There is a creek at the edge of town.
It stretches just under twenty-two feet across at its widest point and the water is a deep cerulean blue. It doesn’t roar so much as it trickles, and tucked as it is amongst a thick copse of trees, it really is rather scenic—despite its unfortunate name. Like any creek truly worth its salt, there’s a bridge just beyond the bend where you can cross from the town of Schitt’s Creek into Elmdale.
The bridge is not particularly fancy; it’s not suspended hundreds of feet above the water, with ornamental arches and marble statues adorning the entrance. Neither is it a rickety old thing, made of driftwood and frayed rope, ready to dump its pedestrians into the water at the first misstep. It’s just… a bridge: a simple structure made of stone, meant to supply the local townspeople with a way to cross the creek. It’s been there for years and is maintained just about as well as the rest of the town—which is to say, just well enough to function.
Yes, if not for the troll that lived beneath it, one might find that the bridge itself is hardly worth the mention.
~ ~ ~
In his old life, David Rose was known for being perpetually late—fashionably so, if you asked for his opinion. Occasionally he’d breeze into a client meeting mere minutes past the hour, but most often he showed up to a party or event closer to its end than its beginning, only to be asked to immediately settle a tab or fund someone’s drug habit. (You can understand, in part, why he’d hesitate to show up sooner).
Perhaps it was in his blood—his mother certainly had a habit of making her own time—and if not, it was definitely in his breeding. David didn’t operate on anyone else’s schedule but his own; with his family’s money, he never had to. He could afford almost anything, including wasting another person’s time.
But David doesn’t live in his old life anymore. He lives in Schitt’s Creek, where the only thing worth buying is a one-way ticket out of town. Of course, he can’t afford a one-way ticket out of town. He can’t afford anything anymore.
“You could get a job,” his dad says to him one day.
If anything proves how far David has fallen, it’s the fact that he’s forced to consider it. But what possible career opportunities could there be for him in Schitt’s Creek? As far as he knows, there’s not even an art gallery in any of the surrounding Elms, and the townies couldn’t drudge up any trends for David to forecast if they were pigs searching for truffles.
Does his dad expect him to work at the cafe with Twyla? Or, perish the thought, at the garage with Bob? Getting motor oil all over his clothing is not something he’s willing to entertain, and it’s a risk at either establishment.
David complains to Stevie, and as per the bylaws of their friendship, she teases him for a solid hour before pushing him towards a potential solution.
So that’s how David finds himself late, once again, to a job interview in Elmdale—only this time, it’s not his fault. He actually made an effort to wake up early and managed to only hit the snooze button twice before forcing himself out of bed. He cut his shower time down by five minutes and his skin care routine has been practically nonexistent since he ran out of his favorite products and Alexis refuses to let him borrow hers after the last time he “totally left finger prints in my eye cream, David!” He left the motel with plenty of time to make the walk to Elmdale at his preferred pace—fast enough to develop a healthy glow, but slow enough that the glow never turns into sweat.
David has done everything right and he feels almost proud of himself for taking this opportunity so seriously, much more seriously than anyone should take potential employment at The Blouse Barn , anyway.
He’s not even bothered by walking in the woods—it’s almost, dare he say, nice. David cringes the very second he thinks it, but it’s true. The air is cool and the scent of the trees reminds him of a cologne he once bought in Japan. Cedar.
He approaches the creek and sees a man leaning casually against the bridge entrance, as if waiting for someone. A lover, perhaps, in anticipation of a romp in the woods. As if David needed another reason to avoid contact with trees.
“Hey,” the man says, shifting his stance and angling himself towards David. David—damn his good mood—nods in acknowledgement. He's unsurprised when his meager attempt to be cordial isn't up to snuff; the people of Schitt's Creek tend to favor a more tyrannical type of friendliness—always pushing past propriety but wearing a smile all the while, as if Jocelyn Schitt has taught them all herself, which, considering her occupation, she probably has. The guy pushes himself off the pillar with practiced ease and approaches David. “I’ve got a question for you.”
“I’m not interested,” David says immediately. He discards his first impression; a tepid attempt at a sketchy sales pitch seems much more on brand for this guy than a quickie against a tree. “Pedal your wares to someone who can’t recognize a bad knock-off, okay? I lived in New York for years.” He tries to slide past him, but the man actually has the nerve to place his hand against David’s chest in an attempt to block him. The man is wearing a damn button-up—David didn’t exactly clock him as the violent type, but he’s been wrong before.
David flinches and, as if realizing what he’s done, the man lowers his hand and takes a step back. He looks embarrassed, maybe ashamed, and David takes the opportunity to push past him and make his way onto the bridge.
“Wait—” the man says, but David doesn’t look back. He should have ignored him the first time. His good mood is effectively gone now, and he’s self-aware enough to know that he doesn’t make the best first impression when he’s grumpy.
