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Happy in a Million Ways

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Patrick walked in the front door, placed his keys and bag on the side table and toed off his shoes. As he wandered through the house towards the kitchen, he peered into the living room and dining room looking for his husband.

It had been a relatively quiet day at the store, one that he had worked alone, David having spent most of the day at home going over research of the newest vendors in their region. He was hoping to bring in some new holiday themed items to the Apothecary this year and had taken the day, a relatively normal Wednesday in the middle of November, to finalize his list.

Finding the house quiet and empty, Patrick made his way into the kitchen, where David stood, leaning against the island, looking at a cookbook.

“Uh…what’s up?” Patrick paused in the doorway. There was a myriad of scenarios he expected to find David in over the course of their marriage. Staring at a cook book wasn’t even in the top 100.

“I wanna cook.” David barely raised his head, continuing to flip through the book.

“You can make take-out.”

David lifted his head to roll his eyes at Patrick. “No. I want to cook. I wanna do Thanksgiving.”

“Okay, well Thanksgiving was last month. Remember? You got mad at Stevie for being out of town, refused to talk to your parents on FaceTime and spent most of the day drunkenly reorganizing your knits. Which you blamed me for the next day when you discovered they were out of order.” Patrick smirked, leaning his elbows on the island across from David.

David stared at Patrick for a moment contemplating the best way to argue these unfortunately true facts. Instead he shook his head and chose to ignore them. “That was Canadian Thanksgiving.”

“As opposed to…”

“American Thanksgiving. Which is next week. And I want to cook.”

“David. Love of my life. Husband of mine. You burn water.”

David scoffed, pushing back from the island. “That was one time!”

“Yes. And you haven’t attempted to cook since. There’s a lot that goes into a Thanksgiving dinner. And honestly, we’ve been in the house less than a month. I don’t particularly want to burn it down already.” The smirk on Patrick’s face needled the point home.

“I know you think you’re funny.” He cocked his head to the side. “But you’re not.” He moved to a drawer behind him and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. “And I’m making Thanksgiving dinner.”

Patrick nodded as David leaned back down on the island and began making a menu, flipping through the cook book once again. Patrick walked over to the other side of the island, and pulled open the drawer next to David. He pulled out the take-out menu for their favorite pizza place in Elmdale and placed it on the counter next to David.

He heard David’s exclaimed “Rude!” as he walked down the hall and up the stairs, in search of a shower.

 

*****

 

Sunday and Monday were always their days off at the store. During the spring and summer months Patrick usually spent them doing various outdoor activities; hiking, baseball, anything he could. But during the colder winter months, Sundays and Mondays became quiet days where he enjoyed being curled up with David, reading, watching movies, just being. Barely two months into their marriage these days had becoming quiet days of movies, naps, and a lot of sex. So Patrick was shocked when David suddenly appeared behind him in the living room, fully dressed and shrugging on a coat.

“I’m going to the store. Do we need anything?”

Patrick sat up from his slightly slouched position and turned to face his husband, a confused look in his eyes. Placing his tea mug down on their coffee table he turned further, sliding a knee up on the couch so he could look fully at David. “Our store?”

“No. The grocery store.”

Patrick blinked at him. “I stopped by the store yesterday on my way home. Did I forget something?”

“No.” David began buttoning the wool coat around his sweater.

“So then why…”

“I need to get all the stuff for Thursday.”

“For Thursday.”

“Yes.”

“David.”

David ignored Patrick’s concerned tone and moved to grab the keys from the side table by the door. “I have my phone, so if you think of anything just text me.” He turned on his heel and walked out the door. Patrick was still staring, dumbstruck, at the front door as he heard the car turn over and David back out of the driveway.

Patrick stood and walked into the kitchen. He placed his tea mug into the sink and turned around to the island, the cook book David had been looking at sat open next to the range. Little post-it flags were sticking out of several pages. He flipped the pages, looking through the different dishes that David had picked out. Roasted Brussel sprouts with garlic and herbs. Creamy mashed potatoes. Parker House rolls.

Patrick didn’t have words. He looked at the recipes. For the most part they were pretty basic, straightforward, simple. Anyone with rudimentary cooking skills wouldn’t have any issues with them. But David. Patrick loved David more than anything, but there was a reason Patrick or the Café did the majority of their cooking.

He moved to turn away, closing the book, when a piece of paper fluttered out. He caught it before it fell to the floor. On it was David’s planned menu. He smiled as he looked at his husband’s careful handwriting. Turkey (mb recipe), mashed potatoes (cb), Brussel sprouts (cb), rolls, stuffing (Mrs. Cubbie’s), cranberry sauces (can), wine (SB), green beans (cb), pecan pie (mb recipe). He looked at the notes beside each dish, trying to decipher David’s code. Up in the corner of the page were three names; David, Patrick, Stevie.

