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The Ocean's Religion

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The first time Debbie saw Lou semi-naked, she felt a slight sliver of surprise. Lou is muscular. But it was still surprising to her to see the muscles flexing, her stomach as toned as a statue of a Greek goddess in the Louvre.

“Enjoying the view?” Lou’s voice was smug, smirking, and Debbie would have blushed, except it was Lou and they were partners and Debbie would never feel anything but professional admiration for her partner.

“I’d enjoy it more if...” Debbie's voice trailed off, allowing Lou to imagine what she was imagining. Or, in other words, Lou's pants on the floor.

Lou chuckled and rolled her eyes, finally pulling her shirt down over her head. Lou didn’t like to wear bras. “You won’t get me naked that easily, Ocean.”

And life went on at bingo and the casino, and Debbie ignored the small pang of something in her heart every time she saw Lou almost, almost naked, her milky white skin gleaming in the dark rooms of their shared apartment.

The next time she stumbled upon Lou semi-naked, her back turned to her as she reached for her pills in their medicine cabinet, she ran away.

Not because of the long scar running down the center of Lou’s back, which she knew Lou kept hidden under layers of clothing and a boisterous attitude. Lou is anything but ugly. But Debbie was taught from a young age that an Ocean’s love comes at a price, and the burning in the pit of her stomach every time she looked at Lou was beginning to feel awfully like love.

And there was another feeling too, an anger so vast it threatened to swallow Debbie whole. An anger directed at the person who had left the deep mark on her Lou’s back. And an Ocean’s anger is all consuming, threatening everyone and everything, even itself.

Debbie Ocean is a criminal, and a good one at that. All criminals know that to find a good partner is harder that stumbling upon water in the middle of a dessert, and Lou is a partner most people would die for.

So she ran, straight into the arms of one Claude Becker.

She shouldn’t have been so easily caught in his web of lies, but she threw herself at him, at the freeing unfeelingness he gave her, a numbness against the growing pain seeing Lou’s gradually distant gazes brought. Spending time with him was like watching a rom-com: it was thoughtless, easy, and kept her mind from drowning in other thoughts. So she let down her guard, just a little too much, and he weaseled in and got his way.

Her days in jail were spent in her head. She needed to be on good behavior to get out sooner, and every time her brother smirked at her and reminded her that Lou was out there and that Lou was very attractive, she dug her nails deeper in to her palm and reminded her that she would get out soon. She needed to distract herself, and so she began to form a plan for revenge, a heist of the century. That was simple. There was no red tinge in her thoughts about Claude Becker, only a cold, calculating process, a logical process that carried and needed no emotions.

Some nights, though, she allowed herself to imagine what Lou was doing, how she was faring without Debbie. Well, according to the reports she not so subtly asked her brother about. But Lou never came to visit her, and though Debbie knew, from a rational standpoint, that Lou should keep a low profile and that she would do the same thing if she were in Lou’s shoes, Debbie couldn’t help but wonder if the man who put her in here was part of the reason why Lou never reached out to her. Did Lou even think of Debbie? Did Lou ever sit and wonder about what Debbie was doing, much like Debbie did? Did… And here she would stop her train of thoughts, knowing that delving any deeper would only be more painful.

As the date of her parole came closer and closer, a more painful question began to make itself clear in Debbie’s mind, and soon it was all she could think of:

What if Lou didn’t recognize her anymore?

It wasn’t just the five years she had spent in prison. It was also the five years before that, when she had returned to their apartment one day to find Lou laying on the couch, reading about neural science, and stood there, waiting for Lou to notice her, and when she did, telling her that she was moving out.

Lou had said nothing, just laid her book down. “I suppose I’ll see you around then, Ocean.” Lou’s voice was light, but when she swept past Debbie towards the door, there was an unmistakable tremor in her usually assured step.

Debbie had packed alone, and left the key to their apartment on the countertop. And Lou never reached out to her again, only answering when Debbie sent her a text, and even then in short sentences and even shorter words. Debbie still heard about her from their shared contacts, and she would catch glimpses of a motorcycle sometimes and think it was Lou underneath the helmet, but Lou never spoke to her in person outside of professional situations again.

So it wasn’t just five years. It was a decade, and what if Lou had already moved on?

She didn’t know. But when she walked out and found herself a hotel room, thank you Monica, her first text was to the number tentatively saved in her memory as “Lou’s Number.”

She could have sent a “hey,” almost sent an “i missed you,” and would have sent an “i’m out,” but finally decided to send a “where is the fcking cemetery? 12 pm?” Because she is a coward and Lou has never disappointed her, even when she deserved it. And Lou must be a masochist or insane, because even after five years her phone number is the same and the text goes through.

She almost cried when she heard the car honking for her, because Lou really never, ever let her down. When she got into the car, she almost cried again with relief. It was still Lou, her bangs still long enough to cover her eyes, her neck still decked with jewelry of all kinds, her cool blue eyes still piercing and sharp. Even her smell was the same. And Debbie wanted to drink her in, drink in all of the new wrinkles and the new lines on her face, because Lou was so much more beautiful in person than she was in Debbie’s memory, and she was so much warmer and so much more there, and Debbie wanted to never let go.

