“Recharge, Revolt, Remember…”

By: Dane Preston

Writing Prompt: No

Date: 21st Nov 2021

RECHARGE
“A healthy mind and body are essential. No excesses. Proper food. The body is like a Rolls-Royce. With care, it could last 200 years. It’s a dynamo; the more you use it, the more you recharge it.”
Oleg Cassini

LA HONDA, CA
SKYLINE BLVD/HIGHWAY 84

This past week, I made my intentions known to the world at Venom. Battleborn Dane Preston is coming for the Empire Championship. In response, the Universe decided to spoil me. Because I learned that I’ll be stepping into the ring with JAMES RAVEN next Monday. But I’ll get to that, right now I need the open road to let loose. It’s no secret, I’m something of an adrenaline junkie, and my adrenaline comes in three flavors, combat sports, racing cars and motorcycles. There is nothing quite like flowing with the winding roads, as I cruise through the redwood trees in my home state.

This is something I’ve desperately missed being cooped up in the concrete jungle that is New York City. Even the visits to Parts Unknown pale in comparison to being back home. Since Damon and Jenna have an apartment in New York, and the twins and Bella have come to live with Allison and me in our apartment in Barad-dûr, we haven’t gone back to Parts Unknown very often. When we do go, it’s so I can train DJ, JJ and Wyatt, but that’s just more work on my plate. Which means less time for me to wrench on shit or go for rides to clear my head and gather my thoughts.

I stopped by the shop earlier today to grab one of my bikes, a 2006 Yamaha R1 Raven. It seemed like the appropriate selection, given the news of who my next opponent would be. It’s not every day that I get a chance to step into the ring with someone the caliber of James Raven. His credentials are legit, his reputation well deserved, and after seeing him in the ring with my wife, I’m convinced that he’s as real as it gets in this business.

My thoughts ebb and flow like an ocean in the middle of a tropical storm. Since the day that NSQ exerted their dominance in FIGHT!, I’ve been a bit jaded. A year ago, I was sidelined with a Grade A concussion after just coming back from a rotator cuff injury. I had to watch from the sidelines as the wars raged on in OPW, without me. When I made my return, it was bittersweet as my mentor, trainer and father in law was forced to hang up the boots for good.

It was then that I realized how fleeting life is. One minute you have it all, and the next minute your passion is ripped from you, kicking and screaming until it’s taken behind the shed and put down. I knew then and there that it was time for me to start taking shit seriously again. No more riding bitch while my career passed me by. It was time for me to make the world know the name DANE PRESTON the same way they know the names DAMON HAVOK RIGGS, CHRONIC CHRIS PAGE, SMOKIN’ BUD BURNS, KAL X WOLF and VooDoo.

There are a ton more legendary names I could list, but these will have to suffice for now. Step one is to establish my dominance inside the ring, step two in FIGHT!, and step three in the industry. Well it seems like the Universe has been paying attention, because I get to show the world what Dane Preston can do with top tier talent like James Raven. I feel my mind wandering away from me, thinking only of the road as she curves ahead of me, enticing me to play with her, to go faster.

Coming out of a hairpin turn, the familiar stretch of road before me is a straightaway for about two miles. More than enough road for me to unleash the beast. Rolling the throttle wide open, the front wheel lifts as the bike launches me down the asphalt road. The rush of the wind splitting around me, the blur of the trees as I scream passed them, as my rapid-fire heart is beating like a chaingun in a warzone. In an instant my adrenaline was skyrocketing and then falling to the pit of my stomach when I saw the unmistakable black and white of a Highway Patrol cruiser sitting on the side of the road.

The cherries on top lit up and the cruiser was in pursuit and I knew the straightaway was quickly coming to an end. I had two choices; stop and get arrested and likely have my bike impounded, or double down and keep going. Fuck it. I grew up riding through these hills and there was no way in hell a Highway Patrol cruiser could handle the turns coming up the way I could. There was a small business area coming up, where a lot of sportbike riders stop and gas their bikes up and fill their bellies at Alice’s Restaurant. Boy, were they in for a treat. And so was James Raven this coming Monday night at Venom.

