“Dread, desire and determination [Dane Preston]

By: Dane Preston

Writing Prompt: No

Date: 31st Oct 2021

THE DREAD
“Fear elicits one of two responses;
Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise.
I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but I’m the last person to back down from a fight.”
– Dane Preston

Back in 2009, I was down on my luck and going nowhere in life. I was making money doing odd jobs, fixing cars for friends of friends and underground cage fights for more affluent patrons. Not exactly legal, and by no means the best way for a guy who just did five years behind bars to make money. But damn if the money wasn’t good. Wrestling wasn’t even on my radar as a potential career. I’d thought combat sports as a career path was long behind me. Back then, my biggest fear and anxiety was that I would wind up homeless, broke and destitute.

Fast forward damn near thirteen years, a couple relapses with alcohol addiction, two kids, a thriving business outside the ring, I’ve had plenty of things happen in life to keep me away from the wrestling industry. But there has always been this nagging feeling in the back of my mind, a premonition, if you will, that I would regret not stepping back into the ring professionally. I’ve been consistently active since 2017, with a couple brief breaks, there was EWA, aW, NEW and OPW, all leading to FIGHT!

Throughout the first half of my career I was considered a joke, a charity case, a failed experiment that would not live up to expectations. Everywhere I went, I was constantly compared to my trainer and mentor, Damon HavoK Riggs, or more appropriately Old Man Riggs nowadays. See, Damon traveled the world for twenty-five years, shoot fights, pit fights, early MMA stints. But when it came to professional wrestling, he was practically a God among peons. During his career he amassed twenty-three World Championships as well as countless tag titles and other singles championships. So saying that I had some damn big shoes to fill would be an understatement. Here I am, having only won a handful of lesser ranked championships. But never the big one — which I’ll touch on later.

Being a parent of two small children, working hard to rebuild a marriage that was very recently severely tested, including repairing the relationship with our girlfriend and helping Sahara get back to being herself. All that in addition to running two hotrod, customs and chopper shops on both respective coasts, training my brothers in law, I’ve got a full plate in front of me. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when you include my FIGHT! Obligations and all that entails. Right now, my biggest fear isn’t that I won’t win the big one, or even that I can’t win it. My biggest fear is not living up to the expectations that preceded me, letting everyone down that had been rooting for me. Failing those that counted on me to succeed in this business.

That fear of failure is what drives me to succeed. The thought of not giving my all leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I believe, with every fiber of my body, that this dread is what compels me to rise to any challenge before me, no matter how insurmountable said challenge may be. It’s been known to backfire on me a few times, but that’s also because I react before I strategize. I still owe Paul Montuori and Brandon Moore some stiff receipts due to the damage they inflicted upon me because of this. I could be standing in the ring surrounded by enemies, I’d strike first and ask for forgiveness later.

THE DESIRE
“Dream the life you desire. Then live it with passion and love.”
– Debashish Mridha

The smell of gas and burnt rubber linger in the cockpit of my 1966 restomod Fastback Mustang. I had it flown out to Parts Unknown, Wisconsin, where we’ve been visiting during the time off from FIGHT! Allison is sitting shotgun, Bellz is sprawled out in the backseat as I navigate the twists and turns of the rural roads outside of town. I’ve made an enemy of a sort out of the town Sheriff, between training his son’s ex-best friend and speeding down the main drag, well the only drag in town, he’s not my biggest fan.

The radio’s playing some 90’s alternative tunes, barely distinguishable over the sound of the car’s exhaust and the chit chat going on between Allie and Bellz. Topics of their conversation are all over the place; fallout from Ascension, Sahara’s apparent breakdown and taking some time away, my victory over JMont, NSQ running the show, to my upcoming match with Austin Ramsey. All these thoughts have been flying around my head for several days, I just hadn’t found the words to describe my feelings on the matter.

We were heading back to the Compound when Allison suggested our cottage on the outer edge of the property. We usually used it for when my PTSD episodes made me unstable around the kids, or when we wanted to indulge our deepest desires, uninhibited and as loud as we wanted to. But after everything that has gone on in the last several months, there was no way we were ready to dive headfirst into the carnal side of our polyamorous relationship with Bellz. And she’s been noticeably on edge lately, thinking that Allie and I plan on replacing her with Lauren.

ARP
Bella, are you serious right now? Do you think we could ever replace you?

BELLA
How’m I supposed ta feel Alleycat? I see how the two of you act around her, it’s plain as day how you both feel about her. I just feel like I’m in the way.

