<--|[hearts.on.fire]|--<<<

By: Dane Preston

Writing Prompt: No

Date: 15th Apr 2022

HOWLING WOLF ONE
Somewhere over the Midwestern U.S.

After dispatching Eoin O’ Rourke a few weeks back on Venom,  I didn’t feel like celebrating.  If I’m being honest with myself, it was nothing personal, simply a case of Eoin being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My victory, his defeat, they both felt meaningless.  Unnecessary.  

Everything feels off as of late, my frustrations haven’t been this high since dealing with Joe Montuori through that whole scandal with Allison and Lauren.  I’ve always had some sort of goal – an objective – to guide me.  And right now I feel like I’m running in place and going nowhere fast.

It’s weird, I feel like that damned feud with JMont is what really put me on the map.  Since then I’ve suffered losses to James Raven and Dickie Watson, and I don’t feel like I’ve been the same.  Then there’s this whole beef with Lauren’s beau and all their friends.  I mean, Fix is the one behind it, and these folks keep carrying on like there is one mind because it’s housed in one body.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on my condition, as well as looking into ways to excise Fix from my brain.  What I’m plagued with is known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously called Multiple Personality Disorder.  

A mental health disorder caused by traumas the brain does not wish to remember, manifesting itself as two or more distinct personalities, each with their own unique memories, characteristics and traits.  People think that I’m faking my condition and as much as it pains me, there is no cure.  Fix really is going to be the death of me, I just fucking know it.  

Don’t get me wrong, my personal life is by no means bad, but it’s also marred by the situation with Lauren.  I can’t lie, I’m still hurt by how quickly she just up and left me.  Left us.  Like we meant nothing to her.  In typical Sahara fashion, she turns it around on me and blames me for not showing her enough attention.  Maybe she’s right.  But we’ll never know for sure.

Allie and Bella have been so supportive throughout this whole thing, and yet I feel like Fix doesn’t see them as good enough.  I’m grateful to have been fortunate enough to have one, let alone both, of them.  Until being targeted and getting attacked by Allen Chaney, I felt more lost than ever – professionally speaking.  But now, we’re going to put the Comedian through the wringer…

“Comedian our ass… We got taken out by a godsdamned glorified circus clown. A regular old court jester.” Fix blurted out inside my head. “We hope that you won’t object to us dismantling this one…”

“What are you on about now?” I snapped back.

“You know exactly what we’re talking about.  You were going to let us cut loose on Bryce, because you took it easy on O’Rourke.  Let us steer the ship against Chaney.”

“Is that what you really want?” I ask, “because the last I checked you had a major hard on for SEB and Thaddeus?”

“Pssh, Seabass got lucky.  Chaney took us out before we could dance on his face.  And Thaddeus doesn’t even go here.  Despite all his bravado and posturing, he’s frightened of us anyway.” I took a deep breath, I already knew what was coming. “You promised us we got to steer the ship next match.  Last Venom we were denied that chance…”

“If that’s what you really want, then fine.  Allen Chaney is all yours for this match.  Don’t fuck it up.”

“We’re not concerned with fucking up.  Chaney is going to learn that he chose the wrong guy to make his statement against.  We’re more worried about the fact that our Allie is teamed with that Godsdamned Meatbol again…”

“Please, don’t remind me….”

I didn’t even hear Allison as she slowly approached, placing her hand in the small of my back, so as to not startle me.  “Earth to Dane or Fix…” I came to, not realizing I’d dazed out again while looking out the window of our stateroom on the plane.  “A penny for your thoughts, lover?” Allison asked.

“What isn’t my mind on, darlin’?” I rubbed at my forehead as I looked down at her.  “You know that I love you more than life itself, right?” 

She looked at me inquisitively, “Of course I do, where the hell did that come from?” She asks, eyebrow crooked, eyes wide as she awaits my response.

“This whole Fix and Lauren thing,” I roll my hands a bit.  “It’s become such a complicated and convoluted mess.  I don’t need Fix’s obsession with Lauren to cause you or Bella to think that I don’t love you both, or that the two of you aren’t more than enough for me…” I sighed to myself and began to rub at my temples.  Fix was really persistent about wanting to come out when I was in control.  Especially when this topic was being discussed.  Sometimes staying in control actually made my head hurt.