REVOLT
“To rebel or revolt against the (new) status quo is in the very nature of an artist.”
Uta Hagen

WOODSIDE, CA
PRESTON RESIDENCE

I spent all of last night laying wide awake in bed with thoughts racing through my head. Would the Highway Patrol or the Sheriff’s Department come knocking on my door after I eluded their cruiser? Will I beat Dickie for the Empire Championship. More importantly, can I beat James Raven and bring some legitimacy to FIGHT! that may not have been here before NSQ and other outsiders barged into our world?

danePRESTON
When FIGHT! started branching out, I started following many of the folks that they were following. Names and faces I’d never heard of, but clearly had experience, reputations and followings to boot. For every Damon and Kal you had a Page and Centurion, for every Xavier and Vincent, you had a Raven and Warstein. It was like glimpsing our world from the outside. I had never really connected the dots, but no matter how big a deal we were in our circle, no matter how successful, there were others in different circles equally successful big deals.

I got up early, knowing what I needed to do. Allison had been nagging me to clear out the old gazebo mess in our yard. It’s funny, I demo’d the makeshift gazebo in an EWA shoot back in 2018, when I was heading to war against NOTHING for the EWA Championship. Can’t think about those memories right now, that was an unsuccessful bid for my first BIG belt. Right now, I need to clear my mind of all doubt, and handle business at the same time.

danePRESTON
But to these folks, we were nobodies. To them we were the outsiders invading their space. You know how the rest goes; infiltrate the enemy and destroy them from within. At least, that’s how I perceived NSQ’s rise to power here in FIGHT! I mean, think about it. They walked in here and took over, despite the opposition fighting tirelessly to preserve what we had built here. This was a very clear case of us not liking being on the receiving end, because we used to do the exact same thing.

Right where I left them, the large corrugated galvanized steel disc still rested atop the five pillars that I destroyed in various ways. The red paint on its face read, HERE LIES THE HOUSE OF HATE. Given that Lauren had become so close to me and Allison, it was time for me to get rid of this. Time to move on. The old Chevy 4×4 I used to tear part of this gazebo down was right where I left it. So, I hopped up into the cab, flipped the visor down, dropping the keys into my awaiting hand.

danePRESTON
The coup de grace, however, was the arrival of James Raven. He showed up, in dramatic fashion, giving NSQ the edge in the Ascension match. An unexpected variable that shifted the balance firmly in NSQ’s favor. In one fell swoop, James Raven was handed a Championship, membership to the sole dominant faction in the company. That last part was never mentioned before. Xavier once again shaking shit up in his usual way; X Wants, X Takes, but I digress.

Turning the engine over, well, that became a task in and of itself. After an hour of tinkering, adding fuel treatment and fresh gas to the tank, I finally got the truck running. I’d already hooked a rope onto the trailer hitch which had been attached to the galvanized steel gazebo roof, shifting the truck into gear, I dragged it off the pillars. I hopped out of the truck and untied the rope and lowered the tailgate down, hopped up and sat my ass down.

danePRESTON
Jimmy, I know that you were a big deal before you came to FIGHT!, and based on all the conversations that I’ve had with many of our peers who actually have history with you, it’s for good reason. Very high praise from all the folks I’ve spoken with. While that’s a good thing to have in this business, it will only win in the game of politics. It won’t mean a lick of difference once we’re in that ring together. I’ve gotta admit, I’m shit when it comes to being civil. And as the days inch closer to my date with destiny when I face Dickie, it’s becoming harder and harder for me to play nice.

I hop down from the tailgate and grab hold of one of the giant logs that once acted as a pylon for the gazebo, and drag it to the back of the truck. Crouching down I deadlift one end of the log up high enough, and ease it closer to the truck before setting it down against the tailgate.

danePRESTON
There is a lot riding on this match for me. Some folks claim that I got lucky when I beat Dickie, so if I can beat you as well, maybe then those people will start showing me the respect that I deserve, instead of doubting my abilities. Along with respect, comes the legitimacy. Your circle is vast, and there are a great deal of folks that I’d love to step into the ring with in the future. I’d be lying if I said you weren’t pretty high on that list of dream matchups. See, if those other folks hear that I put you down, I’ve got a feeling that mention of my name will reach their ears. Then there’s the risk of doubt being cast my way, if I can’t beat you, what business have I got chasing Dickie for the title? Lastly, but equally important, would be defending my wife’s honor. Her loss to you, the shitty remarks you made while sitting at the commentary booth with her father.

