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Nine Lives

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The last time that Deborah bothers to get Ava her own hotel room for the sake of appearances is during the second leg of the tour; Ava never sleeps in her own room again after Milwaukee. And even during the more tumultuous first leg of the tour in the southern United States, you could only count the number of times that she and Deborah slept in separate rooms on ONE of her giant hands. The hands which they eventually both agreed, doubled over laughing through tears on Deborah’s bed that fateful night in Milwaukee, that she paid far too much attention to for it to be construed as anything but very homosexual. 

 

In the current leg of the tour, Marcus and Jimmy had coordinated to get them six dates over a ten day period in a series of relatively close midwestern cities. They had flown the jet into Minneapolis for the first date, and then they would be driven between the rest of the destinations in Milwaukee, Chicago (for two nights), Indianapolis, and finishing in Detroit. It would be a hectic ten days, but then they would be rewarded with a full two weeks off in Vegas. 

 

Right now, making the short trip between Milwaukee and Chicago in an obscenely luxurious black Cadillac escalade, Ava’s head is lying comfortably on the plush leather of the backseat’s headrest, her gaze turned thoughtfully out the window on the fast passing landscape of gray morning sky, an assortment of cheese establishments, and cows. Deborah’s fast asleep and has been since about fifteen minutes into the trip, her head nestled into Ava’s shoulder, her right hand laced with Ava’s left, her left hand resting intentionally on Ava’s left thigh. Ava idly traces designs in Deborah’s open left palm, thinking about all of the other parts of Deborah’s body where she’s praying like hell to a God she doesn’t even believe in that she’ll get to trace designs on with her fingers, and sweet baby Jesus please also with her tongue, in relatively short order.

 

Ava feels every single place where Deborah’s touching her so sharply, and it feels so good and so fucking right being wrapped up with her and being surrounded by the rich mix of perfume and makeup and lingering skin cream that accompanies Deborah wherever she goes that Ava has to take a deep breath and blink back the tears that are begging to mock her uncharacteristic bout of mushy sentimentality. I can’t fuck this up again , she ruminates. Ava has no idea how in the everloving fuck she’s going to stop herself from being an impulsive twat, but she knows she better figure it out. And quick. 

 

Deborah Vance doesn’t do funerals and she doesn’t do apologies and she sure as hell doesn’t do forgiveness. 

 

“Never forgive, and never forget, baby.”

 

But Deborah broke all of those rules for Ava Daniels. Ava, a zennial who got her big break in the LA writing scene by having niche Hot Takes with the perfect blend of nihilist humor on Twitter, just like at least a dozen other emergent artists that she knew. Someone Deborah hadn’t known from Adam six months ago. Deborah owes Ava absolutely nothing. Yet… Deborah is offering her everything.

 

Without realizing, Ava had stilled her hand while lost in thought, because now she feels Deborah reciprocating the erotic motion with a perfectly manicured nail. When Ava turns her head to investigate, she finds Deborah’s clear blue eyes meeting her own. She doesn’t say anything, but she does lift her hand up to stroke Ava’s cheek. Deborah smiles softly, and it’s so like Ava’s dream that she forgets to breathe. This time it’s Ava that moves in slightly to kiss Deborah, and it’s perfect. It’s slow and it’s gentle, but best of all… it’s honest. Unlike so many of the stolen kisses that have happened in the months since the funeral, this one has no secrets, and both women know that they have the promise of later and more. 

 

Ava sighs when they pull apart, and Deborah lets out the tiniest giggle at Ava’s bluntly dazed state. Before Ava has a chance to pout about it, Deborah affectionately rubs her nose against Ava’s and pecks her one last time before pulling Ava even closer to her around the waist and resting her head right in the crook of Ava’s neck. Deborah inhales deeply, the resulting deep hum indicating that she appears to be equally enamored of Ava’s signature blend of… soap? And skin? Ava doesn’t think it could be much to write home about, but Deborah seems to approve. And you take Deborah’s approval where you can get it.

She kisses Ava’s neck twice, and then she’s still. Ava’s glad Deborah is resting, because these days on the road are brutal. The twenty-six-year-old feels like she’s dragging constantly, and somehow Deborah always seems to have more energy than her. But while Deborah has had many moons on the road to learn the importance of cat naps, Ava’s never been much of a napper unless it’s been induced by alcohol or other illicit substances. And being allowed to openly be this affectionate with Deborah is so new and almost painful that it’s got her up like a hit off the purest coke like you can only get at an industry party up in the Hills.

 

Between the funeral and Milwaukee, Ava feels like she and Deborah have lived a whole other lifetime in their chronologically rather short acquaintance. And if the last twenty-four hours indicate anything, they’re about to embark on a brand new one. And that’s in addition to the at least three other “lives” that she could divide their relationship into before that. So many lives… just like cats. Ava hates that thought as soon as she has it, though. At times, their behavior towards one another could have certainly been described as catty.  The fucking patriarchy had set up their interactions to be just exactly that before they even knew the other existed. 

 

Everything about their relationship now… the collaboration, the listening, the caring, the gut-busting laughter, the now even playing field of sexy one upmanship that colors their jibes at one another and their writing, the second, third, and forth chances, the tenderness … it subverts the FUCK out of the so-called “rules” of their male-dominated field. And best of all, it’s gay as shit , Ava laughs to herself, gently pecking Deborah on the forehead. 

