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Stevie is dreaming about Angel from Buffy knitting her a hat— and he’s casting off the last row, so they’re definitely about to bone down— when her ringtone startles her awake. She fumbles for her phone in the dark, clutching at the fuzzy edges of sleep because she’d really like to sink back into that dream.

It’s just Johnny. He does this sometimes, still a CEO at heart, making grand plans in his sleep and wanting to make them reality by morning. “Wha?”

“Something is wrong with the motel.”

Stevie groans, rolling onto her side and pulling the covers with her. “Mr. Rose. Lots of things are wrong with the motel.”

“Stevie,” he says, voice grim, and then she’s wide awake.

*

“It’s fine. It’s not like anyone died,” Stevie says. David’s face is pixelated on her phone screen. They’re both in bed: her alone in her apartment, and him against a white duvet in his honeymoon suite.

She can’t stop thinking about Maureen’s ashes. David was at her side when she scattered them: he’s the only other person in the world who knows where Maureen was laid to rest. She wants him at her side again now, to look at the ashes of the Rosebud and say this was another loss she could endure.

His brows perform a full Cirque du Soleil contortionist routine. “Are you sure you don’t want me to—"

“What? Pick up a shovel and start rebuilding?”

“I would,” he says.

“A shovel?”

“Well, maybe not a shovel.”

“No, you would.” Not without some complaining, but it’s true. She clears her throat, trying to get rid of the strange, hoarse feeling of real human emotion. Gross. “How’s the other Mr. Rose-Brewer?”

“Oh.” David goes bright pink like a schoolkid with a crush, which Stevie has to screenshot. It comes out blurry because he’s flailing, just a little. “Yeah, uh— you know, he’s, um— we’re. Married?”

“Yeah, I was there.” 

“You were, for sure, I’m remembering a very tearful speech—”

“Yeah, yeah.” She cuts him off. “Your newlywed glow is grossing me out, so I’ve gotta go—”

“Call me any time.” 

*

“How’s it been in the Schitts’s guest room?” Stevie asks as she scoots into the Cafe booth across from Johnny.

His eyes go haunted, even more haunted than they’d been in the middle of the night talking to the firefighters. “We share a wall with Roland and Jocelyn, so I’m sure you can imagine—”

“Oh, I’m sure I’d rather not imagine.” The Schitts have totally been trying to swing with Johnny and Moira for years. She has not told Johnny this. She did tell David once, and he blocked her number for a week.

Fortunately, the lawyer joins them before Stevie has to hear any more about the Schitts’s sex life. 

Johnny said she was there to help them with the insurance process. Stevie hadn’t understood why they needed a lawyer for that, until she started talking about the payout. Johnny’s continental breakfast and David’s travel skincare line and Alexis’s rebranding, all of that which Stevie has totalled into being part of the family, also happens to total into a big fucking check.

Johnny’s taking notes on a legal pad, which is lucky, because Stevie keeps getting distracted by Twyla. 

She’s patient with asshole customers in a way that Stevie never was, smiling beautifully at a man from out of town as she serves his food. “Here you go— pinot noir with ice cubes, and clam chowder, also with ice cubes!”

As Twyla turns away from him, she winks at Stevie. 

Yum, Stevie mouths back.

Had the man planned on driving through, or would he have wanted to stay at the Rosebud? Visitors who caused problems for Twyla usually ended up being Stevie’s problem eventually, or vice versa, so they had a warning system. Twyla definitely would have texted Stevie about this guy. 

Eventually, things wrap up with the lawyer. Stevie stays in the booth, staring at her own hands wrapped around a mug of burnt coffee.

After a few minutes, Twyla takes off her apron and slides into the seat across from Stevie. She looks tired, like she usually does by the end of a shift: flushed, sweat beading along her hairline, eyes hooded. It’s— really something. 

Twyla says, “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Want to go for a drive?”

It’s not the pallid condolences Stevie was expecting, and it shocks a smile onto her face. “It’s been a while.”

Twyla jingles her car keys. “Then I guess we’re overdue.”

“Guess so.”

“I’ll tell George I’m leaving.” Twyla walks back into the kitchen.

The last time they’d done this— it must have been before Stevie left for college, but it feels more recent. Maybe because so little has changed. Even in high school, Twyla worked at the Cafe and Stevie worked the front desk.

They both went to Schitt’s Creek High, and even though they were two grades apart, Stevie always knew who Twyla was. Of course she did.

In a small town where everyone knows everyone, people are easy to rank. Best car, best odds of getting out, best ass. Still, when it came to families, Twyla’s and Stevie’s were both so terrible in such different ways that it was hard to settle who had it worst.

The first thing Stevie did when she got a license was walk up to Twyla’s locker and ask, Wanna go for a drive?

Where? Twyla asked, and Stevie asked, Does it matter?

It was just a thing they did sometimes. They never talked except for when Stevie would signal to get back on the highway to Schitt’s Creek, and Twyla would ask, where would we end up if we kept going? and they’d try to guess even though neither of them passed Geography.

“Alrighty, let’s go!” Twyla chirps as she comes back out of the kitchen. Stevie follows her out the back door and into her car. As Stevie settles into the passenger seat, Twyla hesitates with her keys in the ignition. “Good news or bad news first?”

Stevie squints at her. “Is there actually good news, or is this your aunt’s weird thing?”

“There is good news.”

“Okay, bad news first.”

“Well, there’s a CD stuck in the stereo, and the stereo doesn’t turn off.” Twyla turns the key. Music begins to play. “The good news is that it’s the Dixie Chicks’ Greatest Hits.”

“That is good news,” Stevie grudgingly agrees, and they listen to Wide Open Spaces as Twyla drives them away from town. 

Stevie taught her how to drive. Twyla drives like Stevie does, with the windows down and her hands tight on the wheel and her foot teasing the accelerator, like she’s never more than a breath away from giving into the temptation of flooring it.

The rush of the creek is audible before it comes into sight. When it does, it’s just inky black water reflecting their headlights and the starlight. 

Twyla whispers, “This is where I started going. Whenever I needed everything to feel— smaller.”

She turns off the car.

The stereo cuts out in a mid-sentence plea for a cowboy; the headlights go dark. As Stevie’s eyes adjust, the night sky comes alive with swirls of stars. Her stomach swoops. She presses into the discomfort, like squirming in an uncomfortable chair, until it fades. Then she can admire the beauty of infinite galaxies, even feeling so alone amongst them.

It takes several minutes for Stevie’s breathing to even out, and then several more before she trusts her voice. “You came here alone? How are you alive?”

“I only got abducted once? And it was by my grandma, so really, that could have happened anywhere.” Twyla laughs when Stevie reaches over her to lock the car doors. “See, you went to college and took all the common sense with you.”

If only. Stevie’s pretty sure she wasn’t within spitting distance of common sense for any of her five years in school. And, fuck— “I was a Hospitality major.”

