The first time Debbie feels like she's just missed something really obvious and really important is when Amita comes back home bitching about her most recent Tinder date. She puts TLC on TV and sits right in the middle of the sofa and chomps murderously on a bowl of palak paneer, practically radiating fury, and everyone stays the hell out of her way except Debbie, who has been friends with Amita for ten years and counting and has become used to this. "What did this one do this time?"
"Tried to mansplain to me how the mining industry works, insulted our server by insinuating she would never rise above being service staff because she was black, and then made me pay for dinner," says Amita.
"Wow," says Debbie, clicking her tongue. "You want Nine Ball to go hack into his accounts and bankrupt him for you?"
"Already on it." Nine Ball's voice floats in from the next room, followed by a familiar tapping of fingers against the keyboard. Amita sighs and drops her face into her hands. "I just don't get it. How is it that every man I meet turns out to be a colossal asshole? What happened to gentlemen? I'm not even asking for gallantry or chivalry here, just some basic fucking manners, is it really so hard. And honestly, I don't even - if I have to sit through one more phone call from my mother asking me where I am and what I'm doing and why I still haven't gotten married even though I have more than a million US dollars in my bank account, I swear to god." Amita lifts her head and rolls her eyes to the heavens, then flops back against the sofa and turns to stare at Debbie. "Count yourself lucky you're already pretty much married and you don't need to deal with this."
Debbie frowns. "What?" She's not married. She's not even dating anyone. She hasn't dated anybody since Claude Becker happened and the other thing about prison and all. Nobody's even caught her eye. She doesn't know what Amita's talking about.
"I mean," Amita begins, looking at Debbie's confusion, then shakes her head and sighs, reaching for a spoon. "Never mind. You'll get it in time. Hey, you want some paneer?"
Debbie does indeed want some paneer, so she takes the proffered spoon and digs in, ignoring the weird warmth in her chest she feels, the way her thoughts linger on Amita's statement.
Life goes on weirdly as normal after the Toussaint heist, and they're all kept busy moving the money around so that the IRS and CIA and who else the fuck ever don't get suspicious about the sheer amount of liquid assets they all have, so Debbie doesn't really have the luxury of time to spend on thinking about what Amita said. It completely slips from her mind until a month or so later. It's her turn to cook dinner and she's debating whether she should go with the salmon or the shrimp when Constance comes barrelling in on her skateboard. "Yo, Deb, where's your girl? I think one of the transfers fucked up, I'm missing thirty grand from my account, I wanna ask her about it."
"Don't skateboard around the house, Constance, it's dangerous." For you and for all of us, Debbie thinks. Constance rolls her eyes, but picks the board up and shoves it under her arm. "Okay, Mom. But seriously, I gotta get my money settled."
"Go find Lou, then." Lou's working with Tammy and Nine Ball to deal with the distribution of funds because organisation is her strong suit, and after all the planning that went into the heist, Debbie's pretty happy to wash her hands of that.
"I am trying to find her," says Constance, looking exasperated. "Which is why I asked you if you know where your girl is."
"What girl? Who even - I don't know, if she isn't in her room or on the balcony she probably went down to the beach. Don't bother me unless you're going to help me with dinner."
"Oh my god," Constance whines. "I said Mom ironically but you're really trying to live up to that, huh?" She peers into the fridge. "But yeah, I'd go with the shrimp."
Debbie writes it off, but then it happens again, even though she isn't even sure what exactly 'it' is. It's after she and Lou get into a fight - a pretty bad one, reminiscent of the Claude days, when Lou was being particularly harsh and Debbie was refusing to listen to her. Lou reads her the riot act in the dining room right in earshot of everyone, and Debbie's way too proud to beg her to take it somewhere more private or tone it down a notch. It ends with Lou tugging her jacket on and storming out of the front door, slamming it shut so it rattles on the hinges, leaving Debbie to do the slower walk of shame out of the dining room.
Rose jumps when Lou exits, still a bit nervy after everything, and Daphne taps her knee idly in a gesture of comfort. "Don't freak, Mom and Mom are just having another domestic. It'll blow over in a sec."
"She sounded really mad this time, Deb, what did you do now?"
Debbie visibly bristles at Nine Ball. "I didn't do anything! I was just... making some suggestions about future heists..."
A collective groan rises up over the room. "Oh my god, Debbie, let it go," Tammy sighs. "We have enough money to last us for the rest of our lives, don't drag us all into this again."
"Yeah, hard no on getting dragged back into aiding and abetting criminal activity," says Daphne, cracking her gum obnoxiously.
