Stand up.

By: Ricky Rodriguez

Writing Prompt: Yes

Date: 22nd Jan 2022

Snow Ricky and The Seven Dwarves.

 

A crackling fire burned in the fireplace. The lights were dimmed down just enough to allow that fire to illuminate the living room. Ricky Rodriguez sat in a rather comfortable looking high backed chair. He was decked out in a bright pink robe and held a mixed drink in his hand.

 

There was a content look on his face as he gazed at the flickering flames. The whole setting had a rather calm feeling to it and Ricky’s body language mirrored that perfectly. He brought his glass up to his lips and took a short drink from it. A soft sigh was followed by a growing smile as he turned to face the camera.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘The second Blood Money is loomin over the horizon like a big ass storm. A storm carryin memories of the last one. But that’s okay. There’s been highs and lows ever since then. But the one thing that’s the most abundantly clear? There’s been growth. Growth that was needed in order to keep goin. But I’m gonna talk bout that later.

 

See, things are really great right now. But I know, the closer we get, the worse things are gonna get. So I’d like to take this moment of peace and tell you all a story. It’s really awesome that this Blood Money is gonna be at Disney cause Ima huuuugee Disney fan. As a matter of fact, the story I’m bout to tell y’all is pretty similar to one of my favorite Disney movies.

 

So let’s all get settled in. Get your smoke. Get your drink. Cuddle up with your loved ones and listen on as I tell y’all the story of Snow Ricky and The Seven Dwarves.’

 

Taking another drink from his glass, Ricky set it down on top of the side table next to him. He reached over onto the other side of the chair and grabbed up a large red book. Propping it up on his lap and bent leg, Ricky began to read from it.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Once upon a time, in a land far..far away lived a young man and his name was Snow Ricky. And before you ask, it’s a family name. A very strong name, as a matter of fact. But anyway, Snow Ricky was a great guy. Always with a smile on his face and a kind word or gesture for anyone he may come across.

 

And by anyone, I mean anyone. Which, of course, led to Ricky bein manipulated, used, betrayed, lied to, taken advantage of, and every other shitty thing you can think of. But even still, every time, he’d shake it off and just keep on goin on. Always a smile and always a kind word.

 

For the most part, everyone in the kingdom liked Snow Ricky just how he was. But there was one who didn’t. One who felt the need to try and bring down poor Snow Ricky with every chance she had. And she did just that. She hated the fact that Snow Ricky was more well liked than she was. And there was even whispers of Snow Ricky bein better lookin than her but that’s another story for another time.

 

That hateful woman was known as the Evil Queen..Sahar..somethin or other. She wasn’t even the actual queen of the kingdom, she just acted like it and expected everyone to treat her like she was. That bitch, she couldn’t stand Snow Ricky’s happy go lucky demeanor and did everythin in her power to make him miserable as shit as she felt he should be.

 

It was really that fuckin mirror’s fault tho cause one day Sahara got in front of her mirror and hadda conversation with herself, as she usually does in the mornin. But this mornin wasn’t like all the others. This mornin was..different.’

 

The appropriately dubbed Evil Queen stood in front of her tall, full body mirror. A grin of admiration dominated her expression as she checked herself out in that mirror. Even though the confidence she felt in herself was high, it was never enough. The Evil Queen needed the approval of everyone else.

 

Evil Queen: ‘Mirror mirror..on the wall..who’s the prettiest..the most compassionate..the most adored of them all? It’s me, right? Tell me it’s me.’

 

And much to her surprise, her reflection actually began to move on it’s own accord. Her reflection looked The Queen up and down before shaking her head with a wave of her hand.

 

Evil Queen’s Reflection: ‘You don’t actually think it’s you, do you? How delusional can you be? Your beauty is outshined by your malice. What backhanded kindness you do show is eclipsed by your jealousy. And your success is forgotten because of your wicked ways.’

 

This answer absolutely infuriated The Queen, her beautiful face twisting with anger until it was nothing even similar to before.

 

Evil Queen’s Reflection: ‘You’re nowhere near as pretty as Paul. Nowhere near as adored as Michelle. And nowhere near as compassionate as Snow Ricky.’

 

The more her reflection talked, the more her blood boiled. As loud and assertive as she was, she knew she wasn’t in a place where she had the ability to take down someone like Paul or Michelle but Snow Ricky? He was weak, easily fooled, she’d be able to handle him with no problem, she thought.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘But she was wrong. She made several attempts to destroy the demeanor of Snow Ricky but each and every time he battled through it and continued on as he would. Each time her attempts would grow more and more heinous. And every time Ricky saw through, she’d convince him he was wrong and how he shouldn’t treat her like that. Some real manipulative shit there, y’know?

 

But as hard as he tried, the once easy as can be smiles got harder and harder to keep showin. Eventually, Ricky knew what he had to do. He had to leave the kingdom. He was beginnin to forget who he was and he just couldn’t do it any more. So he left. He left everythin he knew behind and just..left.

 

Now, when I said Snow Ricky was friendly to everyone, I meant everyyone. The good, the bad, and everythin in between. People of all different kinds and varieties were pulled in by Ricky’s personalities and it often led to some very interestin circumstances.’

 

After fleeing the kingdom in order to escape the Evil Queen’s grasps, Snow Ricky found himself lost, aimlessly wandering the forest. Seemingly with no purpose or reason anymore, he just..walked. 

 

See, this is where the bein friendly with everyone comes in handy. He hadn’t even had time to collect his thoughts after his daring escape from the Evil Queen before he was surrounded by those who meant the most to him. 

