Sam sweeps a bit of stray cigarette ash from Ruth’s compiled set of notes, and looks up at her.
“You and Debbie did all of this?”
Ruth nods. Sam stares at her.
“Last night? We got a take out, and just powered through it. We needed to do more than just chat about it now and then, and the girls need more than vague ideas to work their fights around.”
Sam continues to stare at her. Ruth wills herself not to fidget. She’s in Sam’s little makeshift office, and the structure of it makes her feel like she is visiting the headteacher, some how.
She feels like she is about to be in trouble.
Ruth leans against a table edge, and swallows.
“This isn’t us trying to grab power, you can oversee it, introduce it all to everyone else, and so on. But you said yourself that we should work on the soap opera side of it? Well, this is what that looks like.”
Leaning back on his chair, Sam reaches for a pen, and taps a couple times on the notes.
“Surprising, that when I put Debbie in charge of storyline design, she has the starring role.”
Ruth doesn’t know what to say to that, because she is pretty sure that Debbie is the star? That is Sam’s role for her.
Sam clears his throat.
“So are you and Debbie good now? I don’t need to have paramedics on standby?”
Across the gym, someone starts singing. Sam closes his eyes briefly, and groans. “Thank fuck I’m not running a musical.” Ruth laughs.
“I’m sure there’d be less singing in a musical. And, uh. Debbie and I… we have these… moments of being good, and then moments of being not so good. But the good moments are getting longer, I guess.”
Sam rubs at his chin, and gazes thoughtfully at her, looking… Ruth doesn’t know what word to attach.
“But are you okay wrestling Debbie?”
Ruth blinks, because the thought of not wrestling Debbie hadn’t even occurred to her. Sam nods past her shoulder.
“Look out, she’s coming.”
Debbie is wearing a blue leotard that Ruth doesn’t think she’s seen in a while. She gives Ruth a half smile, and then raises her eyebrows at Sam.
Sam sits back in his chair, and squints.
“Yeah… I’ll have to have a think.”
Ruth can tell by the set of Debbie’s mouth that she doesn’t much rate Sam’s chances of coming up with another story line in time by the first show, and she concedes easily.
“Okay. But we really need an answer by the end of today, if you expect us to be ready.”
“Sure Debbie. You’ll have an answer.”
“And the rest week? One quiet show in three for everyone? Are you going to sign that off? Otherwise you are going to have more injuries than-”
Sam throws up his hands, looking exasperated.
“I can’t just make decisions like that on the fly. And Ruth has already asked about that, and in a nicer way, thank you.”
Debbie pulls a face.
“Well, Ruth is nicer than me. Plus I didn’t realize that any of us were here to be nice to you.”
“I might put it in the fucking contracts.”
Debbie just blinks at him, and rolls her shoulders, easing some unknown tension.
“Okay, whatever. We’re going to train on the basis of our-“ and here Debbie gestures between herself and Ruth “-show plan for today, let us know of any changes. Ruth, are you coming?”
Ruth glances at Sam.
“Yeah… I’ll be there in a minute.”
Debbie sets her jaw, nods, and turns on her heel. Her hair is in her usual training ponytail, and it bounces as Debbie walks away in a manner that feels more eloquent than usual.
“Jesus” Sam mutters, and Ruth gives a half chuckle. Sam continues “Why do I suddenly feel as though I am constantly on the verge of a fight to the death with Debbie Eagan?”
Ruth smiles, finding some camaraderie in Sam’s anxiety.
“Well, she’s missing Randy… I found that it helped not to make any unnecessary eye contact, when things were really bad between us.”
“Yeah, I’m not scared of her. Also, I haven’t done anything wrong, I haven’t fucked her husband, so-”
It’s a bit of a sucker punch, and Ruth doesn’t know if Sam was expecting her to laugh, but she certainly isn’t going to laugh just because it is expected. She looks coolly at him.
“Maybe you’ve fucked up in another way. Anyway. I’m going to warm up.”
Honestly? Ruth doesn’t know why she bothers with him sometimes.
And now, for some unknown reason, Debbie is frosty with her as well… Ruth would like to go a day without feeling like she’s got to be permanently on the defensive.
She’s sitting on one of the benches, taking ten minutes to eat some food and catch her breath after the morning. In her mind, she’s trying to run through Zoya phrases for the first show, in which she doesn’t fight but does appear to randomly yell Communist nonsense at Liberty Belle.
She is just working up to something about farming with a scythe when Debbie appears from nowhere, and sits next to her.
“Fucking…hotel ice machine is broken.”
Ruth nods cautiously, and takes another bite of her banana. Across the gym, for some reason, Sheila is watching them.
God, and now she’s second guessing whether Debbie was being frosty with her, because why is Debbie sitting next to her? Maybe Ruth just imagined it all. Maybe Debbie was just cool towards Sam, and Ruth assumed some of it was for her. Maybe Sam’s comments about Debbie made Ruth feel like she should still be wary.
She sighs, suddenly exhausted by her own train of thought.
“Are we good?”
Debbie glances at her, and then says “What do you mean?”
