Waking up hasn’t been better than this.
Debbie rolls on to her back, as she slowly drifts to consciousness. Her hand automatically slides across the sheets before she even fully notices she is doing it, and she bumps into Ruth’s warm skin after a few inches.
Debbie smiles, and then strokes a finger down Ruth’s side, blinking herself awake in a more complete manner. Ruth turns her head towards Debbie, and she’s rubbing a hand over her eyes, and mumbles something along the lines of “mmmmmpfh”. Debbie smiles at her, and Ruth smiles back, before tugging the sheets up higher, until they are just underneath her chin.
Debbie grins at her after a second, and copies her action.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
Ruth widens her eyes briefly, and then tugs the sheet up higher, until she is just a pair of eyes and messy hair.
“I’m naked” Ruth whispers, as though sharing a dark secret.
Debbie feels her eyebrows raise, and then she whispers back “I know. So am I.”
Ruth nods fractionally, as if indicating that she was already aware of this. Debbie watches the joy in her eyes, the barely repressed mirth.
“We are not usually naked in bed together.”
“No. But I think we should be. More often.”
Again, Ruth nods, in a vague way that becomes more adamant as Debbie watches. She lowers the sheet slightly, so that her mouth is revealed.
“All the time?” she queries.
“Well” says Debbie flatly, “that might eventually result in questions being asked, but… tonight?”
Ruth bites her lip.
“Oh god, yes, that’s… a good idea. And um… now?”
And… wow, Debbie didn’t even know this sort of joy was available to her, she didn’t even know that her emotions could kick up to this kind of gear.
“Come here?” she asks, but it isn’t really a question, and when Ruth slides on top of her Debbie finds that she didn’t need any answers anyway.
It’s a rest day, Debbie remembers, when she starts thinking again.
“I should… shower” Ruth mumbles, her words muffled by Debbie’s skin. Debbie grunts, and then Ruth lifts her head, and says again “I should shower.”
Debbie shrugs, and then says “Use mine. I should shower too-”
“We could-” Ruth pauses, and looks briefly like she is considering how to speak in a new language. “We could shower together?”
Debbie feels her mouth quirk into a smile.
“It’s not good, sex in a cubicle shower. There no space, and the tiles are always fucking freezing-”
Ruth looks affronted. “Who said anything about sex?” she asks, the picture of outraged chastity, as she lies on top of Debbie entirely nude. “I was just talking about saving water-”
God, Debbie’s happy. She’d forgotten what an uncomplicated, pure emotion it was.
“Go on then. I’ll go after you.”
Debbie enjoys the way that Ruth gets up, entirely unabashed about walking around Debbie’s room naked.
“I’m stealing your towel, okay?”
It’s two in the afternoon, and this is probably stretching the definition of breakfast to it’s limit, but they end up heading down to the hotel canteen anyway.
It’s very domestic, for a moment. They sit next to each other, and Debbie grabs two coffees for them. Ruth passes her the cutlery, and smiles at Debbie as she does so, a secret smile that speaks to Debbie about the current levels of peace that Ruth is also feeling.
“You remember the conversation we had after our pilot fight?” Debbie finds herself saying. Ruth nods, tipping some sugar into her coffee. Debbie watches her.
“You asked me if I wanted to go grab a drink.”
Ruth smiles, glancing at her.
“And you said ‘No. We aren’t there yet.’”
Debbie nods, wondering about which other conversations they’ve collectively managed to etch onto their brains forever.
“Well. Maybe this should be that drink? Because… I don’t know about you, but this feels pretty… ‘there’.”
Ruth blinks at her, and… oh there’s just too many emotions going on there for Debbie to process. She looks away, suddenly swallowing the huge lump in her throat because they are in the hotel canteen and Debbie is pretty sure that neither of them are ready for the kind of public display of affection that Debbie might launch into if Ruth carries on looking at her like that.
Ruth clears her throat after a moment, and then says “Yeah. Okay. That sounds… about right.”
They eat in silence for a while, as Debbie sits there and wonders how she tells her mom, how she tells Mark, how she meets Ruth’s parents for the first time in forever, how she could fit into Ruth’s life and Ruth could fit into hers and where the overlaps would be and where the arguments would emerge and how they would fix it three days later and how they would fall asleep next to each other and-
Debbie remembers something.
“Don’t you need to go and talk to Russell before he leaves?”
Ruth stops chewing, and then swallows, glancing furtively at Debbie.
“Uh. Nope. I think he can figure it out for himself. I was not… playing my cards very close to my chest. He knows you are the reason we broke up. He… he made it clear that he understood what had been going on.”
Debbie looks down at the table, wondering for how long her subtlety has been rock bottom.
“Don’t you feel bad?” she asks. Ruth tips her head to one side, considering.
“A bit. But I’m coming to terms with the fact that maybe I’m not actually that nice a person.”
“Welcome to the self aware club.”
Ruth grins sheepishly. Debbie grins back, and then calms her face.