ARP
Oh Bellz, you are not in the way of anything. You mean the world to us, we care about you more than you could possibly fathom.” Allie paused, and looked at me. “You know Dane, it’d be nice if our love could hear some reassurance from you too, you know.

I glanced in the mirror, and I saw Bellz’ furrowed brow, sullen face and arms folded across her chest, so I opted to pull over. I turned in my seat as comfortably as I could, took each of their hands into my own, and gently kissed the back of their hands.

DANE
I don’t know what to say about how we feel about Lauren, hell I don’t even know how she feels about us to be honest. But what I do know, is that there is no way in hell that Allie and I are ever letting go of you. That night on the beach when you decked that douchecanoe before I could, I knew that there was something special about you. Something that fits right in with us. Even before there was an us… I gestured around the car at the three of us. You waited out the storm, you cared for the twins while we were dealing with our shit. That only made us care about you even more. Please don’t think we would break things off with you…

Bella leaned forward and snatched my shirt, pulling us closer together before kissing me, then turned her head and kissed Allie even more passionately. Makes sense being high school BFFs and all.

BELLA
I’m so, so glad you beat JMont’s ass at Ascension. That sunuvabitch deserves far worse than what he received. I hate how he hurt the two of you and drove you both apart. If I was there I woulda ripped and clawed his face off. See how much that tramp Mia would love him then…

DANE
Beez, you don’t have to go that far. Things are still tense for Lauren after what she did to Mia. Joe is still after her because of it. So let’s just leave Mia out of this, yeah?

BELLA
How’m I supposed ta feel D? He drove a wedge between you and Alleycat, took you both away from me and the kids. Do you have any idea how hard it was to be on the outside looking in? How helpless it feels? I ain’t helpless hun, neva have been.

I could tell that Bellz was getting worked up, her New York accent becomes more prominent when she’s excited or passionate about something. I took hold of her hand and kissed it once more before I turned my attention back to getting us to the cottage. As I put the car in gear I try to focus on the drive as Allie and Bellz begin talking about the future. The remainder of the drive was a blur, when we finally arrived at the cottage, Bellz practically climbed over me to get inside complaining that she had to pee. Allie and I looked at each other and laughed at how comfortable she has become since we’ve all been back together.

I took out my phone to check my messages and texts while Bellz rushed up the stone steps to get inside before she peed herself. Still hadn’t heard back from Lauren, I know she needs the time away from us, away from everything, but part of me hurts not having her with us. I’m beginning to realize that I cared about her a lot more than even I thought I could, which only exacerbated the uneasy feelings I was having in her absence. I look up to see Allie as she approaches me. After sweeping her newly raven colored hair behind her ears, she crossed her arms over her chest as I raised my arm and held her close to me.

ARP
She’s a big girl, she’s gonna be okay. Right?

DANE
Her doctor is covering her ass. I’m furious with her for relapsing, but at the same time, I know what she’s going through…

ARP
Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s just strangely quieter not having her around. I miss her.

DANE
Me too. You know, we already have an unconventional relationshi–

ARP
Allie stepped out from under my arm, and gently placed her palm on my chest, right above my heart. Slow your roll turbo. I know exactly where you’re going with this. We need to fix US first, and we would need to okay it with Bella AND Ani first…

DANE
Fuck me, I forgot about Ani…

ARP
You mean like you forgot to tell me how she tried getting you to fuck her when you went to pick up your key to the apartment?

DANE
Whoa, hey, she knows the rules, no you, no dick. You can’t be mad at me for not telling you, there was so much going on…

ARP
I know babe, I’m just giving you a hard time. But seriously, we need to make sure that they’re comfortable with it, when the time comes. We don’t even know if Lauren will be okay with it, so let’s not put the cart before the horse.

I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind, and instead thought of my upcoming match with Austin Ramsey and my desire to go after the Empire Championship, which meant going face to face with all the members of NSQ. Allie lifted my arm up and ducked back under it, I leaned down and kissed her on top of the head as we began to walk up the steps to the cottage in lockstep with one another.

THE DETERMINATION
“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man.
– Bruce Lee

The news came at the last minute that all FIGHT!ers were going to be on hand for the Tara Fenix Charity Cruise show that a few FIGHT!ers were booked on. As part of the announcement, we learned that Venom would be filmed aboard the ship after the conclusion of the charity show. Allison was not pleased, the last time she experienced sun, sand, and the ocean, Mother Nature tried to kill her and Sahara. I was just glad to be getting back to work and hopefully seeing Sahara. But right now I should be focused on my match in two days time. I’ll be stepping into the ring with one of the hottest up and coming talents in FIGHT!, Austin Ramsey.