After a short break, I grabbed the bottom end of the log and lifted it, allowing me to slide the top end into the bed of the truck. This old Chevy has a six foot bed, eight feet with the tailgate down, so the log stuck out about three feet. I’m gonna have to flag these after I strap them down.

danePRESTON
Let’s be honest here Jimmy, beating my wife is no small feat. Trust me, I know. But if you think for one second that our match is gonna go the same way, you’ve got another thing coming man. While you’re sitting there playing with your action figures, I’m in the ring running drills, training the next generation of this business. While you’re sitting at the commentary booth belittling an old man, I’m planning and strategizing how to dethrone NSQ and take what’s mine. Like I told Dickie, I have a nasty habit of finishing what I’ve started. Ask James ‘Morbid’ Wolf. Ask Johnny Stylez.  HELL, ASK JOE MONTUORI!! I’m that dude running rampant through any promotion I set foot in, even though I may not have a title to my name, I’m putting dudes down like it’s going out of style. But you Jimmy. You I’m going to take my time with. You I’m going to pick apart, piece by trash talking piece.

Allow me to properly introduce myself. I’m Dane FUCKING Preston, and I’ll be your executioner this week. I understand that you are coming for me. Well what a fucking coincidence, I’ve been looking for you since the day you walked your vanilla pretty boy ass into FIGHT! While I have no reason to reason to make shit personal with Dickie, you’ve given me every fucking reason to destroy you and everything that you stand for. I watched as you verbally assaulted my wife. I watched last week’s Venom replay and saw as you insulted my wife to her father’s face. All I can say to you is that you should be extremely grateful that man is retired, because he’s been known to bury men alive before pissing on their graves*. Now that I think about it, I come from a very competitive family unit. I have no doubt in my mind, as big a deal as you may be, Damon, VooDoo, Vhodka, Vincent or Xavier, any one of them would waste no time mopping the ring with your face. Hell, if she were still around, I’d pay to see Dru stun your ass into Nighty Night Land.

Why don’t we take a moment and talk about some of those things that you said, shall we? I’ll try to paraphrase and summarize so as not to look like an inept assclown such as yourself. First and foremost, the assumption that my wife hasn’t been doing this shit since she was 15 years old or faced men and women far more talented than you was downright fucking dumb. Just because we haven’t been in your circle, doesn’t mean we aren’t seasoned and perfectly capable of handing your ass to you. Just ask Dickie about when I handed his ass to him the first time for proof of that. Then of course you attack the low hanging fruit; the Montuori/Riggs-Preston/Sahara love square, if you will. I mean, you come in here with all this fanfare and bravado, and the only thing you can do is bring that up. Let me be the first to inform you, that for the whole time that damned debacle went on, we had the business, the wrestlers and fans alike on the edge of their seats. FOR SIX FUCKING MONTHS. You’d be lucky to carry a feud like that on your back for six fucking weeks, you dolt.

There are a few things you said though that really set me off. You have the balls to say that I’m toxic for Allison. You think that Allison gets around with all the boys and girls in the locker room? What the fuck do YOU know? Nothing. You know NOTHING James Snow. Motherfucker, you’ve been here for a cup of coffee, we’ve been together for years, literally fucking years. Don’t act like just because you watched FIGHT! on TV and decided to come work here that you have a fucking clue what our life is like outside the business. You’ve got no clue about the loving family that we have, or the things we’ve been through. You should only be so lucky to find yourself with a family half as loyal as mine. Whether they’re family by marriage or by choice, the folks I consider closest to my heart would drop you on your melon if I asked them to. Who do you have exactly? Aside from Betsy, I doubt the remaining members of NSQ would come running to your aid when things get dicey. Sure, they’ll get to you…eventually. But I highly doubt there would be any sense of urgency on their part.

