he meant it.

*

“Are you hurt?” David asked, which in retrospect had been a really stupid question, because Patrick wasn’t the one lying still on the floor, but - the blood. It was everywhere. It was on Patrick.

David had frantically tried to check Patrick for wounds, becoming increasingly more annoyed that Patrick wouldn't just, just-

“Would you just hold still?” David finally exclaimed. Or, he thought he did, but his voice cracked halfway through.

Patrick let go of the knife to take hold of David's hands. Only then did David realize he was trembling.

*

Cradling the phone against his shoulder, David looked around the room. He noticed Alexis’ Dolce & Gabbana suitcase, open and half full of clothes. She had never quite mastered the art of tidying up. David’s own suitcase was in its rightful place beside the wardrobe.

"Do you know what ciao means?"

David could tell that he had taken Patrick by surprise.

"Uh… it means hello?"

"And also goodbye."

David heard Patrick’s painful little gasp. He thought it was a genuine reaction. But then, how would he know? Was David even able to know what was real anymore? Did he even care to?

David thought back to that night, yet again.

"I've got you," Patrick said, and held him so very gently, more concerned with David's rising panic attack than the body lying at their feet. And even, then, with the scent of blood heavy in the air, the slick of it warm on Patrick's body, David was comforted by Patrick's care.

David’s gaze focused back on his suitcase. Unlike Alexis, he was able to tidily fit a generous part of his belongings in it.

"But it can also mean see you later," he said, getting up from the bed and walking toward his wardrobe.

"Oh, David…"

"Ciao*, Patrick", said David as he hung up.

Almost immediately, the phone buzzed. Without even opening the text message, David was sure that Patrick had just sent him a location. David still knew him enough for that, at least.