The crinkle of a wrapper pulls Debbie out of her trance. It's a secretly welcome distraction – there are only so many times she can look at the same list of Russian hackers over and over again – but slightly annoying nevertheless. She lifts her head and peers over the papers in her hand.
Lou twists a strip of gum between her fingers, peeling the wrapper back with ease. It's done in true Lou fashion – one-handed, without looking, nonchalant. Debbie sees a flash of red before it disappears into Lou's mouth. In their close proximity at the table, the scent of sugar and cinnamon is strong.
Debbie hates cinnamon.
And she hates the way Lou chews, occasionally open-mouthed so that Debbie can see the way the gum swirls around her tongue.
Debbie sighs dramatically.
Lou looks up and raises her eyebrows in response. “What?”
“Must you do that?”
Lou cocks her head and stares Debbie down. She smiles coyly, and her dark, smoky eyes dare Debbie to complain some more. The silence is comfortable, in a way that can only come about from knowing each other for so long and so intimately. Lou thins the gum over her tongue and blows, followed seconds later by a perfectly placed 'pop'.
A life of crime has a surprising amount of rules to follow. Some she's learned from experience. Others were words of wisdom from her dear departed brother. And while each is important, one rule in particular has always been at the forefront of Debbie's life: don't get distracted.
She sticks to the plan. Crosses items off her list and checks the boxes.
Yet it's unsettling how much Lou distracts her.
They present the plans to the team. Debbie's even put together a nice slideshow to reference. She explains it all, each perfect step that has taken over five years to perfect. In front of the projector, she exudes confidence, even when others doubt her, doubt whether this crazy idea is even possible. They look to her for answers, and she gives them.
Then Lou sits forward in her chair, in her black slacks and matching vest with her rust-colored blouse only halfway buttoned. Debbie sees the flash of tongue again, followed by a bit of mint green that slips between Lou's teeth. The color of the gum is bright and crisp in contrast to the metallic lava-shaded matte lipstick at her mouth.
Debbie isn't distracted by it. And she certainly isn't staring at it.
Tammy clears her throat, which pulls Debbie back to reality. She picks up where she left off and somehow manages to hide how Lou and her lips have left her completely unnerved.
Lying has always been part of the job. They're mostly impersonal lies with consequences that don't weigh on Debbie's conscience. As the years have passed, she feels less and less guilt. Sometimes she wonders if she's dehumanized herself with this life.
When she lies to Lou about Claude Becker and his by-force involvement in their game, she realizes that she does, in fact, have a heart. Lou's face alone shatters her, only made worse when she continues to lie about her reasoning for framing him. Their argument finds no resolution, and Debbie hopes that time will heal it all.
And diamonds. Millions of dollars worth of diamonds.
Because she's certainly not about to admit she's in the wrong. Debbie may think it, but she certainly never apologies outright.
When the team leaves for the night, Debbie indulges in some of the awful reality television she's missed after five years in the slammer. Lou's anger and jealousy are thick in the air, and she keeps her distance in a way that makes Debbie strangely uncomfortable. On an average night, Lou rubs her feet while teasing about how awful she is at Jeopardy. They feed each other Thai food and laugh and they're just...close. Comfortably close.
But removed from the sofa and instead on the worn recliner on the other side of the room, Lou is a million miles away. Debbie manages to tear herself from the The Bachelor long enough to watch Lou finger angrily through a magazine. She chews aggressively on a piece of shiny, white gum, alternating between loud chewing and quick smacks as the bubbles pop against her mouth.
“Do you have to do that?” Debbie tries to be playful, to lighten the mood.
It doesn't work.
“Yes, in fact, I do.” Lou blows a large, slow bubble and pops it dramatically.
“I'm sorry,” Debbie offers. She surprises herself by saying it aloud.
Lou sighs slowly – sadly. “No you're not.”
There's tension in the house in the days leading up to the gala, and even though Lou hasn't specifically said anything to her about it, Debbie knows Lou's still hurt by Claude's involvement. She could grovel, but that isn't really her style.
But one thing is in style: royal diamonds.
The heist goes beautifully. While Lou had her reservations, Debbie's never had any doubts about how it would end. It all comes down to Lou snagging the priceless jewels while the rest of the team acts as a distraction, and even when they're at odds, the platinum-blonde Aussie never fails to disappoint.
They celebrate with expensive wine and Chinese takeout. Constance finally leaves around 2am, and Debbie corners Lou in the kitchen as she cleans up the empty cardboard boxes. Despite all of the shit they've dealt with over the last few weeks, they ride the high of their success with wide smiles, and Lou wears hers the most beautifully of them all.
“Someone's got a serious case of afterglow,” Debbie teases.
Lou's laugh is low and seductive and Debbie can't really find the right words to describe it. Naughty comes to mind. It tastes as good as it sounds as she swallows it, silencing Lou with the rough pressure of her lips. For once, the gum isn't there but the sugar and cinnamon linger, as if Lou has just finished a piece.
Debbie hates cinnamon, but she can't get enough of the way Lou tastes.
With their faces close and Lou's breath hot on her cheek, Debbie can smell the spice. For some reason, it only urges her on more. She spreads the long, thin legs in front of her and the curl of her fingers between them makes Lou's eyes flutter shut.
Sweet, confident, badass Lou completely falls apart beneath her. Long fingers with thick, sparkling rings tangle in the mess of long dark hair and she pulls Debbie close, nails scraping deliciously at the back of her neck and scalp as she whispers deliciously naughty things into Debbie's ear.
“Fuck me, Jailbird.”
Debbie keeps one piece of jewelry. The gems are royal blue, stark and majestic against her skin when she wears it. Never outside – that would be too obvious, and it's not exactly her style to begin with, but Lou especially loves to see her in it and it alone.
Debbie sprawls out on the bed, the sapphires draped across her chest. When the light catches them just right, they shimmer and the color shifts, a crisp Winter Fresh blue. The metal is cold on her skin, complimented perfectly by Lou's hot tongue as it draws circles around the outline of the necklace. Lou's mouth is fire and her eyes are ice.
“Aren't you a pretty thing?” Lou whispers, running her fingers along the alternating sapphires and diamonds.
“Are you talking to me or the necklace?”
Lou's hands move away from the jewels to Debbie's jaw. She drags her thumb along the angle of Debbie's chin, then over kiss-swollen lips. Debbie takes Lou's thumb between her teeth without question.
“Always you, darling. Always you.”
She waits for Lou outside of the cemetery. Lou returns to town after a few weeks of traveling, and they fall into an unusually domestic routine. Despite Debbie's initial plans to find her own place, there's an unspoken understanding that she won't be leaving anytime soon. They share a house. They share meals. They share a bed.
From down the road, she can hear the sound of a motorcycle as it grows closer. Debbie reaches into her purse and pulls out a small pack of Big Red gum. With a smile on her face, she removes the paper wrapping and chews on the gum slowly, savoring the flavor until she can taste the real thing once more.