CH. 03 – Mistletoe (Origins Revisited)

By: James Raven

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 4th Dec 2021

XWF COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

DECEMBER, 2007

“It’s not Christmas if the snow don’t fall
And I’m still standing here three feet small
Lose our troubles because after all
It’s Christmas time…”

  • Colbie Caillat, “Mistletoe”

The room is bright and festive, illuminated in the glow of red and green tree lights strung across the ceiling overhead. Seasonal music blasts from sizable speakers in the corner, battling to be heard over the clinking of cocktail glasses and the booming laughter and merriment of the XWF roster. Waitresses and busboys weave through the havoc expertly to collect abandoned bottles and highballs, even taking their lives into their own hands as they drop below the crowd to wipe spills off the floor while praying they aren’t trampled.

James Raven stands quietly in the corner, wide eyed as he surveyed the landscape before him. He was in shock. He had never been in a room with this many faces he had seen on television before. He could see Centurion sitting across the room holding court, and Heather Halliwell posted up in a corner while men gawked and drooled in a semi-circle around her.

He looks around for any sign of Fuzz, but he’s noticeably absent. This probably isn’t his type of scene.

SERVER
Ready for a real drink, or are you still nursing that ginger ale?

James is startled, having not heard anyone sidle up to him over the loud music. He turns awkwardly and shakes his head politely.

JAMES
No thanks. I’m 17.

SERVER
It’s a private party, man. Nobody is going to say anything. You look lonely as hell and honestly, it’s depressing me while I work.

JAMES
I just don’t know anyone. My brother works with them, and HE barely knows most of them. I’m sure they’re all cool, but I don’t really want to force my way into a conversation with any of them and make it weird, you know? Do you think I should try?

The server shifts uncomfortably from side to side, clearly not wanting to be pulled into a serious conversation.

SERVER
Hey man, do you want a drink or not?

JAMES
… no thanks.

The server quickly meanders away from James, his tray held high above his head as he disappears into the crowd. James sighs and sets his half empty/half full soda down on a nearby table and heads for the back entrance. 

This is weird. He shouldn’t have come here. This wasn’t a regular party where he could blend in and mingle, this was a room full of superstars! Of professional wrestlers at the top of their sport! Nobody wanted to talk to the underage brother of TJ Raven, one of the newest and least relevant names on the roster. James storms through the door and out of the space, the warm tones of Colbie Caillat fading as he makes his way down a flight of stairs and down a short hallway towards the parking lot. 

A wave of cool air washes over his face as he steps outside, and he stops to enjoy it. He closes his eyes and sniffs the crisp and cold air into his lungs, the deep breath steadying his nerves and easing his social anxiety. 

James opens his eyes, noticing a familiar face standing amidst the cars and staring back at him. Long dark hair hangs around his face as he takes a swig from a small silver flask, black duster jacket dangling above the icy concrete and swaying around his knees with each movement. He stares at James for a long moment, then motions him over. 

James makes his way slowly across the pavement, lifting his collar around his neck as he walks through the blustery winds. 

JAMES
There you are, T.J. I was starting to think you’d left. 

T.J.
I think I’m ready to. 

He holds the flask out to James, who slowly takes it and sips cautiously. Vodka. Disgusting. He tries not to make a face as he hands the flask back and swallows.

But it helps him feel warm…

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

FIGHT! NYC COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY
NEW YORK, NEW YORK

DECEMBER, 2021

“Word on the street, Santa’s coming tonight
Reindeer’s flying through the sky so high
I should be making a list, I know
But I’ma be under the mistletoe”

  • Justin Bieber, “Mistletoe”

The room is dark and hazy, festive lanterns and salt lamps scattered across the space that cause shadows to dance across the surfaces. A small booth is set up in the corner, a DJ bobbing his head along with his terrible song choice and oblivious to the room’s lack of interest. Justin Bieber? Really? Mariah Carey, sure. Michael Buble, fine. But in this, the seasonal celebration of our lord and saviour corporate America, you choose to subject the FIGHT! NYC roster and staff to Justin Bieber? Shame to you, sir. 

