The Art of Wrestling

By: Sahara

Date: 8th Oct 2021

FIGHT Tower
(Production Studio A)

Sahara ran her hands over her face and through her hair.

”CUT! AGAIN!” Audible groans emanated from various areas behind the cameras. ”C’mon, Sahara! Act like you’ve been here before!”

Hands firmly planted on her hips, the fiery blonde looked around the room at the various production crew standing at their designation stations. Lighting. Cameras. Makeup. You name it. The usual over the top FIGHT studio setup. When they say they spared no expense, this wasn’t like the Jurassic Park dude claiming he spared no expense while hiring Newman to run an entire theme park full of wild dinosaurs all by himself. No. FIGHT went all out to set the measuring stick to new heights in a setting unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. They not only had the best equipment money could buy, but the best people operating that equipment.

If Blood Money was the big bang that started it all, the appropriately named Ascension would be the official rise of FIGHT.

All eyes were on us.

Now all we had to do was deliver.

But for all the bluster about how FIGHT was changing the game, one thing hadn’t changed…

”That’s the point! I HAVE been here before. We all have! And so have thousands of others across decades. This is just … old at this point. A regurgitation of the same stale shit over and over and over again. I mean, I already know what my opponents are going to say before they even say it. It’s some variation of what I call the Alanis Morissette “I’m a Bitch” promo. Just listen to the song and you’ll get 98% of what people are gonna say about me. Sprinkle in a bit of Chicago lore and you’ll get the other 2%. I get it, I’m a basic bitch disney princess that likes Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the White Sox. You know … I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, right? Oh, I almost forgot the part where I’m too much of a coward to face an entire faction on my own while one of them is wielding a knockoff Walking Dead death weapon. I mean, okay, if that’s what a coward is…I don’t give a fuck. All I know is I’m still rockin’ and rollin’…”

She rolled her eyes as the promo director took a step forward, his back now to the cameras. ”So what is it you want to do? You know this is what they look for. You know it’s what the people want.”

Sahara shrugged, ”I just don’t think it’s productive is all. Me talking shit about my opponents won’t make them any worse out there where it matters. Will it make people laugh? Maybe. If it’s good. Will it make people think? Perhaps. But will it make me win?” She sarcastically smirked and shook her head, ”No. It fucking won’t.”

The director threw his hands up, ”Well, that’s how it’s always been done. I don’t know what you want me to tell you, Sahara, but everyone has to do it.”

She crooked an eyebrow as a slight smirk curled her lip, though the question she asked came across as more of a statement.

”Do I?”

The director let out a little laugh as he looked around at the rest of his crew. ”If you wanna have a chance at winning this thing, it’s proven that this is one of the most effective ways to knock an opponent off their game. So yeah, you kinda do.”

”Do you know what it’s like to want something so bad you can taste it? To wait your entire life to get somewhere, and when you finally get within inches of it, I mean, imagine you’re this damn close,” She held up her thumb and index finger a mere millimeter apart. “Your fingertips are scraping up against it, and all you gotta do is reach out and take it … but then outta no where you start to think; what if I grab this thing and suddenly realize it’s not what I wanted? What if I worked my entire life to get to where I am, and then realize once I got there, it wasn’t what I was lookin’ for?”

The director looked around with a confused expression on his face. “What?”

The blonde slowly turned to all the prying eyes, ”When I started out in this business, it was all about proving my father wrong. With everything I had – with every ounce of energy I had – I was determined to make it to the big time in an industry dominated by giants. While he had my brothers earmarked to be the ones that were gonna make it, it was me that achieved that goal. ME. But then, once I got there … poof … it was gone.”

As Sahara turned her back to the cameras, she looked up at the studio lights while the director discreetly checked to make sure the cameras were still rolling. They were.

”Once I made it, I suddenly found myself needing a new goal. To win. At all costs. To win as much as possible. To be the very best! But then, I started to look around at all the winnin’ goin’ on, and realized that a lot of people win. And by a lot, I mean a whole lot. Just ask ‘em, they’ll be sure to tell ya! Almost every damn person in this industry has had nine-thousand title reigns. I mean, sure, some win more than others, but as the years roll on … winnin’ isn’t what makes you memorable. If I told ya Dane Preston beat Dickie Watson at Venom 2, you’d probably call bullshit! I mean, Dane never wins, right? But yeah, he did. Go look. The problem is, no one really cares. Because that’s not what makes you remember a person.”

