Right here face to face in your sheets
We’re tucked underneath all these city street lights
Where everything starts with your kiss
Didn’t I do it all for the nights like this?
- Snow Tha Product
“They’re out of creamer,” Deb thunks two cups of black coffee onto the crisp, white tablecloth of the hotel dining room.
Lou contemplates the steaming liquid over her napkin-concealed to-do list. “This comes free with the room, right?” she asks suspiciously, brain morning fogged and disgruntled.
“Yes Lou, it comes free with the free room.” The amusement is evident in Deb’s voice as she drops a doughnut onto her plate, licks some powdered sugar off her thumb and snatches the list from beneath Lou’s unsuspecting hand. To anyone else it would read like a list of slightly odd Mills and Boon titles, but it’s the result of two weeks’ precise preparation.
“That’s what you’re having for breakfast? What’s lunch - pop tarts?”
“Only if you’re good,” Deb smirks in to the murky depths of her mug. ”Mmmm..” she remembers, swallowing quickly. “There’s one more thing we need to talk about.”
Lou looks expectant, hearing a business-like tone return to her partner’s voice.
“All of this,” she gestures up and down at Lou’s current ensemble, definitely the most formal in the room of crusty eyed early morning out of towners hazily navigating the wholly average breakfast buffet.
“You’re too noticeable. Eyes don’t slide past you. They cling!”
Seeing mischief briefly enter Lou’s eyes, she puts her coffee down.
Lou risks her own taste of what is clearly the hotel’s unfinest instant and screws up her face in disdain. “Ugh, how do you drink this stuff?” Deb is looking at her patiently, and Lou knows better than to take her partner on in a waiting game.
Before they met, Lou always ran small scale, back room stuff. She didn’t have to think much about needing the kind of chameleon-like transformations Deb seemed constantly capable of. Brunette at breakfast, redhead by brunch. Aside from occasionally crushing herself into the appropriate uniform, Lou’s general wardrobe didn’t particularly scream ‘dressed down’, because she didn’t want it to.
“Alright, well…” she allows Deb to worry that she’s a little offended, leaving the floor wide open to suggestion. It hasn’t been her experience in their month together that Deb is particularly prone to making suggestions; it’s more a process of waiting for her to tell you what she’s already decided.
“Could you just try something a little less…”
“Thrift store androgyny?” Lou never goes down without a fight.
Deb smiles. “I was going to say A Victorian Gentleman’s Guide to Pornography, but sure…”
“Mutton Leg,” Lou replies in exasperation, her own leg cast over the back of the couch, eyes pondering the watery stain on the ceiling. Champagne cork? The room’s previous occupants had clearly had more fun in here.
That’s a ‘don’t fuck with me’ tone, but Lou is exhausted and unused to constantly being on duty. She hauls herself upright with an exaggerated air, hair everywhere.
“Do we have to memorise the list? Why can’t we just run through the actual details?”
“I bet you were a real pain in the ass at school.”
“Would you like my times tables aswell?” Lou asks in mock exasperation.
Deb purses her lips and shakes out the list. “Number 12?”
Sinking back into the couch’s beige embrace, Lou sighs for effect. “One times twelve is twelve. Two times twelve is twenty four. Three times-“
“I swear to god you drive me wild sometimes,” Deb hits her squarely across the chest with a cushion and wedges herself into the corner of the couch until the other woman is forced to sit up.
Lou’s eyes sparkle with mirth, but she endeavours to look serious. She teases but she knows the list. It’s been weeks. She won’t fuck it up. They won’t. They’re too good together.
“Oh I know the feeling,” she leans in close and nips at Deb’s earlobe.
She can hear a sharp intake of breath as Deb smooths the sheet with a practiced air of calm.
“Your 4 o’clock,” Deb’s low tones hum through the payphone receiver as she watches the bank entrance over the rim of her sunglasses.
“Thanks so much, I’ll be there!” Lou prattles exuberantly into a cell phone, striding towards the distracted and besuited man making his way into the building, fiddling absently with the jingling contents of his pocket.
Deb counts out the seconds as Lou adjusts her trajectory, all the while babbling down the line as though planning to attend the least attractive party Deb’s ever heard of.
“3… 2… 1…” she says under her breath, careful to maintain a casual lean against the booth’s filthy interior. This is a coat she won’t be seeing again. And she only lifted it three days ago.
Lou’s girlishly affected dismay crackles down the phone line as she swats ineffectively at the grande latte now blanketing the man’s jacket and shirt.
Milk. Nice touch.
“Oh my lord, I am SO sorry,” Lou rummages in her handbag for tissues and carefully makes the stain situation much, much worse.
“Oh this is awful, I can’t apologise enough, Mr…?”