Then of course you had to resort to the old tried and true ‘I’m not like anyone you’ve ever fought before’. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Been there, used that. Let me make one thing perfectly fuckin’ clear dude, you’re nothing fuckin’ special. You’re just another dime a dozen pretty boy who has a smartass mouth in a long, long line. Do you wanna know what I like to do to guys like you and their smartass mouths? I like to break their jaws so their mouths have to get wired shut and no one has to listen to the verbal diarrhea that spews from their faceholes for a while. I mean, it’s better than getting stitched shut, right?  Fuck’s sake man, I just realized, you’re like the living embodiment of that dude who played Deadpool and Green Lantern, but at the same time you’re nothing more than a two dimensional, piss poor attempt at a carbon copy of him. You lack the guy’s natural charm and lovable wit, despite your best efforts. So let’s sum it all up so far shall we? My wife’s a cheating whore who you think hasn’t won any relevant matches, you think that I’m toxic for her and some sort of undeserving clown, and that not just her and I, but almost everyone in FIGHT! is beneath you and your NSQ ‘brethren’, but most importantly beneath you. Did I get that right? What else can you tell me about my wife? What else can you tell me about me? Go on, tell the world something else you think you know about our lives. G’head, I’ll wait.

In my head the Jeopardy theme starts to play as I muscle the four remaining logs into the bed of the truck. I’m no stranger to hard labor and it took quite a while, but little by little I got all the debris in the back of the truck. Admittedly, dismantling the disc itself took a bit of work. All the corrugated steel panels overlapped and were bolted down in several places.

danePRESTON
Enough about me though, let’s talk about you for a bit Jimmy. Come to think of it, can I call you Jimmy? You know what, forget I even asked, I don’t give a shit what you prefer to be called. Let’s talk about you and Betsy for a minute. It’s my understanding that you really have zero business talking about anyone else’s relationships when you can’t tell whether you and Betsy are coming or going. I mean, come on man, she can travel time and space. How many Area Code booty calls could she have throughout her travels? I’ve watched enough sci-fi movies, shows and porn to know that there are beings out there who are better in the sack than any human.  And Casanova was one helluva swinger, if you wanna talk about history, you can see where I’m going with this, right? So, you really shouldn’t cast pebbles when you live in a glass house and I can throw fucking boulders.  Now, unlike you, I didn’t have the luxury of walking into a company with all the material at my disposal to comb through to find your skeletons. I didn’t walk into a company and get handed a Championship and its accompanying bonus. For the record, Allison and I handed those titles to your NSQ brethren. We weren’t beaten for them. We simply walked away leaving Joe Montuori at the feet of your so-called friends, and called it donating to a worthy cause.

Now where was I? Ah yes, from what I understand, you’re more like Joe Montuori, living in the shadow of his brother. Well, in your case, your brother’s legacy. There’s also this whole argument about which Montuori rode the other’s coattails to success. If I’m being honest, they both did. Which reminds me, isn’t there some contention in your relationship with Shawn Warstein? The way I hear it, you run around claiming that Warstein rode your coattails in Project:Honor, but didn’t Shawn win the Legacy championship over there? Kinda hard for the dude who rode your coattail to success to have been the same dude that carried your ass and won the title there. I mean, you sit there all ‘rah rah NSQ fuck yeah’ thinking you’re all hot shit when you guys are nothing more than a ticking time bomb ready to go off at any moment. I mean, come on.  Really, you’re nothing but strange bedfellows trying to make a name for yourselves IN MY WORLD. While I don’t know ya’ll all that much, I know that there are several versions of NSQ; James and Betsy, Shawn and Kasey, Shawn and Betsy, Aiden and Dickie, Shawn vs James and Shawn vs Dickie. Not one of those versions are even remotely aligned enough to call yourselves a legitimate, united faction. And it’s going to be my distinct honor to pull on every thread I can — in the form of every single NSQ member — and watch the façade that is NSQ unravel until a lump of loose fabric resting at my feet is all that’s left of your ‘precious’ NSQ.

