The wind is gentle on Ryn’s face. Her elbow is peeking out of the window, her face pillowed on her forearm. Her eyes trace the passing scenery, the forests that bleed into fields that gradually turn into towns. Sometimes she glances over where Ben is now sitting behind the driving wheel - he and Maddie trade places - and when he catches her eye, he offers her a smile. Ryn mirrors it and then her eyes are being pulled back to the world outside that changes constantly. (Ben and Maddie promised she will get her turn driving, somewhere quiet and safe. Ryn can be patient, for now.)
Ryn drives on an empty road through a forest. She’s not terrible at driving but there is room for improvement. Maddie smiles at her from the passenger seat, a smile so big and bright it feels like she lights up the car. Later, Ben takes Ryn’s spot and brings them to the place where they will spend the weekend camping.
It’s breathtaking. Ryn spins around, feet bare on the grass of the little clearing. The nature around so beautiful and calm. And the air is… different, too. Ryn can’t smell the ocean here.
“You like it?” Ben asks. He’s carrying the bags from the car, an easy smile playing on his lips.
“I love,” Ryn says and twirls around some more.
What Ryn doesn’t love, turns out, is the spider that find its way into their tent that evening. Her hands curl into fists and she eyes it with great suspicion while she tries her best to be as far away from it as possible when you are stuck in a tent.
“Too many legs,” she says after Ben takes it outside. “Bad.”
During the day, they hike. Maddie takes pictures; the stunning views, Ben pointing to the horizon, Ryn smiling wild. Sometimes it’s all three of them together, when they find a place to set the camera down. Though they often end up decapitated by the framing. Ben laughs and kisses her and asks her to keep those pictures as well. “We can make a whole series out of them,” he says. At night they watch the stars from their little clearing, sharing a blanket that’s been laid out on the grass. They hold hands and kiss and kiss and kiss. Their laughter rings through the air. Maybe this is what being free feels like.
Weekend turns into a week and they drive north, across the border. They stop at the first motel they see. The shower is way too small to fit all three of them but they try anyway. Ben, shivering and cold, gives up first and heads into the room. Maddie and Ryn stay a while. Maddie washes Ryn’s hair for her and touches her body and kisses her lips. She keeps her own head out of the spray. She doesn’t have time for hair care, not when Ben is waiting for them in bed, not when Ryn is right here at her fingertips. They dry themselves off in a hurry and stumble out of the bathroom naked and grinning.
Ben looks up at them. He smiles back and opens his arms. Ryn is in his lap immediately, all hungry hands and sharp kisses. Maddie sits down by Ben’s side and her touch is firm but her mouth is gentle. It’s a thrilling contrast between the two of them. They both know how to hurt him best and Ben loves every second of it. Maddie’s lips on his neck, Ryn’s hand on his cock. Maddie’s voice as she whispers “not yet, not yet” into his ears and then her warmth, almost stifling, surrounding him completely.
They spend the night crammed on one of the beds. Maddie sleeps in the middle, Ryn faces her and Ben is pressed along her back. The next day, Ben wears their bruises proudly. The desk clerk avoids eye contact at all costs. Ben feels like a teenager all over again when he’s laughing about it in the parking lot while they prepare to set off again.
“Let’s stop for food,” Maddie suggests.
The grocery store is size-appropriate to the town they’re in. That is to say, it is fairly small, and the three of them have an undeniable presence in it. They ignore the curious looks they’re receiving and simply navigate through the store and around each other with practised ease. It’s new. Being somewhere where nobody knows them. Nobody knows about Ryn, or anything else that makes staying in Bristol Cove feel so suffocating at times. Ben feels relief wash over him when he looks at these people and knows they don’t recognize him. It makes him kiss Maddie and Ryn outside of the store, brazen and wild with the feeling. Maddie gives him a surprised smile but kisses him back nevertheless.
Maddie is driving. Ryn is in the passenger seat again, head pillowed on her arm that rests on the window. Ben is in the backseat, studying a map of the area.
“Take the next left,” he says as he looks up to the road briefly and then down into the map again.
They camp by the ocean. Ryn stands on the shore facing the blue, never-stilling vastness. The wind is combing through her hair with impatience, and there’s longing in her face that Ben recognizes.
“Do you want to go in?” he asks, looking at her from the side. “At night.”
“Is that safe? This could be someone else’s territory.” Worry seeps into Maddie’s voice. Ben extends an arm towards her and tugs her into his side.
