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Defending Debbie

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The door clicked open and Debbie waited, watching the table with trained eyes as she picked at chipped paint, waiting as long as possible to make eye contact with who she could tell was the same cop who had run her paperwork this morning before placing her in the holding cell.

She’d refused her call. And no, she didn’t want any fucking goldfish crackers because how the hell would that help her at this point?

Danny was dead. Darlene and Dennis may as well have been dead. And Claude Becker had ruined her fucking life. There was no one to blame but herself. No one to help but herself. What was the point of fighting any of it? She’d read the signs all wrong. She’d taken the risk. And she’d gotten conned. This is how her world worked.

She was over it all. Debbie just wanted some peace and some quiet so she could stew in her own guilt and self-pitying.

“I told you, I don’t want an attorney,” Debbie sighed.

“But you know you have the right to one,” the officer reminded her.

“Yes,” Debbie rolled her eyes. “Not only do I know my constitutional rights, but I have watched television on occasion.”

“So I’m writing down that you’re refusing your right to counsel?” The officer checked.

“Who’d they send?” Debbie scoffed, picking at the plastic cup as she peeled it into a circle of strips.

“I don’t know, lady. She’s a public defender. You got someone else on retainer or something? Any family you can call?”

“There’s no one,” Debbie spoke, her tone ominous and dark.

“Look,” the officer sighed. “I have no legal responsibility to tell you to take on any sort of counsel or even tell you they’re right outside, but this one. She seems different. And it seems like you could use someone on your side.”

Debbie let out a long sigh, but nodded.

“Alright,” she agreed reluctantly. “Send her in. I’ll talk to her.”

The officer nodded. “Wait here.”

“But I have brunch plans at 11!” Debbie complained, picking up her handcuffed wrists from the table as high as she could stretch and shook them, letting out a maniacal laugh.

“Brunch does sound good,” a low voice chuckled. “But they wouldn’t let me bring more than a coffee through security for you.”

Debbie looked up at the new voice, scaling the public defender from bottom to top. Vintage designer shoes. Smart, sharp slacks. Crisp button down. Gorgeous blazer. The outfit alone was nothing like any PD she’d ever seen and she was already grateful for that alone. But it was nothing compared to the woman wearing it.

Shaggy bleach blonde hair tucked into a short ponytail that was straight and pinned back enough, but then messy fringe falling into her eyes. Wide black-rimmed glasses. Barely there makeup because she didn’t need any at all. And the scent of cologne wrapping around Debbie like a vice and a hug simultaneously.

“Louise Miller,” the woman offered, holding out a hand and sliding a coffee cup towards Debbie. “I’ve been assigned to your case. Deborah Ocean, right?”

“I won’t be answering any questions until my lawyer is present,” Debbie smirked, still trying to get a read on this Louise Miller.

“That would be me,” she smirked, without missing a beat. “Best we could do on short notice.”

“You don’t look like a public defender,” Debbie mused, gripping the coffee in her hands to feel the warmth.

“You don’t look like a criminal.”

“What happened to innocent until proven guilty?” The brunette snorted.

“You new to this system?” The attorney asked, rolling her eyes. “And for the sake of transparency, I used to do corporate law.”

“Ah, white collar,” Debbie nodded. “Caviar. House arrest in mansions. Cars as bonuses. What’s not to love?”

“How much time have you got?” The blonde asked with a sudden darkness that could give Debbie’s a run for her money.

“Six years, evidently,” Debbie winked.

“Touché,” the other woman chuckled, nodding her head appreciatively for the humor. “So. Tell me why we’re here. And tell me the truth.”

“I don’t do the truth,” Debbie muttered.

“Oh, lovely. So I can expect you to lie under oath? Because that’ll save us both a whole lot of time.”

“You know what I mean,” the brunette huffed.

“Frankly,” the blonde smirked, snatching the coffee cup back and spinning it with her pinky finger. “I don’t. So why don’t you start with one truth for me? Earn your coffee back.”

“How is that fair if I don’t know anything about you?”

“A truth for a truth then?” She suggested, leaning back in her seat, folding her legs up on the table.

“I can work with that,” Debbie admitted with a small sigh of relief.

“I hate the name Louise but it sounds more professional. Just call me Lou,” Lou huffed. “You go.”

“I hate the name Deborah but you used it first. Just call me Debbie,” the brunette smiled.

Lou slid the coffee back to Debbie and Debbie caught it with a grin.

“I’d rather help one innocent person in my entire career than make white collar money,” Lou muttered.

“I fell for the wrong person,” Debbie offered, matching Lou’s pitiful tone.

“I’m usually the wrong person myself.”

“That last one was a lie,” Debbie whispered. “I don’t think I ever fell for him. I just trusted the wrong asshole.”

“I’m sorry you trusted the wrong asshole.”

“Is that your truth or do you just feel sorry for me?” Debbie asked, but her tone was curious and not accusatory.

“Both,” Lou smiled.

“I don’t think you’re usually the wrong person,” Debbie offered in return. “I just think you haven’t found the right one.”

“That your truth, Ocean? Or you just feel sorry for me?”

“Both,” Debbie winked. They shared an easy laugh that made the brunette’s heart flutter.

“Tell me about the case,” Lou spoke softly, not expecting Debbie to budge quite yet, but to her surprise, Debbie nodded, leaning forward.

“Do you know Daniel Ocean?” Debbie sighed.

“He’s your brother?”

“He was.” Debbie flinched.

“Fuck, I’m sorry, I—“ Lou’s hand reached out to touch Debbie’s and debbie took it before she could recoil. The blonde stared down at their hands, electricity pulsing between them. “I probably shouldn’t be…”

“Probably not,” Debbie mumbled, pulling away reluctantly, both watching Lou’s unmoving hand still in the middle of the table looking as regretful as she was. “Anyway, Danny’s the one who got me into this mess in the first place. I went through a big breakup with someone I used to work with and I was looking for a new partner. Danny introduced me to Claude.”

“Can I ask who the man was you were working with before Claude?”

“I mean you could,” Debbie sighed. “But I won’t tell you her name. She’s not on trial here.”

