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If the Silence Takes You

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No one would expect a famed cat burglar in Schitt's Creek. There was nothing worth burgling in Schitt's Creek and if he tried to sell something barely worth it, someone would say, "Oh, hey, that's Ronnie's mitre saw, why do you have it?"

No one would ever expect a famed cat burglar in Schitt's Creek, which seemed like a genius plan until he got there.

* Problem one: he stuck out like a sore thumb. No one in this town even moisturized properly, let alone respected the power of a good sweater.

* Problem two: there wasn't so much as a nail salon any closer than Elm Valley, the nearest travesty calling itself a spa was even further, and, thanks to circumstances he had no wish to dwell on, he didn't have a car he would trust for more than two blocks.

* Problem three: he had no income. See "no one would ever expect a famed cat burglar in Schitt's Creek." He'd stolen jewelry that could buy all of downtown; at the moment, he was holed up in a terrible motel because the manager owed him a favor and, for some reason, tolerated his presence.

"Look. David. Cut it the fuck out," Stevie said. (Tolerating his presence may have slightly overstated the matter.) "I get that you need something to do, but planning my wardrobe is not doing either of us any favors."

He eyed her clothes in speculation. "If you'd just try-"

"Why don't you go into business as a locksmith?"

He glared. "Low profile. Also I can't fix a lock."

"Fashion consultant to someone who isn't me?"

"Here? My blood pressure couldn't handle it. I thought the Canadian tuxedo was a joke no one would ever wear."

"And your first client would murder you."

"I'm only here until I figure out what happened. I have next steps. I just don't know what they are yet."

"If you want to figure out what happened-"

"I don't need your help."

"Don't you need to actually, like, talk about what happened? Or at least think about it?"

"I'm sure there's another way."

"Right, that's it." Stevie stuck a hand into the side of the sofa, between the arm and the cushion. Her arm went in up to the bicep, David honestly couldn't figure out where. She extracted a bottle. David gasped.

"You've been holding out on me!"

"Of course I've been holding out on you! If I hadn't, you'd be dead and I wouldn't have any goldschlager."

David humphed and made a huffy gimme-hand for the bottle.

"Don't spill," she said, as his long reach wobbled a bit. He took a deep swallow and was pretty sure his face actually rotated a few degrees on his skull with the force of his grimace. Goldschlager was not his poison of choice, to say the least. Stevie took the bottle back and drank without looking away from him. He felt the heat of alcohol rise from his belly up to his scalp. When he felt like his ears were a bit tipsy, she nodded to herself. "Alright, now spill."

 

It had to be Agent Brewer, but at the same time, he couldn't picture Brewer—his Patrick, his short, straight, straight-arrow nemesis—having the resources or the cold-blooded insight to hit him as he had. He and Brewer were dance partners, circling around the places where they touched, always in tension and never getting too close. There was the time Brewer orchestrated the trap at the Met Gala and David barely walked out a free man (on the arm of a director whose attire outshone his). But Brewer--

"It all changed when I visited Brewer's apartment," he said.

"When you what? Why? Isn't he, like, RCMP?"

David shrugged. "I did my homework. I got in and out clean. But I-"

He could still smell that room, although he didn't have good words for the smells. Pine needles without Christmas trees, but secular pine needles that demanded no ornament, that made his secular Jewish self feel somehow welcome in a place he was not welcome at all.

He had seen, to some extent, what he expected. The apartment of a hard-working, serious man. The shelves upon shelves of books and the e-reader left on the breakfast table, evidence of the intelligence he'd come to know. The photo beside the laptop of a beautiful woman, smiling in flannel. The hiking boots by the front door, mud still caked on the soles. The staid blues and grays of the Target brand decor. The bed, with the covers pulled up but not properly made. Nothing tidy, nothing messy. Just a resting place. And yet, in extracting the files he came for, he had accidentally applied the part of himself that focused on his targets to someone he cared far more about than any target, and found himself more closely acquainted with Agent Brewer than he had ever wished to be.

"I left him a drawing." It was probably the stupidest thing he had ever done. He'd tucked it into the manila envelope from which he'd removed several other sheets. He dearly wished it could have been safe to leave a camera in one of those corners, to see Brewer's face when he discovered the change.

Stevie had started out with her chin leaning on the heel of her hand, but her hand had slid up at some point and was now braced under her cheekbone, while her fingers covered the one eye. She didn't have to say a word.

