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that ain't half the gold treasure in your soul

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One

 

Ava has always mostly just been Ava. She didn't even have the ingenuity in tenth grade to be Ava D so that her name spelled backwards would be Dava. God . Nicknames just weren't a thing but her dad always called her bean and shit, suddenly she realises he won't do that anymore.

 

It’s kind of a bunch of tiny ways. Over and over. That’s how it was for me. 

 

Deborah was right. That's exactly how her grief hits her. Bit by bit. She's totally fine one second and then suddenly she’ll hear the Red Sox mentioned on the radio and remember how her dad had lifted her on his shoulders and screamed the house down when they won the World Series in '04. She was nine. Now she's twenty-six and her dad is dead and no one is ever gonna call her bean ever again. 

 

Fuck. 

 

But ever since she's been in Vegas, Deborah has called her so many different things. The closer their relationship becomes, the more intimate, the more terms of endearments Deborah seems to find. Each one draws a different but equally thrilling reaction from her. They make her feel cherished and seen and like this is exactly where she belongs. 

 

The first one is honey. 

 

She can barely even recall the first time Deborah says it, they're on the PJ (private jet) and it's something like, "Okay, honey," and honestly it was a little condescending but Ava learns quickly that it’s Deborah's most freely given term of endearment. She hears her address both Kiki and Damien in the same way, on multiple occasions. And it's the casual affection that makes her feel warm inside. A whisper in her head that says this is home. 

 

Which is funny, in a sense, because it’s what her mom calls her. But even when Deborah is teasing her, the warmth and humour in her tone is a direct contrast to the highly strung, neurosis that infects every interaction she has with her mother. 

 

So before they are more , when they're still teetering on the edge of whatever this is — when yes,  they may have woken up together once or twice after a late-night working but nothing had happened — honey is safe.

 

(And love is the only world Ava has found to define what they have, even before they ever say it. She thinks maybe even that doesn't do it justice but she is so fucking in love and she feels so much love radiating from Deborah in everything she does it's completely and utterly overwhelming.) 

 

Honey is every time they've been in Deborah's office until past midnight and Deborah says, "Honey, I think we should stop, I can see your eyes drooping from here." It's her signature cackle followed by, "Honey, that's hilarious." And making Deborah laugh might be the single greatest source of joy Ava has found in this world. 

 

Well, it might be a close second to making her come repeatedly once that's something they do, but Ava's perfectly content to spend as much time as possible continuing to do both and see which lands on top in the end.

 

(It's the laughter. It's being able to pull each other out of their darkest moments with their own private little language, the sex is just a nice bonus. And for the record, she’s definitely not thinking about Nina when she’s riding Deborah’s dick and she says, “Honey, look at me,” and gives her permission to come.) 

 

It's "Oh, honey. It's gonna be okay," and a comforting hand on her back, soothing her, whenever Deborah picks up on her anxiety or sees a flash of grief cross her face. And that hand grounding her puts her right back into her childhood bedroom in Boston when Deborah tells her she can't quit comedy because she's too good. 

 

Good. Good. Good.

 

And Ava wanted to kiss her then. 

 

Two

 

Deborah calls her baby in front of Kiki and it makes her warm inside. A little bashful maybe, but warm nonetheless. 

 

They’re playing blackjack and Ava has won three hands in a row when Deborah can't help but say, "Good job, baby," as she sips innocently on her DC while Ava flails for a second and her cheeks flush, trying to avoid Kiki's excited gaze. She has been getting better, which is why she half shouts, “The student overtakes the master, whoo!” Just to move the conversation along. 

 

“Oh, please,” Deborah shakes her head and motions for Kiki to hit her. 

 

“Blackjack, Deborah! Yay!” Kiki cheers. 

 

And Deborah just turns to Ava with one eyebrow raised and says, “Don’t let it get to your head, you little shit.” 