Allison took up both of my hands, one in each of hers. “I know this isn’t easy for you Dane.  Lord knows it’s not easy for Bella or me either.  But we know you love us and we know Fix loves us too.” She squeezed my right hand when she referenced me and my left hand when referencing Fix.  

She has learned so much about our individual traits and characteristics, and has been so accommodating.  I don’t know why she or Bella even put up with me in this state.  “I can see that look in your eyes, Bella and I aren’t going anywhere.  You don’t have to worry about that.” Gently releasing my hands, she reached up and pulled my head down so she could kiss my forehead.  “Besides, you’ve got more pressing things to worry about.  Like Wyatt, JJ and DJ eagerly waiting to train with you this week.  Not to mention your match coming up with Allen Chaney…”

“Yeah, about that…” She looks up and looks into my eyes.  “It’s kind of hard to focus on my match when I’ve got Fix screaming at me about Bryce one minute and you teaming up with Joe the next.  What are Miss F and Serotonin thinking booking you and Joe together in a tag match?”

“I’ve got no idea?  No clue?”  I watched as she shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.  Why do they do anything around here?”

“Fair point.  I’ve been wondering about that myself actually.  It just seems malicious or intentional.  After everything that whole scandal put us through.  Like, Joe and me tagging up, that makes more sense.  But you two…?  I just don’t get it.”

“Maybe they are hoping that I’ll give him another nut shot?”  She chuckled.  “He’s been running his mouth just waaayy too much lately.  Making too many demands, so why not put him in the ring with the one person who got the most hits after bruising his nads?  They are hoping it’ll happen again.”

“I dunno, love.” I scratch at my scruffy chin. “We’ve got enough enemies running around without Joe being on that list…again.”

“I would say X being an asshole ex, but I think he’s too tied up with Baby Lex to worry about our lives anymore.”

“We’re not even on his radar anymore.  Murphy’s either.  It’s sad actually….”

“We’ve all… changed the past couple of years.”  She shrugged again.  “Lord knows we’re not the same people we were before.”

“Yeah, you’re right.  Maybe we need to find a new family…”

“Do we really need a BIGGER family?” 

The remainder of the flight, Allison never left my side.  We talked about how fast the twins were growing up, and how today’s business was far more accommodating to those with families than it was when she was growing up in the business.  I know that when she was really little, Allie rarely saw her dad.  He was traveling the world making a name for himself before he was able to really be father to her.  That’s one thing we never wanted for the twins.  

COMPOUND’S PRIVATE AIRSTRIP
Parts Unknown, Wisconsin, U.S.

After touching down, I remembered that I’d had the Monte Carlo driven over for me.  There were three brand spanking new blacked out Escalades waiting for the rest of the family, but I needed the thrill of being behind the wheel.  Working for FIGHT, we spent so much time in Manhattan and traveling elsewhere, I wasn’t able to get my octane fix.  So anytime we came home, I made sure to get behind the wheel as often as possible.

I got out ahead of the convoy and was really able to open her up.  Over 1,000 horsepower, completely custom built by me, Murphy and Kal, this kitten was ready to roar like the big kitty she is.  Suddenly a phone call interrupts my me-time, the heads up display on the windshield indicates a Facetime request from Denzel Porter.

Tapping the Call button on the steering wheel, I accept the call, projecting Denzel onto the windshield “Mr. Porter, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Who do I have the privilege of speaking to, Dane or Fix?”

I couldn’t help chuckling at that, even poor Denzel already knows to ask which one of my personalities he’s talking to.  I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing.  “You’ve got Dane…”

“Looks like you’re getting an octane fix right now.  I’ll try to keep it brief.  I was hoping to get your thoughts on your match with The Comedian Allen Chaney.” He pauses and I can see him flipping through what I can only surmise to be his notes. “After your match on Venom 18, an unknown voice accused you of being guilty.  Then before you could step into the ring with Sebastian Everett Bryce, Chaney reveals himself as the man rendering that guilty judgment as he proceeds to attack you with a chair. Chaney targeted you. What do you have to say in response?”

“Let’s consider the facts.  Blood Money rankings.  Warstein and Watson are tied up with one another.  They are 1 and 2 on the rankings, remember who #3 is?”

“That would be you, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Bingo, and I have no dance partner this season.  So if you’re coming into a new promotion, and you want to make a name for yourself, who do you go after?”