"After that-" It was as if he'd leaned in for a kiss in the middle of a dance lesson. Brewer no longer appeared in person at sites David was casing. No more snide comments sneaked into press statements. David maintained that he didn't care, but it had been unsettling all the same. He didn't have anyone else telling him jokes, then. "After that, Sebastien got audited. Well, two years later. But it felt connected."

Stevie's face was still tilted down, so when she looked up at him, her eyes were sarcastically wide.

"So after a thousand near-misses lying flat in attics and squirming out windows, they took me down with a very polite woman in a suit who only ever talked face-to-face with my bank." He took another swig of goldschlager. "I hope it was just a coincidence."

"Seriously?"

"I always assumed if anyone caught me, it would be Brewer. It's just wrong for it to be some accountant."

 

A week later, Stevie kicked him out of the motel. Not permanently, but she declared she needed space to be loud and have sex, and he could either have loud sex or leave for eight hours while she found other company for the day. This was effective only because they were living together. Under any other circumstances he would have stayed in, but living with a sex partner was too close to having a relationship. As much as he wanted that, David also panicked, and here he was, letting himself casually into a closed-up general store with a paperclip and a pocketknife.

Not to steal anything. There was nothing worth taking, here. Just old empty fixtures and cobwebs. He just needed a place that was his and his earliest memories of safety were of breaking into places no one else went. He felt better as soon as the door swung closed behind him. The windows weren't boarded, and there was a bit of foot traffic, but it was a sunny day and the interior was dark enough he wasn't over-worried about being seen, as long as he didn't move around too much. He sat on an empty shipping crate in the back room and tried to come up with a plan to get out of Schitt's Creek.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when a key turned in the lock. He froze in place, because running out the back door would confirm that someone was in here to start with, and he couldn't guarantee he wouldn't be seen leaving. Easier to tell most of the truth and say the door was unlocked, and he wanted a place to think, if whoever it was even came back here and found him.

The door opened, the door closed, and he heard the snkt! of the deadbolt sliding back into place. He breathed softly, ready to pretend to wake up from a nap. Three steps on the floor in the front room. And then an impossible voice.

"Sebastien?"

He took a deep breath rather than act on reflex. If he panicked, with Agent Brewer in town, he was going to end up somewhere even less comfortable than Stevie's spare room.

"No, sorry," he said. He stood up, stepped to the doorway, dusted his slacks with his hands to show just how unconcerned he was.

Agent Patrick Brewer, here. They'd never met in the flesh but David had memorized his face from stolen security footage and photographs. Cropped red hair. Boy-next-door charm. Jeans and a blue button-up rather than a suit, interesting choice, but then he was probably undercover. Or on vacation. Why was he here, asking for Sebastien? David had never had his own image captured, at least up to when he'd stolen his file. There had been several memos requesting progress on getting his picture. His heart was racing and not in the good way it sped up to help him get out of trouble. He took another deep breath.

And noticed Brewer hadn't said anything either. The agent was just standing there, looking at him, eyes a bit wide. "Sebastien?" he said again. Something in the tone of voice, something about this screamed at David's instincts, but he didn't dare try to track down what it was while he had to banter for his life.

"I'm sorry, I don't know who that is," David lied. "I'm David Rose." He held out his hand as if this was a business meeting, then realized how strange that was as Brewer's breathing sped up. But the other man stepped forward.

"Brewer," he said, as their hands touched. "Patrick Brewer." A firm squeeze, no hint of macho posturing there, a sudden release. Disgusted? Awkward?

David was beginning to feel sick to his stomach as the implications stacked up. He was not free. There was no next step. "What brings you to Schitt's Creek, Mr. Brewer? Who's Sebastien?"

"The famed cat burglar, Sebastien Raine. I tracked him here, and here you are." Brewer's eyes flicked down David's body—taking in his sweater, his slacks, his shoes—and back up. "What are you doing alone in a locked empty store, Mr.- Mr. Rose?"

That's what his instincts had been trying to tell him. Sebastien, Brewer had called him, not Raine. He was apparently on first-name terms with a cover identity, in his own head at least.

"I'm thinking about buying it," David said, because the truth was intolerable now.

Brewer blinked at him. "You're thinking about buying it."

