---Brisbane, Queensland, Australia March 13---
“I can’t believe you’re leaving again?!”
Jessica Matthews is clearly not happy at all, barely containing the timbre of her voice as she confronts her boyfriend, Dean Coulter. He falters under her gaze. Their relationship has been strained since Dean returned from his self-exile in recompense for his actions as the Ouroboros figure, Judas. They are working on it, but as with all important things in life it is taking time.
“Jess please. If I’m to have any hope of ridding myself of Judas, of excising the spectre of Ouroboros then I need to do this.”
“Dean, what happened last time you ‘had to leave’?”
The Battler casts his gaze downward and Jess tries to calm herself.
“I was trying to protect you, my family, Sam, everyone! I didn’t have much of a choice.”
“I am frightened Dean. I can hear you at night, tossing and turning, whimpering. You are distant…and now you are leaving. I don’t want to lose you again.”
Tentatively Dean approaches her.
“That’s the thing. The bloke before you ain’t Dean. I got no bloody idea who he is. I need to find Dean again and bring him back to you. The only way I’m gonna do that is through the CWF.”
She remains sceptical.
“I know you were never into the whole pro-wrestling, but please trust me. I promise that I’ll be coming back and it will be just as it was.”
The young woman embraces her partner, burying her head into his chest.
“You better come back to me.” She whispers, fighting back tears.
The image of a hurt Jessica, tears of combined sadness and anger streaking her face is firmly etched into his brain and adds to the growing mountain of thoughts of self-doubt, regret, shame, guilt, and just about everything else.
---Flight UA99, United Airlines March 15---
Flying miles-above sea level, Sam Braxton and Dean Coulter are making the journey from Melbourne, Victoria to Phoenix, Arizona. The location of the next CWF Evolution event. Being on the road again, travelling from place to place to fight alongside each other within a squared circle should feel normal and proper. Yet for Dean Coulter it isn’t. There is no doubt the Lost Boys belong inside the CWF ring, but all is not right with the world.
“You must feel proud about yourselves. Especially how the two of you cheated last week to obtain victory. The Book of Truth holds no lies, something Judas knows all too well… Tonight, we allow you to enjoy in the spoils of you're tainted victory. However next week, the truth shall be revealed!”
The Confliction pay-per-view event was only days ago and yet Dean is still haunted by those very words of VENOM’s Nina, her snide accusations and pointed reprimands of the man formerly known as Judas. He can’t help but question his own worth and the worth of his friendship with Sam. It doesn’t help matters that the Lost Boy’s victory to claim the CWF tag-team titles is also tarnished by the controversy of the Crimson Ghost’s actions that led to the match’s conclusion. Many are claiming that the Ghost really won the match for the Dinky-Di Duo. The growing fear within the Aussie Battler is that he will be forever judged and defined by his actions as the Ouroboros Minion, Judas.
“Mate, why you down? We got the titles back. Aussies bloody rule the world once more! If not for the fact the company ain’t coverin’ our expenses I’d be drownin’ myself in piss to celebrate.”
“But Sam, did we actually win?” With a conflicted sigh Dean turns to his dear friend. There is a clear expression of pain, one that Sam doesn’t understand and therefore dislikes considerably.
“Bloody Oath we did! We were the blokes walkin’ out with the straps, and only the winners are able to do that.”
Sam Braxton likes to view the world in a certain way, usually in his definition of black and white, and anything that doesn’t fit into this perspective, the Aussie Larrikin pointedly chooses to ignore. Such is the case now, with Sam struggling to reconcile Dean’s feelings of confusion and dismay.
There is a pause, Sam raising his eyebrows and looking to Dean expectantly, hoping for further explanation. There is none forthcoming; instead Dean shakes his head and rests back against his seat, 13C.
Sam’s brow furrows indignantly.
“What’s got your knickers in a twist?”
“Fair Crack of the Whip Sam. Let's just drop it. We got a long flight ahead of us.”