Patrick smiled, knowing that David would of course invite Stevie. At this point she was David’s sister in everything but name.  The SB next to the wine suddenly made sense. You really couldn’t count on properly prepared food from Stevie. But wine? Wine she was always good for. Glancing back at the cook book he knew the little cb’s indicated those were the dishes that had little tags sticking out of the book. But there were two listed as mb recipe that Patrick couldn’t figure out. He stood there, staring for a moment before it dawned on him. He pulled out his phone and dialed quickly.

“Hi, sweet boy.”

“Hi Mom.” Patrick smiled into the phone. Even as a man in his 30s Patrick couldn’t help smiling at the pet name his mother had been using since day one. “I have a question.”

“Go for it.”

“Are you helping David plan Thanksgiving?”

Marcy laughed on the other end of the line. “Yes. And he told me you are being very negative about the whole thing.”

“Did David divulge into his experience cooking or…”

“He did. And I’m on standby for panic phone calls.” Patrick laughed. Of course she was. “He seems very excited by this whole thing.”

“Mmmm. He gets like that. I’m just worried he’s going to burn the house down.”

“Well why don’t you help him instead of complaining.”

“I’ve never made a Thanksgiving dinner, Mom. Not even close. We had Chinese last month.”

Marcy’s laughter rang through his ears. “It’s really not that hard, Patrick.”

“That’s easy for you to say.”

“Well…yes. But honestly just as long as he takes his time and follows the directions he should be fine.” Patrick hummed and nodded, despite knowing that Marcy couldn’t see him. “So put the snark away.”

Patrick rolled his eyes. “Okay, Mom.”

“And remind him he can call me at any time. And to leave the turkey in the fridge when he gets home today or else it won’t thaw. And that he can do the pie on Tuesday. And the potatoes on Wednesday and…You know what. I’ll just text him to call me when he gets home from the store.”

“How do you know he’s at the store?” Patrick’s eyebrows flew up.

“Because he called me 10 minutes ago with a question.” She paused and her voice sounded far away for a moment before coming back strong again. “Actually that’s him. Gotta go. Bye!”

Patrick laughed as his mother hung up on him to take a phone call from his husband. He blinked and looked around his kitchen. What on earth was happening?

 

*****

 

Patrick jogged out to the driveway when he heard David pull up. Meeting David around by the trunk, he helped him carry several grocery bags into the house, placing everything on top of the island. David shucked off his coat, hanging it over one of the chairs at the small table by the big bay window and began pulling everything out of the bags. Patrick watched as each item was placed in a certain grouping around the island. David obviously had a system.

Patrick studied David for a moment, continuously delighted at the way David always seems to surprise him. “Can I help?”

“No, thank you.” David’s voice was quiet. Patrick wasn’t sure if it’s from concentration or Patrick’s distinct lack of enthusiasm for the whole thing.

“Honestly, David. I want to help.”

David paused in his organizing, a bag of onions in his hand. “Okay. You can help by working alone on Thursday so I can do…all this.” He gestured with the onions to everything laying across the island. “Any by…you know, keeping comments to yourself.”

Patrick nodded. “Deal.” He moved around the island and placed a hand on David’s hip, leaning in to kiss him gently on the cheek. “I’m sorry.”

David hummed as he nodded, pulled out his phone and pulled up his text chain with Marcy. Patrick smiled softly as David scrolled through Marcy’s lengthy texts, obviously full of notes. “I’ll let you…” Patrick trailed off, motioning to the island. “Shout if you need help. Or the fire extinguisher.”

“Comments. To. Yourself!” David called after him as Patrick moved to the living room, collapsing onto the couch and searching for a Maple Leaf’s game on TV.

 

*****

 

David stood in the middle of his kitchen, a pen in his hand, a check list before him. The turkey had been in the oven for a few hours and so far, everything seemed to be going well. At least, nothing was burning yet, so David counted it as a win.

When they moved into the house David had been pleasantly surprised that the bathrooms and kitchen had been recently remodeled. It was one less thing on his list of changes that would have probably been needed. When he saw the double oven against the far wall, he doubted they would ever need it. Now, he had never been so thankful.

He leaned against the counter and went through everything again. The turkey wouldn’t be ready for at least another hour, and then was going to have to sit for a bit. He had instructed Patrick to be home by 6 on the dot so he could carve. Attempt to cook dinner, David was willing to do, but carve the turkey? That was going to be a hard pass. It was why David had a spouse, after all.

A crockpot, borrowed from Jocelyn, sat on the counter, where the potatoes were slowly reheating. They were a little lumpier than he wanted, but overall tasted good. Then again shoe leather would taste good with two sticks of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese. A sheet pan sat on the counter, the Brussel sprouts already cut and laying across them. Everything seemed to be under control. So why was he panicking?