“Sullivan,” she hears Lou purr.
Deb presses her ear to the receiver. “Let’s get this sorted out, I insist. Look at your lovely suit, oh I can’t even believe it,” Lou’s voice wavers as she gesticulates with her cell in mock distress.
She hustles him across the road into the dry cleaners, and has his jacket stripped and over the counter before he can even object.
Hearing the continued whisper of tissue on cotton beneath the burble of voices, Deb can’t blame the man for feeling slightly bemused as her attractive partner swipes at his chest and haggles over paying the bill in advance.
Lou scrawls her phone number on the dry cleaning ticket stub, and wraps a fifty around it before tucking it into his breast pocket “for a new shirt” and imploring him to contact her if there are any further costs.
The exchange is over in less than five minutes and Lou breezes back across the street past the phone box. Deb can’t fault her utilitarian approach, despite her own fondness for adding little creative flourishes to these situations.
She sees Lou’s leopard print sleeve rise to her ear again as she strides away.
“Honey, you won’t believe what just happened.”
30 minutes later, Howard Sullivan is in line at JC Penny with a crisply packaged shirt under his arm, contemplating the phone number burning a hole in his damp pocket, and a tall brunette pings the bell of Sandy’s Dry Cleaning on 42nd and 3rd.
“Hiiii,” she greets the bored looking teenager who materialises from the back. “My husband’s lost his ticket but we’ve realised he left his car keys in the pocket.”
She smiles, winningly.
“I need to go pick up our daughter. Is there any way I could grab them?” She begins to rummage through her purse for a stray post-it. “He told me the ticket number over the phone.”
Alighting on it, she leans closer over the counter as the teen rifles through a rail of tagged and plastic shrouded clothing.
“You know, I think he said his key card for work was in there too?” she adds, absently, sharing an understanding look with the young woman at the hopeless ways of men.
Deb drops her bag just inside the hotel room and waves the key card nonchalantly at her partner. Easing the unfamiliar shoes off her feet, her stockinged toes sigh into the carpet.
“Why isn’t this step called Slutty Backup?” Lou asks from the window, turning to blow a trail of smoke through the parted drapes.
“Hey, if he calls you we can skip five through seven,” Deb is already halfway out of her clothes and into the bathroom.
“It just lacks the beauty and imagination of the rest of the job,” Lou shouts after her, idly picking at the curling No Smoking sticker on the glass. “How did we even find creative fulfilment before all these kids got into CCTV?”
Deb ambles back across the room in jeans and a bra, one hand holding out a half removed strand of fake eyelash, still clinging stubbornly in place.
“Aw, baby you know I don’t like to work when nobody’s watching.”
Those. Those are the kind of throwaway comments that got Lou into this mess. That’s what she’ll plead someday when she’s put on the stand.
Deb’s toes graze hers. “I’m a little stuck,” she pouts from beneath a blunt fringe.
Lou is far enough into this thing to be wary of the mildly tragic, helpless look crossing her partner’s face. One that is not one inch Debbie Ocean.
Waving the last of the smoke out the window, she stubs her cigarette on the sill and takes Deb’s face in her hands, angling it towards the light. Gently holding the eyelid in place, she prises the last of the lash and glue away.
It dangles from her index finger and she holds it up towards Deb’s lips. “Make a wish?”
Deb quirks a brow. “Next you’re gonna ask me if I know how to whistle.”
“This? This is how you stick out less?” Deb’s eyes meet Lou’s in the mirror, as the blonde emerges from the bathroom.
“What?” Lou spins slowly, a Cheshire grin beneath her perfect smoky eye.
“Stripes?” Deb’s tone says that she has already given up.
Lou’s hair is piled on top of her head, and two exaggerated gold hoops hang from her ears.
“Do you want to run the plan again, or do you want to rag on my outfit all night?”
Deb snaps the lid back on her lipstick and turns to size up her partner.
“I want $300,000.”
Lou reaches out to thumb away a smudge from the corner of her mouth. “That’s my girl.”
Deb counts the seconds as each step of the plan follows another. Her heart always races during a job. It feels something like love.
The weather is perfect. Their rhythm flawless.
She’s always wondered if they’d be good at dancing.
Lou counts the notes with business-like efficiency; once, twice, then spreads a stack of them out across the sheets before her for sheer pleasure.
A beer emerges from somewhere between the covers to meet her lips.
Deb is halfway through her glass, feet propped on a gaudy suitcase which could honestly belong to either or both of them, for all she can recall. She takes in the room around her, disguises and make up bags covering every surface. They must be housekeeping’s worst nightmare.
“No one warns you a life of crime will be so fucking exhausting.”