“You were?”

A laugh bubbles in Stevie’s throat. “Twyla. A requirement for my major was a course called Interpersonal Skills. And I didn’t pass.”

Twyla snorts. “Were there any classes you did like?”

“Honestly? No.”

Getting out of Schitt’s Creek felt like the finish line; she’d been so sure that everything else would be happily ever after. The one lesson she really did learn from college is that life isn’t like an optical illusion where the same color looks different depending on the background. Wherever you go— there you are. 

So she’d been miserable, and miserable that she was still miserable even after getting out, and then miserable enough declare Hospitality. 

“I still have student loans,” Stevie realizes. “Oh, shit.” 

Could she send that line-item to the insurance company? The lawyer said investments into their assets totally counted, and really, wouldn’t that include the motel’s sole employee? 

Probably not. Stevie spent years writing her own performance reviews, and they weren’t pretty. And of course those were the files that Johnny started with when he digitized. 

“Stevie— that’s so sad.” Twyla looks genuinely distraught, and she reaches for Stevie’s hand. Clutches it. She’s callused with burns and cuts from the years before the Cafe hired George, back when it was slow enough that Twyla did all the cooking.

Stevie squeezes Twyla’s hand, then releases it. “You would have been a good student.”

Twyla laughs. “What? No way.”

“Seriously.”

Twyla had an honest love of learning like no one else Stevie had ever met. She’ll follow Ronnie around in a hardhat, start with the family tree in David’s grim fantasy tomes, or hand Bob a lug-wrench with the same attentiveness. Stevie wonders if it’s the same impulse that makes Twyla look at the stars when she wants to feel small. 

“Well, if you think so.” Twyla starts the car and turns back towards Schitt’s Creek.

They sit in silence until the last turn, when Stevie asks, “Where would we end up if we kept going?"

“Disney,” Twyla says. 

“The one in California or Florida?”

“Hmm, either? No, California. I’ve got relatives in Florida. Well, in a Florida prison.”

“Of course you do,” Stevie says, because she does too.

*

The next night, when Stevie asks, Twyla says, “Montreal.”

“I don’t speak French.”

“My mom’s terrier is a rescue from a dog-fighting ring in Gatineau,” Twyla says, “so I speak a little. You know, orders.”

“Hot.”

*

The next night, Twyla simply says, “Somewhere we haven’t been before.”

“Well, that’s easy,” Stevie says, “We haven’t been anywhere.”

*

Emir emails. I’m sorry to hear about the Rosebud. It truly was a special place. I’m doing a retrospective on my blog about it, if you have any stories or pictures you’d like to share in memoriam.

Please find attached, Stevie replies, and sends a photo of her middle finger.

*

Jocelyn comes by Stevie’s apartment unannounced with a casserole.

Stevie blocks the door from opening fully, trying to hide her wrecked apartment from view. She’s been eating her feelings and listening to Sarah McLachlan in the dark, so, the usual— except now it’s not being interrupted by a day job or a best friend. 

“Here, Stevie.” Jocelyn hands her an astonishingly heavy casserole dish. “It’s my Tuna Surprise. You know, the Surprise is actually—”

“Would you like to come in,” Stevie grunts, because she’s about to drop the dish on her foot, which might cost her a toe.

“Oh, I don’t want to intrude,” Jocelyn says as she bustles in, intrudingly. She looks around Stevie’s apartment with her hands on her hips, then starts to pick up dirty dishes. Water glasses, mostly, more water glasses than Stevie thought she owned,  since her cabinet of them was always empty—

Stevie starts tidying too.

“You know, when we lost Rodney to gout—”

“Jocelyn, I really don’t think that comparison is—” except, Stevie had met Rodney: being compared to a rundown motel was more flattering treatment than he usually got. Even pre-gout. 

“It just helped a lot, knowing we weren’t alone in our grief. So Roland and I made a card with a list of our favorite memories in that motel.”

Stevie is going to open that card with gloves. “...thank you?”

“And it’s okay if you want to cry. I’m here. I brought an old burp cloth so you can get as snotty as you need to.”

“I’m really fine.”

God, if this had happened six years ago…no one would be bringing her casseroles and burp cloths. She had hated that motel so much. If she’d known how much insurance money was in it, she would have started the fire herself. But then she made the grand mistake of caring, and letting everyone know it.

It was easier, safer, not to care about things. It’s not that Stevie forgot that, it’s just that somehow the Roses and Patrick and even Roland convinced her that caring could be worth it anyway.

Jocelyn starts the dishwasher, then throws Stevie’s curtains open. “There. Doesn’t that feel better.”

“Thank you,” Stevie says again, this time sincerely.

“Bring back the dish whenever, ‘kay?” Jocelyn kisses her forehead as she leaves. “And really, call me if you need that cry.”

*

It’s actually a really nice card. Sure, many of the memories are painted in innuendo, but there’s a lot more there. Team dinners with her and Johnny. Their toast the first night they’d booked every room. The Christmas party. The breathless satisfaction after cleaning out the gutter— oh, that might be innuendo again. 

*

The lawyer hands Stevie a check with a lump sum payout one might call life-changing. 

“No,” Johnny says, when she tries to give him a cut. He’s taking the loss of the motel much better than she is. It isn’t the worst way he’s lost a business. “Consider it my investment in whatever comes next.”

“There is no next, Mr. Rose.” There’s something in Stevie’s throat, but that might just be a bite of the dry Cafe meatball. “I’ve been working at the motel since I was sixteen.”

“You don’t need to decide now. I’ll be here,” Johnny says, and then rummages through his briefcase. “Here— if you want it.”

He hands her a manila folder, and she pulls out a frame. Inside is a sketch of the Rosebud from Alexis’s school project, rendered in delicate ink lines that she recognizes as David’s work. She pictures Alexis dictating it to David from her half of their motel room, and him hunched over the wobbly table turning it into reality.

“She got a ‘C’ on this?” Stevie asks in disbelief, so they can both pretend she’s not choked up.

“Well, Stevie,” Johnny says, patting her wrist, “if we learned anything from that motel, it’s that ratings aren’t everything.”

He leaves her with that, and the Cafe front door has barely closed behind him before Twyla is at her side. “Let’s go.”

“For a drive?” The dinner rush hasn’t even ended yet, Twyla can’t—

“No— I mean, yes— but let’s go.” Twyla grins at her, showing dimples and all her teeth. “I have, like, a lot of PTO saved up. I haven’t taken a vacation since my great-aunt’s last court date.”

Stevie feels more full of life than she did a minute ago. “You’re serious?”

Twyla’s smile falters. She picks at the knot of her apron. “...yes?”

“Okay, yeah. Let’s go.” As soon as the words leave Stevie’s lips, Twyla is whipping off her apron and shouting to George that she’ll be back someday. She starts to pull Stevie out of the Cafe. “Oh, right now?”