He turned at the sound of his phone going off. David slid the accept button over the smiling picture of his husband and mother-in-law, relief blossoming across his face as the FaceTime call connected.

“How’s everything going?” Marcy’s smiling face met his.

“Okay. I think. Which makes me think disaster is about to strike.”

Marcy laughed softly. “I’m sure it’s fine. Show me where you’re at.”

David flipped the camera and so she could see the kitchen. He pointed to the sheet pan. “Those are ready to go in.”

“Covered in olive oil?”

“And salt and pepper. And I did that garlic smashing thing you told me about.” He indicated the slightly crushed cloves of garlic sprinkled around the pan. Marcy nodded approvingly. He moved over to the potatoes on the counter. “This is on low.”

“Just remember to keep stirring it. You don’t want them to get burnt on the bottom.” David startled, he hadn’t thought of that.

“Oh god.”

“It’ll be fine. Just stir.” He rushed over and pulled the lid off the crockpot, plunging a spoon into the mashed potatoes and stirred furiously. He could tell the bottom was getting a little crunchy but hoped it would blend into the rest and Patrick would never notice. Or at least have the decency to keep his comments to himself if he did.

“Okay. What about the turkey?”

David walked over to the oven and opened it, stepping back to let the steam dissipate before angling the phone in. “Seems to be okay. Its only at 145 though.”

“That’s okay. The temp will start to spike quickly in the last hour or so. Your pan’s looking at little dry though. Add some more stock to the bottom. It’ll help.”

David grabbed the chicken stock carton out of the fridge and poured more into the bottom of the pan, adding a big more at Marcy’s instruction. “You can use whatever’s left over to make gravy.”

“Oh my god. I didn’t even think about gravy.” David flipped the camera back to himself. “I don’t know how to do that!”

Marcy smiled softly. “It’s fine. I’ll text you directions. You already have everything for it, so don’t worry.”

David nodded. He was never so thankful for his in-laws as he was today. He couldn’t imagine trying to have this conversation with Moira. Despite her insistence that she knew what she was doing, Moira was completely helpless in the kitchen outside of making tea and opening a bottle of wine. Both skills David had mastered before puberty.

“How did your rolls come out?”

David looked sheepish for a moment before holding up a bag of take-and-bake rolls up by his face. “I chickened out.” Marcy laughed. “I also chickened out with the pie. I ran to Elmdale this morning and picked one up from the bakery we got our wedding cake from.”

Marcy smiled. “That’s okay. Maybe at Christmas we can do that together. That way your first time won’t be by yourself.”

David grinned back at her. “I’d like that.” He cleared the emotion out of his throat. “Okay, so I…what’s left?”

“Nothing! You’re on track! You put the stuffing in that little bag I told you to get, right?” David nodded. The idea of scooping stuffing out of the bird had grossed him out. The little cheesecloth bags Marcy had suggested had been genius. “And you pulled out the gizzards and neck before stuffing?”

David shuttered. “I had your son do that last night.” Marcy’s eyes crinkled in laughter. “That may have been the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“You get used to it.”

“No thank you.”

“I think you’re all set, David! Put the sprouts in about an hour before you want to eat. They’ll take about 45 minutes. I’ll send you gravy instructions. The rolls…”

“Instructions on the bag. Seems very easy.”

“Cranberry sauce?”

“I got the can stuff.”

“Perfect. Looks strange, but he’ll love it, trust me.” David nodded, eyeing the two cans of cranberry sauce, one whole and one jellied, on the counter.

“So, I’m…pretty much done?”

“Pretty much! What time are you planning on eating?”

“Stevie should be here any minute and then Patrick will be home at 6. So…6:15?”

“You’re right on schedule, sweetheart. I’m so proud of you! Everything looks great!” David beamed with pride.

“Thank you. For all your help.”

“Any time. I think we’re going to have fun at Christmas.” She grinned conspiratorially.

David thanked her again and hung up the phone, just as Stevie’s signature “Ding! Ding!” rang through the hallway as she opened their front door.

 

*****

 

“Okay. Are you ready?”

“No.”

“Well. Too bad. You wanted to do this so, brace yourself.”

Stevie stood next to the oven door, ready to open it as David stood before her, oven mitts on both of his hands. On the count of three she opened the oven door and stood back, watching as David pulled the turkey out of the oven, placing the roasting pan on top of the range on the island. She closed the oven door behind him and moved to stand next to him.

“It looks…”

“What!? Awful? Dry? Burnt!?” David’s voice rose with each word until Stevie was pretty sure almost no living creature could actually hear him.

“It looks great, actually. I… David I am seriously impressed. Everything looks really good. And edible.”

David stood back, nervously looking around the kitchen. “Yeah well…now I have to move this thing. There’s still time for me to screw it all up.”

“I don’t think so. I think…I think you actually pulled this off.”