David trudges across the bridge, his frustration manifesting in heavy, almost violent footsteps. He keeps moving, afraid to be late, paranoid at the thought of being followed, quickening his pace as he goes along. He keeps moving, until he doesn’t—until he stops in the very center of the bridge, or rather is stopped for it is by no fault—or intention— of his own. It’s as if his feet are glued to the stone, as if he’s blocked by an invisible wall, as if someone has tied a rope around his center and has finally run out of slack. Though not quite , because he cannot turn back either.
David Rose is stuck.
He hears the patter of feet against the ground as someone approaches, and then the stranger is in front of him again. He puts his hand on David’s shoulder, a much less threatening gesture, but nevertheless unwanted. David scowls and the man smiles before lowering his hand.
“I told you,” he says, “You’ve got to answer a question.”
“You never said I had to do anything,” David bites back, the pitch of his voice climbing ever higher.
“If you’re that hung up on semantics I should clarify that it’s actually a riddle.”
“A riddle!” David knows he’s yelling now because he can hear his voice echoing down the bank and through the trees. “What are you,” he asks, “some kind of troll?”
“Actually—” the man smiles again, “—yes.”
It should be impossible for David to believe, but he’s been through so many life-altering changes lately that his penchant for shock has been thoroughly and dramatically beaten out of him. Why shouldn’t Schitt’s Creek have a troll living under its bridge? It’s hardly the strangest thing about the town. And—he tries to lift his leg, to move it any which way at all, and remains steadfastly in place—there's that.
“Um,” he says, tilting his head to the side, “I thought trolls were supposed to be hairier?”
David spent too much of his childhood absorbed in fiction, wishing he were anywhere other than where he actually was, so he is at least conceptually familiar with trolls, if not personally. They’re supposed to be hairy and ugly and rude and, so far, this man only seems to be one of those things.
The man—troll— laughs, and that sound echoes around David, too. “My predecessor certainly was.”
“Your predecessor? Is this, like… a job?”
“I wish.” The man rocks back on his heels, hands shoved into his pockets. He seems as if he’s mastered the art of casual charm, which bothers David on principle. “You can quit a job.”
“Right,” David says. “Well, if we don’t move this along I won’t ever have a job to quit, so. Let’s hear it. Your riddle, or whatever.” David gestures his hand wildly between them.
“Okay,” the man says, the corners of his mouth lifting and stretching wider and wider into a grin that David wishes repulsed him. Aren’t trolls supposed to have fangs? Or… tusks? “I’m Patrick, by the way.”
“David,” David says on instinct, rather than from any actual desire to introduce himself to this… person. Troll. Whatever.
“David.” Patrick says his name like he’s tasting it, rolling the flavor of it across his tongue and letting it fill his mouth. David wonders, briefly, if he likes it. “I play with bats by day but by night they are my enemy. What am I?”
David shakes his head, trying to make sense of the question. Bats? The pressure of his impending job interview makes him feel foggy. He’s already going to be late due to unforeseen circumstances and he’s never worked well under pressure. He swallows. “What if I can’t guess the answer?”
“Then I can’t let you cross,” Patrick says.
“So I’ll be stuck here forever?” David yells.
“No.” Patrick says, a smirk ghosting his lips. “Of course not. I’ll let you return to Schitt’s Creek, but I can’t let you into Elmdale.”
“But I need to be in Elmdale.”
“So… answer the riddle.”
“But I don’t know the answer!” David throws his hands up in exasperation.
“You haven’t even made a guess, David! Just take a crack at it!”
“I don’t know what that means! I don’t play cricket,” David says, doing his best to level his breathing. He will definitely start sweating if he has a panic attack.
Patrick laughs again, and David doesn’t want to be offended, but there’s a smugness to Patrick’s smile that makes him feel unsteady. “Cricket,” he says, swaying towards David just a fraction of an inch, “is actually the answer.”
“You’re kidding,” David says. Is he kidding? A thread of humor seems to lurk beneath everything he says, so David can’t be sure.
“See for yourself,” Patrick says, gesturing down the length of the bridge.
David wiggles his foot. It moves. He takes a tentative step forward, and then another, and another. The anxiety that had coiled tight in his gut snaps loose, and while he doesn’t jog the length of the bridge, he definitely speed-walks fast enough to break a sweat. He almost doesn’t care, so relieved is he to be free.
“Good luck!” Patrick calls.
The echo of his laughter follows David into the woods and sticks in the back of his mind all through his interview.
~ ~ ~
“I need a ride to work,” David says. He strides into the motel lobby and lets the door swing shut behind him.
“You got the job? Congrats,” Stevie says, barely glancing up from the computer. She clicks the mouse once, twice, and still doesn’t meet his eye.
“Thanks. I need a ride to work.”