 

Kiki tells them a story about Luna always beating her when they play Uno and by the time they finish up, she has forgotten that Deborah called her baby in front of someone else. Even if it is just Kiki, who was obviously the first person Ava told that she slept with Deborah.

 

And it's not exactly a secret that they're together, Deborah hadn't sent out a household memo — she had however sat Marcus down in a professional capacity so that he wasn’t blindsided by anything that might come out (from a business perspective) and promptly told him they would not be having a personal conversation about who Deborah chose to have in her bed — but still, she'd been the picture of calm in contrast to the way Ava had scrambled up out of reach of her on that infamous first morning after, realising suddenly that they'd slept well past Deborah's usual 5 a.m. alarm, and surely Josefina or one of the other staff had seen them. Naked. (And if the way Ava woke up was any indication, with her cheek pillowed on Deborah's very very exposed breast.)

 

Ava's not sure what she expected exactly, it's not like Deborah had ever made it seem like they needed to be discreet or secretive about anything else they'd done that surpassed the accepted norms of a standard working relationship. Namely, when Ava came back from checking on her townhouse or collecting more of her things from storage, with some preem Californian weed and they proceeded to get high as fuck together.

 

Deborah had just laughed softly when Ava asked her how she was being so chill and replied, "Ava, I'm not about to start sneaking around like a teenager in my own home just because I'm apparently sleeping with one." 

 

Ava rolled her eyes and moved to settle herself back half on top of her, kissing her neck softly and trailing her lips down her chest, "Does that mean... we can," Ava's hand cupped her mound and she groaned at the dampness she felt on her palm, "Stay in bed for a little longer?" Taking Deborah's left nipple in her mouth as she mumbled the question against her skin. 

 

"Ah, yeah," and the sounds Deborah made whenever Ava touched her were so much better than that fake performative bullshit in her old set. Ava slid her fingers through her folds with no resistance and Deborah moaned, her hips canting upwards for more friction. 

 

Ava moved to go down on her but Deborah threaded her fingers through the hair at the base of her skull and tugged her back towards her mouth, "Come here," and the grip Deborah had on her hair made Ava whimper and her cunt clench on nothing. Their lips met in several opened mouth kisses and Ava bit softly at Deborah's chin as she gasped, two of Ava's fingers slipping easily, knuckle deep, inside of her and curling in one fluid motion. 

 

"God, you're so wet, Deb," and she knew that might not always be the case, especially after the harrowing monologue she got on those progesterone packets, but Ava hadn’t needed to break out the emergency supply of lube she had stashed away in her room. 

 

"For you." Ava's thighs press together and she loses herself in the memory. 

 

When Deborah eventually nudged her hand away, breathless, Ava put her fingers straight to her mouth, sucking on them in a deliciously obscene way and grinding faster against Deborah’s thigh. 

 

She felt Deborah’s hand trail up her torso and settle between her breasts, practically keeping her upright, and Deborah said, "Do I taste good, baby?" And, "Oh baby, are you gonna come just like this?” Deborah's voice was so low and husky and of course, of course , she's good at dirty talk, holy shit. 

 

Ava’s never even particularly liked being called baby before. She's told guys not to, Ruby had called her babe and that’s where she thought she drew the line so, what the actual fuck? She couldn’t find the words if she tried. 

 

(It's always yes.)

 

Everything is just better when it’s Deborah. Everything sounds better. Everything feels better.

 

She’s better. 

 

And remembers how she barely had enough time to process the choked sob that escaped her throat when Deborah pressed her nails into her skin, just so, and said, "That's it. Good girl," before she was coming.

 

Fuck.  

 

Three

 

Honey sort of transitions to sweetheart once Deborah can actually admit that she has feelings for her.  Ava has a bit of a soft spot for it because it feels kind of old-timey and no one has ever called her that before. 

 

(There are a lot of things no one but Deborah has called her.) 