It all started with Dickie, before NSQ was even a thing. This week it continues with you. Until I make my way through each and every single one of you, claiming the Empire Championship along the path to obliterating the ‘would be’ conquerors of FIGHT! NYC. I’m not sure you understand what you’ve found yourself up against this week, Jimmy. This isn’t going to be like Ascension Night 2 where you eliminated Miss Michelle with an attack from behind. Nah, I’ve got you in my sights and I’ll see you coming from a mile away before I ever let that happen. The reality is that I’m not stuck in the ring with you, it’s YOU who is stuck in the ring with ME. The ramifications of this match will set the tone of the future and I promise you, the road ahead ain’t looking so great for you. For the better part of a year, I was sidelined with a couple of injuries and I had to watch my friends and family go to war. The triumphs I missed being a part of, the losses I could have helped to thwart. All of it. These are the things that fueled me to get healthy, stronger and more fit than ever, so that I may stake my claim to the throne in the future. You just so happen to be the first blockade in my way, and something you’ll soon learn about me, is that I have no problem plowing through anything placed before me.

It’s funny, at first I was intimidated by the task before me, but now I couldn’t be more confident, focused and determined to leave you as the first member of the body count I leave in my wake. I’m not the only one with something to prove, now am I? Like you said, you’re stepping into the ring with the big dog to shut me up. Well Jimmy, I welcome you to test that assumption at your earliest convenience. Your ass is about to get taken to task in an all day clinic and it’s going to be one long motherfuckin’ day for you boy. It’ll be in your best interest to pack a few lunches and several changes of drawers because you’re gonna need ‘em. That much I can assure you. Another thing I can assure you of, is that I won’t sit there while you run off at the mouth about my wife. Damon is contractually bound from putting his hands on FIGHT! contracted fighters, not to mention his age and health prevents him from doing anything to violate his own contract. While I, on the other hand, act as his right hand and will rain hellfire down on any motherfucker that dares to disrespect him. Pause a moment, Ricky Rodriguez, I know you and I are getting along pretty well these days, but you do know that I have a loss to you to avenge, and the piper will come calling for his due very soon.

Now let’s get back to you and wrap this up, Jimmy. I want you to know one thing, this could have gone much easier for you, but you chose violence from the start and elected to disrespect damn near everyone in my family. You called me out and I don’t think you had the foggiest idea who the fuck you thought you’d be getting into the ring with. Because if you did know and still elected to choose violence, well, then you’re as ballsy as you are stupid. Suffice it to say, it was simply a matter of time before our paths would cross, and the powers that be decided to pair us up far sooner than I imagined. The truth of it is that they beat me to it, because I was about to call Xavier up and sell my soul to him just so I could throw hands with you. But instead of taking it easy on you, I aim to maim you, and whether I win or lose, which one of us walks away on our own accord is what’s going to matter. Not whose name has a W next to it in the record books. You’re fighting to make a name for yourself in FIGHT!, while I’m fighting to restore honor to my wife and father in law’s family name, to prove that I am not just as good as the names I see on social media but BETTER, and to remind those who know as well as make it clear to anyone who hasn’t been paying attention…

I AIN’T NO JOKE!
…but I’ve got a mean fuckin’ punchline…

I never expected to see FIGHT! branch out the way we have. I was told to expect some heavy hitters and to be on top of my game, because the challenges were going to be difficult ahead. I’m not going to lie, I took that like a slap in the face at first, like I wasn’t capable of rising to the occasion. Truth be told, the messenger is very dear to me, and they simply wanted to give me a heads up. But this whole NSQ ordeal has spun this company on its head and made several of my peers question whether or not they’re cut out for this anymore. My confidence in myself has not waivered in the slightest. My first real match in FIGHT! pit me against Dickie Watson, and I came out with the win. I want you to put that into perspective Jimmy. Think about that. You are riding with Warstein and Watson, though the word in the locker room is that you were never officially invited to be part of NSQ in the first place. But I digress, that isn’t the point I’m getting at here. What I’m trying to convey to you, is that no matter what you do or where you go, you will always wander into some new place and find someone bigger, badder and better than you. Even if it is just for one night. Now, I understand you’ve lost, what, one maybe two matches in the last year and a half. Imagine what a feather in my cap it would be for me to be your second or third loss in all that time. A guy who has fought one of your peers, from your circle, who walked out victorious and lived to tell the tale. To be clear, I take nothing away from Dickie, he is a force to be reckoned with, I was simply the better man that night. Just like I aim to be the better man in our contest this coming Monday night. Oh, before I forget, here’s a preview of what to expect after our match.