“Right now,” Twyla says. She doesn’t stop until they’re outside the Cafe, and then she whirls to face Stevie. “Sometimes you gotta just do stuff before you can stop and think about it.”

Twyla’s eyes are shining. Stevie agrees, stupidly, “Before we can think about it.”

“Exactly!”

Twyla waits with the car running outside of Stevie’s apartment as she packs, then peels out of town. “You don’t need to pack?”

“Oh, I always have a bag ready in the car. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my step-dads, it’s how to skip town!”

*

Stevie’s life was a patchwork of monotony for a long time. The first time she thought something is happening was when the Roses came to town, and that turned into a steady pulse of this matters as David became her best friend and eventually her family.

Now, her whole body is singing with it; this matters this matters this matters, watching the exit signs fly by as Twyla floors it away from Schitt’s Creek. 

They’re at ON-407, the farthest they’d ever go in highschool, when Twyla’s foot falters against the pedal. “Hey, Stevie? I know I said not to think about it, but, I’m thinking about it and—”

Stevie’s heart sinks. “Do you want to turn around?”

“No,” Twyla says, with confidence. “Just freaking out a little.”

“I know how to fix that,” Stevie says. She rolls down her window, and Twyla follows suit. The wind roars into the car like a living thing, forceful, and shockingly cold. Stevie’s hair whips around and she has to fight it back into a ponytail. Then she starts to shout along to the stereo, about a ticket to anywhere.

After a moment, Twyla’s voice rises to join hers, beautifully; she can actually sing. Stevie trails off, closes her eyes, tips her head against the passenger seat. It feels like a moment out of time. Just the wind, and the dark, and the sound of Twyla saying she’s ready to run.

The song finishes. Twyla shouts, “Hey. You don’t want to turn around either, right?”

“No,” Stevie shouts back, “I want to see where we end up.”

*

It’s nighttime by the time they reach Niagara Falls, so Twyla finds a motel. For a moment, the unpaved and poorly-lit parking lot knocks the breath from Stevie’s lungs. All motels are the same, really, except for one that had been hers.

The woman at the front desk is reading Banshees on a Plane. Stevie bites her tongue against warning her that the ending isn’t worth it. 

When they get to their motel room, Stevie knows what to look for. She locks the door behind them and pulls on the knob to test its strength, then does the same to the window since they’re on the first floor. She checks the mattresses and the sofa cushions for bugs. 

“All clear,” Stevie says to Twyla, and then belatedly realizes that she could have afforded to get them separate rooms. Or would that be weirder? Stevie honestly doesn’t know what the sleeping arrangement etiquette is for going on road trips with someone you were almost friends with two decades ago. Somehow, they didn’t get a lot of those coming through the Rosebud.

If Twyla feels awkward about it, she doesn’t show it. She just gets ready for bed, reading the guidebook on the nightstand aloud as she redoes her braid. She goes into the bathroom, and when she comes out she’s in pajamas: an oversized t-shirt and athletic shorts. The sight makes Stevie feel so shockingly tender that her fingernails digs welts into her palms.

“Good night, Stevie,” Twyla says from a foot away, turning the lamp between them off. 

What the fuck are we doing, Stevie thinks. “Good night,” she says, and then falls asleep to the soothing sound of Twyla breathing.

In the morning, they put on plastic rain ponchos and board the SS Hornblower. The thunder of the falls is so loud that Stevie can’t even hear it, can’t hear anything at all, but she can feel it vibrating in her bones. She feels the same swooping dread that she did looking at the stars in Twyla’s car, until Twyla grabs her hand. She presses Stevie’s palm to her chest so that Stevie can feel her laughing. Then Stevie has to laugh too, at the enormity of it all and the way Twyla’s eyelashes have clumped wetly together and the fact that Stevie never would have seen something this beautiful if she hadn’t just lost everything in a fire.

Well. Maybe not everything.

When the SS Hornblower docks, they linger at the kitschy kiosks. Twyla gets a magnet for the Cafe fridge. Stevie gets a neon Wish You Were Here postcard to send to David. 

While Twyla packs up the car, Stevie checks them out from the motel. The woman is still reading Banshees on a Plane. Stevie says, “I used to work at a motel like this.”

“...okay.”

“It burned down,” Stevie says.

The woman sets the book down. “Look, if you smoked in your room there’s a fine, that’s just the policy—”

“No, nope, sorry,” Stevie says, and hands back the room key. 

*

They decide to spend the rest of the day driving. Two hours down I-90, Stevie answers David’s incoming call. 

“Stop texting me and enjoy your honeymoon! Seriously, I’ll block you.”

“Well, when I hear you’ve just— just up and left, like some kind of fugitive—” David’s voice pitches higher with each word. If she lets him keep going, it’ll get into dog-whistle territory, which is always really fucking funny. But she can tell that Patrick is there, that Patrick has started to touch him, by the way he settles down. “Where in the world are you?”

“I don’t know— Twyla, where are we?”

“Um, right now we’re crossing into Trumbell, Ohio!”

“What,” David says, softly, with feeling, “the fuck?”


*

Stevie was with David in Room Four, after Jake but before Patrick, getting high and watching Animal Planet when a documentary came on about the loneliest animals in the world. One was a whale, 52 Blue, born with a call too high-pitched for any other whale to hear.

“His call thunders throughout the ocean, calling hello, please, I’m here,” the narrator intones, “but even as he swims among thousands of his kind, none of them will ever hear him.”

It took David a minute to notice she was silently crying. “Stevie?”

“I’m the whale.”

“You aren’t.”

“I am,” she said, wiping her eyes on her flannel sleeve.

“You can’t be,” he said, and touched his hand to her chest. “I hear you.”

“My heart is on the other side. You’re just grabbing my boob.”

“Ugh,” he said, and changed the channel to HGTV. 

Years later, after Patrick asked for her blessing but before he proposed, she brought it up to David again. “Do you remember that whale?”

He squinted at her. “Is there a weight joke coming, because I’m actually feeling a little sensitive right now, so—”

He doesn’t hear her like he used to, his sunbright joy washing out the memories of loneliness. That’s what she wants for him, but she once knew a David who drove to New York in Roland’s truck, alone, with everything he owned in the trunk, and he would have understood.

*

“David,” she says, also softly, with feeling.

“Okay, just… send me updates. Lots.”

“Every day,” she promises.

“Twice a day?”

“Uh, no.”

*

There’s a billboard advertising Cleveland, Ohio as “Home To America’s Most Cursed Castle” which— she hadn’t thought there were castles in America, let alone Ohio, but why not. Twyla lights up when she sees it, so Stevie takes the next highway exit. 

“Just signed us up for the late tour. Looks like there’s a park we can hang out in until then!”