”It’s like how the words legend and star get thrown around in this industry like panties at a 1980’s hair metal concert. Every motherfucker on Twitter that comes prancin’ through those doors is a legend of some sort, at least in their own minds. They’re these big bright shining stars that can’t last more than a handful of shows without ducking out because they realize this is a lot fuckin’ harder than it looks at this level.”

She laughed.

”In a world where all the men are kings and all the women queens, ya gotta find a way to stand out. If I was a captain, you’d suddenly be a commodore, and the next guy through those doors would surely be an admiral. Speaking of which, from this moment on, the Crimson Queen is dead. I don’t need some trite moniker to remind people I’m dangerous. Betsy Granger is absolutely one-hundred percent correct about what she said about that. It’s a relic of the past, and it’s high time to move on from what I was, to what I am. And people think I don’t listen’!”

Sahara finally turned back to face the cameras, instantly recognizing they’d been recording the entire time. She smirked in acknowledgement, but didn’t skip a beat–

”For me, gettin’ to the top wasn’t about winning. It wasn’t even about being the strongest or the fastest. Or collecting the most titles, which interestingly enough requires you to keep losing ‘em. It was and is about being remembered.”

She paused and looked around at the various people staring at her. The director stood behind the camera and leaned into plain view, and made a silent rolling motion with his hand. Sahara smiled.

”Ya know what? I’m gonna do something a little bit different today. Let’s call it an inverted shoot. I’m sure we’re gonna get to see, what is it? Nineteen others singing false praise for their opponents before they rip them to shreds? I’m gonna go against the grain a little, and instead of doin’ that, I’m gonna tell the world why each of my opponents should win this thing…”

The crew’s somewhat bewildered expressions were enough for her to realize she had their attention.

The Cure. Or as I call them, the deadly ones.”

”Let’s start with Brandon Moore. What can I say? This is a guy that practically blew himself up when he beat Bam Miller just to put some extra stank on it. I mean, I can’t blame him after what Bam did to Michelle, putting their baby in jeopardy and all. Accident or not, someone had to pay. Then, if that wasn’t enough, when the captains of the other factions emerged onto the stage for the closing moments of Venom, the motherfucker stood up on what I could only describe as half a leg, and told ‘em all to bring it.” Sahara hops on one leg, mimicking the closing moments of the show, as she beckons those watching to step on up.

”Fuck it, right? He was done, but … he wasn’t really done if ya know what I mean. That’s what it takes to win. That’s what it’s gonna take to Ascend this damn tower and claim that Blood Money. Maybe if I look past the superficial bullshit that makes me wanna kick his teeth down his throat, I can see he’s not much different than me. Though I still don’t understand a thing the fucker says with his hippy ass nonsensical poetry and whatnot, like I said, we ain’t all that different when it comes to this…”

Sahara shrugged, ”Arrogant? Check.”

”Snarky? Check.” ”Willing to kill ourselves to win?”

With the wave of a finger, she makes the sign of a checkmark in the air.

”We just witnessed that one, right Bam? Check.”

She shrugged again.

”Next up, who do we got?! Sarah Wolf it is! C’mon down, Dollface! Now if y’all been payin’ attention, you’d know that a few weeks back Sarah and I went to war out there for almost thirty-seven minutes. And again, it doesn’t matter that I beat her. It doesn’t even matter how I beat her. The only thing that matters is she didn’t … stop … coming for me. And if you were smart, that’d scare you.”

”Still scares me.”

Sahara paced a bit, but kept her icy eyes trained on the cameras.

”Fifteen minutes into the fight, I thought my size and power advantage would wear her small ass down. That didn’t happen. Like a rabid little wolverine, she kept on comin’ for more. Kicks, punches, suplexes, it didn’t matter. Thirty-five minutes in was the same as the first fifteen. The bitch with no fucks to give kept on givin’ no fucks and kept on bringin’ it… but so did I.” ”If you don’t believe a person like that can Ascend? Well then, try steppin’ in the ring with her.” ”Sarah, I know you ain’t one to give a single solitary shit about what I gotta say, but you earned my respect that night. Whatever that means to ya? I really don’t care. But you earned it.”

Apathy. We’ve danced before. Many times now. And every time I doubted you actually had it in ya, you surprised the fuck outta’ me. Granted, you’d probably say the same about the Chicago Barbie, but last we waltzed was in a couples dance, and while I didn’t eat the pin … you still got the win. Needless to say, I won’t be taken by surprise this time. They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, right? They say that for a reason. You’re that reason. You got somethin’ in ya I can’t quite explain. An anger that fuels you. But whatever it is, you got the stuff. And this time I won’t repeat the sins of the past and doubt you again.”