 

It's another way Deborah makes it clear she's not just a dirty little secret because yes, it's "Sweetheart, are you home?" And, "Sweetheart, can you get Barry's lead for me, it's on the counter," when they're in Vegas. But it's also, "Sweetheart, this won't take too much longer," and, "What do you think, sweetheart?" Amidst the hustle and bustle of the tour, in front of stagehands and makeup artists and club owners. 

 

One time she says it in front of Marty, there's some function at another casino and they all happen to be attending, and Ava's almost certain that he's too self-absorbed to read anything romantic in it or for it to occur to him that Deborah's the one fucking a twenty-six-year-old, but still. It makes her feel special and acknowledged and Deborah’s

 

Unfortunately for Ava, it's also being on the East Coast for a show and Deborah calling out, "Ava, sweetheart, are you coming to bed?" Without realising she's on the phone with her mother and that's how Nina finds out about them. 

 

"Ava, who was that? Was that Deborah?" The confusion in her mom’s voice is understandable but Ava tries to power through. 

 

"It was nothing, Mom." She says, and Deborah realises what’s going on and promptly retreats into the bedroom silently mouthing her apology. 

 

Ava’s barely paying attention to her mother spiralling until, "Oh God, Ava. Is this a Weinstein situation? I told you, this business—" 

 

"What? No, Ma, this is not a Weinstein situation, oh my God." If she could have one reasonable and measured conversation with her mother, it would be a miracle. And this is exactly why she’s been avoiding this conversation. 

 

"It sounded like Deborah, I'm sorry, you know that I worry." Somehow Ava doesn’t think it’s ever actually crossed her mother’s mind for one a second that Deborah Vance is a potential sexual predator until this conversation, but sure. 

 

This was kinda already happening and Ava has been meaning to let her know she’s staying in Vegas for Christmas so, "It was Deborah, but it's not like that, okay? She didn't pressure me into anything." 

 

"Oh my God! Ava! You’re sleeping with your boss? What are people going to think?" Ava groans, Vegas is such a fucking bubble and she was not fucking prepared to have this conversation tonight.

 

"I don't care what people think, Mom. I—" She turns and makes sure Deborah's is still in the bedroom of their suite, "I love her, okay? This isn't up for discussion. I'm sorry that you found out like this but it's still pretty new and it's complicated." Although, Ava supposes things are a lot less complicated now that her mom finally knows. It’s one less thing for them to have to worry about as they navigate the fact that Deborah has a very public life. 

 

"Of course it's complicated, Ava. She's old enough to be your grandmother. I just don’t understand." 

 

"Well, I'm not thinking about how she could be my grandma when we're fucking, Mom. Jesus Christ." 

 

Nina shrieks, "Ava! Do you have to be so vulgar?" 

 

"Do you have to freak out like this has any effect on your life? This is what I want and I’m actually really happy for the first time, like, ever.  Why can’t you just let this be a good thing?" 

 

For once. 

 

"I just feel like you haven't thought this through, honey.” Ava wonders how her mom calling her honey can make her feel so small and Deborah doing it can lift her up so high. “Didn't you say her husband died last year?" 

 

" Ex- Husband, and so did yours! That’s the point! It doesn’t fucking matter!" Nina doesn’t say anything and Ava sighs, bringing up her dad was probably the wrong move but she’s in this now. “I know that I'm not gonna like, get to spend the rest of my life with her and that really fucking sucks to think about, but look what happened with you and Dad. He's just gone. So what difference does it make if it’s ten years or forty?" 

 

There’s a heavy silence and Nina can’t argue with that. 

 

"I'm sorry, Mom. I gotta go." 

 

Ava doesn’t know how long she’s been sitting on the couch when Deborah comes back out and sits on the coffee table in front of her, touches her knee and just says, "Hey." 

 

Ava lets out a breath she didn't even realise she was holding and runs her fingers through her hair, "I don't really wanna talk about any of that, can we just, like, order ice cream sundaes from room service and watch TikTok?" 

