Lou’s eyes fell to half-mast as she tipped a glass to her lips, ice clinking against the crystal as the vodka slid down her throat. She sighed. It was nice when you didn’t need to water down the cheap shit and could enjoy something expensive. Robbing a museum allowed for the finer things in one's life.
Setting her glass on the table, she leaned back and lazily returned her gaze to the marble square before her, tilting her head casually. She was stalling. She was running out of moves, and she knew it.
Her eyes glanced to her opponent, and she was met with a small smile. Readying her poker face and extending a steady hand, Lou’s fingers enclosed upon the stoney countenance of her bishop before gliding the figure across the checkered battlefield.
What happened next was what always happened. The woman across from her processed the move for approximately two seconds (an embarrassingly short time compared to Lou), and then she would gracefully reach forward to complete her turn.
In this case, Debbie quickly removed the bishop her friend had just moved from the board entirely with a swift attack from her knight.
Lou sighed again and took another sip of her drink.
Chess with one Debra Ocean was always a losing battle, as Lou had learned very early on in their partnership. With a flawless knack for strategy somehow wired into her genetic code, the game was merely a mild brain teaser for the criminal mastermind. It was one of the few legal things she was very, very good at.
With a frown, the blonde nudged her king forward.
Debbie glanced up at her friend, her slight but sly smile concealing anything more. Lou knew the devious glitter in her eyes. She reached forward and moved her rook.
“Cheers,” Lou deadpanned, downing the rest of her drink.
The winner began to clear the board.
“I must be a masochist, but sure, why the bloody hell not.”
“What on earth do you mean?” Debbie questioned smoothly with mock innocence.
Lou barked a laugh, placing her empty glass on the table, “We need to find a game I’m the genius at.”
“You won that game of air hockey a few years ago.”
“You let me win. That was for the Jankowski job, and you needed a reason to start a fight as a distraction,” she replied, leaning forward to assist with setting the board.
Debbie frowned. “Oh, right. Well. I’m sure there’s something else you’ve won.”
“Please, you know you have to win everything,” Lou scoffed, perhaps allowing the warmth of the alcohol to add more harshness to her voice than she intended.
Calculating eyes assessed her, she could feel their icy trail, but nothing was said.
Chess...it was just a job. It was always just a job. The job, the game, the puzzle, that’s what mattered to Debbie. Everything was secondary.
Even Lou knew she was secondary.
She was merely the partner in crime, quite literally, and she loathed the word ‘partner.’ It was so all encompassing, and in its absolute definition, it made what her partnership with Debbie lacked seem to sting even more.
Whenever their playful friendship almost boiled over to something else, there was always the methodical, pragmatic planning of a job to redirect their focus.
Like their most recent victory. One would think after almost six years in jail, there would be, well, something. Anything. Something more than stealing diamonds.
Debbie was the diamond. Stone. Cold. Ice. Pushed everyone away, took a sabbatical to a federal penitentiary, and reappeared with that calculating, sly smirk prime for work and another damn job.
Lou pursed her lips. It was her turn, and she was stuck, like always.
“Why do you always play?”
“What do you mean?”
“If you know you’re going to lose, why play?” Debbie asked, her contemplative stare in full force.
Lou shrugged, avoiding the gaze as best she could, eyes glued to the board.
“You like to play. You can’t play without two people,” she mumbled.
There was a pause. When she looked up, the brunette was toying with a discarded pawn.
“No one else would play with me while you were gone on your little road trip.”
“So you noticed I was gone?”
The pawn was firmly placed back on the table.
“Of course I noticed,” replied the cool, calm voice.
“Only because you couldn’t run that aquarium job without me.”
“Didn’t you want a pet otter?” Debbie quipped. After receiving an eye roll, she continued, “It wasn’t that.”
“Which job was it?”
“It wasn’t a job.”
“It’s always a job, Deb.”
“Is that really what you think?”
Her response was a shrug. Lou leaned forward, elbows resting on her knees, hunched before the grand marble battlefield. The room grew quiet as she tried to find the solution.