David stood back and grabbed the two giant fork like instruments that were sitting on the island countertop next to the range. He inserted one into each end of the turkey, just as Marcy had suggested, and took a deep breath. Counting down from three in his head he lifted the turkey off the pan and began moving it over to the cutting board. His arms wobbled with the weight shift and he let out a panicked “ah!” before successfully placing the turkey down.

“Wow. That was kind of impressive.”

David pulled the utensils away from the turkey and covered it with tin foil. “Thank you.”

Pulling out his list of food and timelines, David placed a few more checks in boxes as he went down everything. “So. All I have left is the rolls, which only take like 10 minutes. And then to just – “ he gestured wildly around him, “plate everything.”

“Do you want me to open the wine?”

“No.” Stevie raised an eyebrow at him. “I…I’m too nervous. I can’t yet. I made a really big deal about this and if it’s all terrible…”

“It’s not.” Stevie regarded him for a moment. “What can I do? Set the table?”

David shook his head. “The dining room is all set.” He motioned towards the archway between the two rooms and Stevie wandered over to look.

She shouldn’t have been shocked, and yet. The room looked amazing. David had pulled out their wedding china, a tradition she was shocked at the time that he wanted to uphold, and had obviously stopped by and gotten the centerpiece earlier in the day. A beautiful bowl of dark purple, orange, and red flowers swirled together in the center of the table, bracketed by candles and their three place settings. It looked professionally staged.

Turning back to the kitchen, Stevie could only smile at the panicked look that flitted across David’s face as he moved around the kitchen, pulling out and placing the various serving dishes around the room, checking on the spouts as they roasted in the oven, placing the rolls on a pan, and pulling out the can opener for the cranberry sauce.

She never thought she’d miss him as much as she does when she leaves to go survey other motels. But standing now, in his kitchen, waiting for Patrick to come home… sometimes she wondered how she ever survived without his particular brand of chaos in her life.

 

*****

 

Patrick braced himself as he walked through the front door. He wasn’t sure what to expect. All day he had refrained from calling home, from texting, from checking in on David. He didn’t think David would actually burn the house down, but then again…

As Patrick toed off his shoes and walked further into the house, his eyes fell on the dining room table. Candles had been lit making the deep tones of the flowers in the center dance. He smiled softly to himself and continued towards the kitchen.

He stood in the doorway for a moment, watching as David and Stevie moved in tandem. They stood side by side at the island, David stirring something in a large pan over the range as Stevie spooned Brussel sprouts into a bowl. Neither of them had noticed his presence and he wasn’t about force it upon them. He was enjoying just watching, even if only for a moment.

David looked up, meeting Patrick’s eyes after a moment before a smile broke out on his face. “Hi honey. Happy Thanksgiving.”

 

*****

 

David collapsed into bed, pulling the covers high over his shoulder as he curled himself into Patrick as he lay reading. “I am never doing that again. I am so tired. Wake me when it’s Christmas.”

Patrick smirked, putting his book down as he wrapped an arm around David’s back, pulling him tight against his side. “Okay well, you do have to work tomorrow. So. That’s not an option. But I’ll open and you can come in at 10.”

David groaned and scooted further down into the mattress, resting his head on Patrick’s chest, flinging one of his arms so that it rested low across Patrick’s waist. “Noon.”

“10:30. Final offer.” David groaned in agreement and shifted, looking for the optimal comfort. “Hey.”

“Mmmmmm.”

“Hey.” Patrick shook David softly, forcing him to open his eyes and lean back slightly. “You did an amazing job today. Honestly. Everything was really good.”

“Thank you.” David’s voice was soft, his smile small. Sleep was edging deeper into his eyes. “No more jokes about burning water?”

“No more.” Patrick leaned down and placed a kiss on David’s forehead. “Though I do think this means you should definitely do more of the cooking.”

“Nuh-uh. Once a year.”

“Come on. It was all so good! Imagine what else you could learn how to make…”

David closed his eyes and burrowed back into Patrick’s chest. “Once a year.” He sighed and snuffled against Patrick. After a moment, Patrick was sure he had drifted off to sleep and moved to grab his book when David’s voice drifted up. It was heavy with sleep. “But I’ll think about it.”

Patrick grinned, reaching up for the light switch instead of his book before scrunching down into bed, holding tight to David. He had heard that before, and two days later outdoor wedding décor appeared on David’s mood boards.

He ran his fingers through David’s hair as he laid back and closed his eyes. The meal hadn’t been perfect. The potatoes were a little crunchy, the turkey was a little dry, and some of the sprouts were definitely on the burnt side. But Patrick still marveled at what David had done.

His beautiful, chaotic, monochromatic husband continued to surprise him. Patrick drifted off to sleep wondering what or who he had to thank for bringing this creature into his life.