"Can't you see the potential in the space?" He looked around, because if he was going to have any chance of selling this bullshit with his brains as scrambled as Brewer had them, he was going to have to sell himself on the idea, too.

"I can't see you running a general store."

"Oh, not a general store," David said, scrambling for what the fuck kind of business he could possibly be qualified to operate. "A very specific store. Offering only the finest merchandise."

"Right. Only the finest. What kind of merchandise did you say?"

"How long have you spent in Schitt's Creek?"

"You're avoiding the question."

"No, I'm asking if you've noticed the, well, the absence of certain luxury goods here. Like, any luxury goods at all. Or anything a self-respecting person would consider using for skin care." He slipped, finally, finally, into the zone. He could feel the bits of the plan sliding into place.

"Interesting. I'd be curious to see your business plan."

"My what?"

"Business plan? The basic document an entrepreneur writes up to show to potential investors?"

It was David's turn to blink. "I haven't written one. But thank you, I'll Google how to."

Brewer tipped his head to the side. "What did you say your name was, again?"

"David. David Rose." So profound a truth shouldn't feel like a lie, surely.

"Do you want to go out to lunch? I'll help you draft your business plan."

"I appreciate the offer, but-"

"It'll be good practice for me. I went back to school for accounting a couple years ago, and I haven't had much experience. If your business takes off, I’ll get to use you as a reference."

David had a moment of vertigo, looking into that guileless face. He'd never understood that pebble-dropping metaphor, but he had the simultaneous sensation of being in free fall and being completely stable. "You're an accountant."

Brewer shrugged. "I needed a career change."

David's mouth went dry. "What did you do before?"

Brewer stepped forward, and David couldn't step back. "Did you ever have that feeling that your life was humming along like a top and then it hit a bit of lint or something and wobbled all over the table in crazy zigzags? And then suddenly it just--stopped, like a puzzle piece falling into place?"

"I'm having a very hard time picturing this top."

"I didn't know what you looked like. I heard your voice once, you know."

"You did? We've never met-"

"Through a wire. You found it five minutes too late."

"I don't-"

Brewer put a hand on David's wrist, not a grasp like a cuff, just the calluses of his fingers against the knob of bone. "You destroyed the life I had," he said, quietly. "I had to destroy yours to feel- to feel-"

"Even?"

"Absolved? I couldn't let you walk away with your ill-gotten gains-"

"Did you just use the words 'ill-gotten gains' in a serious sentence?"

"But I thought- maybe if you didn't keep the money-"

David kissed him before he thought through what he was doing. He'd kissed so many people, it was an easy pattern to fall into when the conversation became intolerable. Brewer froze on a tiny gasp that might as well have been a fist closing around David's guts, but when David backed off, Brewer grabbed him and shoved him up against the nearest display case. The metal edge on the glass was sharp against David's thighs, Brewer's hands were ruining his hair and he didn't have the breath to protest because they were kissing savagely.

If they were doing this, and apparently they were, then David wanted control. He tried to shove a knee between Brewer's but, apparently, federal agents got some kind of hand-to-hand combat training, because what actually happened was that he ended up flipped over with his cheek to the glass and Brewer's teeth in the muscle between his shoulder and his neck. He cursed a blue streak but didn't want to risk breaking the glass by putting up a real fight and the pressure of Brewer's erection against his ass promised good things. He squirmed and Brewer made a noise that was probably "fuck" but with his mouth full, and just as he was discovering that the metal edge meant he had fuck all to grind against, it all stopped. Brewer straightened up and took a couple steps back.

David reluctantly pushed himself upright too, checking his hair and cringing at what he felt. When he could stand to look, he saw that Brewer was blushing red, still staring at him, and still hard, but not moving to continue. David swallowed. "Right, then. This is where you say you don't know what came over you and duck out, right?"

"I don't know what I'm doing," Brewer said.

"Well, we were ramping up to a pretty satisfying hatefuck, but if you had other plans-"

"No!" Brewer looked like he was trying to shrink himself, shoulders pulled down in a position David's mother would never have approved, even his lips (red, wet) compressed. "No, I mean, I haven't- I don't- You probably know-"

David could actually feel his heart crack. That, or it was a coronary from all the stress and emotional flip-flopping. "Agent Brewer," he said.

"Patrick. I quit that job."

"Patrick, I would greatly enjoy teaching you."