 

It’s not even really clear why they were called the Seven Dwarves. For the most part, they all were normally sized people. Except for Bitchy. She was the shortest of them all, easily the easiest to rile up, and the meanest of them all. But even she had a nice side to her and not just her backside.

 

Bitchy: ‘Oh, so just because I’m a little short, I gotta be a dwarf? This is such bullshit.’

 

The rest of the dwarves laughed in unison as Bitchy rolled her eyes. As he usually would tho, another of the dwarves, Drunky, was there with a drink from his flask and some kind words.

 

Drunky: ‘You’re not that short. Actually..’

 

But Drunky couldn’t even finish that thought before Angry was on his ass.

 

Flipfloppy: ‘Actually, you smell like well water and behind the ear crust, fight me bitch.’

 

And just like that, Flipfloppy and Drunky began to brawl. It wasn’t supposed to be funny but seeing their little stubby arms and legs flailing about as they tried to attack one another was fucking hilarious.

 

The entertainment usually didn’t last long and this time was no different. As they usually did, Assy and Slutty were quick to break them up, working to distract them from one another.

 

All the while, Stoney sat off to the side with Bitchy, a lit joint between her fingers as she puffed at it, giggling uncontrollably at what was going on. 

 

Stoney: ‘They’re totally harshing the mood.’

 

Bitchy: ‘Ugh, don’t they always?’

 

Stoney: ‘Shower?’

 

Bitchy: ‘Shower.’

 

The last dwarf was the most gorgeous of them all. Hoards of people lined up just to adore the dwarf known as Beauty. Respectfully called Papi Suave as well, Beauty was leaps and bounds ahead. He watched as Bitchy and Stoney got up and walked away. Not paying the slightest bit of attention to Stoney, his eyes focused on Bitchy with a look of adoration.

 

Beauty: ‘Hey wait, I got downs!’

 

Without another word, Beauty took off after the pair. As you can clearly see, they’re a dysfunctional bunch, to say the least. But even despite that, Snow Ricky would be lost, not knowing what to do at all.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘They really did mean the world to Snow Ricky. Each one of them had a huge impact on Ricky and who he’s become since meeting them. The Evil Queen knew she had to strike when he was at his most vulnerable, when he was alone.

 

She knew Ricky liked to party with the seven dwarves but also knew that he sometimes stayed behind. So she waited..and waited..and waited until she had her spot. One night, the dwarves had gone out for what was sure to be a wild night. But Snow Ricky wasn’t really feelin it.

 

That was when the Evil Queen put her plan into motion. She knew the kind hearted nature of Snow Ricky and knew he could be easily tricked. So, she dressed up like a feeble old woman, not a difficult task accordin to Cat, selling apples. Usually this woulda been a really shitty plan but she was a crafty olebitch.

 

See, anyone who knew Snow Ricky knew he was a huuuuge pothead. He was always in them dwarf greens and it wasn’t a secret at all. The Evil Queen, just like everyone else, knew this and was gonna use it against him.’

 

The Evil Queen set her plan into motion. With relative ease, she completely disguised who she was. Standing in front of that large mirror, she was nothing but pleased at the look of an old crone she now wore. But she knew that wasn’t going to be enough. She needed something that would put Snow Ricky down for good.

 

She needed poison. After a quick inspection of her rather well stocked apothecary table, and concocted what would be her most vile potion yet. A sleeping drought. She put as much of it as she possibly could and once she was done, the apple was perfect. A single bite would send Snow Ricky into a sleep he would never awaken from. 

 

Her minions had informed her of when the dwarves had arrived at the local bar and then the time was right. She knew exactly where Ricky and the dwarves stayed at so it was just a matter of getting there.

 

And when she did get there, everything was perfect. Snow Ricky reclined on that couch, absolutely high out of his mind. A gentle knock at the door caught the attention of Snow Ricky. He got up and went to answer the door. His half opened eyes opened just a little bit more as he saw her.

 

Snow Ricky: ‘Whoa. Heyy~ What’s goin on?’

 

Old Crone: ‘Good evening young man! I’ve been selling apples all day and have but one left. The kingdom often says how much better my apples are than everyone else’s. And for good reason too.’

 

The munchies had just begun to kick in for Snow Ricky and man did he love a good apple. Without a second thought, he pulled out his coin purse and dug out enough to cover the apple. The Crone’s wrinkly hand clutched that apple as she handed it to Ricky before taking the money he handed her.

 

Snow Ricky: ‘Do you wanna come in and chill for a lilbit? Take a load off and all that.’

 

Old Crone: ‘Maybe next time. It’s getting dark and I need to get back home. I do hope you enjoy the apple, however.’

 

Without another word, The Crone turned and shuffled off, leaving Ricky to shrug his shoulders. Closing the door, Ricky tossed that apple up and caught it a few times before retaking his seat on the couch.

 

He took a single bite of the apple and was shocked, to say the least. That apple wasn’t nearly as good as the old crone had said it was. But as soon as he chewed and swallowed that bite, he felt the effects hit. His grip loosened entirely on that apple as it fell to the floor. Not sure of what to do, Snow Ricky attempted to stand up and his legs gave out just as quickly as his hands did.

 

Collapsing to the floor, Snow Ricky’s eyes had closed and the Evil Queen’s plan was a success. Snow Ricky was in the deepest of sleeps, never to awaken again. When the dwarves returned, they were shocked to see their friend, Snow Ricky, in a heap on the floor.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘The dwarves tried literally everythin they could to wake Snow Ricky up but nothin they did worked. So, they did what any respectful group of friends would do. They built Snow Ricky a really comfortable bed complete with a glass cover to protect him from the elements and left him outside.

