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the smallest of gestures

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Movie night is a mixed bag. On one hand, Bayley loves burying her head into Carmella's shoulder and lapping up a cacophony of cooes and chuckles as a mane of soft golden hair brushes her cheek. On the other hand, Carmella loves horror flicks.

Sure, there are perks to having a tougher-than-nails girlfriend. Bayley's always been proud that she can hold her own in the ring, but Carmella is street smart; she knows how to haggle at flea markets, knows the safe alleys from the sketchy ones, and knows when to buy drinks and when to bring them. When the ghost screams into the camera and Bayley jumps, Carmella is unflinching.

As she nuzzles into Carmella's neck, Bayley smiles to herself. Carmella's more than scrappy. She lost her job and shrugged it off, having the confidence in herself to know, just know, that she'd find something else and make it work. Bayley squeezes her arm. Carmella rests her chin atop Bayley's head and kisses her hair.

Idly, and maybe to keep her eyes away from the sprays of blood and ectoplasm, Bayley considers what she'll do if she can't wrestle anymore. She shivers. Her mind becomes an empty room, static on the radio, a shattered TV screen.

Carmella squeezes her tightly.

Bayley's about to tell her just how brave she is, really, for being so self-assured, but is stopped by Carmella sudden scream. It's a sound she's never heard before. Bayley glances at the screen, where a detective drifts around a chateau. Carmella's eyes are squeezed shut.

"Carm?"

"Get rid of it, please, Bayley, please, please, please!"

Bayley squints. She bounces up, hitting the lights and pausing the film, and uses her hand as a shade against the sudden glare. She winces when she sees it. Admittedly, it is a freakishly large spider; maybe it's glowing or maybe it's the sudden brightness, but it looks downright repulsive despite being harmless.

Carmella's on the floor now, at the opposite end of the room, whimpering as she shakes her head. Her skin trembles with goose-flesh: Bayley's not sure if she's really that terrified of the insect, or if she's cold in only her bra and panties.

Bayley blows out the candles. She fetches the broom from the closet and hops onto the bed, trying to quicken her movements to match the spider's erratic dance. It takes a while. By the time she crushes it between the bristles and disposes of its fragmented remains, Carmella's quiet sobs echo throughout their flat.

"I, uh... I got rid of it."

Carmella doesn't seem to hear.

Bayley kneels beside her, pulling Carmella's longer frame into her chest, running her fingers through her hair and murmuring sweet reassurances and kisses into her reddening ears, into her damp cheeks, into her tender neck.

"I'm sorry," whispers Carmella. Bayley looks at her, baffled.

"Why?"

Carmella hiccups.

"I ruined movie night."

Bayley cups her cheeks and kisses her softly.

"No, no, you didn't," she says, between breaths, and helps Carmella to her feet, not leaving her mouth for more than a few seconds at a time. Carmella curls into the blankets. "I'll go check the windows and doors are closed."

"Thanks."

And she does, poring over each crack in the plaster and assessing whether any spider can get in, regardless of size. Once she's confident that Carmella will be satisfied, she returns to the bedroom.

There's peace in the rhythmic rise-and-fall of Carmella's chest. Gently, Bayley moves her head onto the pillows and tucks a blanket around her exposed torso. She adjusts her own sweatpants and, with a soft sigh and a surge of affection, Bayley drapes a protective arm around Carmella's stomach. She entertains thoughts of how her street-savvy and bug-scared girlfriend needs her for something so simple. She falls asleep to the slow, steady beat of Carmella's heart.