“I mean, are we… it felt like you were… annoyed with me, this morning.”
Debbie dips her head a little, and now she is looking over in the direction of Sheila as well.
“Uh… I guess. I’m - wait are we talking big picture good, or small picture good? Because… big picture we probably do still have some things to… to hash out, you know? Because, I did, uh-” and here Debbie sighs, and seems to roll her eyes at herself slightly, before continuing. “I did break your leg. It’d be reasonable for you to not be ‘big picture’ good with me for a while.”
Ruth smiles, even as she flinches away from the memory.
“Well. I did fuck your husband. So, I’m not focused on the big picture, more…”
Debbie turns to look at her, and for a horrible moment Ruth wonders whether she’s gone too far, whether they aren’t at all in a place where Ruth can casually reference fucking Mark. Debbie’s face seems to struggle for a moment, and then she rubs a hand at her forehead, and just like that the concern is gone. Debbie allows a small, choked off laughed out of her mouth.
“Yeah, okay. Big picture we have some processing to do, I’d say. But, we’re just as good as we were last night? I have… I know I’m insane, sometimes, but I haven’t had a breakdown over your existence today. That I’m aware of.”
Ruth grins, because sometimes Debbie is just so… Debbie.
“But there’s still time?”
“Yes. Exactly. I wasn’t… I was being an ass at Sam, but not at you.”
“Okay phew, I was worried that you were pissed at me because I’d gone to speak to Sam without you… why are you being an ass with Sam, out of interest?”
“I’ve used up all my ‘make nice’ quota on him. I’ve gotten bored of the whole, ‘traumatised artistic genius schtick’ he’s dragging around. And I don’t like how he is looking at you.”
“How is he looking at me?”
Debbie gives her a dark look, and then looks away.
“You know. Anyway. More importantly, why the fuck is Sheila staring at us?”
When Ruth looks over, Sheila is blatantly watching at them. Ruth shrugs.
“Oh. She just does that sometimes. I think we might be part of her pack now, she likes to keep an eye on things.”
Ruth raises a cautious hand to Sheila, and waves. Sheila waves back, completely unabashed.
Debbie clears her throat.
“Okay. Well. I thought we should go through the storyline with everyone, seeing as Sam hasn’t told us not to. You okay to do that with me?”
“Sure. I’d like that.”
Eventually, when it becomes apparent that Debbie and Ruth are essentially holding a team planning meeting right under his nose, Sam comes sloping over, and sits on a chair over to the side.
The rest of the girls look over at him, and then back at Debbie and Ruth. And there is something in the air now, a collective worry. Because no one is completely certain if they are allowed to take control like this.
Debbie pauses, but Sam motions at her to carry on, looking resigned. Ruth smiles at him, because sometimes he does look a little lost and Ruth can’t help but try to make him feel involved.
Debbie clears her throat, smiles tightly at Sam as well, and continues.
“So, that’s where we’re going. Sam’s agreed. We’ve got the main arc covered, but Sam’s said that if we come up with any ideas then he’d be happy to hear them.”
Sam hasn’t said any of this, but somehow Debbie gets away with speaking this state of affairs into existence. Sam grunts in agreement.
“I’ll need to film some kind of intro tape to Liberty Belle’s alter ego, if we’re going to keep the audience with us.”
Debbie makes a small noise of assent, and then says “Oh, and I’ll need a new name, I hadn’t even thought of that.”
Sam carries on.
“And we can go with the rest week idea, it’s for the best. Can’t have corpses littering the training room.”
Everyone nods, and there are some surprised looks on some faces as well, particularly Cherry and Carmen, who seem to not be able to believe the generous air with which Sam is making these concessions. Ruth is a little surprised herself.
Sam stands up, nodding to himself, as though everything is progressing exactly as he would have wished.
“Great. First show under control, I’ll speak to you all individually about the VTs and how we’re going to set that up. Start planning out some of the choreography of the fights for the next show now, seeing as we’ve got that pinned down. Any questions?”
There’s a general air of bemused satisfaction, and Sam nods, and makes to walk away, before pulling up short as though he’s just remembered something.
“Oh, but one change. Ruth and Debbie. Figure it out so that Zoya and Liberty Belle don’t fight each other.”
Debbie blinks. Ruth says “What, in the next show?”
Sam grimaces, as though this is all slightly awkward.
“Not in the next show, not in the one afterwards. Just… never. You two do not fight each other again.”
There’s a shocked silence, as all the girls look from Sam, back to Ruth and Debbie.
After what feels like a lifetime, Debbie says quietly “What the fuck Sam?”
Sam spreads his hands, and then enunciates slowly, as though Debbie is hard of hearing.
“Because, you broke, her fucking, leg, Debbie. Not doing that again. Not risking your anger management issues getting an airing in the ring again. No more fighting Ruth for you. Period. Work around it. Figure it out. Soap opera it. I’m sure that won’t be a problem for your creative minds.”
Debbie opens her mouth, and then closes it again.
Sam smiles, gives Debbie a thumbs up, and walks away.