Shame…

James Raven battles his way out of the crowd to the bar, practically gasping for breath after being mobbed by production staff telling him how happy they were when he signed with the company and new co-workers that were all eager to smile to his face and shake his hand, while waiting for an opportunity to stab him in the back. He was the belle of the ball, the shiny new toy everyone wanted their chance to play with in hopes that he wouldn’t suddenly weaponize against them. He takes a deep breath and surveys the room. He could see Centurion sitting across the room holding court, and Betsy Granger posted up in a corner winking at him while men gawked and drooled in a semi-circle around her.

He looks around for any sign of Shawn Warstein, but he’s noticeably absent. This probably isn’t his type of scene. He’s found a quiet corner somewhere, if he’s here at all.

BARTENDER
Holy shit, it’s The G.O.A.T.! Big fan, man. What can I get ya?

James is startled, having been too distracted by Biebers awful lyrics to notice anyone slide up behind him. He spins around gracefully and shakes his head.

G.O.A.T.
No thanks. I’m driving.

BARTENDER
Get an uber, dude. Or find someone here to bring you back to wherever you’re going. I’m sure plenty of people would. It’s a party, relax and enjoy it!

G.O.A.T.
I don’t think I’m going to stay much longer. I’m not really sure how much a lot of these people really like me, you know? I feel like they’re all just sizing me up, waiting for their chance to separate me from the pack and gang up on me. It’s strange. Tough to relax when it feels like there’s a dozen target scopes dancing on your back. Am I reading too much into things?

The bartender shifts his weight from foot to foot awkwardly, clearly not prepared to be pulled into this level of discourse.

BARTENDER
Hey man, do you want a drink or not?

G.O.A.T.
… no thanks.

The bartender quickly meanders away from James, focusing on Chris Page at the opposite end of the rail, no doubt ordering a bottle of the bubbly. James sighs and heads for the back entrance. 

This is weird. He shouldn’t have come here. He didn’t know these people well enough to mingle and set aside some of what was going on in the ring or the locker rooms. He felt tension rising with every interaction, and there weren’t enough friendly faces for him to talk to so that he could relieve some of the pressure. Like the company chat server, he’d remove himself from the equation to keep the peace.

James storms through the door and out of the space, the whiny wailing of Justin Bieber fading as he makes his way down a flight of stairs towards the parking lot. Snowfall greets him, flakes falling silently from the sky and landing atop his head. He takes a deep breath, exhaling and watching the vapor swirl out of his lips and towards the dark sky. 

He scans the parking lot, suddenly noticing a familiar face standing next to a classic El Dorado and staring back at him. Piercing eyes study James from head to toe, lip curled to a near snarl as tattooed hands lift a small silver flask to his mouth for a deep swig. James stands completely still, his face calm and confident as he lets the man size him up. Finally James winks, and blows the dark and handsome stranger a kiss. The man shakes his head, but raises a hand and motions for James to join him.

James lifts a collar around his neck as he makes his way through the snowfall to the car.

G.O.A.T.
There you are, Vincent. I thought you’d left or something. 

PHREEQ
I think I’m ready to. 

He holds the flask out to James, who graciously takes it from him, but sips cautiously. Vodka. Disgusting. He tries not to make a face as he hands the flask back and swallows.

But it helps him feel warm…

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

*sigh*

I’m not going to lie, this is starting to get a little tiresome. It’s nothing against any roster member individually, and I can see what the booking department is trying to do… but seriously? You’re really going to make me wipe out an entire wing of your roster before giving anyone else a chance?

Isn’t this starting to feel repetitive to the rest of you? Isn’t it starting to feel hollow and unoriginal? 

I can see where this is going. From Allison to Dane, from Dane to Sahara… next I’ll find myself staring down Ricky, and then I’ll be taking on MRS. CATHERINE RODRIGUEZ and searching desperately for new words to explain the same premises, for new parries with which to counter the same old tired jabs you’ve each been recycling against me.

