Debbie clears her throat, and turns back to Bash.
“So, uh, you were saying that it’s looking like a full house?”
Bash blinks at her, and then holds up a hand.
“Oh no, no no no. We don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Debbie says, trying to sound normal. Bash gestures after Ruth, so blatantly Debbie nearly swats at his hand.
“We don’t just carry on with our previous conversation when…. what the fuck was that?”
Acting. Debbie thinks to herself. She is an actress.
“What the fuck was what Bash? We obviously need to practice before the show, we can’t just go into it cold.”
Bash grimaces at her.
“No, I mean, what the fuck was with the weird… vibe? Why aren’t you speaking normally to each other? Why haven’t you wrestled in three days?”
“We are speaking normally to each other, and I’ve just been… busy” Debbie finishes lamely. Bash folds his arms, sceptical.
“Have you had another argument? I swear to god I am going to march you over to her Debbie Eagan, and force you to apologise, because-”
Debbie interrupts, holding up a hand.
“It wasn’t an argument.”
Bash spreads his hands, perplexed. “Then what the fuck was that?”
Debbie rolls her eyes, but she can’t keep on telling no one, she’s about to crack a rib from the internal pressure. She holds a finger up under his nose.
“Control your face.”
“I said you have to control your face. And your voice.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We slept together.”
Bash does a pretty good job of controlling his face, and his voice, but fails to control his body, which reels about as if he has just been shot, and then clutches at Debbie’s shoulder for support.
“Jesus Bash” she hisses at him, trying to drag him upright “will you just… stop reacting?”
Bash gapes at her. Debbie fights against her own face, which suddenly desperately wants to grin, but she will not let it.
“So. That’s why we are a bit weird. Um. But the ticket sales…?” she prompts, hoping against hope.
No luck. Bash laughs at her, and then says “Sure, Debbie. The ticket sales. But what the fuck…. are you guys a thing now? Or… oh god were you bad at it, is that why Ruth is being weird with you?”
Debbie blanches, wondering how Bash has picked up on one of her own half fears so quickly, before she realises he’s teasing her. She aims a kick at his shin.
“No, you fuck, I mean. I don’t think so. But…. we just- we just haven’t mentioned it. There’s been no… it’s like we’re pretending it didn’t happen. Although neither of us are doing a great job, because um. We’ve not really been speaking to each other.”
“You haven’t mentioned it? How, how is that even possible?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to… god I feel like I can’t just start talking about it now. And Ruth probably has the right idea, it’s probably best to just pretend it didn’t happen, because we can barely fucking function even without throwing a one night stand into the mix as well.”
Bash blinks at her, and then suddenly seems to remember he has arms, because he gestures in the direction of Ruth again, and Debbie does actually haul his limb down that time, before anyone can notice. Bash laughs at her.
“But Debbie…. you slept together? You should be… god, one of you has to break the damn deadlock- wait, was the sex good?”
Debbie can’t fight her face this time, and Bash doesn’t need an answer from her. He laughs.
“Oh my god of course it was, and now here you both are, like some kind of Jane Austin classic, refusing to talk to each other lest you seem too keen…”
Debbie grunts at him, and then rolls her eyes. “Yeah, cute, or maybe Ruth isn’t talking to me because her life is simpler if we just don’t go there. Also, I don’t remember any fucking wrestling in a Jane Austin plot, so unless you have any other pearls of wisdom, I need to go and throw Ruth to the floor a couple of times, and- do not say anything!”
Bash grins widely at her.
“Oh Debbie, you’ve just given me the best theme for my commentary tonight. Unresolved sexual tension.”
“Bash, I swear to god if you fucking dare-”
It’s not that Debbie had ignored Ruth.
She’d wanted to talk about it. Afterwards. She’d wanted to talk about it for hours, minutes, seconds, anything to just confirm that things were okay. Better than okay. That they’d both enjoyed themselves and maybe they should repeat the event, at some point.
But Debbie had woken up late, and then with the rush to catch their flight, they just… hadn’t talked about it.
And each second had suddenly stretched, into month long chasms. And the further that night had disappeared into the past, the harder it became for Debbie to say anything.
And now Ruth was avoiding her. And maybe… maybe the more Ruth thought about it the more she decided that it had been a mistake, and if Ruth was aiming for an easy life then becoming romantically entangled with Debbie was a pretty dumb move.
Debbie can’t remember what an easy life feels like. She doesn’t know if she’s ever had one. All she knows is that she wants the mess, she wants the inferno in her head to never die down, because her life might be increasingly difficult, but at least she feels like she’s finally living it.
But, in the here and now, despite all the chaos raging, she has to go and wrestle Ruth. Because that’s their job. And it’s their job to do their job. Nothing more.