 

Deborah shrugs, "Sure." 

 

Ava takes her hand where it's still resting on her knee and pulls her over so they're sitting side by side. She twists her body towards her and drags Deborah's legs across her lap. "Kiss me first," she says leaning forward and Deborah just cradles her face gently and kisses her so tenderly, it's almost too much for her to bear. 

 

They break apart and she knows she probably looks a little dazed but she really can't fucking think when Deborah kisses her like that or when she says, "Ava, I love you." 

 

And Ava knew that; she did. She knew it because she felt it and she didn't think it would make a difference hearing Deborah say it (because she knew what a big fucking deal that was for her, to trust someone with that) but she can feel her eyes watering and she just presses her head against Deborah's collarbone, trying her hardest not to literally weep. God, that's so embarrassing. 

 

"I told you I love you, not that I'm leaving you for a younger woman." Ava laughs through her tears and Deborah soothes her quietly, "Oh, sweetheart, I've got you." 

 

I love you. I love you. I love you. 

 

Four

 

Deborah accidentally calls her a good girl in front of DJ and she feels super fucking exposed. 

 

The three of them are in Deborah’s office going over the new D’Jlwry line and Ava honestly couldn’t recall more than DJ saying something about unpolished gemstones being very in right now before she immediately sits on the floor, pressed against Deborah’s legs, her back against the terracotta couch Deborah and DJ sat down on. 

 

Deborah gives her a look of confusion and Ava just says, “What?” 

 

“There are five other chairs in this room alone. What is wrong with you?” Ava is pretty sure the grimace on Deborah’s face is more to do with the way she is currently contorting her body to look at her than her actual position on the floor. 

 

“I’m bisexual, we can’t sit in chairs properly, this is better, trust me.” And it is better because it only takes a few minutes for Deborah to start absentmindedly alternating between playing with Ava’s hair and lightly scratching her scalp. 

 

She must be in a fugue state because she can vaguely hear them discussing which is better, amber or carnelian, and then suddenly there’s a sharp tug on her hair, “Ow! Deborah!” 

 

“That’s not usually the response that gets," she comments. Ava's mouth gapes, pretending to be scandalized and DJ laughs, “I said your name four times, probably. Can you go get us some Diet Coke?” 

 

“Two DC’s coming right up, gotcha.” She gets up super un-gracefully and walks backwards out of the room pointing finger guns at them. 

 

It’s part of her charm. 

 

She comes back fifteen minutes later and puts the glasses on the coffee table when Deborah asks, "What happened? Get lost looking for snacks in the pantry again?" 

 

In Ava's defence that only happened one time and she was definitely high. "Nope, you're lookin’ at someone who just put in a new CO² tank all by herself," she seems as smug as she was about her matcha latte station back at the Palmetto, which feels like an eternity ago, and genuinely proud of her achievement. 

 

Deborah doesn't think about it; she just says, "Good girl," before she can catch herself and honestly, she doesn't even really mean it like that. (Well, she does, but in the same way she tells her how good a joke she’s written is. She’s been working on that. Praising Ava in non-sexual ways so she knows she’s not taking her for granted. But she didn’t account for the fact she’d just spent almost an hour touching Ava to the point that she couldn’t get her attention for a good minute.  Or that her daughter was still in the room with them.) 

 

And Ava's body can’t comprehend any of that. 

 

She just melts and it's like tunnel vision, eyes only on Deborah until DJ clears her throat, a sorry attempt to distract from the massive energy shift that just rippled through the room and Ava comes crashing back to reality. 

 

The one where her girlfriend, partner, whatever — they haven't settled on what to call each other that's so not the point right now — her Deborah, just, yeah. 

 

It feels like all the air has been sucked out of the room. Her chest feels tight and she knows that she's blushing and that the tips of her ears and probably bright pink and any illusion DJ might have had that Deborah was just being jocose (unlikely given the tone of voice she’d used) has absolutely no leg to stand on. 

