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you’re the reason I had to start telling lies

Chapter Text

“I’m not going to lesbian Woodstock with you so you can prove to your friends you have a job.”

“It’s only for one night!”

“No.”

Ava throws her head back on the sofa in exasperation.

She knew Deborah wouldn’t agree to come with her to the Dinah Shore. Even though it’s happening mere blocks away from the pristine, mid-century home that Deborah owns in the heart of the Palm Springs old Hollywood district.

I mean it’s just as well, she can’t really picture her sandwiched between a vegan librarian hippie and a vape-smoking party girl.

They’ve come to Palm Springs to tour the new show and Deborah does have a gig in three days. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t have an interesting time while they’re here. Besides she has already taken two edibles and is feeling just buzzed enough to shoot her shot.

Also, Ruby is in town and that has become a whole thing.

“Look I wouldn’t be asking you if it wasn’t a big deal. Like there’s … okay so there’s a girl … and —“

“Oh Jesus let me stop you there. I’m not going to sit through another graphic play by play of the time you went down on a girl in a Starbucks bathroom.”

“Relax, it wasn’t with her.”

“What a relief,” Deborah deadpans and pours herself a cocktail from behind the bar.

“No. So, she was my… well she’s my ex and I mean we were kind of flirting the last time I saw her and we kissed and—“

Deborah fixes her with a glare and Ava holds up her hands in surrender, “We didn’t fuck!”

“Can you just get to the punchline before I die?”

“So, I thought we were kind of going in a certain direction and I sent her a…” Ava covers her face in her hand and mumbles past her fingers… “a sexy photo and then she stopped writing back.”

After dead silence, Ava peeks up at the older woman through her own fingers in time for Deborah’s infectious cackle to fill the room. Ava can feel her cheeks getting redder.

God why did she even tell her?

“No offense, but that’s hysterical.”

“I’m glad we can laugh about it now.” Ava groans, very much not ready to laugh about that shameful moment in very recent history.

“So, you’re going to turn up somewhere this girl is and what? Flash her?”

“No! I would never — I mean the photo was, well we were flirting about lingerie and—“

“You showed her your lingerie? From Target? You should have at least borrowed mine first, Christ.”

Ava’s thoughts flash to Deborah in full La Perla lingerie. She can imagine her standing at the bar, the black lace against her fair skin…

She tries to remember what the fuck they were even talking about to begin with when Deborah sits down beside her on the sofa.

“What was the plan?” Deborah asks, a smile still at her mouth as she sips her cocktail. It’s teasing and treacherous and Ava feels like she’s one false step from being the butt of the joke.

“I just thought we could happen to be at the club they’re at tonight and she could see me being successful. You know, people don’t even think I really work for you.”

“I’m sure that will be a catchy headline. Late in life lesbian: Deborah Vance on the prowl at Pussy Palace.”

“How did you know that’s what it’s called?”

Deborah cocks an eyebrow and Ava rolls her eyes. Sometimes she’s so easy.

Deborah’s phone dings and she glances at it briefly, before swallowing the last of her drink. She uses her thumb to scroll through a message and drops it in Ava’s lap, then gets up and leaves the younger woman on the sofa.

“Next time you send unsolicited sexual advances, make sure you’re sending it to the right victim.”

Ava feels the blood vacating the top half of her body and she looks down at the semi-nude photo of herself on Deborah’s phone.

“Oh and Ava, I’ll meet you in the Rolls in thirty minutes. If we’re going to a club I’m going to look halfway decent.”

Deborah’s eyes rake over her towards her doc martens where they settle disappointedly. Then she disappears down the hall and Ava wonders if she could just flee into the night successfully without anyone noticing.

Chapter Text

Ava flips through her Spotify playlist as she waits in the car for Deborah. This whole thing suddenly feels like the worst idea she’s ever had and that’s saying something since she once did cocaine at the top of the Chrysler building.

She picks an old Van Morrison song and drops her phone nervously in the cup holder.

What the hell is it going to be like with Deborah in a club? She verbally obliterated her own daughter in the middle of a sit down dinner. If someone so much as splashes a drink on her…

The car door opens and Ava can see the curve of Deborah’s hip as she gracefully lowers herself into the driver’s seat. She looks, as usual, fucking hot. Which is so typical…

“What, no KD Lang?” Deborah deadpans as she gestures to the stereo system.