 

I won’t fuck it up

Chapter Text

When they land back in Las Vegas, it’s dinnertime. Ava’s usual monstrous appetite, however, is nowhere to be found. She hasn’t been able to bring herself to open her email throughout the entirety of the flight. Instead she’s happy to let Deborah workshop some of the existing material from the new show’s current iteration and spitball some ideas for new additions and re-working. If Deborah notices that Ava keeps her comments to a minimum, her laughter a little forced, and mostly focuses on taking notes on the laptop, she doesn't say anything. And though it definitely factors in either way, Ava is pretty sure that she could pass off any out of character behavior on grief for a good while.

 

Deborah’s driver is waiting at McCarran with the Rolls, and as she climbs into the backseat Ava briefly wonders where she is going to be staying now that her boss has permanently severed ties with the Palmetto. Deborah is mid-sentence before Ava registers that she is speaking to her.

 

“... nothing on the plane. Did you even eat anything this morning? And you’re pale even for you. Casper would look tan in comparison. You’ve got to be hungry.”

 

Ava tries a little too hard for nonchalance. “Oh. Um, nah, I’m good.”

 

“Ok,” Deborah huffs. “I’ll buy that your appetite is probably suffering as a result of... everything. But I know that my ‘fluffy stacks and at least 3 other sides for breakfast’ girl who’s run up a four digit room service bill in the last three months has to be at least a little bit hungry.” Deborah was sporting the flirty little half smile that had been slowly chipping away at Ava’s sense of professional boundaries ever since The Dream™️. 

 

My girl? Did Deborah just call her her girl?  

 

But Ava just shrugs, too nervous to ruminate on the possible implications of that , and Deborah is starting to seem genuinely distressed. Ava is too afraid to say anything else though, for fear the word vomit would come and the British producers and the email and Jimmy would spill out and she would be kicked out of the car in the middle of the Strip and out of Deborah’s life forever.

 

“I know,” Deborah resolves after a beat. “The place with the crab rolls. Do you want crab rolls? What’s the name of that place again?” And before Ava can even respond, Deborah is already calling Damien and barking orders into the phone. “Damien, I want you to have the crab rolls delivered from that place that Ava likes. And vegetarian sushi for me. Ava, what’s it called?”

 

“Luke’s Lobster.”

 

“Luke’s Lobster, Damien.” Deborah listens for a second, and then responds “Josefina should be there, but I think we’ll be there before the food anyway. Thank you.” She hangs up with Damien and turns to Ava, patting her knee. “There you go. An obscene amount of calories to boost your endorphins.”

 

“Deborah, you don’t even like their food,” Ava observes, genuinely perplexed. The ensuing eye roll from her boss, fond though it obviously is, finally retrieves Ava’s personality. “Gonna add that eye roll to my crab roll in this Rolls-Royce and make a platter out of it, Deb?”

 

“HA! There she is,” Deborah snorts. “Bad puns abounding. Welcome back. But don’t call me Deb. We’ve had this conversation.”

 

“No, we had the conversation where you told me not to call you D. I don’t remember anything about Deb.”

 

“That extends to any diminutives of Deborah. Obviously.”

 

“Oh yes, obviously,” Ava nods in mock solemnity. 

 

“Look, I’m cutting you slack right now because your old man just died and I did recently sort of commit…” Deborah gestures vaguely”... an inexcusable workplace violation against you.”

 

“And you think I’m pretty great.” Ava’s just a little bit smug. Watching Deborah make an effort to be considerate on her account is an ego boost, ensuing dumpster fire of a bombshell notwithstanding.

 

Another eye roll. “In between when I want to strangle you, sure.”

 

“Yeeeaaaaahhh, maybe lay off the strangulation gags until your Zsa Zsa Gabor moment is a little further back in the rearview mirror.”

 

“Too soon?”

 

“Lil’ bit.”

 

Their eyes fasten upon one another during the volley, the comforting familiarity of their banter simmering around them in a slow burn. It feels warmer than Deborah’s coat looks, and Ava wants to stay wrapped up in it forever. But their small, shared smiles hold secrets. No matter how many words they manage to say to each other in a day, lately it seems like the words they don’t say are louder. Deborah finally breaks the spell and faces forward again, but she seems content enough. At least for Deborah. They pass the last ten ten minutes of the ride in companionable silence, each checking their phones periodically.  When they’re nearly to the house, a glint of realization suddenly hits Deborah’s face. 

 

“Strangulation gag ?”

 

Now Ava laughs, really and truly, for the first time since she and Deborah had their emotionally charged moment in her childhood bedroom three feet from Mr. Creampie’s litter box. She doubles over in her seat.

 

“I can’t believe it took you that long,” she spits out between giggles.

 

“CHRIST Ava, that’s terrible.” Deborah tries awfully hard to be haughty, but her snickers betray her.

 

“Sure is. Good thing I didn’t put that one on Twitter. I think there’s some kind of extra Zennial tax for getting capital C canceled more than once within a certain period of time.”

 

“I honestly can’t tell if that’s a joke or not,” Deborah quips, removing her seatbelt since they have finally arrived.

 

“The world may never know.”

 

Ava’s walking ahead of Deborah up the driveway, when she hears her call out behind her, “How the hell do you know who Zsa Zsa Gabor is, anyway?”