James Raven has just left the Tower, a humbled man.

I came outta nowhere and Raven never saw me coming…

I’ll do the same to each and everyone of your friends.

This was me, barely trying. Just imagine what the next time will be like.

Turning my attention to the empty space that the wreckage that was a gazebo once occupied, scratched my head at the mere thought of the next stage in this project.

danePRESTON
I can’t believe Allison wants me to build the twins a two story, luxury playhouse with a slide from the second story and swings, we’re hardly hear anymore. Besides, who do I look like, Roger Wright? Wait. That gives me an idea… I slid my phone out from my pocket, and after a few deliberate taps at the screen I raised the phone to my ear. Cowboy, it’s Preston. How would you like to fly out to my place in California for a week or two? Of course he would ask if there’s a catch. Let me sell you first. All expenses paid, no booze in the house, you and Voo and the kids. Unless you wanna leave the kids at home and you two would have the place to yourself if you know what I mean. All I ask is that all the bedding is washed after you’re done. And that you help me build my kids a playhouse. Fuckin guy. He’s gotta ask for permission. Can’t blame him, Red runs a tight ship.

*Vs. Josh Manhunt in a Buried Alive Match.

REMEMBER
“It’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you – or don’t.
So don’t take it lightly.”
– Kobe Bryant

MANHATTAN, NY
THE EMPIRE ROOM

The original Howling Wolf flew me back to the Pack’s private airstrip just outside New Jersey. From there it was a quick helicopter ride back to Barad-dûr, where I got back just in time for the twins to go to bed. Two was sitting on the couch flipping channels, as he was on babysitting duty so Bella could come out with me and Allison. We were meeting up with Bam and Mario. Just a small gathering of peers at VooDoo’s original establishment, The Empire Room. Allison and I were finally given a key to the private room, the Wolves Den, with blessings from Kal, Voo and Damon. It was in this room, past the dance floor and private VIP tables, that we hosted this small gathering.

bamMILLER
Man, VooDoo sure knows how to run a business. Lemme tell you, no offense Dane, maybe I should hit her up for business advice too. Between the Rabbit and here, I bet she is a wealth of useful info.

danePRESTON
Be my guest bro, I’ve learned a ton from her over the years. If she can find the time, I’m sure she’d impart some knowledge on you. But fair warning, she may make you earn it in the ring. That’s where she gives her best lessons.

allisonRIGGS-PRESTON
Don’t remind me. Everytime I think of training with Voo, my tailbone starts to ache from all the times she put me on my ass.

bamMILLER
Damn, I’ve seen that woman in the ring. I’ll have to think long and hard about it.

The TV was muted, but FIGHT! Network was on 24/7 in both of Voo’s clubs. She felt it was good cross promotion, especially considering that the vast majority of FIGHT!’s roster frequented her clubs almost nightly. Smart business sense on that one. Allison nodded to the TV while she was looking my way.

allisonRIGGS-PRESTON
How are you feeling about your match with Raven? I know you were a bit overwhelmed when you heard the news about facing such a high profile opponent.

danePRESTON
That went away the second I rewatched his promo and the trash he said to your dad on Venom. It’s weird though, I’ve heard great things about the dude. Folks said he was such a nice guy, and he’s turned out to be a huge asshole.

bellaZANNETTI
Hey Mario, you doin okay over there?

m.v.PORTER
Yea, I’m cool. Just still processin’ shit, ya know?

bellaZANNETTI
We do. It can’t be easy…

m.v.PORTER
Nah, it isn’t…

anickaSWAN
You better not have started without Ani!