Ava rolls her eyes and watches that teasing smile quirk the corner of her lips as she puts the car into gear.

“So where is this place?”

The lounge is 5 minutes away and they probably could have walked, though not in the heels Deborah’s wearing. Ava’s eyes travel down the length of her leg to the sharp heel just below the gas pedal.

The drive is short and Ava spends most of it running through all the possible scenarios of how tonight could go. In almost every run through, something cataclysmic occurs and it makes Ava’s stomach turn to knots.

Deborah herself seems untroubled as she navigates to the club which turns out to be beside a three story tall art installment of Marilyn Monroe.

Once the car is in park, Ava unfastens her seatbelt and reaches for the door handle.

“Wait right there. Let me look at you.”

Ava turns around slowly and catches Deborah’s eyes intently focused on her already.

Ava feels immediately self-conscious, even though she did change before they left. She chose a mostly black outfit, lesbian-chic with a striped tee and her combat boots.

“You look like a mime.”

“That’s what all the chicks dig these days.”

Deborah scoffs, “Did you even brush your hair?”

“Can we just go?” Ava asks, suddenly impatient under the critique of the older woman who herself looks red carpet ready for some reason, even though they’re going to a bar that has two stars on Yelp.

Deborah switches on the car and digs through her designer handbag, propped on her lap between herself and the steering wheel.

Ava sits in nervous silence as she waits for whatever thing Deborah’s decided to spring on her. Whose idea was this again?

“Now give me your lips.”

“Uhh what?” Ava stutters, as Deborah looks on expectantly.

The older woman uncaps a lipstick tube and she turns the flash of color up. It looks like it’s a neutral from all she can tell in the car’s lighting. And really, it would be so much easier to give Deborah a win early.

She sighs just enough to seem mildly indignant and then leans forward.

“You know, this obsession with women wearing makeup is—“

“Yeah yeah, anti-feminist, brainwashing, capitalist, blah blah blah. Just hold still.”

Deborah’s fingers press into her chin and Ava shivers at the sudden intimacy of it. She watches as Deborah glides the lipstick over her lower lip and takes the opportunity to look more closely at Deborah than she ever has. She notices the faint shine where the texture of Deborah’s eyeshadow smoothes over a scar and at her eyelash extensions — fastened neatly in a row at her lash line.

She doesn’t realize she’s holding her breath until Deborah half-whispers, “all done.”

Ava immediately misses Deborah’s fingertips as they slip from her chin. She only realizes she’s staring when Deborah finishes capping the lipstick and looks back at her to see the finished product. Ava hopes her blush is concealed by the dusk.

When they get out of the car, Ava can see Deborah’s cocktail dress better. It’s short enough to show off her legs, but long enough to look effortlessly classy. Her hair is upswept with the usual fall and she’s wearing real diamonds which couldn’t look more out of place for the venue and yet Ava can’t imagine her looking any other way. She knows it’s going to draw attention even before they get inside.

“Your hand, ma’am?” The woman at the door says and Deborah blinks at her like she’s speaking a foreign language.

Ava reaches around her and the woman stamps her hand.

“Can you do hers twice for me?” Deborah asks but the other woman doesn’t budge. Finally Deborah extends her hand and wrinkles her nose when the woman presses a rainbow colored inky blotch into her skin.

“If this is some kind of permanent ink…” Deborah begins to warn when Ava places her hands on the older woman’s hips and edges her forward into the venue. She tries not to blush again when her hands feel the warmth  of Deborah’s waist through her dress.

Navigating the room proves a challenge with the sheer number of people crowding the dance floor. Ava knows that Deborah will want a cocktail immediately so she tries to lead them towards one of the bars. After the third time they’re almost separated, Ava takes Deborah’s hand and holds on tightly as she pushes her way through. Deborah’s long nails press into the back of her hand and Ava tries not to address why that sensation makes her feel a certain type of way.

At the bar, Ava orders two shots to take the edge off and the bartender looks above her head to where Deborah stands behind her.

“Holy shit, is that Deborah Vance?”

“She gets that all the time,” Ava answers, dropping the cash on the bar and trading it for the drinks.

