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Eighth Time's the Charm

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The first time it happened, Lou was only just half asleep when she heard the uneven socked-shuffle of feet.  For a while, she drifted, thinking she had imagined it, and then she knew she hadn’t and fantasized briefly that she kept a gun under her pillow to threaten the intruder with.  She didn’t, because she had decided a long time ago that if she ever got so deep into something so dangerous that she needed a gun under her pillow, whatever came next would likely come whether she was armed or not. 

And it didn’t matter anyway because the footfalls were getting closer, and they were Debbie’s.  It would take a much longer separation for Lou to not recognize them anymore. 

She turned over.  “You need something?” she asked, voice coming sleep-thick.

“Move over,” Debbie said.

“Why?” Lou asked, waking up a little more.  “Don’t like my spare room?”  It was a perfectly good room, but even though Lou was confused she still automatically did what Debbie asked.  It would take a much longer separation to change that, too. 

“It’s quiet.”

“I thought you’d like some quiet," Lou said.  "After-”

“I did.” Debbie climbed into the bed and settled quickly enough, lying down on her back so close that Lou could smell her and make out her frown in the dark. “And then I didn’t. I-”

She did actually sound a little broken up about it, maybe more confused even than Lou was- except that maybe Lou wasn't all that confused after all.  She didn't know- not firsthand, anyway- what prison did to a person, but she suspected it complicated just about everything.  And wanting to be alone and wanting company might have been the easiest muddled up of all.  Lou turned over again, back to her favored position on her stomach, and threw a hand out.  It rested softly on Debbie’s chest.  “I’m going back to sleep.”

And Debbie sound better immediately when she said, “Okay.”  When she reached up to touch Lou, grazing short-trimmed nails up and down her forearm. 

And Lou fell asleep like that so easily she half-wondered how she ever slept any other way.

The second time it happened, she was a little more prepared.

She heard Debbie creep in and didn’t say anything.  She just rolled over, made room, and dozed off again before Debbie’s head even hit the pillow.

Debbie was easier about the whole thing once she knew she wouldn’t have to explain herself or reflect on the past.  She was all sleepy soft and clumsy, nudging up against Lou’s side.  For a moment the heat of her was overwhelming.  For a moment Lou thought she might have to wake back up and give this her full attention.  For a moment anything seemed possible. 

And then Debbie settled, stilled, and Lou breathed in and let everything else go.  And that was all right, because she slept soundly and in the morning Lou woke up with the sunlight streaming in and Debbie’s mouth pressed up against her shoulder, which was about the nicest way to wake up Lou could think of.  Especially when Debbie pressed a quick kiss just there before she sat up.  The oversized shirt Debbie slept in was slipping off her shoulder, her hair was a tangled mess, and Lou thought about brushing that hair aside, laying her hand on that shoulder, and pulling Debbie down into a decidedly not quick kiss. 

She thought about it, but then she gave Debbie a smile and didn’t.  It just wasn’t the right time.

The third and fourth time it happened, Lou was actually expecting it.  She was angry at herself for expecting it, for getting used to the shape of someone else in her bed so quickly, because it was better to expect loneliness.  It was better to learn to like it, because it clearly liked her.

But long nights bent over blueprints and plans, stumbling into bed in the early hours of the morning to catch a little sleep before starting it all again the next day, didn’t really lend themselves to thinking.  So she didn’t think.  She just fell into a bed and Debbie fell in after her.

The fifth time, she had found out what the catch in all this was, because there was always a catch with Debbie.  There was always something she hadn’t mentioned at the start.

“I’m still angry with you,” Lou said, already half asleep.  She thought there was a good chance that this job within a job of Debbie’s was going to get her put away too this time, and she wanted to enjoy her bed while she could.   

“Then kick me out,” Debbie said. 

Lou hummed, not sure if Debbie meant out of the bed, out of the house, or both, and not currently awake enough to decide- or to be much more than mildly miffed, actually.  And Debbie fit so nicely against her, and Lou didn’t want her to go away.  “Too tired,” she said, instead of that.

“Okay,” Debbie replied, her laughter soft against the back of Lou’s neck.  “Okay, then.”

The sixth time, they were drunk on success and good liquor both, the laughter from the other women still ringing like hope through the house.  Debbie was laughing too as she fell into bed, laughing and laughing, and Lou was sprawled out next to her with only one sock off and her hair in a mess at her neck.

“That was good, right?” Debbie said, wriggling against her.  “That was good.”

“Yeah,” Lou agreed, laughing at the way Debbie head-butted her shoulder, legs tangling up with her own.  “Yeah, it was good.”  She was still almost breathless with how good it was, and she wouldn’t pretend not to like that feeling.  It was surprisingly sweet, though she would never live for it like Debbie did.  

And Debbie did, and as Lou had been proving for a while now- if proof had ever been needed- she wasn't very good at pushing Debbie away. 

“It was really good,” Debbie said, and then she settled closer to Lou, plastered herself against Lou’s side, one of her legs pushing up in between Lou’s legs until her thigh was gently fitted to-

“Oh,” Lou said quietly.  She was breathless with more than laughter, suddenly, and a thrill of more than success went through her. 

Debbie looked up at her with such intensity, and Lou felt her hips twitch up into the sweet pressure of Debbie's thigh.

Lou definitely wasn’t good at pushing her away.

The seventh time, Lou really wasn’t expecting it. 

