Celeste finds herself at yet another gay bar with Riley. It's become a weekly tradition, and as Riley rises as a queer icon, more and more people mistake them for a couple. Some pictures of them together float around the internet with scandalous descriptions. Celeste was flattered the first time someone asked, pointing to the dancing blonde, and saying- seriously, you think she'd pick me? It wasn't as bitter as it once would have been, amusement riding her voice.
She's happy. This isn't how she ever pictured being happy- her old friends are all married, half are pregnant, and she's drifting away. Not by design, but as the odd woman out. They're still friends, they're just not the people she turns to first anymore.
“I still can't believe you forgave me,” Celeste half-shouts at Riley. Riley refuses to dance to Justin Bieber, sitting down again whenever his songs come on, and draping herself over Celeste.
Riley laughs, loudly, and angles her lips to Celeste's left ear. “You changed, and I like the new you. Besides you've more than made up for it. As have I, I hope.”
Celeste grins, shaking her head, “I deserved your words.”
“Maybe more than that,” Riley teases, and before Celeste can ask what she's talking about, the blonde has jumped up, and is twirling around thin air. Celeste tells herself she's going to figure it out, not going to get lost in her rhythmic movements.
(Celeste's gotten better at lying to herself without feeling guilty.)
When the article comes out, she calls Riley over for coffee. It's a meeting that should happen at the office, but she doesn't want anyone else there. Especially not Scott who had been trying to warn her for weeks something like this would happen.
(She's not going to think about why she didn't take that possibility seriously, she's not.)
“So did you see the article?” It's not asked until they've both finished their coffees, and Celeste has enough caffeine thrumming through her not to feel too anxious.
Riley's eyebrows pop, “Which one?”
Celeste hands the printout to her, watching a humming bird come up to her window. “It's about us, it's uh, not the nicest-”
“While we're not surprised the Pop Princess has chosen a lady to keep her warm, we do wonder why she chose- What the fuck? How dare they insult you like that, assholes.”
Warmth washes over Celeste, and suddenly the conversation doesn't seem so scary. “It happens, people are going to expect you to respond to this.”
Riley rolls her eyes, “Whatever. I liked Autostraddle's thing better.”
Riley grins, pulling it up on her phone, “We were named for hottest new maybe-couple.”
“Ha, cool,” she says, and god, Scott's going to kill her- the Autostraddle article is a month old. “Um, so how do you want to respond?”
“That depends,” Riley says, “do you want to go out with me?”
Celeste pauses at her wording, “Like…?”
“On a date,” Riley clarifies.
Celeste swallows, “Um, maybe?”
Celeste hasn't been smoking up that much lately. Riley's pretty impartial to soft drugs, so besides occasionally getting high with Jesse and Skillz and Veronica, it's not something she seeks out anymore. (She does get along with Veronica once she gets to know her.) But today, her cell phone is off and the Big Ben bong is out.
“So,” Skillz says, “what's the occasion?”
Celeste takes another hit before answering. “Riley asked me out.”
“Cool. High five?” Skillz asks, holding his hand up for a moment, and Celeste decides another hit is warranted.
“We're not dating, I like men. I don't know why fuckin' everyone thinks we are, but we're not. And I'm way too old for her.”
Skillz shrugs, “Isn't she nineteen? You're not that much older than her.”
“She's a client!” Celeste exclaims, pushing away the bong.
Skillz isn't even slightly phased. “You told me Scott dated that guy, whatshisname, he was a client too.”
She grumbles and doesn't answer, so Skillz asks instead, “What did you say? When the pretty lady asked you out?”
“God, she's so pretty,” Celeste mutters. “I asked for some time to think about it.” Celeste looks over at him, suspicion rising in her gut, “Why are you grinning like that? Stop it.”
“Maybe you like women too,” Skillz says, ducking the thrown cheetos. “Hey, you're the one always going off about not leading people on, and you two are always so happy together.”
Celeste's eyebrows come together, “Yeah, I guess we are.”
Riley's voice is amused on the line, “Usually people start calls with a hello or how are you.”
Celeste bites her lip, and gets in the car. “Hello, how are you? I'd like to go on that date with you.”
“Awesome,” Riley says, and she can feel her excited smile, can imagine it perfectly. “I just finished up at the studio.”
“I'll come pick you up in ten?”
“Yeah,” Riley breathes.
Riley's waiting outside when she picks her up, and they end up making out in the parking lot until they're both hungry. It's surreal, beyond surreal, that any of it is happening, and Celeste subtly pinches herself. Kisses out of the way, everything flows smoothly- just like their usual hangouts but with more touching.
It's cool. It's really cool.
A few days later Riley does a live interview, casually dropping in that her favorite thing is to go dancing with her girlfriend. Offstage Celeste snorts into her palm- because the two of them dancing is always Riley dancing on her- and she tries for a normal smile when the camera pans to her. Riley grins wide, she's pretty sure she missed normal by a mile, and the interview goes on about Riley's music.
Now when they go out together, the fans recognize her too. Some ask what it's like to be dating the new Lady Gaga, and Celeste still hasn't found a way to put all her happiness into a neat little answer. Usually she just says, “Blissful.”