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Sapphic September 2021

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Awareness comes to her by degrees: the safety of the darkness easing, Alexis' hair gleaming in the dawning light.

The sun is rising. It's a new day.

It seemed easy enough last night, after the wedding, after a few too many drinks. Easy enough for their dancing together to turn into something more, for their hands to move a little more deliberately, for them to sneak away from the reception and into Alexis' room. In the daylight, Stevie worries that it might not be that simple.

But then Alexis opens her eyes and smiles at her, and... maybe it is.

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Ruth makes her way to the creek, picnic basket in hand as she carefully picks her way through the damp grass. Ahead of her, Twyla's ponytail gleams in the sunlight, strands of red swaying to and fro as she follows a path created by the locals walking this way so many times they wore it into place.

It's so far from the life Ruth is used to: far from her suburban upbringing, far from a career spent inside stuffy boardrooms. But she's grateful, for every twist and turn that led her to this moment, to this woman, to this town.

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Twyla sits up as she hears the back door open, brushing the back of her hand across her forehead to wipe off the sweat and realising too late she's probably replaced it with a smear of dirt instead. She twists, easing the crick in her back and smiling gratefully as Stevie hands her a glass of lemonade before bending down to give her a quick kiss.

Buying a house together was a whirlwind, and Stevie (very reasonably) wanted to focus on the inside first. But now Twyla's been let loose on the garden, and she's determined to make it theirs.

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"I miss being able to see the stars."

Alexis doesn't realise she's going to say it until it's already out of her mouth. She loves being back in the city, but in Schitt's Creek, she could go outside and stare up at the night sky and feel like a part of something bigger.

She misses it.

Rachel hums. "I'm making this a FaceTime, hang on."

Alexis pulls the phone away from her ear but instead of her girlfriend's face filling the screen, it's—

"Wow." Suddenly, inexplicably, she's choking back tears. "I miss you, babe."

"We're under the same stars, Alexis."

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Wrangling three high-powered career women with conflicting schedules into a shared vacation proved surprisingly difficult.

Luckily, Ruth loves a spreadsheet. Almost as much as she loves Stevie and Alexis.

Making her way towards the pool she finds the others already there, Alexis crowding Stevie against the concrete wall, water lapping around their bare shoulders as they kiss lazily in the moonlight. Through the rippling water she can see two intertwined expanses of bare skin; suddenly Ruth, in a bikini that seemed daring when she bought it, feels overdressed.

She unhooks her top, letting it fall as she enters the water.

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There are flowers hanging from the archway, delicately dropping and framing the three people standing underneath it; bouquets are placed strategically up the makeshift aisle, marking the way. It looks stunning, but then, Ronnie wouldn't have expected anything else.

(She told everyone she was doing this for David, and she meant it. But maybe a tiny part of her did it for Brewer too.)

She'd thought the florist was a one-time thing, a post-divorce fling to help her feel sexy again. But the smile in her voice when Ronnie called her today... she can't stop thinking about it.

About her.

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"We can't—"

"Sure we can." Stevie tugs, and Rachel stumbles along behind her as they sneak around the back of the motel, to the expanse of overgrown grass they can barely make out in the dark.

"Won't someone see us?"

"How?" Stevie snorts. "The security lights back here busted years ago. There's not even a moon tonight. Didn't you ever sneak out and fool around in public when you were younger?"

Rachel's hand tenses in hers, and Stevie remembers a fraction of a second too late who she's talking to. But then, mercifully, Rachel relaxes.

"It's never too late, right?"

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They're sitting on the hood of the car outside a Rosebud motel along Route 66, blanket wrapped around their shoulders and their breath blossoming into small clouds before disappearing into the crisp air. Stevie hadn't been able to sleep, tossing and turning until finally, sometime a little after five, Alexis had taken her hand and dragged her outside.

"If we're not going to sleep," she'd murmured in Stevie's ear when Stevie had objected to putting her shoes on, "we can at least improve the view."

The night melts away, replaced by a stunning dawn, and Stevie can feel herself relax.

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"I'm not good at this!"

"Hey, I know. The first time I went skiing I fell on my ass, like, eighteen times."

"Okay, but the first time you went skiing you were like four."

"True, but--"

"No. No, okay! I tried, I did. But I'm soaked to the skin, I didn't know it was possible to be this cold, and I'm not having fun anymore. I'm sorry. I know you love this, but I'm not--"

"Okay, honey? Breathe. It's fine."

"But I'm ruining our romantic weekend."

"Babe, there's a bar and a hot tub. I promise, nothing's ruined. Okay?"

"Okay."

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"Oh!" Twyla's eyes light up when Rachel hands her the stuffed bear with a flourish, hard-won on the ring toss. "No one's ever won me anything before."

Rachel's chest aches. For all that her and Patrick's relationship was... oh, let's say complicated, she got all those clichés; he won her a bear just like this one, once, when they were young and everything was easy.

It's new, this thing with Twyla, but Rachel's already learning that their upbringings were very different.