And thank fuck for wrestling, really.
Cherry had been watching them by the ropes, as Debbie and Ruth had completed the routine. And sure, it had been awkward at first, but their bodies remembered what to do, and it had been flowing by the end.
Ruth takes most of the hard knocks in this routine, but she waves away Debbie’s checks, rolling onto her side and gasping out “I’m okay.”
Cherry claps a couple of times, and then spreads her hands wide.
“Easy. Looking good you two. Just take things steady and you’ll be fine.”
Debbie nods to herself a couple of times, and puts her hands on her hips, clearing her throat.
“Okay, so… you good?” she asks. “We could uh- I mean, if you want to go again then I don’t mind-”
“Oh, no, it’s okay, if you’re alright with everything then-”
“Sure, yeah, I’m fine, I was just checking you were okay with the cues and-”
“Yeah, I’m okay, I think… although if you want want to run through it again then that’s fine-”
“No, no, if you’re good then I think we’ve got it, no need for… I don’t want to keep you-”
“Yeah, great, okay, uh, thanks for the practice-”
“It’s fine, we probably needed to, you know, check, so… cool.”
Ruth stares at Debbie for a second, and Debbie is staring back, wondering if this is how their conversational style is going to be from now on, because Debbie isn’t fully sure if she’s got the energy.
After a second, Ruth seems to realise that she’s just looking at Debbie, and then turns away to look at Cherry. Debbie automatically does the same.
Cherry snorts, at some unseen joke, and then shakes her head.
“Like I said. You’ll be fine. Now get out of the ring so that another pair can practice.”
Bash hadn’t been kidding about it being a full house.
In fact, Sam tells them all with a hint of pride in his voice, people are queuing at the ticket gate, hoping to sneak in.
They’re a hit, somehow. Vegas clearly understands wrestling in a way that LA doesn’t, and Debbie’s just going to have to accept that a large majority of the crowd appear to be sweaty men who like to wolf whistle at her and the other girls. They’re still paying money. It’s still a show.
“Okay, so, first show of the week, Melrose and Rhonda over the magic hair spray, Machu defeating Beruit and Fortune Cookie, Welfare Queen vs Sheila and the Viking over… what are you guys fighting over?” Sam squints down at his notes and then peers enquiringly at Tammé. Tammé shrugs.
“Over who is going to have control of Liberty Hell this time.”
“Although, for the record, I’d rather not have control of her, I work better as a lone wolf.” This is Sheila, obviously. Sam gazes blankly at her, until she shrugs.
“Okay, fine. All of that, and then we have Zoya and Liberty Hell in some kind of grudge match, as a finale. And remind me why a heel is fighting a heel?”
“Because-” Debbie starts, realises how ridiculous it sounds, but then powers through it anyway, “because we disagree over how to pronounce communism.”
Sam stares at her for a moment, and then holds up his hands to everyone.
“And a moment of silence please, for the passing of any final shreds of dignity my career had. Disagree over how to pronounce communism. Great. Okay then, Debbie and Ruth rolling around for a finale, the end, and then we do it all again tomorrow. Got it?”
‘Got it” Ruth says brightly, but she’s about the only one. The rest of the girls give Sam a nod, or a grunt, or nothing at all.
“Debbie” Sam says, and really, she’s surprised he’s held back this long “please concentrate on not getting high, or breaking any bones.”
She glares at him, but he smiles after a second, a flat, mirthless smile.
“What, too soon for jokes?”
“Let’s leave the jokes out of this, shall we? Seeing as we’re both professionals?”
Sam nods dismissively.
“Sure. Professionals. Got it.”
The thing about a full house, is that it is a lot of people.
Debbie waits next to Ruth, as the preceding match reaches it’s climax.
They’re alone, some how.
It’s not quiet, because the crowd is just on the other side of the door. But the silence between them weighs heavily on Debbie’s skin.
Ruth laughs, after a moment, half to herself.
“You know” she says, musingly. “Even though you are technically a heel right now, they’re still going to cheer you, and hate me.”
Debbie doesn’t know what to say in response. Ruth continues, after a moment.
“I am really good, at making people dislike me.”
“Well, that’s your job” Debbie says after a second. “You’re really good at your job.”
Ruth half glances at her, before looking away, and god, she looks so mournful, Debbie almost wants to-
She doesn’t, obviously.
She tries the next best thing.
“Anyway, I saw a punk girl wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Capitalist Scum’, so she’s got to be here for you.”
Debbie nods, as the match in the ring finishes, and the audience roar their approval. “So you have one fan.”
Ruth smiles at her, and looks down at her boots, before glancing back up at her, as though sharing a secret.
“In Soviet Union-”
“Fuck off” Debbie says easily. Warmly. Ruth laughs at her, and then gestures to the doors.