I get it, kids; you think I’m overrated. I understood when ARP said it first. I was hardly confused when two weeks later Dane hopped on the mantra as if it was his own and repeated it ad nauseum in an attempt to convince people that he’s ever had an original thought. Don’t think that I’m insulting any of you for this, by the way; I know how incestious your little circle is, so why wouldn’t I expect you guys to pass around the same insults like you would a communal tissue box or Danes wife? 

You’ll find fifteen hundred words and seven minutes of screen time to rant and rave about me, but at the end of the day you’re all only saying one thing… you don’t believe I’m as good as people say I am… but even you don’t believe that, or eventually you’d stop targeting me.

I live rent free in the heads of a stable that shall not be named, because they’re not allowed to exist due to me. I live rent free for one reason, and one reason only. I’m EXACTLY what I say I am, and they all know it. They know it because all of their peers admitted it the day I signed with this company. They know it because the people that sign their paychecks have featured me more in a month than they’ve featured Allison since the birth of this company, and because their fearless leader dig deeper than he has in years and threw EVERYTHING he had at me and it still wasn’t e-fucking-nough. They know it because for every ONE Druscilla White that will back them up, there are a dozen Atara Themis’, Alice Knight’s, Finn Whelan’s or Sebastian Bryce’s that will tell them to sit the fuck down and bite their tongue before they get themselves hurt.

I am exactly what I say I am. 

I AM better than Allison, or Dane, or even fuckin’ Sahara… no matter how much it drives you all crazy to hear me say it. Do you know how I know? Because talk is cheap… it’s our actions that speak volumes about how different we are, and your actions are those of a pack of cowardly cunts. 

There’s an insecurity that comes with backstage attacks and in-ring interference, and a weakness that’s shown with each and every temper tantrum each of you throws when things don’t go your way. 

You’re afraid of me. 

You’re afraid of me just like you’re afraid of Shawn and Dickie. Just like you’re afraid of the rest of #NSQ and what it represents for the delicate little ecosystem you had all built for yourselves, away from the rest of the industry and the people that were capable and confident in kicking down your doors and skull fucking you dumb twats into submission.

Sorry. 

Was that too much? As it was coming out of my mouth, I felt like it was too much. 

My point stands. As the kids say, none of you really wanted this smoke and as each week passes and another one of you falls you get more and more desperate to claw back an advantage no matter how small.

I don’t do any of that. I don’t bitch and moan, and I don’t cut corners. I certainly don’t let my confidence shatter with one loss and rely on the same level of emotional caretaking you kids do. I don’t walk around the locker room asking the roster for talking points to build my promo around, and I don’t go running to a new company when a few new faces show up in mine and make my job a little harder.

I just beat whiny, cheap shotting, unfaithful, snakes in the grass like you…

… and people love me for it. 

That’s how I know I’m better than you. 

That’s how I continue to prove it each and every week. 

Lauren can say anything she wants this week, but talk is cheap. She can’t back it up like I can. 

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

XWF COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
DECEMBER, 2007

TJ takes the flask back from his brother, tucking it safely into the inner pocket of his jacket before turning to climb inside their car.

JAMES
You can’t leave yet, the parties just getting started. These are your people now, remember?

TJ chuckles.

TJ
Not yet. Maybe someday. They may be your people someday too.

James bursts out laughing. The thought seems foreign if not absurd. TJ is stone faced.

TJ
No. Seriously. I’ve shown the XWF staff some of your basketball tapes, and some of the wrestling in high school before you quit. You’re an athlete, they can see that, and you’re going to have to find something to do now that you moved out of dads place. I’m not around enough, and they don’t pay me enough to bring you on the road every week and pay for your ass. You’re going to have to figure out a way to support yourself, and trying your hand in the ring is as good a place to start as any.