“Oh, we can’t— go now? In the daylight?” Stevie’s seen a lot of horror movies, mostly because she likes making fun of how jumpy David gets. Karma’s getting her now, though: she’s seen at least ten that start with sexy Canadian girls doing dumb shit in America. Like taking a ghost tour at night. 

“Well, the ghosts are probably less active right now,” Twyla says, like that was an argument against it instead of Stevie’s whole point.

Twyla picks out a food cart in the park, and they sit on a bench by a fountain enjoying some fantastic empanadas. Twyla’s a homing missile when it comes to finding good, cheap food. She’s a decent cook, too, when she tries— which the Cafe doesn’t pay her enough to do.

They’d talked about that once, when Stevie was rebranding the motel, proposing a lodging-dining package. Twyla refused to ask her aunt, who owned the Cafe, and who had not died in an apartment fire with newspaper for curtains. I’m really happy for you, Stevie, but it’s not the same for me, Twyla had said, and I’d feel guilty, being your partner, if you were trying and I just wasn’t.

“You’re quiet,” Twyla says. 

“Still thinking about how a witch is going to eat our spleens tonight.”

“Ew!” Twyla says, and then, “Why our spleens?”

“It was in this horror movie I saw. The witch needed spleens for a ritual.”

“What was the ritual for? I think you can live without a spleen, actually, so I’d just give her my spleen if there’s a good reason—”

“Please stop saying the word ‘spleen,’” Stevie says, even though she started it. 

Twyla would totally survive a horror movie. She’s got those biceps from carrying trays all day; Stevie bets she could seriously kick some ass. And she’d just cooperate with anyone who needed her non-vital organs for a decent cause, apparently. 

Stevie would be the one who died off-screen before the opening credits, for sure.

The ghost tour takes them throughout downtown Cleveland and ends at Franklin Castle. Which is an actual fucking castle— like, stone turrets and gargoyles and everything— smack in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. 

“In the tower window, you may see an apparition, but look with caution— her gaze is known to cause feelings of loneliness and depression,” the guide drones. 

“Would I notice?” Stevie mutters. Twyla snickers and elbows her.

Apparently there’s a playful ghost on the fourth floor who might “make herself known to friendly visitors.” The guide invites them to try. Stevie thinks the fuck not, but Twyla closes her eyes and lets her body go slack.

Stevie waits a few minutes and then prompts, “Anything?”

“No.” Twyla’s lower lip pokes out in disappointment. The tour was nearly a loop, so they walk a few blocks down the tree-lined sidewalk to the car. “Maybe your next business could be ghost tours.”

“Oh yeah, tap into Schitt’s Creek’s hot tourism market,” Stevie says. “It’ll start at the high school with my dignity, and end at the motel with my hopes and dreams.”

Twyla hums thoughtfully. “We’ll keep the disclaimer about depression.”

They get into the car. Stevie turns the keys in the ignition; the stereo crackles on as always. But— too staticky. The CD starts to skip. 

Goodbye— goodbye— goodbye— goodbye— 

“What the fuck,” Stevie yelps, and smacks the dashboard. There’s a scratching sound, and then it starts to play normally, goodbye, Earl, let’s go to the lake, Earl— Stevie stomps on the gas. “Oh my God, we’re driving away until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.”

“The guide said she was friendly!” Twyla says, even though she looks a little freaked out too. 

“I don’t care! This road trip is invite-only!”

That night, Stevie spends a little extra time checking the locks on the doors and windows at the motel. Still, she startles at every passing honk and siren. She actually gasps when she hears the scrape of tree branches against the window.

It wakes up Twyla. She flicks on the lamp and looks at Stevie. “You can’t sleep?”

“Uh— I’m fine.”

“D’you wanna sleep with me?”

Stevie’s pulse thunders until she realizes that Twyla just means sharing the bed, obviously— and sex would have been a bad idea, some hot girl-on-girl is a one-way ticket to Murdertown in a horror movie— oh shit, she needs to respond. “Okay.”

She stays in her blanket-burrito, shuffling across the room and flopping onto the other bed. Twyla spoons her, putting one of those strong ass-kicking arms around her waist. After that, it’s easy enough to fall asleep.

*

In Dublin, Ohio there’s a field full of towering corn sculptures called Cornhenge, because of course there is.

Twyla’s face twitches with laughter. “Country girls make do.”

*

They pull over so Twyla can answer a phone call from her mom. When she gets back in the car, she just says, “I need a break from driving today.”

There’s not much to do in Pickerington, Ohio but they find a used bookshop and spend the day curled up in overstuffed armchairs. Twyla gets herself a stack of books from the non-fiction section. Stevie finds Banshees on a Train, the long-awaited sequel.

Stevie ducks outside around sunset to facetime the Rose-Brewers, who are in turn horrified by the possibility of a ghostly hitchhiker (David), and horrified that they supported the economy of a city whose offensively-named baseball team beat the Blue Jays six times last year (Patrick).

After she hangs up, Twyla comes outside holding a paper bag of books. Banshees on a Train on top. When they’re back on the highway, Stevie asks, “You wanna talk about it?”

“Not even a little bit.”

*

The woman at the front desk is playing Solitaire and the words spill out of Stevie right away. “I used to work at a motel like this.”

“Yeah? Not anymore?”

“It burned down.”

The woman flashes a grin at her. “Oh, talk dirty to me.”

“Go Climb A Rock: A Hiker’s Guide,” Twyla reads from a brochure, then drops it back onto the stand. She sidles up, bumping her elbow against Stevie’s. “So, is there a room…?”

“Yep,” the woman says, and slides the keycard across the counter. Stevie thanks her and takes it. As they walk away, the woman calls, “The sprinklers haven’t been serviced in a few years, so be careful, Sparky!”

“That’s illegal,” Twyla mutters, but Stevie is snickering.

Stevie checks the room, as always. When she says it’s fine, Twyla starts getting ready for bed. Stevie fiddles with the envelope from the keycard. Scribbled under the room number is I get off at ten. Stevie’s done that before too, waited for a shift to end, found an empty room, fucked in it— except never as the guest, and never with another woman. 

Twyla comes out of the bathroom in a Team Cafe Tropical t-shirt so long it’s a dress. She sits on the foot of Stevie’s bed. “Want to watch a movie?”

“Yeah.” Stevie tosses the envelope onto the nightstand. It lands open. Twyla glances at it, her eyebrows jumping up.

“Wow, look at you. Too bad you don’t play for my team.” Twyla plucks at her t-shirt jokingly.

“Okay, Team Bob’s Garage made me an offer; I could have been Team Cafe Tropical if you’d gotten there first,” Stevie says, playing deliberately obtuse. “And besides, I could not have Patrick as my captain, oh my God—”

“No, my team, like—”

“Um,” Stevie says.