 

After they mourned their friend, life went on as it would. For most, at least. There was one who had just as many problems with the Evil Queen as Ricky did. And was the super brave and totally awesome Jennie. The best fightin princess anywhere. Without a doubt, she was the fairest maiden in all the lands. She was always so kind to everyone she came across. And her and Snow Ricky were the best of friends.

 

So suffice to say, when news reached her of Snow Ricky’s situation, she didn’t hesitate in the slightest. Just as quickly as she could, she made that arduous trek to where the dwarves lived and more importantly, to that big ass coffin thing they made..which was still kinda weird…’

 

On her galloping steed, she whoaed him to a stop and was instantly greeted by the dwarves cept for Drunky and Flipfloppy who were fighting as per usual as she dismounted the horse. They explained the situation and everything to her as a look of sadness broke out across her face. 

 

Her and Snow Ricky had become rather close to one another in the short time they knew each other. There, of course, was rumors in the kingdom about the two of them but they were always played off. I mean, they were a natural fit. Knowing this, the look of pain on her features was evident as she gazed down at Ricky in his box.

 

Princess Jennie: ‘Ohh, Snow Ricky! What has that evil bitch done to you?!’

 

She placed her hands down onto that glass surface, gazing down at the motionless Snow Ricky. Running her hand across the surface, she reached to the handle of the glass handle and pulled it open. She looked down at him, even as he looked so peaceful just laying there.

 

Stepping around to the side, she leaned down, moving closer and closer until their lips met. And just like that, the eyes of Snow Ricky shot open. He blinked a couple times, as if to regain his bearings.

 

Snow Ricky: ‘..whoa.’

 

She took a single step back, giving Ricky the room to sit up and climb out of it. The two stood in front of one another for just a moment before embracing each other with a passionate kiss. What dwarves that were still paying attention awwed at the sight.

 

Snow Ricky: ‘Now let’s go take her down!’

 

The cheers were loud as the whole group marched off.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And they did just that. As hard as she tried, the Evil Queen couldn’t work her magic on them, not anymore. Together, they rose up, fought through everythin she could throw at them. And it was at that moment the Evil Queen realized they were more than she ever thought they were. It was her downfall. 

 

With the Evil Queen’s power and influence completely unraveled, things began to get better and better all across the kingdom. And with that, they all lived happily ever after. The end.’

 

Closing up that book, Ricky returned it to the side of the chair. Picking up his glass, he drank down the rest of his drink, smiling as he did so.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘See, no matter what someone says bout you or how they make you feel, you hafta stand up for yourself. Speak your mind. Be open with how you feel. Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anythin you want. That’s somethin it sometimes takes a lottabit of work to understand. But once you realize it? You’ll never feel more..free.

 

Once you feel like that, it becomes a whole different thing. You start bein able to do things you didn’t believe you could do before. That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve been down so long and now I’m finally feelin like I’m up. Like a whole fuckin clouds movin from in front of the sun thing.

 

I feel better than I’ve ever felt before. I can see better than I’ve ever seen before. And it’s cause of the kinda people I surround myself with that I am where I am. And now, I’m gonna do everythin in my power to show them just what good it’s done for me. I’m gonna take this feelin and I’m gonna do the absolute most with it.’

 

There was a hint of confidence in the features of Ricky. He relaxed back in that chair, a sigh of content rolling free.

 

____________________________________

 

Staying focused.

 

Tampa, Florida. The night before, it was made official: Ricky Rodriguez had signed with Chris Page’s CCPE. It was something he had to really think about but after getting the opinions of the people he trusted most, Ricky knew it was the right move to make. And heading into Blood Money 2? Ricky needed to make all the best moves possible.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Gettin closer and closer to the second Blood Money event. Hadda really great talk with Page last night and he helped me realize what one of my biggest flaws is. I got problems keepin focused. I got the attention span of a squirrel. I mean, just earlier, we were walkin here and I saw the legit coolest butterfly ever.

 

It was just floatin around and chillin and it over and just like got on my hand..’

 

Jennie Fenix: ‘Riiickyy..fooocus~’

 

Her singsongy voice shook Ricky’s thoughts as he started to drift off, as he occasionally does.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Right, right. Gotta pay attention. That’s partially why I’m doin this right now. See, it’s a focus buildin activity. Got Jennie over there, in that little ass bikini, and instead of just..grabbin her up and havin my way with her..I’m gonna talk bout Blood Money. Yay, right?’

 

Sarcasm, a rarely seen thing from Ricky, oozed with that last question. Jennie giggled at Ricky’s response before moving to stand in front of him, her back facing him. In a rather teasing manner, she bent over, stretching herself out a bit. Ricky’s eyes widened greatly, being able to stop himself from reaching out.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Where was I?’

 

One of Ricky’s biggest tells has always been shaking his head in order to collect his thoughts and this time was no different. But it was effective.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Blood Money, right. See, I was a part of the first Blood Money. And there’s a good number of people still here, that were a part of it. Them and I all know just how..fuckin insane of a thing it was. Sure there were alliances and most of them are still intact to this day, some of those alliances, unnamed and unofficial as they haffa be..are still there. But not all of them did. You hadda be ready to put yourself above everyone else..and I wasn’t. In an environment like that, you hafta be ready for anythin that might happen..I wasn’t ready.