”This time, Apathy, let’s just say I won’t be so … apathetic to how good you really are.”

Waving his hands to grab Sahara’s attention, the director holds up a large white sign that reads, “Read Sponsors!” She barely gave an acknowledging nod as she continued on–

”And rounding out the Cure we got Eoin O’Rourke and The Enforcer. Or as I call them, the enforcers. Okay, one of them actually calls themselves that, but I digress; that’s exactly what they are. Hired guns. Now I know my memory’s a little messed up, cuz that’s what drinkin’ too much will do to ya kids. So if you’re gonna drink somethin’, try drinkin’ a Coke!” From off camera, she catches a can of Coke before popping it open and performing her best Tom Hanks impersonation from A League of Their Own– Ahhhhhh. That’s the stuff. Tossing the can to the side, she hears it bang off something but doesn’t sell it as a mistake. How’s that for product placement? This anti-drinking spot was brought to you by Coca-Cola in conjunction with FIGHT. Be responsible. Buuuuuut, if you insist on not being responsible, make sure ya do it at the Velvet Rabbit with their nightly drink specials, and gorgeous Bucks and Does! They’ll make sure ya get home safe! Unless ya get kidnapped and flown to a private island where ya almost die.” Sahara smiles and winks, ”You’re welcome, Voo.”

She suddenly stops dead and gazes at the director, ”Happy? Are we good?”

Nodding, he gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up and motioned for her to continue. She shook her head. Fucking corporatism. It made her feel like a complete sellout, but seeing those royalty checks roll in had a way of making her not give a shit. Besides, it’s not every day a company like Coke comes knocking, and when they do, you shut the fuck up and drink it down–

”Anyway, what better way to round out a team than with some good ol’ old fashioned muscle? Brandon may be a bit of a egomaniacal dickface at times, but he sure wasn’t stupid. Eoin, Enforcer … as we’ve yet to meet in combat, I can’t say much for your style, but let’s be honest, two guys of your size? Neither of you are to be taken lightly.”

”By anyone.”

”Now I know you’re all wondering, Jesus, how long is this bitch gonna ramble on?! And is she really gonna go through each and every person in this damn thing while reading off advertisements for companies like Coke-a-cola and Manscaped? The answer is yes! Well, kinda. I promise I’m almost done with the ads, but a bitch gotta get paid somehow! But I also know each of ya is waiting to see what I got to say about ya. So sit down, shut up, and let’s get on with it…”

Dynasty. I know what you’re thinkin’, there ain’t no damn way Sahara could have anything nice to say about most of this crew, right? Let’s just say I’m tryin’, Ringo, I’m tryin real hard to be the shepherd. Of all the factions, this group is the flashiest. If the Cure are the steak, these guys are definitely the sizzle…and also pretty damn dysfunctional.”

Paul Montuori. The pretty boy. Or as I call him, ‘Metro Montuori’. Doesn’t quite look what I think a man should look like, but he definitely Manscapes though, so I’ll give him that! So if you wanna be like Paul Montuori, head over to Manscaped dot com and use the promo code VhodkasHairyBack for twenty-percent off your order!”

Sahara gives a playful wink, fighting not to laugh.

”Now that we got that outta the way, is any of that gonna stop him from doing what he does best at Ascension? Nope. I’m talkin’ about a guy that’s the day one main event for the Empire championship against Dickie f’n Watson! There ain’t no denying he earned every damn thing he got, and belongs exactly where he is. And if that wasn’t enough for a weekend’s work, he’s also in the Ascension event on night two! I mean, is there anything this guy can’t do?!” ”Now, will having to fight two nights in a row put him at a disadvantage? Probably. I mean, imagine going to war with Dickie Watson in the main event of night one and then having to brush that off and somehow find it in yourself to show up on night two and fight … well … everybody!” ”As much as it pains me to say it, this Mont’s the real deal.”

Leaning her head back momentarily, Sahara pauses. Taking a deep breath, she paces the stage. This next one was a rough one. This guy kept her up at night. Literally. But lately, as Ascension drew closer and closer, it wasn’t bedroom wrestling that was keeping her up, it was the thought of him being the one to stand in her way–

”My Little Lion. Ricky Rodriguez. Ain’t gonna lie, this is a tough one. Probably the toughest one I’ll have to face. I know I’m considered a heartless bitch, but it turns out I’ve developed some feels over the past few weeks. I’ve lost sleep thinkin’ about what the hell I’m gonna do if we happen to bump into each other during Ascension. I wonder if you’ll hit me? I wonder if I’ll hit you? It’s easy to say that’ll never happen, but I know how we all get out there. We’re competitors. We don’t know how to quit.”