She turns around and offers one to Deborah who looks down at it then back at Ava with a raised brow.

“Just trust me on this. The quicker you get it down the quicker this place becomes bearable.”

Deborah smells hers first but then tosses it back quickly, handing Ava the empty glass.

“Can we get three or four more of those?” Deborah asks and Ava grins before swallowing hers.

As she turns back to the bartender, there’s a touch at her elbow.

“Ava?”

“Ruby! Oh my god hey! Hey!” The most awkward hug any two people have ever had ensues as Ava scrunches up her shoulders and taps Ruby on the back like she’s getting an infant to burp.

“So, so weird to see you here like this. Wow I didn’t even stop to think that you might be here tonight,” Ava rambles, trying to sound smooth and always managing to sound everything but.

“You didn’t see my text? I told you I’d be here tonight.”

“Oh no… no I, yeah sorry about that. I — well we’ve just been really busy.”

Ava turns wide eyes to Deborah hoping to drastically change the subject from her failed attempts at looking like she has her damn life together.

“We?” Ruby looks between Deborah and Ava and, then back at Deborah again who finally seems present enough to do something.

“Hi, Ruby is it? I’m Ava’s partner, Deborah.”

Partner? What the fuck?

“Oh, I didn’t—“ Ruby looks shocked. Maybe as shocked as she does, but she’s much more graceful about it, “I… wow, I… well it’s nice to meet you Deborah.”

Ava’s sharp, bordering on hysterical laugh startles them both into looking at her. The laugh then turns into a cough because of course it does.

“How long have you two…?” Ruby begins to ask, but lets the words trail off without end.

“It’s been about what, six months now? Longer than most of my relationships!”

It’s then that Ava realizes that Deborah is talking about their business partnership and that it is absolutely not what it sounds like.

“Well, you look great together. I’m glad to see you’re doing so well Ava. I’ll uhhh, well I guess I’ll let you girls have fun! Have a great night.” Ruby is polite but there’s no happiness in her tone.

When she’s gone Ava, finally together again, looks up at Deborah, “Your partner?”

“Yes? You wanted to look successful, I tried to make it sound as collaborative as possible even though we both know that it’s my—“

“You made it sound like we’re a couple!”

“Oh don’t be ridiculous.”

“Your longest relationship?”

Deborah looks off a moment, “Well.”

“That will be all over L.A. after the weekend so I hope you’re cool with that.”

“You’re being hysterical, I’m sure that didn’t even occur to her.”

“She said we look great together.”

Deborah places a hand on her own hip smugly, “What’d I say about the lipstick?”

“Deborah!”

“Oh my god Ava, Jesus, it’s fine. You’re so uptight, it’s like clubbing with my Catholic grandmother.”

“This was such a bad idea.”

“Oh I don’t know about all that, it’s kind of fun.” Deborah looks around beaming, clearly the star of the room as all eyes remain on her.

Ava rolls her eyes, “Can we just go home?”

“Oh sweetheart,” Deborah emphasizes the new pet name and leans in close to her, “I’m just getting started.”

A woman on the dance floor waves Deborah over and to Ava’s utmost surprise, Deborah acquiesces leaving the younger comedienne alone at the bar.

 

Chapter Text

By the end of the evening, Ava is nursing a cocktail while Deborah sits on the bar, surrounded by what has become a full audience. She can’t even be mad at being forgotten for most of the evening, sitting off by herself as Deborah worked her magic on the room. Deborah’s earned this and she’s really trying, especially knowing the new show is just around the corner. Ava finds herself watching with pride as she catches the odd bit of new material worked into the impromptu set.

At one point a woman accidentally brushes a hand across Deborah’s crossed thigh and she looks at the woman and says, “what are you, my therapist?”

Having told that particular story earlier in the evening, the bar erupts into gales of laughter.

Ava catches Deborah’s eye and for a moment, the loud cheers from the audience fade into the background and it’s like in movies where time slows and everything becomes romantically cinematic.

She really is magnificent. As much as Deborah drives her to new levels of frustration at times, moments like this remind her just how much the comedian means to her. How they both came into this situation kicking and screaming and now Ava’s stomach aches when she imagines ever going back to the time before Deborah. A time before fountain sodas in the living room and late night McDonalds french fry runs (of which there have been only two total — none on record).