“But you do probably need to talk to Sam. He’s not just going to get on a plane back to LA and disappear, he is our boss.”
“Yeah… I know. He’s not going to be all that… thrilled, about us.”
“Us?” Debbie smiles as she says it and Ruth rolls her eyes in response.
“Don’t even think about pretending that we aren’t an ‘us’ Debbie, I think we might be way past that.”
Debbie stone faces at her for a moment, and then cracks, laughing into her coffee. Ruth watches her for a moment, and then leans across to her, pressing a quick kiss to Debbie’s cheek in a way that make Debbie blush.
She’s about to say something ill considered, but she’s interrupted by the arrival of what seems to be everything single one of their co-stars.
“Oh, guys, they’re here.”
“Aww, breakfast date, this is so cuuuute, I love it-”
“What time do you bozos even call this; it’s the middle of the afternoon and you are having breakfast?” This is Melrose, spreading her arms wide to call attention to the situation. Reggie’s close behind her.
“Oh I think they’ve already had ‘breakfast’…”
“What, only you are allowed to make rude jokes?”
“But that wasn’t even a good joke, look, Debbie is mad with you…”
“Fuck off” Debbie says to them, by way of a generalised greeting, but she supposes that this was always inevitable. This is the part when everyone gets to say ‘I told you so.’
They crowd around the table. Debbie stares all of them down, and takes an impassive bite of toast. Ruth snorts.
Sheila sits opposite them.
“Please name your first Subaru Sheila.”
“Oh, my god” Ruth hides her face with her hands, and is laughing now. Debbie flips Sheila off, and then has to flip Cherry off, as she comes slow stepping through the crowd towards their table as though she is walking down the aisle, a couple of scrunched up napkins in her hands as a mock bouquet. Jenny starts singing what Debbie thinks is meant to be a wedding march, but sounds more like the Darth Vader theme.
“Jesus christ will you guys please-”
“Oh, what?” grins Cherry. “You’re expecting us all not to have a little fun, after we’ve all been working so hard to pretend we haven’t noticed the moon eyes you guys have been making at each other these past months?”
“Yeah, Debbie, I don’t know if anyone has told you, but…” Artie leans forward, and gestures a vague hand towards her own face. She half whispers, passing on serious news. “… you have quite an expressive face.”
“Yeah, jesus Debbie, it was like you were performing a one woman stage production of Paradise Lost every time Ruth walked past.” This is Dawn, and she holds up her hand to accept Stacey’s high five without even looking.
Debbie rolls her eyes.
“Okay, firstly, that is a role I would take, and secondly…. shut up.” The end of the sentence doesn’t fully match her confident delivery, but she powers through. “Pick on Ruth some, why don’t you?”
“Nah” says Carmen with a smile “It’s more fun picking on you.”
Debbie turns to Ruth, and says “Just so you know, I am reconsidering everything right now.”
Ruth looks deeply amused about everything, but shuts the conversation down smoothly.
“Did you guys… need us for something?”
“Why, are we interrupting something?” Tammé asks blandly from the back of the group. “just like you guys were interrupting my sleep all of last night, why is it my room, that’s surrounded by-”
“Yeah, so-” Ruth says hurriedly, trying to prevent Tammé from reaching the end of the sentence, “what’s up? What’s the emergency?”
There’s a few repressed snorts and giggles, but then Sheila clears her throat and all the mirth seems to vanish.
“Sam wants to have a team meeting.”
“Oh, um.” Debbie watches as Ruth’s face falls. “A meeting about what?” she asks. Sheila turns to look at her, and then shrugs.
“About wrestling I guess. He can hardly call a meeting for any other reason.”
“Although… other shit might come up guys.” This is Melrose, being serious for once. “He did not look… like a man in a good place.”
Debbie rubs a hand across her brow, and then says “Is Bash there?”
“Okay well that’s something… we should… go and see what he wants, I guess.”
If Sam has a comment about the way Debbie sits next to Ruth on the bleachers, he wisely keeps it to himself.
God, but he does look… a mess, she thinks, seeing him properly for the first time in what feels like forever. He needs a haircut, and his jawline is somehow more pronounced, and the weariness dripping from him.
He doesn’t even manage to find a smile for Ruth, but instead focuses his efforts on a glare for Debbie, and if that doesn’t tell her everything she needs to know…
“Okay. So. Good afternoon. I thought we should. Uh. Take a second to. Reflect on how things have been going.” Sam trails off, and glances at Bash, who’s standing off to the side with his arms folded. Bash raises his eyebrows at Sam, but doesn’t help him out otherwise. Instead he looks at Debbie, and seems… apologetic.
Oh no, Debbie thinks.
Sam rubs his hand across his mouth, and then gestures dismissively, as though bored with himself.
“Okay, you know what, Debbie and Ruth, you were incredible. You did a great job. The whole show… I know everyone agrees with me when I say that you guys are the headline act. People are queuing out of the door to see the never-ending saga of Liberty Belle and Zoya. So- great job.”