Lou’s lips pursed and Debbie debated asking whether she was surprised at the gender swap Debbie had so casually thrown her like a curveball or the fact that she wouldn’t rat out other criminals.

“I respect that,” Lou answered finally. “So you stopped working with her. And you picked up on working with him?”

“Basically.”

Lou cleared her throat awkwardly, looking down at her notepad. “And were you romantically involved with him?”

Debbie let out a deep breath before looking up, Lou’s bright eyes meeting hers.

“Not consensually,” Debbie whispered.

Neither of them missed the loud snap of Lou’s pen in the otherwise quiet room as it broke off in her hand, the hand that still remained on the table now curled into a tight fist.

“Can you—I hate to ask, but any details you can give me might help you…”

“Yeah,” Debbie gulped. “Of course.”

“So Danny introduced you two?”

“Yes.”

“With the intention you’d work together or—“

“I think he assumed if we worked together, other elements of our lives would become intertwined,” the brunette sighed. “It’s a rotten habit of mine.”

“Mixing business with pleasure, you mean?”

Debbie nodded, playing with the sleeve of the coffee cup, afraid to meet Lou’s eyes. She felt vulnerable. Like Lou could see right through her. Like she already knew everything without having to pull it from Debbie a strand at a time.

“Hey,” Lou whispered, physically stopping herself from trying to offer Debbie a hand again. “We can stop at any time.”

“Easier to just muck through it,” Debbie admitted. “Just keep stopping me if you have questions.”

Lou nodded, replacing her pen as Debbie started speaking again.

“There wasn’t going to be a criminal element,” Debbie started. “I’m sure you need that for intent,” Debbie smirked and Lou cracked a small smile. “But I’m sure you also know that things are never that simple. He wanted a trophy on his arm. Someone to talk up expensive pieces and make sure they were the ones on the forefront to be sold first. Get the big money first.”

“But I’m guessing it didn’t stay legal?”

“Fraud is the big player here, yeah, but the issue here is my willingness to commit it.”

“You think we have a case for duress?” Lou asked quietly.

“Does being held at gunpoint and told you’ll do whatever he asks you to do or he’ll shoot you in the head count as duress?”

They both watched the second pen, waiting for Lou’s heavy hand.

“Pretty fucking solid prima facie case I’ll say,” she grumbled. “Debbie, he held you at gunpoint?”

“Multiple times,” the brunette murmured. “A knife as well. Some cigar burns.” She rolled up the sleeve of her dress so Lou could see the marks.

“This just got a whole lot more complicated,” The blonde breathed. “I mean domestic violence it’s—“

“I wouldn’t call it that,” Debbie scoffed. “There was nothing domestic about it.”

“But you were living together?”

“Against my will.”

“Debbie—“

“When things were under a legal veil with the art, there was nothing between us but the occasional flirt or kiss. I thought I was stringing him along. He had different plans. When he proposed the whole scheme and I learned that I’d be defrauding people for thousands, I told him no. And he said if I loved him I would do it. And when I told him I didn’t love him, he—he—“

Lou was frozen. The pen had stopped and she was staring blankly at the paper between them.

“He forced himself on you,” she breathed.

“Told me I couldn’t do any better than him. That he would give me everything I’d ever wanted. I just had to pose as the buyer again and again. My name wouldn’t be anywhere. And he kept threatening me and raping me and I couldn’t—“ Debbie’s voice broke, but she didn’t cry. She looked to angry and distraught to even shed a tear. “There was no where to go. No one to turn to. He threatened my life. And Danny’s. I couldn’t tell a soul. And so people assumed it was mutual. Criminal or otherwise…”

“How did you end up here?” Lou asked nervously.

“I fought back,” Debbie whispered. “He asked me to pose as the seller, not the buyer. I said no. I did. But he…well, you get it. But I thought this is perfect. This will get the police involved and I can explain and get help and instead—“

“They brought the feds in,” Lou sighed, ruffling her bangs in distress. “Because now it’s a federal case. Too many state lines crossed. Too much money involved.”

“It was too late for me. My name was on everything. He told then he was the one I’d defrauded. Not that anyone bothered to ask anything you’re asking. They probably thought it was too easy. Case closed. Why bother asking if the floozy in the cocktail dress raking in millions is okay. Not that I even have a fucking dime to my name…”

“You shouldn’t be here,” Lou hissed. “None of this is right. You shouldn’t even have me as an attorney. This is high level shit. You need someone good. Someone with a reputation. This could be plastered on page six. Jesus, Becker could be rotting on death row. It’s no art fraud. It’s abuse and duress and false imprisonment and—Fuck, there could be eighty charges against him. Criminal and civil.”

Debbie smiled at this and Lou frowned in confusion.

“Well shit, Lou Miller,” Debbie chuckled. “That’s quite a fire you have under your ass. You must be a firecracker in court.”

“Oh you have no fucking idea,” she smirked. But her face went dark again. “But as your attorney, I’d advise you get a different one. One who’s more skilled in this area. Get a loan. Get a credit line. Do what you have to. Even if you served time, which I’m not even sure you would, you should be walking out with damages a plenty to pay any lawyer back and then some. And Becker—Fuck, he should be shaking in his boots right now.”

“That’s solid advice,” Debbie nodded, taking a sip of the now cold coffee. “But don’t be upset. I’m going to ignore it.”

“There’s no reason I would advise you to plead guilty, Debbie. Even if they prove the elements of fraud, you have so many defenses lined up. Duress is only the beginning and—“

“I’m ignoring it because I don’t want anyone else to take on my case,” Debbie whispered. “I want you, Lou.”

Chapter Text

It took a lot to surprise Lou Miller, but there it was. The blonde could barely refrain from her jaw dipping slightly as her mouth gaped, her eyes growing wide.

Debbie was giving her more than a compliment even if she was doing it with a smile. There was something else there as she pled in a faint whisper. She was quite literally putting her life in Lou’s hands and Lou had taken oaths aplenty and quite the life-changing exam that told her Debbie had every right to trust her with it.