This will be the first time Austin and I have stepped into the ring together. We’ve spoken many times backstage, in the Tower and even when I filled in as Voo’s head of security at the Rabbit. Beyond that our personal interaction has been very limited. And while we may not be the best of friends or bitterest of enemies, there was THAT ONE TIME AUSTIN THREATENED TO KILL ME. I’m not one to judge another for their mental health battles, my brain is a literal warzone of emotions on any given day. That said, responsibility for your actions must be owned and addressed. I know that Austin is still going through a bit of a mental break right now, only getting worse from what I gather, but that’s not going to stop me from humbling the young lion.

ARP
Whatcha thinking about love?

DANE
Just how awesome our jobs are. After everything we went through in the last days of OPW leading into the FIGHT! NYC rebranding and reboot, to ending that six month long Hell with Joe Montuori, to looking out at the vastness of the ocean from the balcony of our suite on a cruise ship knowing it’s comped by Xavier and we’re still getting paid to be here.

BELLA
Speak for yourself…

DANE
I turned around to give Bellz a look, Really Beez?

BELLA
Well, last time I checked I don’t work for FIGHT! So I’m not getting paid…

ARP
Oh please, you act like we don’t already live a lavish life full of luxury. This cruise came just at the right time. A blessing and a curse if you ask me.

DANE
Princess, this time you’re not trapped on an island trying to survive a tropical Hellscape.

ARP
I suppose you’re right, my love. I’ll try to enjoy myself while scanning the skies for any sign of incoming tropical storm systems on a floating city that could sink or capsize in the right conditions.

DANE
Way to be a downer, remind me again why you didn’t stay at home?

ARP
And not be here to show my husband support for his upcoming fight? Or how about the fact that the entirety of NSQ is on this ship? Or the fact that there are so many gorgeous women walking around in bikinis…

DANE
Babe, I would never…

ARP
Um, hello. I appreciate beautiful women too, or did you forget? She gestures to Bella who beamed at the compliment.And despite how upset she is with us right now, Lauren is here too.

I wanted to argue, but she had me there. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see Lauren in a bikini, if at all. Fuck. I have to stop thinking like this, I’m allowing myself to become distracted and that can’t happen. Then came a knock at the door, thank the Gods. When I opened the door to our suite, I found two security guards and a ship steward with a smile on her face.

STEWARD
Mr. Preston? She asked, before she peered over my shoulder and waved to Allie and Bella. I hope everyone is doing well here. But I have to steal Mr. Preston for a bit, at the request of Miss F and Xavier Black. Is now a good time?

ARP
I guess so…

BELLA
I’m hungry anyway, we’ll go grab a bite while you’re gone.

So I followed the steward through the halls of the ship, leading to a small lounge area where the two guards stood outside the room as she and I went inside. The lounge was dimly lit save for a single chair and a couple lights pointed at it, with a small squadron of Occhi drones hovering in place.

STEWARD
I have been advised to give you private access to the Reader’s Nook. You will not be disturbed in here as you record your promo for FIGHT! NYC Venom. Be advised the two guards outside are there for your safety, you are free to move about the ship as you were whenever you’re ready.

With that the steward abruptly walked out, pulling the door closed behind her as she barked some orders to the two guards standing outside. I walk around the lounge area, upon further inspection it appears to be a mini-bar with a small library. Napoleon Hill, Sun Tzu, JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Terry Goodkind, Stephen King, it looks like Damon stocked these shelves. The mini-bar had a stocked fridge, so I grabbed a Guinness and topped it off with Butterscotch soda.

DANE
Last time I was seen on any form of FIGHT! Production, it was when I was eliminated by Paul Montuori in the Ascension match during Night Two of the Ascension pay per view. The night before that I pinned Paul’s older brother Joe, bringing to a close one of the most hellacious periods in my life. Winning one outta two ain’t bad, right? I didn’t get crowned the Queens Champion, which is a blessing in itself, I don’t care if it comes with a title bonus or not. JMont remains the Queen of the losers and he can stay that way. I walked away with my head held high and I got the girl, well, kept the girl, thought we had another to add to our menagerie, but that’s another story for another time. As the old saying goes, ‘when you get thrown from the horse, dust yourself off and get back on.’ There are so many different ways to say it, but you get the gist of it.