”I just wonder if I got victory within my grasp if you’d be the one to stop me? Or visa-versa?” ”I wonder what it’ll do to our relationship if I’m put in a situation where I gotta choose between helping my team, or helping my Little Lion? I mean, what would that look like?! Am I gonna have to listen to Vhodka telling Ricky, ‘I told ya he’d throw you into a volcano for Dane!’ I’ve heard people say I’d sacrifice you for FYA, and that I’d do it without a second thought.” ”But I gotta tell ya, I’m thinkin’ twice these days.” ”Are you a Montague?” ”Am I a Capulet?”

With a playful smile, she shakes her head.

”I don’t know about any of that, but I do know you’re my Little Lion. And soon you’ll be the new King of Manhattan.”

“Miss Michelle. The Queen Bee. Definitely not a WannaBee. I find myself wanting to hug you one minute, and choke you out the next. You can be quite infuriating. But I suppose that’s the way it’s gotta be. And I’m sure you feel the same way about me. You’re one of the most ruthless bitches I’ve ever met, and yet I wouldn’t want it any other way. I always know where I stand with you. Want the truth? Ask Michelle. Trust me, she’ll tell ya exactly what you don’t wanna hear. And I know it may be hard to believe, but that’s what I like about you.”

”People ask me all the time, why do you hang out with her? You know she’s just gonna stab you in the back at the drop of a hat!” Sahara pauses and shakes her head, a devious little smirk crossing her lips. “But that ain’t the case. I always tell ‘em, nope! Not Michelle! She’s gonna walk right up to me, look me in the eyes, show me the knife, and then stick it in my front. That’s what I respect about her.”

”Which leads me to this…I don’t think she gives a good god damn about helping Paul Montuori win this thing. You call yourself a hired gun, Michelle? Hell, you could be, if you cared enough to stick your neck out for him. But there ain’t no way if it comes down to Paul versus Brandon that you’re gonna pick Paul. Not on any day, especially the ones ending in Y. I mean, I still don’t quite understand how you ended up in Dynasty while your husband – or whatever he is – stands as captain of the Cure. If you combine that with the fact you got Ricky fightin’ Todrick for the Manhattan title on night one, both from Dynasty? I don’t see this thing ending well for y’all. I can’t be the only one that sees some serious dysfunction goin’ on here.”

”And trust me, I know dysfunction when I see it.” ”But whateves, right?! I’m sure you got a Poptart in your pocket! Just. In. Case!”

“Todrick Tabor-Ramsey. I don’t know what it is about you, Todrick, but everyone seems to love ya. You’re level headed. Respectable. You always seem to be the voice of reason in a sea of unreasonable people. Such as myself. And Austin. But at the same time, I know how dangerous you can be out there. I mean, you don’t get to be the Manhattan champion by accident. Now, I’d say good luck to ya against my Little Lion, but even when I’m tryin’ my damndest to be nice, that’d just look transparent as glass. Ask Mia.”

Sahara spreads her arms to the side while giving a very slight curtsey toward the cameras.

”So I’ll just move on…” “The New. Status. Quo.”

Sahara was very deliberate with how she slowly said each word with emphasis. Her mostly jovial tone suddenly disappears…

”The odds on favorites. What? You don’t like hearin’ the truth? This is comin’ from me, a member of the FYA, and even I know momentum when I see it. And the thing about momentum is once you got it goin’, it’s incredibly hard to stop it. For all intents and purposes, the NSQ is like a freight train rollin’ through FIGHT right now, and anyone that tries to stand in their way gets … well, you’ve seen what happens to people when they try to beat a train over the the tracks and miss?”

Sahara chuckles.

”That’s kinda what it’s like.”

”But why, you ask? Look no further than the collection of talent. Let’s start with Dickie Watson. The reigning Empire champion. He set the bar from day one at Blood Money, and there ain’t no denying it. There ain’t no denying why, either. He may not be the biggest, but he sure as hell makes up for it in areas that others can’t seem to grasp. When he’s in that ring, he doesn’t make mistakes. But he does capitalize on any mistakes an opponent makes. Don’t believe me? Get in there and make a mistake. Just one. I dare ya. And watch ‘em pounce on ya like a cheetah when ya do…”

Sahara holds up one finger, then two, then three.