 

But then again..I wasn’t the only one not ready. People like..Michelle. She wasn’t ready. Now, I know she’s gonna have alottabit to say bout me and that’s cool. It ain’t gonna be nothin she ain’t said to me before. Oh Ricky’s poor. He ain’t won but like three or four matches. But guess what? In the first Blood Money? I lasted longer than she did. She was done up and taken out and I was still wantin more. That describes alotta things bout us, actually.

 

Valk, she straight up walked up to you and laid you the fuck out. No questions asked, no wing flappin. Just step step BAM. On your ass. Least I can say it took your oleman and Eoin both to take me out. But hey, it’s okay tho. Despite that, you still went on to win both the Bronx and the Manhattan Championships and that’s somethin you can be hyped bout.

 

I mean sure, someone as good as you claim to be never shoulda lost to someone like Dave, yeah? Losin to someone like Dave should be reserved for someone like me, right? Bottom of the barrel kinda shit. But nah, it happened, everyone fuckin saw it. For all the shit you talk..you lost to a dude in a dinosaur mask.

 

And don’t even get me started on you losin to Betsy. Tho, I will let you in on a little secret, Michelle. Notta lottabit of people were surprised that she beat you, for that title..like at all. Kinda funny how that happens tho. You remember that fuckin Freddy Kruger getup you had? It’s reallyyy fittin for you. Strip away the fear the people feel when they stand across from you..and you’re powerless. As soon as they realize that you are literally no better than anyone else, it becomes that much easier to get through your bullshit.

 

See, I can see that now. You’re..no better than anyone else in this match. Your money doesn’t make you better. Your looks don’t make you better. At Blood Money..it’s an even playin field for everyone involved. All those advantages you like to rub in people’s faces? They don’t matter here.

 

At the first Blood Money, things were different than they are now. One of my biggest mistakes I made in that match. I fought for you. I’m not gonna be fightin for you..I’m gonna be fightin against you. I’m gonna get the chance to get right up in your face and show you exactly how wrong you are bout me.’

 

An enthusiastic giggle rolled free from Jennie as Ricky was able to stay more focused on the task at hand than he did with her suggestive bendings. She straightened out and walked towards the edge of that pool only to dive in. A soft sigh slipped free from Ricky as his temptation was gone, for now at least.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘But it’s not just Michelle I needa stand up to. I think it’s even someone I love like a brother and would go to war for, if need be. I gotta stand up, even to people like Austin Ramsey. See, most of the time I don’t gotta problem with Austin..but y’all know Austin. Half the time, I don’t even know I gotta problem with Austin till he tells me I do.

 

At Countdown, I gotta reallyyy big start on that. Whichever Austin it was thought it’d be cool to kick me while I was down, so to say. Between that and the shit Sahara, who I will be speakin, in depth, bout, said..I just..lost it. I fuckin plastered you and made you a Queen. I left you lyin and, in all honesty? It felt fuckin fantastic.

 

Maybe not so much for you, eh Austin? Kinda a double edged sword there, ain’t it? Seein someone you’re close with finally able to step up and stand up for himself. But at the same time, it was at your expense. Imagine that’s gotta sting, if even justa lilbit.

 

All those stupid ass arguments we’d have. All the times you talked me down…gotten pissed at me and said whatever you felt like you hadda say to get a rise outta me…everytime you got a wild hair twisted up in that ass and decided to take it out on me? Every bit of that is gonna come to bite you in the ass at Blood Money.

 

Just like I said Ima do with Michelle. When it comes down to it? Ima get right up in your fuckin face and I’m gonna drop you on all twenty eight of your asses. Talk shit bout these little arms but these arms bouta drag your ass all over Disney if I gotta.

 

See, Austin’s thing is..he doesn’t know when to quit. He doesn’t know when he needs to just shut the fuck up and let people be how they be. But nah, he just keeps pushin and pushin and when someone can’t take anymore and lashes out? He lays on the worst fuckin guilt trips. Nobody likes me wahh wahh

 

I swear, sometimes I wanna just grab him by the fuckin shoulders and shake the shit outta him. I don’t get it. The constant need for attention. Always gotta be the loudest in the room. Tryinta make everybody feel bad when they don’t wanna be up your ass twenty four seven. I really don’t get it. But I mean..that’s Austin.’

 

Just as soon as he got that last word out, he caught sight of Jennie as she climbed up the ladder and out of the pool. At first, he didn’t think nothing of it but then he realized something. Jennie’s bikini top had shifted on one side to the point that her entire breast was exposed. Not only to Ricky but to everyone else at that pool.

 

He watched on, as did most everyone else, while she walked across the concrete, her attention solely focused on Ricky. He could even see a sort of sly grin on her expression as she made her way up to him. She bent down in front of him, making sure to get as close as possible to his face as she grabbed her bottle of water.

 

Standing back straight up, she took a long drink from her bottle as Ricky stared up at her, Jennie seeming to be completely oblivious to her wardrobe malfunction. She feigned a look of confusion at Ricky’s staring.

 

Jennie Fenix: ‘Do I have something on my face?’

 

She tilts her head to the side and scrunches her nose up in that undeniably cute manner. Ricky shook his head before trying to find the words.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Nah, I mean it’s just like..’

 

Still not being able to get the words out, he motioned his head to her exposed titty. That confused look remained across her face until she looked down and feigned realization.

 

Jennie Fenix: ‘Oh..my..gosh! I didn’t even realize!’

 

The tone of her voice made it perfectly clear that she did know and was just teasing Ricky at this point. As she readjusted her top to cover everything back up again, Ricky shifted around in his seat, trying to conceal something of his own. Taking in what felt like the biggest breath ever, Ricky shakily breathed out and shook his head.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘So..not..fair.’

 

Jennie Fenix: ‘Focus baby.’