“No,” Stevie says.
“There’s a troll under the bridge,” David explains, leaning against the front desk. “He’s very snippy.”
Stevie finally looks up. “You mean Patrick? I always thought he was nice.”
“You know him?”
“Of course,” she says, rolling her eyes. “What, did you think my ass was glued to this chair?”
“Of course not. We smoked at the picnic table yesterday,” David says. “I just thought maybe you were bound to the motel, like a ghost. Or a poltergeist.”
“A poltergeist,” Stevie says in her best impression of an out-of-tune instrument. “How flattering.” She bends down, disappearing behind the desk. She reappears a second later and places a stack of towels between them.
“Were those on the floor—” David says, grimacing.
“Hey David,” Stevie says, forced cheer in her voice, like a kindergarten teacher. “What gets wetter as it dries?”
“What?” David asks, out of confusion more so than curiosity.
“Towels,” she says, tossing two at David’s chest. “Here are yours.”
He flinches backwards, but manages to keep the towels from landing on the ground— again. He scowls, but Stevie blinks owlishly back at him, and he knows he won’t be able to win whatever game it is they’re playing right now.
“Does everyone in this forsaken town speak in riddles?” David asks.
“No, but you seem so thrilled by the prospect that I may just start.”
“Your hospitality is incredible,” he says, as he backs away and heads for the door, clutching his towels like they’re a shield against Stevie’s surliness. “Like… five star service, really. Thank you.”
~ ~ ~
Despite her protests, David does manage to weasel a ride or two (or four) out of Stevie, under the condition that he helps her deep-clean room three. It’s not an ideal arrangement for David, but… desperate times.
An entire week passes before he’s forced to see Patrick again.
“Good morning, David,” he says. “It’s nice to see you.”
He’s standing by the entrance to the bridge once again. His arms are crossed but his face is bright and open in a way that undercuts the inherent unfriendliness of the gesture.
“Yeah, I don’t think we need to make polite conversation every time. So…” David says. He crosses his arms, too, but fully intends for the gesture to communicate his disinterest. The second he does it, Patrick uncrosses his.
“Sure,” he says. “I’m tall when I’m young and short when I’m old, what am I?”
David tips his head back in frustration. “I don’t—isn’t there, like, another way to do this? Something simpler?”
“Okay,” Patrick says. “How about an easier one?”
“That would be great, thank you.”
“No problem, David.” Patrick smiles, shifts his stance, takes a breath. “What’s a tax write-off?”
David blinks. Caught off-guard, he stands silent for a moment. Then, he says, “I’m going to kill Stevie!”
“Yeah.” Patrick laughs. He looks down at his feet for a second before looking back up at David. “She came by the other day and we just got to talking. Congrats on getting the job, by the way. Exciting stuff.”
“I’m not going to thank you for insulting me.”
“Did I insult you, David? I’m just doing my job.”
“I thought you said this wasn’t a job. And I hardly think that counts as a riddle.”
“So you’re an expert on riddles now?” Patrick says. “I thought The Blouse Barn was a clothing shop, not a comedy club?”
“For your information, I dated John Mulaney while he was a writer on SNL , so I think I know more about comedy than you do. And—for the record—none of your riddles are particularly funny.”
Patrick crosses his arms again and leans back against the bridge. A silence settles between them, neither willing to concede to the other. But Patrick’s eyes are comically large and David begins to squirm under their attention.
“I know what a write-off is,” he finally says.
“Okay.” Patrick nods. He sweeps his hand in front of him, as if to make space for David’s answer.
“A write-off,” he says, hating that he’s about to quote his own father, “is a business expense used to reduce taxable income… I think.”
“That’s correct,” Patrick says. “I’m very impressed.”
“Uh huh. Can I go now?”
“Of course. Have a great day, David.”
David steps onto the bridge, but he’s only five paces away when he turns back around to say a quiet, “Thanks.”
~ ~ ~
To no one’s surprise but his own, David ends up being mortifyingly terrible at riddles. If he doesn’t stumble upon the answer by accident, Patrick leads him to it.
“I can crawl or I can fly. I have hands but neither legs nor wings. What am I?”
“I’m in a hurry today, Patrick,” David says, stepping onto the bridge. He doesn’t expect his dismissal to actually work, but he’s still enraged when he feels his feet lock in place.
“You know I can’t let you cross until you give me the answer.” Patrick follows him onto the bridge and stops approximately one pace away. It’s too close for David’s comfort.
“I don’t know the answer!” David shouts. He’d stomp his foot if he could lift it.
“So work it out, David,” Patrick says. “I’ve got time. ”
“But I don’t! I’m expecting a shipment of leather ponchos and if I miss the delivery it will take weeks to get them back!”
“Weeks? That's a long—” Patrick pasuses, “— time. ”
“What? What is that, what are you doing?” David says, scowling. “Why are you talking like that?”