“You should call the union,” Lou agrees, carefully bagging up their take in $10,000 bundles, her hands flying over the notes with practiced familiarity. This is the work she’s used to. Her favourite come down.
Deb’s eyes follow Lou’s fingers as they caress each note, just briefly. Just once. And then again on the second round, but barely a touch in passing this time.
She knows how they found each other, or rather how she went after Lou like she pursues all the things she wants. With dogged determination. But sometimes she can’t quite figure it out. A whole family of Oceans and their associates should have convinced her that there were plenty more fish in the criminal sea. And yet here was Lou, both perfect and unlike anyone she had ever met. Or worked with. Or lo-
“You want another drink?” Commitment doesn’t scare Deb; when you’re in the job, you’re all in. But she’s used to the three week fever dream of planning and execution and disbanding. She’s not quite sure what happens after. Not like this. It’s their first go at After.
“Sure,” Lou shoots back, without losing count. “But let me wash my hands first - I’ve got half the population and a not inconsiderable amount of blow on here by now.” Finishing the final stack, she waggles her grubby fingertips at Deb and grins.
“Can we steal diamonds next time? Nice, clean diamonds?”
Deb is pouring herself some gin when Lou finally stashes the day’s work in the wardrobe, kicking a discarded jumpsuit out of the way.
“Hey,” Deb’s voice is suddenly soft. And it’s not just the alcohol.
Looking up from the duffel bag she’s wrestling with, Lou pauses to regard her partner in the soft lamplight. Despite feeling like she spends her whole life looking at Deb, it’s rare that she has a moment to do so openly. Constantly watching someone’s ass doesn’t quite come as advertised.
“We did it, you know,” Deb puts her glass down gently on the side, and Lou feels the room shift beneath her, adjusting itself to the universe that is now the two of them, not the two of them and the job.
Letting the duffel straps slide from her hand, Lou crosses the room to step into the halo of her arms. Deb’s got a few inches on her in these shoes, and the warmth in her eyes squeezes tightly at something in Lou’s middle that she’s too terrified to search for and name. Deb’s hands roam her sides and across her back, fingernails scratching gently at the fabric, not content with touching just part of her at once.
“So… I passed probation?” Lou teases, dodges the intensity of feeling that’s been wrong footing her since Deb first found her scamming blackjack in Atlantic City, crashing through her apparently open doors.
Deb’s eyes crinkle, “Only a B+ for memory.”
“Well,” Lou rallies, edging closer, “I recall you saying something about looking good in gold.”
She traces along the line of Deb’s gaudy necklace, and settles her bare feet between Deb’s ridiculous heels. Deb glances down.
“These are actually killing my fucking feet.”
Lou laughs into her collarbone, and it buzzes pleasantly through her partner’s ribs.
“How would you like to roll around in some money instead?” Lou whispers in her ear, feeling Deb shiver in response.
Her hands find Deb’s hips, and she sips delicately at her mouth, steering her back towards the bed. Deb works disorderedly at the buttons on Lou’s shirt as the other woman takes her bottom lip between her teeth and bites gently. A hum that becomes a moan rises from somewhere in Deb’s throat and Lou smiles, pushing her jacket off as she lowers her gently onto the sheets.
Several thousand dollars crackle beneath their weight. Lou leans on her elbows for a moment to take in the sight of her partner, flushed and wide eyed beneath her. This isn’t their first time, and Lou doesn’t know why it feels this way, but they look at each other with a kind of surprised awe.
Deb saves her from letting words tumble out of her mouth that she’s not entirely sure she’s ready for yet, pulling her down impatiently. Resting in the cradle of Deb’s hips, with teeth gently crimping at her tongue, Lou’s fairly sure she would confess to anything in that moment.
They undress each other with care, and if Deb notices water pool at the corners of Lou’s eyes, she kisses it away and doesn’t say anything.
Later, as they breathe into each other and Deb arches beneath her hands, she feels powerful and terrified in one overwhelming rush.
Lou wakes for water in the middle of the night, thirsty and feeling the pull of her oversized earrings.
She slips quietly back between the sheets, halogen lights stippling across her partner’s sleeping form.
The covers have slipped from Deb’s hip, and a $100 bill clings to her damp skin. Lou peels it away gently and rubs the crisp paper between her fingers, wondering which one she loves more.
She tests the word out in the darkness, syllable tart on her tongue.
Deb’s arm slides across the mattress towards her, and Lou waves the bill tauntingly, but Deb snatches it away in favour of capturing her fingers instead.
Lou says the most honest thing she can think of.
“What do we do next?”
Deb smiles, and her eyes glint at Lou in the half light, their hands twisting and turning together.
She knows a little bank in Charleston.
“Let’s keep going.”