James stops laughing, his expression suddenly as serious as his brothers tone. He couldn’t tell if this was sincere, or another of his brothers “hysterical” jokes. 

JAMES
I’m not going to be a wrestler, TJ. Let that go. We’re never going to be the flying Raven brothers and challenge for a bunch of tag team belts or whatever you’re imagining.

TJ shrugs casually.

TJ
Never say never, little brother. Things need to change for us, and it’s on the horizon. I can feel it… and when it comes we both need to be ready to embrace it. 

James swallows nervously before pressing for more detail.

JAMES
What- what do you mean?

TJ can hear the uncomfortable stammer in his brother’s voice, and smiles reassuringly.

TJ
Relax. I’m not talking about the end of the world or anything. I’m just talking about being aware of what’s happening around us, and being adaptable. I’m talking about making educated and intelligent decisions, and putting ourselves in the best possible position to succeed. That’s all.

James nods his head slowly, mostly to pacify his brother and push the conversation along to a new topic… but he can’t think of one. He stands uncomfortably in the cold, shuffling his weight from one foot to the other and trying to stifle his uncontrollable shivering.

TJ notices the trembling and reaches back inside his jacket for the silver flask, offering it to James once more. James shakes his head. His head was already swimming with everything he’d seen and heard tonight… he didn’t need to layer inebriation atop ignorance and inexperience.

JAMES
… change… 

TJ nods.

TJ
There are two types of people in this business, buddy… hell, in the world. There are the people that make things happen, and the people that things happen to. Never let yourself fall into that second group. Never let the world that you live in be shaped by the ambition of someone else. Create what you want to see in the world. BE the change.

TJ studies James carefully as the younger brother continues to ponder carefully, the message a bit clearer now than before. TJ sighs audibly. James had something that TJ and most of the XWF roster didn’t, he had a little something special inside of him that couldn’t be taught at any wrestling school. He could be a superstar. He could be a global icon, and a national treasure.

He just had to want it, like TJ did, and the world would be his oyster.

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

FIGHT! NYC COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
DECEMBER, 2021

Vincent Black takes the flask back from James, wiping off the mouthpiece on his shirt before tucking it safely into the inner pocket of his jacket and spinning around to climb inside the classic El Dorado.

G.O.A.T.
You can’t leave yet, the party’s just getting started. These are your people, remember?

Vincent says nothing, and eyes the promotional newcomer carefully. Was that supposed to be some sort of wiseass remark? The same sort of subtle sniper shot that had driven Dane Preston and his wife to their breaking point the past few weeks? New Status Quo had hardly been subtle about letting FIGHT’s old guard know that this was quickly becoming the territory of the new blood… but Vincent wasn’t going to stand here and have his nose rubbed in it by some smarmy, pretty-faced fuck.

PHREEQ
They’re your people now too. You should get back in there to them. 

James bursts out laughing. The thought seems foreign if not absurd. Vincent is stone faced.

PHREEQ
No. Seriously.

James stops laughing, his expression suddenly as serious as the tone of the industry icon that’s staring him down. He couldn’t tell if this was sincere, or some sort of joke that only Vincent and his dry but warped sense of humor found funny.

JAMES
I’m not going to be winning any popularity contests around here, Vin. You can go ahead and let that idea go right now. I’m not exactly expecting this roster to start rallying around me on social media or looking up to me as a locker room leader. I’m pretty sure 95% of me would prefer me gone, and wouldn’t bat an eye if I was suddenly dead.

Vincent Black shrugs casually.

PHREEQ
Never say never, “renegade”. Sometimes change is needed, and you and your friends have certainly provided plenty of it around here already. I’m sure there will be more, and eventually people may learn to appreciate you for it.

James nods slowly and thoughtfully before pressing for more detail.

JAMES
So you’re at least willing to admit that they hate me right now, then?

Vincent can hear the uncomfortable edge in James’ voice, and VERY nearly cracks a reassuring grin.

PHREEQ
I most certainly am, bird boy. I most certainly am.