 

She reached forward and gently grazed her fingers across his cheek. Turning away from him again, she walked towards that pool again, her ass swaying back and forth teasingly before jumping back into that water. As soon as she disappeared beneath that water, Ricky cleared his throat.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Blood Money..Blood Money..Blood Money.’

 

Repeating that same phrase over and over, Ricky pushed hard to keep his attention on the extremely important event.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘And finally..Sahara. She’s definitely one of the ones, that I feel like, I need to stand up to. There’s more than just a little history there and I’ve kept my mouth shut bout it. So now? Ima open all the way up..on Joe Montuori.’

 

The smiling expression of Ricky faded out as those last two words rolled off of his tongue.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Joe..at Ascension..you really fucked my head up. I know things were rocky goin into it but we talked right before Ascension and you assured me..you promised me..that I had nothin to worry bout. And as everyone who watched Ascension knows..you lied. You lied to a naive kid who looked up to you…who believed in you..who trusted you.

 

Since then..I’ve grown. I’ve lived. I’ve learned so much from everyone around me. But most importantly..I’ve forgiven. I’ve forgiven you for how you just..turned your back on me. I’ve forgiven you for how you just abandoned me when you were suppose to have my back. But hey, just like Dickie..you hadda point to prove and that superseded everythin else.

 

And that’s okay. See, cause I gotta point to prove too. And that point is..I’m not gonna be taken advantage of anymore, not by people like you, Joe. Not anymore. I’m cool with you. I’ll party with you. I’m even happy to be under the CCPE banner with you.

 

But don’t mistake none of that. I do not trust you and I never again will. But business is business, as I’ve been told, and I’ll do business. But when it comes down to it? There ain’t no business in Blood Money. Just you over everyone else. You’re used to that tho, ain’t ya? Whether it’s throwin me to the side, lyin to Paul, to Allison, to literally everyone..just to benefit yourself.

 

And past that, when you do get outed on your bullshit, literally your first instinct is to throw money at them. Money doesn’t make you a better person, Joe. Money can’t save your ass from what’s bouta come at Blood Money. 

 

I got all these negative feelins that I’ve just..pushed back..that I’ve just..let go of. But at Blood Money, that ends. I’m not keepin my mouth shut. I’m not pushin my feelins aside. I’m embracin them. And with them, I’m gonna accomplish the impossible. I’m gonna be able to do things I never knew possible. And that, Joe? Is what’s comin for you.’

 

Jennie had came out of that pool just enough to prop herself on the edge of it with her elbows. Ricky, on the other hand, was on a roll and didn’t even notice.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Michelle, Austin, Joe..they’re not the only ones I need to stand up against. There’s still one left. One that I need to open up with. One that I need to get off my chest. And that’s Sahara.’

 

Those eyes of Ricky closed briefly as he sighed out softly. He parted his lips briefly before stopping. It was clear he was internally debating on something. Finally, he sighed once again before speaking.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘But before I get to Sahara, there’s someone else I gotta speak bout before I get to her. The whole standin up for myself thing and all. Tara Fenix.’

 

He scooted back in his seat a bit before bringing his knees up enough to rest his arms upon.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘Tara. I really don’t know what your problem really is. Family is suppose to support one another..have their back. Family doesn’t do what you did to Jennie. Family doesn’t say the terrible things you’ve said bout her. That’s no family behavior. That’s someone who’d rather cut someone as deeply as they can. That’s someone who enjoys makin people so fuckin small.

 

I know what’s best for her.

 

You don’t know shit, Tara. All the experience in the world doesn’t give you the right to talk to her like you did. You deserve exactly what she did to you. Hell, if you ask me? I’d say you deserve a whole hell of alottabit more. And if we meet at Blood Money? I’m gonna be the one to give it to you.

 

And I don’t mean how you gave the Queens Championship to me. Which is definitely somethin I owe you for. But that’s not the only incident. You remember the Margarita Mix? I had just pinned Victor and I was super fuckin stoked bout it. And what did you do? You and Victor jumped me. Laid my ass out and left me lyin.

 

But that’s okay. I know why you did it. You’re this super experienced vet and then bam we showed up and showed out. That totally couldn’t have sat too well with you so you did what you hadda do. That’s okay..cause at Blood Money? Ima do what I hafta do.’

 

The more he went on about Tara, the more his facial features tightened. Clearly, this was a woman who had really gotten under the skin of Ricky more and more as time had gone on. With a single hand, he ran it down across his face, sighing into it. He had been wanting to avoid it but he knew there was someone he had to stand up and speak his mind about.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘As things are right now, me and Sahara are cool. I’m super happy she’s with Thad and that they’re incredibly happy together. But I didn’t always feel like this. I wasn’t always so..happy when I thought of her.

 

As much shit as Michelle, Austin, and Joe together have thrown at me..you..have thrown the most at me. I don’t know what it is..I still don’t know what it is. You hated me bein happy. You hated me feelin good bout myself. You did and said whatever you hadda in order to drag me lower and lower and every..time I’d just let it go.

 

But I can’t let it go anymore. Just like with Joe, I’m so stoked that we’re both under the whole Page umbrella but this is somethin I gotta do. I gotta step up to you and I gotta show you that you’re wrong. It’s nothin personal. It’s notta vendetta. It’s just me provin you wrong.

 

You’ve said so many shitty things bout me. Things that I can still hear so vividly. Shit from Countdown. Shit from where you’d get pissed and take it out on me. That’s motivation. Motivation to show that I’m more than you’ll ever believe I can be.

