June 23rd, 2018 - Golden Intentions
10:07 pm, GMT
I sit in silence as my driver takes me through the ghost of a Yorkshire town. Derelict cottages, abandoned cars… everything about this place reeks of desolation.
It would make me sad. But I have no time for sadness.
I’m dropped off outside a run-down warehouse. I’ve seen it before, but never in person. I am taken to a side door by a CWF staffer. The door, which I know to lock to any but Elijah and Omega (or one who bears their eyes), is propped open. Makes sense. People will be in and out of this place all night.
I’m greeted by Marcus Maximus, who hurries me in. I see the infamous scrawled sign at the back. OMEGA’S FUNHOUSE.
Once I thought of this place as quirky, but benign. Now, I look around, and I see the relics of the hidden wars, the souls lost to Elijah and Omega’s ruthlessness.
I shake my head. Nothing I can do about them now. Nothing but give them justice.
It is dark in the Funhouse. Omega hasn’t emerged from whatever hidey-hole she’s squatting in. I can’t yet see the ring, but I know it’s there. I do see Amber. We acknowledge each other. Curt nods. That was all I expected. This isn’t Paradise, and my match won’t be like it was with MJ. There won’t be any friendliness in this. There can’t be. There can be only malice.
We’re getting ready. A monitor nearby shows that the Smokin’ Aces are smoking no more, they’ve lost the titles. A shame. I liked them as champions. But they’d be back. They were resilient.
I wonder if Eris and I would do as well now as we did back at the beginning of the tag team title runs. The days of the Bright Young Things seemed so long ago now. The division is stronger now. A shame Sam and Dean can’t just kiss and make up.
I shake my head again. I can’t be distracted.
Marcus Maximus directs us to the ring, and Omega finally emerges. Not even a curt nod between us. Marcus talks us through the rules, and the match is begun.
I am bleeding.
Omega got the jump on me, cracked me over the skull with a mirror. Stupid of me. I focused too heavily on Amber, ignored the very real threat lurking behind me.
I have fallen to the ground. Omega takes my blood, smears it on her cheeks.
I cannot stand, I can only watch as Omega drives Amber through the glass. I watch as the glass shatters around my friend, burying shards into God only knows how many places on her body.
Well then. One down.
I feel myself flying through the air, towards a glass table. This has to be it. Omega will be the World Champion. And she will have beaten me. Damn it.
No! I don’t know how, but I’m spared defeat. For now. The table holds, and I roll off it. Omega’s right on me. She sets up for the Crown, but I’ve trained for it, and I’ve seen her timing with Amber earlier in the night. I counter. Then she counters my counter. Damn. Was hoping to put her away.
She crawls off the sheet and onto the ground. I follow her. I target her hand. Anything to weaken the Crown.
She swears at me. Calls me a whore. Not her usual choice of insult. But if it was intended to make me angry… it does.
I have not spent the last six months involuntarily celibate to be called a fucking whore.
I lay waste to the bitch. I rain down kicks, grab Omega by the back of the head. I see a familiar photograph. The night Eris and I won the tag team titles. I see the faces that have suffered because of Elijah and Omega’s manipulation.
Flame, tortured beneath the Institute’s Manor.
Eris, broken by a fall from the top of the Academy.
James Skelton, dead before his twentieth birthday.
I grab the photo, shove it into Omega’s mouth. I knock her to the ground, laying her out on the concrete.
I roll her onto the glass.
I climb to the top rope.
And I pray to God that this works.
June 24th, 2018 - 4:30am GMT
I awakened after shallow, fitful, painkiller-induced sleep, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt. For a brief moment I didn’t know where I am. It was a terrifying moment, more than it would have been once. My imagination took me to some Institute facility, or into the grasp of the Order.
I have so many more enemies now than I used to.
But I saw Eris, unfettered, dozing gently in a chair by my bed. I was reassured, and I remember that I am in York Hospital, no more malevolent a place than any other NHS facility.
I must have made some of involuntary noise, because Eris stirred. They looked at me and smiled. ‘Congrats… champ.’
I smiled. It hurt to smile. My face had been stitched up, but I felt like I was still covered in blood, like I would never not be covered in blood.
‘Rumble’s over?’ I said. I was less groggy than I thought. Jet lag seemed to be my friend here.
‘Yeah,’ said Eris. ‘You fell asleep somewhere during it. What’s the last thing you remember?’
‘Erm…’ I said, pulling myself painfully to a sitting position, ‘I remember Dorian being eliminated.’
‘The first or the second time?’ asked Eris.
‘First time, then,’ said Eris with a smirk.
‘Who won?’ I asked. ‘MJ? Shadow? Eclipse? Please tell me it wasn’t Silas.’
‘It wasn’t Silas,’ said Eris, ‘it was Andy Murray.’
Eris shrugged. ‘I dunno. Some guy who was in the original run of CWF.’
‘I don’t remember him being around when - ’
‘Not your first run. The originalrun. Lionheart. Triple X. Big Sexay.’
I gagged. ‘I fucking hated Big Sexay.’
‘Everyone did,’ said Eris.
There was a hanging silence. ‘I… don’t know what to make of it,’ I said.
‘I had thoughts on how I’d approach a match with MJ. With Shadow. Even Sam Braxton, I knew something of what to expect. Now I’m up against someone I’ve never heard of, who I know nothing about, whose name I heard for the first time in the context of “guess who you’re spending the next two months talking about?” It’s kind of odd.’
‘”Odd” is about right,’ said Eris. ‘Also odd is your match this week.’
‘Again, the phrase “please tell me it’s not Silas” comes to mind.’