“A main event caliber talent with no opponent, such as yourself.”

“Exactly.  Now, I can’t fault Chaney.  He did exactly what I would do in his place; make a statement and find a way to position myself where I will get as many eyes on me as possible.  Chaney was sending a message to me, Bryce and everyone else in FIGHT.  He inserted himself into the pecking order, jumping a number of talents in line in the process.”

“This is very true.  So, it doesn’t bother you?”

“I didn’t say it doesn’t bother me, I simply said I can’t blame the guy.” I take a deep breath as I downshift to ease into a series of hairpin curves. “Of course it fucking bothers me.  You don’t walk into my house and disrespect me that way without me getting some retribution.  Like I told that goof on Twitter, he’s got a receipt coming his way.”

“Sounds like you’re motivated.  What do you think about your odds?”

“I never think about the odds.  Statistics are not infallible.  Everyone is capable of becoming a victim of defeat, no one is unbeatable.  To your previous statement, you’re godsdamned right I’m motivated, Denzel.  I don’t think I’ve been this motivated in a while.  See, since I damn near died in the Tower, people haven’t been taking me seriously.  I’ve suffered a handful of preventable losses.  They no longer see me as a threat.  And I aim to make people realize just how foolish a mistake that is to make.  If nothing else, I should be thanking Chaney right now.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I’ve been off course since that godsdamned Tower collapsed on me, nearly killing me in the process.  Ever since then, I’ve felt like nothing more than a ship adrift, rudderless with no destination in sight.  Now, well, now I couldn’t be more focused.  See, Chaney isn’t some hack coming in here looking to fight on the undercard or midcard.  No, he’s been in this business for a few years, he knows how to market himself on social media, and from what I’ve heard about him, he knows how to throw down in a fight.”

“With one action, Allen Chaney has firmly planted himself in my sights.  The last person I was this focused on was Joe Montuori.  And the world knows how that one ended, with my hand raised high.  JMont and I wound up carrying OPW into FIGHT and we were THEE feud to keep your eyes on.  It just makes me wonder if Allen is capable of bringing the caliber of fight that JMont did.”

“That was a very personal rivalry, you and JMont.”

“You can’t target someone one over the course of two shows, then take them out with a steel chair and expect them not to take it personally.  Like I said, Chaney did exactly what I would have done.  But I would have gone into that attack with the mindset that the person I’m taking out is going to retaliate.  And I truly believe Chaney took me out with the exact same mindset.  Otherwise why attack me?  You know what I mean?”

“Yes, I do.”

“This is no different than a prison yard survival strategy.  Take out one of the biggest and the baddest in the yard and people won’t fuck with you.  Creator knows I was in enough of those brawls while I was behind bars.” I can feel Fix fighting me.  He has something on his mind…

“Don’t fight us, Dane.” My head starts pounding, I close my eyes for the briefest of moments and try to shake it off.  When I came to, it was obvious I was no longer the one behind the wheel…both mentally and physically.  For a split second I lose control of the car before Fix acclimates himself to being behind the wheel.

“Dane, are you okay?”

“Well if it ain’t our favorite intrepid reporter Denzellllllllll POOORTER.  Hey, Porter the Reporter… You should put that on a tee shirt, we’d rock the fuck outta that to the ring.”

“Hello Fix, I assume you’ve got something that you’d like to add?”

One thing we learned early on, Fix has all my driving skills, so I wasn’t too concerned when he punched the throttle. “You betcher sweet ass, we have something to add.  We don’t agree with Dane about much, but on this we can agree, Allen Chaney came here with the intent to put himself in the spotlight, while standing on our neck.  That is something that we just cannot allow.  He came in here looking to make a statement and at the same time, he prevented us from getting our hands on Seabass for sticking his nose where it does not belong.”

“I take it you’re referring to the social media beef with you and Thaddeus Duke over Sahara?”

“You must have been a carpenter in a past life, Denzel, because you just hit the nail on the head.”

“And would you like to touch on Mrs. Duke for a moment…”

“HAHAHAHA!  Would we EVER.  But rest assured Denzel, we’d like to touch on her for more than a moment.  We’d love to touch on her as much as we possibly can.  Her, Allison and our beautiful Bella.  We love all of our women and wish Sahara had never left us…”

“So it’s safe to say you have feelings for Lauren Duke?”