The two stand in awkward silence for nearly a minute, each finding something in the distance to focus their attention on. Vincent sneaks another glance at Raven out of the corner of his eyes, soaking everything about the newcomer in carefully before averting his eyes again.

There was something about James Raven that needled at him, something about the entirety of the #NSQ faction if he was being totally honest. It wasn’t jealousy, but it was close. It wasn’t envy, but it was right up against that line in the sand. It wasn’t fear of whether or not he himself measured up to any of them… but it was at the very least a morbid flirtation with the topic.

Raven, Warstein, Watson; each of them had done something that The Phreeq had always struggled with. They had shown up, taken the sport by the throat and the company by the balls, been clear about what they wanted and tenacious about securing it. They had built an Empire, amassed armies of followers and never been shy about how they were received by their peers in the process.

It was admirable. It was aspirational.

G.O.A.T.
You good, Vin? You just got real quiet all of a sudden…

PHREEQ
Don’t call me “Vin”. We don’t know each other like that.

His words are cold, an icy tone that matches the frigid wind howling around them. 

James nods his head slowly, mostly to pacify his abrasive companion. He stands awkwardly in the cold, bouncing from side to side to try and hide his uncontrollable shivering.

Vincent notices the trembling and reaches back inside his jacket for the silver flask, offering it to James once more. James shakes his head graciously. He was already struggling to beat back the dark thoughts of isolation and loneliness. Getting shit housed in the parking lot before going inside and fulfilling his obligations as company Santa would probably not be his wisest decision.

G.O.A.T.
… sorry, Vincent. I didn’t mean anything by it. 

The Phreeq nods, and lets the tension drift away with the cool night air. He looks away from James and stares in the opposite direction across the parking lot, he didn’t need this. He didn’t need to be confronted by some spectre of what could have been; face to face with a man who had done all of the things that Vincent himself had never been willing to do when the time for change was thrust upon him.

Every time James, Shawn or Dickie shouted at the world to give them what they deserved; Vincent had bitten his tongue and retreated to the shadows. He had fallen ass backwards into every aspect of his life due to the actions of others, refusing to be the catalyst of change in his own circumstance. He lived at the mercy of other people’s choices and the ripple effect of their actions, and STILL he had survived. Fuck that! He had THRIVED!

… but there was something unfulfilling about knowing he’d gotten by on table scraps while others had loaded their plates and gone back for seconds or thirds.

PHREEQ
You know; there are two types of people. The ones that make things happen, and the ones things happen to.

James looks surprised, turning to study Vincent as thoroughly as The Phreeq had studied him just moments ago when their roles were reversed. 

G.O.A.T.
Yeah. My brother used to tell me the same thing. He said to be the change you wanted to see, and to never live in a world shaped by the ambition of others.

PHREEQ
… it’s good advice.

The two stand steeped in prolonged silence once more. Vincent sighs audibly. James had something that he himself and most of the FIGHT roster didn’t, he had a little something special inside of him that couldn’t be taught at any wrestling school. 

He was already a superstar. He had established himself as a global icon, and a national treasure. He could be the face of FIGHT.

He just had to want it, like Vincent always had, and the world would be his oyster.

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

Lauren MacKay is probably going to try and tell you all that I’ve slut shamed her. 

That’s not true. 

I MIGHT have at some point referred to her south mouth as a gaping maw or something, and I DEFINITELY let it be known that sleeping with Dane Preston was a mistake (not because he was married, so much as because he’s Dane fucking Preston)… but none of that was done explicitly to mock a woman and her sexual proclivities. It was done to mock her as a human being in general. 

I never slut shamed Lauren MacKay. I Sahara shamed her. 

I Sahara shamed her because from day one, she was a raging bitch who was unable to tell the difference between friendly introductory banter and a row in The Fifth Turnbuckle. She blurred lines in a ways that would make Robin Thicke blush and could not for a fucking second bite her goddamn tongue. 