Two weeks removed from Ascension, I step back into the ring. This time with Austin Ramsey. Now, the last time Austin and I had any sort of interaction, it was basically threats being thrown back and forth. Austin was in the middle of one of his famous psychotic breaks during the FIGHT! Tower lockdowns, which he blamed ME for. He definitely misplaced the blame, that’s for sure. As fate would tell the story, Joe Montuori practically orchestrated everything since the day he put Allison’s name on that contract back in OPW. I tried telling everyone, including Austin and Toddy that Joe was a snake in the grass, but they simply wouldn’t listen. While they were nice to my face, I know they were chummy with Joe and the rest of his sycophants. You can lead a horse to water, but when they’ve already been poisoned, they look at the water like a lie.

So that brings us to the here and now. Austin vs Dane. You wanted to kill me, right Austin? Well now you’re going to get your chance. But like I told Toddy that night, you are more than welcome to test that assumption at your earliest convenience. I can guarantee you that this fight isn’t going to be what you want it to be. Because, professionally speaking, I’m riding higher than a motherfucker right now. And it’s going to take a lot more than you being deep in your feelings and emotions to beat me. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’d take a miracle. You see, whether it’s a prison cell, a cage, an octagon, or a wrestling ring, whatever battlefield I step onto belongs to me. And while I admit, you’re very good and you have a bright future ahead of you, you’re also very green and easy to manipulate.

I remember some of the things you had to say about me leading into Ascension. One thing stood out to me like a sore thumb, and that’s how you see me as broken. Sure, I’m not without my issues. But who is? Yeah, I’ve had a rocky road getting to this point and place in my life where I am content and confident in my abilities. And no, I’m not perfect. But I am far from broken. Think about it Austin, if I was truly broken, would I have been able to endure everything that transpired with that whole JMont debacle? Would I be — to the best of my limited intellect — the only one to hold a victory over Dickie Watson here in FIGHT!? I think the fuck not. Oh, little tidbit of info, MDM is OG FYA. He and I flew under that banner back in 2017 under the management of Sarah Wolf with the blessings and old FYA tourbus of Kal X. Wolf himself. So, in point of fact, he actually does go here.

One thing you did get right is the fact that I understand what you’re going through, to a lesser, but far more violent extent. I’m not sure if you were around to see the psychotic break that I experienced after a Grade 2 concussion at the hands of Paul Montuori and Brandon Moore back in the old mudshow we used to work for. It was determined to be a combination of CTE and CPTSD manifesting itself as an alternate personality that would take over in fight or flight situations. Allison’s cousin Shane still won’t talk to me after I broke his nose during one of my FXR episodes. So yeah, I understand what you’re going through, to some degree and I would never dream of poking fun at your condition. But make no mistake Austin, whether I step in the ring with Nice Austin or Mean Austin or any other incarnations of Austin, they’ll be slapped down all the same by ol’ Battleborn Dane Preston.

It’s unfortunate really, you shouldn’t have been put in my path right now. I don’t want to hurt you Austin, but the fact is that this is business and I am gunning it full throttle to the very top of this company. That means mowing down anyone and everyone who stands in my way to achieving that goal. In case what I’m saying isn’t clear, that includes you Austin. While yes, we are on good terms, I don’t take kindly to having my life threatened, mental illness or not. So you and I have to address that before we can truly be on good terms. There is no alternative for me in this situation. You and I have a small issue to address and I need to create some momentum for Season 2. And that’s why I will do everything in my power to put you down in this match. But don’t you worry, I won’t call you Toderick’s Husband, or hit you while you’re down. I will simply raise my hands in victory and move onto the next battle. It’s as simple as hitting you with the 1SK, and a 1 – 2 – 3 count…

Suddenly I hear a gunshot ring out, followed by two more in a quick burst. Immediately my mind goes to Allison and Bella, and then to Sahara. My heart sank instantly. Both she and Joe Montuori are on this cruise ship, and he’s threatened to kill her — and me — a number of times. I whip out my phone and immediately call Allison.

ARP
Oh my god, babe are you okay?

DANE
I’m fine, are you and Bella okay?

ARP
We’re fine. You don’t think Joe and Sahara… Do you?

DANE
I wouldn’t put it past him. I need to find Lauren. Go back to the room and wait for me there.

ARP
Already two steps ahead of you, we just got back… Be careful, we love you.

DANE
I love you both too. Stay safe, stay away from the door. Okay?

ARP
Yeah, okay, stay away from the door. Got it.

I hung up the call and slid my phone back into my pocket and burst out the door, I see that both my security guards are gone. Good on them, running to address the gunshots. I know Lauren is staying on the ship, I just have no clue where. So I ran for the ship’s concierge desk, only to find it empty. I looked around the Promenade and found it deserted. What the actual fuck was going on here?