“Debbie—“ the blonde sighed, running her hands through her bangs messily as she frowned at her notes. “I really have to advise you that—“

“You’re the only one I trust, Lou,” Debbie spoke softly, surprising them both.

“Alright,” Lou nodded, shuffling the pages of her notebook before putting her pen down. “Just promise me one thing.”

“That depends,” Debbie smirked, shrugging her shoulders. Lou wasn’t having it. Sure, a sense of humor and a dose of sarcasm was entertaining and it certainly made elements of her job a bit lighter, but there was a time and a place for it. And she’d seen things go beyond sour when a defendant couldn’t put their head on straight when it came to the people and the parts of the legal system that mattered. A courtroom, for one.

“I’m serious,” Lou spoke gravely, the room growing cold.

“I’m listening,” Debbie nodded, her face turning serious. Methodical, even. Whether it was a farce or not, it seemed she really did trust Lou.

“You and me, Debbie. We’re partners on this, okay?” Lou asked. “We agree on a plan. You stick to it. I tell you to say something when we meet, you can fight me like hell when it’s just you and me, but once we land on an answer, you sure as shit better use that answer. Don’t lie to me. Don’t dodge me. I know in your line of work the truth doesn’t come into play much, but the truth is legitimately on your side here, so we stick to it. If I put you on that stand, I better be able to predict every word that comes out of your mouth verbatim. No tricks.”

“Partners,” Debbie nodded, leaning back in her chair. “I like that.”

“Good,” Lou nodded, gathering her things into a pile as she thought.

“And let me guess?” The brunette whispered, leaning in across the table. “The ultimate rule. No matter what happens, I’m not allowed to fall in love with you.”

Lou’s hand slid, sending a stack of sticky notes sailing across the table as they landed with a soft thud on the floor.

“Something like that,” Lou mumbled, leaning over to pick up the stack which only resulted in her bumping her head on the table as she tried to straighten herself out in her frazzled state.

She silently chided herself for wishing she could’ve come up with a wittier or even flirtier response.

Debbie cleared her throat, moving her eyes away from where she’d been watching Lou lean over, training them to the concrete wall instead.

“Do I always get coffee?” Debbie asked lightly.

“If you’d like,” the blonde smiled, grateful for Debbie picking up on her silent desire not to call attention to Debbie’s line or Lou’s quite out-of-character clumsy double slip up. “How do you take it?”

The two locked eyes for a moment almost daring the other one to crack a joke at the way Lou had set them up to teeter on edge of danger and flirtation.

“Like revenge,” Debbie finally uttered, almost to herself. “A dish best served cold.”

Lou didn’t know if Debbie was just talking about coffee anymore.

“Noted,” the blonde smiled. “Listen, did they say where they might be moving you?”

“Not yet,” Debbie sighed. “Think this is home for the meantime.”

“Good,” Lou nodded. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Same time. With an iced coffee. What kind of pastries do you like?”

“Anything with a hole in it,” the brunette smirked as Lou found herself rolling her eyes in a delighted way for the first time in her life.

“I really hope this isn’t how you’d speak to a judge,” Lou sighed, standing up and shaking Debbie’s hand.

“That’s really up to you now, isn’t it?” Debbie asked, squeezing Lou’s hand tight before she dropped it. The blonde missing the warmth and pressure of it. “Partner.”


Lou sighed at the pile of manila folders on her kitchen table, swirling them around with her pen before she threw her glasses on top of them in defeat, rubbing at her eyes. Today had been a day. Though, she had to admit, there had been one highlight to it.

She slid the folder she was thinking about towards her, leaning back in her chair as she opened the tab of her beer can, taking a long sip.

Deborah Ocean. What a story. What a woman.

Lou hated the fact that this was going to be a months-long trial that dragged Debbie through the mud. And she hated that she was a bit smitten that she’d have so much time working closely with Debbie. Debbie.

Deborah Ocean was one of a kind. She was battered and bruised, but it hadn’t hurt her ego and she didn’t like playing the victim card. Lou knew she was ready for revenge and that she knew how to play the game. Lou just hoped she had what it took to get Debbie her day in court and to put Claude Becker behind bars, rotting for decades. There was a special place in hell for men like him.

Debbie may have been innocent. May have had an alibi. And defenses of plenty. But more than that, Lou was drawn to her. Whether it was to Debbie as a person or whether it was to Debbie’s case, Lou wasn’t sure. But the blurring of those lines didn’t really matter. Justice was justice as far as she was concerned.

She frowned at the mugshot paper clipped to the inside of the folder, her finger running along the photo. How many people had seen the marks on Debbie’s arms and not said anything. Not checked if she was okay. If she had a side of her story to tell. Lou was livid.

She grabbed the stack of sticky notes, sticking her pen in her mouth as she paced over to her living room wall and angrily slapped the first post-it against it, rummaging through the coffee table drawer to find a sharpie. She labeled it: Debbie Ocean. She slapped another note against the wall. Daniel Ocean. Another. Claude Becker.

Lou’s eyes stung as she watched the “r” slide off the post-it and mark up her wall with sharpie with a rigid, angry black mark. On second thought, she ripped it off and crumpled it in her hands, before tossing it on the ground and replacing it with another labeled with a simple “CB”.

Her head was buzzing. Her eyes blurry. The post it notes grew.

Conspiracy.

Theft.

Kidnapping.

Trafficking.

Domestic violence.

Battery.

Assault.

Coercion.

Duress.

Larceny.

False imprisonment.

The font growing angrier and sloppier as she went until she tore the marker away from the wall panting, forcing herself to step away from the now-sprawling spiderweb of notes that took up half of her wall.

The blonde took a deep breath, shedding her pants in the living room as she walked towards the bedroom, bound for the shower, her bra and top flying through the air behind her until she was left naked, standing on the tile, staring at herself in the mirror, not even seeing herself in the reflection.

Brown eyes stared back at her. Glimmering but pleading. Tanned skin instead of ivory. Smirking, perfectly curved lips.

Lou took another deep breath, blinking her eyes before stepping into the shower and letting hot water pound against her head and back, rubbing at her shoulders, trying to let the tension melt away.