 

Ava splutters, turns around and leaves the room. 

 

Deborah comes into the bedroom about twenty minutes later and Ava supposes that’s a reasonable amount of time to let DJ get some ribbing in at her expense and Deborah to send her on her way. 

 

She’s lying face down with her head buried in the one thousand pillows Deborah has on her bed and she feels the mattress sink beside her and then Deborah’s hand tucking her hair behind her ear so she can see her. “I’m sorry.” Ava turns her head slightly and isn’t prepared for Deborah’s expression. How she’s biting her bottom lip, looking at her through lowered eyelids and so visibly hesitant. 

 

Ava’s groans, flopping around so she’s on her back and pressing the palms of her hands to her eyes, “Ugh, it’s fine. It’s fine.” 

 

“It’s not fine, you were embarrassed. I don’t want to make you feel like that.” 

 

Ava knows she’s thinking about the tourist bus but they have come so far from that moment, so much has changed between them and Ava is certainly not opposed to feeling a little humiliated under the right circumstances. Which, now she’s thinking about that and it’s unfair how ridiculously horny Deborah makes her.

 

Deborah must realise it too (by the not so subtle way her whole chest is reddening) because she says,  “Okay, I don’t want you to feel like that when you don’t want to feel like that.” She smiles softly and caresses Ava’s cheek, “ It won’t happen again. I promise.” 

 

Ava sighs, kissing the palm of Deborah's hand and maneuvering them so that Deborah is leaning back against the mountain of pillows and Ava is straddling her lap. 

 

“I don’t care about people knowing sex stuff, I mean, Marcus’ head might actually explode if he knew we did butt stuff," Deborah inhales sharply, "And I would legit pay to see you tell him." 

 

Deborah's mouth twists, tongue poking at her cheek, "First of all, that's absolutely never going to happen and second of all, you practically begged me to do it so I think you can say I fucked you in the ass." 

 

"Oh no, I was specifically referring to when you let me lick your asshole but we can tell him about that too." God, Ava thinks, she is a little shit but Deborah fucking loves it because she grabs her chin forcefully and crashes their mouths together flicking her tongue against her teeth and digging her fingers into Ava's thighs. 

 

Ava breaks the kiss, trying to catch her breath, "D, I've never..." Ava's eyes flutter trying to find the words to make her understand, trying to stay focused as Deborah's hands creep closer and closer to— "That other stuff is just for you." Ava whispers, "I only wanna be good for you," Deborah's eyes get about three shades darker at the admission.  

 

"My good girl," she whispers back. It's not a question but Ava is nodding frantically, desperate to be Deborah's. 

 

She gasps as Deborah presses her thumb against her clit through the leggings she's wearing, her hips bearing down immediately. Deborah's low, hushed tones in her ear, "You're so good, Ava. You're so fucking good." 

 

It feels like a benediction.

 

"How fast do you think you'll come once I'm inside of you, hmm?" Ava whines, the fact that there are still two layers between Deborah's fingers and her throbbing cunt is absolute torture. 

 

"I don't think you're gonna last a minute." 

 

She doesn't.

 

Five

 

By the time the special is filmed, they’ve probably done the show like fifty times, but still, there is a buzz around the place when they get the locked-off cut from the director for Deborah’s final approval and Deborah makes it a whole thing. 

 

There’s a room with a huge projector in a part of the mansion Ava swears she’s never even been in and she’s been living there for almost a year at this point. 

 

“Dude, are you for real?” Ava says when she walks in, “This has been here the whole time and you let me show you But I'm a Cheerleader on my laptop? I was like four when that came out, I could have had a true cinema experience.” 

 

Deborah just rolls her eyes and dismisses Josefina, satisfied with everything being set up the way she requested. Red Vines, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and frozen Junior Mints, all of Ava’s favourites. 