“No reason.” Patrick shrugs. “I just want you to get to work on time , David.”
“That’s what I want too!”
It takes five more minutes of heavy-handed hints for David to finally understand what Patrick is trying to do. He resents Patrick for metaphorically holding his hand and complains to anyone who will listen, but not even Alexis has sympathy for him.
“If you’re having such a hard time,” she says, “just google the answers, David.”
“That’s cheating!” he says. Riddles can’t really be compared to Scrabble or Parcheesi, but David thinks he should hold himself to the same rigid standards he keeps for game nights. So, no cheating.
“He’s a troll, David. How concerned are you about disappointing him?” Alexis says. She flips the page of her magazine and studies the new spread.
David remains quiet, choosing instead to focus on rearranging his rings. He slides one up and off of his pinky finger to place it instead on his middle.
“Oh,” Alexis says after a moment. She’s discarded her magazine and joins him at the table. Her eyes are sparkling with mischief and she’s smirking when she says, “Apparently very concerned.”
“Ugh,” David scoffs. He shifts in his seat to avoid her stare. “I’m not concerned about disappointing Patrick. It’s just—he thinks he’s funny and I would like to avoid being teased.”
“You know—” Alexis crosses her legs, “—Patrick never teases Twyla when she has trouble. And he’s always super patient while Ted runs through thirty different puns before getting to the actual answer.” She looks at David like she’s just delivered the case-winning monologue in a court drama, but when he says nothing, she groans. “It’s almost like he only teases you, David.”
“Lucky me,” he says.
“It's almost like he’s flirting with you, actually. Like… he likes you.”
“No,” David says immediately, scowling with every muscle in his face. “Definitely not. He’s a troll, Alexis. Half his riddles are sports -related. He’s not into me.”
“He can’t be any worse than everyone else you’ve dated.”
“Fall off a bridge, please.”
Alexis is already flipping through her magazine again when she says, “You spend more time around bridges than I do, David.”
~ ~ ~
Despite David’s steadfast belief that Patrick has no interest in him beyond the fleeting entertainment their interactions may bring him, David declines Stevie’s offer for a ride to work. In fact, he declines a few of her offers, in favor of walking. It has nothing to do with Patrick, and everything to do with David’s desire to prove himself. To prove yourself to Patrick , his brain supplies, but he shuts that thought down real quick.
It’s no use getting attached. David’s already allowed Stevie to sink her friendship claws into him, despite his better judgement. If he makes any more connections, he might actually want to stay in Schitt’s Creek, and that’s… Well, it’s just not an option.
“Though I belong to you,” Patrick says, “other people use me more. What am I, David?”
David ignores the way his heartbeat quickens at Patrick saying the words I belong to you ; it’s entirely out of context and yet, David can’t help but think how good it sounds. “How do you come up with these riddles anyway?” he says, pushing past the new feeling blooming in his gut. “Do you google them?”
Patrick huffs, part laugh, part sigh. “You’re stalling, David.”
“And—” David continues, “—do you, like, sleep under the bridge? Do you even have a bed? I actually saw a mattress by the side of the road if you—”
“David, the riddle.”
“Uh huh,” he says. “It’s just I’m oscillating between a couple of different answers at the moment? So…”
“Right, right. You can oscillate for as long as you’d like, David, but… Aren’t you going to be late for work?” Patrick asks, cocking his head to the side. He looks more like a puppy than a troll, David thinks. Though maybe it’s just his desire to run his fingers through Patrick’s curls that makes him think so.
“My shift actually starts later today, so… no.”
“Ah,” Patrick says, his lips turning down in a smile that seems more knowing than mocking, but definitely partially the latter.
David won’t outright say that he pushed his shift back to spend more time here—to think about the riddles, of course—but… it’s what he’s done, and it’s possible Patrick can tell.
David leans against the bridge, opposite Patrick. They stand together in silence, but it doesn’t feel like they’re challenging each other, not today. It just feels like they’re… hanging out. David might even like being in Patrick’s presence, when he’s not stressed about solving a riddle in record time.
“Do you want to tell me what you’re thinking, David?” Patrick says.
“Trying to decide if I should get a muffin or a donut with my lunch today.”
“Well, I meant about the riddle, but…”
“Right,” David says. “What was it again?”
“David, you have not forgotten the riddle.”
“Do you think you could give me a hint?”
“David,” Patrick says.
“Is that a no?”
“David,” he says again, a scolding tone to his voice that makes David’s skin prickle.
“What? What! Stop saying my name like that,” David says. And then, “My name! The answer is my name. It belongs to me, but others use it more.” He takes a moment to bask in his victory, before adding, “Particularly you— you seem to use it an awful lot.”
“Does that bother you, David?”