And then Lou pressed herself into her, kissing her on the head, and Debbie really would have cried at the sound of Lou making jokes with her, because this was Lou forgiving her and Lou didn’t need to forgive her and Debbie didn’t deserve to be forgiven but Lou was forgiving her. But she didn’t, because Lou didn’t need to be dragged into her whirlpool of emotions and Lou deserved better than her, so she just joked and teased and smirked like she used to, and felt all of the grim and bitterness of jail wash away from her at the sound of Lou’s laugh.

When Lou told her her stuff was upstairs, Debbie wanted to crush her into her arms and never let go, because her stuff would have gone to her brother after Claude inevitably dumped it out, but Claude never knew about Danny and Claude could have only called Lou, and instead of throwing it away, Lou had kept it for her, kept her clothing and her purses and even her makeup, and Lou was saying it all so lightly as though there could have been no other way for Lou to do things.

Over the course of the next few months, Debbie saw that Lou had changed, had rebuilt her walls and had grown smoother, faster. They still had their easy banter, but whenever their banter turned too flirtatious, Lou no longer encouraged it, instead turning and changing the subject in such a subtle way that anyone else not so in-tuned with Lou would have missed. But Debbie knew Lou, knew Lou like the back of her hand, and she had dreamt of Lou for so long that finally being near her again meant that every second she got to spend with the lanky blond was spent memorizing everything about her. She noticed when Lou shed her jacket for the first time, saw the tattoo that had not been there before, the chemical formula for alcohol painted forever on Lou’s skin. Lou had never liked tattoos before, equating them with scars and almost jokingly saying that she had enough scars to last her a lifetime.

She noticed Lou carefully avoiding the liquor bottles the girls brought back some nights, avoiding sips of the vodka, the good stuff, that she broke out a few times in celebration or in exhaustion. She remembered a Lou who would dare her to games of truth or dare with vodka, the two of them drinking until the wee hours and waking up with splitting headaches and shared groans of annoyance at the other for making them drink so much.

She noticed the way Lou would turn towards everyone, always keeping her back protected and her heart ached because she remembered a time when she was the only person Lou would turn her back to.

But Lou’s biggest change was the noises coming from Lou’s room every night. Every day there would be men and women stumbling out of her room with their shoes in one hand and a slightly abashed look on their faces as they noticed Debbie standing in the kitchen area with a coffee in hand. Sometimes, Lou would walk out of her room behind them and kiss the stranger on the cheek or the mouth, walking them out and promising calls at the door only for Debbie to never see them again in the loft, then coming to the kitchen counter to make herself a coffee, saying good morning or good night to Debbie as though nothing had just happened. Debbie would clutch her mug so hard her fingers would turn white, and she would stiffly excuse herself. But Lou never seemed to notice, and what right did Debbie have to feel jealous? She had left Lou, not the other way around. And she had never told Lou how much she wanted to be the one to rake her fingers through Lou’s short blond hair, had never told Lou how much she wanted to be the person caressing her and kissing her after making her scream.

When the heist was over, they all took off. Lou went to California on her bike, Tammy went back to the suburbs to take care of her children and her growing criminal empire, Nine Ball opened her own club, Daphne went to Hollywood to make her debut as a director, Rose started a new fashion line, Constance moved out to her own apartment, and Amita went to Paris. So it was just Debbie, and that was when she saw Lou semi-naked for the third time.

She hadn’t known Lou had come back, and so when she pushed open the bathroom door, wondering for a quick second why it had been closed in the first place, she almost had a brain aneurysm at the sight in front of her. Lou was wrapped in a towel that had slipped down enough to leave little of her body to the imagination, and she was brushing her hair, still wet from the shower.

The right and professional thing to have done then, of course, would have been to have closed the door and shout an apology through the door. But Debbie couldn’t seem to lift her eyes away from the woman in front of her. Ten years, and it was as though she had only gotten more toned, more gorgeous, and Debbie wanted desperately to run her tongue over the span of her back.

“You done looking?” Lou sent down her brush and turned with an eyebrow raised. The woman was going to be the death of Debbie.

“Can I say no?” Her mouth was on autopilot at this point.

The corner of Lou’s mouth twitched. Debbie swallowed, her throat dry. “Why didn’t you lock the door?”

Lou turned back to the mirror and reached for her toothbrush. “Don’t you like the view?”

Debbie stepped even more into the room, and closed the door behind her. “Be careful who you’re toying with, Miller. I'm a convicted felon.”

Lou set her toothbrush down and turned to her, smirking as though she knew what Debbie was thinking. “And I’m terrified, baby,” her voice dropping to a sultry low tone, "positively quaking with fear."

And Debbie lunged, their lips crashing as Debbie reveled in the feeling of Lou’s body in her arms. Lou moaned, deep and low into their kiss, and Debbie felt the towel drop beneath them.

After an eternity, they broke apart for a second as they both caught their breath. “I’ve wanted to do that for so long.”

Lou's eyes glittered. “So have I.”

And then they surged back together, Debbie hands finally roaming over the silky skin she had dreamed of every day since she had met Lou.

The first time Debbie saw Lou completely naked, she threw Lou back into bed, and traced every line of Lou’s body with her tongue, relishing the moans Lou made underneath her, the most devout worshipper at the temple of love and lust.