I Sahara shamed her because she never considered giving me a chance, not for a second. Immediately I was the “minor leaguer”. I was Shawn Warstein’s butt buddy, his beard, his weaker half that had been carried through Project Honor and tried to hide in OCW under a management position because I couldn’t hack the real competition here. I Sahara shamed her because I know for a fact that she talked to OCW about dates, and because once I showed up here and won at Ascension, and beat her God-King Dane… she couldn’t admit that she might be wrong. 

She’ll disregard my win last Venom, she’ll probably say that a win over someone else doesn’t mean I can beat her, or some such thing… but in the same breath she’ll brag about beating Betsy as if that’s supposed to make me throw up my hands in defeat and concede. She’ll tell you I’m a garbage person, and not on her level… but what the fuck has she done since I’ve been here that I’m not capable of?

A dinosaur sat on her fucking face, people! Are we all pretending that didn’t happen to spare her feelings? She pulled some cowardly bullshit on Aiden Reynolds to try and get our attention, and then got dog walked around the ring when she had to face the music and give him a fair shake. She’s been a thorn in the side of Shawn, Dickie and Vincent Black because she’s a petulant fucking baby with a black hole in her soul that’s constantly sucking the attention of everyone around her because she can’t stand not being the central focus, even when she’s done nothing to earn it.

THIS. 

THIS is why I Sahara shame Lauren MacKay.

The constant need for validation, for a pat on the shoulder and a hug, for literally ANYONE to love you… I don’t think you know who you are without any of it, and you want so desperately for someone to show you, and to give you a purpose and to give you a home. It’s why you take everything everyone does as a personal slight against you, and why when you sit home at night you question whether everyone in this business hates you without ever acknowledging what you might have done to rub us the wrong way.

We’ve seen you run away from a company when things broke against you. We’ve seen you take your ball and go home when adversity struck and the losses piled up. You can’t stand to wake up in the morning and see a loser in your mirror, so you’d rather see an unemployed self imposed exile. You can’t stand to see someone single and unloved, so you’d rather see a home wrecker.

Sahara shame. 

I AM The People’s G.O.A.T., Lauren. It’s not just a cute monicker, it’s been earned through blood, sweat and tears. Dane knows it and so will you. You won’t beat me just because you’re a big broad that knows how to throw her body around like a lawn dart. I’ve seen it, and I’ve beaten it.

I’m better than you, and we all know it, but I expect your bravest face and wittiest insults. I expect you to dig deeper than you have in years, and when you fall short, maybe FINALLY you’ll believe everything I’ve been trying to tell you. 

Maybe you’ll actually apologize. 

LOL.

Fear the Raven… Forevermore.

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

XWF COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

DECEMBER, 2007

TJ reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out his car keys, the metallic jingle echoing through the parking lot. He wasn’t interested in stretching this conversation out any further, he had said what he needed to say and the future would take care of itself. Maybe James would take his advice and give this industry a shot someday, and maybe he wouldn’t… but TJ would have to take care of his own affairs for now.

He motions to the vehicle next to them.

TJ
C’mon. Jump in and let’s go home.

Quietly, James makes his way around the car to the passenger door and opens it. He slides into the seat, teeth still chattering loudly in the cold. He says nothing as TJ slides into the driver’s seat next to him.

JAMES
You’re not going to say goodbye to anybody? 

TJ
Nah. They’ll survive.

TJ fires up the engine, hot air blasting from the dashboard vents into their faces. He rubs his hands together to warm himself before turning a knob to defrost the windshield, looking towards his little brother who appears lost in thought.

TJ
You good?

JAMES
Did you really mean all that?

TJ
All what?

JAMES
Do you really think I could make it as a wrestler? Do you really think there could be a future in this for me?

TJ hides his smile, but nods his head without hesitation. 

TJ
Absolutely. You have no idea how good you’d be.

James slumps down in his seat, turning to look out of his window and hide a smile of his own.

JAMES
Well, I’m still not saying I want to do it. Let’s just see how the next few months go for you, I guess. 