Her brain wouldn’t slow down. If Lou threw out that Debbie never had the mental capacity to commit theft or fraud, they’d toss back the fact that she still agreed to the conspiracy. They’d ask why she didn’t walk. Or if she felt she couldn’t, then why didn’t she agree to his plan, but then go to the police with it. Hadn’t she taken a substantial step, they’d ask, by knowing he was an art dealer? That he had a gallery? That this had occurred multiple rounds. How could—

And then her mind skipped, trying to think of bakeries. Maybe the one on 12th with those cream-filled donuts. Or better yet, maybe Debbie liked bagels. There was that Deli on 14th. But then again—

And then Lou’s sudsy hand was sliding between her thighs as she moaned out, catching herself against the wall with her other hand as her mind raced and her hips bucked.

You must be a fire cracker.

How do you take it?

No matter what happens, I’m not allowed to fall in love with you.

Chapter Text

“Ocean,” the guard called pulling Debbie out of her daze that she’d slid into while trying to count the speckles on the ceiling tiles. Each time she’d made it mid-way through the two hundreds her mind would wander elsewhere to features of a certain someone.

“Yeah?” She sighed, bitter that she’d been taken out of the closest thing she had anymore to daydreams or dreams at all. Every moment of her life seemed to be an actual or a waking nightmare.

“Your lawyer’s back.”

Debbie’s face lit up as she smiled, clambering down from the bed to look in the marked up mirror.

“When can I get my hands on some commissary grade eyeliner?” Debbie frowned, poking at the corners of her eyes. “Or a lipstick.”

“Just thank your lucky stars you haven’t been exposed to the mainstream prison bullshit yet, Ocean,” the guard sighed. “You look fine. Impressive for holding cell beauty, honestly.”

Debbie rolled her eyes, but thanked her softly before the guard walked her to the same room as yesterday. Debbie could see a glimmer of blonde hair poking through the small square window on the door already.

“I’ll leave you two to it,” the other woman whispered, cracking the door open as Lou looked up at them, a soft smile spreading on her lips.

The door closed behind Debbie as she sat, looking down at the table. True to her word, there was a large iced coffee and a small pink box.

“I went with a donut this time,” Lou smirked. “Took a wild guess.”

“Boston cream?” Debbie asked with a matching smirk before opening the lid.

“Boston cream,” Lou nodded, tapping on the box twice.

“Whip smart you are, Miller.”

“Thanks, Ocean,” Lou laughed, the sound more free and easy than the tension and thickness in the room yesterday. “How’d you sleep?”

“Like I was in prison,” the brunette shrugged. She looked at Lou more closely for a second. “Though I see freedom doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the ability to sleep.”

Lou coughed into her shoulder awkwardly before nodding. “I’ve been thinking a lot about your case.”

“Uh oh.” Debbie’s heart sank. She knew this feeling. She knew what it was like to be considered and mulled over and then dropped like a hot potato when things got too much. Too complicated. She crossed her arms, prepared for a stand-off. Brush them off before they can do it to you. Two could play at this.

“I’ll deny it if you say this to anyone. But, it’s honestly the first time in my life I’ve thought about wringing a man’s neck with my hands,” Lou finished.

Debbie choked out a surprised laugh that was half relief.

“Oh please, tell me more,” Debbie grinned.

“There’s sharpie on my wall. Lots of angry handwriting. Maybe a broken glass.”

“You’ve got a big thing with chivalry when it comes to women?” Debbie asked, opening the pink box.

“Of course,” Lou nodded. She leaned over towards her briefcase to pull out a notepad and a pen. Debbie clocked that it was the same one from yesterday. The one that Lou had snapped in her hand. It seemed that maybe Lou’s chivalry bordered on possessive. Debbie liked it.

“So how does this work?” Debbie asked, licking at the cream that had poked out of the donut.

“We’ll keep meeting, you and me, first to build up your case. Agree on claims and defenses. I definitely see some cross and counter claims bungling things up. But basically, I have your story, and now you’re gonna help me build a list to corroborate it.”

“You don’t believe me?” Debbie asked, raising an eyebrow.

“As a matter of fact, you’re one of the few clients I didn’t even have to convince myself to give a chance, but a courtroom is going to be biased against a defendant themselves generally. So we give them your story and then we give them ten more that repeat the same thing back. Any way they turn it. No matter who they do or don’t trust. It all matches.”

“There’s no one,” Debbie frowned. “You know that right?”

“We’ll find someone,” Lou promised. “Now, I know Danny is gone. But is there anyone who would have talked to him during the time he introduced you to Claude? Your parents maybe?”

“Darlene and Dennis Ocean,” Debbie sighed. “I don’t know if my father is even alive. Last I heard, he was on the run. He’s got quite the record.”

“I figured,” Lou frowned. “And your mother?”

“We’re estranged.”

“Surely if she found out the situation and your innocence she’d…”

“Put herself on the line for her disappointment of a delinquent dyke daughter? Definitely not.”

Lou frowned to herself as she thought and Debbie felt her heart pang as she wondered if her words had hit home at all.

“Right,” Lou whispered. “Friends of Danny? Relationships?”

“Rusty,” Debbie sighed, but then she smiled. “He’d actually be great for this. Criminal record as well unfortunately, but he’s a smooth talker. Very close with Danny. I think you two would actually really get along.”

“Rusty? Is that like Cher?” Lou smirked.

“As in Robert Ryan,” Debbie laughed. “His guilty pleasures do include Oprah though.”

“Noted as blackmail,” the blonde grinned. “Who else?”

“Tess,” Debbie smiled softly. “Tess Ocean.”

“You have a sister?” Lou asked, surprised.

“Danny’s wife,” Debbie explained. “Then ex-wife and maybe then wife again? I couldn’t keep up.

“Speaking of exes,” Lou prodded with an awkward smile.

“Lou,” the brunette warned. “We’ve been down this path.”

“Thick as thieves,” Lou nodded. “I know. And I get you not wanting to name any names. But if there’s anyone who can help you.”

“I’ve never,” Debbie sighed, trying to find a way to phrase it. “Anyone I’ve ever dated or been with has always been—“

“You’ve never dated anyone straight?” Lou gaped before closing her mouth and silently apologizing.