 

Deborah and Marcus had been more involved in the editing process and this is the first time Ava has seen any footage from the two shows they recorded in Sacramento. It made sense to film it there, this rebirth of Deborah’s career had ultimately begun when her takedown of Drew went viral. Ava didn’t really mind. Her favourite shows had been in Denver and Boston, undoubtedly. 

 

Denver because she’d convinced Deborah to take an edible earlier in the day and it hadn’t totally worn off before she had to go on stage. Which was fucking hilarious. And also, weed made Deborah horny as fuck so she let Ava go down on her in the green room straight after the show. Ava thinks it would have been a miracle if no one overheard them (specifically Deborah,  saying her name over and over and over) and either way, her shit-eating grin as they left the venue would probably have confirmed any suspicions. 

 

Boston was just… Deborah being so unbelievably Deborah. 

 

There has been press for the tour and Ava’s name has been mentioned here and there, people know Deborah’s been working with a writing partner and that she was a big impetus for the direction of the new material, but she is certainly never the subject of it.  Not that she's opposed to that necessarily, and they’ve absolutely worked on some bits about their generational divide and even some more personal ones she doesn’t think will ever see the light of day, but this show is about Deborah and letting her rewrite her story.  

 

So it’s a bit of a surprise when Deborah gets to the end of the show in Boston and seems to have more to say, “You know, it’s no secret that I’ve been working with a writing partner on my new material and she’s actually from here,” Deborah pauses letting the cheer ring out over the theatre, acknowledges Nina somewhere in the crowd and proceeds to tell a bunch of jokes she’s clearly, secretly worked on over the last few days. Jokes Ava said offhandedly, that Deborah thought were good enough to repeat and a bunch of other observations she’s had about Ava and Boston and all the places Ava’s tried to cram into their short trip. 

 

It’s really fucking sweet and even though there’s nothing in the material that explicitly reads as them being more than creative partners, Deborah is talking about them, on stage, and she’s just beaming. 

 

“Anyway, this isn’t actually the first time we’ve been in Boston together, her dad passed away right when we started writing the show," Ava feels the audience go dead silent for a second until, "Bad timing, right?" Most of them chuckle softly, Deborah is such a pro at this and if she can get them to laugh at DJ's overdose when she was nineteen then Ava's dead dad is breezy.  Deborah glances back towards her where she’s standing in the wings, “He never got to see the show, but he'd be so proud of you, Ava.” 

 

Her heart is in her throat and she watches as Deborah turns back to the crowd and finishes the show with, “Thank you, Boston! I am Deborah Vance, good night.” 

 

Ava doesn't even register Deborah walking off stage before she's suddenly embracing her in a tight hug and Deborah's stilettos make it so her head rests perfectly in the crook of her neck and she just breathes in deeply. They haven't been in Vegas for three weeks but Deborah smells like home. 

 

Deborah draws her out of the memories, "Hey, where'd you go?" 

 

"Just thinking about my favourite shows, I can't believe the tour is over." 

 

"Please, your favourite shows and all the times I let you feel me up backstage, I want you to pay attention to this Ava," she gives her a pointed look, "You have to give actual feedback before I give them the all-clear so don't get any ideas." 

 

"You set up this whole romantic, private screening for the show we wrote together and you're saying I'm not even gonna get a little over the bra action?" Ava playfully gropes her own breasts for emphasis, which she knows is playing dirty because Deborah is very into watching her touch herself, but her resolve remains ironclad and she just looks away and presses play, letting her voice on the screen demand Ava's attention. 

 

Ava surprises herself with how much she laughs. (Like she didn't write half of these jokes. Like she hasn't seen Deborah perform them in almost every capital city in the country.) The edit is perfect, the pacing elevates the material and still feels natural even though Ava can recognise where they've trimmed things down. There's even a few shots of her,  head thrown back in laughter and giving applause wholeheartedly from the wings. She had no idea there was a camera on her. 