*

They’d both been really high when Stevie told David that she was starting to wonder if maybe, not everyone noticed women the way she did— except probably everyone did, right, because women looked like that, so it was totally typical straight behavior for Stevie to—

“Um, you get to self-define, of course, but I can say— if it helps you self-define— well, no? Not everyone checks out women?” David says, voice slurred, petting her shoulder. “Even though women do look like that, it’s a very valid point, Stevie, they do.”

And they hadn’t really talked about it again. Except David started using gender-neutral pronouns when he talked about Stevie’s potential significant others, and sometimes in the face of aggressive displays of heterosexuality, his eyes slid to her like she was in on a joke, the same way his eyes sometimes slid to Patrick or Twyla or Ronnie. 

Straight people, Ronnie had mouthed back to David once, at Roland’s expense, both of them shaking their heads. Jealousy had kicked at the inside of Stevie’s ribcage. 

She could just come out. Schitt’s Creek is lacking in so many ways, but inclusivity isn’t one of them. No one would care. Or, they would care, but in smotheringly affirming ways. Except— what would she even say? Hi, I’m Stevie, attracted to men and women except I’ve never done anything about the latter in the past and probably won’t in the near future either?

Hi, I’m Stevie, and I spent so long alone that I still have a lot of shit to figure out?

Hi, I’m Stevie, and here’s another goddamn thing I care about? 

*

“Oh!” Twyla says, eyes wide. “Oh, okay!”

“Yep.” Stevie reaches over to grab the remote on the nightstand. 

“So are you going to—” Twyla shimmies her shoulders suggestively. She’s not wearing a bra, which is hard not to notice, so Stevie notices. 

According to the TV Guide, their options are Diners, Drive-in, and Dives or Guy’s Grocery Games, which— makes no sense. Are the Food Network channels multiplying?

“Do you think I should?” The woman at the front desk was hot. Stevie had lost her virginity at the motel; it would be a weird full-circle moment to have sex with a woman for the first time at another motel. 

“...no,” Twyla says eventually, settling back next to Stevie against the headboard. “The Sparky thing was a little too weird.”

“It was,” Stevie agrees, feeling oddly relieved. “Which show?”

“Grocery Games, obviously.” Twyla settles beside her, and Stevie ends up falling asleep with her head on Twyla’s shoulder. 

*

In the morning, they hike through the state park. The way the trail twists in and out of caves makes Stevie feel like they’re in a giant anthill. Twyla has been reading the pamphlet about geology, and she’s so excited whenever she correctly identifies a rock that she squeaks.

They both come to a standstill in Ash Cave, which looks like someone took a hole-puncher to the Earth. “It’s actually just erosion,” Twyla says, reaching out to touch one of the damp sandstone walls. “Just water, but thousands of years of it.”

Thousands of years. Stevie touches the wall too, her hand beside Twyla’s, trying to comprehend that this cave had once been something else; that it was even possible for things to change so much, so slowly. 

“Why is it named Ash?” 

Twyla flips through her pamphlet. “When settlers discovered the cave, Native Americans had left behind ash piles— hmm, so not really ‘discovered’ then, huh?— ash piles that were hundreds of feet wide. That’s huge, sheesh, imagine?”

Stevie saw the ruins of the motel; her imagination does not have to work hard, does not have to work at all. 

“Twyla,” she whispers, “I’m actually really fucking sad about the Rosebud.”

And then she bursts into tears.

“Oh, shit— I shouldn’t have said, that was really thoughtless of me— Stevie. Come here.” Twyla hugs her so hard they sway, rubbing Stevie’s back and mumbling soothing nonsense. After a few minutes, Stevie stops crying and feels— better. Lighter.

*

Stevie routes them to a laundromat, because she’s about to run out of underwear and also, she really got gross all over Twyla’s shoulder when she was sobbing. Which makes her think about burp rags and— Jocelyn. 

She calls while Twyla’s driving, because she still has Jocelyn’s dish and Roland would be heartbroken to miss Taco Casserole Tuesday. Johnny has the spare key to her apartment, so Jocelyn can take that and let herself in. 

For some reason, it’s actually kind of hard to hang up. Stevie swallows hard and says, “Um. Tell the Rosebud team I’ve been thinking about them. A lot.”

“Will do,” Jocelyn says, so soft. “Take care, Stevie.”

They each pick out a book to take into the laundromat, which is basically Stevie’s idea of a perfect afternoon. Doing linens had always been her favorite task at the motel. The air is heavy with that fresh laundry smell, and there’s a table tucked by the windows for them.

Twyla puts their clothing in the same machine, which makes sense given the size of the load and the fact that it’s a criminal 1.75 USD, but. It still sort of makes Stevie want to text David, or read a 10 Signs She Likes You Back: Laundry-Edition listicle. 

*

“That’s a UFO,” Twyla says matter-of-factly as they drive through a cornfield in Webster, Indiana and she’s right, what the fuck.

*

“There’s just one room available, and it’s a single bed. That okay?” the woman at the front desk asks them. They’ve shared a bed the last few nights even in double rooms, so Stevie just shrugs.

The nearest attraction is a vineyard, so they settle into the motel room and get dressed up for the first time on this trip. Stevie puts on a floral dress that used to be one of David’s shirts, until she belted it and he admitted it looked better on her. 

“Don’t you clean up nice.” Twyla’s voice is teasing, but she’s undeniably checking Stevie out; her eyes flick up and down, leaving a trace like an electric current, hot and tingling.

Stevie’s confidence ratchets up, like she’s had a glass of wine already. She looks teasingly between Twyla and the queen bed. “No need for that, I’m already a sure thing.” 

Twyla barks out a laugh and goes bright red and stumbles in her heels, all at once. Which, okay. Stevie’s definitely going to try and make that happen again.

It’s dusk when they get to the vineyard, the sky painted in lines of peach and apricot above acres of grapevines. There’s candlelit tables across the hillside in front of the tasting room, and it’s all so absurdly romantic that it gives Stevie an idea.

“Play along,” she mutters to Twyla, who’s still pink. She grabs Twyla’s hand and swings their arms as they walk up to the hostess. “Hi, it’s our honeymoon? We’re looking for a table for two.”

There’s a split-second where Stevie gets nervous and remembers, holy shit, they’re not exactly in Schitt’s Creek, and this isn’t exactly the same as doing this with Jake or David— but the hostess claps her hands together and hops in excitement. “Aw! Congratulations!”

Thank fuck. Stevie’s known for a while now that her tombstone would read Risked It All For Free Wine, but she’d feel bad taking Twyla with her. 

It’s one of those intimate tables where you sit on the same side, and it overlooks the vineyard. The honeymoon gambit lands them a complimentary charcuterie board and a bottle of Reisling. Stevie’s usually a red wine girl, but she’s into it. As the sun sets, string lights twinkle on the wooden frames of the grapevines. 