They find themselves walking home, since both have had too many drinks. Deborah removes her high heeled shoes somewhere along the second block, and Ava carries them, heels balanced over her forearm like she’s escorting them to a ball at Downton Abbey.

“You killed tonight.”

“Thanks.” Deborah walks along side Ava, avoiding rough patches of sidewalk in her stockinged feet. At a particularly stone riddled section she takes Ava’s elbow and loops her arm through it for balance as she tip toes. “Sorry if things didn’t go as you’d hoped with the girl.”

“It’s okay actually, I don’t know, it didn’t work the first time around so I’m sure it would be asking for trouble to go down that road again.”

“She’s cute.”

“Yeah,” Ava agrees, “I mean she’s not my usual type, but she’s beautiful.”

“Oh,” Deborah asks, intrigued. “What’s your usual type then? Cigarette pack rolled up in the sleeve? Tattoos?”

“No actually. Brassy, older headliners with a bangin’ body and a fear of carbs.”

Deborah rolls her eyes and looks at Ava who doesn’t find a will to fully land the joke. Because it doesn’t feel like a joke anymore.

When had her type become Deborah?

“I am pissed at you though for one thing.” Ava clears her throat, trying not to dwell on the hot off the press results of self-analyzing, “I didn’t even get to dance with any hot chicks tonight because they were all too busy staring at you.”

“Oh please.” Deborah punches in the code and they wait as the large ostentatious gates slowly part to allow them to walk beyond and down the driveway to Deborah’s house.

There’s a house party going on somewhere nearby and the music is a typical Palm Springs mid-century throwback. A slow whining jazz song and a female singer’s voice floating through the warm dry desert air.

“Here give me my shoes,” Deborah gestures and Ava hands them to the taller woman who drops them unceremoniously on the front step.

“Now your hand.”

“You gonna stamp it?” Ava asks, but Deborah doesn’t even humor her and reaches out to take Ava’s hand in her own.

Ava can feel herself blushing furiously, especially when the older woman draws her towards her so that Deborah’s other hand nestles in the small of Ava’s back.

Oh shit. What is happening?

Deborah begins, very slowly, to dance with her. It’s not perfect, it’s probably not even good by the way Ava stumbles to even follow the simple swaying lead at first. It’s not really even her fault because people don’t dance like this anymore.

Still, she’s dancing. She is dancing with Deborah Vance under the stars in the driveway of what was once some old movie star’s home, while a long-dead woman sings about a Tennessee Waltz. It’s surreal. It’s not even a dream come true because who would dream anything like this? And yet it’s somehow this perfect moment that Ava knows she won’t ever forget.

Later, when they say goodnight, Ava lays in bed, smelling of Deborah’s perfume, with the new realization dawning that she may just be falling in love with her boss.

Brrr. Brrr. Brrr.

The buzzing penetrates the last vestiges of sleep and Ava opens her eyes blearily in the light of morning as she blindly reaches around for her phone.

Brrr. Brrr. Brrr.

She picks up her discarded bra first before finally managing to find her vibrating phone on the nightstand. The light from the screen almost blinds her.

6 missed calls. 28 texts.

She jolts up in bed and rubs at her eyes to clear them.

There’s a couple of texts from Ruby, a couple from Kiki and the rest are from Jimmy. Most of his just say “ANSWER THE PHONE AVA!!!”

She can actually hear her heart hammering in her ears. Something awful has happened. Whenever Jimmy contacts her, it’s always bad news. Especially when he’s this frantic. She notices he’s left several voicemails so she selects the most recent and puts it on speaker as she scrolls through her texts.

She finds it in the message from Kiki.

Good 4 U girl!

The simple short text is followed by a photo which takes a second to load but when it does, it is underscored by Jimmy’s voice ringing out over the speaker of her phone.

“Now it’s been picked up by the LA Times! It’s everywhere. You’re trending on Twitter. TWITTER. I don’t know what you two are thinking, especially with the tour tickets releasing! Call me back!!”