What bothers David is how Patrick uses his eyelashes like a weapon, batting them like a maiden trying to seduce the village’s most eligible bachelor. It also bothers him that it might be working.
“No,” he says, surprised by the honesty in his own voice. His name on Patrick’s lips makes sense; it sounds right, different, like he’s hearing it said out loud for the first time.
David takes a backwards step onto the bridge, to allow himself another moment to look at Patrick. There’s a beautiful warmth blooming across his cheeks, and David wonders how much of it has to do with the sun shining so brightly this morning.
“I vote for a muffin,” Patrick says, and later, when David orders a chocolate chip muffin, he thinks of chocolate-brown eyes and how maybe a lack of connections was what made him so miserable—so lonely—in his old life.
~ ~ ~
It may be a stretch to say that David’s become a master riddler, but he has improved. With Patrick’s help, he’s learned to think differently and, to some degree, to find that riddles can actually be fun. Or rather, he’s found that he has fun with Patrick , and the mild joy from the riddles themselves is more or less an unfortunate repercussion of spending so much time together. (He almost laughed at a pun Ted made the other day because it reminded him so much of Patrick—a secret he planned to take to the grave, if Stevie hadn’t called him on his weak attempt to cover up his laugh with a cough.)
“I follow you all the time and copy your every move, but you can never catch me. What am I?” Patrick asks.
He always presents the riddle at the beginning of their conversation, but he’s long ago stopped expecting David to answer it immediately. They’ve almost fallen into a rhythm, a pattern of trading conversation and witty remarks, sometimes veering into personal territory. Sometimes David doesn’t recognize the vulnerability until he’s replaying their conversations in his head while he tries to fall asleep each night.
“Sounds like Alexis, when she was eight,” he says.
“Are you guys close?”
“We were, when we were younger. Our parents weren't around a lot, so it was usually just the two of us and our nanny, Adelina.”
“It was, kind of. But we had a big yard, and a pool, a theater, this huge library… I actually taught Alexis how to read. I think I parented her more than our actual parents, and it was kind of… nice to be looked up to like that. She followed me around like a…” David blinks. “ Shadow ,” he says.
Patrick’s eyes light up at the answer and David doesn’t protest when he offers to walk him to the other end of the bridge.
~ ~ ~
“So, I heard The Blouse Barn closed down,” Patrick says, his back against the bridge. He stands next to David today, and though this allows them to avoid eye contact, David doesn’t mind trading it for physical closeness, and maybe a whiff of whatever shampoo trolls can apparently get their hands on. “Sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah, well,” David sighs. He turns around to stare down at the water flowing under them and tries to play it casual. “It was never going to be a career.”
“Stevie, uh, mentioned something about a big payout? That’s good news, right?”
“Yes, Wendy was very generous.”
“So, does that mean you’re leaving?” There’s a lightness to Patrick’s voice that sounds forced as he stares in the opposite direction, across the bridge and into the distance. He watches the creek flow towards them, while David watches it flow away.
David is tired of watching things leave him behind—of letting things leave him behind. He’s always told himself that if he remains unattached, from his friends, lovers, his family , that it would hurt less when they inevitably turn their backs on him, but it’s never been true. He’s always felt just as abandoned, without any of the benefits of actual connection that make the pain seem, occasionally, worth it. All he’s left with is a history of unfulfilling relationships and a fear of allowing himself to actually want anything. He turns around.
“Are you leaving Schitt’s Creek, David?” Patrick finally looks at him, eyes big and round. “Isn’t that what you wanted? Why you got a job in the first place?”
“Right,” David says. “That is what I wanted, but I’ve… changed my mind.” He hesitates a moment before adding, “I can’t abandon Stevie. Or my sister. They’d be lost without me.”
David thinks he sees Patrick’s shoulders loosen, but he can’t be sure.
“Of course they would,” Patrick says, the hint of a smile on his lips.
“And my mother,” David adds, “God, she would never forgive me. So… I think I’m just going to look for other opportunities around here.”
It feels right when David says it, though the opportunities in Schitt’s Creek still seem few and far between—but those are just the details; the big picture seems more in focus now than it ever has, even when he owned a gallery and was doing what he thought he loved.
“So,” Patrick says, “Is that why you’ve been going to Elmdale everyday?”
“Um,” David huffs.
“The Blouse Barn closed two weeks ago, didn’t it?”
“Yes, yeah.” He clears his throat. “Of course. I’ve just been, um, meeting with… potential clients.”
“Clients?” Patrick says, a new level of excitement in his voice. He angles his body towards David and crosses his arms. “That’s great, David! What for?”
It’s only thanks to Patrick’s riddles that David’s gotten marginally better at thinking on the spot. He thinks about what Stevie had said the other day. He thinks about walking through the general store, thinks about her telling him to put his money where his mouth is.
So he does.