 

I don’t hate you. I’m not gonna pull a Joe and try to run you down like that. I want nothin but the best for you..outside of Blood Money. Honestly? I hope you and Thad keep goin how you’re goin and end up married and happily ever after and all of that. And I mean that, from the bottom of my heart.

 

But at Blood Money? If it comes down to it, I’m gonna kick your ass. I’m gonna take everythin I felt cause of what you said and the things you did to me..and I’m gonna kick the shit outta you..’

 

Those words trailed off as Ricky laughed incredulously. The look on his face showed he couldn’t quite believe those words came from himself.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘You hear everyone sayin they’re gonna win the second Blood Money. And they could be right. In this kinda situation..literally anythin can and will happen. Anyone can walk away with the win..includin me.

 

The usually cheerful and almost childish Ricky took on a look of seriousness as those words rolled off of his tongue.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘I am just as good as anyone who may or may not be in that match. I put in just as much work for this as almost everyone. I am just as serious bout this as anyone is, don’t mistake my attitude and what I do outta the ring, for anythin other than what it is, that other side.

 

Once I’m in that ring, it’s notta bout Legos or gettin high and gigglin or bein my childish self. I’ve been listenin to the advice..and it’s been workin. Like..really workin. Puttin myself first..that’s what I gotta do..if I wanna win. Cause I do. I wanna win. I win this and nobody will be able to doubt me.

 

But in order to win..I gotta go through everybody. Everybody in Fight. All the outsiders slippin in through the back. Blood Money is still a lilbit away but I’m gonna be ready when the time comes. I hear y’all. I hear the advice. I hear the shots bein taken at me. I hear the support. I hear the negativity.

 

I hear it all. I’m gonna take every one of those voices and use them to keep me goin. All of those words..they’re gonna push me closer and closer to the end. And finally? They’re gonna be what gets me the win of my lifetime. I’m gonna prove everyone wrong. I’m gonna reach levels that I ain’t ever reached before.

 

It’s time for me to be who I should have been from the start. I tried things my way. I tried to adjust my way to work and I’ve been met with nothin but failure. I’m tired of failin. I’m tired of bein the whippin boy. I’m gonna stand up and I’m gonna kick every ass in front of me. Blood Money..is..mine.

 

As soon as that word ‘mine’ left his lips, Ricky sighed out in total relief. He nearly collapsed back into a laying position. Jennie climbed out of that pool and made her way up to where Ricky laid. She crawled up next to him and the two cuddled up to one another.

 

Jennie Fenix: ‘That was soo great, baby. You’ve never sounded so..confident before. You stayed really focused too, even when I tried so hard to distract you.’

 

Laughing out, Ricky shook his head before shooting Jennie a look.

 

Ricky Rodriguez: ‘You damn near got me too. Specially when your titty was out for everyone to see. Practicin for your show, huh?’

 

A look of innocence grew across her face as she smiled sweetly. That smile took a bit of a devious turn as she spoke up.

 

Jennie Fenix: ‘But you didn’t! And just like I said about your match coming up, if you succeed, you get something very..very..special. Now let’s get out of here so you can see what.’

 

That’s the only cue Ricky needed. He damn near jumped up onto his feet, pulling Jennie up with him. The couple laughed as they made their exit from that pool area.

 

____________________________________

 

I’m ready.

 

Within the Velvet Rabbit, there was always somethin wild goin on and tonight was no different. We came outta their Burrow, and by their I mean Thad and Sahara’s. It was obvious as hell what we were doin in there and really made no attempt at hidin it.

 

It was fuckin intense, to say the least. There was a familiarity there, with Sahara. Our personalities mighta not meshed all too well but I mean, attraction is attraction. And Thad? Thad’s been hittin on me since I’ve known him. To call that man hot is an understatement like whoa. And to top it all off? Jennie was onboard with me bein apart of it.

 

Everythin just lined up nice and it proved to be an experience I’ll never forget. After the fact, we hung out for a lilbit longer, makin obvious jokes and innuendos bout what we just done. We hadda few more drinks too. But not long after, they were bout to head home for the night. I kinda wasn’t ready to leave yet so I just told’em I’ll hang back and catch a ride in a lilbit.

 

Hugs and goodbyes were exchanged as I watched them leave through those doors. I still couldn’t believe what had happened. There was a drink waitin for me when I turned back around and without hesitation, I took a drink from it.

 

The Rabbit would be the last place you’d think of when you need a place to really get some thinkin done. But really, it was the best spot for it. Amazin food, great music, drinks that never end. Plus, everyone there’s really good at readin the room. If you don’t wanna be bothered..then you won’t be.

 

I grabbed up my drink and took another drink from it before I started to really go over the stuff in my head. Like..it’s amazin just how fast everythin can change. Just a few weeks ago, I damn near hated myself. I hated who I was becomin. I had no confidence in myself. Was actually startin to wonder if I even belong here. Not here like The Rabbit, but wrestlin.

 

But then it’s like that lightnin bolt struck. And when it did, it shook everythin up. It’s like..someone hit the reset button. Not just that, but like they switched out the games and I didn’t even notice it. Everythin has gotten so fuckin much better. My relationship with Jennie Fenix really was the catalyst for everythin to become better. She really is unlike anyone I ever thought could exist. I love her.

 

Her support and backin has done nothin but good for me. I feel confident in myself again. All I gotta do is hear those words of encouragement..that fuckin gorgeous smile on her face..and it’s like I can conquer the whole fuckin world. But I’m notta selfish man. I don’t want the world..I want Blood Money. I wanna head into Disney with my head held high and walk out..a winner.