She doesn't want to relive the past, but she can bring the best parts of it into her future.

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When they finally take the next step, it basically happens by accident.

Half of Ruth's closet is full of decidedly un-Ruth-like clothes, left behind after a sleepover and somehow, miraculously, winding up clean and hung up; Alexis has a side of the bed, with her phone charger and a book she's never going to read; Ruth's fridge is always stocked with the raspberry coolers she thinks are vile, but Alexis loves.

Still, it's not until she swings by her apartment to find a thin layer of dust on the surfaces that she realises they may have accidentally moved in together.

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Alexis' head is thrown back, one hand gripping the headboard behind her, the other tangling itself in Stevie's hair, surprisingly gentle despite how hard she's trembling underneath Stevie's touch. Sweat pools in the hollow of her throat before dripping down her clavicle, between her breasts, towards her navel. Stevie doesn't stop moving her hand even as she leans forward, flattening her tongue, lapping up the sweat, salt bursting across her tongue.

"Babe." It comes out in a whine, and Stevie bites down on a smirk. It usually takes Alexis longer to beg. "Stevie, please..."

Stevie gives her what she needs.

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Alexis lugs the last box up the stairs, dropping it onto the table and sinking into the chair with a sigh. Despite the exhaustion radiating through every muscle, she looks around, unable to contain her grin as she takes in the bare walls, the empty shelves.

She's never really laid down roots before, flitting from one country to another, dropping in at her parents' or David's if she needed a break. Even when she moved to New York, it was all so quick she ended up subletting; it was never permanent.

This, though: this new apartment, Ruth's smile — that's permanent.

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Alexis is sweating. And not in a cute way, like after a run or a spin class or one of Twy's yoga sessions. Her hair is hanging lank around her ears, under her chin is damp, her back feels clammy, and she doesn't even want to think about the state of her armpits. Ugh.

She straightens up, ignoring the way her muscles are screaming at her, only to find herself nose to nose with Heather.

"Um, hi."

"Thanks for helping, Alexis."

She wants to take a step back before Heather smells her, but Heather's smile roots her to the spot.

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"I really appreciate you coming with me this weekend." Ruth tucks a stray strand of hair behind Twyla's ear. She'd been nervous, bringing Twy to her grandparents' for their big anniversary party. "It means a lot. To me, and to them, too. They love having people stay here."

"Then how come none of your cousins stayed?" Twyla frowns, leaning in and lowering her voice. "Is it because of the ghost?"

Ruth blinks quickly. "What?"

"The ghost? The presence in the end room? She seemed to like me."

She should have known Twy wouldn't be fazed. "Guess you're wanted here, then."

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"Ah, someone else with this terrible habit."

Rachel jumps, almost dropping her cigarette. Behind her, a dark-haired woman smirks at her, reaching into the pocket of her pantsuit for her own pack.

Rachel doesn't know many people here, but when her visit to see David and Patrick coincided with David's dad's retirement party, they'd both insisted she come along.

Suddenly, she's glad she did.

"I'm Rachel."

The woman's smile grows wider. "Hi, Rachel. I'm Ruth."

Rachel tries to tell herself the twist in her stomach is just the crab cakes, and not the way her name sounds in Ruth's mouth.

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Blues and greens and reds burst across Twyla's face as she hangs over Alexis' balcony. On the streets below, people are singing Auld Lang Syne over the noise of the fireworks, and Alexis takes a large gulp of champagne to settle her nerves.

She's been in New York four months, on her own for the first time, getting to know herself. She knows what she wants, now.

"Hey Twy?"

Twyla turns, still smiling. "Yeah?"

"You know how you told me last year was going to be a good year?"

"Of course."

"I think this one's going to be even better."

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The thing about Alexis is, Stevie has kind of learned to just... let it happen. It makes for a much more peaceful life. But this... she really thinks she might have to draw the line at this.

"Come on, Stevie, it'll be super fun! You and Twy are, like, the cutest little couple now, and Ruth and I are obviously super in love. We should celebrate that!"

"Okay, but that doesn't mean I want to go on a double date. I mean, come on. It's just cheesy."

Alexis just looks at her. "Mmkay, I think you do want to, though."

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In the old tales, they speak of a fae queen, mysterious and aloof. They say she's so beautiful men are enchanted by her, that they cannot help but do her bidding. They say she keeps them dancing to her tune, marionettes on her string, until she tires of them, casting them out.

Stevie puts no stock in these tales. Men are fools, and these tales serve only to explain their foolishness.

At least, that's what she believes until the night she puts her foot into a fairy ring.

She appears, holding out a hand, and Stevie cannot help but follow.

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"Would you let it go?"

David fixes her with a surprisingly clear gaze, considering how high they are. "Give me one reason it wouldn't work, and I'll stop."

"Because—"

"One good reason. An actual reason, not an excuse."

She plucks the joint out of his hand and inhales, welcoming the distracting burn in her lungs. When she speaks, it's through a cloud of smoke before she can regret the honesty. "I think there's too much history there."