Ava looks at the photo Kiki has taken of the Las Vegas Journal. There on the cover is a photo of her and Deborah dancing together, obviously taken from the gate of her property, and the headline:

Deborah Vance’s New Romance

Not quite the headline Deborah had predicted. And it rhymes…

Ava jumps out of bed so quickly that she trips over her boots on the floor, smacking her head into the wall.

“Fuck!” She yelps, pressing her hand against the pain to stop it.

When she finally gets to the living room, she can see Deborah out on the patio by the pool, calmly drinking tea and reading a newspaper.

Oh God she doesn’t even know yet.

She quickly looks at reflection in the glass and can see her skin pooling red around where she hit the wall, knowing it’s going to bruise. Yet it’s the least of her concerns. She draws in a ragged breath and steels herself for what’s to come.

When she joins Deborah on the patio, the older woman speaks over her shoulder and gestures to the open seat, “Oh look you’re awake in time for lunch.”

Ava checks her phone screen. It’s 7:30 am.

“Deborah did you like… I don’t know…. read anything or hear from anyone this morning?”

“Why?” Deborah asks and Ava sinks into the chair next to her. “You look awful!”

“Thanks,” Ava answers, looking down at the newspaper still in Deborah’s hands. Well at least they’re not on the cover of the New York Times. “So, you know how like… you were worried that if you went to the club there might be like a whole — scandal? Haha! Well you’re gonna love this —“

“I already know.”

Ava can feel her pulse racing despite the big fake laugh having not yet died on her lips — wait.

“You know?”

“Yeah. I spoke with Marcus this morning.”

“And??” Ava’s fake laughter has been abandoned completely at this point.

“It’s fine. In fact, Marcus, who as you know generally loses his shit over things like this, thinks it might be good publicity. My name’s certainly out there now and the show goes on sale tomorrow, so who knows — it might actually promote it.”

“Uhh but like remember how my name’s also out there? As in next to yours? Like I’m your girlfriend now, apparently?”

“Oh relax Ava. You know how the world is now. In 15 minutes someone’s going to do some seriously fucked up shit and it’s going to careen us into some new crisis and no one is going to give a shit about this tomorrow.”

She’s probably right about that, but still, this isn’t the reaction she expected from Deborah.

“Uhh so what do we do now?” Ava hears herself asking, incredulously, like this is some made up dream she’s having that can’t be a reality but she has to play along just to see what’s next.

“We write the show. We have the preview in a couple of days and I don’t even know what we’re starting with for the opening.”

“Why don’t we start with, ‘While going down on my new lover the other day,…’”

“You know that’s not actually a bad ide—“

“It is a bad idea Deborah! It’s a really bad idea! Do you have like some kind of delayed response to this? Like in an hour you’re going to be trying to hit me with your car?”

“Ava stop,” Deborah warns, and her tone has hardened enough to bring Ava out of hysterics. “First of all this one thing — and I stress ONE thing isn’t your fault. I participated and I probably made it worse in many ways. Either way, I’m not going to let it ruin our show. So let’s focus on that; get it fixed and make it funny. People will lose interest in the rest.”

Ava sighs, “Fine but if people start shipping us, that’s on you lady.”

“I don’t even want to know what that means”

Chapter Text

The Palm Spring dates pass without much issue and Ava’s surprised more than anyone by the change in dynamic. Writing is effortless and despite the drama of seeing their names in papers and eventually in Entertainment Weekly comparing them to Sarah Paulson and Holland Taylor, the focus remains solely on writing the show.

That is until Los Angeles.

She and Deborah are working through one of the bits on their way into the theatre when the front of house manager at the theatre stops them just inside the door.

“Deborah Vance as I live and breathe!”

He’s an older man, a Lesley Jordan type, only not southern and marginally less feminine. Marginally.

“Tommy Maddox! You don’t look an inch taller than the day I met you.”

“I’m wearing flats.” Tommy laughs, “You look incredible! Not a day over 70!”

Deborah rolls her eyes and nods, taking the joke.

Ava stands there awkwardly as they reminisce, used to being a set piece on the stage of Deborah’s life. She scrolls through her phone, sends a few texts, checks out a pet finder link - the usual.

She’s not really paying attention but she does happen to look up as he turns his attention towards her, “And this must be little Debbie Jr all grown up!”

Ava doesn’t think much of it but she can feel Deborah stiffen beside her.