 

I wonder how many people laughed when I said I was gonna be the one to win Blood Money. I mean, nobody really expects it, y’know? That’s just gonna make it that much better when I do. Their reactions when I’m the last one standin. The looks on their faces when I show the world that I am capable of anythin…and everythin. I’m gonna prove each and every one of them wrong. I’m more..so much more.

 

But it’s alottabit easier said than done. With the number of people gonna be in this match? It’s gonna be the challenge of challenges. But at same time..it’s like..we don’t even really know who’s gonna be in it. I mean, sure we can see when they drop their videos but even then, there’s bound to be more than a few surprises along the way.

 

See, the thing is..there’s alotta unknown. There’s no guarantee that we’re even gonna run into every person in this match. Despite that, we still hafta be ready for anythin and everythin. Gotta be ready for people like The Enforcer and Eoin O’Rourke. Million dollar bodies and nickel brains. Poor Enforcer tho, not only does he gotta worry bout Ani bein on his ass, he gotta worry bout her bein on his daughter’s ass too, ahah~ And Eoin, everyyyone knows his entire involvement in Blood Money is gonna be what Apathy allows it to be.

 

Then you got the kinda..different ones. People like Brandon Moore. The poor guy must be reallyy goin through it. It’s almost like deja vu all over again. Does he got it under control? Is he outta his fuckin mind? Will that laundry list of substances finally fuckin fry him? He prolly already woulda had it not been for good guy Paul. Always gots your back tho, don’t he?

 

Speakin of Paul tho, papi suave even. He’s totallyyy one of those I wanna run into durin this. I don’t hold no ill feelins against Paul, I really don’t. I don’t look badly at him for failin against Dickie. I don’t look badly at him for tuckin tail and runnin against NSQ. And most of all, I don’t look badly at him for that ass beaten he laid on me a few weeks ago. I totally get it. After failin all those times, you hadda do somethin drastic like that. Specially with the kinda things people were sayin bout you? You hadda save face. And it worked. Eventually, you and bff Brandon took back the Island Championships that Allison and Dane handed to NSQ. I mean, it’s not like you took the Empire Championship from Dickie like you are so..fuckin..obsessed with doin but it’s still somethin to be proud of.

 

Another person Ima prolly run into? Fuckin Bam Miller. Bam’s bout like Austin. You never really know whatcha gonna get with him. Is it gonna be cool Bam? The one you can drink, smoke, and play dominoes with? Or is it gonna be the Bam that takes shots at people then fakes bein fuckin stupid when he’s called out on it? The one you don’t even wanna see come around cause it’s just problem after problem after problem. Only time will tell. But I ain’t holdin my breath.

 

New Status Quo. Lemme stop you right there tho. I know I ain’t got no room to be talkin shit bout none of them. Think I’ve lost to more members of NSQ than anyone else in Fight. Lost to Dickie. Got my ass handed to me by Shawn. Hell, I even lost to Kasey. They’re legit as good as they say they are.

 

Odds of runnin into one, or more, of’em are damn near guaranteed at this point. They run shit. And that’s nobody’s fault but our own. We all had the chance to be where they are and we dropped the ball. I don’t fault them, at all, for flexin what they got. They earned it. They deserve it. I really don’t have a problem with anyway, you all saw what happened with Dynasty.

 

And even even past that, I don’t really have a problem with any of them. Dickie was always hella cool to me. Gave me advice when I needed it. Didn’t just shrug me off like so many others have. But there’s somethin bout Dickie..

 

With everythin that’s changed since the first Blood Money..there’s been one thing that’s remained exactly the same. And that’s Dickie Watson’s place at the top. See, Dickie exploded right outta the gate and has held that Empire Championship with a fuckin death grip.

 

Challengers have come and gone and Dickie has stomped’em all. But that changes at Blood Money. Dickie is great, without a doubt one of the single best in this business today or most any other days. But there’s one thing bout Dickie, that even he can’t deny or slip around. Dickie..is..human.

 

He has his off nights just like the rest of us do. Just look at when he got in there against Dane Preston. Your first match in Fight after winnin the first Blood Money and that Empire Championship. And what happened? You fell flat. Everyone was just as surprised as you were, Dickie. But I get what happened. You were still ridin that Blood Money high, weren’t ya?

 

Thought you were invincible. The old heads usta call it seven foot tall and bulletproof. You overlooked him. And that’s okay, people overlook stuff all the time. You thought you were just gonna stomp up in there and handle business. But Dane proved you wrong. Dane kicked your head off of your shoulders and pinned you for the three count.

 

But that wasn’t the first time that you shot yourself in the foot, was it Dickie? You remember teamin with Amari against me and Paul? I mean, you can claim you don’t, if that’s your game, but to me? I remember it damn clearly. And not just cause it was one of my very few victories here. But cause it showed, even more, just how touchable you are.

 

You were a shitty partner to Amari. When he needed you to have his back the most, where were you? Oh that’s right. You said fuck Amari..fuck this match..and you let your shit with Paul completely override everythin else. And Amari is the one who paid for your shitty decision. But that’s okay, right? You proved your point..sent your message..did whatever it is you wanna call that whole thing.

 

That’s not the last time you’d do some shit like that, is it Dickie? The Semi Finals of Toxic Tag. You, once again, showed whatta petty ass person you can be. There’s no way in hell that you and Paul shoulda lost that. But you did..and why? Cause your hadda..send..a..message. You put your personal beef ahead of the match. That is why you lost. And most importantly? That is why you’re not winnin Blood Money.