“Not this close to land,” Ryn says. “I will go at night.”
Ben and Maddie sit and listen to the ocean. They’re pressed together, shoulder to hip, and Maddie finds Ben’s hand to hold. The night is a little cloudy, but they see the moon and the stars peeking out from behind the dark splotches that stretch across the sky.
“I told my dad we’re going on a camping trip,” Maddie says, voice as gentle as the pad of her thumb stroking across his hand. “And here we are, running away.”
“We’re not running,” Ben says. He’s looking into the waves, foolishly trying to spot Ryn among the darkness.
“Then why does it feel like we are, Ben?” Maddie gives him a look and she isn’t angry, she… She looks like she has questions. “It’s been almost a month.”
The breath that escapes him is long and defeated. Silence drags on, interrupted by the waves rolling in over and over and over again.
“I know,” he says at last with a sigh. “Just… I need a little while longer.”
Maddie wraps her arms around him, pulls him closer, so impossibly closer, and presses her lips to the corner of his mouth.
“Okay,” she whispers in between small kisses. “Let’s send him a postcard tomorrow.”
Ben chuckles. “Okay.”
“Make love to me.”
Their clothes stay on. Something about it, the sense of urgency, the lightheartedness, makes him feel young again. Young like he’s supposed to feel but hasn’t in a while. He fucks into her and her hand is in his hair, on his shoulder, grounding him. Ben finds his face in the crook of Maddie’s neck and presses his mouth to her skin. I love you I love you I love you he doesn’t say. It thrums through the air all on its own. They fall asleep a tangled mess of limbs. Not sure where one ends and the other begins.
When Ben wakes up in the morning, Ryn is there, tucked into his side. He kisses her forehead. Her eyes open briefly and then fall closed again. She’s smiling. He peers up into the sky, not yet full with colour. Ben feels at peace. Maddie was right; it’s time to go home.
They send a postcard and bet whether or not they arrive before it does. Ben thinks they will, Maddie says they won’t. Ryn sides with Maddie, of course. Traitor. They take the long way home.
The shower is big enough. It’s a cheap hotel and this is a pleasant surprise. Maddie presses a hand along his nape and kisses him with a smile. Ryn ducks under his arm to step into the spray of water. She turns her face up into it, eyes closed in silent bliss. She’s adorable. (Ben is aware she can kill a man in a matter of seconds.)
It is a whole new level of intimacy to shower with someone else there. The nakedness and vulnerability of it all, it startled Ben the first time. He thought it would be hot but instead it was so unbearably tender. The feeling is still there, after all this time. It blooms in his chest when Maddie places a hand on his lower back. Trying to actually shower proved to be hard right from the start. The presence of another is too distracting. Too much skin begging to be touched and kissed… Ben carefully sinks to his knees to nip on Ryn’s hip bone. He runs his fingers through the short hair covering her mound and then his mouth is on her. His eyes fall closed and his mouth falls open. He nudges her to put a leg over his shoulder, to open herself to him more. His hand feels so big on the small of her back.
Ben is pulled back up by his hair. It burns so good he moans. There’s a mouth on his and judging by the lack of biting it must be Maddie’s. He hums and strokes her tongue with his. Then he reaches out blindly to stop the shower; they’ve wasted enough water already. He’s not really dry at all when his back hits the mattress. Ryn climbs on top of him, impatient. And then there’s Maddie, kissing down Ryn’s back.
Ryn ends up lying on her back, Ben’s fingers in her mouth and Maddie’s head between her thighs. She moans and gasps and hums, lips parted around Ben’s digits. Later, Ben slides those fingers, spit-slick, inside of Maddie’s heat. Maddie leans her forehead against his, her breath warm on his cheek. He fucks her, fast and needy. They are not quiet; the walls are paper-thin. Ben sleeps in the middle that night.
Ryn drives and noone dies. She’s so damn proud of herself, all but glowing with pride. And it’s pride that tugs on Ben’s heart and doesn’t let go for a while. He looks at Maddie and she looks back at him and he knows. Knows that she feels the same way. It makes him want to kiss her and so he does. And then kisses Ryn, too.
It doesn’t feel like coming home. How could it? He was home the entire time, with Ryn and Maddie by his side. But… it’s good to be back.
“Got your postcard,” Dale tells them with a kind smile.
“Loser buys dinner!” Maddie yells and laughs and yeah. Maybe he missed this town a little bit.