“This is my assistant, Ava.”

The sudden demotion is abrupt and surprising enough that Ava doesn’t have time to recover before Deborah’s walking past them both at a clip. She trails behind but Deborah doesn’t slow down and her legs are so damned long that Ava is practically running.

It’s weird how one sentence can alter an entire mood but it does. Deborah’s more irritated than normal, sending Ava out of the dressing room to get ready. Normally she spends the time fiddling with Deborah’s makeup brushes and calling out jokes as she Deborah dresses, but now she finds herself staring at the chipped black paint walls in the hallway of an artsy theatre called Dynasty Typewriter.

What’s weirder is that Deborah never calls her back in. Ava can hear her voice coming from the auditorium and she cracks open one of the theatre doors to see the shows’s already started. It’s sold out so Ava sits in the lobby, listening to the cadence of each joke and the audience’s predictable response.

At intermission, Ava grabs two martinis from the bar and squeezes her way through a crowd of people trying to get drinks. She knocks on the dressing room door but there isn’t an answer. She shifts back and forth and knocks several more times, the cold glasses turning her forearm skin bright red. There’s every chance that Deborah’s been delayed backstage so she turns the handle and sneaks in, drinks perched precariously in one arm.

To her surprise, Deborah’s inside, staring into her reflection in the mirror.

“I was knocking for like 10 minutes, lady. I got you a watered down bottom shelf martini, your favorite —“ Ava jokes, kicking the door closed with her heel.

Deborah clears her throat. “Thank you.”

There’s no clever quip or joke, no polite chuckle.

“You okay?” Ava asks when she sits the drink on Deborah’s dressing table.

Deborah doesn’t hesitate to take the martini and swallow it at once, setting the empty glass next to an open magazine with a photo of the two of them at the Palmetto under a bold caption that reads “Cougar Comedienne Deborah Vance with young staffer Ava Daniels!”

Ava, rolls her eyes, and tries to lighten the mood “They’re way off base, you’re more of a leopard…”

Get it? Cause she wears a lot of leopard print. Look it’s not her best joke, but she’s trying because Deborah is acting detached again and it makes for a really difficult fucking day job.

Deborah doesn’t even react, just finishes touching up her lips.

“What’s going on with you? Are you upset about the articles, look I told you this whole thing was a bad ide—“

“It’s not the articles,” Deborah says, dropping her lip pencil on the desk and it clatters loudly.

“Then what’s going on? You’ve been weird all day with me.”

“I’ve just realized I’ve turned into Marty fucking McDonald.“

“What? What the hell are you talking about?” Ava really is genuinely fucking confused because Deborah and Marty are so far apart that any kind of comparison is jolting. “Marty?”

“I have spent most of my adult life dragging that son of a bitch for dating fetuses and here I am doing the same thing.”

“Okay, but one, there’s nothing wrong with consenting adults dating one another and two, this isn’t even a real romantic relationship.”

“It might as well be! We spend every day together, you’re living at my house… you know months ago you were telling me it was illegal to ask your sexuality, I don’t even want to know what HR laws I’m breaking by taking my employee as a live in girlfriend.”

“Whoa whoa whoa. Girlfriend? I haven’t even gotten to second base yet.”

“I’m serious Ava! What the fuck am I doing with this? How pathetic do I look, dating my Gen Z show writer?”

“Uhh hold on a second. Pathetic? Im actually kind of a catch.”

“You’re twelve! What could we possibly have in common?”

And this pisses Ava off more than anything. There are many differences between them. Many, many differences, but the one thing that Ava has always felt is that she and Deborah can agree on their commonality. They share the same sense of humor. It’s the whole touchstone of their relationship. And beyond that, they understand each other. Or mostly they do. This is something new.

“5 Minutes!” The stage manager knocks and calls through the door, interrupting.

Deborah stands and fixes a stray piece of hair.

“I’ll have Marcus make a statement. Annul this whole,” Deborah gestures between them, “thing as slander, or a misunderstanding.”

Wow. Slander even.

“I’ll have the situation fixed before Vegas. I can’t have this following me around like a scarlet letter.”