 

See, with as many times as I’ve been in there, against you, in one way or another? I know what to expect from you. You hit hard. You move faster. And you’ll prolly say fuck the match just so you can prove a point to someone like Sahara.

 

It wasn’t long after I finished that drink that a waitress was kind enough to bring me another. Was a different one than the one I just finished but damn it was just as good. Settin it back down, I leaned my head back and looked up at the ceilin over me.

 

And James. I like James. He’s been finally startin to be more of a person round all of us and it’s been really great to see. Tho, that’s prolly partially cause of Atara but whateverrr’s goin on there is notta damn bit of my business. 

 

James Raven was one of those names that I’ve always heard. And for good reason too. That man just might be everythin everyone says he is..the best. But then again..what if that should be a was? I mean, people age. They wear down. They..don’t always stay as great as they once were.

 

I mean, you all saw how Raven made his grand entrance at Ascension. He waited..he waited until it was all damn near said and done. He waited until almost every fuckin one of us gave everythin we had..and he picked up the scraps. Prolly shoulda just started callin’em James Vulture after that. Tho, it doesn’t really have the same ring to it so we’ll just backburner that.

 

I do hafta wonder tho..if youda never showed up..would it have made a difference at all? Would we be exactly where we’re at now if James Raven hadn’t shown up at Ascension? I think we would. I mean, Paul and Michelle woulda fought like hell but I mean come on, all of New Status Quo was still in the match. Michelle and Paul are great but with those odds, I don’t think it woulda mattered. And then there you come, playin hero and takin all the credit and makin everythin bout you.

 

I mean, sure, they had Shawn right where they needed him. But I’ve had my ass handed to me by Shawn and I know the kinda fight he brings. That wasn’t gonna be the end of him. I know that. Michelle and Paul know that. And most importantly..deep down beneath all the luster and grandeur..you know that too.

 

The more I’ve thought bout that, the more I thought that maybe..James hadda do it like that. Now, I know whatcha thinkin: I gotta be outta my fuckin mind. But hear me out. Look at Silent Fight. Sahara versus James Raven. I ain’t ever seen nothin like that before. Bouncin back and forth between the heat like that. Miss F put it perfectly..it was a test of determination. And look at what happened.

 

Sahara’s determination was better. She knew what she hadda do and she did it..she did it better than James did. I wonder how that felt. It couldn’t have felt worse than what happened next..could it?

 

You and Aiden lost the Island Championships, the ones that New Status Quo were given. Now, I know alotta people are blamin Aiden. And that’s understandable..but it’s not fair. It’s just as much Raven’s fault they lost as it is Aiden’s. That’s what it means to be someone’s partner. When you succeed, you both succeed. When you fail, you both fail. I know people say Aiden or Kasey are the weak links of NSQ but after closer examination..I think it’s you, actually.

 

I mean..just look at it. Ya got Dickie. Empire Champion. Dude’s been it since this whole thing started. Then you throw in Aiden beside him and you got chemistry defined. Two great individuals comin together as an amazin team. You got Shawn. Shawn’s ruthless. He fights like a fuckin demon and that’s bein nice bout it. Bein able to fight with Shawn like that has made Kasey push that much harder and she’s become even greater cause of it. Even Betsy. The new Manhattan Champion. Not to mention her whole Brother Mine and Sister Mine thing she gots with Shawn. That says all that needs to be said.

 

And then there’s James..just..James. Now, don’t mistake any of this as dismissive of your talent, your ability, or any of your accomplishments. Just talkin bout the here and now. And in the here and now..you’re just not holdin up. Least not like the rest of’em are.

 

This feels..really fuckin amazin, y’know? And not just that whole post orgasm feelin. I mean..really openin up and speakin up on this kinda thing. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been workin with Chris Page. I’ve been workin with Thad. I learned what I needa learn and I’m ready to put every last bit of it to the ultimate test.

 

And that test is Blood Money. I’m gonna do a wholeee lottabit better than I did last time. And what’s the best way to do that? By winnin the whole fuckin thing. By goin through each and every person in front of me..no matter how I feel bout them. That includes people I’m cool with like Ash or members of the CCPE. That includes people I care bout the most..Toddy..and Jennie.

 

I hafta do this. I hafta keep my head held high and be ready to do whatever I hafta do in order to walk out the winner of this whole ass thing. Whether or not any of them believe I can do it or not, I’m gonna do this. I’ve had too many opportunities slip through my fingers cause I wasn’t able to do what I hafda do in order to succeed.

 

But things are..different now. My eyes are open and my path is decided. Just look at this last match I had. Teamed with Carli Davis against Coral and Nami and..we won..I won. I showed that I’m finally ready..and able to put myself first. I’ve got the skills..the talent. And now I’m ready to use them to the fullest extent.

 

The last of that drink went down well enough. It took a minute but once I thought I was ready, I got up from my seat. As he usually did, Thad had already covered the tab so it was just a matter of gettin the hell outta here. Ain’t even wobble or stagger or nothin. Even as I walked, my thoughts just kept on goin.

 

It’s time for me to stand up for myself.

 

It’s time for me to strike back.

 

I’ve worked so hard..for so long. I’ve been battered, beaten, and broken. But each and every time, I’ve drug myself back up and kept on pushin like nobody else can. And now it’s my turn. My turn to do the batterin. My turn to do the beatin. My turn to do the breakin. My turn to rise above everyone else and show the whole fuckin world just who Ricky Rodriguez is and what he’s capable of.

 

The closer I got to that door, the louder those thoughts became. There were a few up there but there was one that was louder than all of the others, to the point of drowning them out.

 

I’m ready.