 

It's incredible. She expects nothing less given the standard of quality Deborah and Marcus both strive for, but she's not  sure why Deborah insisted they couldn't fool around because it seems pretty polished to her and they could totally be making out right now as far as Ava was concerned, but then the credits roll and she sees it in black and white, one after the other:

 

CREATED BY

DEBORAH VANCE & AVA DANIELS

 

WRITTEN BY

DEBORAH VANCE & AVA DANIELS 

 

"Are you fucking serious?" She turns to Deborah who looks entirely too pleased with herself, "Deb, what the fuck? I thought okay, a writing credit obviously but this is—" 

 

Looking back Ava will realise that Deborah hasn't called her an employee for several months, and never publicly once the tour started. In every interview it was always writing partner or collaborator, it just didn't click in her head that would lead to this. 

 

"This show wouldn't exist without you, Ava." 

 

You can make it funny. You can make anything funny.  

 

"Marcus has a new contract for you to sign that brings you in on the HBO deal and there are people coming tomorrow to go through it with you, I want you to be protected no matter what." Ava's heart aches for the twenty-five-year-old Deborah who lost everything because she was young and naive and she trusted that her fucking leech of a husband wouldn't blow up their whole life and leave her with nothing. 

 

There is a certain immunity she feels, being with Deborah. Nothing can hurt her because Deborah won't let it. It doesn't come from the money she has or the influence she wields (it doesn't hurt), but it's the way she so fiercely protects the things she loves and wants to keep them safe. 

 

She has shown Ava a feral part deep inside herself that knows what it's like to have absolutely everything taken away from her, her family, her reputation, her dignity, and that refuses to let it happen again. 

 

The money she's gonna get from the HBO deal is financial freedom, it's Deborah saying she can walk away and she won't be left with nothing. It's an act of love that DJ couldn't recognise when they fought about the prenup at her birthday party and that wound she poked made all the ugly parts of Deborah come out. Ava kind of likes the ugly parts. She likes knowing that Deborah could gut her like a fish if she wanted to but she won't. Ava's already done the worst thing she'll ever do (that fucking e-mail) and Deborah forgave her anyway because she thinks maybe Deborah likes her ugly parts too. They match. And the love Deborah gives her feeds her soul like nothing she's ever experienced before. 

 

Ava likes her name more than she ever has when it's written next to Deborah's. 

 

One (Again)

 

Deborah has had so many nicknames. She has been so many versions of herself to so many people over her lifetime. 

 

Deborah. Debbie. Deb. (Dee Dee on occasion, and much worse things, to a particularly insufferable type of man). 

 

She's only been D to one person before Ava and she hasn't been called that in, Jesus, maybe fifty-five years before Ava says it so casually in her hotel room with her ridiculous bra bucket and her sorry excuse for a matcha latte station. 

 

It's what her father called her.

 

(His name was Jack but Deborah remembers that her mother would sometimes call him Jay.) 

 

They were always close, maybe because she was the eldest, maybe because they spent so much time together doing all the things Kathy was either too young or too uninterested to do. She remembers hours spent watching him work on his truck and sitting on his lap while he read the paper and learning how to fish. 

 

Then, when they got home, she would watch him gut them and fillet them and fry them up. It was the only thing he ever really cooked (or at least cooked well) and when Kathy would ask what was for dinner, her mother would say it was a D and J special. That’s the only time her mother would co-opt the nickname — when she was acknowledging them as their own special little entity. 

 

And then he died and that died with him.

 

Ava says it so casually in her hotel room with her ridiculous bra bucket and her sorry excuse for a matcha latte station and it takes her no time at all to roll back her instant disapproval. 

 

She tells her one more time not to say it and Ava simply replies, “If you really don’t want me to I won’t, but you started signing all your little notes with just your initial and you never did that before so I figured it was okay. It’s like, our thing, you know?” And Deborah wants to say that they don’t have a thing and God, this girl is brazen and annoying and quite possibly the best thing that’s ever happened to her. 