”And that’s how it’ll end.”

”Now, when it comes to Kasey Winterborn and Aiden Reynolds? I gotta take a mulligan on these two, as I’ve never really met either of them outside of a few moments here and there. My knowledge of them is limited, but by the time the show rolls around, I promise it won’t be. We got plenty of video on that Occhi system, which I will be using to research both of ya. One thing I do know about ‘em is this; they wouldn’t be in the NSQ if they weren’t the very best at what we do.”

”Betsy Granger. The Impossible Traveler. You’re a bit of an enigma to me. I know, right? Sahara knows the word enigma? Sometimes I don’t quite understand where you’re comin’ from, or what it is you’re doin’, but you’re captivating, I’ll give ya that. And when we stepped through those ropes together on Venom, you brought it. Lock, stock and double barreled. I expected nothing less, and I got nothing less. And like I’ve repeated many times already, it doesn’t matter who won that match, the only thing that matters is what’s about to come. Ascension. And I know damn well that you’re gonna be watchin’ Shawn’s back throughout this thing and keepin’ him afloat wherever and whenever you can.”

”I know we ain’t cut from the same cloth, Betsy, at least on the surface. Where I’m more glitz, glam, and thank you ma’am, you’re this otherworldly … being … that’ll stop at nothing for Shawn. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing. And while others might not see it that way, that’s what makes the NSQ so damn dangerous.”

”I’ll be watching for you, Betsy.” ”You can count on it.”

Sahara stops and looks around the room, contemplating her words. Some might say you always save the best for last, but as far as she was concerned – in FIGHT – there was no single best to save. This was the single greatest collection of talent she’d ever seen, and while some might take that praise lightly, they shouldn’t.

”This is where I’m gonna piss some people off. Because right now there is nobody in FIGHT as red hot as Shawn Warstein. He won’t stay there. Nobody ever does. But right here, right now … in this very moment … he’s undeniably the hottest thing goin’ in FIGHT. He’s a twelve-cylinder engine revvin’ in the red. You wanna talk about a trailblazer? He’s blazin’ trails. Smell that rubber burn, bitches, cuz Warstein’s comin’ through. Blessed with the skill to match that gift of gab on the mic, he’s got it all. In baseball, they’d call him a five-tool player. He can hit for average, hit for power, run, field, and throw. And if ya don’t believe me, just ask him. He’ll tell ya.”

Sahara flashes a quirky little smile.

”Oh, I almost forgot. He’s also got Dickie Watson, Betsy Granger, Kasey Winterborn and Aiden Reynolds watchin’ his back. And unlike most of the other factions fightin’ in this thing – save for FYA – it would seem the NSQ is the only other faction that are all on the same page.”

”Now I know some of y’all don’t wanna hear that, but let’s review a few items of note before I get back to ridin’ that Warstein dick…”

”Dynasty’s got Joe flakin’ off, doin’ who knows what as of late. He’s too infatuated with some stripper to see the forest for the trees here. They got my Little Lion fightin’ Todrick on night one. I’m sure that won’t cause any friction within the faction whatsoever. And then we got the always unpredictable Miss Michelle supposedly watchin’ out for Paul Montouri. I know Michelle better than most, although she’d probably deny that, it doesn’t even matter. You don’t gotta be a genius to know she’s not gonna take a bullet for Paul. Hell, she wouldn’t even take a bullet for Brandon, and he’s the supposed father of their child! Out there in that ring, Michelle is out for Michelle, and she’ll probably even tell ya that at some point over the next few days.”

Sahara tries to stifle a laugh, but can’t help herself.

”So good luck with that, Paul.”

”Then we got the Cure. I mean, I’m sure Brandon thinks he’s the lead. But he’s too busy lickin’ his own ass to see he’s sleepin’ with the enemy. Dude is so full of shit, if you dried him out and gound him up, you could fertilize the world and end hunger. He’s backed by Apathy. But somewhere, deep-deep down in her soul, she’s askin’ herself, ‘Why ain’t I the captain?!’ And if she isn’t askin’ herself that, she damn well should be! The Cure should belong to her, I mean, she started the damn thing, didn’t she?! And oh yeah, you got hired guns like O’Rourke and Enforcer that’ll wanna get paid for their services, so even if ya do win – which you won’t – yer splittin’ the pot. And if alllllll that wasn’t enough, ya still got Sarah Wolf. And she sure as hell doesn’t care about any of your asses.”