"Don't you people get bored?" Debbie demands, looking around at the girls. "What are all of you even doing?"
Constance mumbles something that Debbie doesn't catch, and all of them break out into uproarious laughter. "Who," says Daphne, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"Who what?" Debbie asks, to more laughter, and gives up on getting an answer.
Daphne's birthday arrives a couple months after the Toussaint heist. They throw her a party and turn up the music and Lou stocks the house to the roof with booze, and they're all pretty high by midnight. Daphne insists on playing a game of Never Have I Ever, to which there are boos and accusations of her being a 'fucking teenager', but it's her birthday so eventually they all accede with various levels of reluctance. But Lou's (undiluted) vodka is good and so is Nine Ball's weed, and they all get into the spirit of it.
"Okay, my turn, my turn," Amita slurs, raising what might be her tenth shot, but who's counting, right? "Never have I ever... made out with a girl."
Everyone drinks. Without hesitation. Amita's eyebrows pretty much shoot off her face, and she points a finger accusatorially at all of them. "Okay, hold up one fucking second, I was expecting Ocean and I was expecting Lou, but the rest of you fuckers? Story time, bitches!"
Daphne looks deeply affronted. "Do I not look gay enough for you?"
"Um, actually, no," says Tammy, to general agreement around the circle. "And to be fair, you can't expect a straight girl to have gaydar."
Amita nods in ferocious agreement. "What Tim Tam said! So all of you start talking, come the fuck on!"
Daphne, who still seems disbelieving and frankly offended, immediately starts on a story about when she was in high school and they had a French transfer student, leaving Debbie no time to really wonder why Amita was expecting her to have made out with a girl. Which she has. But like, huh.
The eight of them have communal dinner pretty much every night. It's rare that somebody is missing from the table, because they're practically family by now and it feels weird not to eat together, trading stories and jokes over their food and laughing together. It always feels a little off if someone isn't there for some reason or another, which is what Debbie chalks the slight awkwardness and tension in the air up to one Thursday night when Lou goes out on a date. It's a little strange, but Debbie gets it. She feels kind of funny too about it, probably because the seat next to her is empty and Lou's elbows aren't getting all up in her space like they usually do at dinnertime, so it's just a little off.
But the silence and the furtive glances the others are exchanging with each other are, well, just really fucking strange, and Debbie eventually can't take it anymore. She puts her plate down and sighs. "Okay, what's going on with you guys?"
Everyone snaps back up, facing her with wide eyes and faux-innocent expressions. "Nothing."
Debbie sighs - Daphne really was right about everyone's acting being shit. They need to work on this. "I'm not stupid. You guys are acting funny. What the fuck is up? Is this just because Lou isn't having dinner with us tonight?"
Silence. Debbie resists the urge to roll her eyes, just barely. "She's just going out for one night, don't make this weird. We don't all need to have dinner together every night, and you guys know that. Rose just went out on Tuesday night to go talk to an investor, and we were fine!"
More furtive glances, before Tammy finally speaks up, exaggeratedly slow. "But... Lou's... on a date."
"I know," Debbie replies, equally slowly. "And she'll be back... tonight... and we'll have... our usual dinner... tomorrow."
If anything, this seems to thicken the tension in the air. Rose picks her chopsticks back up and digs back into her food with a hysteric sort of determination, and everyone follows suit. Debbie grits her teeth. Seriously, what is wrong with her team?
In a 'totally unexpected' turn of events - which was totally expected - Daphne and Rose start dating. They come home one afternoon holding hands with their hair a little messy and Daphne gives everyone the evil eye like she expects them to say anything dumb. "One word and you guys are dead."
"Are you really threatening the international criminals," says Nine Ball.
"Shut up," says Daphne, who doesn't let go of Rose's hand. "We're gonna celebrate tonight, just saying. This house is going to be lit all night."
"I take it that 'this house' isn't the nickname you've given your vagina," says Constance, and Daphne throws a pillow at her, which starts a full-on pillow fight because apparently they are all children, and it isn't until fifteen minutes later when there are feathers everywhere and everyone is breathless and laughing that Amita grins. "But seriously, congratulations, guys. Fucking finally."
"Yeah, how long did it take? You guys have been so obvious since, like, the actual heist, before you figured it out, Daphne."
"Good job on finally doing something about it," Nine Ball says, grinning lazily. "So, who found their balls? Daphne or Rose?"