She and Debbie were good at falling together, good at talking without every really talking- and good at planning jewelry heists, as it turned out.  They weren’t so good at staying on the same page for very long.  So of course Lou went off on her own, after it was all over.  So of course Debbie did too, saying there was something she needed to do.  Even though she could still taste Debbie on her palate, still feel the ghost of fingertips and tongue around her and in her, still smell that expensive- stolen- perfume whenever she inhaled, Lou didn’t expect to see her again.  At least not until Debbie wanted something.   

Then again, maybe that was exactly when Lou saw her again. 

She had taken her motorcycle, too long in storage, and just ridden until she found a view she liked.  Then she stopped, picked out the best hotel in the area, and rented a room for the night.  She had the money to do that for months, if she wanted, but she doubted she would enjoy it so much for long.

But right at the moment it was nearly perfect- though it did strike her as odd that Debbie had been the one in prison, and while she was the one who now couldn't bear to keep still. 

She had a lovely dinner, spread a map out on the bed and considered her itinerary for the next day, and generally had a very relaxing evening until she turned out the lights and went to bed.  She had time to drift a little, time to wonder if this wasn’t a sad way to spend her money and her time, and then she heard it.  One of those hotel keys in the door.

Lou had used the chain above the door, of course- though she knew a sufficiently determined person could easily break it- and it caught the door, once open, mid-swing.

“Debbie?” she said, quietly, not sure if it was wishful thinking or not.  

“What?” Debbie replied, this faintly aggrieved whisper, like she had expected Lou to be waiting for her, like she had thought by then this ought to be routine enough not to be odd- which it was, at Lou’s place.  Not miles and miles away in a rented hotel room.   

Lou rolled out of bed and let her in.  She could barely make Debbie out in the half dark, and she wasn’t sure how surprised to be when Debbie kissed her, clumsy, sliding along her cheekbone before finding her lips.  Lou kissed back- because, really, what was she going to do?- and Debbie tasted sweet and tangy, like sour gummy worms, a guilty pleasure she had been indulging in a lot since she got out of prison.  Lou let her hands rest on Debbie’s waist, let herself hang on just long enough for Debbie’s warmth to feel real. 

Then she let go and felt her way back to the bed. 

Lou just lay there quiet for a bit, listening to Debbie fuss with a bag and putter around in the bathroom.  They were sounds that she supposed could become domestic, routine, if she let them.  She thought about asking Debbie how she got the key and decided she didn’t want to know.  She thought about asking Debbie what this was, what they were, and decided she didn’t want to know that either.  She wanted something unspoken, easy, that she wasn't sure either of them were built for anymore- if indeed they ever had been.  Oh, they were good at unspoken- good at that quiet that was all the click of lips and tongue, all seeking fingers and quiet moans, good at a look here or a touch there that said everything language couldn’t quiet manage, good at the kind of wordless discontent that had made Debbie start a scheme on the sidelines that landed her in jail.  They weren’t so good at easy, and that was one problem Lou was relatively sure money couldn’t solve. 

Soon the silence stretched very wide indeed.  Soon Lou wondered if she had ever even asked a question at all.  But when Debbie climbed into the bed, lay down so they were face to face, heads on overstuffed hotel pillows, she said, “What?” again softly. 

So Lou said, “Are you finished?”  And she wasn’t sure, even as she said it, if she meant with whatever business had kept her in the city while Lou went off alone, or with whatever took hold of her at times like this, whenever there was never any arguing or reasoning with her about.

And Debbie said, “Yeah, I’m done,” like she wasn’t sure either.  And Lou kissed her like that was enough for now, and maybe it really was.

The eighth time it happened, they were back home. 

Lou had had a long day sorting things out with her girls- it was amazing, what you let slip while you were planning a heist- and she fell into bed at a truly ungodly hour, so tired she barely even knew where she was.  By then Lou was used to going to bed with Debbie beside her- used to the sound of Debbie brushing her teeth, the minty taste of her kisses in the dark, her voice sleep clogged and sweet when she shot up and told Lou to remind her to add some silly thing to her shopping list.  It was domestic.  It was routine.  It felt like home in a way that four walls and some furniture could never match.  So the surprise, then, was turning over at one point and hitting nothing but cool sheets and empty pillows. 

She kept still for a while, just thinking.  Deciding if something was wrong, if it was worth worrying over.  If it was worth getting up over. 

And then she heard that familiar shuffle getting closer, felt the bed dip as Debbie climbed in.

“What are you up to?” Lou asked as Debbie threw an arm out over her chest and then gave her a sleepy kiss.

“Just... looking at blueprints.”

That woke Lou up a little more.  “You had better not be planning another heist.”

Debbie did not sound in the least bit cowed, or apologetic, when she said, “Why not?  The last one didn’t go so badly, did it?”

“The last one was something you spent years planning.”

“So?” Debbie said.  In the moonlight streaming into her bedroom, Lou could make out her expression.  She really did look like a cat that had caught and consumed several cages worth of canaries.  “I’ve got way more resources than I had when I was in jail.  This might take only half as long.”

Half as long.  Lou snorted. 

Debbie nuzzled closer, her proximity enough that parts of Lou gave a tingle of interest, her tiredness melting away faster by the second.  “Could be a little longer, though- depending on the... distractions.”

“I see,” Lou said.  Debbie pushed up against her fully and Lou pushed back, catching her mouth in a kiss that wasn’t sleepy at all.  It really could be enough.

Lou had a feeling she was pretty distracting.