“I’m looking into buying a store,” he says. “A general store.”
~ ~ ~
“Did you know Patrick’s a business consultant? He works for Ray.” David puts a spoonful of yogurt into his mouth—yogurt he bought with his own money and has subsequently banned Alexis from sharing.
“Um yeah, David,” Alexis says. She puts her foot on the chair next to him and stretches. David wrinkles his nose at the sight of her sneaker on the chair. People sit there. “He helped me get a B- on my economics quiz last week.”
“Okay, have you ever gotten an A?”
Alexis uses her middle finger to point to the gold A hanging around her neck.
“So,” she says, “is he going to, like, help you with your little convenience store?”
“If you ever call it a convenience store again, you’ll be banned before we even open,” David says. “But yes, he is. He helped me fill out the incorporation paperwork yesterday. And he mentioned something about grant applications? He’s even offered some of his own money, if I need it. Apparently he’s been collecting a paycheck from Ray for months, but since he’s not paying rent anywhere…”
“Wow, David, that’s super friendly of him.”
“I know,” David says.
“Like, that’s definitely something I would do for a friend.”
“Me too,” David says, despite knowing he refused to lend Stevie $3 for a coffee last week.
“Okay, David, I know you got LASIK when you were 26, so it’s impossible for you to be this blind. Patrick is into you. Like, into you into you.”
Before David can argue, Alexis disappears into their parents’ room. She reappears a moment later, holding a yogurt in one hand and a spoon in the other.
“Do something about it,” she says.
David doesn’t know if she’s referring to Patrick or the stolen yogurt, and she sticks earbuds in her ears before he can think to ask.
~ ~ ~
David has reread the vendor contract twenty times since he printed it out that morning, but he lets Patrick look it over again too. He’s nervous about meeting with Mr. Hockley in Elmdale, and having Patrick tell him once more how solid the contract is, and how great Rose Apothecary will be, can only help to quiet the doubt in his mind.
“David,” Patrick says, placing his hand on David’s arm. “It takes a special mind to come up with something like this. You’ve got this, okay?” He squeezes David’s arm before letting go.
“We’ve got this,” David corrects. “You’ve been a big help.”
Rose Apothecary may have been David’s idea, but he’ll never forget that they brought it to life together.
Patrick smiles one of his best smiles—the one that stretches impossibly wide and lights up his entire face. “We’ve got this,” he echoes.
They walk together onto the bridge, a quiet energy crackling between them. They both almost forget.
“Uh,” David says, stopping just short of the middle of the bridge. “The riddle?
“Right,” Patrick says, clearing his throat and shaking his head, as if to chase away a fog. “I’m different every day but the same every year. What am I?”
The answer comes to David almost immediately.
“A… date?” David says. His heartbeat picks up. “A date.”
“Correct, David,” Patrick says. “I have to say, you’re getting really good at—”
“Are you asking me out?” David interrupts, Alexis’s nagging voice chirping in the back of his mind, telling him to make a move. Maybe Patrick is making a move, in his own roundabout, riddle-istic way.
“What?” Patrick says, sudden and sharp. He looks stricken, and David’s heart plunges into his stomach. “No, it was just a riddle, David. I’m sorry—”
“Yep, got it.” David says. He rushes across the bridge, thankful that he got the riddle right at the very least, even if he read too far into it. He’s going to murder Aleixs for ever planting the thought in his head that Patrick could—well. It’s silly to even think.
Patrick jogs after him and David is yanked to a halt by Patrick’s hand on his wrist, the force of it almost rivaling the magic of the bridge itself. David allows himself to be spun around, but he doesn’t meet Patrick’s eye.
“It's not that I wouldn’t want to—David, can you look at me, please?”
David drags his eyes upwards but can only make himself stare at Patrick’s nose. Any lower and he’d be looking at his mouth, which has been known to be dangerous under the best of circumstances. Any higher and, well… he can’t do it.
“David,” Patrick says, “I would love to take you out on a date. I’ve imagined it a hundred times.”
That makes David chance eye contact. “You have?” he says.
“Of course. But I can’t imagine you’d appreciate a first date—or any consecutive dates, for that matter—taking place under a bridge.”
“No,” David says, trying to quiet the rushing in his ears. Consecutive dates. Patrick has thought about this.
“I can’t leave, David. I’ve tried. I can go as far as thirteen paces on either side of the bridge. No further.”
“Ever?” David looks around them, taking stock of the area. It’s a pretty meager perimeter, way too small for the rest of Patrick’s life.
“It’s a curse, David. As far as I know, there’s no way to break it. My predecessor has effectively trapped me here.”
“Okay, who is this infamous predecessor?” David says, cringing at the way infamous predecessor sounds like a terrible supervillain name.
“Roland,” Patrick says. “Roland Schitt.”