 

She figures there’s a lot of things Ava does that no one else does (listen, watch, understand) so she can call her D, just like her dad did, and Ava doesn’t need to know the significance of that. 

 

Kathy knows. Immediately. 

 

She invites her to the mansion after much internal debate and many conversations with Ava and ultimately decides that if they’re doing this then it’s at least going to be on Deborah’s terms, in the place she feels the most secure, and to avoid getting blind-sighted post-show again like what happened in Sacramento. 

 

She wants the upper hand, the control, and that doesn’t go totally out the window but it certainly feels undermined when Ava gently, and awkwardly, squeezes her shoulder and says, “I’m just going to be in the kitchen, guarding the knives. You got this, D.” 

 

And when they sit down in Deborah’s office, she notices Kathy’s eyes immediately gravitate to the gift Ava had given her before her last show which is now hanging on the wall behind her. Deborah is torn between clarifying that she didn’t frame something Kathy sent her and oversharing about her and Ava, but Kathy takes it out of her hands when she says exactly that. 

 

“You opened it, the package I sent after Frank died.” 

 

“No, I didn’t.” It’s biting and she gets a small flutter of satisfaction seeing Kathy flinch. “My— Ava did.” She gestures out of the room to indicate who she’s referring to. “She digitised all my material last spring and even when I told her to throw it out she figured there might be something relevant in there, I guess.” 

 

“Seems there was.”

 

“It was a gift - from her. It’s not—” It’s not about the past she wants to say, it’s about the future. 

 

“She was in Sacramento with you.”  Deborah can see the wheels turning in her sister’s head and she feels like inviting her into her space has suddenly backfired. Because she has led a very public life and this is her private space and Kathy knows so much more about her than she ever bothered to care about over the last forty-five years.

 

She just wanted to block it all out. 

 

“We’re not here to talk about Ava,” Deborah’s tone commanding and she surprises herself with how protective (possessive) she feels, “and you don’t get to assume things about my life when you’re not a part of it.” 

 

“I’d like to be.” 

 

Deborah has no idea what she’d like or where to go from here, there are no profound revelations about sisterhood or forgiveness in the first conversation, just the overwhelming knowledge that Ava has wormed her way so deep into every aspect of her life that it’s blatantly obvious to even Kathy, that she’s completely in love with her and she’s not very good at hiding it. 

 

Which, just like resisting the nickname, falls apart fairly quickly. 

 

The intimacy of Ava calling her something no one else does makes her chest ache. 

 

It makes her will weak when Ava begs her, “Kiss me. I— just once. Please.” They’re both a little buzzed and Ava is surrounding her, arms around her neck and just whispering over and over so close their lips are practically touching anyway, “Please, D. Kiss me, kiss me.” Deborah’s never seen anyone so desperate, it makes her want to devour her whole and she knows before she caves that it will be the first time, but it could never be just once.  She won’t ever want to stop.  

 

It makes the parts of her that long to be truly known, claw their way to the surface to meet the parts of Ava that are desperate to know her and be known in return. 

 

It makes her come that much harder when Ava is coaxing her through it like, “Come on, D. Come for me, fuck, that’s it. You feel so fucking good, D.” And Ava has neither the tact nor the desire to pretend she doesn’t know the effect it has on her. 

 

“I knew you actually loved it. It’s totally our thing.” 

 

“If it’s our thing, what do I get to call you? E.T.?” 

 

Ava laughs and kisses her soundly, lingers close so their breath mingles and their noses brush, “Yours.” 

 

That works. That definitely works. 

 

It makes her feel free, in a room full of people clapping and cheering when her name is called and only hearing Ava whisper in her ear, ”You fucking did it, D. You fucking did it.” And not hesitating for a second before she kisses her on national television. 

 

The version of her that loves and is loved by Ava is her favourite one.