Stevie keeps swaying closer to Twyla as if there’s a gravitational pull. By the time the bottle is finished, her head is on Twyla’s shoulder. Her hair smells really nice. Her skip-town bag must have included her own shampoo and conditioner. 

She loses a few minutes thinking about Twyla in the shower, until Twyla sits up and she’s jostled from her shoulder and the fantasy. Twyla asks the waitress, giggling helplessly, “Do you have any fruit wine?”

“We have blueberry, strawberry, peach—”

“Oh, peach is perfect.” Twyla waits until the waitress leaves to mutter, “Cra-ab-apple.”

Stevie’s shaking the table with her laughter. “Oh my God, remember—”

Twyla jumps to her feet; Stevie’s a loose-limbed drunk, but Twyla’s always been an energetic one. She tosses one of her shoulders back. “Hi! I’m Moira Rose! If you love fruit wine as much as I do—”

Clutching at her own ribs, gasping, Stevie manages to say: “Wait, how are you so good at her accent, what the fuck?”

Twyla collapses back into the seat. “She noticed during Cabaret that I can do impressions and taught me. Actually— um, a few times she put me in a wig and sunglasses and sent me to Council for her.”

“Did you vote on things for her? Twyla, that’s— I think that’s— like, a coup?”

If Stevie ever had to cast a Patronus— and really, always a possibility those magic powers could still show up— Twyla Sands illegally seizing power from the municipality of Schitt’s Creek is what she’ll think of.   

Twyla starts to drunkenly sing O Canada. 

“Peach wine for the newlyweds!” The waitress pours them each a glass. Stevie raises hers above her head, swirling it like a true vintner. A little sloshes out onto her hair. 

The wine is fantastic. Burt Herflingering can suck it.

Twyla’s head is on Stevie’s shoulder. She’s still giggling; Stevie can feel the tempo of it in Twyla’s breath, on her neck and her collarbone. Their thighs are pressed together from hip to knee. She barely has to move at all, to kiss Twyla.

Twyla responds right away, mouth eager and open. She tastes sweet like the wine. Her hand cups the back of Stevie’s neck, digging her blunt nails into Stevie’s hairline, steering the kiss. Stevie feels wine-drunk in the way that amplifies every touch, that makes her gorgeously aware of her own body. She’s been simmeringly turned-on for days and now she’s boiling over.

The kiss gets sloppy. Stevie lets out a shaky groan, muffled against Twyla’s lips.

Twyla startles back.

“We shouldn’t,” she says, so kindly; Twyla is always so kind. It still sends ice threading through Stevie’s veins. She’s mortified. She’s so mortified that she’s abruptly sober.

“Right,” Stevie says. 

Of course not.

She stands up and pays at the hostess stand. The hostess hands her a chocolate and says, “Enjoy your honeymoon!”

They take a cab back to the motel in silence. Stevie keys into their room and lays in the single bed, facing the wall. The room goes dark as Twyla clicks off the lamp. She can feel the covers shift as Twyla climbs in, and then feel the warmth of her body between the sheets. Stevie’s still a little drunk and turned on. She wishes they hadn’t showered earlier, so she’d have an excuse to go and take care of it. 

They haven’t actually made it that far from Schitt’s Creek; taking detours and day-trips. Stevie can manage a night in the same bed, and eight hours in the same car. It’ll be awkward for a while, but eventually it’ll be fine. It’ll probably even be funny, when she tells it to David: I got so drunk on a fake honeymoon that I thought Twyla was into me, but hey, how’s married life treating you? Might I recommend avoiding the peach wine?

*

When Stevie wakes up, she’s alone and their bags are gone. She sits up in bed, weighing panicking against going back to sleep: it’s an obvious choice. She’ll deal with the wreckage of her life later.

She stops squeezing her eyes shut when she hears the door open. Twyla walks in with a fast-food bag. 

“Morning! I went back for the car and packed it up. Also, got breakfast,” Twyla says. It seems likely that this is a dream. Stevie pinches herself. “Wanna eat in the car? We can be in Chicago by lunch.”

Not a dream.

But it looks like they’re going to pretend it didn’t happen. That makes sense. Way more sense that Twyla taking off without her. Twyla is kind, and caring, and a thousand other things that make her a better person than Stevie.

They get in the car. I climbed a mountain and I turned around, sing the Dixie Chicks. When this song was on yesterday, they both sang along. Now Twyla’s white-knuckling the steering wheel. 

Stevie manages to unclench her jaw. “Hey, about last night—”

Twyla huffs out half a laugh. “Literally everyone knows that you make out with people when you’re drunk, Stevie. No worries.”

Huh.

That’s— not inaccurate, but.

She almost texts David, but she’s pretty sure she knows what his advice would be, and she doesn’t have good running shoes on. She types out a text to Patrick. Twyla and I made out and she thinks it was just bc I was drunk. I can’t tell if she’s letting me down easy or if she has no idea I’m into her. Should I try again y/n/m.

She hesitates before sending it. She hasn’t come out to Patrick; it’s vulnerable in a different way than telling David was. Because she thinks Patrick might understand it, the confusion and the relief, more than anyone needs to understand anything about her. Still, she sort of— wants to tell him. 

She hits send, then turns off her phone and hides it under her thigh for good measure.

By Dinwiddie, Indiana, the CD has restarted and the opening notes to Landslide echo again. Stevie turns on her phone. 

Try again!! I’m guessing she has no idea, and either way it’ll feel better knowing for sure, he’d said, two minutes after she sent her message. It’s annoying: that’s the type of good advice she gets for texting Patrick. She should have texted David. He would have told her to try something easier: jumping out of the car onto the shoulder and sprinting home. 

Right after his first message, Patrick sent another one that’s just an emoji smiley-face. Gross. 

Stevie sends one back. 

What level of top-secret is this info, Patrick replies. 

Lol. David knows but not about Twyla. Don’t tell him, I want to see his face.

*

They have lunch at Portillo’s. It seems to be a terrifying, lawless place but it’s worth it for the chili dog. Stevie stalls, waiting until they’ve finished eating to break the silence, which creates the exciting likelihood that she’ll throw up with nerves.

“I like you.” Saying it feels terrible, and also better than not saying it felt. “Which is probably obvious, but—”

“You— what?” Twyla’s eyes go so wide that Stevie can see the darker ring around her irises. “In like a friend way?”

“No? I mean, yes, but. Also in a more-than-that way.”

Twyla lunges across the table to kiss her. It’s delicate and perfect, even though they both taste like chili. 

When she pulls away a second later, they’re both grinning uncontrollably. Twyla lifts a hand to her own lips. “I can’t believe you thought it was obvious, oh my God. Stevie, I’ve been like, dying.”

“Sorry.” Stevie’s so happy she might just float away. She teases, “So, we’re in Chicago. What do you want to do? We could see the Bean, or ride the L—”

Twyla’s voice pitches so high it cracks when she says, “Or we could find a motel?”