“Okay, I’m going. I’ll see you out there.”
Debbie nods, breathing out slowly, trying to not let the adrenaline encourage her to do anything impulsive.
“See you out there.”
God, she’s missed it.
The crowd yells at her, screams in a tidal wave of glee, when Debbie catches Ruth by the waist and slams her to the floor.
Debbie locks eyes with Ruth, and she can see that Ruth is feeling it as well, and it is different, when they wrestle together. The crowd feels different, the adrenaline kicks harder, everything flows until she feels like she is swimming.
And then Ruth is up, and signalling the next move.
And wrestling is a dangerous activity, but honestly? Debbie’s never felt safer.
The crowd goes wild.
Bash manages to not reference sexual frustration once.
And Ruth comes bouncing out of the arena doors into the back stage area.
Debbie nearly holds out her arms to her.
Sam’s next to her though, and is… congratulating Debbie, she thinks. She can’t hear him.
But she doesn’t hold out her arms to Ruth, because the presence of Sam stops that happening, somehow. Instead the impulse turns into a high five, which Ruth accepts enthusiastically.
And then… and then Sam hugs Ruth.
Debbie doesn’t know if Ruth fucks Sam that night.
Maybe she does.
Debbie has stopped pretending that she doesn’t care. She does care, the very concept is ripping at her insides.
But she sure as fuck can pretend to everyone else that she doesn't care.
The next two shows don’t flow in the same way.
It’s still good, it still feels good, but now Debbie is on guard, on edge, because maybe she doesn’t know Ruth in the way that she thought she did. And maybe the sex between them didn’t re-wire Ruth soul in the way that it did for Debbie.
She doesn’t understand.
And they’re still not talking to each other, although Debbie is convinced that every time she looks towards Ruth, Ruth was looking at her, seconds before.
Sheila squats on her haunches next to her, the morning of the final week five show.
“Hi” Debbie grunts back, concentrating on stretching out her quads.
Sheila says nothing for a while, and then quietly “Bash told me.”
“Well. It clearly wasn’t meant to be, so-”
“How exactly have you deduced that?”
“Because, Sherlock,” she says heavily, and then just gestures, to where Ruth is standing, talking to Sam. “Because that.”
Sheila cranes her head around, and stares at Ruth and Sam for a long time, in the manner that only Sheila can really get away with. Debbie half sighs to herself in exasperation, and switches to the other leg.
“They’re not…Ruth is just being professional with him. Trying to reclaim some boundaries.”
“Look, Sheila, even if I’m going with the inner eye bullshit of your body language detector and believe you, do you seriously think that Sam knowsit.”
Oh, Debbie thinks. That.
“Well, no, because Ruth clearly isn’t wanting to have a conversation about it.”
Sheila tips her head to one side.
“Seriously? Have you even tried?”
“No, because…” Debbie trails off. Sheila finishes the sentence for her.
“Because you are scared of rejection.”
Debbie grits her teeth.
“You are really annoying sometimes, you know that?”
Sheila nods placidly.
“I have been told that, yes.”
And then it is show time.
Debbie is scared of rejection, but that’s just… that’s just called being a human, isn’t it?
There’s a bench, next to the arena hall doors. Ruth is sitting there already. And Debbie….
Debbie sits next to her. But she doesn’t relax, and so she just ends up perched awkwardly on the edge of the bench, as though poised to leap to her feet and run, if necessary.
But her hand grips the edge of the bench, in-between herself and Ruth.
Her brain feels crowded, somehow, with all the words that she hasn’t said yet, that she should have said by now, that any other functional human being would have managed to say by now.
The crowd roars, distantly.
And then Ruth sits forward, as though she’s getting ready to run away as well.
But, she mimics Debbie’s hand, until they’re both occupying the same six inches of wood, and Debbie’s little finger is so close to Ruth’s that Debbie swears she can almost feel the heat of it.
Debbie is staring at their hands.
And then she realises that Ruth is as well.
Debbie clears her throat.
“I think… I think we might have missed having a conversation. About- about things that we really should talk about.”
“Yes” says Ruth quickly, sounding relieved. “I, um. I also think that.”
“Okay” Debbie says, almost choking on her own words. “So, should we do that? After the show?”
Ruth nods quickly, and then, amazingly, Ruth’s little finger moves, so now it is on top of Debbie’s, momentarily. And they’re about to slam their bodies into each other repeatedly in the name of entertainment, but this small contact rocks Debbie through her soul.
“Okay” she breathes out again. “Okay.”
Ruth smiles quickly at her, and bites her lip, and Debbie is going to kiss her.
But that’s Ruth’s cue.
“Okay” she says softly, and then she is gone.