Ava tries not to let it show how hurtful it all is but doesn’t manage to keep it from her voice, “Yeah, so you want me to take a different flight? Book a room at Treasure Island? Wouldn’t want people to think you give a shit about me right?”

Deborah turns to look at her but by now the stage manager’s at two minutes and they have the door open gesturing Deborah out.

Ava paces around the dressing room for awhile, the anger swelling inside of her. She knows she should try to be mature and professional but in all honesty this whole thing has never been about professionalism. Deborah almost hit her with her car on day one for Christ’s sake.

So Ava leaves early, gets an Uber intending to go back to Deborah’s but instead reroutes to WeHo for a night cap.

She people watches for most of the night, ordering several strong drinks and hitting a joint outside while she waits for her Uber. She flirts a little, gets two phone numbers , but she doesn’t feel any kind of joy. In the pit of her stomach is this lump of unhappiness.

When she gets back to the house, she throws herself into the guest room bed and falls into a dreamless sleep.

They’re not even to Arizona, the next leg of the tour when Marcus calls with the news that Deborah’s been picked up for a residency at the Bellagio. The venue is more prestigious than the Palmetto so it’s the biggest and best “Fuck You” to Marty that Deborah could have asked for. Her mood matches the buoyancy of the news and she’s peppier, more pleasant to be around.

Ava hates it. Because there haven’t been any apologies.

Marcus has issued a statement about the “mixup” but that kind of clarification doesn’t sell magazines, so they don’t print it. Still there doesn’t seem to be backlash from the ordeal, and no one’s bothering Deborah about it so it just seems to go away.

Deborah finally seems to notice that things aren’t okay when Ava is carrying her backpack through the hall of Deborah’s Las Vegas mansion one night.

Ava can hear the click of Deborah’s heels against the stone behind her, just as her hand’s at the door handle.

“Where are you going so late?”

Ava is tired. Admittedly the whole thing has gotten to her.

“I got a room at the Bellagio. It’s comped so you won’t have to pay for it and I can stay there while we finish rehearsals.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You know you can stay here.”

“Can I though?” Ava drops her backpack at her feet and turns to Deborah. “Because it really kind of feels weird after our whole on again off again whirlwind romance to be crashing at your place.”

Deborah crosses her arms, looks surprised by Ava’s words. It might also be the tone because Ava doesn’t really care to sugarcoat anything.

“Are you still stuck on that whole thing?”

She tries to bite her tongue but she can’t, “You know, it feels pretty shitty to be used as a PR Stunt.”

“A stunt?”

“Well what the fuck was all of that? First I’m your girlfriend, which you’re somehow weirdly okay with and then because you were offended by your own engrained archaic beliefs that people in romantic relationships have to be no more than 2.5 years apart in age, you upend the whole plan. Nowhere in this whole scheme was I ever asked how I felt!”

“If you’ll recall, it was the Paparazzi who started this whole thing — I didn’t ev—“

“No you didn’t. But you also never asked me if it was okay that I went along with it. Then you abruptly ended the whole thing without asking if it’s what I wanted.”

“Oh, right, yes because you actually wanted this fake relationship thing to play out for longer? Wouldn’t that get in the way of working your way through the who’s who of the L Word crowd in Hollywood?”

Ava shouldn’t be surprised that Deborah’s defensive but it’s really fucking frustrating and the last restraints of her temper snap and the truths spill out of her like sand.

“You know maybe I liked the idea of being your girlfriend. I mean fuck Deborah, I know you’re living in a heteronormative world over there but I didn’t think after all the lesbian jokes in your show that you’d be so blind when someone is blatantly in love with you.”

And that admission — that painful, spur of the moment, unchecked, unfiltered admission — is on her. But still it somehow feels so good after the past few weeks to just get it out there.

Because she IS stupidly in love and she doesn’t want to be. Not because she cares about their age difference, their societal differences or any other foreseeable barrier. More simply because it hurts to be in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way. Especially when it’s with someone you spend almost every waking hour with.

Deborah meanwhile looks like she’s been slapped. It actually makes Ava feel a little relieved, to be on the steadier footing of the two despite it all.

“Ava—“ Deborah starts and Ava can see it in her eyes. The pitying gaze that says, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t feel the same way, how embarrassing for you.

She can’t stay for that. She grabs up her backpack and opens the door.