Tense and awkward silence falls between the two, but only briefly because Sam hates awkward silences and he responds by relying on his usual coping mechanism, alcohol, which he promptly orders from a member of the airline staff. Peeking through partially closed eyes, Dean sneakily watches Sam with his gaze cast down and fiddling with the squat beer can. The Larrikin is actually pouting. Dean sighs yet again; he forgets what it’s like travelling with his dear friend, sometimes it’s akin to dealing with a child. However, for all of Sam’s flaws Dean loves the Larrikin like a brother and without him the Battler would have grown to be a man he’d resent, living a mediocre half-life. If not for Sam Dean probably would still be wallowing in self-pity and shame. Such a debt is near impossible to repay.
“Sam mate, I’m sorry.”
“Nah, yeah, we’re aces mate.” Sam is of course a terrible liar and is unable to meet Dean in the eye.
“Don’t crack the shits. The fact is Sam, we may have the titles back, but we didn’t justly earn them and that goes against our very purpose of returning to the CWF. We want to prove our worth, show the whole world what True Blue Aussies are truly capable of doing. Our…’victory’ at Confliction actually works against us.”
“Bob's your Uncle then mate. We’ll just find the next team of Drongos and thrash them instead. You want facts, well I got facts too mate. We’re the ant's bloody pants when it comes to tag-teams and it ain’t our fault the Samoans were buggered. Hopefully the next lot prove a fair dinkum challenge cause so far I ain’t impressed. And that’s why I came back. For a challenge!”
“And you may just get that Sam. One half of our opponents, Hostile Intent, is a true-blue bloke, Nathan Paradine, a Melbournite with a passion for a good blue that may even rival your own. His style shares some similarities to my own, so I can confidently say we'll need to tread carefully with that one.”
“Eh, what I’m hearin’ is the team is only half-cast, which means only half the fun.”
Just like Sam to downplay anyone or anything that doesn't revolve around him and his abilities.
“Paradine returned from a hiatus, seemingly to come to the aid of the Hostility Brand. Gaining the tag-titles would be a big step in the right direction for him and his partner. Let's not be rash and make any wrong moves.”
Dean of course is mindful of saying or doing anything that could rile up Sam Braxton in the claustrophobic confinement of the airplane. They are already getting some looks.
“I never make a wrong move."
There are many scuffles outside of the wrestling ring that beg to differ.
"Besides, Nate ain’t all dinky-di Aussie legend, I mean ain’t he runnin’ around with some rando who ain’t even true-blue? That’s a bit of an insult.”
“Trent Steel. He has history with the CW,F though I’m not sure what course of events pushed him towards Hostility. However that’s where his efforts now lie and he ain’t the kind of bloke to do anything half-arsed. There is danger in the anomalous and they may seem like the Odd-Couple, a bit mismatched, but they are a team borne of shared purpose and that could forge them into a strong and cohesive unit. We currently hold the titles, that puts a target on our backs, and if we’re not careful, we could lose the belts in an instant.”
“I ain’t gonna allow that to happen. Hostile Elite are just the next team in line to fall before us. That much I’m deadset convinced on, all I’m askin’ is they be game as Ned Kelly and actually put up a bloody fight let so I can have my fun!”
“Sam. It ain’t gonna be all fun and games. We still have a long journey ahead of us.”
Dean’s final comment is about more than just their careers with the CWF, but of course only he knows this, as the cryptic undertones are completely lost on Sam Braxton who waves off the comment, eager to get back to the action. Sam just loves to fight, irrespective of the opponent, but more importantly, Sam loves to win and with their victory over the Samoan Ghost Connection, he feels pumped and ready. The Hostile Elite are in for a hard time. That is certain.
Ant’s Pants: Aussie equivalent of the Bee’s Knees (We’re the rea l deal, the genuine article, top shit etc)
Bloke: Gendered male term
Bloody Oath: Of Course! Fuck Yeah! etc
Bloody: Used for emphasis
Bob’s your Uncle: No worries
Crack the Shits: Get angry/worked up and act out
Fair Crack of the Whip: Alright, enough
Fair Dinkum: Exclamation or question of authenticity/veracity etc
Game as Ned Kelly: Brave
knickers in a twist: In a (grumpy/foul) mood
Mate: Friend (or generic identifier)
Nah, yeah: No
True Blue: (Patriotic) Australian
Yeah, nah: Yes