"Obviously her," Rose says, but she's smiling and blushing a bit. "She took me out for brunch and on this walk through some garden and gave this speech about skinny love which I didn't actually understand - "
" - oh my god, Rose, you weren't supposed to tell them that bit, it's embarrassing - "
" - and then she asked, and I said yes, and here we are." Rose squeezes Daphne's hand and Daphne falls silent, smiling wide and looking genuinely bashful and delighted. It makes something flutter and ache right beneath Debbie's ribcage, and she just manages to nod. "Congratulations, both of you. You're going to be so happy together, I know it."
And the weird silence kind of just... falls right back onto all of them. Daphne cocks her head and looks at Debbie, then at Lou, then at Rose, then around the room, like she's waiting for something that doesn't come, and it just makes Debbie feel a bit confused and awkward, because nobody's saying anything out loud but it's like everyone else is having some weird telepathic conversation with each other that doesn't extend to her, which, okay? It gets embarrassing real fast, until Tammy, bless her heart, claps her hands together with a wild look in her eyes. "So, champagne, anybody?"
Everyone immediately chimes in and gets up to head to the kitchen, walking double time, leaving Debbie on the sofa, wondering what she's just missed, once again.
The girls are her family. Debbie has a family and she loves them, but most of them have been six feet under for... a really long time, now, and she's been well and truly alone since Danny died, and to have gathered Lou and the rest and to have had them stay was one of the greatest miracles she could never even have hoped for. They developed a real kind of friendship, a real kind of kinship, when they were planning and executing the Toussaint heist - a bond that's lasted beyond the heist itself. Something that Debbie feels like could really last forever, and she wants to keep it.
Back when they were executing the heist, it felt like they were basically seven souls in one body - eight, at the very end, after Daphne joined them. Debbie's increasingly beginning to feel like it's starting to slip through her fingers - how that felt, to be so in sync with her girls, to know them like she knows herself.
It... sucks. She doesn't like it. She wants to figure out what the hell she's missing, what seems to be so obvious that she just can't put her finger on, that they all seem to have a shared understanding of.
She just can't.
Until the exact anniversary of the Toussaint heist, when she's sitting on the porch swing looking out at the sea and Lou walks out of the house, sits down beside her, and speaks without looking at her. "I'm in love with you."
Debbie freezes. Lou continues, the shake in her voice evident. "I'm in love with you, and I've been in love with you for years, and I get if you don't feel the same way, but I needed you to know, Debbie, because - I'm done. I'm done hiding it, and pretending I'm not, and acting like I could go my whole life just being your backup when I want to be your girl."
And holy fuck, it crashes down right on Debbie's head, right that second. It's like she just got smacked in the fucking face by reality, and fuck, she finally gets it. She finally gets everything. All the weird tension and the strange looks she got and everyone's insinuations and casual allusions and it isn't just that. It goes back and back and back, to the first time she ever met Lou, to the first con they ever ran together, to Lou being the last face she saw before going to jail, to Lou being the first friendly face she saw after getting out again, to this.
"Oh," Debbie says, because she's a goddamn idiot, and Lou's face just crumples and she grips the side of the porch swing like she's bracing for something, and shit, no, that's not what Debbie means at all. Fuck, fuck, that's not - "Lou, fuck. Lou, I - yeah, I love you. I love you too, I always have, fuck. I'm so gone on you, Lou. I'm in love with you too."
Lou stops, turns towards Debbie, raw shock and hope and want on every inch of her face, and something floods through Debbie - wow, how has she missed this for so long? How has she not gotten a clue earlier? She's an idiot. "You mean that?"
"God, yeah," Debbie says, the words spilling out faster than she can stop them. "I'm so sorry, I'm an oblivious asshole, I'm so - wow, I'm stupid, really fucking stupid, I'm so in love with you. I love you."
And Lou softens, all the tension visibly leaving her, this laugh bubbling past her lips, so relieved, so joyous, and Debbie exhales, tangling her fingers in blonde hair and bringing Lou in to kiss her. She's warm, tastes so sweet, and Debbie can't believe she's missed all the obvious signs for so long, can't believe she couldn't see what was right in front of her, can't believe she couldn't pick up on all the hints.
Can't believe she's been missing this all her life without really knowing it - how Lou feels wrapped up in her arms, Lou's mouth on hers, the scent of her hair wreathed around them.
And it's taken really fucking long, and Debbie's pretty sure the others are going to make relentless fun of her later, but all of that fades away when Lou kisses her again, and it's taken years, years, years, but everything's finally fallen into place, everything finally makes sense, and Debbie knows without a doubt that right here is where she belongs.