Debbie lost it, snorting through her nose as she laughed before taking a sip of coffee and collecting herself.

“I’m sorry,” Lou sighed. “I didn’t—I didn’t mean—“

“You meant I’ve never dated anyone without a criminal record?” Debbie smirked. “And no, I haven’t. Well, I mean, a few with criminal track records but no actual ones if that works?”

“Yes,” Lou blushed furiously. “Yes, that’s what I meant. And yeah, good enough. Your attorney-client privilege would extend to them, of course.”

“Tammy Blake is good then,” Debbie nodded. “The best, actually.”

Lou’s eyes met Debbie’s looking off. A bit blazing and dark and maybe…jealous?

“She didn’t know all the details,” Debbie continued. “But she knows the truth when she sees it. And she knows me. Can really read me.”

“Got it,” Lou spoke sharply as she looked away to jot something down. “Who else?”

Debbie frowned at Lou’s formerly glittering eyes that seemed to flicker out and dim as she looked back up. A certain spark gone.

Chapter Text

Fifteen years ago, Lou had sat in the back corner of the law library in her favorite cubicle, her legs up on the desk as she leaned back in the uncomfortable straight-backed chair as she studied. Well, she was supposed to be studying.

Instead, she was laughing her head off at some of the ethical scenarios she was reading about.

She had decided to get ahead and take the ethics portion of the bar exam at the end of the summer before courses started for her final year and she’d spent the last two weeks rotting away in the library existing on ramen, candy bars, and energy drinks. Some of it was common sense. Some of it was difficult beyond belief. But the ones that had her howling were things she found ridiculous to even be studying or tested at all: don’t sleep with your clients.

How stupid could people be? Lou had scoffed at that desk, laughing at the different hypotheticals and practice questions surrounding it. What was considered crossing the line. What was unethical. What was illegal. What was borderline. Nobody could possibly be that stupid or reckless, she’d decided. Maybe men. That’s who. But she could never.

She knew the amount of money she had spent and loans she had taken out. Not to mention the seven years of school, this exam, and the huge life-changing bar exam she was about to take on. Surely, she would never throw it all away and risk getting disbarred or losing her license completely. Certainly not for something so insignificant like sex. Or god forbid, love.

But here she was, seeking the advice of the last person she ever thought she would be: Daphne.

“How’s the public service law life treating you?” Daphne smirked, stabbing into a piece of lettuce as Lou rolled her eyes.

“We can’t all sell our souls to the devil forever like you, Daph,” the blonde sighed.

“Why not?” Daphne grinned, smacking her hands down on the table with glee. “You know I know how much your suits cost, Miller.”

“It’s not all about that,” Lou rolled her eyes. “Have you ever had that feeling at the end of the day that you changed someone’s life? That you gave their life back to them after some nonsense mistake that anyone could have made? That feeling. Knowing that you did that. You made that difference. It’s better than any blazer.”

Daphne shrugged. “I don’t know,” she laughed. “I lost my soul during law school. I think it’s too late to bounce back anyhow. Besides, those guys we used to work with? Yum.”

“Yeahhhh,” Lou dragged out. “Not really the best selling point for me, Kluger.”

“You wouldn’t even try it once?” Daphne teased, running her fingers along her butter knife. “Just to see?”

“It’s not an ice cream flavor,” Lou chuckled. “But that’s sort of what I need to ask you.”

“You need to ask how I knew I was straight?” Daphne smirked.

“Lord, not at all, please,” Lou groaned.

“Need to ask why I’ve never slept with you?” The brunette continued. “Because believe me, if I had to pick a woman then…”

“Stop, stop, don’t even go there, I beg of you,” Lou sighed, smacking her face in her hands.

“Bet you love begging,” Daphne snickered under her breath before Lou shot her a dangerous look.

Anyway,” Lou sighed. “It’s about a client. Something I never thought I’d be thinking about, let alone saying out loud.”

“Louise. Miller,” Daphne clucked. “I am shooketh. A client? What happened to that perfect score on our ethics exam?”

“Don’t act all high and mighty, Daph. I know your track record.”

Daphne shrugged, giving her a sly smile. “Look. I may be batshit and I may have sold my soul, but I’m not stupid. And that’s saying something. If it’s something I don’t do, then I’d never in a thousand years imagine you doing something.”

“But—“

“Now after the case is closed,” Daphne breathed, leaning forward. “Mm. That is quite a different story.”

“You’ve dated a client after their case is finished?” Lou confirmed.

“Dated?” Daphne snorted. “Oh honey, no. Fucked? Absolutely.”

Lou was regretting this lunch and hating herself for even thinking it up.

“You’ve slept with—“

“Look, Lou,” Daphne sympathized, reaching out for her hand. “I’ll play nice for a minute. I can see the torment in your eyes. I know you wouldn’t ask me this about just anyone. I’m guessing there’s no shortage of girls at bars or even the grocery store who are throwing themselves at you. And I know you know how to use a dating app to get some ass for the night. This has got to be serious. Right?”

“I don’t know,” Lou groaned. “It’s complicated, Daph. And it’s not some business deal like we used to help close or some white collar, money moving thing…”

“Then don’t even let it take up space in your head,” Daphne murmured. “It’s gonna drive you mad.”

“Too late,” Lou hissed, mostly chiding herself.

“Who is she?” Daphne whispered.

“I plead the fifth,” the blonde grumbled, taking a sip of her drink.

“We both know that’s not how that works,” Daphne smirked. “Is she guilty?”

Lou locked eyes with Daphne as brown probed blue for the truth.

“No,” Lou whispered. “She’s definitely not. And there’s another asshole who is.”

“Ah, so this is about chivalrous, possessive Louise Miller,” Daphne grinned, pulling back. “She’s innocent. He’s guilty. Sure you’re not letting your distaste of men get in the way of your case, Miller? Because that’s worse than sleeping with a client. That’s still a conflict of interest.”

Lou rolled her eyes. “I can feel however I want, Daph. But I’ll only use precedence and the law to actually prove it, you asshat.”