It’s the last thing that Debbie expected to to hear Sam say, and she’s momentarily wrong footed. It would seem the other girls are surprised too, as there is a distinct lag between the end of Sam announcement and the murmur of agreements and congratulations that come from them.
Ruth’s leg is bouncing, making the bench they’re sitting on vibrate slightly. Debbie nudges Ruth’s leg with her own, and then nods at Sam.
Sam stares at her for a long second, and then sighs.
“But you two can’t start fucking each other on the side.”
Debbie’s brain shuts down, because even though she was expecting some kind of show down, she didn’t think-
“Whoa” says Cherry from behind her, as Bash immediately steps forward, saying “Jesus Sam, I thought you were going to be a bit more sensitive about that conversation-”
Sam rounds on him, spreading his arms wide.
“Yeah, well, I changed my mind, because look; they finally got what they wanted. Debbie and Ruth - the stars of the show. But if they suddenly crash and burn again because, oh I don’t know, some bedroom thing, then the show is on the line and everyone here has to eat shit, and they have to face up to that.”
“Convenient” Debbie growls “That this solution neatly lines up with exactly what you would like to happen on an interpersonal level.”
“No, Debbie, this has nothing to do with that”
“Oh Sam, seriously-” this is Ruth, apparently startled out of her usual conflict free style. Sam turns to her and interrupts easily.
“Yes, Ruth, seriously, this is not…. I enjoyed spending time with you, but you and Debbie haven’t exactly been subtle for a long while now, so I knew what was up. Sorry that this isn’t about my all consuming love for you, because that doesn’t exist. This is genuinely, just a meeting to point out to you that if you start fucking each other, and then break each others hearts somehow, I haven’t got a show and no one here has got a damn job.”
“But Arthie and Yolanda-” Debbie finds herself saying, ridiculously. Sam shrugs, shaking his head.
“Not interested. They’re not the headliners. And also they seem way more fucking stable that you two, although I’ve seen matchstick towers more stable that you two.”
Suddenly, Debbie’s laughing. Sam stares at her, and the look on his face only makes Debbie laugh more, until she’s close to wobbling into hysteria. She abruptly pulls it back, and wipes her eyes.
“So… oh god I thought you were going to fire me or something overblown… so all we have to do is convince you that Ruth and I will be okay? Because… shit Sam, I think we might be. I think we’re going to be okay.”
Sam stares at her, and then says flatly “You’ll be okay? The never ending parade of drama and betrayal and emotional abuse and… and… secrets… all that has just…. gone away?”
Debbie rolls her eyes, and then says “Yes, Sam, that’s what emotionally healthy friendships do Sam, they heal. And we were good before, though not as good as we could have been…” Debbie glances at Ruth at this point, trying to judge her reaction. Ruth nods cautiously, and Debbie carries on with a shrug. “And you, Sam, met us right at the moment when we were at rock bottom, but we were always going to figure it out.”
Sam laughs at this, a hollow, unpleasant sort of laugh.
“Shit, okay, sorry that I misread the last two year’s worth of car crash interactions for emotional healing. I can’t….” Sam sighs, and then puts his hands on his hips. He gestures towards Ruth, in a manner that Debbie can’t fully understand.
“I mean… you can’t-”
Debbie interrupts him, suddenly bored of him.
“Oh my god Sam, maybe consider that you don’t know everything that has been going on? I know your ego means that you have to claim to be all-knowing at all times, but… god this is such a bullshit reason for a crisis meeting. Why the fuck do we even still need you Sam? I can’t figure out what your role is, other than to imagine disasters where there aren’t any.”
Sam narrows his eyes at her.
“I’m the boss. That’s my fucking role. I’m your boss.”
“Great, well, maybe stick to what you are fucking good at, which is abusing your power by trying to fuck your employees.”
“Debbie-“ and this is Ruth, with a warning note in her voice, but it’s a little bit late, and Sam has been looking for this fight for months, of course Debbie isn’t going to back down.
Sam swears at her. “Will you, just fuck off, with your sanctimonious… Ruth, you’re planning to just roll with this charade are you?”
“Sam, don’t” Ruth snaps at him, and Debbie doesn’t even know what is actually being discussed at the moment, but obviously she’s going to side with Ruth.
“Sam, we’ve always been closer than you thought, we’ve always known what was going on between us, even when we weren’t in a good place, we still knew-”
“Yeah?” says Sam, flatly. “So if Ruth needed to have an abortion after she’d fucked your husband, she’d have called you to take her to the clinic? Not me?”
“I… yes? Weird example but-”
“Sam, what the fuck?” Ruth half gasps this, and then falls abruptly silent.
No one speaks.
Debbie opens her mouth to speak, and…. what?
No one speaks.
Sam sighs, and then pinches the bridge of his nose.
“Okay, let’s just… let’s ignore that last part.”