David sits up, eyes bright. "Wait, did you and Twyla—"

"No! She just... we were kids together, you know?"

David hums. "Sounds romantic."

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"That's not Jupiter."

"It is!" Heather laughs, low and throaty, a laugh that makes Rachel heat up from the inside out despite the chill of the night air. They're spread out on a checkered blanket, Rachel tucked under Heather's arm as they stare up at the sky.

"But that's a whole other planet." Rachel shakes her head, disbelieving. "There's no way we could see that without, like, a telescope or whatever."

Heather flips them, pinning Rachel underneath her, her hair tickling Rachel's cheek. "We could google it." She grins. "What will you give me when I win?"

Rachel swallows. "Anything."

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When Patrick leaves, his eyes red-rimmed and loudly apologetic, the bite of the air he lets in when he opens the door makes Rachel wrap her arms around herself. Earlier, she thought Schitt's Creek was unseasonably warm — thought it was a good sign, in fact — but now she's more than aware of the season.

She's crouched by her suitcase looking for a sweater when a light knock on the door makes her jump.

Alexis Rose is on the other side, with a bottle of wine and a hesitant smile.

"Want a distraction?"

Yeah, Rachel thinks, surprising herself. Distract me.

Huh.

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Alexis has never been good at sitting still. She prefers to be on the move; between countries, between lovers, between adventures.

Schitt's Creek is forcing her to just be.

She hates not being good at things.

She finds herself sitting on the grass out the back of the motel, driven out of their shared room by David's energy, letting the creeping darkness hide her from her family, from this town, from her fear that they'll never get out.

Stevie appears beside her with a joint and a raised eyebrow.

Alexis thought she wanted to be alone.

Turns out she doesn't.

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Stevie Budd does not believe in magic.

If magic was real, there would be evidence. There's not, so it can't be. It's simple.

Twyla believes in magic, and Stevie can't understand why. She takes tarot seriously and talks about powers that she says exist in the universe, powers beyond anyone's comprehension, and at first, Stevie just grits her teeth, tries not to roll her eyes.

But Twyla looks at her as though she sees her; as though she knows everything there is to know about Stevie and likes her anyway.

And, well. There's something a little bit magic about that.

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Ruth is trying not to be paranoid, she really is. But the fact remains: she and Stevie spent a solid week together at a conference, and now Stevie is barely responding to her on Slack.

The thing is, Ruth was really starting to think something might happen. It feels like it's been building between them, but... maybe she was wrong.

Wishful thinking.

Still, her mom always told her it's better to know it's bad news than wonder, so she finally asks: Hey, are we okay?

The response, when it comes, is cautious. Thought you might need space.

From you? Never.

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Alexis knows the beach is a super cute look for her. In her old life, she always used to tip off the paparazzi whenever she was going out on a yacht, or to an island; she knows she looks hot in a bikini, knows an oversized hat and even more oversized sunglasses make her look glamorous and sexy.

She still knows that, even if that life is so far behind her it feels like a dream sometimes.

Still. The first time she and Ruth have a beach day, she brings her A game.

The look on Ruth's face is everything.

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Rachel's used to fielding questions about her relationship specifically and polyamory in general, ranging from the well-meaning, to the way too personal sex questions, to the straight up bigoted. Usually, she can smile and answer them, or grit her teeth and answer them, or turn them back around and make the person asking them squirm.

But something that never gets asked, something she never considered, before falling in love first with Alexis and then with Stevie, a practical question:

How, when there are three of you, do you decide who has to sit in the back on a road trip?

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Before she came to Schitt's Creek, Alexis always hated her laugh. It was too loud, too attention-seeking in all the wrong ways; that's what her friends told her. And so she learned to lighten it, to bite it back, to make it dainty and delicate. To make it what they wanted.

But here, in this town she thought she'd hate and grew to love, she's learned to shed all those expectations of who she was supposed to be; keep what she likes and discard the rest.

Shannon makes her laugh; she always has. A wild, uninhibited laugh.

She embraces it.

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David is frowning at her, and it takes everything in Stevie's willpower not to laugh.

"I don't get it." He pokes at her sweater. "How is this your costume?"

"We came as the scariest thing we knew," Stevie deadpans, and David's eyes light up.

"Oh, it's a couple's costume." Stevie will ignore the condescension in his voice, but only because she knows what's coming. "So all I need to do is spot Twyla..." he trails off, scanning the crowd until he notices Twyla, in her button-up shirt and braided belt.

Stevie waits for the exact moment he realises.

"You're us?!"

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The second time Alexis wears her wedding dr— sorry, her white floor-length gown, it's met with considerably more appreciation than it was the first time.

The sun is setting over the lake before Stevie manages to take Alexis' hand in hers and sneak the two of them away, after the bridal party photos but before the reception where she knows David is going to get her back for making him cry with her own maid of honour speech, almost three years ago now.

She just needs a moment to breathe.

And Alexis — Alexis, her wife — has always let her breathe.