~ ~ ~
“Where is he?” David says, storming into the motel lobby and slamming the door shut behind him. It rattles the frame.
“Who?” Stevie asks.
She’s standing behind the desk, a list of chores laid flat between her and— Roland.
“ You ,” David spits, trying to keep the same venom in his voice as he walks up to him. David has never been a violent person, so he doesn’t shove Roland, but he tries to give the impression that it’s something he would do, if he was the wrong kind of person.
“Hiya Dave, what mayoral gifts can I bestow upon ya today?” Roland says, tipping his head forward and flourishing his hand in a mock bow.
“Gifts? ” David shouts. “When was the last time you gave anyone a gift, you soul-sucking leech—”
“David ,” Stevie says. He can’t tell if her voice is dripping with glee or horror, but either way, it’s effective.
“Did you know it’s his fault Patrick is stuck under that damn bridge?”
“Stuck?” Stevie looks dumbfounded. “Roland, you said it was his choice!”
“It was!” Roland exclaims. He lifts his hands as if to surrender. “I gave him a choice between switching places with me or hightailing it back to wherever it was he came from. He seemed more than happy to accept. We shook on it.”
“You took advantage of a desperate man!” David yells, shoving his finger in Roland’s face.
“If anyone was desperate, Dave, it was me, okay?” Roland knocks his finger away and David regrets putting himself within touching distance in the first place. “Joc had just told me she was pregnant again. What was I supposed to do, let her raise the baby by herself?”
David tries his best to not think about the implication that Roland and Jocelyn must have conceived under the bridge. Or on it. David winces.
“Break the curse, Roland,” David demands.
“No can do, Daveroo. Honestly, I’m surprised it worked the first time.” David doesn’t growl, but it’s a near thing. “Listen,” Roland says, moving to place his hand on David’s shoulder, before thinking better of it and letting it fall to his side. “I’m sorry, if I didn’t have a son to think about, I never would have done it.”
David doesn’t know why he believes Roland, except that he’s seen how much Roland cares about Jocelyn; he’s been an unwilling participant in more than one conversation with the man, in which he inquired about the likelihood of Rose Apothecary stocking Jocelyn’s favorite foot cream. In his worst nightmares Roland is massaging Jocelyn’s feet in the middle of the Apothecary while customers shop around them.
So David does believe that Roland is sorry, for all that it doesn’t make him feel any better—but his anger has already seeped out of him and he has no emotional strength left to conjure it back.
“I don’t know what to do,” David admits.
“Seems like you’ve got to break the curse yourself,” Roland says, sucking on his front teeth.
“You have to kiss him,” Stevie says. “Duh.”
“Um, I don’t actually recall asking you for romantic advice, so?” David says, cocking his head at her.
“To break the curse, David!” she stresses. “You’ve roped me into watching enough romantic movies to know that’s how it works. True Love’s Kiss and all that.”
David balks at true love, but… Stevie may have a point.
~ ~ ~
“Okay,” Patrick says, when David presents the idea to him. David’s too nervous to properly soak in how eager Patrick seems. He’ll have to remember to let it go to his head later. “How do we do this?”
“Let me,” David says, taking a tentative step towards him.
They’re standing almost chest to chest, and David is hyper-aware that this is the closest they’ve ever been. He raises a hand to cup Patrick’s cheek, and Patrick, as if on instinct, snakes an arm around David’s middle. David leans in, pauses once more to ensure he has permission and, with the smallest nod from Patrick, he finally brings their lips together.
Kissing has never felt like this before, so charged and perfect in synchronicity. David has never felt like the person he was kissing was buzzing with just as much want as he was, like kissing was just the beginning of everything they could do together, and not the beginning of the end. He’s aware of Patrick’s entire being—where his fingertips dig into his back, how his nose slides against his own, and how, briefly, Patrick’s teeth scrape his bottom lip.
It sparks something deep inside and David has the good sense to break the kiss before they end up following in Roland and Jocelyn’s footsteps.
He pulls back and meets Patrick’s eyes. While David tucks his smile into his cheek, Patrick’s breaks free across his face. But other than their matching swollen lips, nothing has changed.
Patrick still can’t escape the boundaries of his curse.
“I guess True Love’s Kiss isn’t the answer here,” Patrick says.
David internally twitches at the phrase— why do people keep saying that —but the panic that stirs in his gut subsides the second Patrick takes his hand.
“Thank you for trying, David,” Patrick says, leaning forward to kiss David’s cheek.
“I’m not ready to give up yet,” he says. “There’s got to be something else we can do.”
“I don’t know, maybe we should just call it a day.” Patrick looks so dejected, almost antsy, at the thought of spending another second trapped here. It makes David furious and determined in equal measure.
“Absolutely not!” he says, and he might actually stomp his foot, dirt be damned. “Tell me again what Roland said to you that day.”