“Then what…”

“I can’t explain it,” Lou breathed. “There’s something about her. I feel like…if I’d met her in a past life, I’d be running right alongside her instead of defending her in court. And god…I would, I could treat her so much better than anyone she’s ever given her heart to.”

“Oh, Lou,” Daphne sighed, her eyes looking sad and sympathetic. “You are fucked, my dear.”

Lou wanted to strike back with a venomous retort or even a laugh, but she stared down at her silverware feeling defeated and heartbroken. There was something about the way Debbie looked at her. Laughed with her. How jealous she had gotten over the mention of an ex-girlfriend she didn’t even have any information about. The way she looked forward to meeting with Debbie. Bringing her a pastry or a coffee and wondering if that’s why her face lit up or if it was because she was saying Lou.

Lou was slowly starting to piece things together and she was under the impression that something was happening to her that never had before. She was falling in love. She was falling in love with Debbie Ocean.

And Daphne was right, she was fucked. 

Chapter Text

“You’re staring at me,” Debbie announced, pretending to keep her eyes trained on the bagel in front of her when she was really studying Lou’s face that was completed focused on the brunette while she thought Debbie was looking over the breakfast Lou had presented her with this morning.

 

She did have to admit that she was impressed. Sesame seed bagel. Lightly toasted. Extra cream cheese. Iced coffee. With a hint of something seasonal that told Debbie time was passing even slower than it seemed.

 

“Sorry,” Lou mumbled, trying to hide as she pretended to look in her pockets and purse for something too late, Debbie already witnessing the faint blush against her ivory cheeks. “I spoke with some of the witnesses you suggested. You know, for character references. To help you.”

 

“Tammy?” Debbie asked, testing the waters with the name. She wanted to see if the shimmer in the blonde’s eyes disappeared again like it had last time. Like her eyes had done when Lou had mentioned her own ex.

 

There was something that had passed through Lou’s face when Debbie had mentioned her friend’s name and how Tammy knew her like no-one else. And she was almost ashamed that she was hoping that Lou was more than intrigued. That Lou was maybe even jealous. She was kidding herself. She doubted the weird feeling she felt, the feelings growing between them and the things that made her tingle like Lou biting her lip in concentration or getting her bangs in her eyes, was any sort of mutual. And even if it was, this was strictly professional.

 

Lou was doing her job. And Debbie was…well, whether she was guilty or not, in this instance or in others, she was a criminal. A con woman.

 

She doubted Lou would ever want anything to do with her outside the walls of this prison or outside a courtroom.

 

“Yeah,” the blonde sighed, bringing Debbie back into the moment. “Tammy Blake.”

 

Debbie tried not to laugh with glee as she watched the attorney’s nostrils flare as she mentioned the name. Surely, there wasn’t harm in letting the hope she felt flicker in her belly at Lou’s reaction, no matter how wrong it might be.

 

“What did she have to say?”

 

“Well,” Lou smiled sympathetically. “She’s a good friend, Debbie. Ready to defend you to the death before I could even get a word in edgewise.”

 

“Sounds like Tammy,” Debbie nodded, pulling off a piece of the bagel to drag along the excess cream cheese on the wax paper as Lou watched her. “Did she—“

 

“You didn’t warn me properly about Robert though,” Lou smirked, interrupting Debbie’s next thought.

 

Debbie tried to brush aside the internal gloat that seemed to seep out of her knowing Lou was desperate to change the topic to anything besides Tammy. She wanted to admit that Tammy wasn’t even an ex of hers, they were close friends who hadn’t shared more than a kiss on the cheek, but Debbie was having too much fun with this prospect. She let herself secretly pocket it for later.

 

“I told you you’d get along with Rusty,” Debbie grinned, chewing at another piece of the bagel thoughtfully. “But then, maybe you two are too similar?”

 

“Beyond possibly having the same taste in blazers, I don’t think there’s much in common,” Lou snorted. “Except maybe our taste in women,” she mumbled softly, Debbie unsure if she even realized she’d voiced it out loud and suddenly feeling guilty, because while Tammy was often mistaken for one of her exes and Debbie could easily brush it off, when the same assumption was made about Rusty, it teetered way too close to the truth for her liking.

 

Debbie swallowed thickly, trying to gulp down the bagel with the perfect balance of cream cheese that now seemed like sandpaper in her throat as she caught a glimpse of pain flickering across Lou’s face before it disappeared again. She wondered what information Rusty had given Lou. And how far into detail he’d gone.

 

“You think he’d testify at least?” Debbie asked, trying desperately not to meet the blonde’s eyes as she let out a hum.

 

“Definitely,” she spoke, sounding more composed than the telling face she’d let slip for a moment. “But Tammy and Tess are gonna be better for a jury if it comes to it. And it’s probably going to come to it unless I can get this whole mess thrown out. But if I know Becker, I’d take a heavy bet that he’ll ignore any advice his lawyer gives him to drop the suit or settle. He’ll want his stupid day in court. Cocky bastard probably thinks he can sway a jury with some sort of nonexistent suave that—“

 

Lou paused suddenly, realizing that her simple answer had turned in the direction of a personal rant that made her sound more protective of Debbie than would be ordinary for an attorney.

 

“Sorry,” she mumbled, shuffling her papers. “Anyway, Tess Ocean.”

 

“Oh, please,” the brunette grinned. “It’s my favorite pastime to hear anyone talk crap about that bastard. Feel free. Any time.”

 

“Good to know,” the blonde smirked, looking relieved and a bit cocky herself. “But back to Tess.”

Chapter Text

Lou watched patiently as Debbie sucked in a deep breath, looking somewhat nervous at Lou’s suggestion to circle back to the name. Debbie suddenly looked almost shy and sad as if the name were bittersweet to her ears.

“You mentioned she would be a good reference last time we spoke?” Lou prompted, twisting her pen around slowly between her fingers.

Debbie nodded, tossing Lou a bit of a sad smile before sucking in another deep breath.

“She’s a good reference, yeah,” the brunette mumbled. “She’s the best.”