”I need not say more?”

”Now where was I?! Ah, right. Shawn Warstein! The man. The actual man. Not some tag line. Not some moniker. The best thing to come out of Chicago since Jesse Jackson Jr. moved in!” Sahara couldn’t help but laugh. ”Consider that a receipt for the R. Kelly comment, ya prick. But in all due seriousness, you got the right team behind ya, Shawn. I’ll give ya that. Like FYA, you’re all on the same page, but unlike FYA, everyone knows it.”

”I’ll be seein’ you on the roof of FIGHT tower.”

”I promise ya that.”

Taking a pause, Sahara slowly turns her back to the cameras. Reaching behind her head, she slowly lets her hair down and shakes it out. Nordic style blonde braids cascading upon her shoulders. She didn’t turn back toward the cameras, but remained facing away…

”Now that I spent most of my time tellin’ ya why others should win this thing, lemme tell ya why FYA will win this thing.”

”Nobody’s talkin’ about us, unless they’re dismissin’ us. That’s why I’m turnin’ my back on ya right now. Keep dismissin’ us. No, scratch that. Keep dismissin’ me.”

”We’re the forgotten ones.” ”The Misfit Toys lost on King Moonracer’s island. Ain’t nobody talkin’ about the FYA. But maybe they should be.”

Her head slightly turns. What can be seen of her right cheek glistens off the lights from above. You didn’t need to see the scowl on her face to know it was there.

”We’re that wildcard team that snuck into the playoffs, and everybody seems to wanna ignore us. Keep on doin’ that. We’re gettin’ ready to bloody some fuckin’ noses. We’re gettin’ ready to make a statement.”

”This is about risin’ to the top. This is about bein’ remembered. And at Ascension, you will remember us.”

”We’re the FYA.”

”Unlike the rest of ya, who are nothing more than shallow allegiances hangin’ by a thread, based on nothin’ more than empty promises, the FYA are an actual family. Not a collection of random individuals. But a singular unit. And when nobody else cared…when the rest of the wrestling world forgot my name, they took upon themselves to bring me back.”

”They like to say trust the process? I’m glad I did.”

”When all of this started, I received a little business card directing me to FIGHT Tower in New York City. No further instructions were given’. I took a leap of faith and went to check it out. I felt like a fish outta water. Little did I know what I was about to walk into. A wrestling company unlike anything I’d ever seen before. This wasn’t just some flash in the pan oranization … this was wrestling reimagined. From the Occhi system to the building itself, to the unique events such as Ascension … they were changin’ the game, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

”Later down the road, I received a little gift from FIGHT. At least, I thought it was from FIGHT. It was an undercard title belt I’d won eons ago from a federation lost in time. It was a reminder of who I was. It was a reminder of the things I’d done. I’d forgotten that. But it was Murph who reminded me. It was Dane that kept in touch all those years. And it was Allison that saved me. Literally. Kal comin’ in was mere icing on the cake that rounded us out.”

”They asked us what making it to the top looks like?” ”Ascension is an opportunity. And not just for the faction captain that ends up winning this thing, but for everyone involved. It’s an opportunity to rise up and scream our name from the heavens above New York City!”

”And our voices will soar.”

We’re goin’ into Ascension to make ‘em remember who we are, and what we FIGHT for.”

We’re the FYA.”

We’re artists.”

”Ascension is our canvas.”

”And we plan on goin’ to the top and paintin’ a goddamn masterpiece with the blood of our enemies.”

Our art is wrestling.”

”And we’re about to Van Gogh on all of your asses.”

Without turning back and without another word, Sahara simply walks off toward the back exit as the director lets out a sigh and yells–

