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Keeley jokes about it so much that it's difficult to take seriously; or, perhaps, it's better to say that it's difficult to take sexually, because there's such an honest we're-all-girls-here earnestness behind the things she says. Keeley will tell her how great her boobs look or compliment her ass or talk about her being hot, and when Rebecca is dolled up for a function Keeley will say "sorry, gimme a minute, compliment incoming, I was just properly astonished at how much I wanted to fuck you in that dress," and all of it without any hesitation whatsoever, even when they're in front of other people. But there’s something about the way Keeley says those things that make them seem like normal girl talk and not blatant horny come-ons, though Rebecca can’t quite pinpoint what it is.

Rebecca hasn't ever had that kind of girlfriend in the first place, where the relationship includes giving each other confidence-boosts via . . . she's not even sure what to call it. Suggestive compliments? Even Sassy, who says everything and with whom Rebecca can say anything, doesn't operate in that way, though Rebecca's seen enough female friends giving each other pep talks in toilets to know it's a thing. She categorizes Keeley's compliments in with all of the how could he not want you, look at you, you're gorgeous and no one could resist that ass she's heard in other female friendships; the only real difference is Keeley's trademark enthusiasm.

Rebecca likes it, though, likes the way Keeley will make her blush, then watch and laugh and repeat the compliment more forcefully. Rebecca likes Keeley's easy, charming tone and the playful twinkle in her eyes, likes feeling beautiful and seen without having to feel on her guard or threatened.

She supposes this is why all those other women do it, for this feeling of safety and exhilaration intoxicatingly mixed together. There’s something to be said about the fact that the absence of sexual threat is part of what makes Keeley’s comments feel less sexual overall, but Rebecca is over forty and frankly doesn’t have the energy to unearth another part of her messed-up psyche. So she’ll take the compliments for what they are, thank you, and feel good about them.

"Oh my God, your tits could not look prettier, could they," Keeley says, when they're on their way to a function for the team. "Seriously, it's a good thing you're so tall, or all the photographers would cotton on to me staring at your glorious boobs the entire time."

Admittedly, Rebecca chose this dress for exactly the effect Keeley's noticing; her tits do look quite pretty, and the necklace she chose only draws further attention to her cleavage. It's still a thrill, though, to have Keeley's eyes on her. She thought about it, while she was getting dressed, what Keeley would say, and her attention feels like a warm light she can bathe in.

She allows herself a little shimmy, something she could not have imagined doing six months ago, and Keeley wolf-whistles.

"You look astonishingly pretty yourself, you know," she replies, wanting to give back some of that feeling. And Keeley does; her short, tight skirt emphasizes the curve of her ass, her thighs, her calves, drags Rebecca's eyes up and down her silhouette.

Keeley beams at her, taking her hand and turning to go. "C'mon, the car's waiting."

"You go ahead so I can get the view of your backside in that dress," Rebecca says, feeling daring, and at that, Keeley looks back over her shoulder, just for an instant, something assessing in her gaze. Then she smiles.

"By all means, enjoy yourself," she says, and walks on.

Rebecca does; she watches; she likes it.

*

"So what is with you and Keeley, anyhow? You finally admitting that you want to play for the other team?"

"Hush," Rebecca says, waving Sassy off. "She's just a bit younger, is all, and expresses herself in a forthright manner."

"Oh, in a forthright manner," Sassy laughs, pouring them both another drink. "Well, I say, in my own forthright manner, that you should go for it."

"There's literally nothing to go for," Rebecca replies, nettled, and maneuvers Sassy into talking about something else.

*

She begins to notice, though, how she feels when Keeley comes into the room, how she feels when Keeley touches her arm, her thigh, her waist, the sparks that tingle through her when Keeley grabs her by the face that one time and kisses her cheek loudly, the proud possessive feeling when Keeley slides up next to her on a red carpet and lets Rebecca put an arm around her shoulders, the way they might if they were a couple, attending the event together.

*

For all of Keeley's forthright manner, it's Rebecca, in the end, who can't stand to stay silent. The truth of her realization burns bright in her, and she wants to share it with Keeley as they've begun sharing other truths. She feels this draw to Keeley, something electric and powerful, and perhaps it's simply because she hasn't felt anything so strong in years that she surrenders herself to the feeling.

They're not drunk, not even drinking; Rebecca refuses to hide behind that. They're sitting together on her couch in her office, one late night, drinking hot cocoa, curled together and sinking gradually down into something like a cuddle.

"Now if only you weren't so fucking gorgeous and sexy all the time, maybe I could concentrate on my job better," Keeley is saying, in response to some conversational tangent that Rebecca can no longer follow.

"I think you're gorgeous and sexy," she says, words blooming from her lips. "I think that about you, too. You—you make me breathless."

There's a caught moment between them, when Rebecca wonders if this is the moment that Keeley will draw back, draw a line between close friendship and attraction, will put them at a safe distance again.

Instead, Keeley kisses her, soft and eager and tasting of chocolate. Rebecca draws one shaking hand up to cup her cheek, to feel the warmth beneath her skin.

"Wondered how long I'd have to flirt," Keeley says, after, playful grin on her face. Because it's real, and because it's allowed, and because she wants to so desperately, Rebecca kisses her again to shut her up.