It was at that moment that Ani burst in the door with a handful of servers trailing in after her. One of them laid out two massive table cloths that just fit the length of the solid oak slab table. Then the servers laid out several covered serving trays, one of them was layered, which revealed 3 different types of pizza, then each of the other platters were uncovered; Wagyu Filet Mignon steaks, South African lobster tails, and jumbo prawn cocktail.

anickaSWAN
Because then Ani would be upset…and Ani will eat all this yummy food all by Ani’s self.

As the servers set place settings out for all of us at the table, Anicka walked over to everyone, she was dressed in a black tank top and a pair of jeans that looked like they had been painted on her. Making her first stop at Allison, she leans down and gives her a kiss, then does the same with me; both lasted longer than your normal friendly little kiss and had a whole lot more tongue than one. She moved to kiss Bella, who turned her head away.

anickaSWAN
What? Ani thought you loved her mouth…

bellaZANNETTI
I do love her mouth, but I don’t know where that mouth has been lately,” her comment caused a few of us to laugh, including Mario who needed it the most.

anickaSWAN
Touché.She took a seat on the arm of the chair Bella was sitting on, before winking at Bam and Mario. Ani’d give you all kisses too, but she doesn’t think it would be appropriate.

A few more chuckles came from Bam and Mario’s side of the table. I took this opportunity to hand out some glasses and grabbed a couple bottles of whiskey from Kal’s personal stash, tucked under the bar.

danePRESTON
Under normal circumstances, Kal would kill me for getting into his private stash. But Kal liked Dru, even if she did beat up his kid sister. Given the reason behind this get together.

Everyone poured themselves a shot, I poured two for Mario and set another down at the empty seat next to him, where there was an extra place setting laid out.

danePRESTON
May we all be half as badass and loyal as she was. To Dru!

everyONE
To Dru! And we all threw our shots back, Mario downed both of his shots in quick succession. Poor dude is hurting, many of us are, but none as much as Mario, save for Valkyrie and Dru’s family.

bamMILLER
I gotta ask Dane, you think you can take Raven? As far as I know, dude’s a tall order to beat…

danePRESTON
No one is invincible.

m.v.PORTER
Yo, hold up. Someone unmute the TV right quick…

We all turned our attention to the screen as Allie grabbed the remote from the bar and rewound.

m.v.PORTER
Right there…

On the screen we see Druscilla’s face, covered in blood, her eyes wide and bloodshot.

druscillaWHITE
You summoned forth Hell. You pulled from the pits of hate and rage; a creature far beyond your level of comprehension. You have seen a Raven. You have seen a Valkyrie in your ranks. However… You have no idea what you’ve done… She cast a side-eye to the cameraman before baring her fangs at him. You have called forth DRAKON; THE GREAT DRAGON and I have come to devour your SOULS! I will lay waste to whomever you cast in my path!

m.v.PORTER
Yo what the fuck…I…I gotta go…

Without another word Mario bolts upright and races out the door. Allie hits pause on the remote and we all glance at each other around the room. No one is eating but Ani, and when Allie gives her a stinkeyed look, Ani swallows the food in her mouth.

anickaSWAN
Don’t look at Ani like that, this is quality eatin and a bitch is hungry. Besides, shouldn’t we really be celebrating the fact that Dru ain’t dead? Besides, I kinda envy the bitch, she made a better entrance on the screen than Ani did with all the food…

Bam shrugged and kinda nodded his head as he grabbed a prawn and stuffed it in his face. I sat there for a moment, and slowly reached for the tongs to grab some steak and lobster when Allie smacked my hand.

danePRESTON
We can’t let the food go to waste, Princess. Besides, Ani’s right, we should celebrate that Dru is in fact alive and well. Hopefully James Raven doesn’t have as many lives as Dru does.

With a huff, Allie took her seat next to me and begrudgingly helped herself to make a plate of her own. After everyone served themselves, we sat in silence while we ate, at the same time processing what we had just seen on the TV.