“CUT!”

~~~~~

A few hours later…
(Back at the Preston Residence)

Sahara hadn’t returned to the apartment since Venom, and although Dane exuded a nonchalance about her unexpected disappearing act, Allison could tell it was eating away at him. He was clearly worried.

”I’m sure she’s fine. She’s probably with Ricky.”

”Yeah,” Dane sighed. ”You mean the guy that’s literally a part of Joe’s team? Why isn’t she answering her texts? Or calls? What if this is just another one of Joe’s con jobs? Think about what he did to us, Allison. He lured us onto a talk show in front of millions, paid to fake the results–” Dane was clearly beside himself, seeming to lose his train of thought. ”H-he almost destroyed our fucking marriage. Now he finds out Lauren’s developed some kind of a weird crush on Ricky, who just happens to be a member of his faction! I just, I don’t know if I trust him.”

”I know you’re worried about her. I am, too.” ”Then why would you say she’s fine?”

”I don’t know.” Allison sighed. ”Maybe she’s just upset about that whole panda situation, I just–”

”–she knows damn well I had nothing to do with that! She even Tweeted about it! That was obviously someone trying to frame me, but they made it way too obvious, just like Lauren said!”

”I know that. We all know that. I’m just, thinking alou–”

Just then, the front door swung open and the fiery blonde known as Sahara stood in the doorway. Her face seemed etched with a mixture of annoyance and anger.

”Speak of the devil!” Allison motioned toward the door with a bit of relief in her voice. ”WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?” Dane wasted no time approaching the door, demanding answers.

”I’ve been out thinking…” Sahara responded with a despondent shrug.

”For three freaking days?!”

Sahara’s face contorted as she brushed past Dane and Allison, ”I don’t have to explain myself to you. You aren’t my parents. We ain’t married. Hell, we ain’t even fucking!”

That’s when she noticed a strange brunette standing in the hallway leading to the bedrooms, arms folded across her chest with a scowl.

”This must be the great and powerful Sahara.”

Sahara motioned to the bitch staring daggers at her, ”Seriously, who the hell is this?!”

Allison chimed in, motioning between them. ”Sah-Lauren, this is Bella, Bella, this is Lauren.”

The blonde and the brunette simply stared at each other, neither making the move to reach out and shake the others hand.

Dane cleared his throat, ”This is usually the part where you smile and shake hands and introduce yourselves like adults.”

Sahara shook her head and let out a resounding, ‘Ha!’. ”I’m all set. The last thing I need in my life is this bitch–”

”This what?!” Bella took a step forward as Sahara turned her head and let out a little laugh.

”I said … this … bitc–”

”–Bella, it’s fine!” Dane cut in. ”She’s just upset about this whole panda thing on Venom–”

”Jesus fucking Christ!” Sahara turned back toward Dane. ”Do you really think I give a single solitary fuck about that goddamn Panda bullshit?! No. I don’t. That was obviously a setup to throw us off our game. Whoever did it, I’ll find in due time. But this ain’t about a panda, this ain’t about the Cure, or the NSQ or Dynasty. You really wanna know where I’ve been?!”

Both Dane and Allison responded in unison, ”Yes!”

”I’ve been out thinkin’ about Ascension. At first, all I thought about was all the other teams we’re gonna be facing, but then I realized that doesn’t even matter. This isn’t about them right now. This is about US, Dane! The FYA. Yanno, that so-called ”family” you always talk about? We’re supposed to be fightin’ to remind people of what FYA once stood for, and right now it stands for afterthought.” She emphatically jabbed a thumb at herself. ”And had I not done what I did to Mia, it wouldn’t be a thought at all. FYA is supposed to stand for Fuck You All, not For Your Amusement. And forgive me, but that’s exactly what it stands for right now.”

As Allison went to respond, Sahara held a hand up and took a step closer to Dane, looking him up and down. There was a fire burning in her icy blue eyes.

”I’ve been doin’ everything in my power to carry this thing like a piano on my back while you’ve been roamin’ around stewin’ over Joe fucking Montuori. And I’m just so fuckin’ tired. I’m tired, Dane. Joe Montuori is ONE guy. ONE! And at Ascension, we ain’t facin’ just one guy from one faction. We’re facin’ the meanest motherfuckers in this sport – all at once – and I don’t even know who this guy standin’ in front of me is anymore, yet he got the balls to call himself my Captain!”

Taking another step forward, she pokes Dane in the chest, almost shoving him back a little. ”But Mon Capitaine, you ain’t gettin’ it done no more!” She pokes him again, bringing a bit of a subdued snarl to his face. ”And if I gotta hear about how your pussy ass went to prison one more time, I’m gonna fucking stab you. You got that? And I don’t mean, ‘Lol OMG I’m going to kill you, tee-hee!’, I mean I’m literally going to stick a knife … in … your … FUCKING … heart!”