“Or that!”

*

“This is fine,” Stevie says; beneath her, Twyla is blotchy-red, face screwed up, eyes teary. From laughter. As Stevie leans down to kiss her, the bedsprings are so loud it’s like Robby the Robot is doing somersaults in the mattress. “Totally fine!”

“This is— great, even,” Twyla manages. Stevie collapses into giggles, hiding her face in Twyla’s neck. Even that movement is enough to make the bedsprings screech ferociously again. “Should we ask to change rooms?”

“You want to go tell that underpaid woman at the front desk—”

“If you told her, and maybe played up your shared experiences—”

“Oh my God. We can fuck on the floor.” Stevie pulls Twyla off the bed and strips the sheets, starting to build a blanket fort for them. Luckily, it’s a clean floor— this place is really straddling the line between motel and hotel, as it should be, considering how expensive it was—

“You know, Stevie? That’s what I like about you. So practical,” Twyla says, and then basically tackles her. 

Being underneath Twyla is the best place Stevie’s ever been; they really could have saved a lot of gas money if Twyla had said let’s fuck instead of let’s go back in the Cafe. 

Twyla is precise with her body in a way that makes Stevie think of master archers, of the potential energy in a nocked arrow; she teases Stevie, stroking the skin just above the waistband of her jeans, rocking her hips between Stevie’s spread thighs, pulling back to press her lips to Stevie’s neck whenever the kiss starts to deepen. “Fuck,” Stevie says, clutching at Twyla as if they could possibly get closer. “Fuck, you’re making me so wet.”

“Good,” Twyla says hoarsely, and lets Stevie take off her shirt and bra.

Stevie’s brain short-circuits. She manages not to say holy shit, boobs out loud, but it’s a close one. The corners of Twyla’s eyes crinkle like maybe she can tell, possibly because Stevie’s jaw dropped. 

“You’re so hot,” Stevie says, touching her, trying to figure out what she likes. Twyla arches into it when Stevie pinches her nipple, and she starts making noises when Stevie caresses the side of her breast with her thumb.  

“If you want to slow down or stop—” Twyla says, even as her hips are rocking against Stevie’s, searching for friction.

“I really, really don’t.”

“Okay. Okay.” Twyla takes a deep breath. Her hair has started to fall loose from its bun. Stevie tucks a strand back behind her ear. “I have barriers in that pocket of my bag; I just got checked and I don’t have anything, but some people prefer—”

“Is that a hint about my manicure?” Stevie jokes, and extracts herself. She needs a glove since she hasn’t taken care of her nails this trip, though that’s going to become a top priority going forward. She walks over to Twyla’s bag and unzips the outer pocket.

“Wait! Other pocket!” 

Stevie bursts out laughing. “Oh my God, Twyla.”

It’s not a skip-town bag.

The pocket is full of toys: right on top, there’s a blindfold, handcuffs, and a strap-on, holy fuck. Of course Twyla’s secretly freaky. It makes so much sense that Stevie can’t believe she didn’t always know. “Is this a sex-getaway bag? That you kept in your car?”

“...yes? Are you, uh, cool with that?” Twyla asks, as if this isn’t the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow thirty-odd years in the making.

“Yep, very cool, we are absolutely coming back to this.” Stevie finds gloves in the other pocket. 

Twyla’s still tangled in the blankets on the floor, topless, blushing with possibly embarrassment but hopefully arousal. Just to tip the balance, Stevie takes off her pants. 

“Let me help with that,” Twyla says, pulling her back onto the blankets. She kisses Stevie as they take off her shirt. She rubs Stevie through her underwear. “Mm, yeah, you are wet.”

“No shit,” Stevie gasps. One of her legs kicks out when Twyla finds her clit. Twyla reaches for a glove, but Stevie says, “Wait. Can I eat you out?”

Twyla’s still frozen from when Stevie said wait. “That’s— I mean, yes I’d like that, but— only if you’re sure?”

“Very sure,” Stevie says. Twyla settles back against the pillow, breathing hard.

Stevie’s never done this before, but she’s had enough terrible head that through sheer process of elimination, she’s pretty sure she can rock Twyla’s world.

She works Twyla up for it, kissing her neck and breasts and thighs until she’s shaking. Twyla’s hand clenches and unclenches in Stevie’s hair. She can tell Twyla’s just dying to yank her around, so she stops sucking on Twyla’s hipbone long enough to say, “Yeah, please, just fucking do it.”

Twyla’s grip tightens, and it stings so beautifully that Stevie moans. She pushes Stevie down. 

Her underwear is soaked. Stevie mouths over it, and Twyla’s hips rock up. “God—  yes— oh fuck, this is gonna be quick—”

She peels off the underwear. Underneath, Twyla is clenching around nothing. Stevie puts on the glove and slides two fingers into her, so easily. Holy shit. Twyla feels hot and wet and incredible, even through the barrier. Stevie curls her fingers and Twyla’s whole body arches in reaction.

“I’ve been missing out,” Stevie says breathlessly, and then buries her face between Twyla’s thighs. 

“Mm, oh fuck, Stevie— that feels amazing.”

Stevie spends a while luxuriating in it, because putting her tongue where Twyla is so slick and soft feels pretty amazing from this side too. Eventually, she pulls back. “Tell me how to make you come.”

“You’re, God, you’re doing it.” Twyla’s head lifts up from the pillow and then thuds back down, her thighs clenching around Stevie’s head. “Fuck, you look so— the side, the side of my clit.”

It only takes a minute of attention there before Twyla is coming. And, like, coming a lot, for a long time: it looks like it was really good for her. Stevie feels pretty smug for someone with a wet face. She really followed through on the world-rocking.

Finally, Twyla sits up. Her bun is a wreck and she’s sweat-drenched. She grins. “Your turn.”

She fucks Stevie senseless with her tongue; Stevie comes so hard she sobs. After, Twyla kisses her trembling thigh and asks, so tenderly, “Can I keep going? I want to make you come again.”

Stevie’s not going to say no to that.

After, Stevie mumbles into the sheets, “I can’t move. We live on the floor now.”

Twyla has the audacity to giggle. Like she didn’t just break the scale on which Stevie measures orgasms. Twice. 

“Sounds fine to me.” Twyla kisses Stevie’s shoulder. “You know, I had the hugest crush on you in high school.”

Stevie blinks, which is the strongest reaction she has the bodily strength for. “You did?”

“Oh, come on.” Twyla nips at her jaw. “You were older than me, and so tough, and taught me how to drive? You had to have known I thought you were the coolest thing basically ever.”

Stevie grins. “I had no idea. How about now?”

“Oh, jury’s out,” Twyla says, and kisses her.

*

The next morning, Twyla says they’re going to do Legacy Walk in Boystown. As far as morning-after activities for first-time gay sex goes, it’s a solid second place. First place being staying in bed, obviously. Especially since Twyla decides to get dressed in Stevie’s flannel.