“You seem upset,” Lou whispered, watching as her hand once again took up a mind of its own, inching along the length of table between them as if offering up itself to hold onto Debbie’s. And again, Debbie’s hand settled next to it, their pinkies almost, but not quite touching. Debbie seemed grateful at the gesture. And this time, Lou didn’t let her hand recoil. She found she needed the almost-touch perhaps as much as Debbie did.

“I love her,” Debbie smiled, tears forming at the rims of her eyes. “Danny too. But not enough.” She paused, her eyes finding Lou’s as she pushed away the wax paper in front of her and sat back. “Didn’t expect to get emotional over any of this. It takes a lot for me to have a meltdown.”

Lou scoffed. “This is a meltdown?”

“I like to keep my composure,” the brunette winked as she let out a chuckle. “I just hate having to drag Tess back through this world, you know? She was the best thing that ever happened to my brother and he threw it all away. He shouldn’t have even tempted her.”

“Tempted her?” Lou pried.

“Yeah,” Debbie sighed. “He teased a life of normalcy she would never have. He should have just told her the truth. Once a con, always a con.”

“Debbie,” Lou whispered, realizing where this was going. “You can’t think that—“

“He brought her into this mess,” Debbie whispered, her face slipping into horror. “Told her she’d be safe. That she could have anything she wanted. That he loved her. And he went and got himself killed. But what’s worse, he let down the woman he loved. Tess gave me hope for a bit. That maybe…maybe I deserved someone normal. Someone on the outside. Someone—“

“Good?”

“Good,” Debbie repeated, savoring the word on her tongue. “Tess is no angel,” Debbie laughed. “We could drag her into our high jinks without much persuading, and she had as good a time as anyone. That’s true. But Danny always made it seem like there’d be a wrap up to these things. Some kind of big finale and then they could have their happily ever, right? And instead. Instead she has his name carved into some marble and a mess of his enemies to clean up.”

“I get what you’re saying,” Lou promised, hoping Debbie knew she meant it. “But I’m sure she still wouldn’t mind standing up for you now. It’s a whole other thing entirely. You haven’t asked her to run a job with you, Debbie. She’d be speaking to your character. Your innocence. How you were taken advantage of.”

“You’re right,” the brunette murmured. “I just hate dragging her reputation through the mud.”

“You’re talking like you’re a criminal.”

“Aren’t I?” Debbie laughed, almost spitting venomously.

“Debbie, as your lawyer, I have to recommend that you—“

“I just mean generally,” the brunette sighed, crossing her arms, her hand swiping away from Lou’s quickly as if she’d been burned. “Like Danny. I’ve created quite the reputation for myself. Innocent or not. I wouldn’t want to help me if I weren’t me.”

“I would,” Lou whispered, dragging her hand back slowly without breaking eye contact with Debbie. “I do.”

“I’m turning you into Tess,” the brunette laughed bitterly.

“Debbie,” Lou hummed, wanting her to understand without revealing too much. “You haven’t asked me for too much. You haven’t asked me for anything at all. I want to help you. Fight for you. Stand by you. And whether I should admit it or not, I think I’d feel that way even if I was here as just me. And not your attorney.”

“You mean that?”

“More than anything,” Lou nodded. She rolled her pen in front of her as she laughed, shaking her head at herself. “It sounds dreadfully cheesy, but I think I was supposed to be here. Assigned to you or not. I think I would’ve found my way to you.”

Debbie’s eyes seemed to light up at this as she leaned forward, stopping the rolling pen with a finger as she watched Lou carefully for a moment.

“Can I ask you something?” Debbie spoke softly. “Off the record?”

“I mean I’m not a journalist,” the blonde grinned. “But anything you want me to keep between us, stays between us. Completely. About the case or otherwise.”

“I don’t know if I should,” Debbie smiled shyly before biting her lip, waiting, making Lou’s heart flutter in her chest as she found herself leaning in apt with anticipation.

“Say it,” the blonde murmured. “You can tell me. You can tell me anything, Debbie.”

Chapter Text

“I—“ Debbie paused, nervously rubbing her thumb against her index finger as Lou watched her closely. “I want to, but I—“

“Anything,” Lou repeated quietly, this time letting her hand settle softly on top of Debbie’s own instead of merely as an offer by the side of her hand or pulling away completely. Neither of them missed the light breath that fell from Debbie’s mouth like a small load of stress being relieved at the contact, tears brimming in her eyes.

“I wish you weren’t my lawyer,” Debbie mumbled, looking down at the table as her cheeks pinked.

Normally, this is a line that would have made Lou panic. She would have been making sure her malpractice insurance was up to date. Would have been going through her notes and records to make sure she had been meeting every little last detail set by the court. Would have been telling Debbie that she understood, but did she understand her rights, and did she realize this could prolong the timeline by waiting to get another lawyer on board and did she—

“That’s not what I mean,” the brunette correct quickly, quietly cursing at herself. “I just wish—“

“I know,” Lou offered, trying on a weak smile of her own as she squeezed Debbie’s hand. “It’s not professional for me to say, so I’m not saying it out loud, but….”

“But,” Debbie smiled, nodding her head, as if that explained everything for her. “You don’t have to say it,”Debbie whispered. “I know.”

I want to murder Claude, Lou wanted to say. I touched myself thinking of you the other day. I asked my friend how terrible it would be to date you. I wish I was out there, running along side you as your ride-or-die.

“Let me tell you about Tess,” Debbie finally exhaled, pulling her hand away to crack her knuckles. Lou missed the warmth of it already.

“If you’re sure,” Lou nodded, trying to clear her head from all inappropriate thoughts that were all too consuming.

“Positive,” Debbie grinned with a wink. “Need some reliable character witnesses so they can bust me out of here and you can take me on a date.”

Lou almost choked on the air, saving herself with a nervous swallow instead, but knowing that her chest would be glaringly red with embarrassment, her neck prickling with blush.

With so much left unsaid, Lou hadn’t been 100% sure what Debbie had meant. Had she wished Lou wasn’t her lawyer and just her friend? Or was it something more. Was it the same more that Lou was thinking about. The more that Lou didn’t know if she could have, but craved and yearned for all the same.