Her voice had come to a near fever pitch. At this point, Dane knew there was no reasoning with the blonde. He simply threw his hands up and took another step back. But Sahara knew full well what she was doing. Taking another step forward, she matched him, step for step, and gave him another shoving poke to the chest.

She suddenly changes her voice to mimic Dane’s, ”Ohhhh, Joe faked the lie detector results! Poor me! Ohhhh, Joe fucked my wife! Poor me!” She shakes her head and returns to her normal voice, ”Live with it, you sniveling little bitch! You’ve grown complacent!” Without seeing it coming, Sahara hauls off and smacks Dane across the face so hard, her hand was left stinging from the residual pain. She shook it out. ”You ain’t no Captain. You’re nothin’ but an absentee landlord!” Another hard smack came from the other side, this one causing Allison to flinch from the sound of the impact. Allison quickly held a hand out to stop Bella from interfering.

Sahara took another step forward and looked up at Dane. ”Is that it? Is that your response? Captain? You gonna just back away?!”

With his face stinging from the unexpected blows, Dane grit his teeth and retreated another step. “I’m not doing this with you, Lauren. I don’t know what crawled up your ass, but if this is how you’re gonna act–”

Sahara’s eyes narrowed.

”Yeah, this is how I’m gonna act, because while you’re fallin’ asleep at the FYA wheel,” she made a motion between herself and Allison. ”We’re the fucking passengers that are gonna be left for dead when you plow this thing into the goddamn wall at Ascension! The other factions have stepped up and forced you to step aside. No, I’m sorry – correction – they’ve forced all of US to step aside, and I don’t step aside for nobody. So tell me, Dane,” she put extra oomph on the name. “Where’s the guy that fucked my brains out, huh? Where’s the guy I met years ago that never … EVER … woulda’ let any of this happen to us?!”

With one final poke, she’d finally backed him into the door. With nowhere left to go, Dane simply stared down into Sahara’s eyes.

”You ain’t the Dane Preston I met back in EWA.” She threw up air-quotes meant to ridicule. ”FxR my ass. You’re a fucking has-been. A loser. What’s that now, four in a row for the fucking lose–”, as she went to slap him for a third time, Dane snatched her hand out of the air mid-swing and held fast, his knuckles turning white from the grip on her wrist.

”Gods fucking damnit! I’m afraid, Lauren!” He shoved the blonde back as Allison and Bella stood watching in stunned silence. ”Is that what you want to hear?!” Dane pointed at himself, ”I used to eat motherfuckers like that for breakfast and shit ‘em out by noon, so I’d have room for more by evening! Guys like Brandon and Joe, and Dickie fucking Watson. Then I–” He motioned to Allison. ”Then I married Allison. We had the twins, you remember when she was pregnant back in our EWA days, don’t you? Then Bella.” Dane motioned to the brunette standing next to his wife who nodded in subtle acknowledgement.

Last but not least, Dane motioned to Sahara.

”And then you came along.”

Amidst the silence that befell the room, Sahara looked from Bella to Allison, before turning back to Dane. Her voice was suddenly softer, just barely above a whisper. ”So what the hell are you afraid of?!”

Dane heaved a sigh, ”I’m afraid to hurt ‘em. I just–I think about the people in their lives, their kids, and how they’d feel if something happened to them. Stuff I’d never thought about before! But now I think of you girls. I think of the twins. I imagine how you’d feel if I became that guy again. Would you all still look at me the same? Would my kids?”

An uncomfortable silence filled the room to the point you could hear a person swallow…

”I knew what I signed up for when we first got involved.” Allison chimed in.

”So did I.” Bella nodded in agreement.

”That guy you were? That’s the guy we need, Dane. Or Allison and I? Murph? That other guy–” ”Kal.”

Sahara shot Allison a knowing smirk, ”I knew that, Ally. Thanks. Yeah. Kal. We all need that Dane again. Or we’re as good as dead. We can’t do this without you.”

Dane let out a sigh and softly banged the back of his head against the door behind him, ”Gods, Lauren. Have I ever told you that you have a flair for some serious dramatics?”

The girls all laughed in unison as the tension that had filled the room suddenly seemed to dissipate.

”Jesus fucking Christ, I thought someone was gonna get stabbed here tonight.” Bella let out a relieved laugh.

Sahara shrugged as she motioned to Dane, ”Someone almost did…”

And for some reason, even Dane found that funny.

”Okay.” Dane stood a little taller. ”If that’s the Dane you all really want, then it’s the Dane you’ll get. Like I said, I’m done playin’ games.”

”Good. Cuz’ this ain’t no game. And at Ascension? We gotta go thermonuclear…”

~~~~~

I must confess I’m addicted to this
Shove your kiss straight through my chest
I can’t deny, I’d die without this
Make me feel like a god