It’s a gorgeous memorial to important figures throughout queer history. Stevie’s gets a little teary, but it’s okay because Twyla does too. She also notices just how many other queer people are walking around, more than she’s ever seen in one place, maybe more than she’s ever seen in her life. 

Twyla clutches her hand and reads each plaque with the same reverence that Stevie has seen her direct at the stars; she remembers what Twyla said about the night sky making her feel comfortingly smaller, and wonders if that’s the same feeling that Stevie’s having right now about being part of something bigger. 

*

She facetimes David to tell him about it, but what she ends up saying is, “I fucked Twyla.”

There’s a split-second of David’s shocked-delighted-disbelieving expression before he drops his phone on his face.

*

They leave Chicago later that day even though there’s much more to do; nothing is going to live up to the Legacy Walk, and Stevie’s starting to get antsy.

“What is there to do in Wisconsin?” Stevie asks.

“Um, on the map I’m seeing a ‘Noah’s Ark Waterpark’?”

“I think not.”

“Hmm, then there’s ‘Devil’s Lake.’”

“Driving through til Michigan it is!”

*

Escanaba River State Forest looks breath-taking as they drive through. They find a motel, and then don’t end up seeing any of it.

*

Emir sends her a link to his article. 

She doesn’t open it, her hands shaking with fury. That’s her goddamn motel, and she’s going to have the final word on in memoriam. Johnny and Roland would want to give the Rosebud a proper send-off too. She’ll find the photos of the motel, of her team. Of Maureen. Maybe she’ll go to Council; Moira’s seat is empty since she didn’t run again after her term ended, but she still has sway, and Ronnie would be easy to convince— 

Twyla asks, “What are you thinking about?” 

“I don’t know,” Stevie says, staring out the passenger-side window at Lake Michigan, “I guess about what’s next.”

*

They cross the border into Canada. There’s not much to do in this part of Ontario but take scenic drives or hike, until Sudbury. Stevie pulls over for Science North. They go to a Planetarium show, and Twyla loves it so much they stay through the next showing, even though it’s in French.

“You said you knew some orders?” Stevie reminds her after it ends. 

Twyla gives her a wicked grin. “If you want, I can show you later.”

She looks like she’s contemplating sitting through it a third time, so Stevie drags her out into the exhibits. They take the mine tour, which goes seven stories underground. Stevie holds up a bunch of rocks for Twyla to identify. As they walk out, Twyla holds up Stevie’s hand. “Your hand is so dirty.”

“Mm, you said that last night too.”

Twyla snickers. “Can I read your palm?”

“Sure,” Stevie says, stretching out her fingers for it. Twyla studies her palm carefully.

“It says you’re cute,” she says and laces their fingers together.

*

That night, Stevie buckles the black leather straps of the harness around Twyla’s waist and thighs, and adjusts the base of the dildo so it’s pressed against Twyla’s clit. Twyla slicks it up with lube, and it looks like she’s jerking herself off. She fingers Stevie, near-clinical, testing to see if she’s wet and stretched enough to take it. Stevie is; she’s so turned on she can barely breathe.

Stevie’s nails scratch up Twyla’s back when she pushes in. “Oh, fuck, that’s so— God, Twyla—”

“Does it feel good?” Twyla murmurs hotly against Stevie’s neck, rolling her hips with slow lazy control, rubbing Stevie’s clit with her thumb.

“So good,” Stevie pants. They’re sweaty, bodies gliding easily together. “You?”

“So good,” Twyla echoes. “The pressure is, fuck, it’s a tease. I love it.”

Stevie strains for a kiss and Twyla gives it to her. Stevie’s so wet that the sound each time Twyla fucks into her is obscene. When Stevie comes, Twyla fucks her through it, then takes off the strap-on. The harness left little pink lines around her thighs. Stevie licks them.

“So when are you going to start speaking French?” Stevie teases, crooking her fingers in Twyla, and Twyla’s laughing as she comes. 

They doze together until Twyla groans, “My ass is killing me, I’m going to take a hot shower.”

The way Twyla waddles off is very cute, but the threat of a UTI is what gets her up. 

“I’m coming in to pee,” Stevie warns over the rush of the shower.

Twyla shouts, “Do you see my toothbrush? I couldn’t find it, I think I left it in America!”

“You can use mine,” Stevie shouts back, peeing, flushing. 

“Stevie! That’s gross!”

“You literally just fucked me,” Stevie says as she washes her hands. Her abdominal muscles are still too shaky to laugh, so she just sort of huffs. 

“Toothbrush-sharing is totally different,” Twyla complains, but she pokes her head out the curtain and puckers until Stevie gives her a kiss.

“See!” Stevie smacks their lips together wetly. As she leaves and lets the bathroom door swing closed behind her, she calls, “You already have my cooties!’’

They’ve continued getting double motel rooms. Stevie curls up in the dry bed and turns on the TV. Most of the channels are staticky, since they’re in the middle of nowhere. She channel-surfs until she finds one.

No fucking way.

“His call thunders throughout the ocean,” intones the narrator. 

It’s the loneliest-animals documentary. 

A few minutes later, Twyla comes out, naked except for a towel-wrap in her hair. “Oh,” she says, barely glancing at the screen, “That stuff always makes me cry. Can we not watch it?”

Stevie nods, and Twyla changes the channel.

*

In the morning, she asks David again, like she did months ago. “Do you remember that whale?”

David blinks a few times. Clarity slowly dawns on his face. “Oh. You still think about that documentary?”

“Yeah.” She can barely talk over the lump in her throat. “I still feel like that, except— worse. Alone like I’ve been left behind.”

David sways a little, disappearing from screen, reappearing on screen. The words are rushed and tangled when he says, “Stevie. That’s— no. You know I love you. Right?”

She stares at him. He’s averting eye contact in the nervous, determined way she’s seen countless times, when he’s brave enough to start something but not brave enough to watch it unfold.

It’s been over a decade since anyone has said that to her, and longer since she’s said it back. Trying to fit her tongue around it feels like dredging up a long-forgotten foreign language. “I love you too.”

There’s a blur on the screen as his hand rises to brush a tear away from his eye, and then he covers it with a laugh. “And obviously I’m the most important one, but— I’m not the only one. You are so, so loved.”

Stevie’s chest could crack open with how much feeling wells within her. She’s spent so long trying not to feel anything because she’s a person who feels too much, but now she lets it rush through her. She exhales a shuddering breath. 

Then she tells David, “I’ll be there when you get home.”

*

In the morning, she and Twyla pack up the car and route the GPS to Schitt’s Creek.

“Where would we have ended up if we kept going?” Stevie asks as Twyla turns the keys in the ignition. 

Twyla kisses her gently, and with her hands cradling Stevie’s face, says: “Right here.”