“Is it THAT obvious Denzel?  OF COURSE WE DO!  Like we’ve said time and time again, it’s us that jumped her bones, not the boyscout Dane.  We’ve had a thing for her since EWA, but we are married and didn’t act upon it until the Love Square debacle with that fuckin’ Meatbol Montuori.  But let us be clear, we love our wife and girlfriend, just don’t be fooled, Allison has feelings for Sahara too.  Had our favorite Peroxide Princess stuck around long enough to discuss how all parties felt about one another, we wouldn’t be in this fucking mess.  There would be no Lauren Duke.” 

Fix starts to wince repeatedly and it looks like he’s winking at Denzel, but it’s really because he’s fighting against me as I try to regain control. “We’re not done yet, dammit!”

“The hell you’re not!” I slammed the brakes on and pulled off the road. “You want some #BREAKINGNEWS, Denzel?  Well, here’s the scoop of a fucking lifetime!”

It took everything I could muster not pounding the steering wheel into a fucking pretzel, especially with Fix egging me on inside my head.  Instead I let out the most guttural scream I could, so loud and gravelly that it left my throat feeling dry and hoarse afterwards.  “I’m so fucking sick and tired of being overlooked in this company.  From OPW to FIGHT, I busted my fucking ass.  My marriage was tested in ways I can’t even begin to explain and none of it was for ratings, not on my part.  That was as real as it gets, and FIGHT cashed the fuck in on the drama and controversy…” I grabbed my phone as I got out of the car and started pacing back and forth, no doubt looking like a fucking lunatic.

“You couldn’t browse the web, go to YouTube or turn on the television without hearing about Dane Preston, Joe Montuori, Allison Riggs-Preston and Sahara.  We practically carried this godsdamned company into relevancy.  While I know good and godsdamned well that it was no walk in the park for the staff dealing with me behind the scenes, I still swallowed my fucking pride, went out there and did my godsdamned job…You know who else went out there and did his fucking job?”

“Brandon Moore, my brother in arms, a man who I’ve both loved and hated, broke bread with, spilt blood with, has walked away from this company and left me asking why.  Another man I’ve come to know, in ways I never expected to, fucking Meatbol Montuori, is wallowing in obscurity here, while drawing in crowds as large as some of the featured dancers at the Velvet Rabbit and a literal force to be reckoned with on social media.  But here, in the company we helped build, he’s been reduced to a fucking clown.  We’ve been reduced to nothing more than punch lines and punching bags.  All for what?”

I ALMOST DIED FOR YOU!

“A cage fucking fell on top of me after one of the most devastatingly, embarrassing defeats in my career, and then the building started exploding and collapsing around me, covering me in debris.  Sure, Xavier was there to pull me out of the rubble.  But where was he before all of that?  And where the fuck has he been since?  A fucking threesome match with my wife and girlfriend was supposed to be some kind of fucking gift?  All the while he, his brother, and his squirrelly brained sister in law – whom I love to no end – make fun of me for it at the same time?”

“I am so godsdamned sick and tired of dumb motherfuckers thinking they have any idea what’s going on inside my head.  Thinking they know what I’m going through.  I mean, seriously.  Why the fuck would I intentionally humiliate myself by acting like a fucking knob…  All for ratings?  To be subjected to the ridicule of twats like Thaddeus Duke and Sebastian Everett Bryce, who are nothing more than carbon copies of Bruce Wayne with the charisma of a cumrag.  To be a punchline for one of Allen Chaney’s jokes as he’s teeing off on my head with a steel chair?”

“To cap it off, someone I gave a shit about decided to turn her back on me, because she thrives on instant gratification, and wasn’t patient enough for things to develop naturally, respectfully. It wasn’t enough that I gave into feelings I shouldn’t have that one fateful night, she wanted me to flaunt it in front of my wife and girlfriend.  As if the wounds of betrayal weren’t still fresh and bloody.”

