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gotta stop the games we're playing

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Bayley's moving on up in the world. The bright lights of RAW have been calling her name for a long time now, but there's a twinge in the back of her brain, a hook wriggling up from the base of her stomach. A feeling that she's not done with NXT yet. She's not done with her past, with the people she's met and the things she's accomplished.

There are new faces around the Performance Center these days: a sprinkling of women younger than her, leaner than her, finally rising to fame of the televised kind. They walk past her with polite respect, but they're too inexperienced to be a threat. Not that she has anything to lose. Once a champion, now she's just a regular competitor on the main roster.

She minds her own business, music blasting as she works the treadmill, when a tap on the shoulder pulls her from an introspective trance. Bayley whips her head around, nearly tripping over her feet: she slams a palm onto the dashboard and the treadmill stops just in time. She pulls out her earbuds and collapses on a nearby stool, wiping the sweat from her brow and trying to catch her breath.

Asuka waits. She downs a bottle of water and pulls another from her gym bag. Bayley finally has enough in her lungs to speak.

"Do you need something?"

Asuka pulls out the NXT Women's Championship and, looking Bayley in the eye, carefully positions it on her shoulder. She ties back her colourful hair. She crushes the empty plastic bottle between her hands and tosses it into the trash.

"You are going to RAW soon?" she says.

Bayley looks at her defiantly. If Asuka's trying to insinuate she's not good enough, then she's wrong. It's that simple. Establishing herself on the main roster is going to be a challenge, but Bayley never backs down from a challenge.

"There'll be new competition for you in NXT."

Asuka grins. "It will not be the same."

Bayley tightens her ponytail, and, when she meets Asuka's intense gaze, finds sincerity in those abyss-like eyes. Asuka extends her hand. Bayley takes it; they exchange a firm handshake, both looking at their intertwining fingers.

"Good luck," Asuka says, turning to walk away. Emotion floods her body: Bayley swallows back the lump brewing in her throat.

"Someday," she calls, "I'll meet you again on the bigger stage."

Asuka turns around, caressing her championship. "Only if somebody can take this from me."

Bayley steps forward and squeezes her in a hug: to her surprise, Asuka hugs her back just as tightly, and finally she understands why Sasha was sobbing after their final NXT match. A burn brews behind her eyes, until Asuka grabs her by the shoulders and shakes hard. A new spark ignites behind her eyes.

"I want to fight RAW Women's Champion Bayley," she announces. "And win."

"I can only promise the first part," says Bayley, and Asuka's grin widens at the guarantee of future competition.