“A date?” Lou smirked, raising an eyebrow as she tried to collect herself, busying herself with uncapping her pen and pretending to prepare her notes on Tess, that was an unintelligible mess of scribbles and doodles and Debbie’s name instead. She scrambled to cover it in a mad dash with incessant marks over it, her cheeks burning, even though Debbie couldn’t see the paper.

“Well, when it comes to dating women, I know usually it’s dutch treat or there’s a fight for whoever is going to be the first to get their credit card down on the table, but, you are a lawyer,” she shrugged.

“A criminal defense attorney.”

“Who only wears designer suits.”

“Touche, Ocean.”

“You should see my closet some time,” Debbie smiled, closing her eyes at the thought. “It’s a lot less…orange,” she finally decided making Lou snort.

“Also designer suits?” Lou asked, her mind wandering away once again, wondering how Debbie normally dressed. What her hair looked like. What she smelled like. What it would be like to lay in bed and tilt her head to the side and study her as she walked around in a towel deciding what to wear for the day. If she would hold up a pair of underwear or a bra teasingly and ask Lou if she should even bother with undergarments today.

“Just you wait, baby,” Debbie smirked, leaning back in her chair, a certain air of confidence about her, like she knew, she just knew, that Lou was trying with every fiber of her being to focus on Debbie Ocean, her client, and not undress, Debbie, the gorgeous and stunning woman in front of her, with her eyes.

 

Chapter Text

The buzzer sounded harshly and Debbie was up on her feet, rolling her sneakered feet to the rubber outside edges and back, again and again. It took four rolls until she heard the jangling of keys and footsteps walking forward. Two more rolls before she heard the sliding of locks and the holding cell.

“Ocean,” a voice boomed, making her eyes snap up. “You’ve got a visitor.”

She didn’t let her heart hope too much. It wasn’t a Lou day. Or rather, a day to meet with her attorney. But maybe Lou had shown up as a friend?

It was a ridiculous thing to wish for. She was already testing the boundaries of hope and flirting and maybe even romance when it came to one Louise Miller. And that was insane.

“Who is it?” Debbie asked, letting them cuff her hands as the officer led her forward down the hallway, the guard pausing them outside one of the small conference rooms. She felt her heart fluttering again. It wasn’t the main visitation area. Most people in these rooms were meeting with lawyers, or spouses, or—

“Well, you’re certainly consistent,” Tammy smirked, waving a polite thank you to the guard as he closed the door, his shaved head still visible in the window of the door.

“Fuck,” Debbie grinned, racing over to hug her friend, giving her a tighter squeeze than usual. “You are quite the sight for sore—wait. What do you mean consistent?”

“Oh, cut the shit,” Tammy smirked, sitting down in the chair across from the small table, motioning to the other one for Debbie. “I brought cookies.”

Debbie reached across the table as Tammy put the Tupperware down on the table, keeping her hands hovering over the lid.

“Tell me about the blonde and you get a cookie.”

“So by consistent, you’re telling me that you’re a part of this pattern?” Debbie laughed, leaning in closer, snatching the container out from Tammy’s hands, grinning triumphantly. She took a cookie from the container and leaned back in the chair, kicking her legs up on the table. “You’re not even an actual blonde.”

“I’ve been keeping L’Oreal in business for decades,” Tammy rolled her eyes. “The least they could do is allow me the title of blonde.”

“These taste like grass,” Debbie admitted, making a face, but not stopping, cookie still falling out of her mouth.

“Trying a new diet,” Tammy smiled awkwardly.

“You’re three pounds, Tam.”

“I’m—we’re trying,” Tammy blushed, looking down at the table. “Trying to make some better health choices, you know. Sorry, I—I didn’t mean to bring up outside sort of stuff.”

“I mean it’s no secret you’re going to Fuck your husband,” Debbie chuckled. “But congrats? Hope he doesn’t pull out?”

“Deborah,” she sighed, her eyes flashing with warning.

“I’m kidding!” Debbie sang. “Not,” she mumbled under her breath. “But I am going to play the it’s about me card for my visitation time in jail. And I do assume that your first child will be named Debbie if it’s a girl and Danny if it’s a boy.”

“Absolutely not,” Tammy hissed, but she was grinning ear to ear. “So, tell me about this lawyer who you would certainly be sleeping with if you weren’t trapped in a cinderblock.”

“How do you—Oh. Right. The witness interview. Did she seem…jealous?” Debbie asked, almost hopeful, not sure if she was ashamed of the feeling or not. She should have been using this time to actually ask how witness prep had gone, or if Tammy had spoken to Tess or heard any whispers underground about Claude or the art world or anything. But she was too smitten. This was her best friend. And Lou was her crush. So what if she was also her defense attorney? It wasn’t like she had endless books or magazines or movies to binge at her disposal. This was her only source of entertainment.

“Why would she be jealous?”

“Because you’re my ex?” Debbie prompted, taking another cookie before making a sour face. “God, Tam. These are horrible. Don’t feed your kid this shit. They’re better off with a bag of chips.”

“I thought we were both pretending that we never happened,” Tammy sighed.

“You’re the one who told me I have a type.”

“Maybe I meant Becker.”

“You definitely didn’t mean Becker.”

There was silence between them for a moment before Tammy snatched back the cookie container, Debbie’s finger almost caught in the lid.

“I like her for you,” Tammy finally decided, carefully sealing the lid before tucking it into her oversized purse, her eyes finding Debbie’s once more. “There’s something there.”

“I think so too,” the brunette smiled, nodding her head slowly. “Aren’t you supposed to tell me not to shit where I eat though?”

“You already did, babe,” Tammy exhaled, looking around the small room. “And it landed you here. I think all bets are off now. And Lou seems like the good deal. Let’s just see if she can break you out first.”

“I’ve got faith in her,” Debbie whispered, looking at the door, missing Lou’s cocky grin and the way she watched Debbie’s eyes light up at her coffee and treat surprises. “I trust her.”

“Debbie Ocean trusting someone?” Tammy raised an eyebrow. “And they don’t think prison changes people.”