“From EWA to this day, yeah, I still fucking care about her and wish she’d have stuck around long enough to see where WE would have been today.  Allison wanted to be with her just as much as I did, but we just…wanted to do things the right way.  I carried her damn near lifeless body to the infirmary, Allison and I took turns checking in on her everyday.  She couldn’t even do the same for me when I nearly died.  And still, I fucking care…”

“Amidst all of this, trying to find my purpose again, trying to course correct while my peers are leaving, and my personal life is being made a mockery of, my path has me in Allen Chaney’s crosshairs.  He wants to be a funny man, well I hope he’s as good at fighting as he is clowning around. My mentor always used to tell his opponents to BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.  I like to say FUCK AROUND, FIND OUT.  At Venom, I aim to misbehave.  I aim to make sure Allen Chaney realizes the error of his ways.  I am not the man he should have gone after.  He wanted to send a message and make an example out of me.  Well, turnabout is fair play.  Because when it’s all said and done, I will have made an example out of HIM. You don’t walk into another man’s home, disrespect him and act like you fucking own the place.  Any other questions, Denzel?”

“I honestly don’t know what I just witnessed, but gahdamn.  That’s some damn good #BREAKINGNEWS!”

“Well then, go on and break the news…”

I hung up with Denzel and paced back and forth a bit more.  I may very well have signed my own death wish or handed FIGHT staff a lit bomb.  At this point I don’t know which.  All I know is that I need to get to the Compound.  But I was in no condition to drive, not with my emotions being a jumbled mess and Fix fighting me for control.  So I called Allie.

“Hey babe, are you already home?” 

“Things with Fix are getting worse.”

“What do you mean?  Are you okay?” In the background I hear Bella chime in. “What’s going on? Is Dane alright?

“I’m okay, it’s just getting harder and harder to maintain control when Fix imposes his will.  We almost crashed on the way home.”

“We’ll be right there.”

After the girls picked me up, Bella drove the Monte Carlo back to the Compound, and Allison reminded me that we had dinner plans with Joe and Mia at the Empire Room tomorrow evening.  I began to object, but Allie reminded me that we needed to ensure the two of them could work together, and dinner was the start of that.

Despite my hesitation to go to this dinner, I was comfortable at the Empire Room.  The next day we took a short flight from Wisconsin to New Jersey and a chopper hop to Manhattan and we were back in the premier adult entertainment destination in all of New York.  After being led to our table, Allie and I were in mid-conversation at our private table when Shaun, the head waiter, walked toward us with Mia and Joe in tow.

“Fuck, here we go.” Allie turned her head toward them as they approached. “Mia, Joe… so glad you could join us.  You’ve got that radiant pregnant glow kickin’,” She said to Mia and then looked at Joe. “I didn’t think you were going to show up.”

“REALLY? You know damn well I HAD to come and that a certain someone,” Joe looks at Mia with a smirk. “said that our reservations were CONFIRMED. Happy WIFE, is a happy LIFE. YES I SAID THAT!”

“Shame you didn’t worry about me being a happy WIFE last year.” Allie paused for a moment as I took her by the elbow and gave it a squeeze. This was supposed to be a time for talking about their upcoming tag team match up. “My bad.. That’s not why we’re here, please, let’s all have a seat.”

“Thank you, Allie.” Mia said as she nudges Joe with her elbow.

“Yes, thank you, Allie.” Joe mumbles under his breath. “Let her try to kick me in the balls again and see what happens.”

“Don’t give her any reason to, and we’ll be just fine.”

Joe stands up, looks at me and starts to laugh. “She can try, but this time, she can’t blindside me. I got a foolproof plan.”  Joe unbuttons his jacket, as the three of us look on in confusion.  With dramatic emphasis, Joe rears his arm back and then taps his midsection a few times, where a hollow knock can be heard.  “I’m prepared for anything your crazy ass wife is going to try tonight. You forget I was an all state baseball player and I had to dig through some old boxes in storage but I found my MVP baseball cup.  SO HA!”

“You don’t have to worry about your ball sack tonight, Joe.  You’re here at the Rabbit, in the Empire Room no less,  and I respect my aunt’s ability to kick my ass if I start a fight here.  Even though she’s beating up every damned body on Friday nights, or so I’ve heard.  Although truthfully, Joe.” Allison looked him in the eye, a serious look in her cold steel blue eyes. “You’re the only one who REALLY starts fights here.”

“Let’s just get this dinner over with before I start a FIGHT according to Allison over there. As a matter of fact, Shaquille better be getting that PIZZA for me.”

“Don’t get your panties in a wad, Joe.” Allison chuckles as she takes a seat at the table, two members of the wait staff come over with glasses of water and menus.  “You might want to give us a moment, but I can tell you some breadsticks will be wanted.”