Patrick sighs and runs his hand down his face, squeezing his eyes shut in the process. It’s a moment before he opens them again. “Something about this being his town, you know? It’s Schitt’s Creek, David. He has power here.”
“Patrick,” David gasps. “The town may be named after him, but he doesn’t own it!”
“What are you talking about? Who owns the town?”
“What? ” Patrick’s eyes go wide as he grips David’s forearms.
“I can’t believe you didn’t know that!” David says. “ Everybody knows that!”
“Well, I’m sorry, David! I must have cancelled my subscription to The Weekly Creek! ”
“I still can’t believe that’s what our newspaper is called.”
“That reminds me,” Patrick says, “I was thinking about the launch party and I think we should take out, like, a full page ad in the paper and just… really make it a thing, you know? We’ll attract a lot of people that way.”
“I don’t care how many people show up to the launch, Patrick!” David says. It’s not strictly true, but it’s certainly not a priority at the moment. “As long as you are one of them! Can we please focus here?”
Patrick squeezes David’s arms before sliding his hands down to fit perfectly in David’s. They stand together, facing each other, thirteen paces from the bridge.
“Okay,” Patrick says. “Do it.”
“Do what? What do I do?”
“I don't know, David! I thought you knew!”
“Okay, okay. Maybe I have to proclaim it, like ‘I release you from this curse!’ But that might be too pretentious? Maybe I could just say, like, ‘you’re free!’ or—”
“David,” Patrick says, his voice straining. “Just say something, please.”
“Okay,” David says. He allows himself a moment to think. He’s not sure what he says actually matters, only that it’s he who says the words. Still, it’s symbolic and he wants to get it right. It comes to him at once. “Patrick,” he says, “I have a riddle for you.”
Patrick laughs, the sound echoing far and wide. It sends chills down David’s spine. “Let’s hear it.”
“Even though I’m prickly, people love me for my beauty. What am I?”
“You have way more than just beauty to offer the world, David Rose.”
David tugs Patrick across the threshold and kisses him; he kisses him fourteen paces from the bridge, thinking that maybe True Love isn’t just for fairy tales.
They walk away from the bridge together, David grateful for the fact that, should life ever throw another riddle his way, he’ll have Patrick by his side to help him solve it.
~ ~ ~
Two weeks later, they open Rose Apothecary together. Patrick pushes for a hard launch, and David lets him have it.
The entire town comes to support them.
David’s family shows up late—they never stopped running on their own time—but the point is, they show up. His mother blows him a kiss from across the store, and when she turns away, David let’s himself reach out a hand to catch it. Only Patrick sees him.
Stevie buys his entire stock of tea-that-might-be-weed and David makes a mental note to check on that.
Roland and Jocelyn bring their newborn son, and not only do they buy foot cream, but they also buy a generous supply of flavored massage oils.
“Dave,” Roland says, bouncing the baby in his arms. “I want you to know that, as an act of good faith, I’m having the bridge torn down.”
“What?” David yells. “That’s going to triple the commute time to Elmdale!”
“I know,” says Roland. “So you should be grateful that I’m willing to sacrifice commerce for the sake of ethics.”
“Okay.” David throws his hands in the air. “Maybe we don’t bring up the fact that the local economy is about to plunge at the grand opening of my store?”
“David, relax.” Patrick slides his arm around David’s waist and steers him away from Roland.
“Why are you so upset about this?”
“The commute, Patrick, and we need a broader market if we’re going to—”
“We’ll have to take the highway to Elmdale and you know how unreliable Bob is if we ever need a tow—”
“David,” Patrick says again.
“And—and maybe it has something to do with the fact that we met on that bridge.” David can feel his face heating, so he stares instead at the cat hair scarves piled high on the shelf next to him.
“We had our first kiss there too.” Patrick trails his hand up and down David’s back and he leans into the comfort of it.
“But David,” Patrick says, pulling him into a hug, effectively forcing eye contact. “The bridge is not where we had our first date. It’s not where we slept together for the first time. And it’s not where I told you I loved you for the first time, either.”
“Uh huh,” David says, pressure building behind his eyes. “And, uh, where was that? The uh… the last one?”
“I think it was at the grand opening of Rose Apothecary,—in the middle of the store we built together, surrounded by friends and family.”
“And… did I say it back?”
“What do you think?” Patrick asks. His voice is light—there are no expectations weighing it down, and it’s this fact alone that makes David feel ready.
“I think… I think I said it back,” David says, “but later. After everyone had left and it was just us, alone.”
“I look forward to it,” Patrick says. “I look forward to all the memories we’ll make here together, David. I think it’s okay to let the bridge go.”
“And,” Patrick says, “I’m more than happy to make the drive into Elmdale on the weekends.”
“Now you’re talking,” David says, pulling Patrick into a kiss.