‘No… it’s Amber. For the title.’
‘Really?’ I said, incredulous.
‘I’m laid out in the hospital, and I didn’t even get put through the looking glass, how are they expecting Amber to-’
‘Apparently she agreed to it.’
‘God… the woman’s made of solid leather.’
‘That she is,’ said Eris.
There was a bit of a silence at that point. As much as anything, it was a matter of there being nothing left to say. Eventually a doctor came by, checked my chart; I was alright to go, just a little worse for the wear. I wondered how Amber was doing, how Omega was doing. I couldn’t quite imagine Omega in a public hospital. Too open of a target. And she didn’t have access to RedEmma anymore, unless Eris had programmed another drone. I didn’t know. And I didn’t care that much.
I filled out the discharge papers, and we took a minute to sort out the disorientation of whether to head to a hotel, or to the airport. It was 5am, that odd time where the crowds returning home from the night’s revelry encountered the crowds leaving their homes to exercise. We were tired, Eris more than me, but as much as anything we wanted to be home. Whether that “home” constituted the Commune or my house in Atlanta, we hadn’t quite figured out.
I had been so singularly focused on destroying Omega that I really hadn’t thought much past last night.
In true British fashion, we opted to go to the pub and have a nice cold beer while we discussed our options. The fact that it was barely sunrise didn’t bother us. We went to the York Arms, an establishment Eris was rather fond of, not least because of the inexpensive Sam Smith beer.
Despite our intentions of discussion, we found ourselves sitting in relative silence as we drank our beers and watched the sun rise over York Minster.
‘I have no idea what’s next,’ I said, abruptly breaking the silence.
‘Everything,everything, was focused on Golden Intentions. I did… horrible things to you to - ’
‘You don’t need to apologize for that,’ said Eris firmly.
‘Even so. I was so intent on winning that match that I put my best friend through a plate glass window. And now that it’s done… I don’t know what’s next. Obviously I want to continue looking for Dan, but the only lead we’ve had gives no further information. Short of storming Canary Wharf, the only other option is storming the Academy - but Elijah and Omega won’t give up his location.’
‘Ivy’s searches didn’t turn up anything else?’
‘The fact that she got in as far as she did was a miracle. After the Order got wind of the leaked footage, they clamped down hard - not even Ivy can get through their firewalls now.’
‘So what is there?’ asked Eris.
‘I can confront my parents, but I haven’t been able to reach them - or my cousin - in months. Before I confirmed that they were involved, I just got brushed off… ever since Atlantic City, I haven’t even heard from them. Sad reality is, I’ve exhausted my options in terms of trying to find Dan. If he even wants to be found at this point, the only avenues would likely end in me getting arrested.’
Eris looked at me quizzically. ‘That’s not an option!’ I said.
‘Alright, alright, I just wanted to check,’ said Eris, poking their tongue out.
We sat in silence for a while then, drinking our beer. Eris was the one to break the silence this time. ‘You know what?’ they said, ‘I think you need a holiday. Just… a break from everything. You’ve been on a nonstop crusade for nearly six months. You’ve fought so many battles, been through so damn much… and yeah, you’re still standing, but there’s only so much one person can take. It’s the middle of summer. Let’s go to Blackpool for a few days, sit in the open sunlight.’
I snorted. ‘That isn’t excessively touristy?’
‘I think you’ve earned a bit of that! Or if not Blackpool, let’s just go somewhere. You’ve earned at least a few days where you can just sit and enjoy your title a bit.’
‘Might not be my title as of next week.’
‘You really think Amber’s going to be able to take you after the hell Omega put her through?’
‘If there’s one thing I have learned in knowing Amber for nearly a decade, it’s to not underestimate her. She’s capable of anything.’
‘Indeed,’ said Eris, finishing their beer. I was still only about halfway through mine.
We sat thinking for a little while. Eventually, I spoke. ‘You know… I dohave a standing offer of two Hamiltontickets. Wanna go see what all the hubbub is about?’
Eris’ eyes lit up. ‘I’d… wait.’
I was surprised. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Presumably, you can only invoke this offer once.’
Eris sighed. ‘I would assume that you’d been saving it for when you get Dan back.’
I took a deep breath. ‘I have begun to realize that that may never happen.’
Eris’ eyes widened.
‘I’ve followed every lead I can, and been stopped at every turn. One of the best hackers in the world attempted to glean his location and couldn’t get through the firewall. Jaiden was our only insider, and he’s used up his ability to help me. And unlike the Institute, the Order doesn’t have a Manor I can break into. I have to accept the very real possibility that the next time I see my husband will be when the Order intends it. And that he may not be the man I remember.’
‘So you’re just giving up?’ said Eris incredulously.
‘No!’ I said. ‘I just… I’m tired. I’m so tired. This was never meant to be my life. But it has been, and I’ve fought it as long as I can… and I don’t know what to do any more. If Ivy McGinnis couldn’t turn up any leads, what hope do I have?’
Eris took my hand. ‘You need a break. And if you want to go and see Hamilton, we’ll fly over to New York and watch a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers. But we will not, for one second, accept defeat. Youwill get Dan back. He willbe the man you remember. And we willhave that threesome.’
‘Oh right… that last part was meant to just be in my head.’
I laughed. ‘You’re right. On everything. Except the threesome. Not going to happen.’
Eris chuckled. ‘A non-binary individual can dream.’
‘We really need a noun for that.’
‘We’ve done alright without one.’
‘True.’ I finished my beer. ‘Well. Bout that time, eh?’
And we left, heading for the airport and to New York.