“Breadsticks? I thought this was the Empire Room, not Pizza Hut.”

“Are you the only italian that doesn’t eat breadsticks with their pasta?”

“I figured this was the almighty EMPIRE ROOM that everyone brags about. Where is the shrimp, the antipasto skewers, blini with caviar. I mean come on now. “

“Talking about the Empire Room like that is not going to get you a membership.  And weren’t you talking about seeing if Voo will let you host the Gender Reveal here?  Tsk, tsk.”

My eyes went wide as I quickly sipped my water.  Joe is not doing himself any favors here.

“Voo will not SAY NO to MIA for starters. And secondly, anytime I have an event here, it’s a CASH COW. I mean Elon Musk and Mark Cuban showed up for Mia’s birthday party here. So it’s safe to say, the party is on. You guys are more than welcome to come as well.”

“I’ve watched my aunt say no to everyone at some point in time in my life.  I assure you, if YOU piss her off, she will say no to MIA.” Allison smiles and shrugs her shoulders. “Call it a hunch, a feeling I get in the pit of my stomach.”

“I will make sure this Gender Reveal/Godparents announcement party happens. Mia deserves this and we want to surprise 4 people with being a big part of this as well.”

“Are they always like this?” Mia asks as she looks at me. “Like how are you two supposed to work together if you can’t even carry on a civil conversation?  For fucks sake.”

“Easy Mia baby. Don’t need you stressing right now.”

“Then stop with all this.” She waves her hands a little bit.  “Cause this is stressing me.”

Joe looks at Mia with a face that he knows he did something wrong. “I’m sorry. Let’s just carry on this dinner and TRY TO GET ON THE SAME PAGE. But, I just don’t know if I can TRUST her at this time.”

“Oh, that’s funny, especially with you being besties with our opponents.”

“YES, they are 2 of my best friends. I didn’t ask for this shit. I’m trying to go into the sunset and enjoy my future with Mia and the baby. I didn’t ask to fight them. I didn’t ask to team with you. I didn’t even ask for a damn match. In a few weeks, my contract is up and I already said I’m GONE.”

“So, with our opponents being your bestie, do you see where I might be a little concerned?  Especially with the way things ended the last time we teamed up?  I am just trying to make sure that YOU are not going to try to return the favor.”

Looking at me, Joe asks, “No fuckin way……Allison has balls?”

“She did fuck you, takes a woman with big ass balls to do that…” I look over at Mia. “No disrespect intended. “

“None taken.”

“Besides, you should know how big my balls are…” Allison smirked. “Since I had them on your face.”

“Jeezus…” Mia choked on her water.  She grabbed the napkin and wiped her mouth, trying hard to conceal the smirky smile on her face.  She had to hand it to Allie, that was a good one, Joe walked straight into that one with both feet.

Joe reaches for his cellphone and starts looking something up. “Well, I don’t have any AMAZON orders coming this week according to my PRIME account. The last one I had, I couldn’t return because it was damaged goods.” Joe looks right at Allison after another smart ass comment.

“So, you take a woman and damage her and try to get rid of her.” Allison looks Mia dead in the eyes. “Girl, you better not sign no prenup.”

“I swear to God!” Mia slams both her hands down on the table. “Both of you stop this bickering shit right now or I am walking out of here.” She looked at Joe and narrowed her eyes. “And you will be sleeping on the couch.”

“Now you see what you did Allison?” Joe quipped.

“Oh no, you don’t.  You don’t get to blame it all on her.” Mia fired back.

“All I did was want to talk to you and find out a few things.  You’re the one all slick at the mouth.  You can ask Dane.  I wanted no fighting, just talking.”

Joe checked his phone, “Mia babe, Austin is here and wants to have a drink. Can i be excused just for a few minutes, I’ll be right back.”

“So we’re not good enough for your undivided attention?” I asked.

“You want the honest truth Dane? Last time I saw you, you had a good laugh. The last tweet you typed, you were praying the baby is a girl so I can feel all this pain and wrath you mentioned. So yeah, I’m a little on the edge right now.  Austin has been there for me when I was done and when Mia was gone. So yeah, this is going to be difficult for me.”

“That wasn’t a laugh at your expense, that was the Universe punishing you for your past mistakes.”

“Will the three of you stop and just talk?  No, Joe, you can’t leave.  Not until we’re done here.”