Evasion was the usual move. Perhaps an offensive approach could work this time.
She moved a piece, commenting. “I noticed you were gone too.”
Debbie’s eyes flickered from the board to the person before her. “When I was in prison?”
“No. A few months before that.”
“Oh,” she stated simply, looking back down at their game, “This is about Claude.”
“You disappeared before that,” Lou murmured.
Accidents happened. They brushed hands. Lou starred a little too long. They both drank a little too much. Their banter turned too flirtatious. Like clockwork, Debbie found a job, found a boyfriend, found a way to disappear.
Debbie remained still, seemingly unphased, scanning the black and white stone. Lou felt as if a crack spread, the ache growing her chest. Maybe she really was this cold, would really always ignore her and leave her when it mattered.
“I love chess,” Debbie interjected, reaching her hand forward to finally take her turn, “It’s all about capturing the king, but, let’s be honest, the piece you’re really after is the queen. She has the unlimited power. If you catch her, you’re almost guaranteed to get the king and claim victory,” she explained, sliding a bishop across the board with a flourish of her wrist, now challenging Lou’s queen, “But she’s well guarded. Very skilled. Truly royalty.” Her voice was soft with admiration.
Her gaze slid upward to her opponent.
“Claude was a pawn. Much easier, so I went after him instead. Who knew if I’d ever get the queen. If...If the queen would even dare be captured. Not to mention the possible risk and loss involved in even attempting to pursue her,” she drawled before looking pointedly across the board.
Even her best friend could not identify the tell, the break in her poker face.
“Let’s say I’m buzzed and also shit at chess and metaphors.”
“Oh, Lou,” Debbie sighed, “I can commit a felony more easily than explain this.”
Risk and reward, the precise balance of sacrifice and capture. The perfect con, the best fabrication, knowing when to protect and when to plunge.
Perhaps they had been running the same job, sticking to the same lie, fearing the same loss without knowing they were partners.
“I’m the queen?”
Debbie’s mask faltered, and she offered a sad smile. “We don’t exactly do the emotional and vulnerable thing very well. I know I don’t.”
Lou knew that was as close to an admission as she was ever going to get.
She stood up, walking to the other side of the table, leaning against it as she peered down to pluck up her queen. Turning down to the woman now beside her, she held the figure out in the palm of her hand.
“I’ll trade you my queen for your king.”
Lou saw the smallest twitch of an eyebrow. Apparently even Debra Ocean could still be surprised.
Debbie slowly rose from her seat, and the women were now exquisitely close. Her signature sinister smile touched her lips as she leaned forward to the board behind Lou, taking great care to ensure they did not touch despite the proximity. She gently laid her king down on its side, signaling her surrender.
Her back straightened, and she returned to standing mere inches from Lou, only the queen in the victor’s hand still between them. Their eyes locked as Debbie reached for the piece. As her fingers brushed the black marble, Lou’s hand enclosed around her fingers. Warm skin mingled against cold stone.
They crashed against each other, mouths hot, melting away years of pent up dissapontments. Debbie quickly wrapped her arms around the taller woman’s shoulders, still clutching her new prize in her fist. Lou’s hands eagerly trailed down the other’s figure, pressing against her lower back so that there was no room between them. They both sighed against each other’s lips at the newfound delight of their bodies pressed together.
Lou could finally taste what had been forbidden for so long. Debbie’s small moans as their tongues danced were a fascinating discovery, another layer to a woman she thought she already memorized long ago. Every hitch of breath, every playful nip, every tug of fingers embedded in hair was new and exhilarating.
It was a kiss worth waiting a lifetime for and felt as if it lasted a lifetime.
When they parted, Lou was practically purring, tightening her grip around the other woman’s waist.
Debbie reached out to tousle the blonde’s bangs. “You won.”
“Chess? Hell no. This?” she replied, leaning in to whisper against Lou’s lips, “Absolutely.”
As they kissed again, Lou briefly thought she might like the board game after all. It really just depended on one’s partner.