TJ nods his head in agreement. Baby steps. All he had to do was get James’ foot in the door, and the rest would take care of itself.

TJ
Of course. Step by step, and one thing at a time. I’m proud of you. You’ve got to be the change you want to see, and this would be one hell of a change… I’ll be right beside you helping you navigate the waters the entire way.

JAMES
Promise? No matter what?

TJ
I promise. No matter what, I’ll be right behind you.

The two brothers pull out of the parking lot.

~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~ – ~

FIGHT! NYC COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTY
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
DECEMBER, 2021

Vincent reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out his car keys, the metallic jingle echoing through the parking lot. He wasn’t interested in stretching this conversation out any further, he had said what he needed to say. Anything more would be over sharing, toeing the line of adult male bonding… and that wasn’t something The Phreeq was looking for. 

Not with the G.O.A.T.

James Raven wasn’t his fucking friend, and New Status Quo wasn’t a goddamn social club. They were an obstacle in his way. A test that he knew he needed to pass in order to reaffirm to himself that he was everything he’d always believed that he was. Raven, Warstein and Watson had told the FIGHT! NYC that they were the alphas now, the new sheriffs in town… and sooner rather than later, Vincent was going to need to figure out how he fit into the world they were shaping.

But not now. 

Not tonight.

The Phreeq points to the El Dorado, motioning for James to step aside so that he could climb into his driver’s seat. 

PHREEQ
I’m gonna head out.

G.O.A.T.
You’re not going to say goodbye to anybody? 

PHREEQ
Nah. They’ll survive.

Vincent climbs inside and starts the engine, hot air blasting from his dashboard vents. He rubs his hands together to warm himself before rolling the window down slightly.

PHREEQ
You should really get back inside. People are going to be wondering where their Santa Claus is. 

James nods his head slowly, studying Vincent Black carefully as he rolls up the window and drifts slowly out of his parking spot. Vincent waves through the window before pulling away, and disappearing into the night.

James stands alone, clouds of his breath slipping from his lips and billowing around his head before fading in the wind. Before James can turn to re-enter the Fifth Turnbuckle, he feels a familiar presence over his left shoulder. He doesn’t turn to look.

He knows exactly who, or more specifically what, is standing behind him.

TJ
Well. THAT was strange.

G.O.A.T.
Shut the fuck up, TJ.

TJ
That’s no way to speak to the devil in your ear, little brother. You have no idea the sort of things I could talk you into.

G.O.A.T.
I said shut the fuck up.

TJ sneers behind his brother, but restrains himself. Baby steps. All he had to do was get James’ foot in the door, and the rest would take care of itself. His little brother would become the unstoppable monster he had always been destined to become.

TJ
Be the change, James.

G.O.A.T.
Excuse me? 

TJ
Don’t be naive, it doesn’t suit you. Are you honestly telling me that you didn’t see the hunger in his eyes while he spoke to you? You couldn’t hear the gears turning in his mind?

James says nothing. TJ was just talking shit… right?

TJ
He’s going to come for you.

G.O.A.T.
He’s not.

TJ
He is. He came for Dickie and Shawn. Do you think your relationship with Marie is enough for him to accept riding in your sidecar? This is HIS company. These are HIS people. There’s change coming, and for once in his life he plans on getting ahead of it.

James remains silent.

TJ
Remember what you asked me for all those years ago? To stand beside you and help navigate the waters of this business? I promised, and I’m telling you the waves are about to get choppy. BE the change. Don’t be the person who’s world changed around him… you know what you need to do…

G.O.A.T.
I do?

TJ nods his head, a malicious smirk on his face as he hides in the shadows behind his younger brother.

TJ
Kill or be killed. Feast or be feasted upon.

 

James says nothing.

 

TJ

You need to end Vincent Black. You need to do it now.

 

James still says nothing. 

 

He turns and heads back into the party.

 

Someone has to play Santa Claus…

 

FADE

TO

(Vincent)

BLACK