“It won’t take long.” Allison clenched her teeth and caught her Riggs’ rage about to come up. “All I want to know is… do you have my back in this match?  Once we’ve talked about that, you can go drink with Austin all you want to.”

“Your back?” Joe fights the urge to fire back with another witty retort out of fear of pissing off Allison or Mia. “As much as it pains me to say this………If i have to JKO Austin and Toddy, then so be it. I want to WIN.”

“Good, so do I.”  Allie smiled a little bit. “Although, I will admit, I am going to talk to Miss F about having Dane around close by, just in case.

“Why do you need Dane around when this match has nothing to do with him? If anything, I need to watch my back. I got 2 of my best friends wanting to make a NAME for themselves, and then Serotonin who is talking all this negotiation stuff, but I already shut that down.”

“You said it in 6 words: Got two of my best friends.  Who’s to say you and your besties won’t team together for some pay back?”

“Toddy and Austin aren’t like that. The OLD J MONT would def plan something like that, but i’m a changed man.” Slight pause. “OK, a work in progress, but you can ask MIA. I’m not the same guy I was when we had our thing going on.”

“I know you’re not going to believe me, but he really does feel bad about what he did to you, what he did to both of you.  It took him finding me, to really realize that.  I know me saying that doesn’t make up for what he did; nor do I ever expect you all to forgive him and forget it, because I know I wouldn’t if I was in your shoes.  But you all do have a match coming up, and you all do have to work together if you want to win this match.”

“I’m on the outside looking in here Mia, but you have to understand that there are years of bad blood between the Riggs and Montuori families.  Then you factor in what went down between all of us.  We can’t snap our fingers and make everything okay.  Wounds will heal with time and care.”

Joe stands up, looks around the area, then back at Mia, and then towards Dane and Allison.

“Real talk. We do have some crazy ass history, don’t we?  More downs than ups, but one thing you have to know about me. I HATE LOSING. And deep down, as much as I don’t want to say this, you need to hear this. I’m truly SORRY again for all the shit that went down. Like Mia stated, it was a wake up call once we sat down and talked about everything. So, I want you both to know, I’ll be there in Allison’s corner and I’ll have her back 100 percent. I mean, if you think about it, it’s kinda crazy people are underestimating us right now. We were the first ever Island Champions, and somehow, me and Dane won Toxic Tag Wars II, so maybe, just maybe I know how to work with a Riggs and a Preston.

“Just remember, that without a Riggs or a Preston, your chances of winning are drastically lower.”

“They are.” Allison says as she smirks at Joe. “Imagine how crazy it would be if we do what we do best and win?  Alright, Joe, let’s go out there and prove them all wrong, that we can put aside the bullshit just long enough to fill the arena and win a match.  You can go meet up with Austin now.”

I’m not.  I am sitting right here and eating.  Might be the last chance.” She eyed Joe.  “Cause someone can’t stop making VooDoo mad to where he can get a membership.

“Someone get VooDoo here right now. I have an important question to ask her.”

Joe isn’t about to leave now. He has a mission in mind and wont leave till it’s accomplished.

“Dude, it’s Friday night, she’s a busy woman and I am pretty sure that JMont is the least of her worries tonight.”

“Can someone just please get her. I promise I am not wasting your time or her time. I need to get Friday night reserved for a special occasion that means the world to me and my future wife.”

“I’ll tell you what Joe, you do the honorable thing, have my wife’s back like a legit partner would, and Allie and I will talk to Candice for you next week.”

“I can live with that and don’t forget. You, Allison and Damon are invited too.”

The rest of the dinner was pleasant.  I’d already ordered dry aged Wagyu steaks for the table, an Empire Room specialty.  Allison told Mia about the buffalo chicken lollipops and how good they were as Joe gushed about his steak to Dane.  To the untrained eye, it looked like the four of us were friends enjoying a dinner together, but in reality, it was far from that.  After dinner we said our goodbyes, Allie and Mia actually hugged one another and exchanged contact info.  Joe and I shook hands before we went our separate ways.  Once we were sure they were out of earshot…

“I don’t care if he has your back or not, I’m not bugging Voo to get him into the Empire Room.  She already threatened to castrate the next stupid motherfucker that comes to her about it…”

And with that we laughed harder than we’ve laughed in a long time.  Things were starting to feel like they used to…

“Not for long motherfucker…”